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Two Types of Content that Must Be in Your Marketing Mix

Content marketing is an essential strategy now that buyers do so much of their research online before contacting a supplier. Industrial marketers know that technical professionals crave a constant flow of useful content that helps them do their jobs better. But not everyone knows this content should fit into one of two categories: informational content or decision-making content.

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You need both types of content in order to match up to the different stages of your customers’ buy cycle. Early in the buy cycle, when customers are becoming aware of their needs and researching how to meet them, informational content plays a big role.

Informational content is more educational in nature. This type of content might enlighten your audience on a problem it faces, such as an article on “Five Ways to Avoid Pressure Sensor Failure.” Another might be a webinar titled “Evaporation Methods Used in Industrial Coatings.” These types of content are focused on providing your audience with information that will help clarify their needs or point them toward further research in finding an appropriate solution.

Informational content would also include general information about a type of product or industrial process: “Breakthroughs in Diode Laser Technology” or “How Motion Sensors Work.” Background information on your company, product lines or services would also come under the realm of informational content.

Your goal in producing informational content is to help answer the initial questions your customers might have in the early stages of their buy cycle and to get them on the path to purchasing:

  • How does X work?
  • What types of products should I consider to do Y?
  • What are the common approaches to solving problem Z?
  • Which companies offer . . . ?

Informational content sets the stage for your potential buyers. It helps build awareness and affinity for your company and products. It puts you in the position of being an expert. It delivers insight and value to your audience, without putting pressure on them to buy before they are ready.

Decision-making content is designed for the later buy cycle stages, when customers have narrowed down their choices to several possibilities and are close to making a buying decision. With decision-making content, your goal is to answer your customers’ final questions and put you in position to win the business.

  • Does this product have all the features I need?
  • Will it do everything I need it to do?
  • How much does it cost? What will be my return on investment?
  • Why should I buy this product and not that product?
  • Why should I choose this company and not that company?
  • What kind of customer support will I get? What warranties?

At this point, buyer’s guides that walk customers through the factors to consider when making a purchase are useful content. As are specification sheets, competitive differentiators, product comparisons, ROI calculators, warranties and customer service policies.

A catalog that buyers search by specification can offer you an advantage by helping customers quickly find exact products that meet their needs. A responsive web page that details important product features would be directed to an audience in the late stage of the buy cycle. Any potential customer close to making a purchase decision is sure to be spending time on your company website looking for that “X” factor that will sway them one way or the other.

Technical professionals tend to use a variety of digital resources during their buy cycle journey. Supplier websites and online catalogs are used during all phases. Online events, e-newsletters and webinars tend to attract technical professionals earlier in the buy cycle when education and awareness are critical. Choose the channels that work best for you and develop both informational and decision-making content to increase your opportunities to connect with potential customers at all stages of their buy cycle.

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Five Ways Your Sales Team Can Effectively Use Social Media

Social media has an established presence in the industrial sector. Technical professionals use social media to search for contacts, keep up on news and technologies, find product reviews and new suppliers, and for other work-related activities. If your sales team isn’t using social media yet as a tool to help uncover engagement opportunities, you can get them started.

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While not a one-to-one tactic such as email correspondence or a phone call, social media has a number of advantages as a B2B selling tool. It fits with the way buyers conduct research today: They go online and use a variety of digital resources to become informed about solutions that can meet their needs. Social media is also asynchronous, which means it is non-disruptive; you can use it to establish connections and help educate customers and prospects without interrupting them. In addition, intelligent and judicious use of social media can help establish a salesperson’s credibility and authority, and help to raise the visibility of your company and its offerings.

However, many salespeople don’t know how to effectively use social media in support of their selling efforts. It’s marketing’s job to educate salespeople and make them comfortable using social media. Here are five ideas to make it easier:

1. Develop internal guidelines for posting, sharing and responding on social media channels, and train your salespeople on the guidelines. Important topics to cover include frequency of posting, how to respond to tricky questions, how to avoid getting into online arguments, what company information can be posted and what is confidential, and where to find relevant content to share. It’s a good idea to hold social media training sessions, such as a “lunch-and-learn” or internal webinar.

