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Three Tips for a More Effective Multichannel Strategy

With engineers and technical professionals using a variety of digital resources for work related purposes, industrial marketers must deploy a multichannel strategy to attract new customers and connect with current ones. But it takes more than simply placing advertising in different digital media channels.

Instead, you must be able to deliver a seamless, consistent experience across multiple channels in order to build confidence and trust among your target audience and increase opportunities to win business.

Being consistent and seamless requires that the attributes and value of your brand come across to your customers at all times, on all channels. Many customers might be exposed to your company through multiple channels: e-newsletters, websites, online catalogs, webinars, online events, banner ads and more.

You don’t have to—and shouldn’t want to—use the exact same message across channels, or make all your creative and layout look the same, but you should find the appropriate threads to weave through your marketing that will cause potential customers to recognize and understand your brand at every digital touch point. Here’s how:

Cross Media Multiplier Effect

1. Anticipate multiple exposures
There’s a theory that a potential customer has to interact with your company up to seven times before they’re ready to make a purchasing decision. If you’re truly deploying a multichannel strategy, you should work under the assumption that engineers and technical professionals will be exposed to your company numerous times across multiple digital channels.

For example, the person who sees your ad in an e-newsletter might click through to your website and later might view a video on your YouTube channel and read one of your tweets or blog posts. Provide visual consistency by using similar colors, layouts, fonts and other design elements across channels and content.

Provide message consistency by reminding your audience of your brand value. How do you want your audience to perceive you: Are you a technology innovator? A low-cost provider? Known for stellar customer service? Find a way to reinforce your major brand message, even if the specific marketing campaign is more focused.

2. Plan your content
Be the company that is always putting out fresh content on multiple digital channels. The latest news on your products or trends in the industry. A new white paper, video or webinar. If you strive to constantly refresh your content, it will be easier to maintain consistency and deliver a seamless experience across channels.

In addition, create a schedule for publishing content so that you know when and where your content will appear. This will help you avoid, for example, having last month’s story still promoted on your social media platforms while this week’s e-newsletter concerns itself with more recent topics. Remember that not every channel has to carry the same message or news (which would be dull), but they do have to work together and you have to be aware of what’s appearing where.

3. Tie it all back to your website
A good portion of your marketing effort is likely devoted to funneling customers to your website where they can accept your offers, make a purchase, contact you or interact with your company, brand and content in other ways. Whether a potential customer is exposed to your company through a banner ad, e-newsletter, online catalog, social media post or other channel, every potential customer that clicks through to your website should immediately recognize something familiar, whether it’s a message you want to continually reinforce or a consistent look and feel you want to promote.

If you integrate all the components of your multichannel marketing strategy in these ways, not only will you provide a consistent, seamless and memorable experience to your target audience, you will create the impression of being everywhere in the digital sphere. Customers will see and recognize your presence, which will help form a stronger and longer lasting connection with your brand, company and products.

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2015 Marketing Planning Part 1: Generating Results in Today’s Digital Environment

Now is the time to begin formulating your marketing strategy and developing plans for 2015. In Part 1 of this two-part series, we’ll look at how you must account for the dramatically changing marketing landscape due to the rise of digital media.

In the early days of digital, industrial companies could get by simply with a company website. This is no longer the case. Today there is an influx of new and relevant digital channels. Technical professionals now have more digital tools and sources of information to do their jobs better and more efficiently. Consider this new reality brought about by the "digital disruption:"

  • Technical professionals are exposed to more companies than ever before—which means more competition for you—because suppliers of every size are building a strong digital presence, giving potential customers more choices in terms of who they do business with.
  • Technical professionals have more personalized preferences and more control in how they choose to interact with suppliers, and often don’t engage with a supplier until later in their buy cycle because they can do so much of their research and evaluation online.
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The takeaway for marketers is that it’s no longer enough to use a limited suite of digital channels to connect with customers and prospects. To be successful today, you need a broad and deep online presence. Expanding your media program to multiple channels will get your name and brand front and center across all stages of the buy cycle, which you need to build awareness and stay competitive. This phenomenon—that you can achieve higher ROI allocating your resources across multiple channels than you can by relying on a single method—is called the Cross Media Multiplier. In essence, it means the whole is great than the sum of its parts.

