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Industrial Marketing Trends: What’s Up, What’s Down

 If you’re not up to date on what your marketing peers are doing and the latest trends in industrial marketing, keep reading this post. For the complete story, download your complimentary copy of the white paper, “Trends in Industrial Marketing: How Manufacturers are Marketing Today.”

A recent IHS survey revealed a number of interesting insights about what’s trending up for industrial marketers—and what’s trending down.

Increased Competition is the New Number-One Challenge
Forty percent of survey respondents chose this statement as representative of one of their top three challenges: “Increased competition is making my marketing job harder than ever.”

There could be a number of reasons for intensifying competition. First, with the rise of digital media channels, engineers and other technical professionals have more discovery resources at their disposal than ever before. They are exposed to more suppliers and a more level playing field in their search for products, services and information.

Second, with more players in the game, the noise is increasing. It’s becoming more challenging for industrial marketers to differentiate their companies from others.

Content Marketing is Important, but Needs to Mature
The majority of industrial marketers are increasing their spending on content marketing, and 46% are using content marketing. However, 39% are just getting started and only 12% can show how content marketing contributes to sales.

To gain more maturity in content marketing, marketers should develop a strategy based on achieving specific, measurable objectives. A key component of the strategy is producing content for all stages of the industrial buy cycle, distributing content across multiple channels and tracking where and how customers access the content.

Marketers are Spending a Greater Percentage of Budget Online
Forty-two percent of industrial marketers stated that online marketing will receive a greater share of investment than in the past. On average, industrial marketers spend 41% of their budget online, and digital represents four of the top five marketing channels in 2015.

Why are industrial marketers spending a greater percentage of their overall budgets online? They understand that online and digital resources are where their customers turn first to find information to support their buy cycle. And industrial marketers who are focused on performance and ROI know that online marketing is easier to measure than traditional marketing channels.

Social Media is No Longer a Worry
Social media has become business as usual in the industrial sector, and marketers are becoming more comfortable using it. Only 13% of industrial marketers stated that incorporating social media into their marketing mix was one of their top three marketing challenges.

Exactly half of industrial marketers are using social media as a channel in 2015. Facebook and Twitter usage is slightly down, while LinkedIn remains the leading social media platform in the industrial sector. At this point, most industrial marketers have found out what works best in social media to support their overall marketing strategy, and are focusing their efforts on those channels and tactics.

Previously Popular Channels are Trending Down
Some mainstay marketing channels have experienced a slight decrease over the past year. Email marketing using in-house lists has declined in usage to 60% from 73%. Marketers may be devoting more resources to advertising in industry e-newsletters and other third party email providers to reach a broader, yet still targeted, audience.

Tradeshows have also declined in use, from 69% to 59%. They tend to be costly, and engineers and technical professionals are more reluctant to spend the money and take time away from the office to attend tradeshows. Search engine optimization and generating paid traffic from search engines have also declined this past year.

These are just a few of the latest marketing rends. To keep up with all the trends, and to find out what they mean and their impact on your marketing efforts, read the white paper, “Trends in Industrial Marketing.” A special section of the paper offers recommendations for industrial marketers.

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Top Priorities and Challenges for Industrial Marketers

 In the recent IHS Engineering360 Media Solutions research report, Trends in Industrial Marketing, we revealed the top priorities and challenges that industrial marketers are facing today. The priorities that matter to industrial marketers include customer acquisition and retention, brand awareness, and content production and distribution. The list of challenges includes increased competition, generating leads, and measuring success.

That’s a lot to manage for any marketing team. The Maven is here to help. We’ll look at each of these priorities and challenges and put them into context for you. Why are they important? And what can you do to best manage your priorities and conquer your challenges?

Priority: Customer Focus
Customers are the lifeblood of every business. Industrial marketers know this. Customer acquisition is the primary marketing goal for 43% of survey respondents, earning it the top spot six years running. In addition, focus on customer retention has grown every year for the past several years, with 15% stating it is their primary marketing goal in 2015. Moreover, 54% state that customer acquisition is used to measure marketing success.

To stay focused on customers, industrial marketers are investing in digital programs such as email marketing, e-newsletters, webinars, and catalog programs to get closer to customers and potential customers. They also are focusing on working with media partners who best understand the customer and can offer programs that produce significant levels of awareness and engagement.

