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The art of advertising to online business is just beginning to take hold. If you miss the train, it may run over you.

Entering the era of the R-Word in 2009

It should come as no surprise that we have entered the era of the R- Word. The economic news continues to be sobering, the big three American car companies may become the big one, and all corporations are thinking about advertising in a world governed by the R.
No, I am not talking about the recession.  The government has already confirmed what most business leaders believed as far back as year ago in terms of economic contraction. I am referring to ROI, Return on Investment, the Holy Grail of most online advertising programs.  It is easy to calculate and provides the basis to convince CFOs and CEOs to continue to spend money to reach prospects even in a difficult economic environment.

Certainly, now more than ever, the pressure is on in all companies to justify every dime going out the door. CEOs, CFOS, and board members everywhere are scrutinizing all budgets in attempt to streamline spending. The easiest and seemingly most logical method of appraising advertising programs is to apply ROI.  In fact in terms of consumer programs, especially online efforts where the product can be bought affordably over the web, a return on investment calculation makes sense.

But is ROI a fair way to measure B2B search advertising? Well, no, not really. B2B sales, especially those of high-tech products, are quite different than consumer transactions. The B2B sales cycle is usually much longer, the products far more expensive, and the number of decision makers can be the size of a small army. In fact the follow up and efficiency of the sales department and other factors that are not involved with the marketing efforts can play a huge role in the final decision. Therefore identifying the actual ad, landing page and piece of collateral that led to directly the sale is virtually impossible.

So should you stop all B2B advertising due to the difficulty in measuring its direct effectiveness in this difficult economy? No, in fact cutting back on search ads should be your last resort.  The standard, however, of how B2B demand generation programs are assessed should not be just signed contracts.  A better method of evaluation is lead scoring. Prior to running any B2B campaign, marketing should confer with sales to determine the best prospects in terms of company, size, vertical, geographical location, and all the titles of people involved with the decision making process. (BTW – even the intern from a Fortune 5000 company who downloads your white paper should be considered a valuable inquiry). Only by carefully tracking and scoring your leads, can you then make proper decisions regarding optimizing your campaigns.

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