Of course, you likely don’t have a bottomless budget that will allow you to take advantage of all the digital channels available to you—from online events, webinars and catalogs to newsletters, custom emails, social media, your own website and more. The question is how to allocate your marketing resources in 2015 to optimize results and achieve your marketing goals. Here are three tips to help in your planning:

1. Use the channels your customers use.
Search engines, online catalogs and supplier websites are the three big channels that technical professionals use when researching a work-related purchase. They belong in your mix. But technical professionals also use a variety of other digital channels to keep up with the latest technologies, product news and companies—and these channels and the information technical professionals get from them all influence their buying decisions. E-newsletters, industry websites, online events and webinars are all important channels for your customers and should be considered as part of your marketing suite. Be sure to allocate some of your budget to these channels.

2. Include both creative and directional advertising in your marketing portfolio.
Creative advertising builds awareness for your brand in the marketplace. Creative advertising occurs near the top of the sales funnel and helps your target audience discover who you are, what you have to offer, and how you can provide value. Examples might be an e-newsletter sponsorship, banner ad, online event or social media. Directional advertising is more mid- to end-funnel focused and can lure in technical professionals when they are looking for a specific product or component and need to find the right supplier. Examples are supplier directories, online catalogs and optimizing your website content for search. You need both types of advertising to be 1) recognized by your potential customers, and 2) chosen when the time comes to buy.

3. Work with experts.
Your media partners, including IHS Engineering360, have a wealth of knowledge about the digital media landscape and how it functions. They can offer you guidance in matching your marketing goals and budget with the right mix of digital channels to achieve the results you need. Reach out early to your media partners and get your plans in place for 2015 so you can begin the next year with momentum.

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What do Industrial Marketers Consider the Biggest Challenge in their Profession?

Generating leads for sales and measuring the ROI of marketing efforts are the main challenges industrial marketers face.

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IHS Engineering360 Media Solutions recently conducted its annual Trends in Industrial Marketing Survey of marketing and sales professionals in the industrial sector.

The online survey addressed the marketing trends, challenges and expenditures within the engineering, technical, manufacturing and industrial communities. This research report analyzes and presents the results of the survey, and offers recommendations to industrial marketers to help them allocate their budget, develop a sound marketing strategy, and plan effective programs and campaigns.

Download your complimentary copy of the report.

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5 Tips to Turn Your Website into a Customer Magnet

Technical professionals use a wide range of digital resources to search for suppliers, products and components. That’s why you need a comprehensive digital marketing strategy that creates a broad and deep online presence to connect with customers and prospects. Online catalogs, e-newsletters, webinars, social media, content marketing, search engine optimization and banner advertising all have a place in your marketing portfolio. At the hub of this interdependent marketing universe is your company website.

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Driving customers and prospects to your website, and keeping them engaged once they get there, will help keep your audience connected to your brand and your company and products top of mind when customers are ready to buy. Here are the top tips for turning your website into a hub of productive customer activity.

1. Provide links to relevant pages
Use your other marketing channels, such as e-newsletter ads, social media or directory listings to drive technical professionals to specific pages on your website. It doesn’t have to be the home page, which is often a general page, but instead a page related directly to the message that motivated the click. It could be a custom landing page or another page that resides deeper in your site. For example, an e-newsletter ad or a directory listing for a specific product should link to a landing page about that product. A social media entry can link to your latest blog post.

2. Give reasons to explore
If a customer lands on a page other than your home page, make it easy to explore related content. You can do this by providing clear and simple navigation options and by grouping related content so that it’s easy to find. Secondary content columns can show related links, such as white papers related to the page topic or links to complementary products or services. From any page a visitor should be no more than one click away from accessing your contact information. A search box can help visitors find exactly what they’re looking for.

