B2B Marketers: Are You Ready for Tomorrow?

For B2B marketers, Internet marketing is emerging as an inevitable way of doing business, but it’s your audience that drives the effectiveness of direct-marketing activities. That’s why it’s essential to understand where your market is today and how accepting your audiences are of Internet marketing.

Would you classify your target audience as early adopters of Internet technology or as laggards? How your various target audiences and constituencies respond to Internet marketing is a key consideration.

Know Your Audience

While the Internet itself is now in a stage of mass adoption, you need to understand which audiences will be very accepting of Internet marketing and which audiences will be less receptive or even resistant to Internet marketing.

Information technology professionals — software developers and programmers, for example — will obviously be early adopters, but what about other business audiences? Where do sales and marketing people fit in your target industries? Financial managers and purchasing agents? Human resources managers? CEOs? Which industries are more likely to accept Internet marketing? Does a company’s size have an effect on its acceptance of Internet marketing?

You may need to do some solid research to determine how your target audiences will react to Internet marketing. Closely follow the practices of your competitors and your industry. Watch where they are focusing their efforts.

Also, keep a close eye on the traditional media that target your prospect and customer audiences. Are they reporting about the Internet and the Web more frequently? Do they have companion Web sites that serve your audiences? Are there other Web-based information providers beyond your competitors that target your audiences? Are Internet marketing conferences springing up in your target industries? These are all strong indications that Internet marketing is rapidly gaining acceptance.

Keep Online and Offline in Line

Are you effectively integrating the Internet with other media? Your media strategy — the way you use media and the mix of media you use — may change radically in the future. Begin the transition to Internet marketing now by making the Internet a more prominent and integral part of your media mix.

Here’s how to think about the coming e-marketing world:

Lead generation. Today, leads can be generated from many online and offline sources. In the future, email and the Web may very well outpull other media as the primary lead source, so electronic lead generation will become more essential as time goes on.

Response. Response comes in via business reply mail, phone calls, email, fax, or your Web site. It is likely, however, that the Web will become a primary response path in the future. Web responses should arrive via a designated, campaign-specific URL that leads to a Web response form. Prepare for Web responses to be the predominant form of inquiry and, eventually, order.

Qualification and fulfillment. Today, traditional media are still being used to qualify and fulfill leads in a two-step process. In the future Internet marketing world, this process is likely to be more heavily weighted to the Internet, which can combine qualification and fulfillment. This transition is already taking place with Web-based fulfillment centers and electronic customer relationship management.

With the online lead-qualification process happening in real time, marketers can instantly deliver individualized fulfillment content to all types of prospects based on their interest and qualification level. This content can be delivered via outbound email or through individualized Web pages targeted to the prospect’s specific interests and needs. Fulfillment on the Web can occur via a routine Web response area process, as well as at Web sites. Fulfillment can also be “pushed” via the Web to a prospect’s desktop if appropriate.

The cost-savings implications of electronic fulfillment to marketers and the ease of use to respondents are so extraordinary that you should anticipate this type of fulfillment becoming the norm rather than the exception.

Cultivation. The cultivation process is becoming easier and more automatic for marketers. Internet marketers routinely use outbound email to communicate periodically, using such vehicles as email newsletters to maintain visibility. The email usually embeds Web-page links, which go to surveys, forms, and specialized Web pages. Prospects and customers are pulled to Web sites and extranets, which may include special promotions and content. As part of the cultivation process, Internet-based customer service will eventually rule the relationship.

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