Barbara on September 19th, 2009

IDC logoIDC is putting numbers around something tech marketers already know: 2009 is the worst year for vendor-side tech marketing jobs and budgets since the dot-com bust.

IDC projects that 6,000 tech vendor marketing jobs will be cut by the time the dust settles at the end of 2009. Marketing budgets will be down 8.3% over 2008 levels.

That’s the inhouse tally. Imagine the totals when you add agency and freelance personnel and reduced and canceled POs.

The 2009 vendor marketing cuts have come with changes in structure and authority as well. IDC reports more than 70% of senior marketers described their departments as experiencing “significant organizational change”. The focus tends to be sales-marketing alignment. The decisions aren’t necessarily brightening the picture for career marketers. IDC says some of the top tech companies are uniting global marketing and sales groups under one executive. And that executive comes from sales rather than marketing. Titles include Chief Sales and Marketing Officer and SVP of WW Field Operations.

Sooner or later we’ll find the bottom of this free fall and then start the recovery. This time ’round, I expect that the recovery will institutionalize some of the boot-strap adjustments taken in the face of these overwhelming cuts. More shared services, fewer heads, lower retainers, longer payment terms. More emphasis on community. Less priority on specialists the further you move away from the SEO/SEM and analytics axis.

Big hat tip to Kathleen Shaub, who blogged about IDC’s study and guidance for 2010.

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Barbara on September 14th, 2009

Influencer relations programs focus on 1-to-1 relationships and therefore can be resource-intensive. So it’s a good idea to figure out where you can achieve economies of scale and how to go about doing it. Here are 3 areas with big potential.

Flexible, modular playbooks. A grand plan may work well with a handful of influencers, but it won’t scale across geographies or different types of influencers. Instead, do what the software programmers do. Develop program components that can be reused again and again in various combinations and with minimal tailoring. Communications people have been doing this for decades with collateral. Apply the same principle to influencer interactions.

Examples might include guidelines for an introductory phone call with an influencer, requesting and capturing feedback from influencers on important market issues, producing speaker panels mixing different types of influencers, and templates for frequency and mix of influencer outreach.

Training. Influencer relations requires a baseline of people skills plus some specialty skills. Distance learning, mentoring and shadowing offer different levels of scalability. Distance learning and mentoring offer greater scalability for local and remote one-to-many training. Shadowing is less scalable yet more effective. This approach matches learners with masters, enabling them to observe each other engage with influencers in the real world.

A combination of these 3 models is best, company culture allowing. And, if you’re serious about scalability, couple any or all of these methods with a collaborative knowledge base.

Monitoring. Centralized procurement can help negotiate better pricing on the products and services used for monitoring influencers. You need to listen online and offline. That means monitoring across digital (and possibly physical) media, virtual and physical events, and virtual and physical communities. For multinational programs, consider negotiating with a short list of providers. That’s still the best way to secure consistent levels of quality and coverage across different languages and cultures.

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Barbara on May 12th, 2009

I’ll be at BiteBash in San Francisco tonight, “Navigating Your Brand through the Great Recession”. It’s such a timely topic. Bite’s David Hargreaves sums up the risks and opportunities that surround marketing right now:

“Harvard Business Review recently reported that companies who slash marketing spending often find that they later have to invest much more than they saved in order to recover from their prolonged absence from the media landscape. A separate article from Harvard Associate Dean John A. Quelch suggests organizations should even be spending more during a downturn to exploit the gaps left by their competitors.”

I’m focused on working with influencers as a straightforward approach to aligning marketing with business objectives so I’m keen to hear perspectives from the different speakers and the audience participants.

Please say hello if you’re there as well.

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Barbara on January 24th, 2009

Imagine you’re the marketing lead at a small company and you’re gearing up to launch a product, service, or even the company. One morning, the CEO informs you,

“The marketing budget is now $0, and we will figure out a way to get to market.”

That’s one of 6 things that CEOs of small companies and start-ups should be saying to their employees this year, according to Guy Kawasaki.

Guy’s advice speaks to the heart of what’s been going on in tech marketing lately. We’re seeing some changes in C-level thinking about marketing spend. It’s not the usual knee-jerk reaction to a tech recession, such hacking away at marketing budgets and staffs. It even goes beyond the dreaded zero-based budgeting maneuver.

Company leaders are looking for entirely fresh thinking. They want more effective programs for generating sales leads or reducing cost of sales.

In the article, Guy points directly to using social media to get to market. There’s much merit in that.

I would add that it’s vital to start by identifying the people making and influencing purchase decisions. Then use social media to the extent that it makes sense as a way to engage with them.

Otherwise, you run the risk of using social media as a trendy replacement for traditional mass communications.

And that won’t deliver a good return… not even on a $0 marketing budget.

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Barbara on January 13th, 2009

Rich Vancil, vice president of IDC’s Executive Advisory Group, blogs a sad prediction: marketing budgets will be cut roughly 15% during the first half of 2009. He also makes an interesting point on the virtues of investing consistently in marketing:

I have believed that good marketing investment policy has elements of a large inertial flywheel: let it stop spinning and the fuel to get it going again costs a lot more than if steady increments had been consistently applied. Vendors should have the wherewithal and courage to keep their investments basically steady.
– Richard Vancil

I’ve seen the same “flywheel” dynamic in influencer relations, as well. Consistently applying effort and attention requires less overall time, energy and funding — and pays greater dividends in the long run.

Check out the blog for marketing management advice on weathering the economic storm.

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