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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
You know how the characters in a good novel or movie seem so real? They’re not, of course. They’re fictional representations, but because they’re developed so fully, we think of them as real people. It’s the same when you create buyer personas—also referred to as customer profiles—which are fictional representations of the customers you want to find.
A well-drawn buyer persona of your ideal customers can seem so real you might think this imaginary person is about to give you a purchase order. That might be wishful thinking, but if you use buyer personas in your marketing efforts, you should be able to attract real and valuable customers.
Industrial marketers use buyer personas to develop targeted campaigns and content for different customer types, craft relevant and compelling messaging, and help unite sales, marketing, and service teams by sharing a greater understanding of customers. When the buyer personas you create truly reflect your customers’ wants and needs, they can even help guide product development efforts.
Source material for buyer personas
You need raw material to develop and shape your buyer personas. Where do you find it? Usually from a combination of the following sources:
• Anecdotal experience from your sales team or other institutional knowledge regarding the goals and needs of your customers
• Customer surveys or one-to-one customer interviews
• Analytics such as online behavior of your customers or tracking website visitors
• Content from existing case studies
• Purchased demographic and product sourcing data
• Industry research; for example, the IHS Engineering360 research report “Pulse of the Engineer” reports on the values, needs, and challenges of today’s engineers
What information to include
Buyer personas don’t need to be complex or long—a list of bullet points under appropriate headings should work well. Include only information that can help you target your marketing efforts or messages. If you have only one type of customer, you need only one buyer persona. If you have many types of customers, or if many people are involved in the purchase decision for your products (such as recommenders, influencers, users, and purchasing agents), you should develop a buyer persona for each type.
Here is the typical information you might include in a buyer persona:
• Professional profile. The profile includes the title or functional responsibility of your target buyer. Identify whether you are trying to reach an engineer (design, process, production), a department head or a team lead, a senior manager, and so on. What are their professional duties and areas of responsibility? Are they influencers, recommenders, or decision makers in the buying process?
• Challenges. What problem is your customer attempting to solve? How is this problem negatively impacting them? What are the consequences of not solving it? This goes back to the old adage of “what keeps your customers awake at night?” Different types of buyers are solving different problems. For example, a buyer with a financial perspective is trying to solve the ROI problem. A buyer that is the end user of your product wants to know that your product will perform as needed.
• Goals. What benefits or goals do your customers hope to achieve with the sought-after product/solution? In other words, what will help them to sleep better?
• Obstacles/Objections. Marketers sometimes overlook this, but knowing how to overcome potential customer objections is critical to creating effective messaging. What might prevent your customer from buying your product/solution? For example: financial constraints, strong competitive offerings, lack of confidence in your solution or perceived weaknesses, support or warranty issues.
• Value proposition. Describe the solution you are offering and how it addresses the challenges, meets the goals, and overcomes the obstacles/objections of your profiled customer.
Use a buyer persona template
In order to maintain consistency in your buyer personas, develop a template that you can fill in with the fields you need to collect. Each buyer persona will have the same fields, such as Customer Profile, Challenges, Objections, Solution.
Share buyer personas with your team and across teams, including sales, customer service, and product development. Help everyone get to know what makes your customers tick and what’s important to them. Buyer personas are also important tools for internal training efforts and when you bring on new team members.
Develop compelling marketing messages
Detailed buyer personas will help you develop stronger, more relevant, and more compelling marketing messages. You’ll better know how to match solution benefits to customer goals, needs, and challenges. You’ll also be able to more accurately position your products by focusing on what’s most important to your customers.
Developing buyer personas shouldn’t require excessive time and resources on your part, yet the payoff can be significant. Revisit the buyer personas when your company launches new products, enters new markets, or undergoes organizational changes such as mergers or acquisitions that could change your customer profile or mix.
The second annual IHS Engineering360 Pulse of Engineering survey reveals a work environment where the pace of engineering is accelerating and designs are becoming more complex, while at the same time design cycles are shrinking and time-to-market pressures are increasing.
