Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Advertising and the Internet: Time to Rethink the Relationship?

As a follow-up to our two recent posts on the obsession with ROI and the way information moves on the Internet, a new Advertising Age column dovetails nicely: Matthew Creamer’s “Think Different: Maybe the Web's Not a Place to Stick Your Ads” (subscription needed).

For marketers and agencies, says Creamer, big changes are happening in the way we do business—or at least they should be happening. He quotes Trevor Kaufman, CEO of Schematic, the interactive agency recently purchased by WPP Group:

"It's easy for clients and agencies to think about banners and email because buying banners is like buying outdoor and email is like direct. That is very different than nurturing the community of your customers, providing great content or executing transactions."

Lessons to mull over:

  • We can’t simply jump into the digital game with a traditional-media approach that isn’t suited for the social dynamics of the digital environment. Banners can work well on niche websites, but don’t overlook the countless other opportunities to connect with customers in new ways.
  • We shouldn’t obsess over tactical metrics like click-through rates that track how many people we’re reaching instead of how well we’re getting through to them.

The biggest lesson, however, is that we have many lessons to learn. The digital media landscape is rapidly maturing, and there’s a real need for serious reflection on what we’re doing there.

Meanwhile, many marketers and advertisers haven’t even gotten past the “brochureware” stage of Internet content—literature conceived for print, converted to digital. So it seems that we’ve got a lot of thinking to do …

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Why ROI isn’t everything (but it still matters a lot)

In an interesting take on the current obsession with ROI in marketing, blogger Justin Cooper laments that the phrase “ROI” was the top marketing buzz phrase of 2007:

For a marketing executive to say "This sounds great, but what's the ROI?" demonstrates that they are missing the point. The person that asks this question is caught up in the evaluation of their tactics and not thinking about the content of their customer's experience. It's like focusing on the buttons of the phone, rather than the conversation.

Now, for us marketers, this is a hairy argument—especially in B2B, and especially especially in uncertain economic times. Clients pay for our services, so we need ways we can demonstrate the impact of what we do. We even recommended using ROI-measurable tactics in a recent post.

But true marketing ROI can’t be determined by the handy numbers you can claim from an assortment of tactics. It’s got to be part of a larger strategy aimed at meeting big-picture goals like entering new markets, gaining market share, etc.

As Cooper points out, customers must be involved in shaping that strategy. They’re the ones whose interests will make or break your company’s success. So ask yourself: Are your customers full collaborators in your marketing conversation? If not, you’re just talking at them, not with them. And they probably aren’t listening much.

That’s why, absent a marketing strategy based on what customers actually want, reader impressions or basic response levels don’t count for much. But integrated with a comprehensive strategy to advance business goals, ROI-measurable tactics can still help you understand how well you’re supporting the cause.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Favre retirement frenzy highlights the new-media era

Hey, did you know Brett Favre retired?

Of course you did. I’d link to a story, but I wouldn’t know which of the hundreds of thousands of articles and blogs to choose. Besides, the news is so three days ago.

Few events could have better demonstrated how the media cycle has accelerated, and the landscape changed, than Tuesday’s leak of the “Favre-gone conclusion,” if you will. And B2B marketers need to adapt.

Some of us in this office first learned of the Favre bombshell via a Blackberry news alert from the Small Business Times, just minutes after the story broke (on FOXSports.com). The SBT isn’t the source you’d think of first for breaking sports stories; rather, it’s a relatively new, niche publication that covers—you guessed it—small business.

But this is Wisconsin; most news outlets would have bumped the moon landing for No. 4’s farewell. That’s partly why it made sense that the SBT was out in front on this story.

It also made sense because of how news spreads today. The cycle is dramatically different from the way stories moved in the heyday of big-city papers and other MSM. Today’s media landscape is populated more by the likes of smaller, nimbler organizations built from scratch to communicate through electronic means—email, Internet, text.

Of course, in B2B, we don’t often have a story with the earth-shattering magnitude of the Favre announcement. But that doesn’t mean we can ignore the changes in the media dynamic. There’s now an online community for every niche interest imaginable, including whatever widget business you’re in. These communities seize upon relevant stories with great zeal, albeit on a much smaller scale.

That’s why, as B2B marketers, we also must embrace new media. It’s a great challenge and, as the Favre saga showed, also a great opportunity to spread messages to more people more quickly than ever before.