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The Economic Cloud's Silver Lining - for B2B Marcom

  • B2B Marcom
  • On October of 2008, B2B Ad Agency Chairman Gary Slack (Slack Barshinger), was interviewed by Kate Maddox forBtoBonline.

    Regarding the current economic situation vis-a-vis marketing plans, Gary said:

    I'm ... very concerned about the future of PR. With some b-to-b marketers cutting advertising while stepping up PR pitches to magazine and Web editors for editorial support, how long can vertical industry media, which have been a b-to-b marketing mainstay for years, continue as viable businesses and communications pathways?

     I've thought a lot about this in the past year and have some half-baked ideas - but no silver bullets. I believe it's going to take our collective thinking and acting to resolve this issue thoroughly.

    First of all, I totally agree with Gary. When advertisers stop spending advertising dollars AND continue issuing press releases, PR pitches, interviews, and editorials (all to be published for free), how long will the esteemed and valued medium stay in business? It IS cause for concern.

    That said, you can't blame the average marcom technician for doing what they've always done. But, you and I - we're not paid to be average. So, I feel we have a responsibility to help improve this condition. As for the media side? Well, they're totally at risk, so they bear enormous responsibility to improve the situation. Personally, I've watched trade publications shrink from over 100 (print) pages to 24 pages per month, shrink from 12 (print) issues to 6 issues per year, get combined with related publications, and even go out of business.

    I am reminded of the excellent fable of the chicken and the pig - depicting the difference between involvement and commitment. According to Wikipedia:

    ... the Chicken suggests that the two involve themselves in a scheme involving ham ... and eggs. In reply, the Pig ... notes that, for the Chicken, only a contribution is required (as a chicken can simply lay an egg and then resume normal activities), while for the Pig a "total commitment" ... is needed (as in order to make ham ..., the pig must be slaughtered).

    Simplistically, in this case, B2B Marcom people and organizations are the chicken. Media - you're the pig (at least if you remain committed to antiquated practices). But it's not realy that simple - in the real world we're all BOTH the chicken AND the pig. (image source).

    To me, it all boils down to VALUE. People create it, people want to obtain it, people want to sell it, people want to take advantage of it, and people are willing to buy it. VALUE is valuable - so let's value it.  The old (print) model was:"Being seen in my book is good for you, so you have to pay to place an ad in it."  Recently I wrote"This industry is comprised of VERY intelligent, curious, and energetic personalities (you). I've met so many in my 25 years here. I am totally convinced that there are some dramatically different and fantastically effective things that we SHOULD be doing now. I suggest that we begin with helping the customer reach their goals, then, give ourselves the freedom to suspend all existing beliefs and "rules", and, finally, insist on detailed accountability for all resources invested."  Suspending the rules, maybe even trashing them, certainly revisiting and rewriting them, is required at this time.

    VALUE is valuable - so let's value it. 

    Everyone involved should determine what is valued, create value, then pay (or receive) proper compensation for it. Forget the antiquated notion that ad dollars subsidize tech articles, editorials, and interviews. If those elements of a marcom program are valued, then the issuer should pay for that value - and the medium should receive fair value for the service. This is true for media - as well as for other marcom endeavors. I kick this around in a blog posting regarding how to get the best value out of trade shows and technical conferences.

    Personally, I seem to value less and less the opportunity to have my ad seen ... anywhere (print, online, in a conference program, etc.). I am NOT saying all advertising is useless. Instead, I value more and more the fact that my customers are increasingly seeking accurate and instant answers to critical issues from a trusted supplier and partner. Being both the answer and the partner don't happen due to awesome ads. I believe this develops, over time, via the supplier proving themself via a series of technical articles, conference presentations, technology workshops, engagements on process enhancements, helpful blog postings, scientific insights, etc. And, I VALUE the opportunity to present my company in those channels.

    I conclude (again) that the "media" should consider tossing the antiquated "rate card" and craft a new tool that lists the things that B2B Marcom professionals value. Then, determine the proper rates for participating in these channels. I see a day when I PAY to place a technical paper or interview in a vertical industry medium (online or print) and have NO ad in the same pub.

    What do you foresee? Maybe your insight will be the silver lining in this gloomy cloud.