Institute of Direct Marketing Business-to-Business Marketing Conference 2008

A few observations on the recent Institute of Direct Marketing Business-to-Business Marketing Conference. The theme of the day very much revolved around the merits of social media and Web 2.0 in a business marketing context. Don Peppers, of Peppers and Rogers Group, suggested three trends for business marketing, including the growth of social media, involving customers and staff; the key opportunity being to leverage advocacy, providing tools, such as presentations or white papers, to make it easier for supporters of your product or brand to spread the word. Other trends, he said, include the increasing prevalence of products as services, making them harder for competitors to copy and the growing importance of content, and its development and management, in marketing messages.

His comments on lead nurturing also struck home with me, suggesting that prospects be treated like customers and highlighting the importance of creating a relationship building engine with a long term vision. Resist the boardroom call for short term results and build for the long term, we were implored! I very much agree that ongoing, regular communications with customers and prospects alike is crucial to attaining and maintaining “share of mind”, building awareness and building a profile of your recipients through data collection.

Although the story of the JCB diesel land speed record attempt was a little heavy on corporate self-congratulation (and didn’t contain much on social media), I did take away one key message: play to your strengths. JCB wanted to highligh their core competency of engineering prowess, which they demonstrated by smashing the previous record for the fastest diesel powered vehicle. What are your organisation’s unique strengths and how can you demonstrate them to your target market?

Whilst not making explicit reference to social media, London Business School’s Brett Cunningham did in essence highlight the importance of creating an environment for the exchange of ideas and co-operation. LBS have coined the term hotspot (in the non wi-fi sense) to describe the buzz of energy and innovation that is created when the right people come together to solve a problem. How better than a Web 2.0 approach to making this possible?

The panel debate was all about social media, and its relative merits when compared with pay per click advertising. The motion that social media will become as important as PPC was carried, although I think the overall concensus of the delegates was that PPC would still be important, but simply another string in the bow of marketers. Arising from the debate were suggestions that social media may have wider scope for lead generation than PPC, but it’s difficult to target and measure; PPC is good at traffic generation, but is not very discriminating and offers little brand experience. “Consumers will continue to search,” Don Peppers had earlier told us, but don’t overlook the importance of social to the up-and-coming ranks of business buyers and marketers. It’s going to be second nature to them.

Beamed in from the West Coast USA, Laura Ramos of Forrester Research shared her thoughts on social media and experimentation in business to business marketing. Her key takeaway was that knowing your buyer’s social media behaviour profile helps set a successful social media strategy. Whilst many traditional tactics underperform against expectations and are failing to engage decision makers, the importance of one to one contact in generating demand is being recognised. Forrester have developed a Social Technographics methodology for use before setting strategy, based on understanding the buyer’s behaviour and that impact of Web 2.0 on their purchasing process. Take a look at www.forrester.com/groundswell.

The day was closed out by the ever entertaining Rory Sutherland, archetypal chief creative at OgilvyOne, who controversially put forward the idea that an obsession with measurement might be holding back innovation. Even I can agree with the sentiment, but at the end of the day, Marketing has to be able to demonstrate return on investment if it’s to be taken seriously. The “medium is the message” he said and the delivery mechanism determines success. Make sure you’re talking to people in the right way, appears to be his point, otherwise it doesn’t matter what you say.

As always with events like this, a few nuggets of thinking and ideas were thrown up during the day to take back to our offices and put into practise, making it a day well spent. Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention, you can catch my own contribution (and the rest of the day) during another panel discussion. Enjoy!

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