Here at MarketingSherpa we specialize in one thing: bringing you practical news about what's really working for your marketing colleagues online.
During 2000 we interviewed almost 100 B-to-B marketers from big famous companies like IBM, VerticalNet and UPS, as well as smaller innovative firms such as SilverStream and Wanted Technologies. We also quizzed experts from leading B-to-B interactive agencies including FolioZ and Passaic Parc.
They revealed their campaign results; what they have learned from tests; who their favorite vendors are; and how they are budgeting for the future.
And now, without further ado, here are the Top 10 B-to-B Internet Marketing Tactics that worked best in 2000:
TACTIC #1 BANNERS
Surprise! Yes, banners are on this list despite all the hype you may have heard about them being "dead." The B-to-B marketers who reported success with banners this year fell into three camps:
a) Heavy testers Just because a banner campaign can be quick and easy to implement, doesn't mean it's easy to get good results. Banner marketing is just as much a science as direct mail marketing. Companies, such as Network Solutions, that aggressively tested and continuously refined their use of media, offer and creative saw average results ranging from 0.5-2.0% and sometimes higher.
Although testing can be expensive in terms of money and effort, two types of vendors can make it easier for you moving into 2001. The first are research firms such as AdKnowledge (http://www.adknowledge.com) that can tell you what campaigns your competitors are consistently investing in. (And which they drop.) The second are online direct response specialist agencies such as Third Level Data (http://www.thirdleveldata.com) that will run test campaigns on your behalf and only charge you on the results that come from them.
b) View-Thru Trackers Research shows up to 33% of banner results come from visitors who don't click on a banner. Instead they remember the site and visit it later. These visitors are often more highly qualified sales prospects for your company than regular click throughs because they have taken the trouble to remember and visit you, rather than just impulsively clicking.
B2B marketers who tracked their view-thru results were more successful at banner marketing in general because they could then adjust creative, offers and media buys to maximize their share of these visitors. For more information on tracking view-thrus go to: https://www.marketingsherpa.com/barrier.php?ident=22137
c) Super-Targeted Media Buyers Marketer after marketer told us run-of-network or run-of-site media buys are cheaper for a reason -- they don't always work as well. Granular media buys, where you pick the exact page and position you want your banner to be on, definitely produce much higher results. The price tag may be higher, but results more than make up for it.
The key in online media buying is not to pick sites with loads of traffic, but to pick sites or pages with the right traffic. The more you pre-qualify visitors by placing your banner on a targeted page, the better your banner will do.
TACTIC #2 BLAST EMAIL
Blast (aka "broadcast") email campaigns took off this year as every marketer's favorite tactic to test. Results can range from 50-100% higher than average banner click throughs (although you don't get the high view-thru or branding benefits banners give you.)
In fact, email has been successful for so many B-to-B marketers that the biggest complaint most people have is that they wish there were more lists on the rental market. (If you have a very niche product outside the IT industry or you're outside the USA, you may be out of luck list-wise for now.) Just as with banner media buys, broad, general email lists usually are not worth the investment. You must hand-select every list and list segment you email for good results. For more advice on list selection and buying, go to: https://www.marketingsherpa.com/barrier.php?ident=22069
You can expect to see many more targeted B-to-B email lists come on the rental market in 2001. However, the most important thing you can do to ensure email success is to start gathering your own opt-in "house list" immediately if you're not already doing so.
On the creative front, B-to-B marketers with strong direct response marketing backgrounds are getting the best results. Blast email is truly a direct response medium (branding messages belong elsewhere!) Marketers told us short, straightforward messages that were about 1/2-3/4 pages long with an offer pitched to appeal to the recipient worked the best. HTML generally worked the better than text in the States, although bandwidth in other countries can prohibit good results with this.
Blast email success depended on targeting a message to the recipient's needs. Any message that started with the word "We" or "Our" didn't do well. Marketers who sent each different list segment a different message, subtly altered to appeal just to that segment, got much higher results.
