B2B Marketers Happy to Feel SIC

It’s no secret that business decision makers are a hot demographic for marketers. As Joseph Jaffe put it in a recent column, this person is affluent, influential and empowered; in control, with the ability to exert control in the work environment.

The men and women in this group are online in big numbers. According to eMarketer data, they access the Internet for five or more hours a day. Yet reaching them online hasn’t been that easy if you focused only on the B2B world.

But that may soon change.

The latest addition to the marketer’s toolbox is targeting via Standard Industrial Classification (SIC), enabling them to find decision makers in particular industries and even specific companies, no matter where they’re surfing. It categorizes them based on where they’re connected from and what they connect to.

Early last month, for example, TACODA Systems announced an alliance with Quova that will offer audience-segmentation schemes that place site visitors into appropriate SIC categories. That data will further be refined by each user’s online behavior and geolocation by country, region, state, city or ZIP codes.

“Now a B2B marketer can target online by industry classification in combination with traditional parameters such as geolocation, age, sex, income and what user behavior reveals about their interests,” says Dave Morgan, CEO of TACODA.

More importantly, it gives these marketers broader placement choices, because they can target inside general media. “B2B advertisers want to be focused. Niche books can be expensive. Now there’s an opportunity for them to use consumer publications online and reach their target market,” says Morgan.

“Many large marketers wish to align their brands with well-branded broad sites but they do want to eliminate the waste—these solutions will allow further targeting to make those buys much more effective for the dollar and allow industry specific messaging and value propositions to be applied in the creative executions,” says Karen Breen Vogel, president and CEO of B2BWorks, a marketing services company with heavy involvement in B2B.

Morgan expects Forbes.com to be among the publishers to offer this targeting method to its advertisers.

Last week, MarketWatch.com Inc. announced it would be offering a similar tool within its network via a Revenue Science Inc. service called Switched-On Audience Select. Like the TACODA product, this one uses SIC data to pinpoint individuals within specific industries and Fortune 500 companies.

"We plan to offer advertisers a package for virtually any audience they request, ranging from 'Active Investors' to 'Fortune 100 Businesses,' to one of the largest targetable 'Financial Services' audiences available," says Scot McLernon, executive vice president of sales and marketing for MarketWatch.com. "This is a unique offering for advertisers seeking to connect with MarketWatch visitors in the workplace.

For example, instead of delivering "CEOs from tech companies who have over $1 million in revenue," which actually narrows reach, advertisers can request "people who access [the Internet] from technology companies or access technology pages or put in specific values in their registration," which increases the reach.

In essence, says McLernon, it enables marketers to advertise on particular pages to a particular audience, more so than simply advertising against specific content. “It’s like sponsorship of an audience rather than of content,” he says. “This offers up another whole client base without affecting what we normally do. We segment out our audience based on behavior patterns already; now we can also sell into a whole new target.”

The timing for this type of targeting is, well, right on target. A recent BtoB survey of 422 marketing executives says B2B companies appear ready to boost spending in 2004.

“These offerings primarily benefit large business marketers who are primarily running branding campaigns where reach and frequency are important attributes,” says Breen Vogel. “I see this as a nice tool and a complementary offering to reaching the targets through other specific vertical media venues such as sites, newsletters, opt-in email lists and, in some cases, search marketing opportunities that currently exist.

“For those executing primarily direct response driven programs, these enhancements are not quite as meaningful as the proof is in the measuring of the qualified responses after the impression and the click—i.e., download white paper, request a call, register for further information—the media chosen is measured on its ability to produce the maximum amount of qualified lead behaviors,” Breen Vogel says. “However, even those efforts will benefit from gaining additional reach—avoiding waste and adding some branding dimensions to direct response expenditures, which in some cases is very desirable.”

ING is one company for which such targeting might come in handy. “ING is one of the largest providers of workplace benefits and retirement plans, and decisions about those services are not usually made by just one person or department. We need to reach a wide variety of decision-makers, each bringing their own perspective and concerns to the process,” says Tom Lynch, head of online marketing for ING. “Any tool that allows us to more specifically identify these individuals and companies will help us deliver a message to them that has more relevance to their situation and needs. That type of initial communication helps differentiate ING from the very beginning, as a company that is very customer-focused.”

Lynch sends a warning, however. “More focused audience targeting without an equal commitment to message targeting is a failure. The real benefit to this type of targeting isn't just to cut out wasted impressions; it is to improve the effectiveness of the impressions that are run. That only happens when the creative is as focused as the media buy.”

But for the most part, Lynch believes anything that can help marketers better target their audiences is a good thing. “We test our advertising constantly, and we have yet to find a point of diminishing returns on tighter targeting,” he says. “People are tuning out all advertising, and the only thing that seems to universally work is relevance of message (or animals apparently, based on the recent Super Bowl ads).”

Adds Breen Vogel: “It’s always good news when there are more tools and tricks to find the best targets for a marketer’s branding and lead generation endeavors, but they need to be properly applied with the proper expectations and for the right types of scenarios where benefits will be best gained.

 

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