Are communities unifying people or simply providing a platform for them to express their differences?

Shar VanBoskirk

If you've never been to Barcelona, you may not know that the local language here is actually not Spanish...it's Catalan, the native language of Barcelona's region: Catalunya.  Children here are taught in Catalan, and while many also learn Spanish and likely English, I've run into several locals who speak only Catalan.  And then of course, since the attendees at our event are from all over Europe, there are dozens of languages filling the air during networking breaks and one on one sessions.

I mention this because it struck me that as the world becomes a smaller place (easier to travel anywhere you like, similar businesses/foods in different regions around the world, even the same pop-culture icons and references), cultures are becoming fiercely proprietary about the things that do define their culture from another:  like language.  What a perfect thing to establish who is qualified to be a member of a given community?  If you speak our language, you must be similar enough to us, and proud enough of our heritage to be in our community.  Language then, isn't just a mode of communication; it is also an expression of identity.

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Wunderman Defines The Age of Influence Marketing

Shar VanBoskirk

Mark Taylor followed Jaap by discussing a new take on Wunderman's long-term strategic approach to relationship marketing.  Specifically, he mentioned marketers must acknowledge the shift to "The age of influence marketing" by embracing two new channels: 

1) The Channel of Me and 2) The Channel of Us

Both channels actually leverage the *consumer* as a marketing vehicle as well as as a target audience.

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Jaap Favier to Brands: Don't Walk Alone

Shar VanBoskirk

Greetings from Forrester's EMEA consumer and finance forums in Barcelona!  We've just finished the first two speakers of the event:  Forrester's VP and Research Director, Jaap Favier and Wunderman's Chief Marketing Technologist Officer, Mark Taylor. 

The presentations were an excellent introductions to the themes for both the consumer and the finance tracks:  Share Your Brand (for the consumer track) and Beating the Competition With Superior Customer Experience (for the financial track).

Jaap had a few particular soundbites which I thought really crystalized the current state of marketers today, and also the changes they need to make in order to accommodate the growing influence of user generated content and virtual communities.

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B2B Marketers: How Do You Count Your Customers?

Laura Ramos

I recently heard from a client who wanted to know whether I had any data or best practices around how business-to-business firms define – and count – their customers.

Here are two scenarios to consider:

A large software company sells to Vodafone UK, Vodafone Spain, and Verizon (US). All are owned by the parent company, Vodafone.  Each entity goes through a separate buying process, contract negotiation, and installation.  How would you count this: as one customer or three?

A top ten professional services firm has separate engagements with GE Money, GE Appliance, and GE Medical.  These are three very different businesses, each with a separate purchase process.  How would you classify any subsequent sales to GE Appliance: cross-sells/upsells or new business?

My perspective: I see B2B companies define “customer” as a legal entity with which they have a contractual obligation.  A “customer” is the part of the organization with the budget authority and the potential to deliver a future revenue stream through service contracts, training, consulting, upsell/cross-sell, and the like – without having to run to the parent for approval.

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Platform A: Too little too late for AOL?

Shar VanBoskirk

The online advertising world is abuzz this Monday morning about the press release from AOL which just crossed the wire.  Specifically, AOL announced that it will:

  1. Create a new online advertising platform, called Platform A, which will integrate the media and technologies across all of AOL's current ad networks including Advertising.com, TACODA, Third Screen Media, Lightningcast, and ADTECH
  2. Relocate its corporate headquarters to New York City

I see this announcement as further fodder for my argument that online advertising is trenching for a comeback, and moving forward will be the backbone of every marketing campaign.  Particular to AOL, I think this is interesting timing for a very aggressive move.  Leadership in the online advertising space was AOL's to lose 5 years ago and that is exactly what they did.  The decision to create an integrated marketing platform and locate themselves where the advertisers are is a great move, but is it too little too late?  Why now for AOL?  Why didn't they make a decision of this scale years ago before they fell into fourth place in the race?

