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Where B2B Marketers are Spending Money

 One of the most demanding and complex responsibilities industrial marketers face is how to allocate their marketing budget. How to make optimal use of finite resources? Where to spend more? Where to spend less? How to ensure spending choices work together into an integrated whole?

Whether your marketing budget is small or large, investing it appropriately may seem like a daunting task, especially with top executives now holding marketers accountable for measurable results. You can increase your confidence in the spending decisions you make when you do these two things: (1) pay attention to market and spending trends, and (2) take advantage of tools that can help you allocate your budget.

Spending trends skew toward digital
First, some perspective on the growth in B2B marketing spending. The research firm Outsell estimated that 2016 will show a 5% increase in B2B spending, to $161 billion. The largest area of B2B spending is in digital. At $83 billion, digital B2B spending outweighs other B2B investments by two times or more. Question to consider: What percentage of your marketing spend is being allocated to digital channels?

Marketing spending in the industrial sector aligns with overall B2B trends. As technical professionals turn to the Internet first to find product and service information, it’s no surprise that a greater percentage of marketing program dollars are being shifted to online marketing. According to findings in the Industrial Marketing Trends Survey conducted by IEEE Engineering360 Media Solutions, the top areas of growth in marketing spend are:

• Content creation: 51%
• SEM: 44%
• Direct mail using in-house lists: 43%
• Social media: 43%
• Online directories/websites: 41%
• Webinars: 40%

Notice that four of the six growth areas are exclusively digital, and that a fifth—content creation—is the underpinning of digital content marketing efforts. The same survey found that, on average, 41% of industrial marketing budgets are spent online.

The fact that content creation is the fastest area of spending growth is to be expected. Engineers and technical professionals are constantly seeking relevant, educational content to help them do their jobs better and to enhance and streamline their buying processes. A survey jointly sponsored by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs—“2016 B2B Content Marketing Trends – North America”—found that on average, 28% of an organization’s total marketing budget (not including staff) is being spent on content marketing. More than half of respondents expect that budget to grow in the year ahead.

Email is another area of spending growth. Salesforce, in reporting on the state of B2B marketing, found that 58% of B2B marketers are increasing their email marketing spend, 73% believe email marketing is core to their business, and 65% state email marketing is a very effective/effective marketing channel.

These research findings offer solid benchmarks for you to compare your own marketing spend against. While you may not be perfectly aligned with trends—and may not need to be—you should know what other marketers across the industry are doing. You may want to make some adjustments to your spending for 2017.

Tools to help allocate your budget
The “2017 Industrial Marketing Planning Kit” is an essential resource to help you plan your marketing spend. It offers a number of tips and tools to help you plan and allocate your budget. The fourth quarter of the year is upon us, and it’s best to get started on budgeting now so that you are ready to launch your program when budgets are release in the new year.

With the “2017 Industrial Marketing Planning Kit”, you can chart your actual 2016 spending and projected 2017 spending on the 24 most popular digital and traditional marketing channels to gain a better understanding of your marketing mix and how it fits your goals as well as industry trends. The kit also offers a six-point checklist for success, shows how to measure the quality of contacts and inquiries, explains how the “Cross-Media Multiplier Effect” can improve your marketing results, and much more.

Download this valuable, complimentary resource today. Have it by your side as you begin planning your marketing spend for 2017.

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Is Email Dead?

Has the sun set on email as an effective B2B marketing tactic? It’s hard to get the attention of your intended recipients. Open rates are down. Spam reports are up. The inboxes of busy professionals are overflowing. Other forms of communication—social media, texting, etc.—are growing. Perhaps your own email marketing programs to your house lists aren’t performing the way they once did.

With all these factors, you might believe that email is dead. But you’d be wrong. Sure, email is not the latest thing; it doesn’t have that sexy, edgy aura any longer. Instead, it’s mature, and with maturity often comes sophistication. Properly executed—targeted lists, laser campaigns, relentless tracking, careful refining—email remains a viable and powerful marketing tactic within an integrated, multichannel marketing strategy.

As Gartner reported, “No, email isn’t dead. It’s still valuable since more email marketing is being consumed on the go through multiple devices, and is still extremely measurable.”

