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How to Meet Marketing ROI Milestones

 Measuring the success of marketing programs is nothing new. There has always been a focus among B2B marketers to quantify the reach and engagement of their initiatives. In the past, much of this measurement focused on metrics like the circulation of print publications, the growth of catalog mailing lists, business cards collected at trade shows, and completed magazine “bingo cards.”

Today, online channels command the bulk of B2B marketing budgets, providing marketers access to more data, more metrics, and more insight than ever before. So it’s not surprising that B2B marketers at all levels of an organization are under unprecedented pressure to quantify the return on their marketing investment. In fact, ROI is the number-one objective for B2B marketers in 2016. According to The Content Formula’s Michael Brenner, 93 percent of CMOs state that their greatest challenge is showing measurable ROI. And 81 percent of B2B marketers claim that measuring marketing effectiveness is their biggest riddle to solve.

Whether you are looking to quantify the performance of your current marketing initiatives, or want to have a plan in place for 2017 that will help you reach your ROI goals, these five keys will help you get started.

1. Target your desired outcome. Return on investment is the name of the game, but ROI is not a “one size fits all” term.

According to the 2015 State of B2B Marketing Report from Salesforce, the top three digital marketing metrics for success are revenue growth, customer satisfaction, and retention rates. And when IEEE GlobalSpec asked industrial marketers how they measure the success of their marketing initiatives as part of our annual Industrial Marketing Trends Survey, we found that marketers care most about sales attributed to marketing campaigns, acquisition, satisfaction, leads, and retention.

By having a strong understanding of the goals and objectives of your organization, you have built the foundation for your marketing plan. From there, you can define objectives and tactics that will help you reach your goals.

2. Diversify your marketing mix. Your audience has more digital tools and sources of information to do their jobs better and more efficiently, and they are also exposed to many options when ready to buy. And as companies continue to allocate more of their marketing dollars to digital media, it will become increasingly important to fend off competition online. That’s why diversifying your marketing mix is critical.

Our research shows that a majority of B2B industrial marketers are reaching their target audience via multiple channels and tactics, but many feel like they could be doing more. Not sure how to get started? Consider working with a media partner to develop a multichannel marketing strategy that is measurable and can reach your marketing goals.

3. Understand your customer’s buy cycle. In the B2B space, the buy cycle is often long and complicated, involving multiple stages – needs assessment, comparison, evaluation, and purchase. As a result, it can be difficult to correlate sales to specific marketing channels.

Buyers will often interact with your content and brand many times before contacting you or making a purchasing decision. For example, they may download a technical article they found in an e-newsletter advertisement, attend a webinar that you are hosting, watch a video, type your company name into a search engine, and visit your website – all before beginning a conversation.

Understanding your customer’s buy cycle – and having content that helps them meet their needs at each stage – will help you define and capitalize on the value that your marketing programs deliver.

4. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. It sounds simple enough – reach your audience by understanding what they seek. But remember that a key desired outcome is to reach your target audience where they can be found. Go beyond search engine marketing and consider the websites they rely on, the e-newsletters they read, and more.

Being found in the right place at the right time isn’t enough. Ask yourself, “Are we offering them content they want?” Your ability to answer this question correctly is dependent upon the tools you use to understand your customer and the quality of your analysis. In addition to the product data they are seeking, offer educational materials that position you as a thought leader and help them make a better, more informed decision. White papers, technical articles, datasheets, webinars, and videos are just some of the different content types used by today’s B2B buyers.

5. Implement a formal lead nurturing program. Now that marketing has brought in the leads, it’s time to convert them, right? Wrong.

Very few leads translate into an instant purchasing decision. Adding a clear lead nurturing program to the marketing mix has several distinct benefits that directly tie into ROI. First, you deliver more qualified leads to sales – making them happier and more productive. Next, you can successfully track contacts and inquiries along the sales process, resulting in easier and more accurate measurement. And finally, leads are less likely to fall through the cracks, reducing the potential for lost sales and wasted resources.

