Kevin Arsham is responsible for managing business-to-business client relationships. Kevin has 22 years of developing B-to-B communication strategies. Prior to joining TargetCast, Kevin oversaw the strategic planning initiatives for global companies including Dell Computers, FedEx, General Electric, Georgia Pacific, ING, Michelin Tires, Shell, Visa. He has been the former Chair of the American Association of Advertising Agencies B-to-B Committee and is currently the Vice-Chair of American Business Media’s (ABM) B-to-B Media Advisory Board. In 2002, 2004 and 2005 he was awarded “Best & Brightest Media Strategist” by Advertising Age B-to-B Magazine and “Rising Media Star of 2004” by Media Post’s Media Magazine. While working 9 years on GE’s advertising, Kevin wrote the Guide to Business to Business Media providing a fresh approach to business-to-business advertising, stimulating creative and strategic thinking.
Assembly: What are the key trends impacting business-to-business marketing in 2014?
Arsham: Content, mobile, and live events are continuing to be important media channels. We are helping clients, more than ever before, with storytelling in long documentary and thought-provoking formats. We are moving beyond the placement of a Full Page ad and a Leader Board to get the message across to the audience. We use the media space and carve it out further. We deliver our client’s viewpoint on the industry (they sell to) and extend the conversation to best practices, applications, and case studies. Cases studies are about the application of the client’s product in the field and to a specific facility that generated a certain result.
Events are going less-virtual and becoming more hands on – back to the basics of hand shaking and making deals and touching products on the spot (i.e. conference or seminar). We are taking best practices in consumer media; evaluating and applying tactics that have been meaningful in everyday life, creative enough to go viral, spin interest, and multiply audiences. For example, we find meaningful ways to reach production managers and engineers through media they engage with and create new ones outside their normal work environment.
Today, our job is to invent. We find new ways to break down barriers in getting to the customer. We soften the publishing boundaries between editorial and advertising; enable thought leaders behind the brand to become embedded in the content. For example, if you sell a product to school administrators, then you should be able to talk about school administration and have something to say about the industry – which is where media agencies come in, to make that a reality on a website, within a publication, on the phone/tablet, or in the out-of-home space.
Assembly: What are the biggest issues in business-to-business marketing right now?
Arsham: The issues are both challenging and exciting. Media becomes a journey from the moment you touch your tablet/smart phone or go online at your desk to when you are walking, driving, shopping, or out and about. We are doing the same thing for B-to-B. We are changing B-to-B marketing by making media the message (as Marshall McLuhan would say) and getting creative as possible to allow the media to extend the creative – to really help the creative first and foremost. Another challenge is to get consumer brands to think more about B-to-B advertising. There are great ways to extend brand communications and build revenue streams from buyers in healthcare, industry, military, law enforcement, retail, hospitality, education, real estate, just to name a few.
Another challenge is of course budgets. Sometimes there is not enough in the budget to make the kind of Star Wars movie you want and create the kind of engaging media tactic that will break through.
There is the challenge of trying to keep the investment where it needs to be and avoid going too far into the $1 CPM networks of media properties or knock offs that make it seem you just bought a grab bag of goodies at a carnival. We need to be in the industry media; created by quality publishers who started their media brand for the industry as early as when radio was invented. By the same token, budgets should set aside for what I call “after 5 media” – turning your target (a job title) into a consumer for a moment and reinforcing where and when you can when they are traveling or at home.
Assembly: What do you look for in quarterly financial reports?
Arsham: The percentage of marketing budgets towards events, print, and other forms of media. I would hope for a steady percentage in print, an increase in non-traditional, and a continuous increase in digital.
Assembly: Why did you personally choose to specialize in business-to-business marketing?
Arsham: I owe it all to my parents. My father has an amazing work ethic; going to work every day and never afraid to get his fingernails dirty. My mother is all about organization and creativity. My father is an industrial worker (runs his own scrap metal-recycling company). My mom is on the corporate side, experienced in healthcare, IT and military. Growing up, I saw greased, well-oiled manufacturing- machines inside a plant when I worked for my father during the summer. My mother worked in an organized and well-managed white-collar organization. Put two and two together and you have the industrial paternal upbringing and the maternal corporate/creative upbringing. My first job in B-to-B was on the YKK Zipper account. My boss at the mid-size Atlanta agency I worked for did not want any part of the trade advertising, felt it to be boring, and so he gave it all to me and I have enjoyed it ever since. This joy was solidified when I got the part to manage all of GE’s B-to-B advertising at OMD and learned how to manage a global brand with a diversity of products and technologies.
Assembly: What do you enjoy most about business-to-business marketing?
Arsham: It is simple and does not stand for a lot of fluff and a bulk of numbers to project or assume that something will work. It is a straightforward approach where you can go directly to the target and be in front of them when they are immersed in their jobs. There is nothing more fascinating than reading a trade publication in an industry – it tells you why certain things are made, how they are made. B-to-B media can teach you how a car is made and distributed, how we get our electricity, why our computers work the way they do, why a doctor chooses a certain x-ray machine for his or her office, and how we are able to fly from one place to another at any given time. This is all made possible because someone or some company had a product and sold it to another company and in turn that company gave something to the world to buy. Media professionals see their work during a commercial break on TV, they know when it will air and where. I see my work by picking up a trade publication, going online to a trade publication web site, following and sending Tweets to certain business decision makers, and when I attend a trade show.