Priority: Brand Awareness
Over the next five years, industrial marketers indicated their marketing teams will be placing more emphasis on brand awareness. Having a brand that is positively recognized in your market puts your company in a position to shorten the sales cycle and win more business.

Marketing programs that deliver a consistent and persistent presence – such as your website, online catalogs, and banner ads – can increase the visibility of your brand. Webinars and content marketing initiatives can help personalize and strengthen your brand.

Priority: Creating and Distributing Content
Another area of focus for marketing departments will be creating and distributing content. Engineers and other industrial professionals are constantly looking for relevant, educational content to help them do their jobs better, such as webinars, articles, how-tos, white papers, spec sheets, and more.

Fifty-one percent of industrial marketers increased spending on content creation in 2015. However, 39% are just getting started with content marketing, and only 12% can show how content marketing contributes to sales. Marketing teams should develop a content marketing plan and schedule, which will help them produce needed content and get it into the hands of customers and prospects using the digital channels they prefer.

Challenge: Increased Competition
For the first time, industrial marketers report that increased competition is their number-one challenge. The digital era and its multitude of channels has largely leveled the playing field for competitors. Engineers and technical professionals now have more resources than ever at their disposal to discover information and research purchases, making it harder for marketers to be highly visible and to differentiate their company, products, and services.

The solution is to diversity your marketing presence across the channels your customers prefer to use. Putting too much emphasis on one area, such as the company website, can leave you vulnerable to competitors who are increasing visibility and generating engagement opportunities across a variety of digital channels. Past research demonstrates the performance benefits of diversifying your marketing spend across multiple digital media channels versus relying on a single platform.

Challenge: Generating Qualified Leads for Sales
Thirty-five percent of industrial marketers report that generating enough qualified leads for sales is one of their top three marketing challenges. What’s more, demand generation is the second most important marketing goal for industrial marketers and a precursor to the top priority — customer acquisition.

The key to overcoming this challenge is to invest in marketing that generates valuable engagement opportunities for you. You can often measure the worth of a contact or inquiry in its timeliness. Engagement opportunities coming to you in real time, as they are generated, are more likely to convert to a sale than those weeks or even just days old.

In addition, marketers should have lead nurturing processes in place to help transition early-stage leads into qualified prospects ready for your sales team. For additional advice and best practices in this area, download the complimentary white paper, “Best Practices for Managing and Increasing Engagement Opportunities.”

Challenge: Measuring Return on Investment (ROI)
The top measurements for marketing successes are sales attributed to marketing campaigns and customer acquisition. Because the industrial buy cycle can be long, complex, and involve multiple decision makers, you will likely engage with customers along a number of marketing touchpoints before they make a buying decision.

For example, a customer may first see your banner ad, later visit your website, download a white paper, and eventually attend a webinar. It’s important to track all of these interactions along the buying journey in order to measure the effectiveness of individual marketing tactics and your program as a whole. This will also prevent the mistake of attributing a sale to the last touchpoint with a customer, because rarely is any one interaction, or even the most recent one, the sole contributor to marketing success.

Download the white paper “2015 Trends in Industrial Marketing” for an in-depth look at the goals, challenges, budgets, and plans of industrial marketers, along with recommendations on how you can strengthen your marketing efforts in the coming year.

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Seven Marketing Resolutions for 2016

 A new year means a fresh start for your industrial marketing efforts. It’s an opportunity to devise new approaches to solving difficult marketing challenges, and time to optimize what’s already delivering results for you. It’s also time to make and execute your 2016 marketing resolutions.

Write them down, print them out, tack them to your office wall — and most of all, follow them.

Here are seven 2016 marketing resolutions that might be right for your company.

1. Be proactive about measuring program performance.
Resolve that you will no longer scramble to come up with data when management requests a snapshot of marketing performance. Instead, put in place relevant measures tied to your marketing goals that you can regularly update and review.

Consider all the metrics available to you: page views; clicks; downloads; conversions; reach; inquiries; engagement opportunities; likes; shares, and more. Some or all of these likely make sense to track based on your objectives. One significant advantage of regular measurement is that you can see at any time what’s working and what’s not and can make course corrections as needed throughout the year.

2. Put your social media accounts in order.
Many companies open social media accounts, but then the accounts whither due to neglect or ineffectiveness. Find out which of your social media accounts are most effective at engaging your target audience, and focus on those. Make sure the profiles are up-to-date and you are posting regularly. Close unused or irrelevant social media accounts. It’s better to effectively use a few social media channels than to spread yourself too thin.