Hitting ROI milestones can seem like a daunting challenge. By taking a strategic approach to defining, executing and reaching your measurement goals, you will be well prepared to illustrate the value of your marketing efforts to the c-suite.

Patrick D. Mahoney is President and CEO of IEEE GlobalSpec. IEEE GlobalSpec connects a global audience of engineers and allied technical professionals with suppliers of industrial and electronic equipment, components, materials, and technology. The company combines rich technical product information with comprehensive digital media solutions that deliver measurable awareness, demand, and engagement opportunities at all stages of the buy cycle. Learn more by visiting www.globalspec.com/advertising.  

This was originally published on Marketing Tech News: http://www.marketingtechnews.net/news/2016/sep/15/how-meet-marketing-roi-milestones/

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Are You Keeping Up with Content Marketing Trends?

Content is a valuable currency in the relationship between industrial marketers and their target audience of engineers and technical professionals. As marketers, you must work to acquire the contact information of prospects, and the way to get your audience to provide their contact details is to offer them something of value in return: relevant, helpful content.

As an essential part of their buying journey, engineers seek content to help educate them and to make more informed, intelligent decisions. By providing high quality content such as white papers, how-to guides, infographics, e-books, technical articles and more, your company can become a trusted resource to potential customers and be in better position to win of their business.

The vast majority use content marketing
Marketers in the B2B space already know the importance of content marketing—88% are already using it, according to joint research conducted by the Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs. These marketers use an average of 13 content marketing tactics. Their top tactics are social media, case studies, blogs and e-newsletters.
Industrial marketers are slightly behind other B2B marketers: 63% of industrial marketers use content marketing, as reported by the IEEE Engineering 360 Industrial Marketing Trends Survey. If content marketing isn’t part of your marketing plan, you should add it for 2017.

Content marketing goals and budgets
While lead generation (85%) and sales (84%) top the list of content marketing goals, objectives are varied and also focus on awareness and engagement (Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs). Seventy-eight percent state that lead nurturing is a content marketing goal, 77% seek brand awareness and 76% want to increase engagement. Few other marketing tactics have the power to help marketers achieve such a broad range of goals.

On average, 28% of an organization’s total marketing budget (not including staff) is being spent on content marketing. Fifty-four percent of industrial marketers are planning to increase their spending in content marketing.

Content challenges remain
Content marketing is a popular and proven tactic, but it is not without challenges. Marketers report struggling with producing a variety of engaging content on a consistent basis and measuring the effectiveness of their content. A lack of resources is also cited as a challenge.

Content creation tends to be resource intensive, requiring planners, writers, editors, designers and production specialists. Plus, you constantly have to come up with fresh ideas for content and you must understand what your audience will find interesting, helpful and relevant. Add these challenges to all of your other marketing responsibilities and you might consider seeking outside help for your content marketing efforts.

Are content marketing services right for you?
Many agencies, media companies and freelance consultants offer content marketing services. Some only write. Others design. Others strategize. But if you really want to overcome content marketing challenges, gain time back and earn a return on investment, you should probably consider turnkey content marketing services from a trusted media partner.

Make sure that your partner offers the following:

• Deep knowledge of your target audience and experience in your technical field. If you have to allocate too much time and energy getting a partner up to speed on your market, products and services, you might as well do the work yourself.
• A full stable of experienced writers, editors, designers and production experts that can produce compelling content in any format, from videos and e-books to white papers and infographics.
• The knowledge and expertise to develop an effective content marketing plan, distribute the content so that it gets into the hands of your target audience and provide reports showing the effectiveness of your content and marketing efforts.

To further advance your content marketing efforts, download the complimentary white paper: “Content Marketing for Industrial Marketers: Establish Thought Leadership, Build Brand Awareness, and Drive Engagement Opportunities.”

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Not All Leads are Created Equally—So Don’t Treat Them All the Same

 As an industrial marketer, it’s likely your responsibility to create a marketing plan that will generate leads and engagement opportunities for your sales team. But not all leads you generate are the same—and therefore you shouldn’t treat all leads equally.

