B-to-b firms turn to PR in tough times

CHICAGO: PR is grabbing a larger share of b-to-b market communications budgets, according to a new survey from Edelman.

CHICAGO: PR is grabbing a larger share of b-to-b market communications budgets, according to a new survey from Edelman.

The agency surveyed 300 b-to-b marketing executives this past spring, and found that while 38% expected their budgets to be cut this year, 44% had increased their use of PR.

In addition, 68% said PR met or exceeded their expectations regarding return on investment, the highest positive response for any category.

Only 52% said advertising met ROI expectations.

Twelve percent reported an increase in ad spending in the past six months, while 63% said they decreased advertising. Less than 20% reported a decrease in PR activity.

"A lot of the results validated what we hoped to find," said Mark Shadle, EVP and managing director of Edelman's b-to-b marketing practice. "Marketers have to decide how they will reallocate the spending pie given market conditions."

Shadle said the survey found that PR spending will make up a larger portion of what will likely be smaller overall marketing budgets going into next year as well.

With the economy in recession, companies are no longer thinking about broad-based marketing initiatives. Rather, "there's a clear shift to sales in overall marketing," he said.

In the survey, 54% of respondents said driving sales was the most important marketing objective, while only 17% listed brand building.

Discussing what measurement tools they use to gauge marketing effectiveness, 47% said sales growth, 21% said contributions to profits, and 14% said brand reputation.

Asked what was of greatest concern to their firms, 72% listed building customer relationships, followed by 49% who said coping with economic uncertainty (respondents could give three answers).

Lori Colman, a managing principal at Chicago-based Lighton Colman Brohan Davis, said she wasn't surprised by the survey's findings regarding tying marketing and sales together. Colman's ad and marketing firm has an alliance with Edelman in which the two agencies refer business to each other.

"From our point of view, b-to-b marketers are completely focused on ROI scenarios," she said. "Everyone is really pulling in the reins and focusing."

CHANGES IN B-TO-B MARKETING

Advertising PR

(%) (%)

Increased use 12 44

Decreased use 63 19

Brought in-house 13 17

Outsourced 3 5

Initiated use 0 3

Requested actions taken in the previous six months

SOURCE: Edelman b-to-b marketing survey

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