3. Optimize marketing and sales alignment.
Companies that have marketing and sales teams working together to set goals, define target buyers, share information, and agree upon lead scoring and lead management processes can significantly improve performance. According to research from the B2B sales and marketing consulting firm SiriusDecisions, B2B organizations with tightly aligned sales and marketing operations achieved 24% faster growth and 27% faster profit growth over a three year period. Sales and marketing alignment is essential to your success. Optimize your relationship with the sales department in 2016 by working jointly to achieve shared goals.

4. Gain competitive intelligence.
A quick Internet search based on keywords can help you come up with a valid list of your competitors. You might be surprised by new entries in the market. Are you up on how your competitors are positioning and marketing themselves? Have you provided your sales team with a good library of responses to fend off competition in a sales situation?

Try developing one-page profiles of your competitors, listing their strengths, weaknesses and the reasons your company is a better choice for your customers. Make part of your resolution to review this information once a quarter, and update as needed.

5. Stay abreast of new media channels, partners, and technologies.
Industrial and technical professionals today have a multitude of digital information sources to choose from, and it seems there is a constant stream of new channels and media companies appearing on the landscape. Resolve to stay current with what’s available today, not only to identify potential channels and media partners that might enhance your marketing efforts, but also to eliminate noise and avoid chasing every fad that comes along.

6. Expand your marketing knowledge.
Given the fast pace of change in this digital era, even seasoned marketing veterans can learn something new. Take time in 2016 to read marketing research reports, log on to webinars for marketing professionals, download white papers, or attend marketing conferences (virtual or in-person).

7. Try a new marketing tactic.
Marketers can get stuck relying on traditional and comfortable ways of doing things and the same marketing tactics year after year. It’s easy to understand why you might be hesitant to break out and try something new: every dollar of your marketing budget is precious and with risk comes the potential for failure. But if you minimize risk by vetting the program to make sure it fits your marketing objectives and defining reasonable expectations, you might discover a great new asset for your marketing portfolio.

For example, you can host a webinar with a media or marketing partner. Advertise in a targeted e-newsletter. Implement a banner ad campaign across industrial sites. Sponsor industry-produced videos that your audience is watching. Get your thought leadership noticed with sponsored content opportunities. There are a multitude of new opportunities out there. Ask your media partners which ones best fit your goals and budget.

Have a good 2016 — and keep your marketing resolutions.

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Two Important Measurements that Communicate Marketing’s Value

 More than ever, executives are demanding accountability for marketing expenditures. It’s not an unreasonable expectation. Companies devote significant resources to marketing, and one of our roles is to demonstrate those resources are sound investments that generate demand for your company’s products and services.

There are multiple ways to gauge marketing success. The top three measures for industrial companies are sales attributed to marketing campaigns; customer acquisition; and customer satisfaction, according to the IHS Engineering360 Media Solutions’ 2015 Industrial Marketing Trends research report.

For that top measure—sales attributed to marketing campaigns—you might be underreporting the value marketing is delivering to the business. That’s because when you attribute sales to marketing campaigns, you should be looking at two different types of marketing leads that can turn into customers: the marketing qualified lead and the marketing influenced lead.

1. The Marketing Qualified Lead
This is a lead that marketing has generated through one of its campaigns and passed on to the sales team after qualifying it. Qualification may come from any number of processes, depending on how you’ve established lead handling practices. It could be from survey questions, telemarketing follow-up, or a lead score based on attributes such as company size, industry, need, buying time frame or other criteria.

Qualified leads are gems. Marketing should be proud of them. You’ve generated interest from a potential client, and routed that prospect through your lead qualification process. And your sales team wants qualified leads that require less effort and are more likely to convert into customers. Qualified leads are the glue that binds marketing and sales. There’s no diminishing their importance.

2. The Marketing Influenced Lead
The marketing influenced lead is sometimes overlooked because this lead hasn’t gone through the qualification process and been handed off to sales. It’s less visible than the marketing qualified lead.

