BTB Marketers Go Slow on Sales Efforts

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Business-to-business marketers are still trying to determine when and how to get back to marketing and setting up business meetings with customers and potential customers.

Ruth Stevens, president of eMarketing Strategy, New York, said her clients are "laying low" and don't want to be intrusive in asking for a sales meeting.

"Right now most of them are quiet," she said. "They are having trouble asking for sales meetings because they are unsure if it is going to seem inappropriate. Everyone is trying to figure out what a responsible amount of time is before they begin marketing campaigns and trying to meet with companies."

Stevens said the uncertainty in approaching clients may linger awhile, but she noted that people in New York were back at work two to three days after the attacks and that businesses are getting back to doing what they have to do.

Campaigns that went right before or after the attacks, however, are likely a lost cause, she said.

"If you had a mail or an e-mail campaign that went out last week or the week before, you can forget about getting a response to it," Stevens said. "If you can hold off on running a campaign and begin to test the waters again in a week or two, I would suggest doing that."

Ron Goodman, senior business specialist at Kern Direct, Woodland Hills, CA, expects a slight slowdown in BTB marketing and purchasing but does not think it will be prolonged.

"I don't anticipate a total lack of commerce," he said. "Clients of ours have not stopped any of the programs they currently had running. The first two weeks are too soon to tell what may happen, but people are going back to work and moving forward."

Karen Breen Vogel, senior vice president of strategy at B2BWorks, an online marketing and media services company, said the attacks would affect BTB marketing in several ways. First, she said, the effects will vary among industries and among companies, causing them either to invest more money in straight advertising or into more public relations-type promotions.

"Some companies that may be in real trouble are going to have to do more public relations work and communicate to their constituents directly and succinctly about where they are and what they are going to be able to do in the short and long term," she said. "These companies won't have a need for an advertising message at this point. They need to focus more on discussing the status of their company."

She said other companies, such as those in defense-related industries, will be better off by allocating more money to advertising.

Vogel also warned that companies will have to examine existing campaigns to ensure that no content can be found offensive.

"Some companies are going to have to go back and create or do away with an entire campaign that may not have been offensive to anyone two weeks ago," she said. "They are going to have to take a look and make sure they are not misrepresenting anything."

Finally, Vogel said, the attacks showed businesses how effective the Internet can be.

"When people saw how reliable and real a means of contact the Internet became, I think marketers and people in general will identify with it as a more viable communication tool," she said. "It proved to be the most reliable way of getting information for those few days."

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