SiriusDecisions Survey Confirms Communications Focus Shift to Reputation and Social Media

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SiriusDecisions' 2009 Reputation Management Survey also finds that earlier attempts to directly link reputation to revenue are giving way to the more realistic goal of tracking impact on demand creation.

While there's plenty of work left to do, we're encouraged by these latest survey results

A focused shift from traditional branding techniques to social media-based reputation strategies is among the significant findings from the just released 2009 SiriusDecisions B-to-B Reputation Management Survey.

For its follow-up to previous surveys, the research and advisory firm surveyed a cross section of organizations that sell complex, enterprise b-to-b products and services. The new survey reexamined a wide range of b-to-b communications issues, including strategy, budget, tactics and measurement.

Faced with the reality that traditional branding and advertising budgets have actually been decreasing in recent years regardless of the economy, the survey finds that smart b-to-b executives have found new and innovative ways to manage communications functions.

"Historically, these functions have spent a significant amount of time and money on outbound marketing and advertising, attempting to mold what buyers think and how they should act," notes SiriusDecisions' Jonathan Block, vice president and head of its Reputation Management Strategies (RMS) advisory service. "There are signs of positive change, however, as we see a shift away from underperforming mass communications vehicles that are disconnected from the rest of marketing and sales toward strategies that are more innovative, integrated and accountable. A major driver has been the emergence of social media, which has broadened the charter of communications functions and certainly consumed greater amounts of resources from both a time and mindshare perspective."

Here are some revealing highlights from the new Reputation Management Survey:

  • A move toward reputation. In this year's survey, 56 percent of respondents cited reputation as their main focus; in all previous surveys, it was branding and advertising.
  • Integration with demand creation. Almost half (49 percent) of respondents reported that supporting demand creation activities is now the most important aim of reputation.
  • Social media still has room to grow. The implementation of blogs is most prevalent (33 percent use them), followed by online customer communities (29 percent), internal communities (16 percent) and podcasts (14 percent). Of these top finishers, communities (internal/external) are growing the fastest.
  • Annual audit establishment. In 2009, 75 percent (up from 37) of those surveyed said they'd conducted a full annual audit of communications activities.
  • Shifting allocations. Public/analyst relations (35 percent) has now replaced event marketing as the top area of investment for communications budgets.

"While there's plenty of work left to do, we're encouraged by these latest survey results," says Mr. Block. "Leading b-to-b organizations tie how they communicate directly to enhanced demand creation, as well as the productivity of individual sales reps. When functions such as analyst relations, public relations and social media are tightly woven into a integrated framework, the frequency of communications efforts that are distant and disconnected from the remainder of the organization drops sharply."

Mr. Block concludes: "There's little doubt that slowly but surely, the role of b-to-b communications is changing with the times, be it through closer linkages with their marketing and sales counterparts; different priorities both in terms of budgeting and measurement; or by embracing technology in many forms. While the change has been difficult for some, it's necessary, and guaranteed to ensure that even with field marketing's growing power, communications will continue to have its rightful seat at the table."

For more details about the new survey, please contact Jonathan Block at jblock(at)siriusdecisions(dot)com.

About SiriusDecisions
SiriusDecisions is the world's leading source for business-to-business sales and marketing best-practice research and data. SiriusDecisions Executive Advisory Services, Consulting Services, Benchmark Assessment Services, Learning and Events provide senior-level executives with the sales and marketing operational intelligence required to maximize top line growth and performance. The unique combination of thought leadership, benchmark data, analytic tools, best practices and access to a peer and analyst network allow SiriusDecisions clients to quickly receive the critical insight they need to make decisions effectively.

For more information about SiriusDecisions, headquartered in Wilton, CT, visit: http://www.siriusdecisions.com.

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