2. Educate salespeople who aren’t yet comfortable using social media on a simple three-step social media process: find, listen and engage. Salespeople should start by finding their customers and prospects, as well as relevant industry sites, by seeking them out on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google +, Facebook and other social platforms. Next, they should “listen” by following their customers and prospects on social channels to discover their interests and concerns. Finally, salespeople should begin to engage customers, prospects and industry experts by responding to their posts, participating in discussions, answering questions and creating their own original posts.

3. Your sales team is busy; they can’t use every social media platform, but you should encourage them to use the ones they are comfortable with and that their customers and prospects use. Hint: Your entire sales team should taking advantage of LinkedIn; it’s the most popular social media platform for engineers — 74 percent of technical professionals have LinkedIn accounts.

4. If salespeople use a social channel, they should engage with it to its fullest. For example, on LinkedIn, they should keep an up-to-date profile that includes information and links about your company and its products and services. They can use LinkedIn to find and connect with key decision makers at customer and prospect companies—especially important when multiple people are involved in making a purchase decision. Your salespeople can follow customer and prospect pages (as well as your own company’s page), join relevant groups, and participate in discussions by adding their expertise and answering questions that demonstrate their problem-solving knowledge. At the same time, it’s important to be a helpful participant without shilling for your own products and services.

If a salesperson uses Twitter, they can follow their customers and prospects, respond to their news, and retweet their news to their own followers. They can also follow industry news and retweet it to their followers. With any social platform, the more you use it, the wider your network and influence will grow, increasing your visibility and reputation—all benefits for a salesperson.

5. As a marketer, you should provide your sales team with content that is ready to share on their social media accounts. This might include offers to register for webinars, links to whitepapers or relevant articles, new videos, press releases, blog posts and more. Not only are you helping your sales team with some of the most challenging aspects of social media use—generating ideas and deciding what to post—you’re also maintaining some control over the message.

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Should Marketing Take a Summer Vacation?

If your business is barbecues, sunglasses and beer, then summer is a hot time for your marketing efforts. But what if you’re in the industrial sector and your prospects are engineers and technical professionals, many of whom have visions of summer vacation in their heads? If they are in the office, will they pay the slightest attention to your carefully crafted email offer, take the time and read your whitepaper, or register for your webinar? And if they’re out on vacation, then what?

Beach
Photo by Luke Ma / CC BY

Some industrial marketers believe that dollars budgeted for marketing programs during summer months are dollars better saved for the cooler days of other seasons. They reason that their customers and prospects are either 1) out on vacation; 2) cramming at work getting ready to go on vacation; or 3) buried because they’ve just come back from vacation. Email goes unopened. Newsletters aren’t read. Online events are an afterthought.

In reality, summer is not the time to take a break from marketing. Here are five reasons why marketing is for all seasons:

1. The numbers game.
Let’s say every engineer takes a vacation in summer. There are nine weeks in the summer season of July and August. That averages out to 11% of technical professionals being on vacation in any given week (if everyone takes a summer vacation, and not everyone does). So you might ask: Can you afford to spend on marketing programs when 11% of your prospects might not get your message during the week it arrives? A better question is this: Can you afford not to market when in fact 89% of your target audience will receive your message? By the way, if you don’t market, it’s guaranteed that 100% of your prospects will not receive your message.

2. Summer is catch-up time.
Summer may be a slower time for some engineers and technical professionals, which gives them more time to take in a webinar or pay attention to your e-newsletter. Data from IHS GlobalSpec shows that attendance at webinars for engineers and technical professionals held during the summer is consistent with other times of the year and clicks on e-newsletter ads are the same if not better during the summer. It’s a good time for you to catch technical professionals who are catching up or simply have more time on their hands.

3. Frequency, consistency.
Everyone knows one of the keys to successful marketing is maintaining frequency and consistency. Because you’ve been regularly marketing to technical professionals all winter and spring—building brand awareness, cultivating relationships, generating engagement opportunities, filling the pipeline—if you stop or slow down in the summer months, you’ll feel the negative impact later in your customers’ buy cycle. Plus, you may not be the first thing on your prospects’ minds. They can and will forget about your company, products and services if you stop keeping in touch. And maybe they’ll remember your competitor instead, who decides that marketing in summer is a worthy endeavor.

