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March 2009
ADM logoCan Spring Be Far Behind?
As I recover from shoveling my driveway and front walk in less than optimal weather, warm and cozy on the Top Floor, my thoughts naturally turn to Spring. Am I the eternal optimist? Perhaps, but who ever accomplished anything by being negative?
Along with the Arctic Express outside, our economy is hitting deep freeze on Wall Street--below 7,000 today! (There's got to be a pony somewhere around here!)  It's been three months since I ran a brief questionnaire on the economy. Since then, we've gotten a new President, a huge Stimulus Package, and more bad news. It seems like the perfect time to repeat the survey. Please take a few minutes to answer ten short questions. It will be interesting to see how opinions and actions have changed. Thanks!
B-to-B Branding
GearsJust As Necessary As For Consumer Brands
We're all familiar with major consumer brands and what they mean to us. Whether it is Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Mercedes-Benz or Coach Bags, all of these brands evoke images of quality, reliability, and a profile of its customers. But what does it mean in a Business-to-Business setting? What do these brands convey:  Johnson Controls, ThomasNet, Gensler, Cadwalader, Maharam? Pretty much the same things, but to different audiences.
These kinds of companies are vying for business in an even more competitive marketplace than the consumer brands, largely because their audiences are smaller. Instead of appealing to millions of consumers, they may have anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of companies from whom to obtain business. And the marketplace can be even more crowded with local and regional, in addition to national brands. Very often, these products or services are high ticket items (hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars), so the sales cycle can be long, but managing their brands well is still important and can make a big difference. Here's why:
  • Reliability.  Whether a company is buying components, ingredients, tools, web services, or media, the purchaser wants to know what to expect. If the product does not fit the specifications, it will mean major headaches for everyone.
  • Support. Technical and customer support are critical, even for non-technological products or services. Buyers need to know that a brand means the company stands by its products or services. 
  • Value. As with so many products and services, industrial buyers do not necessarily choose the cheapest brand--even in these tight-budget times. They understand that if a cheaper brand does not hold up, or has to be replaced frequently, they are not saving money in the long run. If a lower price means poor service, it's not worth it. Buyers will look for, and ask about additional features and benefits. These can constitute your brand's image.
  • Return On Investment (ROI). Akin to the "value proposition," B-to-B buyers want to know that their investment in parts, components, and services will be returned by their ability to produce excellent products, themselves, and by getting repeat business from their own customers. (Intel Inside?)
  • Attracting the Best Customers. The Cadillac brand has always stood for quality and for attracting elite buyers. Even B-to-B brands want to be known as "the Cadillac" of [fill in the component, product, or service]. They want their customers to feel good about having bought the best. The reverse is true, as well: industrial brands want to be able to say that their products go into the best quality finished goods.

In these tough times, it becomes even more important to maintain brand equity, brand image, and consequently brand loyalty. Media are important as well, even when--or especially when--budgets may be smaller than they used to be. B-to-B brands need to be in the best-targeted, most visible media. Such brands gain in image by being associated with the best known media outlets.

Online Surveys

How Important Are They? 

Some people know that I've been writing about this topic for at least 10 years--almost as long as online surveys have been around. We are now in a time of nearly universal connectivity, whether that is through the Internet or some form of personal communication device. In some cases, the only way to reach potential survey respondents is online (or cell phone/ PDA/Blackberry). This phenomenon will reach massive proportions in the next ten years, as the younger generation (see photo above) moves into a cohort to which researchers want access.

I do not love online surveys. There. I said it. People do not answer questions as fully as we'd like. Sometimes their answers (to open ended questions) are obscure, arcane, or otherwise mysterious: a one-word response that could mean three different things, or nothing decipherable. This leaves great big gaps and great big headaches for the analyst.
Luckily, the survey software that is available has gotten better; respondents cannot skip questions willy-nilly. Big red notices appear to let respondents know they forgot to answer something. Most of these products do not allow people to take a survey twice. This is important, not only for the reliability of the survey data, but for the distribution of incentives.
The bottom line is that (to answer the question, above) they are quite important. We need them to reach younger people. We need them to reach anyone who is reluctant to talk to "strangers" on the phone--and keep in mind that research firms are not subject to the No Call Registry. Online surveys can also be effective for B-to-B studies; businesspeople who cannot take the time during the workday to talk on the phone, but can answer an online survey during a break, or after work--even from home, after dinner.
I will always prefer professionally administered surveys--telephone or face-to-face--because the data collected is better in quality. But the realities of the times make it important to incorporate online surveys into our methodological kit bags. As one of my favorite Will Rogers sayings goes: "Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."
Survey On The Economy--Wave II
How Are We Doing? 
It is a common practice in survey research to repeat a study after a few months or a year to see if marketing activities have changed awareness or attitudes of customers or consumers. Given the changes that have occurred in just the past 6 weeks, I think it will be interesting to see how people are feeling about the questions I asked last December. So please take a few moments to answer this survey. It's only ten questions, so it will take you just a couple of minutes to
Upcoming Events
March 11, 11:30-2:00pm 
International Association of Business Communicators-Long Island is featuring "How Executing A Successful Event Can Help You Achieve Your Strategic Goals," featuring experts from the corporate world, non-profit world, and consulting. The moderator is Nancy Rasmussen of Expert Events. The program will be presented at Blackstone Steakhouse on Pinelawn Road and Rte 110 in Melville. For more details and to register, please visit
March 18, 8:00-10:00am 
SMPS-LI is presenting "Optimizing Your Marketing Dollars: Promotional Tactics," featuring Julie Gelfand, Executive VP, HLD Public Relations. This interactive workshop is sure to be worth your while. As usual, the meeting is held at the Milleridge Inn, Broadway, Jericho. Visit for more details and registration.
March 18, 6:00-8:00pm 
The New York Chapter of the American Marketing Association presents "Marketing For The Public Good: NYC Health Department on Cigaretes, Sex, and Nutrition." This program, held at the offices of the New York AMA, 116 E. 27th St. For more information, please go to
This practice is dedicated to helping companies become knowledge-driven, rather than assumption driven about strategic and tactical decisions concerning lines of business, branding, communications, and various marketing activities. For more information about how we do this, case studies, frequently asked questions about marketing research, and testimonials, please visit our web site:

Ann Middleman