Q&A with Marilou Barsam of TechTarget, A Top B2B Advertising Venue

Q&A with Marilou Barsam of TechTarget, A Top B2B Advertising Venue
Stephanie Tilton - Thu May 14, 2009 @ 02:08AM
Comments: 61

I wasn't surprised to see that BtoB Magazine named technology media company TechTarget #6 in its list of the 50 most powerful B2B advertising venues. As someone who's been immersed in the world of technology marketing for nearly 20 years, I've watched TechTarget since its inception in 1999. In addition to its most recent honors, the company has piled up numerous accolades over the years, including twice being named one of the "Top Innovators in Business Publishing" by Media Business and collecting more than 100 awards for editorial excellence.TechTarget logo

With its network of more than 60 technology-specific websites, TechTarget is a primary Web destination for technology professionals researching products to purchase.

To give technology marketers insight into the ways they can take advantage of TechTarget's offerings, I spoke with Marilou Barsam Senior Vice President, Client Services and Corporate Marketing for TechTarget.

Q. Which media types and assets are IT buyers drawn to?

We consistently track which media types and assets IT buyers are attracted to and why, and we share these findings in our free quarterly Media Consumption Research reports. In fact, the trends we see in our Media Consumption and Google Research reinforce one another. A key finding is that IT buyers don't select random content when they're surfing the Web. They're attracted to very specific subjects, topics, and media relative to exactly where they are in the buying process.

IT buyers are inclined to favor certain keywords, and are more attracted to a marketer's message and more open to picking up the phone when a vendor calls if the company's content lines up with their buying stage needs. Based on this finding, companies should consider syndicating their content but also make sure the content covers all stages of the buying process. Companies that produce a "one-size-fits-all" white paper, for example, miss opportunities to engage with promising leads. The prospect might look at the paper early in the buying process but won't find it relevant at a later stage.

Another key finding from our Google Research and our most recent Media Consumption report has to do with how marketers can best draw in end-stage leads. We asked buyers what kind of content, messaging, and keywords attract them most when they are ready to make a final decision about a vendor’s solution. A majority of them said they want content comparing the vendor's offering to the competition.

While many marketers are averse to calling out their competition by name, IT buyers are telling them they need to do this. We're seeing larger vendors put out papers comparing themselves to competitors. Because these companies considerable brand equity and clout, they're not intimidated by this exercise. It's understandable that smaller companies are hesitant to publish a competitive comparison, but they're much more likely to make it to the top of the short list if they do.

Q. How can marketers take advantage of the insights shared in the research produced by TechTarget and Google?

Marketers need to think holistically about the relationship of online marketing programs to these findings. They need to go beyond staging a single program and offer media types that will engage the prospect throughout the buying cycle. They also have to make sure they align all supporting elements – such as landing pages and campaigns – with their content.

Many vendors have autonomous search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) organizations that are not linked to corporate or product marketing divisions. Companies need to bridge that gap if they're going to feed IT buyers the type of content they're seeking. It's not sufficient to line up organic keywords to attract the IT buyer stage by stage – marketers need to complement this activity with the content assets they feature in their campaigns and the media types they sponsor.

For example, buyers who are close to making a decision want to see case studies and comparisons against the competition. While the SEO and SEM groups set up keywords that support this, marketers should build campaigns around that type of content. Companies need to direct these prospects to a page that compares their solution to the entire competitive set.

Also, software companies should offer trial downloads, since IT buyers are highly interested in them as they get closer to a decision. In fact, if an IT buyer has a positive experience with a trial download of a lower-priced offering, they'll typically buy the software within 24 hours. Marketers that use keywords to direct prospects to trial download on their site or our site should send them to the right page or make their telemarketing group aware of the offer so that they can close in.

While we are providing valuable information about what IT buyers are looking for, it can be overwhelming for marketers to try to address all these content needs. Resource-constrained marketers can sponsor our expert editorial content, which we publish as eBooks that offer in-depth, insightful coverage of tech-specific topics.

Q. Your 2008 Media Consumption Report: Perception Versus Reality of the IT Pros and IT Marketers highlighted gaps between IT buyers' expectations and what IT marketers deliver. What are some recommendations for how marketers can close that gap?

For the past few years, we've consistently seen this gap exists, though it is slowly closing. IT buyers can't get enough of anything offered via Web 2.0 – such as virtual tradeshows, videocasts, trial software, wikis, blogs, etc. Marketers need to supplement traditional media with these types of assets to keep prospects engaged.

Check back next week for part 2 of this 3-part interview, in which Marilou will provide a behind-the-scenes look into how TechTarget helps its clients achieve success.

Read more Savvy B2B posts from Stephanie.

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