Study: Tech Marketers Cut Back, Think About Future

With reduced budgets and smaller staffs, Internet and high-technology marketers are spending more of their time focusing on short-term goals during the current economic downturn — a choice that could ultimately prove a hindrance, according to findings from marketing consultancy 3Sixty Market View.

The firm, which conducted a survey of marketers working at Silicon Valley technology firms, said that close to 90 percent of the respondents’ companies have slashed marketing budgets and shifted priorities.

In essence, marketers report that they’ve shifted from concentrating on promoting a corporate brand to simply trying to better understand their target markets. Advertising and positioning messages of the longer-term, overarching sort have likewise been scrapped in favor of specific messages about how a company’s products provide value to customers.

“What people told us is that overall, the emphasis for marketing has been switched to running programs that have a direct tie to revenue generation,” said Jeanne Harper, a principal at 3Sixty. “Overall corporate branding in the technology sector is taking a back seat to something along the lines of key account relationships, or targeted relations for customer development.”

The findings may come as no surprise to the marketers struggling to prove returns on investment for customers and prospective clients, but Harper said that technology firms could be missing the boat if they’re still locked-into short-term thinking when the economy rights itself — and competitors ramp up their marketing again.

“Certainly, you have to respond to the situation and you have to look at the short term,” she said. “But you have to be prepared for that turnaround, and to do that, you have to be proactive. You’ve got to get some plans in place to make the turnaround happen … Start getting some strategic and tactical programs that can be implemented in an 90-day timeframe, for example.”

Clearly, some marketers already realize this, though they find it nearly impossible to reach a workable balance between addressing immediate sales-driven needs and positioning for the future. According to the study, most Silicon Valley marketing professionals report feeling what Harper described as “out of sync.”

“They would like their positions to be strategic but they’re being pushed into reactive types of marketing — rather than proactive,” she said.

The study found that among established technology players, most believed the downturn would persist until the start of third quarter. On the other hand, smaller firms — those with annual revenues less than $20 million — often said they expected the slump to last as late as first quarter of 2003.

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