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April 3, 2012

If advertising is ineffective, how do I reach my buyers?

by Tom De Baere

Photo by srboisvert via Flickr Creative Commons

This post is about how traditional advertising has become ineffective in B2B and social media marketing is no answer to this problem. But there is a solution.

What does advertising mean in your life? Do you read industry magazines in which B2B companies advertise? Probably. Usually I flip through them, scan for titles and interesting images that link back to our business, and occasionally I will read an article.

How many times did you notice the advertisements? And I am not talking about us marketing people, who are naturally inclined to pay attention to advertisements, but put yourself in the shoes of your buyers.

Maybe your buyers are not paying attention to your advertisements because they are boring, but that’s another story ;-)

Traditional advertising has become ineffective

It might seem that I am the advocate to stop all our advertisement efforts. Now that is for sure not the case: advertising still has its place to put out important news, and reflect our brand in general. People still see these advertisements, consciously or subconsciously. And as with everything, they cannot “not” be influenced by it, so in that sense it does have its purpose.

But traditional advertising is generally so wide that it has become increasingly ineffective.  And I do not distinguish between on or offline advertising.

One-way interruption marketing has become ineffective because everybody is “over advertised”: you receive 1000’s of advertising per day (!) trying to interrupt you. Just to give you an idea: in 1971 the average American was exposed to 560 advertising messages per day. By 1997, that number had increased to more than 3.000 per day. In 2009, it was more than 13.000 per day. And in 2012 you can bet it will be many more than that.

So in effect, people become agnostic to advertising. Just think about it: on signs along your way to work, in supermarkets, in elevators, even in toilets. Because it is just too much, it has become noise.

Social media marketing will become ineffective

The fact that traditional advertising in B2B has become increasingly ineffective, is known to many marketers. Advertising used to take a big part of my budget, and I always have a bad feeling about that because I had little idea about the return on advertisement.

Luckily, there is an interesting counterbalance to this that is just starting to emerge. The growth of Web-based social networks is starting to filter that advertising for us. And because people we know and trust filter it for you, we are more inclined to follow them.

But, now comes the interesting part, once all marketers start marketing ‘socially’, that noise will become just as loud as before!

If all that is ineffective, how do I reach my buyers?

Instead of looking for ways to get eyeballs/clicks to your pages, maybe we need to focus more on creating an experience that keep people involved, and interacting.

What that means is that people want answers to their business problems through compelling content (not marketing talk), and they want to interact with you and your previous buyers to better understand how your products can solve their problems.

It is up to us, marketers, to grab the attention of our buyers, get the conversation going, and keep finding ways to hold their attention.

Now back to the title of this blog post: a logical consequence of the increasing ineffectiveness of advertising, at least to me, would be to cut back your budget for print and on-line advertising, and use it to build a digital marketing strategy that answers your customers business issues.

How much have you cut back on advertising, in favor of building a compelling content?

Thank you for reading.

Warm regards,

Tom De Baere