4. It’s budget time.
For many companies, summer is the season when they start planning the following fiscal year’s budgets. If you’re in front of customers and prospects now, they’re more likely to remember that you can solve a problem they’re struggling with, increasing the likelihood they’ll include an investment in your solution as part of their next budget. In fact, summer is a good time to remind them to do just that.

5. Always connected.
Sure, we all take vacations, but we also all have our jobs to do. For better or worse, more and more technical professionals are staying connected to work when they’re not on the job, and many of them might take along a work version of summer reading to stay up-to-date on recent news, industry trends, hot new technologies and other information they seek. This is a good time to send out a key white paper or an important article, maybe even labeled “Summer Reading.”

Hope everyone enjoys the summer. Keep your marketing going!

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It’s the Golden Era for Webinars

This may be the golden era for webinars as a marketing tool in the industrial sector. Broadband connections are nearly ubiquitous, webinar hosting platforms offer sophisticated features enriching the webinar experience, and marketers have learned to offer relevant, educational content that technical professionals find interesting and useful.

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Here are six other reasons why webinars make such an effective marketing tool:

1. Webinars are easy for your audience
Technical professionals are already spending hours per week online for work-related purposes, so it’s easy for them to join your webinar right from their office, coffee cup or snack in hand. Plus, webinars break down geographical barriers; you can be anywhere in the world and still attend. This is especially helpful if your customers are dispersed and difficult to reach or your webinar topic has broad appeal. You can also make webinars easy by keeping them short—definitely under an hour, including Q&A time at the end. If your content is long or complex, consider creating a series of shorter webinars to make it easier for your audience.

2. Webinars generate good engagement opportunities
While webinars may be easy for your audience to attend, they also require commitment. Not just any lazy tire-kicker is going to attend your webinar. A technical professional willing to take time out of their busy day for your webinar is likely highly interested in your webinar topic and eager to learn something new. These are exactly the people you want to engage and start a relationship with. And you already have their contact information because they’ve registered.

3. Webinars let you be the expert
In a webinar, you’re educating your audience—about industry trends, novel solutions to problems, hot topics, new products or technologies—and by the nature of your position as host you’re the expert on the content. You’re in control of the message and how it’s delivered, unlike, for example, on social media where you don’t have control over comments and feedback. This makes webinars a perfect tool for helping to establish and maintain your thought leadership position on important topics.

4. Webinars let you give and get
With webinars, not only can you deliver educational content to your audience, you can capture data from your audience in return. Adding several real-time polling questions to your webinar can serve as effective transitions between topics, help involve your audience, and return to you valuable information. You can ask how technical professionals currently solve a problem you’re presenting on. Or how often they use certain types of products. Or any other multiple-choice question they can answer quickly. You can display their answers in real-time and comment on the results, making the webinar even more interactive.

5. Webinar content can be re-purposed
If this is the golden age of webinars, it’s also the golden age of content marketing. Every marketer has a mandate to get content into the hands of their target audience using multiple digital channels. Webinars can help. You can promote the content of your webinar over channels such as social media, your website, e-newsletter ads and banner ads. You can also re-purpose the webinar content into other forms: articles, white papers, infographics, videos and more. Not only do you help fulfill content marketing goals, you can maintain a consistent message across different content formats and distribution channels.

6. Webinars have a long shelf life
Webinars don’t have to be live events only. You can archive past webinars on your website for on-demand viewing by technical professionals. This gives those audience members who missed or didn’t know about the webinar an opportunity to participate. You can reasonably ask for registration information from visitors who want to view recorded webinars, resulting in additional engagement opportunities for you.

If you’d like to know how leading industrial suppliers are using webinars to build thought leadership and generate engagement opportunities, check out the schedule of upcoming webinars hosted by IHS GlobalSpec.