However, the marketing influenced lead is any person who engaged with your marketing content before becoming a customer. For example, they downloaded a white paper, watched a webinar, interacted on your social media accounts, subscribed to your newsletter, visited your website or performed some other engagement activity with your company due to your marketing efforts.
Marketing influenced leads likely far outnumber marketing qualified leads. That’s because in the early research phases of their buy cycle, engineers and technical professionals are often quickly gathering information from a variety of potential suppliers without yet making any formal contact. According to the 2015 IHS Engineering360 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector research report, the majority of engineers and technical professionals don’t make contact with a potential supplier until the latter stages of their buy cycle.

If these future customers haven’t filled out a form (such as a registration), you may not even know about them yet—but they know about you, and they are being influenced by your marketing content. When they eventually make a buying decision and become a customer, your marketing efforts helped define their path and contribute to their decision, and marketing should get credit for this marketing influenced lead.

Putting the Leads Together
The distinction between these two types of leads is important when trying to demonstrate marketing’s value to the business, and both must be counted. The distinction also has several other implications for your marketing efforts:

• Diversify your digital marketing presence as much as possible to expose your company to more potential customers who can be influenced by your content
• Content marketing has a crucial role to play in any industrial marketing strategy
• Track interactions with your marketing content: clicks, views, downloads, shares, comments and more
• Work with your sales team to document effective processes to qualify leads and pass them to sales

Next time you’re asked to communicate the value of marketing to the business, be sure to mention both qualified and influenced leads.

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How to Overcome the Top Three Industrial Marketing Challenges

 The 2015 Industrial Marketing Trends results are in and here are the top three challenges that marketers face: increased competition, limited marketing resources, and generating enough high-quality leads for sales. This is a formidable trio of marketing challenges, but we know industrial marketers are pretty formidable themselves. You can overcome these challenges. Here’s how.

Increased Competition
For the first time, increased competition rose to the top of the list of what’s making life difficult for industrial marketers. It’s easy to understand why. The digital era and its multitude of channels has largely leveled the playing field for competitors. Engineers and technical professionals now have at their disposal more resources than ever to discover information and research purchases, making it harder for marketers to be highly visible and to differentiate their company, products and services.

Carefully evaluate your online marketing mix. Are you spending on the right channels—the ones that your target audience uses most often for work-related purposes? Putting significant focus on one area (your website, for example) will limit your exposure and visibility. The key is to diversify your spending.

The top digital resources for engineers and technical professionals are search engines, online catalogs and supplier websites, according to the 2015 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector survey. E-newsletters and webinars are also popular sources of information. Online communities have seen a significant growth among younger engineers, with 39 percent now using them.

You should also evaluate how you position and talk about your company in your marketing. Are you saying the same things that others are saying? Or have you found a niche that plays to your strengths and differentiates your company from competitors? You have unique attributes—your task is to identify and promote them.

Limited Marketing Resources
Let’s face it: scarcity is the nature of marketing. There is never enough budget, and never enough people, to do everything you want to do. Which means you have hard decisions to make about where to allocate your marketing efforts.

See above about spending on those channels your customers and prospects use most often. But also, look for ways in which the total impact of your marketing can be greater than the sum of its parts. The key here is to have an integrated marketing plan. Don’t just purchase a banner ad on a website; invest in a campaign that increases your visibility across a network of targeted industrial sites. Don’t simply get listed on an online directory; take the next step and drive traffic to your listing through other marketing efforts, or put your entire catalog online.

With 2016 quickly approaching, now is a good time to speak to your media partners about how you can get better results given your budget and marketing objectives. They can help you put together an integrated plan that makes optimal use of the resources you have.

Another way to make the most of your resources is to make your content work harder for you. Most industrial marketers are engaged in content marketing, and by carefully planning your content efforts in advance, you can save time and money. For example, a white paper can be re-purposed into a webinar, article or series of blog posts. A customer testimonial can become a video, a press release and a downloadable case study. Re-purpose your content and plan campaigns around promoting the content.

Generating Enough High-Quality Leads
“Marketing, please stop! We have all the qualified leads we can handle!” How many industrial marketers have heard that complaint from their sales team? None. Ever. Although sales people might tell you to stop handing over lousy leads. Year over year, generating enough high quality leads for sales appears near the top of industrial marketers’ list of challenges. You can change that.

Invest in marketing channels your target audience uses frequently, but that also generate valuable engagement opportunities for you. You should focus your efforts on the quality of leads rather than quantity, because that’s what sales people will appreciate.

