Tech marketers focus on leads, align budgets

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As the technology economy slowly recovers, tech marketers this year will be more focused on lead generation, measurement and finding new niches and services for customers, according to recent reports on IT marketing trends.

In a study of 359 technology executives by Bitpipe and Sam Whitmore’s Media Survey, 54% of respondents said their marketing budgets would increase in 2004. Only 7% said their marketing budgets would decrease this year, and 31% said their budgets would be flat. The remaining 8% were not sure. The survey, "2004 IT Marketing Trends," was conducted in October and November and released last month.

Lead generation will get the bulk of marketing dollars by IT companies, with 69% of budgets going to offline and online lead-generation efforts, the survey found. In 2004, 41% of IT marketing budgets will be directed toward telemarketing, direct mail and other offline lead generation; some 28% will be directed to online lead-generation efforts.

In 2003, lead generation also made up 69% of total spending, although offline approaches received slightly more (43%) than online (26%).

"Everyone remembers the excesses of marketing during the bubble, with all the branding and chest beating and vanity," said Sam Whitmore, founder and president of Sam Whitmore’s Media Survey, an online resource for media professionals. "I don’t think anyone wants to relive that in any way.."

When asked how they would execute lead-generation activities, 89% said they would conduct them in-house; 11% said they would outsource lead generation.

Sixty-three percent of respondents said they have effective methods for measuring the quality of sales leads to determine return on marketing investment; this is the same percentage as last year.

Audience online more

Whitmore said the shift to online marketing is a direct response to the fact that technology customers are spending more time online.

"A busy person never gets out of their inbox these days, while print magazines often pile up," Whitmore said. "As a tech marketer, you have to follow where they go."

Online advertising is slated to make up 16% of overall marketing budgets this year, the survey found—up from 14% in 2003. By contrast, print spending is expected to account for only 15% of tech marketers’ budgets in 2004, down 1% from 2003.

When asked what methods they will use to generate leads this year, 85% of respondents said they will use e-mail, compared with 83% that used e-mail in 2003.

White papers are another popular lead-generation tool, with 82% of respondents planning to use them this year, compared with 75% last year.

The largest percentage increase was around the use of Webcasts, which will be employed by 73% of marketers this year, compared with 55% last year.

The use of search marketing also saw a large percentage increase. Some 63% of tech marketers said they will use search engine optimization in 2004, up from 53% in 2003. Search keyword purchase will be used by 58% of respondents this year versus 49% who used the tactic in 2003.

Marketers more accountable

"As things tightened in 2001 and 2002, marketers had to be much more accountable," said Steve Woit, VP-sales and marketing at Bitpipe, a Boston-based IT research firm. He said the ability to optimize online campaigns and measure the results makes online advertising and lead generation attractive to tech marketers.

Overall, optimism seems to be high for a recovery in the technology sector and the economy overall.

CIO Magazine’s monthly Tech Poll for December found that chief information officers plan to increase spending by 6% over the next 12 months, up from 4.2% in the November poll.

And a survey conducted by TEC International, an organization of CEOs, found that 80% of CEOs expect economic conditions to improve this year. The survey of nearly 1,000 CEOs, conducted in November, also found that 61% of CEOs plan to hire employees this year.

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