Statistics bear out the continued popularity and effectiveness of email. Eighty-one percent of B2B marketers use e-newsletters as a content marketing tactic, according to joint research conducted by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs. The Winterberry Group has reported that estimated email data spend is increasing 9.1% in 2016, a faster than expected rate increase, a statistic that encompasses email lists, database management and hygiene, analytics, and integration.

Consider this additional research from Salesforce: 73% of marketers believe email marketing is core to their business and 58% of B2B email marketers are increasing their email marketing spend.

E-newsletters Predominate
Within the universe of email marketing, e-newsletters are the most often used email campaign among B2B marketers, and 64% of B2B marketers rate e-newsletters as very effective/effective (Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs). Your target audience of engineers subscribes to an average of 4.4 digital publications, in contrast to 1.4 printed trade magazines, according to the “2015 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector” research report from IEEE Engineering360 Media Solutions.

However, your company’s e-newsletter is not the only way to engage customers and prospects through email marketing. You can also share your news, content and product information—and build your brand and generate new engagement opportunities—by advertising in targeted industry e-newsletters.

Advertising in a reputable, recognized e-newsletter offers a number advantages for the industrial marketer seeking to get more out of email marketing:

• You can reach a much broader yet still targeted audience. Contacts that you don’t have in your own database and are otherwise hard to reach. Industrial professionals in new markets or regions you want to pursue. Motivated, engaged engineers who have opted-in to receive the publication.
• Someone else does the heavy lifting for you. The e-newsletter publisher handles database and list management, newsletter design and production, and sending and tracking. This can free you up to focus time and resources on other pressing marketing efforts.
• Customized reporting for measuring success and ROI. You can access timely reports that detail the results of your advertisement. With opt-in newsletters, you’ll know who clicked on your ad and expressed interest in your content.
• You can benefit from integration with other digital marketing efforts. The right media partner will offer e-newsletter sponsorship by itself or as part of an integrated marketing program that may include tactics such as display advertising, content marketing, searchable catalogs, webinars, and more. This helps you create a stronger, more holistic marketing program highly targeted at the audience you need to reach.

E-newsletter Advertising Opportunities
IEEE Engineering360 Media Solutions publishes 69+ highly targeted, opt-in e-newsletters in the industrial sector. Your target audience relies on these publications as a key resource during all stages of their buying cycle.

Each newsletter features rich editorial content, including industry trends and events, the latest research, innovative technology, product news, and career information. Delivery rates exceed 98%, and subscribers are interested and motivated: 60% read the e-newsletters upon receipt.

No, email isn’t dead; not even close. It’s simply become more targeted when used appropriately and remains an essential tool for industrial professionals during their research and buying process. Click here for a list of all IEEE Engineering360 e-newsletters and to discover how they drive action in your target audience.

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2017 Marketing Planning – Part 1

We know what you’re thinking: Is it that time already? Yes, it is. The year passes quickly. Even though you’re deep into executing this year’s marketing programs, we’re about to enter the fourth quarter of 2016 and that means it’s time to start marketing planning for 2017.

It’s best to proactively plan your marketing efforts and gather evidence to justify your expected expenditures. This way you can receive executive endorsement and be ready to go when the timing is right. Companies getting an early start on their marketing plan can get a jump on competitors and will be better positioned going into the new year to win business.

This two-part series (Part 2 next month) will help you create an effective marketing plan for 2017 that aligns with market and customer trends, fits your budget, and helps achieve your marketing goals. Part 1 focuses on evaluating your current marketing program and understanding the trends that will affect your strategy for 2017. Part 2, next month, will offer tips to help you develop the optimal marketing plan.

Assess performance of your current plan
How are your current marketing programs performing? The complimentary “2017 Industrial Planning Marketing Kit” includes a number of tools to help you measure the performance of your marketing programs. It has a chart to plot the engagement and branding capabilities of your current programs and to identify gaps, a reference table to measure the quality of your contacts and inquiries, and a matrix to help you analyze the effectiveness of your expenditures across various media channels.

Access your complimentary copy of the “2017 Industrial Planning Marketing Kit” here.

