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B2Bs Have Clicks Up Their Sleeve, Too
eMetrics '09: Even if the transactions don't necessarily happen on the Web site, B2B marketers still have to manage the site experience.
Posted Oct 27, 2009
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WASHINGTON — Cleve Bellar, senior director of marketing operations at LexisNexis Risk Solutions, called it an "art form." Linda Hetcher, senior manager of Web analytics, called it "compelling." Chris DeMaio, director of B2B Internet sales and marketing at Verizon Wireless, called it a matter of "relevance." Whatever Web experts are calling it, Web analytics is critical in the B2B space, which is precisely what they proceeded to discuss in a morning keynote session at the eMetrics '09 conference here last week.

As part of the "Every Click is a Lead" session, Verizon Wireless was the only company in the line-up that handles both B2C and B2B customers. However, DeMaio warned the audience, while it's great that B2B can learn from the experience of B2C marketing approaches, "do not allow the consumer methods to drive your business." By focusing too much on the practices of B2C, companies will inevitably miss the nuances in B2B marketing -- and with accounts that can be worth millions, or potentially billions, it can be a costly oversight.

In B2B, a lead is often defined as a qualified response, which is made up of an aggregation of milestones -- a measure that determines, as Bellar said, the stickiness of that individual. For Avaya, the courting period can take anywhere from 18 to 24 months, which, she added, many may not be willing, or able, to wait.

In the past, the marketing department at LexisNexis took the credit for all leads that came in through the Web; but as the company has become more data driven, it's been able to foster a more collaborative environment in the organization, particularly with sales. "We no longer take the credit for the deals." Bellar said, "We impact the deals."

Collaboration is still a challenge for Verizon's B2B Web marketing: "Some days you feel like everyone's integrated," he said. "Other days you feel like everyone forgot you exist." Therefore, DeMaio has had to make a value proposition to all departments involved in building up the company's Web presence. Day-to-day transactions and customer service calls, for instance, can be redirected to the Web. "We're not in a position to add support staff," DeMaio said. "In the past, we would have just thrown people at the problem, but that's not the model anymore." 

As the younger generations increasingly enter the workforce, the demand for a company's Web presence rises as well. In response, Verizon has supplemented its Web site with more interactive media (e.g., video, online demos)-for those looking for answers in 30 seconds or less-in addition to the multi-page whitepapers. "We haven't gotten to the point where we can abandon the traditional," DeMaio said, "but we definitely have to step up modern media." He added that the issue isn't an either/or debate-if possible, it's best to get the same value out of the data, just in different ways." Just because a book was turned into an audio or a movie doesn't mean the book is obsolete; rather, it's an opportunity to be creative and get the message of that book out, especially to an audience that may not have accessed the material otherwise.

In addition, when a B2B client has identified its need, it's looking for more than just information, which they then have to take and compare to other offerings. Recognizing that, Verizon has attempted to aggregate competitive information into one place-"Anything you can do to take the work away from the customer is huge," DeMaio said.

Bellar doesn't see so much a generational difference but a cultural difference between LexisNexis's B2B and B2C clients. Therefore, the company has built a preference center and uses personalized URLs to clients and prospects to tell LexisNexis exactly what they want to receive.

With improved focus on its Web property, metrics, too, have changed. Verizon stopped focusing on portal enrollment and instead on activity, once it realized that less than 30 percent of the people enrolled were active. Avaya let go of just traffic and high mouse-rate volume and built a more defined path of conversion. "I'd rather have people go deeper into my site, even if it's fewer," Hetcher said. Ellis Booker, an editor at B2B magazine and moderator of the panel, added that he was reluctant to hurt his boss's feelings by revealing that a portion of the company's followers are porn bots.

Each company admitted they were still in the early stages of social media for the B2B space. Hetcher said that Avaya had yet to make significant inroads. Bellar reiterated the need to foster community as a means for sharing compelling content. Facebook fans are certainly a viable list of targets, but he hasn't figured out how to do that without being "creepy." Verizon is connecting small businesses across social media, connecting them with each other as a form of professional networking.

Marketers often say that even in B2B it's a person making who's making the decision. Though it may be one signature in the end, B2B requires a focus not just on the individual, Bellar said, but a panel of decision makers. "It's an art form, a chain of events...You have to look at that holistically through all channels of the Web." Web analytics has enabled Hetcher to ask better questions. As a result, she is able to determine the next best course of action, she said. "It's just one element of the recipe to do better with your customers."

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