Philip Mowris is one of the hands-on leaders in B-to-B online marketing today. He’s Director of Interactive and Media Services for FolioZ, the Southeast’s first technology marketing firm; a founding member of Atlanta’s Interactive Marketing Association; and recently served on the Board of B2B Works. Mowris’ clients have included NetVendor, ExecuTrain, SouthWire and Mincom.
Q: So many B-to-B companies aren’t including the Web in their marketing plans these days. How do you recommend including Web marketing?
Mowris: There’s a use for all media in carrying the message out to the target audience. Once we have a pretty clear profile of the person who’s going to be the champion or influencer in a sale, we compile a media strategy that reaches out to them through several points.
I like to say, “If we can know what side of bed they get out of in the morning and which shoe they put on first, we can insert a message into the other shoe.” The first shoe is the one they put on without looking, the second they pick up and look at. It’s an analogy to the different attention points in the day, and obviously online has a very strong place in the mix.
Q: Are your offline clients scared about going online with their marketing dollars?
Mowris: Most B-to-B companies have seen a historical drop-off in their marketing efforts. They are doing the same shows, the same magazine ads but the results aren’t what they used to be. They’re not getting the same leads or readership.
Once our clients realize, “Yes of course prospects are online, they’re not utilizing offline the way they used to!” they start using the new medium, plus get a lot more targeted in their offline approach.
Our clients are spending anywhere from 10-40% of their budget online.
Q: How do you figure out where those dollars will be spent?
Mowris: A prospect is looking to solve a problem our client may have a solution for. The more points we can insert into that process with our direct or brand message, the more successful we’ll be in the campaign. The more often we can engage them -- 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. From the first exposure down the road to the sale. Whatever mediums they’re approaching at certain points in the process. So we couple the Internet with offline activities. We package a campaign together so it works in multiple layers, several tiers.
Q: Let’s talk specifics. What are your recommendations for email marketing?
Mowris: We’ve used it in two ways, sponsorship insertions and direct marketing email. We’ve had success in both but have noticed a drop-off from opt-in solicitation lists recently. The main reason for that I think is just the deluge. Your typical business executive is deluged with email messages these days. Especially in the B-to-B environment. So, commercial messages are the first to be ignored.
Q: If opt-in results are down, what is working in email marketing?
Mowris: What we’ve seen the most success with are not necessarily a direct response oriented campaigns. Instead they are very specific content-oriented emails. You need to sponsor the right email newsletter or set up your own through partnerships with specific publications.
We engineered a partnership with IndustryWeek magazine for NetVendor to publish the IWValueChain.com Web site and email newsletter. All the content is written by IndustryWeek editors specific to value chain management. The newsletter is solely sponsored by NetVendor. Since it went live March 13th the newsletter’s circulation has gone up in the thousands.
We’ve also done text ads in others’ newsletters with some success. We had a very nice response to ExecuTrain’s sponsorship in ComptuerWorld’s Career newsletter. It rolled out over a nine-week period, rotating three different ads week over week.
Q: Got any specific creative tips for email marketing?
Mowris: For text newsletter ads, keep it short and utilize the space. You don’t need to put the whole message into six lines. If you can cram it into three lines and utilize the white space it will work much better. Most people just put a paragraph with a link after it. The more you can get readers to pay attention to your ads, and give them a clear path from your headline to the pay-off, the better.
For direct marketing email, the most critical element is the subject line. DON’T trick them! And if they open the email, don’t’ try to sell them in it. You want to engage them, help them take the next step -- pick up the phone to request a brochure, clickthrough to the Web site. You have to realize this person isn’t ready to be sold yet, but they might be curious enough to want to find out more. Make them an active participant in doing that.
Q: Got any banner tips?
Mowris: Banners and buttons can be very, very effective. We’ve seen click-though about 12% for some of our clients. Most other people’s banner media buying is being one on demographics -- but online’s a psychographic buy. It’s about behavior, not about age, marital status or income.
You have to pay attention to the audience that’s receiving the creative. I want banner ads placed only where I know they’re going to resonate with a prospect. In most cases forget run of network, forget run of site, forget a lot of package deals. I want to sift and winnow it down to get to that spot where it’s absolutely targeted. If that means I’m paying more CPM and getting less of audience, so be it. I’m getting to the people I want.
Very often you get so targeted you’re not paying on CPM anyway, you’re paying a flat-fee sponsorship which can be a lot more cost effective. For some areas I’ve paid as little as $500-$1,500 for very targeted and very interested audiences. The difficulty is reaching new people. You should only run for a few months, take a break, and then come back. But if it churns a lot, for instance a hot jobs site, you’re reaching a new audience every month.
The primary thing for us is to see if we can get inside the target prospect’s head and see how they are using the different media. What sites are they going to? What online publications do they rely on and trust? And more importantly, how are they using them? If we can couple our marketing efforts to match their mindset and usage, then we have a much stronger chance of communicating our message!
Q: How do you figure out your audience’s mindset?
Mowris: We utilize the various research services -- Intelliquest stuff, Cyberatlas, Millward Brown -- and do extensive internally to client’s customers, past customers and prospects. There’s quite a bit of what you might call old-line account planning. It starts with talking with prospects. We’ve done our own surveys online at 3rd party sites.
It takes all the different sources to really pull together a composite -- and it’s that composite profile we’re after. If it’s just based on one source it’s going to be skewed and we’re not going to be effective.
The Web is also a test and retest medium. You continually optimize and drop what’s not working. You do that upfront research to step out with your best foot forward and from then on it’s continual optimization.
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