If you are deploying any marketing program that you can’t measure, you’re taking a huge risk because you have no idea if you’re wasting resources that could be better invested in measurable programs. Measurability is just one of many reasons why industrial marketers are increasing their use of digital media. Digital marketing programs offer the inherent advantage of measurement through page views, clicks, downloads, conversions, and other trackable metrics. You also gain the advantage of connecting with technical professionals where they turn first to find suppliers, products, and services: the Internet.

Keep in mind when evaluating current programs that your customers typically have multiple interactions with your company and content before they make a final purchasing decision. They may meet you at a trade show, visit your website, click on an e-newsletter advertisement, watch a video, and attend a webinar all as part of their buying journey. Each of these touches contributes to the eventual sale—not just the last action they took before making a purchase decision. Be sure to track all of these activities to properly evaluate marketing performance.
Understand how trends impact your marketing choices

The trend in the industrial sector—in all corners of the B2B economy—is toward digital. According to the research firm Outsell, digital B2B spending outweighs other B2B investments by two times or more.

Today, technical professionals have a broad portfolio of digital tools and sources of information to do their jobs better and more efficiently. They are exposed to more companies, are driven by personal digital preferences, have more power in the buying process, and can choose from a variety of vendors when they are ready to make a purchase decision.

When customers have many tools at their disposal, marketers can’t rely on a single channel, such as a company website. You should broaden and deepen your online presence to engage technical professionals in ways that match their searching and sourcing preferences. General search engines, websites, online catalogs, e-newsletters, webinars, and social media are some of the popular channels engineers use to source information and research purchases. Broadening your presence across multiple channels will also help you fend off increased competition online, as increasing numbers of companies allocate more of their marketing dollars to digital media.

Assess your content
Eighty-eight percent of B2B marketers use content marketing, according to 2016 research conducted jointly by the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs. And in the words of renowned digital marketing strategist Lee Odden, “Content isn’t king. It’s the kingdom.” Almost all effective marketing revolves around the ability to deliver relevant content.

To avoid long lead times, now is the time to audit your content and determine what content you will need to create, refine, or repurpose to support your 2017 marketing plan and goals. Also make sure your marketing collateral and website are up-to-date with current messaging and the latest product versions.

Align with your company’s 2017 business plan
If your company is planning to introduce new products, expand to new markets or customer segments, or launch other strategic initiatives in 2017, you will need to build your marketing plan and create content to account for these initiatives.
Meet with executives to learn about the timing of new plans. You should also meet with sales leaders to understand revenue growth objectives. This will not only give you information you need to create your marketing plan, it will demonstrate that you are proactive about developing a plan that supports your company’s goals and objectives.

It’s also time to start talking about budgets and gaining approvals. If you wait too long, you might be playing catch up and end up unable to solidify your marketing plan until the new year has already begun. Be ready to talk about what’s working and what isn’t in 2016, and how you can make improvements to be more effective in 2017.

2017 Industrial Marketing Planning Kit
IEEE Engineering360 Media Solutions created the 2017 Industrial Marketing Planning Kit to help you develop an effective marketing plan that targets your audience of engineering and technical professionals. Add this valuable resource to your 2017 planning efforts today. Click here to download.

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Social Media Can Give a Boost to Content Marketing

 The results of the recently-published IEEE Engineering360 Media Solutions research report “2016 Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector” show how your audience of engineers and technical professionals uses social media. Although social media isn’t a primary channel for this group for researching work-related purchases, social media does have its place in the engineer’s work routine—and in your marketing mix.

Engineers and technical professionals are passive users of social media, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. Rather than creating, posting and sharing content on social media, or starting and participating in discussions, engineers prefer to read and watch. Their primary activities on social media are reading product reviews and industry news, researching suppliers, keeping abreast of new technologies, and watching videos. They are content consumers on social media, not content creators.

Your target audience’s preferences for consuming content should be a clear signal to you: social media channels are an effective way to promote and distribute content. Your audience’s behavior also aligns with the social media mandate: content is the nourishment that keeps your social media program alive.

Have you ever visited a company’s social media account and discovered it hasn’t been updated with fresh posts in months? No doubt you came away with a negative impression. It’s better not to have a social media presence at all than to have one you let die on the vine. On the other hand, if you keep posting fresh content to social media, your audience will consume it.

