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Social Media Can Give a Boost to Content Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Pros and Cons of Social Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The State of Social Media in 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Set Your Company Apart Using Email Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Case for a Multichannel Marketing Strategy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Five Ways to Get Closer to Your Audience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Three Public Relations Skills Every Industrial Company Needs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Does Branding Still Matter in the Digital Age?

This is the digital age in the industrial sector—in every market really. Engineers and technical buyers have access to more information and resources than ever before to research and support their buying decisions.

From industry-specific websites and e-newsletters, to social media, webinars and customer ratings, digital channels and content have helped to level the playing field for competitors and are driving a fundamental shift in how industrial professionals discover, evaluate and purchase products and services.

As an industrial marketer you might be asking: With all of this information now easily available, does branding still matter?

The answer depends on how you define branding. If you still think of branding in terms of its origins when ranchers seared into their cattle a distinctive and recognizable ownership mark, then branding probably doesn’t matter that much. A pretty logo, slick collateral, or an impressive tradeshow display—while nice to have—might not sway buyers in your direction.

But if you think of branding as a strategic initiative that encompasses everything your company does to build trust and credibility with customers and prospects, then branding matters. If you accept the fact that your brand is defined by how customers and prospects think and feel about your company, products and services, then branding is more important now more than ever.

The fact is, while the number of channels and the volume of content have provided engineers with more information and choices, they may be overwhelmed with the flood of options available to them, and as always they are still faced with the possibility of making the wrong buying decision.
On the other hand, if they buy from a company whose brand they trust and respect, they will have more confidence in their decision. Therefore, branding matters. A lot.

Here are five reasons why you should still invest in creating a strong brand:

1. Strong brands reduce risk for customers and prospects. You’ve heard the expression, “No one has ever gotten fired for buying IBM.” That might be the greatest brand statement in history. What it means is that buying from IBM is the right choice because its brand is reputable and safe. Many companies who might have offered better products and feature sets lost business to IBM simply because of IBM’s brand strength. A strong brand mitigates the perception of risk that accompanies significant investments and alleviates some of the fear that buyers inevitably experience when they're facing a major purchase decision.

2. A strong brand offers clarity. Effective branding puts a stake in the ground that says to all involved: “This is who we are, this is what we do, this is why we do it.” As a customer, you know what you’re getting when you know what a brand stands for.

3. A strong brand fosters trust. Business is all about relationships, even when the products offered for sale might be perceived as commodity components. And relationships are based on trust. Without trust, there is no transaction. If a potential customer trusts your brand, he or she is more likely to buy from you.

4. A strong brand builds customer loyalty. Many industrial companies have customers they have supplied for years. These are your loyal customers. They buy from you with confidence. They buy knowing their expectations will be met and that any issues will be quickly resolved.

5. A strong brand can shorten the sales cycle. If your brand is known and recognized in your market and among potential customers, your company’s sales people can save a lot of time by not having to explain what your company is about and why a prospect should buy from you. With an unknown brand, sales people are starting at the bottom rung with every sales opportunity, working to convince prospects that your company and products are worthy.

Get to Work on Branding
Branding should be an important part of your marketing strategy, if it isn’t already. Fortunately, branding tactics don’t have to work in isolation; they can also help to generate engagement opportunities with your target audience.

Programs such as display advertising on industrial websites can expand your reach and increase visibility and awareness of your brand. E-newsletter advertising can get your brand into the inbox of motivated engineers and industrial professionals. And webinars and other content marketing efforts can help position your company and brand as experts and thought leaders in your industry.

Branding still matters. Talk to your media partners about programs to strengthen your company’s brand.

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The Simple Solution for Overcoming Content Marketing Challenges

Content is an important tool to help industrial professionals make the right buying decisions. For purchases under $1,000, buyers review up to three pieces of content related to their purchase decision (Engineering360 Industrial Buy Cycle Survey). For purchases over $10,000, that number climbs to four or more pieces of content reviewed for 70% of buyers.

Marketers understand the need to produce and distribute valuable and authoritative content that positions their company as experts, builds trust with prospects, and ultimately makes it easier to sell products and services. Sixty-three percent of industrial marketers now use content marketing as a channel, and 54% are planning to increase spending on content creation (Engineering360 Industrial Marketing Trends Survey).

However, content marketing, while an essential marketing strategy, presents a number of pesky challenges that you must overcome to be successful. These challenges include:

• Lack of internal resources. Content creation is resource intensive, requiring planners, writers, editors, designers, and production specialists.
• Producing content consistently. Related to a lack of resources, and perhaps a shortage of ideas, it’s difficult to put out a steady stream of compelling, educational content while also fulfilling all of your other marketing responsibilities.
• Producing engaging content. Knowing what will interest and move the needle for prospects requires research and experience. You may need to analyze your audience, conduct interviews, and tap into the knowledge of your sales and customer service teams.
• Distributing content to the right audience. You have to know your audience and what channels they use to search for and access content.
There are a multitude of channels to choose from, including your company and industry websites, search engines, social media, email, video, online events, and more.
• Lack of marketing integration. Content marketing is just one strategy within your overall marketing plan. You must be able to integrate content marketing with other efforts and track the performance of your content in terms of views, downloads, conversions, and other metrics.

