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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Customer Centricity – A Refreshing Reminder From The SMB World

Shar VanBoskirk

I met earlier this week with Constant Contact, the email service provider focused on the small (and I mean SMALL business market. . . half of their clients have fewer than 5 employees). They were in to talk about a new survey tool they've developed ListenUp!, the first product in a new marketing suite of SMB tools they are developing to complement their email capabilities. The survey tool looks good. . . a helpful solution for small marketers trying to conduct some market research, or gather some customer data to make segmentation possible.

But what really impressed me in my conversation with Constant Contact was their value system and how it has led to continued growth for them. Here it is:

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Google Aims For The Enterprise Apps Space With Postini Acquisition

Shar VanBoskirk

The news to welcome us all back from the July 4 holiday was that "Google Buys Again."  This time Postini, an enterprise app focused on communications security and compliance, for $625 million.

To me, this acquisition does means a few things:

1) It clearly demonstrates Google's intent to expand outside of its present role as a search engine or online media provider and into a more holistic role as a technology and media solutions provider.

2) It also expands Google's access to the enterprise customer.  Google has made its first fortune by selling paid ads adjacent to the volumes of consumer searches conducted on google.com.  New Web features like Google News, Gmail and Google Checkout are also providing Google consumer data and additional outlets where they can sell ads.  Postini now provides Google insight into enterprise email and perhaps ultimately ad space within the enterprise inbox.

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FTC review of Google/DoubleClick: No big whoop

Shar VanBoskirk

You have probably heard the scuttlebutt around the FTC investigation into Google's acquisition of DoubleClick.  Last week, the FTC confirmed that it would conduct an antitrust review of the deal, paying particular attention to the amount of consumer data DoubleClick gives Google access to.   

My take is that this is all much ado about nothing.  Why?

*Google is an easy target.  Google is so large, and has seen such rapid growth over the last 3 years, that we all (competitors, consumers, government officials, press, industry analysts) can't help but be a little suspicious of them.  And maybe a little jealous of their wealth and presence. 

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