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The Eight Components of the Perfect E-Newsletter Ad

E-newsletter advertising is a popular and effective tactic for connecting with your target audience. Forty-four percent of technical professionals use e-newsletters as an information source for work-related purposes, and they subscribe to an average of 5.8 digital publications (compared to an average of only 1.8 printed publications).

But as with any other marketing tactic, you can do it right or you can do it wrong. You can pay attention to the details or you can be lazy and slap something together. As a marketer, you know which path you need to follow, because a strong ad will grab your audience’s attention and motivate them to take action.

Here are the eight components of the perfect e-newsletter ad:

1. Headline
It all starts here. The headline draws your audience in by promising something special: a benefit, an innovation, a solution to a problem. Example: “New Solar Cells Overcome Efficiency Barrier.” Or your headline could offer valuable information: “White Paper Explains New Thermal Control Process.” The headline is often the most challenging component of the ad to write because you only have a few words to work with and so every word is important. Remember, however, that the main purpose of the headline is to interest your audience to read more. You may have to write many versions before you get the headline right.

2. Link
The old link standards Click here or Learn more are so overused as to be practically invisible to readers. There’s nothing interesting about them, nothing that reinforces the key concepts of your ad. Instead, to get your message to resonate and catch the eye of your audience, try linking relevant words in your ad copy: acoustic simulation software or new loudspeaker technologies, for example. Also, if you’re using an image in your ad (which you should), add a link to the image as well.

3. Image
Speaking of images…Clichés become clichés because they represent universal truths: a picture is worth a thousand words. Use an image in your ad and use it wisely. Along with your headline, an image can draw your audience into your ad. If you’re promoting a product, show the product. If you’re offering a white paper, show an image of its cover (if visually appealing) or an image related to the topic. Cute or funny images may work to attract a reader’s attention but make sure it’s working in concert with your headline and copy and doesn’t cheapen your brand. The image should appear crisp and clear at the size it will be used in the ad. A pixelated image or one that’s too small to identify what it is makes your ad look unprofessional and will lessen its effectiveness. Unless you are promoting a major, well-known brand in your industry, don’t use your logo as an image. Readers will skip past unfamiliar logos.

4. Landing page
Where do the links in the ad take the prospects? They should go to a landing page that’s designed specifically to play off the ad. The simpler and more direct you make the landing page, and the more it’s focused on what you want your prospect to do (download a paper, register for webinar, watch the video, etc.), the higher your chances of conversion. It’s important to create cohesion between the ad and the landing page so that prospects know they’ve come to the right place. You can do this by sharing imagery, colors, or copy elements between the ad and the landing page.

5. Copy
Keep it short. Keep it focused. Keep it relevant. These three commands apply to both the ad copy and your landing page copy. Remember that the purpose of the headline copy is to get prospects to pause and read your ad. The purpose of the ad copy is to get them to click on your link. The purpose of the landing page copy is to get them to convert. Write copy that serves these purposes—nothing more, nothing less. Also, make the copy easy to scan, especially on your landing page where you have more room. Use short sentences and paragraphs, bullet points or numbered lists, and subheads to divide blocks of copy.

6. Type of newsletter
Choose the right type of newsletter to achieve your goals. The more targeted the newsletter is to your audience, the better. For example, if you’re trying to break into a new market, go for an industry-specific newsletter. If you’re announcing a new product, look for a newsletter that focuses on that type of product line. If you’re building brand awareness, advertise in a more general or editorial-focused newsletter that will reach the technical professional you are targeting. Newsletters that concentrate on editorial coverage such as articles and industry news are a good place to advertise educational content like white papers or webinars. Your audience craves this type of information.

7. Audience need
Your newsletter ad will be more effective if it’s focused on an audience need. This means you must first identify that need and then create an ad that plays to it. The need could be products, services, or information. A solution to a problem. A trend that’s important to them. Always review the demographic and readership data of a newsletter to make sure you will be reaching the audience you want to target and that your message will connect to a need or challenge they face.

8. Metrics
One of the benefits of e-newsletter advertising is that it offers metrics to help you measure performance. The newsletter publisher should be able to give you access to key metrics including newsletter delivery rate, how many people viewed your ad, and how many clicked on the links. If the ad links to a landing page on your own website, you’ll be responsible for tracking conversions.