Promote Content on Social Media Channels
There are a number of ways to take advantage of social media in your content marketing efforts:

• Social media updates tend to be short and frequent. You wouldn’t post an entire white paper or press release on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook. Instead write a teaser and link to the full document, using social media to direct your audience to the content you are promoting.
• If a review of your product appears in the media, you should immediately be highlighting and linking to it on your social media accounts.
• Has your company scheduled an educational webinar, produced a new how-to video, or just published a new thought leadership article? This is the type of valuable content you should promote through social media.
• On video sharing sites, engineers like to watch how-to videos, tutorials and demos. Create an account on YouTube or another video sharing site and post product demos and how-to videos.

Integrate Social Media into your Marketing Plan
If social media is an integrated and essential component of your marketing plan, your marketing results should improve. More engineers and technical professionals will be exposed to your content and your brand, and you will continue to create a positive impression by keeping your social media channels active and a reliable resource for your audience to access the most up-to-date content you produce.

On the strategic level, map social media efforts to marketing and business objectives. On the tactical level, include social media links (such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) on your website and in newsletters, and promote your social media presence within your established marketing programs. Finally, be sure to include social media as an integral component of your content marketing efforts.

Suppliers that have a presence on Engineering360.com can include their social media links within their company profile pages. This helps build awareness and relevancy for their social media efforts. Suppliers can also add video content to their Engineering360.com company profile.

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The Pros and Cons of Social Media

 As with any marketing channel, social media has its pros and cons as part of your marketing mix. Results from the recently published IEEE Engineering360 Media Solutions research report: “2016 Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector” reveal a number of key insights that can help you better assess social media’s role in your marketing plan and the level of resources you should devote to it.

On the Plus Side
One benefit of social media is that its use in the industrial sector has stabilized over the last few years. Engineers and technical professionals have clearly demonstrated their preferences in terms of social media.

LinkedIn is the leading social media platform for this audience, followed in order by Facebook, Google+, YouTube and Twitter. These preferences are consistent across all age groups. Only seven percent use Instagram; only six percent use Pinterest.

Engineers and technical professional use social media for a variety of purposes. The top work-related activities on social media are reading content or product/industry news, researching a supplier, watching a video, searching for contacts, following a company or group, and seeking a recommendation on a product/supplier. Fifty-four percent have used social media to find product reviews; 52 percent to keep abreast of latest company/product news/technologies. The most popular use of social media overall is found among the 18-34 age group, with 67 percent using social media to find new jobs/employers.

This demonstrated behavior can help spark ideas for marketers about how to connect with this audience on social media. For example, social media is an effective channel for posting news, product information, videos or other content, such as white papers or Q&As. In order to elevate your company’s profile and attract a new generation of engineers, you might want to post employment opportunities on LinkedIn or other social media sites.

On the Downside
While there is plenty of opportunity for marketers to take advantage of social media in their marketing mix, you may want to proceed with prudence. With the variety of activities performed on social media among engineers and technical professionals, this audience spends only a small percentage of their time on these platforms.

Sixty-two percent spend less than one hour of work time per week on social media. None of the activities they perform on social media take place more than a few times a month. LinkedIn is the only social media platform that a majority (65 percent) of engineers and technical professionals maintain an account on. All others have a less than 50 percent adoption rate.

The fact is that engineers and technical professionals experience a number of challenges using social media for work-related purposes. Sixty-four percent say that using search engines, supplier websites, online catalogs and other methods are more efficient than social media. Fifty-five percent say there is too much noise and not enough substance on social media. Thirty-eight percent say they can’t find useful content or that social media isn’t reliable. This audience still vastly prefers general search engines, online catalogs and supplier websites for researching a potential work-related purchase.

Another issue is that it’s difficult to actively engage your audience of engineers and technical professionals on social media—and in many ways social media is all about engagement and interactivity. Of those who have a LinkedIn account and belong to a group, only 27 percent participate in discussions; only six percent start a discussion. Activities such as posting or sharing an article, image or video on a social media platform take place at most a few times per year. Seventy percent never post or share any news or information about their own company on their social media accounts.

