B2BWorks' VP Marketing Karen Breen Vogel joined the online ad network ten months ago after serving on the client-side as a business marketer for IBM for 12 years. So she really understands the daily realities of business-to-business marketing online!
Q: Is B-to-B online marketing vastly different from consumer online marketing?
Breen Vogel: It's pretty easy to assume there aren't that many differences. But when you talk about specific strategies and executions you realize how different they are.
In consumer you're marketing to one person. It's often not a complex set of decisions. In B-to-B most decisions are collaborative ones involving a lot of people along the way. You can't just reach one person, you have to build a series of relationships throughout the decision-making process. The financial people, the tech people, the businesspeople all look at acquiring products differently and have different information needs you need to tailor for in the context of a single sales cycle. So implementing a B-to-B campaign online is much more complex than a consumer campaign is.
I was on a panel at a B-to-B marketing conference and we were asked what the time frame should be to receive response from email campaigns. One panelist, from a consumer background, answered if you haven't received a response in 48 hours you can assume you didn't get the person's attention. Then the B2B people on the panel said, 'No, no no! The truth is the recipient probably routed it to other people in their organization.' So you need a more holistic view of your response approach. Typically there are many people involved in influencing and acquiring products and services. A good business marketing plan touches all these people at different parts of the cycle.
Q: How is online media buying different for B-to-B marketers?
Breen Vogel: You're not looking at personal demographics. We've worked with a number of companies who ask for 'people between these ages' or ask for other selections on a personal level.
In a business environment those personal demographics are pretty much irrelevant. Instead you need to target by what we call Careergraphics. Who do they work for, job title, purchasing influence, do they have a budget?
In B-to-B many times people self-select. If you're a lawyer you'll be at a legal profession site. So if you're targeting lawyers you don't need to find them through profiling. You know where they are already. You just need to find out if the site has a good registration process where people define who they are so you can target that patent lawyer you want.
It actually helps in the privacy space because folks aren't as sensitive about giving up business information, as they would be with personal information. They don't typically back off from that. It helps them do their job to receive the right information -- so their career is depending on getting good information to support them!
In general B-to-B ads are much closer to editorial product than in the consumer space because people are dependent on knowledge to do their job well. If you don't know about the latest and greatest products in the grocery store your life isn't depending on it, like your career could be for business products.
Q: Which media are businesspeople most likely to depend on for this career-critical information?
Breen Vogel: We just finished a profile of our network. Three- quarters of the 400 sites we work with carried our survey for their visitors to participate in. When they were asked which media do you find most effective for conveying ad messages for you, out of the many choices including offline and online media, they chose industry-specific Web sites first followed by email newsletters.
Q: But we keep on hearing about "the death of the banner ad" and that "banner ads don't work." What's up?
Breen Vogel: It's a frustrating topic because there's a huge perception that banners don't work. My opinion first of all depends on what you are trying to accomplish. Unfortunately folks early out in Web advertising (which was mostly consumer) got off on the wrong foot which was the click was the end all and the be all. If your banner was clicked on that was wonderful and if it wasn't that was horrible. That's an extremely shortsighted view.
Most people close to research and the evolution of ads on the Internet know it's much, much more. New media has many of the aspects traditional mediums do. At its fundamental aspect the Web is a place where people go to seek information. If you put your brand name where people go on a regular basis and there's relevancy to what you're about, you're establishing your brand. Who you are. What you're about. That you should be considered when they're making purchases.
That's marketing 101.
If your prospects spend a lot of time somewhere online for work, then your marketing and ads should go on there. A banner can have any one of a multitude of objectives. You can establish that you are a provider in your category; convey your brand and value proposition. People move in and out of the purchase cycle. If they're not in the cycle, you still want them to know who you are.
Measuring success strictly by clicks is silly in B-to-B . Why would anyone say, "I'm going to take you off task to click on my banner"? That's not the way B-to-B works at all. People don't surf in B-to-B the way they do in consumer. They're not likely to just start clicking on banners because people put them in front of them. They are going to get an impression.
If you're driving down the street and you see a billboard, you don't pull over and say, "I'm gonna go to the store and buy that thing right away!" To me banners are very similar. You still want to be there; but the expectation that they'll take immediate action because YOU want them to is not realistic.
Q: Yes, but if people aren't clicking how do you measure how effective your banner is and if it's worth the money?
Breen Vogel: Actually several companies have done research showing there's higher conversion rates from businesspeople that don't click on banners than people who do.
Say you went to a business site several times a week and a banner came up but you never clicked on it. Then two days later it's something you're interested in so you go directly to the site of the advertiser and you end up becoming a conversion of that. That's called a "view-through." You viewed, you didn't click but you ended up going to the site to do something with them.
Q: How on earth can marketers measure view-throughs? It sounds impossible!
Breen Vogel: There's a way. They place a small pixel on a user when they come to the site and view an ad but don't click on it. Then when the visitor comes to your site, you can recognize this user has seen one of your ads.
This measures the reality, which is that prospects will recall you when they need you. It's going to be a very interesting next 12 months as advertisers measure things this way!
You know Coca Cola and IBM are running banners now that can't even be clicked on! They say, "I want to be there. I want a share of voice." That's branding.
Q: Tests show that rich media banners are very successful in the consumer world. How does that play in the B-to-B space?
Breen Vogel: Rich media will not be used the same way as it is for consumers. In the consumer space it's taking on the qualities of TV - rich media banners have an emotional appeal. And if you can get a consumer through emotions, then you may have a sale. In B-to-B emotions aren't tied to the sale, you have to move relationships forward with the group that makes ecisions. They want facts. So B-to-B rich media banners will be used to heighten information, to make banners more intensive, deeper and more complex. Advertisers will use them to deepen the richness of the information.
Q: What are your tips on creating great B-to-B banners in general?
Breen Vogel: It should look and feel like the messages you are sending in other mediums. So if they saw an ad in a magazine and then saw your banner, there would be a connection. Your target gets a reinforcement of who you are and what you stand for.
We do absolutely recommend integrating offline and online. Make sure you are intertwining creative themes. Make sure when you do offline that they know they can go online to register. Your Web site should be the hub -- the connection of all other marketing and endeavors you have in other media. It's the perfect place for leads to look for more information, to interact with you.
Banners are just one online platform. You'll want to mix in banners for branding and banners for direct marketing, double opt-in email, newsletter sponsorships, microsites ... it's not a simple answer. There's integrated online and then there's integrated total with everything.
You want to be everywhere along the purchase process. Sponsorshops are an example of when you want to be where your customer is, but you don't know if they are receptive right now. You prove you are a relevant and solid player in the marketplace by consistently being in the same place every day when they come there. Your're saying, "I'm someone you should consider if you get into the market. I have relevance to you."
When you're moving forward looking for active buyers, then you're looking for receptivity to have gone up to more interested. The final end is advertising in online directories because their visitors are active buyers.
On the Internet, it's about knowing where prospects are in their day so you can gauge what's appropriate for them. I think marketers are used to saying "I'm doing this and I want the customer to behave in this way." For example, "I'm dropping a direct mail campaign and they are going to order now." But, the Internet is about how prospects are behaving where they are and how can I have the most appropriate information exchange in that time and that place.
In B-to-B people's time is so precious and their loyalty to brands is pretty large once established. So, marketing is about getting people to believe you're the right company to work with over the long haul. That's why appropriateness in the right time and place is so important.
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