3. Offer more
Encourage your audience to stay engaged with your brand. Try these tactics: Offer downloads (with or without registration forms, depending on your strategy), invite customers to follow you on social media or subscribe to your newsletter, add polls or short surveys to solicit their opinions and collect useful data, and prompt technical professionals to view archived webinars or read your latest piece of thought leadership. Try adding live chat functionality or creating a discussion area for customers to interact with each other or your subject matter experts. Some visitors will naturally explore your site once they arrive, but most will need to be encouraged and offered information they find valuable.

4. Keep updating
Why does anyone visit a website on a regular basis? Answer: Because there’s something new to discover. Outdated or stale content will drive your audience away and can even damage your reputation and brand. Make a focused effort to keep content fresh and to add new content on a regular basis. The weekly blog post, the monthly webinar, the new offer—promote these items in e-mails and on social media to entice your customers and prospects back to your site on a regular basis. Also, you should audit your existing website content at least twice a year for accuracy and currency, and purge or update any content that is outdated or no longer relevant.

5. Be responsive
More and more technical professionals are using mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones for work-related purposes, but not all websites render well on mobile devices. If your site is too difficult to use on a mobile device, your customer might click away. The next time you’re refreshing or replacing your website, create a website that is “responsive” in design, which means that navigation and pages will automatically render in a way that optimizes the experience on a mobile device. At the least consider creating responsive landing pages that are tied to marketing campaigns such as e-newsletter ads or white paper offers.

Your company website shouldn’t be your only marketing channel, but it can serve as the hub for your marketing strategy. Your goals should be to drive customers to your site, give them reasons to stay, and motivate them to engage with you.

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Three Ways to Prioritize Your Marketing Investments

Now is a good time to make a few tweaks to your marketing programs for the last quarter and to begin marketing planning for next year. In both cases, you should prioritize your marketing investments in a way that allows you to use multiple tactics to maximize your exposure and opportunities for engagement opportunities. The other goal to keep in mind is reaching your prospects and clients at every stage of the buying cycle.

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Here are three different approaches to consider when prioritizing your marketing investments. Choose the one that works best for you, or create a hybrid approach that takes advantage of elements from each.

1. Prioritize based on objectives
Your marketing objectives probably include both raising brand awareness in the markets you serve and generating engagement opportunities with clients and prospects. Some channels are proven effective at meeting both objectives. These include webinars, online catalogs, online events, tradeshows and e-newsletters. Channels that tend to be low in both brand awareness and engagement opportunities are general search engines, print directories, and rented e-mail and direct mail lists.

2. Prioritize based on audience behavior
Technical professionals have more digital tools and sources of information than ever before to do their jobs better and more efficiently. They are also exposed to more companies and have many options when ready to buy. Therefore, you can no longer rely on a limited portfolio of online channels to achieve the marketing results you are looking for. For instance, it’s not enough to put most of your resources into your company website. Instead, try to broaden and deepen your online presence to engage your audience in ways that match their searching and sourcing preferences.

When researching a specific work-related purchase, the top three channels technical professionals use are search engines, online catalogs and supplier websites. However, your audience uses many other digital channels to keep up with the latest technologies, product news, companies and brands—all of which influence their buying decisions. E-newsletters, industry-focused websites, social media, online events and webinars are all important industry information sources for your customers.

3. Prioritize based on the buy cycle
For many companies, the industrial buy cycle is long and complex, involving multiple stages, from needs assessment to comparison and evaluation, to a final purchasing decision that may be influenced by recommendations from multiple stakeholders within a company. In the vast majority of cases, buyers will interact with your company’s content and brand many times and through multiple channels, often without contacting you, before they make a purchasing decision.
Therefore it is essential that you have a highly visible and uninterrupted presence on those channels your customers favor during the early, research-oriented buy cycle stages. These are the channels buyers favor: e-newsletters, online events, webinars and online catalogs. By taking advantage of these channels you increase your opportunities to connect with potential customers early on, so that they keep you top of mind when ready to make a purchasing decision.

