• Is it Finally Time to Say May I For Real?

    What do Microsoft and the EU have a common (related to B2B marketing)? Both have created serious waves through the BtoB marketing community over the past 30 days in ways that many expect will change the game dramatically for those of us whose success depends on understanding prospect actions and behavior.

    On May 26, the EU’s new privacy guidelines went into effect, placing restrictions on how and when websites can use cookies or other tracking methods to monitor visitor behavior.  Essentially, the EU has said “no tracking without opt-in”.  First-time visitors of cookie-deploying sites must be met with a warning and be given the option of not having their current and future visits monitored. That sound of crickets you hear is the vast number of prospects lining up to consent to web tracking!

    Then, making things additionally challenging, Microsoft announced that the next version of IE, which will ship with Windows 8, will ship with its “Do Not Track” function enabled as the default setting.  Again, anyone who wants their web behavior tracked can change the settings.  Right.

    While both of the above actions have yet to settle in or pass the “real world” test – Microsoft is engaged in debate with advertisers and the EU has yet to build teeth into its regulations – what IS clear is that we’re headed for an environment where managing prospect behavior via web actions will be more difficult.  And maybe that’s a good thing.

    Perhaps it’s finally time to make permission marketing the default approach and place interrupt marketing in the historical display case for good.  Looking at traffic and response rates, it would seem prospects are already doing that for us.  For those of us still trying to coax that last bit of value out of marginally interested database entries and web visitors, maybe this is the catalyst needed to spark a true commitment to delivering information prospects want vs. self-serving batch and blast emails and websites.  I’ve not seen a survey conducted in the past eighteen months that didn’t show email responses among opted-in prospects far exceeding general regardless of the campaigns.  Likewise, websites with more prospect-centric information consistently outperform those with a generic sell message.

    Does this mean more challenges for BtoB marketers in getting prospects to opt-in to web tracking and email campaigns? Absolutely.  True permission-based marketing is much more than abiding by can-spam regulations. It has to start with a mindset of delivering information prospects really value and lots of self-questioning about how much prospects really care about the information we’re delivering. But a number of successful BtoB marketers have already started capitalizing on the permission-based approach with rich content-based websites and email campaigns that deliver content of value. Maybe we should all thank the EU and Microsoft for providing more than gentle encouragement for the rest of us.

    Micky Long is Vice President at Arketi Group, an integrated marketing consultancy that helps business-to-business organizations generate revenue and accelerate growth through intelligent strategy, branding, marketing and public relations. To view all company blogs go to Arketi Group blog site.

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