Another important variable in measuring the worth of a contact or inquiry is its timeliness. Engagement opportunities coming to you in real time, as they are generated, are more likely to convert to a sale than those weeks or even just days old.

In addition, you should have lead nurturing program in place to cultivate those leads that are not yet ready for your sales team. Working this group with a drip campaign of regular touches through email communications and tracking their behavior can help you move them toward qualified and being sales-ready.

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Eight-Point Checklist: Emails That Get Results

 Email remains one of the most popular marketing tactics in the industrial sector. However, to be effective with email marketing, you have to overcome a number of challenges.

First, everybody’s inbox is crowded — how do you stand out from other emails and capture your audience’s attention? Another challenge is making sure your email looks right. Industrial professionals read email on a variety of devices including desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones, and each device renders content differently. Of course, there’s the entire relevancy challenge: Are you providing information that your audience wants and will act upon?

You can overcome these challenges and get better results from your
marketing emails by following this eight-point checklist for success:

1. Identify a measurable goal. For every email you send, even one within a drip campaign series to nurture long-term leads, identify a goal that you can measure. This will help you create a concise, targeted email because every decision you face about crafting the email can be compared to the goal you have in mind. The goal could be number of opens, conversions, downloads, shares, or any other metric that aligns with your objectives.

2. Create immediate interest with the subject line and from line. When your audience scans their inbox, they’re quickly glancing at who has sent emails and what they are about. To capture attention, make sure the from line is identifiable to your audience. Use your company name and/or an individual’s name your audience will recognize.

In the subject line, provide value to recipients, such identifying a key customer challenge you will help solve, or offer a complimentary white paper or a webinar that will help them with a work-related issue. You can also create a sense of urgency by reminding your audience that time is running out to register for an event or that an offer is only valid for a certain period.

3. Quickly tell your story. Even the most engaged audience doesn’t have the time or motivation to read through long, dense emails. Use your subject line, headline, and first line or two of copy to tell your entire story, including what your email is about, why it’s important to your audience, and what you want them to do. Use bulleted lists and short paragraphs for easy scanning. Here are three words that always describe your marketing emails: clear, specific, concise.

4. Repeat your call to action. You’re sending marketing emails because you want your audience to do something. Make that part obvious by including a call to action (such as download, register, read, watch, etc.) in a number of places and using different styles. Put the first call to action near the top because some recipients will be sold right away based on your quick and compelling offer. Others will read through and then consider taking action, so you need a call to action near the bottom. Use both text and graphical buttons.

5. Add imagery, colors, and graphics. Plain text emails lack visual interest. By adding imagery such as photos, graphics, infographics, and buttons, you can make your email stand out and reinforce your company’s visual branding. You can even add multimedia such as video into the email. However, you should always give recipients the option of receiving plain text emails when they opt-in to your list. Tools offered by email marketing service providers will automatically create plain text versions of HTML emails.

6. Use responsive design. Responsive design can detect what type of device a recipient is using to read the email and will render the email optimally for that type of device, ensuring that all text and graphics look the best they can. Whether you are using an email marketing service provider or an in-house solution as your email platform, be sure you can create emails with responsive designs.

7. Keep testing. To get the best results from marketing emails, you should test different elements to see what performs best. The simplest tests are A/B splits, where you split your list in half and test one element in the email, such as the subject line or the placement/wording of the offer. With each subsequent test, you will learn a little more about what works and can incorporate your learning into future emails.

8. Segment your list. This tip isn’t about crafting an email, but segmenting your list will tell you what type of email you need to craft. Segment your list based on relevant criteria in your database, such as products owned, expressed areas of interest, geography, or other attributes. With a segmented list, you can create emails more targeted to your audience’s interest and needs and that kind of relevancy is the single biggest factor in getting the results you want from your email campaigns.

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Five Ways to Encourage Employees to Spread the Word on Social Media

 Employees in the industrial sector are already active social media users. Sixty-six percent of engineers and other industrial professionals have a profile on LinkedIn, according to the IHS Engineering360 research report “Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector.” Forty-nine percent have a Facebook account. These percentages are even higher among technical professionals 18-34 years old.

Yet only one-third of technical professionals ever share or post news or information about their company to their social networks. That represents a large opportunity gap. If you can get engineers, sales people, customer service reps and other employees to post about your company on their own social media accounts, you will gain an extended team of social media ambassadors that can help spread the word and increase the visibility of your brand, products and services.

