B2B Growth Strategies for a Down Economy

B2B media luminary shares some tips.

Via http://www.aicpalearning.org, Hank Berkowitz writes:

When it comes to B2B e-newsletters for financial professionals, no discussion would be complete without checking in with Rick Telberg, President of Bay Street Group Research in Dobbs Ferry, NY. Arguably the most widely-read journalist and analyst covering the accounting profession, Telberg is the co-author of a new research report: Beyond the Click: Maximizing Advertising ROI in B2B E-Newsletters.

Request a FREE copy of the executive summary of the report, here.

CPA Marketing Insider (CMI): Rick, it sounds like you're not a big fan of using clicks to measure the success or failure of online ad campaigns, especially in e-newsletters.

Rick Telberg: Correct. I'm just not seeing much of a correlation between advertisers who are continually renewing their campaigns in their favorite media properties and the clicks they're getting from those campaigns. Several media partners I've talked with note that some of their longest-standing clients fall into the middle and even lower tiers in terms of raw click-through rates they're seeing.

CMI: With marketing departments and ad agencies stretched so thin these days, can media partners really expect their advertisers to develop creative specifically for their own publications and Web properties?

Telberg: I'd flip that around. Can advertisers (and their agencies) really expect to get great results without getting to know the audience of each media property they buy into? Should they really be beating up their media partners for detailed metrics and other forms of so-called "audience accountability" when they don't do their homework on what makes that audience tick?

CMI: Shouldn't advertisers try to repurpose their Web site ads for e-newsletters to keep the messaging consistent?

Telberg: They can try, but it's kind of like running your highway billboard creative in a glossy magazine environment. It might work, but you're not taking advantage of the best uses of that medium.

CMI: When it comes to e-newsletters for financial professionals, is there any type of ad creative that tends to work particularly well?

Telberg: After reviewing hundreds and hundreds of campaigns, we learned that sponsored content - white papers, case studies, position papers -significantly outperform banner ads and text links, both directly and indirectly. Readers of professional e-newsletters tend not to like the hard sell. They don't have time for gimmicks. They're looking for education, insight and news related to important industry trends and practices. Also, banner ads that featured headshots of professional looking business people - not models - usually score higher with this audience than other types of ads.

CMI: But you're also saying banner ads and text links aren't worth it in the e-newsletter environment?

Telberg: I didn't say that. We actually isolated campaigns that were sponsored edit only and compared them to campaigns that we call fully integrated (a sponsored edit accompanied by a banner and sponsored text link). Our research found that the fully integrated packages generated about 50 percent more response than stand-alone sponsored editorial campaigns. E-newsletter subscribers are readers by definition. But, without the brand-supporting banners and text links to reinforce the message in your ads, prospects are less likely to remember who provided them with the great information.

CMI: Any other takeaways for our readers?

Telberg: Number One. Direct clicks don't represent the complete response rate. Clicks account for only a portion of an ad campaign's impact on an audience. There can be a significant latent effect on readers who don't click on ads right away. We're finding about 55 percent of the response to ads in the professional e-newsletters we've studied comes either off-line, or it comes up to 30 days later when one or several additional messages from that advertiser has hit the prospect at the right time in their purchase decision cycle. The Web is especially effective in the prospects' "further learn" phase - somewhere between initial brand awareness and before they're ready to make the buy.

CMI: How do you know?

Telberg: We found that readers who were exposed to studied ads, but who didn't actually click on them could recall those ads weeks later at almost the same rate as readers who did click on those ads. Likewise, we found that readers who were exposed to studied ads, but who didn't actually click on them, saved them for future reference at almost the same rate as readers who did click on those ads. We also found that the exposed non-clickers were almost as likely as the clickers to visit the advertised company's Web site after seeing the ad and were even more likely to forward those ads to a colleague.

CMI: Any final thoughts for time-pressed, budget-strapped B2B marketers?

Telberg: Be understandable, be relevant and be believable. Don't be too slick.
As Hanley Wood's Frank Anton noted at the Folio Summit, the time to be brave is now. The economic uncertainty may passover sooner than you may expect. Savvy media professionals, who've got their online media ducks in a row right now, will be poisded to hit the ground running when the demand side kicks in. Those who are pre-occupied with avoiding failure may be playing big-time catch up sooner - and for a lot longer - than they think.