I had the pleasure of meeting Ellis Booker at the Chicago Social Media Club event in March 2009. As the editor for BtoB magazine, Ellis oversees content for the only publication devoted exclusively to the intersection of business marketing and business strategy. He also is editor of BtoB Media Business, the Magazine for Business Publishing Executives.ublished monthly by Crain Communications Inc., the publication reaches an audience of more than 45,000 readers. In addition to the print edition, BtoB offers online content and a weekly e-mail newsletter. Prior to joining BtoB Ellis was Editor at Large for CMP’s Internet Week, Senior Editor for Mecklermedia’s Web Week, and Senior Editor for Computerworld. He graduated from Oberlin College with a B.A. in English and Philosophy. You can find Ellis on Twitter at @ellisbooker.
Q: What changes in B2B marketing and communications have you seen since you’ve been at the magazine?
A: Two things. First has been the embrace of marketing metrics. It’s significant, I think, that during this latest downturn, marketing continues, albeit at reduced budgets. In other words, marketers have succeeded in demonstrating their value to the business bottom line. There will be no going back to “let’s throw it out there” campaigns. Even newfangled viral executions are being monitored closely, and modified if they are not meeting some pre-determined success metric. The second thing, I’d say, is how much more playful and creative the executions have become in the nine years I’ve been editor of BtoB. I would credit Ogilvy’s brilliant work for long-time client IBM as helping to create this new, creative landscape.
Q: The economy has obviously been under a tremendous amount of stress lately. How do you see B2B communicators coping?
A: It’s sector by sector, as you’d expect. What will be interesting is how the hardest hit areas, such as construction and financial services, find their voice in the recovery. And how the survivors, many in merged situations, handle their merged brands.
Q: How do you see B2B companies embracing social media?
A: Cautiously. But they need to engage these new channels, at the very least as listening posts for how their products and brands are being discussed by customers and prospects. Another healthy outcome of social media is that it is forcing companies to look at how their customers consume media. The old assumptions about target audiences–the trade magazines they read, shows they watch, conferences they attend, etc.–are being considered with fresh eyes. Also, the smart companies are giving their young employees more and
more responsibility for setting the strategy for these channels, which are consumed by young professionals like themselves.
Q: With all the press about print diminishing, how do B2B companies feel about print advertising? And how is BtoB dealing with this?
A: We’ve had a multi-page NetMarketing section in BtoB since relaunching the title in 2000. So Internet topics are not new to us. We also have a standing section on business media, which provides very insightful coverage of media companies. Regarding the future, what I think you’ll see is the media print brands in each category surviving and growing integrated print-Web-event-data businesses. The second- and third-place media properties are on the bubble, unfortunately.
Q: What marketing programs are they doing for brand retention and awareness?
A: Answering this slightly differently… one of the things that has concerned me is marketers being too myopic about, if you will, transaction-based campaigns and having less patience for long-haul, multi-year efforts that build brands. This problem is magnified in the current economy, of course.
Q: Where are B2B companies investing most of their marketing dollars?
A: No surprise here. Online is still growing at double digits, although far less than a couple years ago. Within that online spending, paid search and search engine optimization take the lions share.
Q: If you could give advice to B2B communicators, what three things would you tell them they need for being successful?
A: First, I’d say communicators must learn to listen before they can talk. And by “listen” I mean listen across all channels, using analytic technology to make informed decisions. Second, they need to coordinate their efforts. It’s simply not acceptable these days to have online and offline efforts out of sync. Third, they should be ready to adapt, and adapt quickly. Companies that adopt the right technologies to listen, monitor and manage their messaging should be able to modify these efforts quickly when the data indicates X or Y
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Q: Finally, what’s really the best way to pitch a story to you these days and what are you looking for?
A: The best way is e-mail. I live on e-mail. But before sending me a pitch, please read BtoB (and our many, subject-focused e-mail products) to see how we organize our coverage. That’ll give you the best idea of what we’re interested in. And on last thing. Despite my many comments about enabling technology, our focus here is about how marketers, practioners, are using these tools. We don’t do product reviews. We want to talk to users.