Through these special blog postings, our goal is to offer advice and insights from top B2B marketers. Recently, I had the opportunity to correspond with Dan Kersh, head of online, The Curious Group, from the UK, and Silverpop's latest strategic partnership. From his responses, you'll learn how he got started in digital marketing and what impact he thinks the current economic crisis has had on the European B2B marketing industry.
1. How did you get started in online marketing?
Having actually studied graphic design and typography in the early 90's, falling into marketing was in part by chance. Being a designer sometimes gave me the opportunity to sit in front of clients and listen to the wider business issues. Perhaps it was this listening and my untrained marketing eye that helped me see past the ways marketing has always been run, and with this I could offer a different point of view.
It was, however, my foray into digital that fully landed me in the world of marketing. Having set up a digital business just over 5 years ago I had to think on my feet, and there was certainly no time to ponder over pixels. I had to be able to convince clients why they should spend their budgets with Curious, and back then why digital would be an important player in the marketing mix.
2. What do you view as the biggest challenge facing marketers for the remainder of 2009?
For 2009 and beyond, the biggest challenge will be the expansion of technology and what technology creates. Keeping up with what is new and hedging your bets on the best thing out there is tough. Boundaries are constantly changing, while our time to think becomes less. The worry is that with so much information to consume, marketers may end up only using headlines rather than be able to delve into the details. This won't be for the want of trying, but it will simply be due to the fact that there is too much information to digest. With the evolution of technology growing at such a pace, how can digesting all this information that it produces happen?
3. The Curious Group works with companies from many different industries. What's a common challenge your clients experience in their global marketing efforts?
Well, one that springs to mind is pulling content together. Many clients have a loose idea of what they want to say in their head, but when it comes down to putting the content on paper, be that words or imagery, they really struggle. Pretty much every client we have worked with finds this a challenge, and this is probably because pinning down the people with the knowledge is hard to do. You tend to find that you need to go on a treasure hunt, as it's often the case that even in global organizations, very few people have the real key knowledge. It never ceases to amaze me that solutions or products inside these large organizations are only truly understood by a few select individuals and that marketing never bothered to engage with these early doers in any given project. With this in mind, we always tend to highlight this as a risk factor at the beginning of a project.
4. What's the biggest impact the current economic crisis has had on the online industry?
Curious has so far been fortunate not to see much change in marketing spend, and after speaking with many industry peers it seems that if you're in the digital environment you can see some reward in such a crisis. The demand for measuring campaigns and seeking ROI means digital has an advantage over traditional forms of media. My only concern is that the traditional houses will (some already are) look to piggy back on the digital bandwagon and profess they're digital experts. This obviously has implications if client-side marketers are not that savvy on digital, and we have to be wary of such implications.
Perhaps it is the pressure for online to deliver (as everyone now looks to digital as the frontrunner) may prove to be the biggest challenge ahead.
5. What are some of the newest ideas that you and your clients are now exploring?
Well, one idea is something we've created in house for clients to use. As a design and marketing agency, we were often at the mercy of the client when it came to passing on content. This held us up at the build stage when it came to the creation of the solution.
So around 18 months ago we took it upon ourselves to create a design and build tool for global clients. Quite simply, it's an email build tool that can import any piece of content and create emails and landing pages on the fly. We then can hand over that content to the good people at Silverpop to send the mail out. The build can be exported in html-friendly formats and imported into the sending tool. The fact that it handles every major global language has helped our client base build marketing campaigns on the fly, essentially cutting down the full process from circa 25 days to circa three days. If you have time, take a look at the site at www.iamconstruct.com.
6. Will email continue to be an effective channel for B2B marketing? How will it evolve?
Undoubtedly—email is already providing a worthwhile channel within B2B, and one could suggest it's far more effective than consumer, perhaps because the relevance and targeting is more refined. I tend to find that you come across more nuggets within the B2B mailings than site search itself.
As for how it will evolve, I think it's all about how we deliver content and in what format. The inbox can take on many a different guise; it need not only be Outlook. We can read via RSS, handheld and so on. With this in mind, it will be the evolution of technology that will ultimately dictate the future of email. As long as we understand it, B2B will remain effective.
7. What business book would you recommend for B2B marketers?
Well, I'm currently reading The 80 Minute MBA (kind of fits with my life) by Richard Reeves and John Knell. Looking back, one book that influenced me (even beyond business) and probably millions of others was Stephen R. Covey's 7 Habits...
I enjoy philosophy and was keen to make a mark in the industry, and this book was a great place to start.
8. What's the best advice you ever received, and where did it come from?
"If you get up in the morning, you have chances."
Great words of wisdom from my grandfather.