TACTIC #3 NEWSLETTER SPONSORSHIPS
Newsletter sponsorships were the big, surprise, winner tactic for B-to-B marketers in 2000. In fact most media and analysts covering online advertising didn't even bother to include newsletter sponsorships as a category to watch prior to October 2000! However, in dozens of interviews, B-to-B marketers told us themselves that newsletter sponsorships worked for them and they were planning to expand their budgets for 2001.
Newsletter sponsorships tended to pull a higher clickthrough rate than banners but a lower rate than blast email. However, they had the added advantage of serving as a branding vehicle, and enabling a company to reach out to a target audience repeatedly (while repeated blast email would become annoying.) Best of all, highly targeted newsletters are much easier to find than opt-in blast email lists. There are more than 25,000 opt-in B-to-B email newsletters versus perhaps 1,500 total opt-in email lists available for rental.
Newsletter media buys generally cost about the same per thousand as banner ads. Often the top position will cost a bit more than ad positions further down. Generally this is worth it because the top position can perform as much as 100% better for you than any other. The only exception would be an ad next to a particularly popular feature within a newsletter that most recipients scroll to.
Although several major online ad networks (including B-to-B Works) now offer newsletter ad placement, you'll need to contact most newsletter publishers directly to place ads.
Most newsletters take text ads ranging from 4-8 lines long and 60-65 characters wide. Writing these small ads is not as easy as you might think. Again, copywriters from a direct response background do the best job. As Christopher Knight, CEO of newsletter ad network Opt-Influence (http://www.opt-influence) said, "50% of success lies in your headline." For more text- ad writing tips go to: https://www.marketingsherpa.com/barrier.php?ident=22059
TACTIC #4 EMAILING YOUR CUSTOMERS & VISITORS
B2B Marketers have discovered that in email marketing, just as any other kind of marketing, house lists work best. But there are minefields to avoid.
Most importantly, avoid spam! Many B-to-B marketers still don't realize they must get explicit permission to email their own registered visitors and customers. Just because someone is your customer, doesn't mean you can email them.
It's also important to respect the permission you've gotten. As BeNOW's database marketing expert Andy Cutler told us, "Too many people get permission and then turn on the electronic megaphone." IBM has had enormous success by targeting each email newsletter they send customers who have opted in. Their marketers told us the most critical factor was in personalizing each newsletter to its recipient. This doesn't just mean sticking the customer's name at the top of the message -- it means making sure the news inside the message is specifically of interest to that individual.
Therefore, if you have more than one product, service or target demographic, make sure your house list is set up to gather and identify those separately. Nobody, even regular customers, cares much about regular news from your company. Everyone cares about news they need.
Last note -- does your corporate or product newsletter start with a general subject line such as "News from X Corp" or "January 2001 Newsletter"? You'll find your newsletters will get a MUCH higher open-rate (i.e. recipients opening and reading it vs. hitting delete) if your subject line is both different with each issue and also more targeted to the reader's interests.
TACTIC #5 SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION
Every B-to-B marketer we interviewed agreed that search engine optimization (tweaking your site and making other adjustments so you get high ranking in search engines) is always worth the investment. Smaller companies optimized their sites in-house. Many recommended the inexpensive software Web Position Gold (http://www.webpositiongold) to help with this.
Marketers from medium-large companies preferred to outsource search engine optimization tasks to an expert consultant. The task is technical enough that you want an expert to be focused on it for your entire company, rather than expecting several of your own in-house marketers to learn how to do it.
MarketingSherpa will be running an exclusive interview with a leading search engine specialist within the next two weeks, so be sure to subscribe at our site(http://www.marketingsherpa.com) to get that issue, if you haven't already!
Two of the most useful paid services for B-to-B marketers wishing to raise search engine rankings are MediaDNA's eLuminator (http://www.mediadna.com) and bitpipe (http://www.bitpipe.com). Media DNA's eLuminator specializes in getting sites with lots of content -- over 1,000 articles or product listings -- listed very high in search engines.
bitpipe specializes in helping marketers for IT-related products place links to their white papers very high in IT reference sites searches. To learn more about using white papers online, go to our interview with bitpipe's CEO at: https://www.marketingsherpa.com/barrier.php?ident=22008
While general ads on search engines such as Yahoo didn't work for most B-to-B marketers, ads linked to specific search terms often pulled very well.