In this era of competitive content marketing, the more people you have on your team to get the word out, the greater advantage you’ll have in winning mindshare with your audience. Plus, using employees as social media team members results in free exposure for your company, expands your reach to a wider audience and provides the cache that each post is being personally recommended by a professional in your company.

Here are five ways to encourage your employees to participate:

1. Educate employees on your brand and social media program
Any employees who might post about your company on their social media accounts should understand the meaning of your brand and your company’s core mission and values. Understanding the essence of the brand and your company’s purpose provides employees with a yardstick to measure anything they might want to post on their social media accounts. Embracing your company’s mission and core values also helps employees to be generally more engaged in their work.

Also, like any good recruiter, you should pitch your social media program to employees to get them to participate. Depending on the size of your company, you might customize your pitch for each department, or you might introduce your concept to everyone at the same time. One of those free “lunch & learn” sessions tends to draw a crowd.

2. Develop social media guidelines and best practices
While the goal of using employees as social media ambassadors is to spread the word about your company’s news and initiatives, social media is as much about the individual as the brand. Each person has their own style and voice, and although you don’t want to discourage individual style, you should provide guidelines to make sure anything they post or share about your company is appropriate.

Important topics to cover when setting guidelines include how to respond to any negative comments (no fighting, no arguing), how to avoid disclosing confidential information, and recognizing what’s appropriate (or not) to share on social media. Instill in employees a few simple rules such as using common sense, thinking carefully before posting, and being polite and professional at all times.

3. Provide curated, approved content
How do you get those two-thirds who never post news or information about their company on their own social media accounts to start participating? You make it easy for them. One way is to provide a library of curated, approved content and status updates for them to share. This also helps you maintain more control over the message being disseminated.

You could create a central repository where all social media content resides. Add entire posts to the repository: headline, copy, link, etc. All employees need to do is copy and paste to their own accounts. You can also use this repository as a place where employees can offer their own ideas for posts, provide links, ask questions and more. As employees sense they are being heard and their ideas are taken seriously, participation should increase.

4. Encourage employees to “like” your company’s social media accounts
Encourage employees to like or follow your company’s accounts on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other social media properties. This simple step helps spread the word because your company’s updates will now appear in their social media feeds, exposing your message to a broader audience and potentially increasing the number of people who follow you.

5. Share social media statistics
One way to boost enthusiasm among employees who become social media ambassadors for your company is to share statistics. Seeing for themselves how their participation might be helping to expand your reach and achieve goals will instill a sense of pride and motivate them to continue posting and sharing on your company’s behalf. A large part of social media’s effectiveness is “showing up” on a regular basis and staying involved. It’s easy to do when you’re getting results.

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Survey Your Customers for Content Ideas

 The wellspring of ideas can run dry even for the most creative and dedicated content marketers. With engineers and industrial professionals constantly searching for content to help them do their jobs, it’s a challenge for marketers to continually develop fresh material for them to consume.

One excellent source of content is your company’s own customers. Surveys and polls of your customers can elicit a trove of valuable information and insight that you can shape into content and publish as part of your content marketing plan. Customers like to know what others similar to them think and do, and content that reports this information should be popular. Plus, there are plenty of free or low-cost survey tools you can use to put this practice into place.

Poll or Survey?
A poll is single-question survey. It often appears on a web page, in an email, or on your social media feeds. Most polls will allow the user to answer a question or cast their vote and then display poll results in real time. For example:

When researching a work-related purchase, what online resource do you use the most?
a) Supplier websites
b) Search engines
c) Online catalogs
d) Engineering360.com
e) Other

Use a poll if you want to encourage interactivity and participation from your audience while still collecting valuable snippets of data you can use to create content. For instance, the results of the poll question above could lead to a blog post about how industrial professionals research work-related purchases.

A survey is longer and more complex, often 5-20 questions or more, and taking five minutes or longer to complete. Use a survey if you want to conduct more in-depth research of your customers. Following the poll question example above, you might ask not only the most-used resource for researching work-related purchases, but also a series of questions that dig deeper into resources used through various stages of the buy cycle as well as buying patterns and more.