Try Something New
The industrial marketing landscape is constantly changing. If you’ve been using the same marketing channels over the past year or longer and haven’t achieved your goals, it may be time to try something new. The fourth quarter is a good time to experiment. It’s not a high-risk proposition. Try sponsoring an online event. Or raising brand awareness through banner advertising on industrial sites. You could even combine several tactics. For example, place ads in industry-specific e-newsletters to increase attendance at an upcoming webinar.
Work with your media partners to evaluate new ideas and choose a tactic or two that fits best with your objectives and your overall marketing portfolio.

Get the Marketing Planning Kit
Each year, IHS GlobalSpec publishes the Industrial Marketing Planning Kit that includes analysis of the industrial market and channels, worksheets to analyze your current marketing mix, and recommendations on developing marketing strategies that target engineers and technical professionals. The 2015 version just came out and you can download your complimentary copy. The 2015 Industrial Marketing Planning Kit is one tool you don’t want to be without when it’s time to prioritize your marketing investments.

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Survey: Industrial Marketers Must Optimize their Digital Mix

The good news is industrial marketers are making the evidence-based decision to invest more in online marketing. On the other hand, they still need to optimize their digital mix. This was one of the key findings from IHS GlobalSpec’s latest research report, 2014 Trends in Industrial Marketing, based on a recent survey of marketing and sales professionals in the industrial sector.

2014 Trends Industrial Marketing

The results provide new insight into the strategies, budgets and tactics industrial marketers use today.

Here are the highlights:

Diversifying the marketing mix
Currently, corporate websites command about 25 percent of online budgets, which amounts to more than twice the spending on any other channel. There’s no question your company website is important and will continue to be, but establishing and maintaining a broad and deep online presence is critical in this age of digital disruption, when technical professionals have at their disposal a variety of digital resources to find the work-related information they seek. Your target audience doesn’t primarily rely on a single channel, so why should you? Industrial marketers should consider shifting a portion of their budget to other online channels such as e-newsletters, webinars and banner advertising on industry websites.

Playing catch-up to customer behavior
Forty-nine percent of industrial companies are increasing their online marketing budgets, but on average less than half (46 percent) of the overall marketing budget is spent online. While this online marketing percentage is up from 40 percent last year and 32 percent back in 2007, it still may not be enough to keep pace with the behavior of your customers. It may also be a contributing factor to the level of satisfaction industrial marketers feel about their online marketing efforts. Twenty-nine percent are still dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their online marketing efforts and 40 percent are feeling neutral.

Customer acquisition is still king
Year over year, customer acquisition tops the list of marketing goals in the industrial sector. Almost half (47 percent) of industrial marketers said customer acquisition is their primary marketing goal in 2014, up from 38 percent in 2012. Related to customer acquisition is lead generation; 29 percent of industrial marketers say it is the biggest challenge in their profession. In addition, customer acquisition is a key measurement of success for 55 percent of companies, along with sales attributed to marketing campaigns (64 percent) and leads (47 percent).

Preferred marketing channels
E-mail marketing using in-house lists, tradeshows, content marketing and search engine optimization are the top marketing channels in the industrial sector. Direct mail using rented/purchased lists, mobile marketing and podcasts are at the bottom of the list. Five of the top six channels used are digital channels, indicating that many marketers understand the importance of devoting resources to a mix of digital channels. Fifty-five percent say they use both inbound (pull) and outbound (push) marketing programs but state they could better diversify their mix.