The conclusion to draw is that because social media is established in the industrial sector, you should develop a social media strategy and integrate social media into your overall marketing plan. However, keep in mind that other digital channels—online catalogs, your website, search engines, email, webinars—should get the bulk of your marketing investments, and that social media should be used primarily as a complement to your efforts on those channels.

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The State of Social Media in 2016

 July is social media month at the Marketing Maven. We’ll be publishing a series of posts about the role and impact that social media plays in the industrial sector, how engineers and technical professionals use social media for work-related purposes, and how marketers can effectively incorporate social media into their marketing strategy.

Along the way, we’ll regularly reference results from the new IEEE Engineering360 Media Solutions research report: “2016 Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector.” You can download your complimentary copy here.

The Seas Have Settled
Not that long ago social media was on the cutting edge and was considered a disruptive digital channel. Marketers scurried to understand and use social media. Some dove in and tried every new platform that came along. Others stayed back, hesitant to get their feet wet. Smart marketers maintained their strategic perspective—they tested the waters, measured the wind, and charted an effective, goal-based course through the turbulent social media sea.

Today, the seas have calmed. Over the past seven years, the use of social media has grown, stabilized, and now has become business-as-usual in the industrial sector. Social media has found its position as an information resource for engineers and technical professionals. For example:

• Sixty-five percent maintain an account on LinkedIn, the most popular social media platform among this industrial audience.
• Fifty-two percent use social media to keep abreast of the latest company/product news/technologies.
• Eighty-six percent of those who use video sharing websites such as YouTube watch how-to videos/tutorials; 85 percent view product demos
• A greater percentage of engineers and technical professionals in the 18-34 year-old age range maintain accounts on nearly all platforms—Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube—as compared to their 35+ counterparts

Yet for all this social media activity, its impact in the engineering workplace is not overly significant. Social media is part of the media mix, for sure, but 82 percent of engineers and technical professionals spend no more than two hours per week on social media for work-related purposes, with no major difference between the various age groups. Very few engineers contribute to social media in terms of creating and posting content. Seventy percent never do. This is an audience of passive social media users, who prefer to read and watch.

Other Channels Take Precedence
Engineers and technical professionals consistently report that for work-related purposes they find other digital channels more efficient than social media. The top four valuable resources for engineers and technical professionals researching a work-related purchase have remained the same year over year, with general search engines, online catalogs, word of mouth and supplier websites topping the list. Among social media platforms, Google+ and LinkedIn ranked highest for researching a work purchase. Facebook, SlideShare and Twitter have the least value.

Does this mean that social media is overhyped and a waste of the industrial marketer’s time? Not at all. But it does mean that engineers and technical professionals have clear preferences, and that you should view social media as a supplemental channel to the more established and proven digital channels in your marketing mix.

The way to approach social media marketing is no different than other marketing. You must first define your strategy and goals for using social media. Goals may include increased brand awareness, recognized thought leadership, or community engagement and expansion. It’s important to realize that social media is not a primary driver of leads and sales. Again, think of it as complementing other marketing strategies, such as a vehicle for distributing content.

With goals established you can develop a plan to achieve them. And although social media accounts are free—open a new one, anytime, anywhere—they take time and resources to grow, or even to maintain. Consider what level of resources you should devote to social media and what metrics you should track to determine your success. The takeaway is to use social media, but not at the expense of your other digital marketing channels.

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Set Your Company Apart Using Email Marketing

 Just about every industrial company uses email marketing. The number-one marketing tactic in the industry is email marketing using in-house lists. It makes sense: email is effective. It also means you have stiff competition for getting your audience’s attention. But by employing a few best practices and some innovative thinking, you can set your company apart from the competition using email. Here’s how.

Be consistent—There are two angles to the consistency story. The first is that you want to maintain a consistent theme, look and message style in your email communications. This will help define and strengthen your brand. If every email looks different and the writing style varies, your audience can get confused. They may not understand what your brand represents.

The other half of the consistency story is that you should deliver on your promise. If a customer subscribes to your monthly e-newsletter, then they should get an e-newsletter every month, around the same time of the month. If you’re running a drip campaign to nurture leads and your plan calls for a touch every three weeks, then keep up the pace.

