Trylon Communications  - December 2003

Marketing Myths Exposed

A recent study by Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates of Denver refuted several common myths in business-to-business marketing. A key finding was the effectiveness of PR as a marketing tool versus direct sales, collateral and advertising. The conclusions may have a direct impact on your future communication strategies.

A telephone survey of purchasing executives at Fortune 1000 companies found that many widely held beliefs on how to reach and influence businesses do not apply in today’s environment.

A very complex marketplace has been created due to more information sources than ever before, global trading opportunities, multiple buyers, and decision-making processes that span multiple company levels.

Previously, companies would target top levels of potential customers to gain their attention and sell products and services. But the days of executive-level purchasing decisions appear to be over, according to this study, as only a minority of companies reported this type of decision-making. Department heads and procurement directors now take the lead on purchasing, with C level executives in the minority.

This is important when developing a communication strategy. To get your message to top executives, you may want to first target middle managers to gain acceptance and credibility.

Most marketers have believed that advertising, direct marketing and collateral are the best methods to reach potential customers. However, the study suggested that word of mouth and events are now key drivers to purchasing decisions - 71 percent of information managers cited word of mouth as the key to landing on their short list of prospective vendors, followed by 56 percent for events, 46 percent for Web sites, and 40 percent for news coverage. Collateral, direct marketing and advertising brought up the rear, with numbers of 29 percent, 16 percent and 13 percent respectively.

If you need to send a message, what channel do you want to use? One with the best chance of reaching the intended audience, of course, and one that carries the most weight. According to the numbers above, businesses would be well served by creating communication strategies aimed at influential industry people. Being present and getting attention at events is important, and every company should have a clearly defined Internet communication strategy. As always, strong positive media exposure is also crucial.

Finally, most marketers cite price as the governing factor in most purchasing decisions. However, according to the survey, executives stated that relationships and reputation are also crucial factors in determining whom they want to do business with.