Make sure you’re tagging your links with the appropriate campaign info. This can include the name of the newsletter, campaign and month the ad ran. Google Analytics, for example, will attribute website traffic to the last referrer. For e-newsletters, unless the referring link in the e-mail is tagged, the recipient’s email service provider will show up as the referrer and not the e-newsletter publisher. As a result, without link tracking, the advertiser could have a difficult time determining the traffic linking from the ad.

There you have it. Eight components to the perfect e-newsletter ad. For more insights, download Best Practices for More Effective E-Newsletter Advertising.
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How to Meet the High Expectations Technical Professionals Have for You

Technical professionals are hard-working problem-solvers. They thrive on finding the right solution. They live for that challenge, and the more challenging, the better they like it. This group of professionals is constantly evolving—always looking for what’s better, faster, cooler. And they want information that’s going to keep them up to speed. They don’t just want it—they expect to find it when they go looking for it.

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As marketers, it’s important that you provide your audience with this information. Suppliers who can satisfy engineers’ vast appetite for content and meet their audience’s expectations will be in a much better position to win their business.

Nowhere are those expectations higher than they are in the digital arena. The reason is technical professionals spend more time online for work-related purposes than ever before. They seek access to content, resources, products and suppliers. Be there for them and yours can be the company that exceeds the expectations of your target audience. Here’s how:

Provide content for all stages of the buying cycle
Technical professionals go online during all stages of their buying cycle, from the early research phases to the later procurement phases. In fact, they do so much of their buy cycle work online that many do not contact a supplier until they are ready to make a purchase.

In the early research and identification stages of the buy cycle, technical professionals want to learn about different approaches to solving their problem. What processes or products work best? Who are the innovative suppliers in this area? What used to work but no longer does? This is the time to offer white papers, articles and videos, host a webinar or exhibit at an online event.

As they enter the consideration phase, they may look for case studies, testimonials, product demos, CAD files and other documents that can demonstrate benefits and set you apart from the competition.

Later in their buy cycle, technical professionals will be seeking information to help them make an informed and confident purchasing decision. Information such as ROI calculators, checklists and specification sheets all are helpful at this point.

Focus on educating and informing
Technical professionals can be obsessive about staying up-to-date. They never want to be the last person to hear about what’s new in their world. To stay educated and informed, they go online to read industry news, follow the latest trends and discover new technologies.

Suppliers who are engaged in building thought leadership and brand awareness have a chance to be noticed for their positions on industry topics that are important to their audience. These suppliers focus on publishing articles and interviews on industry websites and blogs, sponsoring and speaking at relevant online events, and hosting educational webinars. The key here is to establish your expertise by being educational and informative to your audience.

Maintain a presence where your audience can find you
Technical professionals use a variety of digital resources in their quest for information: industry websites, e-newsletters, online catalogs, YouTube and other video-sharing sites, online events and webinars, blogs, social media and more.

While it’s likely you can’t be everywhere, you should build and maintain a highly-visible presence on those digital channels that work best for you. You’ll have a much better chance of connecting with technical professionals and creating a strong brand.

Additionally, you can often re-purpose content for use in multiple channels, helping to save you time and money. For example, a white paper on your website can become the basis for a webinar or an article for an online industry publication. A video customer interview can become a case study. You can promote the same content in multiple ways: e-newsletter ads, banner ads, social media, blog posts, etc.

Be considerate and helpful
At the end of the day, marketing’s goal is to help contribute to the growth of your company. How you do that is open to interpretation. If you want to meet the expectations of your audience, our suggestion is to avoid the hard sell.
In the industrial sector, there’s very little impulse buying. There may be some incentive purchasing—volume discounts, end-of-year orders and such, but for the most part technical professionals don’t make a purchase until they have a specific need and only after they’ve done careful research. In addition, multiple decision makers are often involved. If with every marketing touch you are asking potential customers to “Buy now!” or forcing them to register for every piece of content, technical professionals will quickly turn away and look for another source of information.