Because the quality of a lead varies, if you handle all leads in the same manner, you’re bound to run into trouble. Studies have shown that 70 percent of new business can come from long term leads. These prospects are in the early research stages of their buy cycle when they first engage with your company, and are not ready to make a purchasing decision. You can’t treat them as you would a highly qualified lead.

If you hand a pile of long term leads to your sales team along with a few hot leads that are ready to buy, you will end up with a damaged relationship between sales and marketing. Sales people will stop following up on leads because most leads aren’t ready for their attention. This could also result in even the good leads being overlooked or ignored. Then the finger pointing starts. Sales complains that marketing isn’t generating good leads; marketing accuses sales of not following up on leads.

You can avoid this disconnect and do a better job as a company of converting leads into customers by segmenting leads and handling each segment appropriately.

Determining the Value of a Lead
The first rule of assigning a valuation to leads is to make sure that marketing and sales work as a team to agree upon definitions and the value of the different types of leads.

You can do this in any manner that works for you, although a good starting point is parsing the amount of information you have available to you on a lead. At the lowest end of the spectrum, if someone visits your website from a general search engine, typically the only thing you know is click-through information such as the IP address of where a visitor came from. You could hardly call this a lead, because you can’t follow up. You can only wait for them to raise their hand in a more visible way.

At the other end of the information spectrum, you or a media partner might capture a wealth of lead data through a targeted marketing program that uses registration or lead conversion forms. You might get the prospect’s name, contact details, area of interest, buying timeframe and more. The more information you have on a lead, the better you can segment or score them and follow up appropriately.

Scoring Leads
Lead scoring is both an art and a science. It’s an art because you can be creative in establishing scores, using any criteria that are important to you and any scale that makes sense. For example, you could score leads 1-5, A-B-C, hot-medium-cold, or sales lead-marketing lead. Your scores could be based on any combination of prospect interest, demographics, the fit of their need with your offerings, the type and amount of content they’ve accessed, stage of buy cycle, the number of times you’ve interacted with them, prospect budget and purchasing timeframe, where the lead was generated from, and more.

Lead scoring is also a science, meaning you must consistently and rigorously apply lead scoring to all leads you generate. It’s the only way for you to know how to manage a lead moving forward. You should also review your lead scoring methodology at least once a year, to make sure it is still relevant.

Leads Ready for Action
Once you’ve determined a score for a lead, you must then act upon it. The highest scoring leads might go directly to your sales people, who should welcome them with enthusiasm because these leads are most likely to become customers in the near term.

Other leads may belong to marketing, yet still require action. Here is where your lead nurturing programs take over. Long term leads require long term attention in the form of regular and relevant contact with your company.

And there will be leads that are determined to be “throwaway” leads, often due to a lack of fit for your company, and the product and services you offer.

For each segment of leads, plan a campaign of scheduled touchpoints, which can include emails, phone calls, direct mail, and more. Each touch point should contain a call to action. Lower scoring leads might still be gathering information, and are attracted to white papers, how-to articles, webinars and other educational content. Higher scoring leads may be ready for demos, spec sheets and product trials. The point is to deliver value by offering prospects what they need to progress through their buying journey.

Establish response rules for your campaign. For example, if a prospect downloads a white paper and attends a webinar, you send them a related article; if they ask for a demo or price quote, they are considered sales-ready. It’s up to you and your sales team to define the rules of the campaign.

Marketing Automation as a Strategic Asset
While you may be able to handle lead scoring, management and nurturing through a simple spreadsheet, you might considering investing in marketing automation. These systems can track your prospect’s digital behavior across websites, social media, blogs and more. You can use marketing automation to score leads, create landing pages, track prospect actions, trigger automatic emails and report on the effectiveness of your campaigns. There are number of affordable marketing automation systems for smaller companies as well as robust software for larger and more complex marketing organizations.