Have a Goal in Mind
You can use the results of customer surveys and polls to develop white papers, webinars, articles, eBooks, blog posts, case studies, testimonials, and other content. The key is to determine what your goals are in surveying customers and how you will use the information you get. You want to find the perfect balance between gathering information you’re looking for while asking relevant and interesting questions of your audience.

You should always state that you will share the results of the survey with your audience. This, along with other incentives such as entries in drawings or gift card giveaways, will increase participation rates.

Here are few ideas for surveys and polls:

• Conduct a survey that profiles your customers: where they work; what their roles and responsibilities are; level of job satisfaction; how their work has changed in the past five years, and so on.
• Ask their opinions about trends or news in the industry.
• Ask about pain points or what concerns them the most; also, what are they most optimistic about.
• Ask customers for unique stories about their experiences with your products or services. You can follow up on their answers for potential case studies and testimonials.
• Survey customers on how they use your products, their feature wish list, or their impressions of your company.
• Ask questions to discover the kind of content your customers favor: how-to guides, technical specifications, novel approaches to solving problems, or analysis of industry news.
• Ask what format your customers like to get their content in: e-mail; e-book; webinars; articles; white papers; videos, etc.

Question Types
Survey tools will offer a variety of question types, from multiple choice, to select all that apply, to more complex ranking grids and open-ended questions. All of these are viable question types and the survey tools should explain how and when to use each one.

One word of advice: Keep to a minimum open-ended questions that allow survey takers to write what they want. Open-ended answers are hard to compile, quantify, and analyze. One exception is if you’re asking a customer to share an anecdote or story about how they use your products or services.

You can turn most open-ended questions into closed-ended questions by rephrasing them. Example:

• What do you think about the future of self-driving cars? (open-ended)
• Which statement best describes your beliefs on the future of self-driving cars? (closed-ended, because the user would be presented with a series of statements and be asked to choose one)

You can get started with polls and surveys quickly and begin generating new content. Create an account at one of survey tool services and get a poll or survey up and running.

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Digital Media is Essential to the Engineer’s Work Process

 Using digital media for work-related purposes is now “business as usual” for engineers and other industrial professionals, according to results from the IHS Engineering360 Media Solutions 2015 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector survey. And as the use of digital resources continues to rise for such activities as finding components, equipment, services, and suppliers; obtaining product specifications; and performing research, the use of traditional media platforms continues to decline.

Year over year, the results of this survey have supported the same conclusion: digital channels are the industrial professional’s preferred resources. For marketers, that means you must continue to adapt to these trends by deploying a multi-channel digital media strategy to connect with your target audience.

Below are some of the highlights of the survey. You can download your own copy of the research report, “2015 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector,” including complete survey results, analysis, and recommendations to improve your marketing results.

Industrial professionals log hours online
Engineers spend a good portion of their time performing work-related tasks online. Fifty-three percent spend at least six hours per week online for work-related purposes. Forty-three percent visit more than 10 work-related websites each week. Online communities have experienced a marked increase in use.

Engineers of all ages use digital
Industrial professionals of all ages use digital media, although patterns vary somewhat based on age. The up-and-coming younger generation of engineers has slightly different preferences. This is important to note because almost half of the engineering workforce will be eligible for retirement in the next few years.

Younger technical professionals use social media more than their older colleagues, and conduct more product searches and read more news and e-newsletters. Thirty-nine percent of the 18-34 age group actively engages with online communities. They also use smartphones more, so be sure your digital content displays well on mobile devices.

Use is consistent throughout buy cycle
Consistency of usage when compared to previous years demonstrates that digital resources are firmly entrenched among industrial buyers, regardless of age, in nearly every facet of their jobs. Throughout all stages of the buy cycle — from needs analysis/research, to comparison/evaluation and purchase — the top digital sources for information are search engines, online catalogs and supplier websites.

The primary uses of the Internet for technical professionals has not changed much either, demonstrating that engineers have established the value of digital media to perform specific work-related tasks in their buy cycle: find components, equipment, services, and suppliers (77%); obtain product specifications (73%); find product availability information (70%); perform research (67%); and compare products across suppliers (66%).

Webinars and digital publications are replacing traditional media
As in-person tradeshows continue to experience decline, webinars have filled the void for interaction between technical professionals and vendors.

