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.
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?
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.
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:
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.
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.
Forrester encourages B2B marketers to use online video, recorded Web seminars, and other rich media to educate, train, and persuade buyers. Through testimonials and case studies, video creates a lasting impression and emotional bond that is important in business marketing. It’s also less risky to experiment with this medium with the cost of recording decreasing.
But how far can B2B marketers push video from traditional interview or demonstration formats into non-traditional word-of-mouth? Clients see consumer-oriented video ads on YouTube and ask if we see viral video work in business marketing. The answer? We don’t see much.
Exceptions do arise: Scalent VP of Marketing and friend, Kevin Epstein, sent me an April Fool’s joke video his team put together, and – on a whim – decided to post on YouTube. Kevin wrote about this decision on his blog and I asked Forrester’s marketing research team to look and weigh in. Our take: video may become the digital tchotchke: logo-emblazoned pens, toys, and other useless items companies give to prospects or hand out at tradeshows.
Early this morning Microsoft announced it will buy online marketing company aQuantive -- the holding parent of interactive agency Avenue A/Razorfish, display and paid search ad mangement platform Atlas and inventory management system DrivePM. The $6 billion deal cash deal represents an 85% premium to aQuantive's closing price last night and will likely close during the first half of 2008.
I think there are two obvious calls to make based on this deal:
1. The acquisition certainly builds out Microsoft's access to the entire online advertising supply chain. Prior to the acquisition Microsoft had the execution channel -- sites where advertisers could buy ads. Now, they also have the upstream pieces of this chain: planning, strategy, creative. WPP is working toward a similar goal with its recent announcement to acquire 24/7 Real Media. But WPP had the planning, strategy, and creative pieces and bought 24/7 for access to the downstream channel.
Greetings from beautiful Stone Mountain, GA, where I am currently prepping for my presentation tomorrow at Silverpop's Digital Marketer Customer Conference. I'm looking forward to hearing more about the Silverpop/VTrenz deal tomorrow, but here are my thoughts so far:
Overall, I think this is a good move for Silverpop and an even better one for VTrenz.
VTrenz gets access to enterprise customers, and Silverpop's well-established resources: R&D, client base, professional services team. And they break into the mainstream email marketing space. A coup I think for a niche player from Fargo,ND which to date has been company to a solid, but very small collective of B2B electronic lead management tools.
And Silverpop enters a new market: B2B and now has a ready-made solution for marketers trying to use email to sell high-consideration products (think cars or health insurance rather than books or pet supplies).
Earlier today, Silverpopannounced their acquisition of marketing demand management start-up Vtrenz. My colleague Shar VanBoskirk and I had the opportunity preview this event with Bill Nussey and Will Schnabel. From a B2B marketing perspective, this combination holds promise because email and lead nurturing make good bedfellows. In B2B, email is a low cost way to continue prospect conversations and it gives marketing a direct channel for incubating buyers during longer B2B purchase cycles.
Because there's not a lot of overlap in technology or customer bases here, the prospects for a richer, more rounded offering are good. However, this combination is not unique: Eloqua also offers email, lead warming, and prospect analytic solutions. So -- other than giving Eloqua some stiffer competition -- will this merger matter in the greater email market? Probably not, but I'll let Shar weigh in on that question.