Content marketing efforts must mature
Sixty-one percent of industrial marketers are now using content marketing as tactic and 54 percent are planning to increase their spending on content creation. This reflects marketers’ understanding that their prospects and customers are hungry for relevant content that will help them do their jobs better and make informed buying decisions. On the other hand, 44 percent of marketers are just getting started with content marketing, just 29 percent have a content marketing strategy, only nine percent can demonstrate how content marketing contributes to sales and only 15 percent align their content with the different phases of their customers’ buy cycle. These results reveal the need for industrial companies to mature their content marketing efforts in order to be more efficient and effective.

Marketers are more social-media savvy
Industrial marketers have gotten more savvy in how they use social media. They are now focusing their efforts on those objectives that social media best fulfills. Seventy-eight percent use social media for branding and 72 percent for content delivery. Only 34 percent use social media to generate leads, down from 59 percent in 2011. The most popular social media channel is LinkedIn. Twenty-seven percent are satisfied with their social media efforts, up from 17 percent in 2012. As industrial marketers continue to get more comfortable using social media and understanding its place in their marketing mix, they will likely achieve better results and their level of satisfaction will continue to increase.

Marketing budgets are steady
Over the past three years, marketing budgets have remained constant. Thirty-five percent are spending more in 2014 than they did in 2013; only 17 percent expect to spend less in 2014. About half are spending the same. For those companies with marketing budgets of $1 million or less, the average marketing budget is $166,000. Forty-two percent of companies have marketing budgets under $50,000 and 12 percent of companies have marketing budgets greater than $1 million. Forty-one percent of industrial marketers are spending at least half of their 2014 budgets for online marketing.

This annual survey can help you evaluate your marketing strategies in relation to your competitors, fine-tune your marketing programs and keep pace with your customers and the market. For complete survey results, along with recommendations for industrial marketers, download your complimentary copy of 2014 Trends in Industrial Marketing.

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Why You Need a Social Media Audit

The majority of industrial companies (61 percent) use social media for marketing purposes, according to recent IHS GlobalSpec research. However, only 27 percent of industrial marketers are satisfied or very satisfied with their company’s social media efforts, and only one in five industrial companies have a full-time employee dedicated solely to social media.

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These statistics may mean that your company’s social media use was developed in an ad-hoc manner, with some industrial companies getting involved without having a clear social media strategy or goals. If that’s the case at your company, or even if you have a social media plan, you can achieve better results if you take the time to conduct a social media audit.

Whether you’re a social media solo practitioner or part of an integrated team using social media, a social media audit will help you gain better control over your social media accounts, establish a social media strategy that supports business goals, and execute more effective social media programs.

Step 1: Inventory social media accounts
Start by taking inventory of your existing social media presence. It may be larger and more fragmented than you realized. Social media often starts at the business unit level as divisions create their own social media presence. In addition, new and existing employees open new social media accounts all the time. If your organization has grown through mergers and acquisitions, there could be multiple social media accounts operating under different brand names. If possible, centralize ownership of the accounts.

Step 2: Align social media strategy to business and marketing objectives
Once you have identified your overall business and marketing objectives, determine how social media initiatives can support those objectives. For instance, if one of your marketing goals is to drive thought leadership and establish your company as experts, then a logical social media initiative would be to publish educational and thought leadership content over social channels. If a goal is to better support customers, you might use social media to distribute user tips, invitations to training webinars, or how-to videos. If brand awareness is a goal, you’ll know that part of your social media strategy is increasing the number of followers and shares on your social media accounts.

One way to help shape your strategy is by tagging keywords and listening to what is being said on social networks about your company, products, services, industry, and competitors. You will be able to uncover opportunities for engaging with your audience and the market that you may not have considered.

As part of aligning your social media strategy with business and marketing objectives, you should establish measurable goals for social media, such as traffic delivered to your website, conversions, likes/follows, comments, shares and more. Only with measurable goals can you determine if your social media efforts are working.