More than half of all industrial professionals (53%) attended no in-person tradeshows in 2014, an increase from 49% over the previous year. On the other hand, technical professionals are finding value in attending webinars and other online events. In 2014, two-thirds of industrial professionals attended at least one webinar or online event, and 30% attended four or more. Webinars and online events have proven to be effective marketing platforms, attracting a motivated audience willing to take time out of their busy workdays to attend.

Digital publications trump printed trade magazines as an information resource across all age groups. In 2015, technical professionals are subscribing to an average of 4.4 digital publications, such as e-newsletters and digital trade magazines, versus an average of 1.4 printed trade magazines, a difference of more than three-fold.

The upshot for suppliers and manufacturers
It used to be enough to have a website as your primary digital presence. This is no longer the case. These survey results reinforce the need for suppliers to have a highly visible, multi-channel digital marketing presence that touches influencers and buyers at various stages of their buy cycle. The research shows that no single digital resource is the favorite among industrial professionals. Rather, they use a variety of online sources, from search engines to supplier websites, webinars to online events, and e-newsletters to online catalogs.

The new research report will help you better understand how your customers and prospects use digital media, and how you can optimally incorporate digital channels into your marketing mix in 2016 to gain advantage, remain competitive and win business.

Click here for your complimentary copy of “Digital Use in the Industrial Sector.”

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Why You Should Consider Display Advertising

 Banner ads that appear across digital networks and highly targeted sites are sometimes overlooked by industrial marketers as an effective marketing tactic. They shouldn’t be. This is a good time to consider whether display advertising can help you develop a stronger 2016 marketing plan.

Digital media has become embedded in the work habits of industrial professionals, and this audience uses a wide variety of digital resources including search engines, websites, online catalogs and more to conduct research, locate suppliers and specify products and services. Display ads appear in many of those places, and your ad can give you exposure to a highly targeted and motivated audience that is actively engaged in their buy cycle.

Display ads are particularly effective for meeting three marketing objectives:

Build brand awareness—When your ad regularly appears across a network of targeted sites, your audience will become familiar with your brand, look and message.
Reach new markets—Display ads can help you reach potential customers in new or hard to reach markets that you otherwise struggle to access.
Launch new products—Many display ads are visual in nature or offer rich media format which can help you get attention when promoting new products.

The Basics of Display Ads
You have two options with display ads. You can choose one or the other, or for maximum effectiveness and visibility, combine the two approaches.

1. Place ads on specific, targeted websites. In this approach, you focus on a single industrial website or destination that is visited extensively for work-related purposes by your target audience. Your ad might appear on a variety of pages within the site, such as alongside a searchable catalog, relevant blog post or news article. With this approach you will reach an audience of highly-targeted, active and motivated searchers.

2. Place your banner ad across a network of sites. Media companies often have a network of targeted sites that have the attention of your audience. This approach allows you to significantly extend your reach into the industry yet still maintain targeting. Ad networks tend to be efficient and affordable in terms of timing, exposure and reach.

Combining these two approaches with a single media buy offers the best of both worlds: the targeting you need with the extensive reach to increase brand awareness across markets.

Other Considerations
Typically you would work with a media partner to purchase display ads. They often have access to the best networks and sites and can package a program to fit your goals and objectives. When speaking to potential partners ask them:

1. Do they reach your target audience? No sense in wasting resources on a broad network of advertising banners if they’re not targeted to the industrial audience you need to reach. Find out what type of sites your ads would appear on and ask for the audience profile. Even for broader branding strategies, you want to stay focused on potential customers and prospects.

2. How do they track and optimize ad performance? You want to know more than impressions and clicks. You want your partner to offer guidance on optimizing the placement of your ad based on where it performs best. You also want robust reporting so that you can see for yourself the performance and include the results in your overall marketing measurements.

3. Do they offer geo-targeting and native-language translations? Many times you will want to reach only a specific geographic market or you may need your ads translated to local languages. Your media partner should offer these capabilities.

4. Do they offer a variety of ad formats and sizes? Display ads come in all shapes, sizes and media. The more options you have available to you, the more creative you can be and the more effective you can make your ad campaign. Skyscrapers, banners, sliders, overlays, rich media ads and more can all be incorporated into your ad portfolio.

Get started today by asking your media partners about their display advertising programs and how they can be seamlessly and effectively integrated into your overall marketing plan for 2016.

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Free eBook: Online Marketing for the Industrial Sector. Selection of marketing articles compiled from past editions of the Marketing Maven.

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