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2017 Marketing Planning: Part 2

 Last month we got you jump-started with marketing planning for 2017, offering advice on evaluating your current marketing program, identifying trends that will affect your strategy moving forward, and pointing out ways to align your marketing efforts with business goals. Read Part 1 here. This month, as we’re nearing the final quarter of the year, we offer tips to help you develop the optimal marketing plan that fits your budget and targets your audience of engineers and industrial professionals.

Meet the Mandate of Multichannel Marketing
Recent research (Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector) demonstrates just how important digital media is to your audience. Seventy-one percent of technical professionals visit at least six websites each week for work-related purposes. Nearly half of technical professionals use 10 or more work-related websites each week.

Due to this diversification, you will find it increasingly difficult to capture your target audience’s attention by using only a limited suite of online channels in your marketing efforts. Instead, try to diversify your marketing spend across multiple channels to generate the results you need.

There are proven benefits to engaging in multichannel marketing. Manufacturers that can display their products and services simultaneously across multiple markets will have the best opportunity to gain new customers. According to the research firm Outsell, advertisers will achieve higher ROI by investing in well-designed cross-media campaigns than by relying on any single media channel. This is known as the Cross-Media Multiplier—integrated cross media campaigns perform better than single channel campaigns.

Focus on the Channels Your Audience Uses
Given the benefits of the Cross-Media Multiplier, wouldn’t it be great if you could use every possible marketing channel available to you? Unfortunately, reality and budgets prohibit such a strategy, which is why you must prioritize your marketing investments according to your audience’s behavior and how well your programs work together.

Your goal should be to maximize the visibility of your brand and opportunities for engagement. When researching a work-related purchase, the top three channels for technical professionals are search engines, online catalogs, and supplier websites. But in reality, your audience uses many other digital channels to keep up with the latest technologies, product news, companies, and brands.

Webinars, e-newsletters, industry sites, and social media are all important influences on your customers’ buying decisions. To fund additional digital channels, consider moving investments away from traditional channels such as print that may no longer perform well or that are difficult to measure.

Invest in Content Marketing
Your customers and prospects are constantly looking for content to help them solve problems, understand new technologies, and make more informed buying decisions. Suppliers that can deliver valuable, authoritative content can position their companies as industry experts, build trust with prospects, and ultimately make it easier for sales teams to close deals and drive revenue.

Research from the Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs found that 88% of B2B marketers are using content marketing. You should, too.

Plan out the content you will need by creating an editorial calendar. Match up content to expected events in 2017, such as new product launches or major announcements. You’ll also need to line up resources for producing and/or repurposing content. Next, select the channels for distributing content. Here’s where your multichannel strategy pays off. For example, you can promote a webinar in an e-newsletter advertisement or on social media and drive prospects to your site to register.

Use Only Measurable Marketing Programs
Marketers are under tremendous pressure to demonstrate return on marketing investment (ROMI). However, ROMI can be complex to measure because it’s highly unlikely that any single campaign or tactic can be correlated on a one-to-one basis with a sale, especially in industries with long and complex buy cycles. Most prospects will have multiple touches with your company throughout their buy cycle. Keep track of all touchpoints because your tactics and channels work together.

A good starting point for measuring ROMI is answering a simple question: For the total marketing dollars you spend, what kind of return do you get in terms of engagement opportunities? Programs such as webinars tend to have high return because prospects have proactively registered for the event, which already indicates their interest. Inquiries on your website from existing customers also offer high return; it’s lower for new customers. Specialized search engines and searchable catalogs tend to deliver good engagement opportunities because only your target audience would be using them, as opposed to general search engines which are used by everyone.

Work with Media Partners
Preparing an integrated, multichannel marketing plan is challenging, which is why it’s best to start now. As you begin, consult with an experienced digital media partner that understands and has the attention of the industrial audience you need to reach. Discuss your marketing objectives and have your media partners help you develop an integrated, multichannel media plan that will help achieve your goals and objectives.

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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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.


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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