It’s better to err on the side of being helpful and considerate. Wait for buying signals from your prospects, such as attendance at an important webinar or a certain number of website visits or other criteria you set. Until that point, focus on providing useful and relevant content that fulfills their expectations.
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Four Best Practices to Optimize Your Lead Nurturing Efforts

In this digital era when technical professionals have more sources of information and a broader choice of vendors than ever before, many do not contact a supplier until they are close to making a buying decision. Other potential customers contact every possible vendor that could serve their needs. In either situation, and everything in between, you end up generating leads from technical professionals who could be anywhere in their buy cycle—from early research to late stage.

lead nurturing

Photo Credit: Taz etc. via Compfight cc

To convert more of these leads to sales, to keep your sales reps happy with qualified leads, and to improve marketing ROI on your campaigns, you need a solid lead nurturing program to help prospects move along to the next stages of their buy cycle. The word nurture means to nourish, protect, support and encourage. And that’s exactly what you need to do with your leads:

  • Nourish—provide them healthy servings of relevant, useful information
  • Protect—keep them interested so they don’t abandon you for another supplier
  • Support—stay in regular contact always ready to meet their needs
  • Encourage—give them offers to help them move forward in their buy cycle

An effective lead nurturing program will fulfill all of these goals. Here are the best practices you need to follow:

1. Segment and score leads
Sales and marketing need to work together to define different types of leads; for instance, leads that are sales-ready versus leads that belong in marketing’s nurturing program. Use any criteria that work for your organization to segment and score leads. It could be demographics, product interest, buying timeframe, purchasing authority, budget, size of potential deal, location, digital behavior (such as website visits, webinar registrations, white paper downloads)—or any combination of these attributes. You can apply weights to different lead attributes and come up with a lead score. Example: leads that score a one, two or three belong in marketing; leads scoring four or five are ready for sales.

The way that you score leads—and adjust their scores over time—is the foundation for all other best practices in lead nurturing.

2. Maintain prospect interest
If you do a good job of segmenting and scoring leads, you will gain a solid understanding of your prospects’ interests and needs. Your goal then is to feed them a steady supply of content and offers related to their needs and interests. Technical professionals are looking for information that will help them solve the problem they are facing, which is directly related to the reason they contacted you in the first place. They want to know how things work, how your product helps them complete a task, what their different options are and what are the latest technologies and newest products.

You can deliver this information in a variety of ways. New leads might be most interested in educational content such as infographics, blog posts, articles, white papers and webinars. Prospects that score a little higher would be looking for demos, product overviews and technical specs. The next level might include buying guides, ROI calculators and competitive differentiators. Get the right information to the right prospects and you will keep them engaged.

3. Watch for signs of progress
One reason lead nurturing programs exist is that the buy cycle can be long, complex and involve multiple decision makers. Prospects do not want to be pressured into making quick decisions. You must keep the long view and respect their timelines in your lead nurturing programs. That said, look for signs of prospects moving forward, and when they do, take appropriate action, such as passing them off to a sales representative or sending them a customized offer.

To do this requires that you keep track of what your prospects are doing and adjust their lead scores along the way. For example, a lead that scores one upon initial contact with your company could become a three after spending three months in your lead nurturing program, based on their digital behavior. Therefore, you must continually monitor your prospects, track their behavior and look for signs of progress that indicates a change in the status of their readiness to engage.

4. Use Marketing Automation
It’s possible to develop and execute a lead nurturing program using manual processes or spreadsheets, but marketing automation software is becoming a common tool and an investment might make economic sense. The fact is, your prospects are everywhere on digital media—websites, social media sites, online events, blogs, webinars, video sharing sites and more. They are downloading, clicking, reading, streaming, watching and commenting. Plus you’re likely using multiple digital channels in your quest to connect with prospects.

Marketing automation software allows you to capture all of this action across digital channels. It is built to excel at lead management and nurturing. It can help you manage all of this complexity by scoring leads, creating landing pages, tracking prospect actions, triggering automatic emails, reporting on the effectiveness of various content, producing analytics and much more.

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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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