Conversely, don’t email prospects more than you say you will. They will get annoyed and will be more likely to ignore your emails, to opt-out, or to report your company as a spammer.

Segment your lists—The best way to get your audience’s attention is to send relevant emails on timely topics your audience cares about. But unless you sell only one type of product to one type of customer, it’s hard to be relevant to your audience without segmenting your list and customizing emails for each segment.

The more data you have for the entries in your email list, the more segmentation you can do. On the simple end you can segment by customer/prospect, or by type of product purchased, or expressed interest. More sophisticated segmentation might be by buyer type, such as an economic buyer interested in return on investment, an analytic buyer interested in solving a problem, and a technical buyer interested in making sure a product works within the customer’s environment. Another segmentation strategy might be based on lead score, if you use a scoring mechanism.

For each segment you create, you must also create custom content that resonates with that audience. Is it more work than a one-size-fits-all e-newsletter? You bet. But better results should make it worth the extra effort.

Use email to surprise them—Okay, so this one might seem to contradict the consistency rule about not emailing more than you say you will. But sometimes it’s okay to be innovative and send out an unexpected email.

Consider these ideas: A personal note from an executive thanking a customer for their business or a prospect for their interest. An email containing important news that’s pertinent to everyone who has an interest in your company. An email to a customer you have not heard from in a long time, simply asking how they are and if you can do anything for them.  These emails are best sent only on an occasional basis.

Add the extra touches—There are a number of ways to make sure your email goes the extra mile and demonstrates your commitment. Make sure your emails are based on a responsive design so they render well and can be easily read on any type of device. Provide a link to let recipients view the email in a web browser if they prefer. Add features such as “forward to a friend.” Always provide a way for your audience to reply or respond to your emails. These extra touches are important and can help you stand out from competitors who might not be as thorough in their email marketing efforts.

Try different email vehicles—No matter how good an email marketer you are, at some point you’ll bump up against the limit of your effectiveness if you only send email to your own internal lists—even if you follow all the tips listed above.

Have you considered advertising in an industry e-newsletter targeted to the audience you want to reach? Appearing in a third-party e-newsletter offers a number of advantages. Your company can be associated with another strong and relevant brand in the industry. You can connect with hard-to-reach audiences in different markets and geographies. And if you work with an expert media partner, you can benefit from their advice about placement, frequency, messaging, and also receive comprehensive reports about the performance of your advertisement. It’s another way to separate from the competition.

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The Case for a Multichannel Marketing Strategy

 The internet has evolved from its early days to offer a collection of innovative, relevant and useful digital resources for helping technical professionals be more productive and efficient in their work processes. Engineers turn first to digital channels to locate and research suppliers, products and services when engaged in their buy cycle.

Using digital media for work-related purposes is now “business as usual” for engineers and industrial professionals. Not only do technical professionals have more digital tools and sources of information at their disposal, they also have gained exposure to more companies to buy from. The result is that buyers have more choices, more individualized preferences, and more power than ever before.

In addition, during the early phases of their buy cycle—researching and comparing suppliers and products—engineers are using digital information sources and working independently of suppliers. Most do not contact a supplier until they have already created a short list of potential vendors.

Three trends pointing toward multichannel marketing
These three trends are the primary reason why industrial marketers must embrace a multichannel digital marketing strategy:

1. Industrial professionals have many digital tools to choose from and a have variety of searching and sourcing preferences
2. The internet has leveled the playing field and increased competition as more companies allocate more marketing dollars to digital media
3. Suppliers must be noticed by and attract potential customers early in the buy cycle in order to be in the running to make a sale

Multichannel marketing allows industrial companies to stay abreast of these trends and offers brand cohesion for industrial suppliers: your brand and products can appear in those places where customers might expect to find you, and you can maintain a consistent and persistent presence and message to reinforce your brand and value propositions.

But which digital channels to use?
With so many digital channels now available, marketers need to allocate their budgets wisely in order to achieve the greatest possible impact. Few companies have the resources to blanket every channel with marketing campaigns, nor would you want to do this even if you could.