Step 3: Determine how your audience uses social media
Are the social platforms you’re using the same ones that your customers use? Your social media efforts will be wasted if you’re not connecting with your target audience. The most popular social media platforms for technical professionals are LinkedIn and Facebook, and Google + is growing rapidly among this audience. You may not have the resources to manage accounts on all social media channels, so in your audit you might have to trim the ones that aren’t relevant.

Step 4: Evaluate your social media content
Content isn’t only what you post on social media, but what’s included in each of your social media profiles. Start by making sure the basics are all there: the appropriate company description, accurate urls and contact information. Next, are the header graphics consistent with your brand? Do individual users have profile pictures?

Then turn to the content itself. Is your messaging consistent? Are you publishing content across all of your social media networks to reach the greatest possible audience? Are you including links in your posts? You’ll also want to track what content is popular (measured by comments, shares, likes, clickthroughs, etc.) and what is ignored. This will provide the intelligence you need to develop useful, relevant content that your audience responds to.

Step 5: Create a social media “playbook”
Creating a social media playbook is an important action item in your audit process. Your playbook should clearly document your company’s social media strategy and goals, identify its accounts, define policies and guidelines for using social media (including any approvals or permissions needed to post on social media accounts), and identify team members and their roles.

Revisit the playbook on a regular basis—whenever there’s a change in your social media strategy, or a new team member comes on board, or you conduct your next social media audit.

Step 6: Consider using a social media management tool
If you’re committed to using social media for marketing purposes, then you may need to get more serious about managing your accounts and your content marketing efforts. There are a number of social media management tools (some of them free) that can help you be much more efficient on social media and gain centralized management of your entire social media presence. From a single dashboard you can schedule posts across multiple channels, publish content, track results and more.

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Three Steps to Get Media Attention When You Have No News to Report

Media attention is one of the best ways to build brand awareness and demonstrate thought leadership for your company in the industrial sector. Respected third-party mentions of your company can help influence potential customers, and those relevant links back to your website are like gold. But what if your company doesn’t have any breaking news to write about for a press release? There’s a way around that problem. You can still gain the interest of editors, bloggers and writers. Just follow these three steps.

1. Identify the relevant media properties and journalists
If you have any kind of public relations or marketing strategy you probably already know (and read) the relevant websites, blogs, online publications and other media outlets that cover your industry. Make a list and start to dig deeper. Find out who the reporters, writers and editors are that cover the topics most closely related to your subject matter expertise, products and services. Get their contact information. Their email addresses are usually published next to their names.

Next, examine any media kits or editorial calendars these media outlets have available. Even mission statements can reveal special areas of interest. See where your company and expertise fits in. You have to plan because most media properties publish editorial calendars six months to a year in advance, plus it takes time to establish contact with editors and writers, build a relationship and pitch your story.

2. Generate and develop story ideas
This is the step where marketers sometimes get stuck because their company doesn’t have any breaking news to report. But there are always good stories waiting to be discovered and told. Here are a few ways to find them:

  • Piggyback on the issues currently trending in your industry. It might be a technology breakthrough, a shift in market dynamics, new regulations, a key merger or acquisition, or other issues in the news. What is your company’s position on these issues? Do you have a point of view that’s unique or under-reported? Develop a story around it.
  • Offer up an in-house expert to analyze or comment on trends or other recent news. Prepare a compelling bio for your expert that you can submit to editors. What’s special about your experts and what they have to say? Why will it be important to the readers of the publication?
  • Conduct a survey or other research and promote the findings to relevant media outlets. What have you uncovered in your research that may be of interest to the writers and editors—and the readers? You can also use the research tactic to produce white papers, webinars, articles and other marketing content.
  • Choose a topic that’s recently been covered. It might be an article about one of your competitors. Look for a side of the story that hasn’t been reported on and develop a new idea around it. Journalists like to report every side of a story and may be interested in follow-up articles.