Content marketing services to the rescue
Ask your media partners about content marketing services that can help you overcome these challenges and deliver a return on your investment in content marketing. Some media companies in the industrial sector have expertise in content marketing and a strong portfolio of end-to-end services.

Before signing on with a partner, make sure they offer the following five content marketing services:

1. Assistance in creating compelling content. There are two parts to this service. First, you want to know if your potential partner has a stable of writers, editors, designers, and production experts that can make up for any lack of resources on your part. Second, do they have deep knowledge and experience in your technical field?
2. Expertise across a spectrum of content types. Your partner should be able to identify the best content format based on your audience preferences and your marketing goals. They should be able to produce white papers, advertorials, technical briefs, e-books, webinars, infographics, and more.
3. Ability to promote your content to your target audience. Does your media partner have the attention of your audience and the channels to reach them? Whether it’s through banner ads and targeted e-newsletters, or dedicated landing pages and visible spots on websites, your media partner must make your content highly visible to the buying audience you are trying to reach.
4. A persistent presence for your content. A one-and-done campaign or the posting of your content for only a limited time period likely isn’t enough to draw the attention and traction you’re looking for. Media partners should offer flexible options in terms of how long and where your content will be visible and available to potential customers.
5. Delivery of intelligent data in support of content marketing. Make sure your media partner can offer comprehensive reports about the performance of your content and the ability to identify who is accessing it. Media sites that require user registration on their sites should be able to provide this level of detail, including contact information for prospects who have expressed interest in your content.

Is it time for you to optimize your content marketing efforts by engaging with a partner for content marketing services? To further support your content marketing efforts, download the complimentary white paper: “Content Marketing for Industrial Marketers: Establish Thought Leadership, Build Brand Awareness, and Drive Engagement Opportunities.”

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Five Ways to Show Added Value in Your Marketing Message

 Your customers have access to many sources of information and a broad array of content to help them in their buying process. Search engines, websites, e-newsletters, catalogs and social media are just a few of the channels they use. For content, engineers rely on white papers, webinars, articles, infographics, spec sheets, videos, blog posts, research reports and much more.

As a marketer, how do you cut through the clutter and gain and keep the attention of your target audience? By understanding what added value your company and products deliver, and embedding that added value in your marketing messages.

Describing and pitching your solution isn’t enough. Lists of features and benefits are only a bare minimum. A sheet of specifications is simply table stakes that get you in the game. But demonstrating how you deliver added value can be a game changer, because that’s ultimately what your customers care about: the value that’s in it for them.

Here are five ways to increase your added value.

1. Place a value on your customer’s problem
Even if you can communicate the value of your solution, it may not be enough to get prospects to respond. You have to help them put a price on their problem. What are the costs and consequences of the issue they are facing? How long has the prospect been suffering from it? How have they tried to address it, and with what results? Why is it imperative that they fix it now, and what would happen if they don’t?

Unless you can provide motivation to get prospects to change, they are likely to maintain the status quo. That motivation comes from showing the value in making their problem go away, and the cost associated with doing nothing.

2. Fill the knowledge gap
The loss of institutional knowledge is a serious issue for industrial companies. In a recent survey, “Pulse of the Engineer,” 48 percent of engineers said that knowledge and/or information loss as employees left the company was a problem. Yet only 40 percent of companies have formal practices in place to identify senior-level and specialized experts to train, transfer, mentor, manage or retain their knowledge among others in the organization.

In an effort to grow their knowledge and expertise, engineers are turning to books, professional development courses, online training courses and other training provided by vendors. This is an opportunity for your organization to step in with added value by producing trusted, reliable technical content and training that help engineers do their jobs more effectively. You can build your reputation as an expert source and become an essential information resource to your customers.

3. Focus on themes that are important to your customers
Research conducted by McKinsey & Company shows there is a disconnect between the core messages companies communicate about their brands and the characteristics their customers value most.

Do your marketing messages truly address what your customers care about, or what you care about? By understanding your audience and aligning your marketing communications to address what really matters to them, you will get their attention… and they will greater understand the true value that you deliver.

As a side note, the McKinsey research found that having low prices did not contribute to a strong brand impression in the customers’ mind.

4. Align with industry trends
“Pulse of the Engineer” revealed a number of trends taking place in the industry. One megatrend that is having a significant influence on product design is the increasing speed of technological innovation. In addition, engineers report having to do more with fewer resources while having to meet aggressive launch dates for products that meet high standards for customer satisfaction.

You can add value by talking about what is innovative about your products or how you are keeping up with new technologies. Can your products help engineers reduce their time to market, improve productivity, or save time and resources? Be sure to add these themes into your marketing messages.

5. Listen to your sales team
In long or complex industrial sales, personal touch with the sales team is a critical factor in winning the deal. Your sales team is on the front lines selling value every day and they are getting direct feedback from customers. You should sit down with your sales team and get their feedback. If they tell you that some of your marketing messages aren’t working, they’re probably right. Ask them how you can add more value to your marketing.

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