Seven Things Marketers Want From Vendors

For those of us with our noses to the proverbial grindstone, it’s tough to get perspective. We’re focused on our own businesses, our own clients, our own customers and our own products. The big picture is often hard to see.

I’m as guilty of myopia as anyone, but was happy for an opportunity last week to get a glimpse of the bigger view at the Marketing Forum.

For those of you who’ve never participated in this marketing marathon (there’s no other word for it), it’s a three-day cruise-to-nowhere, where top marketing folks from every big company you can think of are brought together with those of us who provide services to them. Confined to a cruise ship with a tightly-regimented schedule of 25-minute meetings, the Forum gives vendors (like me) the opportunity to pitch our services to over 30 different clients from a dizzying array of industries. It’s intense, to say the least. Although one friend compared the ship to a “floating jail,” it’s an incredible way to find out what lots of top marketers are doing (or not doing).

The most fascinating thing about the experience is the perspective you get from simply talking to so many people. As I sat and talked (often from 7:30 a.m. into the wee hours of the next morning), several themes began to arise, themes that seem to be common to marketers of all stripes who are looking to leverage the Internet. This overview certainly changed my thinking on plenty of issues. I’ll share them so you can reap some of the benefit I received.

Here goes:

  1. Banners are on the way out. Yes, I know this sounds like an obvious statement, but until you talk to the top marketers for some of the world’s top brands, you don’t realize how true the conventional wisdom is. Most folks seem to have given up on traditional online ad models. I’d look for an even bigger downturn in this segment as we move into the latter part of 2002 and early next year.
  2. Direct is in. Big time. Every single person I talked with was adamant about their intention to use highly-targeted marketing efforts designed to generate measurable results. Maybe it was just the folks I talked to, but when you hear the same thing from people in high fashion and industrial supply, you take notice. If you’re not dead serious about email right now, you’d better get yourself off to email school.
  3. Search engine optimization is hot. When one major online retailer told me they get about 60 percent of their traffic from aggressive search engine optimization efforts (and none from online advertising, the rest from direct email), it sure made me sit up. Most clients don’t differentiate between search engine optimization and pay-for-placement keyword buys. Make sure you don’t divide the two tasks in your shop.
  4. The time to build is over. Now’s the time for some return on the site build investment. This bears mentioning: most people weren’t interested in building new sites. They want to get the most out of their existing sites. Selling rebuilds isn’t where it’s at. Services that help drive traffic and leverage existing sites are in demand.
  5. Marketers understand the value of research. They are increasingly interested in using it to drive ROI and marketing efforts. While some industries (especially the entertainment folks I talked to) still believe flying-by-the-seat-of-their-expert-pants is the way to go, most understood the value of probing deep into their customers’ psyches to learn their motivations and behaviors.
  6. Content continues to be a big issue. Not necessarily managing it. A lot of companies I spoke with had the technical side covered. Creating content that’s effective yet inexpensive is what’s demanded.
  7. CRM remains an enigma. Lots of companies talked a good game, but the details seemed kind of sketchy.

Bottom line? Results, results, results. We’re long past the days of pie-in-the-sky speculation and wild ideas. Today’s clients want to get people to their site, convert them to customers and keep them coming back. They want efficiency, measurability and ROI. They want more value from lower budgets. They’re done building. Now, they want to reap the promise of the Internet.

We’d better be ready to help them get there.

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