3. Make Your Pitch
You have your list of targeted media outlets and contacts. You have your story idea and you’ve turned it into a compelling pitch. Now it’s time to reach out to reporters, bloggers, writers and editors. You need to personalize your pitch to each individual—don’t send out a spray-and-pray mass email. Introduce yourself and your company, pitch your story idea, and tell them why their audience will be interested (answer the always-relevant question: Who cares?). Offer background materials, which you should have at your fingertips ready to hit the send button. Do everything you can to make their jobs easier and make saying “yes” easier for them.

The fact is, the media in any industry is a story seller’s market for you, not a buyer’s market. Every media outlet is looking for the next great story to give to their readers. If you’ve got it, and you can make a convincing case for it, they will want it. Of course, not every idea you pitch will hit the strike zone. Sometimes your story won’t get picked up. But even if it doesn’t, you’ve cultivated relationships with important media contacts in your industry and have positioned yourself as a go-to resource that could be called upon in the future for quotes, opinions and interviews for other stories.

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How to Respond to the Evolving Industrial Buy Cycle

Recent research has shown that the widespread availability and use of digital resources is resulting in changes to how technical professionals approach their buy cycle. The stages of the cycle are still the same, but the timing of contact between buyer and seller has changed.

The industrial buy cycle consists of distinct stages: Research & Needs Analysis, Comparison & Evaluation and Purchase. The cycle can be long and complex, involving multiple decision makers, recommenders and influencers; or it can be short and straightforward, with a single person presiding over a purchase decision. However, regardless of length or complexity, the buy cycle is evolving.

Technical professionals today use digital resources at every stage of their buy cycle, particularly during the Research & Needs Analysis stage. The most popular resources are general search engines, supplier websites, online catalogs and industry-specific search engines such as GlobalSpec.com. Because of the vast amount of useful information available from these digital sources, it’s easier than ever for customers to discover and research information about products, services and suppliers, and to narrow down their options before getting a vendor involved.

In 2014, only 41 percent of technical professionals are contacting a supplier in the early Research & Needs Analysis stage of their buy cycle. Thirty-eight percent wait until the Comparison & Evaluation stage and 21 percent don’t contact a vendor until they are ready to make a purchase.

The evolving nature of the buy cycle has a number of implications for suppliers, including:

  • You must connect with potential customers early in their buy cycle in order to be a contender later when they are ready to make a purchase decision. This means you must build and maintain a strong online presence on those digital resources your customers use most in the early buy cycle stages.
  • From a sales perspective, think of your digital presence as a way for potential customers to add themselves to the top of your sales funnel when they are searching for products and services. They will then engage with you as they advance through the funnel.
  • Don’t make the mistake of thinking if you choose not to provide relevant, educational content to customers early in their buy cycle, that they will contact you earlier in order to get that information. Instead what will happen is customers will forget about your company and instead focus their attention on those suppliers who are meeting their needs for content over digital channels.
  • You should publish a steady stream of content on digital channels for your prospects and customers, including blog posts, product information, white papers, webinars, videos, web pages, spec sheets and more. Your audience is eagerly searching for this content as they engage in their buy cycle.
  • Your digital presence is required to build brand awareness and visibility so that when a customer recognizes a need and begins their research, they will already have your company top of mind and be able to find you easily, which will increase your opportunities to be under consideration from the beginning of the buy cycle.
  • When a customer or prospect does contact you, they are likely to be more educated than the person who reaches out to a supplier at the beginning of their buy cycle. This fact may affect your processes for handling engagement opportunities. Some prospects may be more sales ready. Most of them will have specific questions at this point and want detailed information, including product availability, specifications, pricing, testimonials, ROI calculators and other content that will help them make a purchasing decision.
  • Technical professionals rely on different digital resources at different buy cycle stages, according to the research. General search engines, supplier websites, online catalogs and industry-specific search engines such as GlobalSpec.com have increased in importance to support the Research & Needs Analysis and the Comparison & Evaluation stages of the buy cycle. In the Purchase stage, industry-specific search engines and online catalogs increased in importance.