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Yahoo!/Blue Lithium Further Validates Online Display Ads

Shar VanBoskirk

The announcment that Yahoo is buying ad network Blue Lithium comes at a ponderous time for me since I'm just wrapping up the research for Forrester's forecast of Interactive Marketing Spending and (report is due Sept 28).  Per that research, I'm finding that indeed interactive budgets are on their way up with marketers (still) most interested in search and (newly interested in) online video. Display ads continue to be a part of almost all online campaigns and yet no marketer has much to say about them.  Marketers and vendors alike have commented that display ads as a medium have undersold themselves since the early 2000s.  Basically display ads have capabilities that no marketer knows/cares about.  Or that has not yet been fully exploited.

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Forrester eBook Contribution: The One Piece Of Advice You Can’t Generate Leads Without

Laura Ramos

B2B marketers: RainToday.com asked me to participate in authoring an ebook about the one piece of advice marketers simply cannot generate leads without.

This 36-page report was published today and includes advice from not only yours truly, but also Jill Konrath, author of Selling to Big Companies,  Brian Carroll, author of Lead Generation for the Complex Sale, Suzanne Lowe, author of Marketplace Masters - How Professional Services Firms Compete to Win, and Ardath Albee, B2B Marketing Strategist, Marketing Interactions (with whom I've played blog-tag previously.)

Please take a look and download from: http://www.raintoday.com/leadgenadvice.cfm

I look forward to seeing your posts and comments on this.  Feel free to pass it on to your B2B marketing colleagues.

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The Future: Immersive Marketing?

Shar VanBoskirk

I'm right in the middle of researching Forrester's Interactive Marketing Forecast -- our big sizing report which forecasts spending in different interactive channels five years into the future.  In addition to leveraging a quantitative study of marketers (which some of you helped with -- thanks!), I'm also conducting a series of interviews with media providers, vendors, agencies and interactive marketing experts to help me prioritize trends and build out an accurate market sizing. 

Last week as part of my research I spoke to Jim Nail, ex-Forrester analyst and current CMO of TNS Media Intelligence/Cymfony and Jeff Lanctot, VP of Media and Client Services for Avenue A/Razorfish.  Both independently mentioned a key theme defining the future of interactive marketing which I've been noodling on since my conversations with them.  I'm paraphrasing a bit, but the theme is that of immersive marketing -- that is the idea of creating marketing programs that:

Create a cohesive and all-encompassing experience across any channel where the customer is.

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Desperately Seeking B2B Benchmarks

Laura Ramos

Here’s a question that crops up more and more frequently.  Forrester B2B marketing clients want to know “What are the average conversion rates for leads to opportunities and opportunities to sales in......?”  You can fill in the blank with:

Industry:   high tech, financial services, healthcare etc.
Tactic:   email marketing, paid search placement, direct mail postcards, etc.
Size:   small businesses, enterprises, firms over $250M in revenue, etc.
Product type:  durable, consumer, high technology, software, etc.
Channel:   direct sales, telesales, distributors, resellers, etc.

And create a tremendous array of opportunities to research.  Opportunities so vast it boggles my mind, and makes me wonder how Forrester might provide this kind of information on a reliable, relevant basis at minimum cost to ourselves and our clients.

In the spirit of exploring this dilemma further, I’d like to hear from our blog readers – B2B in particular – on these two questions:

1) What specific sources of information have you found for these types of benchmarks?  (Go ahead and mention competitors, you won’t hurt my feelings…) And how detailed, or reliable, do these sources need to be?

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Lotsa Talk About SEO Best Practices

Shar VanBoskirk

I've had a number of recent client inquiries about search engine optimization (SEO), so I thought it would be worth sharing some of the best practices I've assembled.

First off, just a little color on the role SEO is currently playing in the search marketing landscape.  I always recommend investing in SEO before paid search because it: 1) http://www.forrester.com/Research/Document/0,7211,39441,00.html one-time investment (although you'll have some cost for ongoing maintenance of your site once you get it optimized) that continues to pay off for years and 2) It takes a few months to get your site optimized and start seeing results.  So get your SEO started, buy some paid search ads to drive immediate traffic and test keywords, and in 6 months or so, you should have enough data and experience to have some pretty good integrated SEO/SEM programs running together.

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