10 Things That Shaped B2B Marketing in 2001

2001 was a very important year for marketers. We faced a number of challenges and a changing perspective on the role marketing plays in business. Here are the drivers that I found most influential this year:

  1. Value. No single topic this year dominated marketing strategies more than value. In almost every industry, companies realized they needed to articulate a clear value proposition to get noticed. They had to show results to survive. Good PR, buzz, and other nontangible strategies were not sufficient to sustain effective marketing in 2001. Successful companies were able to show cost-savings benefits or revenue-generating possibilities, backed up with solid case studies and testimonials. Expect this trend to continue, with even greater expectations from your customers.
  2. Doing more with less. Our tight economy forced every company to become resourceful. Nowhere was this more evident than in marketing departments. Budget slashes, staff reductions, and a demand for results presented tough challenges for even the most seasoned marketing pros. Most companies had to learn how to do more with less. This environment produced very innovative marketing campaigns from companies such as IBM.
  3. Tech fatigue. A result of the dot-com fallout was the failure of some technology companies to mount effective marketing campaigns in 2001. Enterprise software companies such as Commerce One and Ariba experienced all-time low response rates for Web seminars that had proven successful in previous years. The reason? Tech burnout. Customers tuned out messages that emphasized technology over solving real business issues.
  4. The quiet success. Volkswagen, General Electric, and a host of other companies realized significant savings from their internal e-business initiatives in 2001. Did you hear about them? If you didn’t, you’re not alone. In 2001, many companies quietly went about their business without generating much hype. This is part of a growing acceptance that e-business is nothing novel. Companies have always been interested in applying technology to become more efficient or generate greater profits.
  5. Good copy. 2001 was a year in which companies rediscovered the value of good copywriting. Most marketing pros realized jargon, buzzword, and acronyms only confused prospective buyers. This was especially true in technology markets where every vendor in the space attempted to reposition products as business solutions that delivered tangible value.
  6. Integrated marketing. The secret sauce of marketing strategy in 2001? One word: integration. The days of standalone efforts for Web, direct, or channel marketing are over. This year proved a comprehensive marketing strategy that links various contact points produces better return on investment and greater value for customers.
  7. Usability payback. Companies that invested time, money, and effort into understanding how customers use their Web assets realized significant gains in 2001. Quietly, usability studies and user interface redesign projects paid huge dividends for companies such as Seagate and CDW. They invested in improving their online services. The gap between leaders and laggards will grow even more significantly in 2002.
  8. David beats Goliath. Another trend in the business-to-business (B2B) arena was the ability of smaller companies to appear larger than life. One realization of the Web’s promise has come to pass. In 2001, a number of success stories came true for small to mid-sized B2B companies such as Corporate Apparel Wholesale. Their businesses thrived via the Web.
  9. Nurture thy channel. Channel maintenance was an important concept for all businesses in 2001, following two consecutive years of businesses attempting to disrupt channel relationships. The focus is back on working with existing partners. Look for solutions from vendors such as Comergent to become increasingly popular next year, as companies work to optimize channel relationships.
  10. Face time. The year proved, more than ever before, that face-to-face conversation is still the most effective marketing tool. The current state of electronic communications is a poor substitute for good, old-fashioned business discussion. Despite the great changes that face marketers today, traditional techniques remain effective.

I look forward to the challenges of 2002, as we continue to search for winning marketing strategies. If you have any suggestions or thoughts on what will drive marketing next year, let me know.

B2B Marketing will return on Monday, January 7th. Happy holidays from ClickZ!

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