Center >> E-Newsletters
What Baseball and Web Marketing Have in Common
Is it the game, or the ability to measure it, that attracts so much interest?
We trust by now that you’ve put away your snow shovels, filed your taxes and tossed your NCAA office pool into the shredder. It’s the time of year for spring cleaning, religious observances based on new beginnings and of course, baseball. Fresh grass. New ballparks. New managers. New faces in the lineup. Every team near the top of the standings. And of course, statistics.
The sports sections of most newspapers and news Web sites are chock full of baseball box scores and team statistics — neatly organized rows and columns of numbers of agate type measuring every conceivable act, or potential act, that players commit (or fail to commit) on the ball field. Batting average, hits, run, runs-batted-in, errors, RISP (runners left in scoring position), BSV (blown saves), OBP (on-base percentage), SLOB (slugging percentage combined with on-base percentage) and on it goes.
Despite strikes, steroid scandals, free agency and high ticket prices, baseball remains one of America’s most popular spectator sports. It’s painfully slow, hasn’t changed much in a hundred years and makes fans sit through 162 games before anything important takes place. What’s so compelling about watching 18 mostly overpaid, undereducated guys spit, scratch, adjust their caps and occasionally run really fast for a maximum of 90 feet in tight fitting nylon uniforms?
The numbers are what empower players, coaches and fans alike to measure, compare, analyze and memorize every single nuance of the game on equal footing — and put in both current and historical context. There’s even a mathematical field of study — “sabermatrics” — devoted to the analysis of baseball statistics. Ever heard of a puck-amatrician or hoops-amatrician? Didn’t think so.
So how does this relate to business marketing again?
It relates, because numbers are playing an increasingly important role in the art, and especially the science, of business marketing. Business marketers can’t get by as easily with fuzzy metrics like thought leadership and brand reinforcement. To hold on to their budgets, they’re charged with demonstrating a lot more on ROI than they used to, especially the “I.” We covered a number of important B2B summits last month and will share some of the nuggets we gleaned from those in the know.
“The era of brand-centric marketing is giving way to a new breed of CMO who is more focused on measurable performance and business results,” concluded the Chief Marketing Officer Council (CMOC) 2007 Outlook survey released last week. The top marketing priority, cited by 43.8 percent of survey respondents, is to quantify and measure the value of marketing programs and investments. More on this survey in the Market Research section of today’s issue.
In order to demonstrate ROI, business marketers are reducing their reliance on traditional media and increasing their spend on new media, but that doesn’t mean they’ve given up on broadcast, print, events, direct mail and other traditional media. Print accomplishes many things that other media can’t match — shelf life, portability, familiarity, eye-catching presentation — and will always have a place in the smart marketers’ tool kit. Events can’t be matched for face-to-face interaction with prospects and clients.
Traditional media just has to make some room at the “grown up’” table for the newcomers.
“I’m amazed at how much angst and discussion there is about dollars and mindshare shifting from print magazines to online,” said Carr Davis, Co-CEO Cygnus Business Media, who keynoted a session at the Folio Publishing Summit in Chicago a few weeks ago. Davis pointed to American Business Media (ABM) estimates of 14 percent of business-to-business marketing dollars — one out of every seven — now being earmarked for the Web.
As publishers, Davis said we have to ensure that we have “branded information that our advertising clients and readers trust and respect.” The platform on which that information is delivered should not be such a big deal, said Davis.
“It’s not a matter of print becoming less important and other media becoming more important,” said Philip Juliano, VP-global brand management and corporate communications at Novell Corp., in a BtoB Magazine special report last month. “Just because we dialed back our print spending doesn’t mean you can draw the conclusion that it’s eventually going down to zero. Advertisers need to be on the leading edge of new technologies, but that doesn’t mean you throw out the old tools.
“You’ve got to understand the real marketing objectives of your advertising clients before you make any recommendations,” said Joe Pavone, Senior Account Manager at American Lawyer Media at the American Business Media (ABM) Digital Velocity Summit in New York, earlier this month. “You’ve got to get your client to the right audience at the right time using multiple touch points.”
“It all starts with knowing your audience and really understanding how they engage with your various content offerings,” said fellow ABM panelist, Amy Sklar, CMP Media’s Director of Interactive Sales & Marketing.
“Nobody wants to run away from likeable formats that generate revenue now, but the future is in building trust and loyalty by providing information when, where and how it most benefits audiences,” said Abe Peck, a Northwestern University journalism professor, in a BtoB Magazine special report. “Otherwise they will go elsewhere.”
Steve Weitzner, president of CMP Technology pointed out that ad budgeting doesn’t break down into tidy categories such as print versus online versus events. “It’s about how you integrate all of the elements to get a certain result.”
At the Folio Summit, Carr Davis said the print versus online debate reminded him of when television arrived on the scene a half century ago. “Everyone predicted it would kill radio. Obviously that didn’t happen. It just changed the way consumers used it. TV is the better way to visually consume content such as news and entertainment, especially during leisure time. Radio is still a better way to listen to music, news and entertainment, especially when engaged in other activities.”
Metrics, McMetrics and Information Overload
Many complex products are simply not purchased directly online or on impulse. “If you’re still only measuring clicks, you’re missing about 50 percent of the value of your online advertising,” said Eric Shanfelt, SVP eMedia at Penton Business Media at the Folio Publishing Summit. “Reach, impressions, even clicks aren’t as important to advertisers in the B2B space as generating qualified leads and moving the meter on the sales front. Did sales go up after the campaign ran?”
From a pure audience cost, “metrics are working against the Web on a pure CPM basis,” said Tony O’Brien, Davis’s co-CEO at Cygnus Media. “But the Web easily wins on a lead-generation basis. Advertisers still pay to reach the right audience. At the end of the day, our job as publishers is to bring the right buyers and sellers together.”
“Avoid metrics overload,” cautions Shanfelt. “The Web is so measurable it can be a true morass.”
“With the preponderance of data so easily available on the Web it’s way too easy to go down the wrong path,” agreed Kendall Allen, Managing Director of Incognito Digital, an online agency, at last week’s ABM Digital Velocity Summit. “There’s so much campaign data available that it can get intoxicating for marketers. It’s fun. It’s stimulating. But what business questions are you really answering with it?”
At the end of the day publishers and Web site operators must focus on what sellers and marketers really want — Credibility, Quantity, Quality and ROI. Credibility of the site, Quantity of the audience reach, Quality of the Audience and Return on Investment
It’s pretty simple, said Penton’s Shanfelt. “Make sure your online is inline with your offline.”