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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Listening to Our Customers 

If you're in b2b media, and you're not regularly checking out Dave Jung's B2blog, you're making the same mistake that many of the attendees at Infocommerce 2005 made. Dave is the marketing manager for a test equipment manufacturer. He makes advertising decisions. He's our customer. And he's a really good blogger.

I attended Infocommerce specifically to meet Dave and hear him talk. Infocommerce targets directory and database publishers specifically, but all b2b media in their role as providers of data and leads generally. It's a terrific conference, and Russell Perkins is to be applauded for assembling a pretty stellar group of speakers.

Dave, who's a really nice and thoughtful guy, spoke in a breakout session, attended by about 30 people. I looked around the room and thought--here's the problem with b2b media. We have a customer willing to tell us how he evaluates our media, and the majority of attendees at the conference weren't there.

Click HERE to see John Blossom's (of Shore Communications) notes on Dave's talk.

My summary: For Dave, Google is outperforming industry-specific directories dramatically, not only in clickthroughs, but in quality of search results. And that's a serious problem for any b2b publisher.

Some more key takeaways:

1) Customers are being sold on the basis of clicks and page rankings, but users judge the relevance of the results they get. Industry-specific directories or search mechanisms aren't delivering relevance so much as they deliver who pays the most for top rankings.

2) Customers assume b2b directories offer unique audiences, but many directories use Google themselves to "skim" traffic. The point of industry-specific directories or search should be to deliver a high quality and unique audience. Dave points to Jeff Dearth's Vertical Search as a model that he'll be watching.

3) Most directories use categories to organize information, but users are accustomed to search, not sorting through categories.

4) Fixed pricing for directory listings or online ads is an issue. "Pay per click is like crack," he joked. No matter whether he uses a fixed price listing or a pay-per-click listing, he always translates the cost back to pay-per-click. And fixed price offerings don't compare well on cost-per-click.

John Blossom has posted complete notes from the conference here.


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