Live from Contact By Invitation Only

New York–Reaching customers and prospects is becoming an invitation-only affair, according to Shelby Bonnie, chairman/CEO of CNET Networks. Bonnie discussed this and other marketing changes in his Wednesday morning session, “Breaking Through: Online Performance in a Customer-Driven Market,” at the DMA’s conference here.

Whereas marketers had become used to “pushing” their messages via ads, commericals, direct mail, and other media, “we’re very much going into a ‘pull’ world in which consumers very much choose the messages they listen to,” Bonnie said. He cited TiVo and similar technologies as key examples.

“Ultimately you have to be invited in as a marketer,” he continued. “If you think it’s challenging now, it’s only going to get more challenging over the next five years as the media continue to change.”

Changing technology, media, and consumer preferences aren’t the only factors altering marketing, Bonnie noted. He pointed out that marketers are facing increasing pressure from within their own companies to quantify results. “Marketing broadly defined is going to look a lot more like direct marketing in that results have to be measured,” he told the approximately 150 attendees.

Some components, such as the “trial” and “purchase” stages of a buyer-vendor relationship, are relatively easy to measure, Bonnie said. But the other components–“awareness,” “consideration,” and “engagement”–are far more difficult. For that reason, he emphasized the importance of “properly defining the ‘R’ in ‘ROI.'”

To break through and reach buyers, Bonnie said, marketers have to balance the focus on value to the customer (sending the right message at the right time, for instance) with the focus on efficiency. “Ads themselves aren’t bad things,” he said, if they add value to recipients. Webinars and customized white papers are just a few ways that advertising can provide extra value.

Concentrating too much on efficiency, however, and its emphasis on numbers, can result in a consumer backlash. He gave as an example advertisers who had relied on pop-up ads as a low-cost way of reaching Web users and driving traffic. Consumers responded, Bonnie said, by employing pop-up blockers to such a degree that it’s only a matter of time until such software is a standard part of operating systems. Blocking software, in fact, is another example of how the public is taking charge of which messages reach them.

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