Instead, you should focus on those channels your audience uses the most. According to the research report “Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector,” the top three work-related digital resources for technical professionals of any age have stayed the same in recent years: general search engines (used by 89 percent), supplier websites (75 percent) and online catalogs (74 percent). Online communities have seen a significant growth among younger engineers, with 39 percent now using them.

You can also allocate marketing resources to align with your customers’ buy cycles. To be noticed and remembered by prospects in early stages of their buy cycle, when they are identifying needs and beginning research, tactics such as banner ads and articles on industry sites, online catalogs, and advertising in industry e-newsletters can help you raise brand awareness, get your message across and be remembered by prospects.

As buyers begin comparing potential vendors, you need to get closer to prospects and provide more specific and differentiating information. Webinars, how-to videos, demos and product specs on your website are good choices here.

How to keep track
While most industrial marketers understand the need for a multichannel strategy, it can be challenging to make sure a multichannel marketing program is integrated and trackable across all channels you use. Some marketers can fall into the “last click” trap, which attributes a sale to the last action your customer takes before making a purchase decision.

This is a mistake, because almost every sale made is the result of creating multiple touchpoints with prospects. They might start by viewing your banner ad or finding your online catalog, then downloading a white paper, followed by attending a webinar or watching a video. All of these prospect behaviors and touchpoints help contribute to the final buying decision. That’s why it’s so important to be able to track digital behavior. It’s equally important to work with media partners who can provide comprehensive reports about who is accessing your content and on the performance of your programs.

Any investment in multichannel marketing requires analytics and a commitment to channel integration. Ultimately, it’s worth it. You’ll have in place a marketing platform and strategy that can see you through the complex era of digital marketing, and you’ll realize better results and return on your marketing investments.

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Five Ways to Get Closer to Your Audience

 When you’re selling into the industrial market, it’s important to clearly describe your products, including their features, uses, and specifications. Facts, logic, and rationale—they all influence your customer’s buying decision.

But your sales and marketing materials need to appeal to more than just reason in order to win customers, especially for big or complex sales. Customers can be fearful of making the wrong buying decision. They want to be sure they can trust you. They want to be confident that you will be there to support them.

For these reasons, you must not only have great products, but also be able to establish a strong relationship and an emotional connection with your audience. Here’s how to get closer.

1. Talk to your audience as individuals.
You may not be able to speak one-on-one with every potential customer - and you may not want to, depending on what type of sale you are making. However, you always should communicate in a relatable way in your marketing materials.

You can do this by developing buyer personas and speaking to those personas. A buyer persona is a profile of your customers—who they are, what type of companies they work at, what positions they hold, what problems they would turn to your company to help solve, what motivates them, and so on. You might have a number of different buyer personas.

When developing content, write as if you were speaking to your buyer personas, and you will be able to connect better with them as real people. Use a conversational style. Pretend you are sitting across the table from them. Make it clear that you understand their needs, their concerns, and their motivations.

2. Educate your audience.
Rather than thinking in terms of sell, sell, sell, think in terms of educating, informing, and helping. Become an expert resource for your audience instead of just another vendor. Show them that you understand the challenges that they face. Outline different ways to overcome those challenges.

Focusing on educating and helping is the foundation of thought leadership programs, which can increase your credibility and the level of trust your audience has in your company. That, in turn, can reduce their fear of making the wrong buying decision.

3. Solicit their ideas.
Relationships are two-way streets. It can’t be just your company talking to your audience; it should be your audience talking to you as well. Customers who believe their voices are being heard are more likely to be loyal to your company and products.

Start by asking your audience questions. You can use one of the many free online survey tools that are available. Ask about their challenges, their views on your industry, their product and feature preferences, what’s important to them, and what’s not. Ask about their work environment. Ask about their company’s mission and strategy. Ask how you can help them.

By soliciting your audience’s feedback and ideas, you not only build a stronger relationship, you also gain valuable data your company can use to help shape product plans, develop marketing strategies, and hone marketing messages.

4. Tell stories.
Everyone loves a good story. People bond over stories. They are at the heart of many cultures, including business cultures. It could be a customer case study. It could be a story about an innovative use of your product. Or a story about a customer who left the fold and returned.