The industrial buy cycle has been around as long as there has been industrial commerce, but the nature of it continually evolves. Stay on top of the current evolution by creating a strong digital presence and providing technical professionals with the information they are looking for. To gain greater insight into your customers’ digital behavior, download a complimentary copy of the new IHS GlobalSpec research report 2014 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector.

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Find the Perfect Balance of Content in Your Marketing Efforts

Now that most industrial marketers are deploying a content management strategy, they’ve also discovered how much work it is to produce and publish content. There’s also the question of what type of content you should put out there.

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Content types fit into one of three general categories. Thought leadership content that your company produces. Curated content that others produce and you share with your audience. And promotional content that focuses on your own products and services. Each type has its place in your content mix. There are no rigid rules about the mix, but we think a balance and appropriate breakdown looks something like this:

  • 30 percent thought leadership content
  • 50 percent curated content
  • 20 percent promotional content.

Thought Leadership Content

Thought leadership is original content produced by your internal team. It’s usually educational in nature. It’s always relevant to your audience. Thought leadership is powerful stuff because it:

  • Demonstrates your expertise in specific areas
  • Showcases your opinion and point of view on issues
  • Builds customer and market perceptions of your brand

Thought leadership content is also the hardest to produce. It requires the most resources in terms of generating ideas, writing, illustrating and more. It requires the most time and money. But you need to produce thought leadership as part of your content marketing strategy, and if only thirty percent of your content is thought leadership, you should be able to handle the effort especially if you repurpose your content in multiple formats. For example, a white paper can be the basis for a blog post or a product demo can evolve into a YouTube video.

Curated Content

To curate means to pull together, organize, sift through and select for presentation. Curating content from other sources and sharing it with your audience offers a number of benefits:

  • Requires fewer resources on your part to pull together
  • Faster to get it out because you don’t need to produce it
  • Gives your audience other perspectives
  • Also builds thought leadership because of what you choose to share and how you share it

If you’ve ever retweeted and commented on a link in Twitter, or shared an article on Facebook and added your commentary, then you’ve curated content. You’ve also gone one step further by adding context for your audience with your comment on what you’re sharing. That little extra—a comment added to the share—can help put your own spin on curated content.

You can easily discover content to curate. Follow other industry leaders and industry news sites. Track relevant hashtags on Twitter. Use Google Alerts to be notified when specific keywords appear in the news. Evaluate what you find and then share with your own audience what you consider to be the most useful and relevant content. If 50 percent of your content is curated, you’re letting others do a lot of the heavy lifting for you—and you’re working smarter.

Promotional Content

Because you share thought leadership and curated content you “earn” the right with your audience to publish promotional content. And by keeping the mix at 20 percent of your overall content, you are unlikely to anger your readers for occasionally tooting your own horn. They’re following you for a reason: they’re interested in what you have to say.

You need promotional content mixed in because you need ways to talk about new and updated products, or enhanced and expanded services. You need to get your target audience interested in what you sell. You need to make offers, generate engagement opportunities and keep your sales and marketing teams excited. And you can do all of this through content marketing, as long as you keep the percentage down.

Even promotional content can offer value. If you know your audience’s desires well, you can make your promotional content more targeted and increase the likelihood it will be accepted.

Where, What and How Often to Share

You have three basic choices on where to share content: your social media channels, corporate website or blog and e-newsletters. That’s a start. You may want to look at webinars, online events, banner advertising, press releases and third-party list rental to help promote your content to a wider audience.

What to share includes your own or third-party curated articles, blog posts, white papers, eBooks, presentations, videos, infographics and more.

How often should you share? As often as you can as long as your audience continues wanting to hear from you. If you find comments, likes and shares increasing on your content, you’ve got your audience’s interest. If people are dropping off, you’re sharing too much or what you’re sharing isn’t relevant. Find out what’s right for you.

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How do you find the right balance for your content marketing? What tips or strategies would you pass along to your peers in industrial marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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