Oct 16, 2000
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When Chris Hylen joined Business.com in early August, the press release called him "a second generation Internet veteran." In the world of B-to-B marketing online there are very few marketers who have been there, done that and got the t- shirt to prove it. Hylen is one of them. His background includes stints with Stamps.com and American Express online.
Q: You're one of the most experienced B-to-B online marketers out there. What have you learned so far about banner advertising?
Hylen: Creative online is fundamentally different. It wears out much faster. You need much more inventory. Offline 4-5 print ads can carry you through a whole year. Online you have to have 5-10 banners in the background ready to fly the next day if the current ones don't perform.
You'll never get enough learning from just one or two banners to have a successful program. If you have two now, you should have 20 in order to figure out what works and continue to exploit it. Exploit and push, exploit and push!
However, online and offline creative are no different in one respect. They have to be based on your strategy, your message and your values. You've got to base creative in those things. Anything from that point on, chances it will work.
Q: Can you give us an example of a company that's doing great B2B banner creative now?
Hylen: Business.com all over the Net. [laughs] In B-to-B it's really in the early stages. In about six months you'll know that answer. I'm not sure anybody has a great lead now. In consumer, I think Ask Jeeves has some good creative. They're true to their message, true to brand values.
Q: What's your advice on online media buying?
Hylen: Test small and see what works. Then negotiate for better deals. Sponsorship deals in the past were priced based on future potential. Today they are based on results.
Test, learn and implement. We've tested vertical sites and we've had different rates of success. I recommend people test very broadly. You never know where you're going to turn up that piece of gold where you can get customers in.
Q: Which works better, buying through an online ad network such as B-to-B Works or buying on your own?
Hylen: We found we are more effective in some areas and they are more effective in some. They often have access to new inventory we don't know about yet. It's good to have both sides looking, working for you.
Q: What about B-to-B email marketing?
Hylen: Email is the direct marketing of the future. People give you their preferences. It's an audience that's highly targeted and large. If you're not doing it, you're running a huge risk to your franchise.
Test it, learn it, execute it, implement it. Test lists, test HTML vs. text, test weekly vs. daily and figure out what works for your business.
Q: What's Business.com doing to drive site traffic?
Hylen: Right now all of our marketing dollars go to online. If we find an offline venue that we believe will drive traffic we'll do that offline media; but, we haven't done any offline as of yet. We'll look at those programs and they will have to compete for the same resources as online. If they are not cost competitive in that spectrum, we won't do them. We say, "What's the return on investment?" -- if you make it, then the money's spent regardless of offline or online.
We've been live for about four months. The marketing strategy to this point has been around testing and learning. What sites work, what kind of messages work, cost to deliver a user, cost to get them back, performance of a user once they are on the site, what content they look at .... Our approach is to learn. It's very measured, very quantitative.
Going forward you'll see more of the same from us. We want to get on a learning curve faster than everybody else and incorporate learning faster than everybody else.
It goes back to my belief in test, learn, implement. If you do that you'll have a base for knowledge.