There are several elements of a successful story. First, it has to be relatable and relevant to the audience. Therefore, match the story to the buyer persona you are trying to reach. Second, something has to happen in the story, such as a customer facing and solving a problem. Or how a new technology or product impacts industry trends. Don’t be afraid to use humor or add some personal style or voice to the stories you tell.

5. Demonstrate that you care.
If your company offers loyalty programs or incentives, let your audience know. It shows that you want to establish an ongoing relationship with them. If your company has a social conscience or is environmentally friendly, share this with your audience. If all other things are equal between two companies or products, when it comes to making a decision, buyers will choose a company that shares their values and demonstrates its commitment to more than just selling products. They will choose the company that makes them feel a stronger connection.

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Three Public Relations Skills Every Industrial Company Needs

Public relations is an essential part of your marketing plan. Through effective public relations you can earn positive media coverage, raise the visibility and reputation of your brand and company, and make it easier to sell products and services.

Whether you have an ongoing relationship with a public relations agency, occasionally hire a freelancer to write press releases or perform all of your company’s public relations work from the inside, there are three areas of competency that every industrial company needs: the ability to (1) develop compelling press releases, (2) maintain beneficial connections with the media, and (3) integrate public relations with your other marketing efforts.

Compelling Press Releases
The nuts and bolts of any PR program are press releases. These short, news-oriented documents offer you an easy and effective way to announce new products, publish the results of research, publicize important company events or changes, and gain attention for other important news.

The first skill you need to develop around press releases is knowing what is and isn’t newsworthy. If your press release covers a subject that is new, timely and of sufficient interest to a target audience that can be reached through media outlets, then you likely have a worthy story to tell.

“Story” is the other keyword here. Many press releases are dry, vague and poorly written. They don’t have a compelling point to make. They are packed with jargon and meandering nonsense. Editors, who have hundreds of press releases cross their desks, quickly pass on these weak press releases. To compel editors to pay attention, write a strong headline that gets right to the point and the key benefit. Present the news simply and clearly in the body of the release, starting with the most important information.

One way to make your press releases tell a stronger story is to tie your news to broader industry trends. For example, if you’re announcing a new product, how does the new product reflect changing customer needs in the industry? If you’re publicizing an event, such as an executive who is speaking at a conference, write about why the speaking topic is relevant and timely. The more your press release reads like a news story written by a reporter, the easier it is for editors to pick up the story and run with it.

Also, adding quotes makes press releases more authentic. For instance, if you have formed a partnership with another company, an executive from each organization should be quoted. But make the quotes clear and meaningful. Stay away from the tired clichés of “leveraging” each companies’ expertise or talking about “synergies” gained.

Connections with the Media
While marketers often send press releases over the news wires to see which publications will pick them up, it’s important to cultivate relationships with the editors who closely follow your industry and who work at publications most read to your audience.

You can strengthen relationships with editors by personally following up on any press releases you send out, or even customizing the press release for a particular media outlet. Editors always have to fill space in their publications, whether traditional or digital, so always be thinking of pitching compelling story ideas, such as novel ways of using your products or strong customer case studies that document return on investment.

If you become a reliable and trusted source of content for editors, they will call you for your point of view and for quotes when they are working on other stories. You also might get calls from editors if there is any negative or controversial news about your company appearing in the media. Be prepared to address any concerns or questions that the media might have about what’s going on at your company. It’s best to have a crisis communications plan in place and assigned spokespeople from your company who are authorized to speak with the media.

Integrate with Other Marketing Efforts
Public relations is sometimes considered a separate enterprise from other marketing. This separation is a mistake, because there are many opportunities for integrating public relations with other content marketing that will help to broaden your reach and achieve greater impact.

Look for ways that public relations can work in tandem with other marketing tactics. For example, press releases should include links back to your website, or even a dedicated landing page, for more information about the news topic. This can increase traffic to specific pages on your website where you can promote other content that is related to the subject or may be of interest to your audience.
Be sure to post your press releases and other corporate news on your social channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook and others. If you have written a white paper or research report as part of your content marketing efforts, think about whether it’s timely and relevant enough to warrant a press release.

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