Study: Marketers misallocate media buys

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A new survey has found differences between the media that b-to-b marketers use to push their products and services and the media that business decision-makers say they rely on to do their jobs better.

The survey, titled "The Digital Transformation," was conducted last month by Forrester Research on behalf of American Business Media, which wanted to provide its publishing company members and marketers with a better understanding of media consumption trends.

"While [b-to-b marketers] believe industry-specific media help them reach decision-makers, they haven't stepped up to the degree in which business decision-makers have caught up [with such media]," said Laura Ramos, VP-principal analyst at Forrester Research, who put the study together.

Ranking digital media

For instance, when asked which digital media they rely on the most while at work, the decision-makers ranked industry-specific magazines first (70%), followed by e-mail or electronic newsletters (70%) and vendors' Web sites (64%). (Respondents had the option of choosing more than one type of media.)

But while decision-makers rank industry-specific Web sites as one of their top two digital resources, marketers don't place as much importance on these sites, the study found. Asked which digital marketing tactics they used or sponsored in the past 12 months, the marketers ranked ads on industry-specific Web sites fifth (50%), well below two other tactics: corporate Web sites (87%) and ads and listings on Web portals (71%). E-mail solicitations ranked third (66%) and Web-based events ranked fourth (54%).

"B-to-b marketers are not taking advantage of the media that are most important to the people they're trying to reach," said Gordon Hughes II, president-CEO of ABM.

But that may be starting to change, according to Scott Berg, worldwide media director at Hewlett-Packard Co., which now allocates 35% of its marketing budget to digital media, not including the dollars it devotes to search marketing. In 2005, HP allocated 10% of its marketing budget to digital media.

"There may be a bit of reluctance by technology companies to make significant shifts in spending," Berg said. "But as you move into 2008, more marketers will catch up." He added that senior management buy-in is crucial. "Part of it is marketing executives giving a push, but [shifts in marketing communications spending] need strategic leadership support throughout the marketing-media chain," he said.

Berg stressed that creating and tracking a digital ad campaign requires 50% more time than creating a traditional ad campaign in a newspaper or magazine.

Kevin Arsham, senior media director at OMD and vice chairman of ABM's media advisory committee, said part of the problem is that marketers are not plugged into the kinds of media that decision-makers are using on a daily basis.

Another key finding of the survey was that a majority (82%) of decision-makers agree that product messages in b-to-b media properties make them more receptive to salespeople. That link is important, according to the study, because 69% of decision-makers said they see sales reps less than once a month, and 78% said the amount of time they spend with sales reps has stayed the same or decreased during the past 12 months.

Integrated boosts sales

Both buyers and sellers also agreed that integrated marketing goes a long way in boosting sales. According to the study, 91% of decision-makers agreed that it is easier to recognize a brand or products/ services after seeing a message in multiple media; 93% of marketers agreed that integrating messages across media helps them reach buyers they might otherwise miss using just one medium.

While applauding the study overall, Bill Hebel, senior VP- media director at b-to-b ad agency Slack, Barshinger, said he had hoped ABM would offer more validation that integrated marketing packages provide more bang for marketers' bucks.

"What else are they going to say? `No, I only remember a message when I see it in one type of media?"' Hebel said.

The online survey compiled responses from 878 business decision-makers and 816 b-to-b marketers, representing 21 industry categories. Among the decision-makers, 86% approve the budget for purchasing products and/or services, while 87% purchase products and/or services.

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