Most marketers found text ads, such as those that can appear on Google (http://www.google.com) or Northern Light (http://www.northernlight.com) did substantially better than graphical banner ads. This is probably because the prospect is actively looking for text to read to learn where they should click next on their search for information.
Search engine text ads, much like newsletter sponsorships, require careful copywriting to get the highest response rate from a very limited space. These ads often do best when they are very factual, mimicking the type of description you would expect to see after a regular search engine site listing.
Time and again when we asked B-to-B online marketing experts what was the biggest mistake they saw other marketers making, experts said, "Banner ad and email campaign links that just go to a regular home page."
Makes sense. If you're doing a campaign with a special offer, people clicking through expect to be presented with information pertaining to that offer -- not a home page they have to surf through looking for where to go next. Experts also say you only have 2-3 clicks to hold a prospect's attention. If they have to click more than that to reach an end objective, you'll probably lose them. So using a targeted landing page that includes an order form or direct link to a form is probably the smartest thing to do.
TACTIC #8 SITE NAVIGATION FROM THE USER'S PERSPECTIVE
Chances are your corporate Web site was developed from your company's perspective. Perhaps the key navigational links or tabs lead to your product lines or types.
As B-to-B online marketing consultant, Philippa Gamse (http://www.CyberSpeaker.com) says, "Your web site should be about your market, not about you." Gamse and many other B-to-B experts recommend basing your site's navigational flow on the needs that your most common visitor demographics have when they enter a site.
For example, if you serve IT technicians and CIOs you might have a site section labeled "IT Techs" and another labeled "For CIOs." Next carefully watch your site visitor logs to see what paths visitors take through it and which are the most popular pages. Then redesign your home page and navigation bar so it's even easier for new visitors to find these things.
Some companies even send their marketing navigation team into their clients' offices to see how people use their site in person ... and learn how it can be made even easier to use. For an example of this, read our recent article on UPS.com: https://www.marketingsherpa.com/barrier.php?ident=22255
TACTIC #9 ONLINE DIRECTORIES LISTINGS
According to Thomas Register, an online and offline industrial buying guide (http://www.thomasregister.com), approximately 54% of business buyers find new suppliers through online buying guides. That's a powerful reason to make sure your company is listed in as many online directories and buying guides as possible.
TACTIC #10 INTEGRATED CAMPAIGN Last August when we interviewed Philip Mowris, Director of Interactive and Media Services for FolioZ (http://www.folioz.com), the Southeastís first technology marketing firm, he made a huge point of the importance of integrated offline/online campaigns.
Mowris said, "The more often we can engage them [prospects] -- through direct mail, sales calls, banners, email -- when they are actively looking for solutions, the better the chances of success. The approach we take is to look at it from end to end. ... So we couple the Internet with offline activities. We package a campaign together so it works in multiple layers, several tiers."
As we continued interviewing dozens of marketers in the Fall, the words "integrated marketing" came up more and more frequently. In fact we predict it will be the hot buzz phrase for early 2001!
Currently most B-to-B marketers are trying to integrate the look of their campaigns; for example, print ad and banner ad art will be similar. Some are also dropping campaigns using a variety of media such as email and direct mail at the same time. Everyone who's done this says they feel it's made a positive difference in their results.
Now it's time to take the next step -- test integrated campaigns in different media with overlapping lists. For example, a campaign using an email list, direct mail list and banners from the same trade magazine. Although precisely integrating specific online and offline media is still hard to do, many sites are now offering package discounts for banner advertisers who also run spots in their newsletters. We highly recommend you test this.
The views and opinions expressed in the articles of this website are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect in any way the views of MarketingSherpa, its affiliates, or its employees.