It’s a testament to their talent and grit that engineers are up to the challenge. Consider some of the other findings of the survey:
• 59% of engineers are required to do more with less
• 69% of engineers are working on three or more projects simultaneously
• 54% said the number of competitors is growing
• 70% reported shortages of resources and specialized knowledge at their companies
• 63% are facing budget constraints and 71% time constraints
Despite these pressures, engineers are performing well at their jobs. For example, 56% said they frequently or always meet launch dates, 80% meet product quality standards, and 76% meet customer satisfaction goals. On the more sobering side, 49% said the pressure to cut costs and meet deadlines are putting product quality/rework at risk.
Knowledge drain offers suppliers an opportunity
The research showed that a significant percentage of the engineering workforce is aging or on the move. Thirty percent of respondents said they could retire in the next five years, and only 40% said they were very likely to be with their current employer five years from now. In many cases, when these employees leave—either through retirement or job change—institutional knowledge goes with them.
Forty percent said their companies lose specialized knowledge and expertise faster than they gain it. And only 40% 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.
Knowledge drain may be one of the reasons why 43% stated that design involvement from external partners, vendors, and customers has increased. Industrial marketers have a great opportunity to step in and help fill the knowledge void as well as build customer satisfaction and loyalty by producing trusted, reliable technical content, along with professional development and training courses that help engineers do their jobs more effectively. Your customers will turn to you for authoritative knowledge and you will become an essential resource to these companies.
Environmental sustainability is a focus area
Another trend revealed in the survey is the importance of environmental sustainability. The majority of respondents said designing/developing environmentally sustainable products was important to their companies. Fifty-six percent reported that environmental/sustainability pressures on products/designs have increased over the past two years. In addition, the majority of engineers said that the number of environmental/sustainability regulations, regulatory complexity, and frequency of regulatory changes have all increased.
If your products are energy efficient, help reduce energy consumption, or are made from safe or recyclable materials, make sure you get that message out to your target audience. The same is true with messaging around other trends reported in the survey, such as engineers being asked to do more with fewer resources while having to meet aggressive launch dates.
Take advantage of these trends in your marketing. How can your products reduce time to market for engineers? Improve productivity? Save time and resources?
Engineers have a strong voice in purchasing decisions
Engineers play an important role in the industrial buy cycle and in making purchasing decisions. Sixty-eight percent said they recommend/specify products/vendors; 64% evaluate products/vendors. The top three attributes engineers look for when choosing a supplier/vendor are price, performance, and service/support. If you focus on those attributes, you’re in the game, no matter the size of your company. Only 20% said that a well-known brand/company was a top-three attribute in making purchasing decisions.
Get the research
For additional survey data, download an executive summary of the 2016 Pulse of Engineering research, which presents top survey results. To obtain your complimentary copy of the complete research report, including recommendations to industrial marketers to help them better understand their target audience, strengthen relationships with customers, and position their products to align more closely with industry trends, contact your IHS Engineering360 Media Solutions account executive or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Of all the types of marketing content your company creates on its own, customer case studies are the most trusted by B2B buyers (MarketingProfs). Seventy-seven percent of B2B marketers use case studies as part of their content marketing efforts (Content Marketing Institute). Buyers rely on case studies in both the awareness and evaluation stages of their buy cycle.
The effectiveness of case studies comes from having your customer providing testimony that a product or service of yours delivers promised results. The third-party voice is a powerful one. You can use case studies not only to draw attention to a product, solution, service or even your company overall, but also to a specific customer type, such as one that has left for a competitor and then come back to you.
Are customer case studies part of your content marketing portfolio? They should be. Follow these tips to create compelling, effective case studies that will help potential customers decide in your favor when it’s time to make a purchase.
Adhere to a standard structure and format
Case studies fit neatly into a pre-defined structure, much like a three-act movie: beginning, middle and end. With case studies, the beginning presents the customer challenge, the middle talks about why the customer chose your solution and describes the solution, and the end is the payoff where you document the business results achieved. This structure works, and there’s no reason to vary from it.
Format aspects to follow include writing a benefit-oriented headline, using customer logos or other graphics, keeping the case study to 400-500 words, and fitting it onto a front and back of a sheet of paper (if it’s printed or a pdf). It’s also helpful to include a brief executive summary at the top and a sidebar with bullet point highlights of the problem-solution-results. This will help busy readers who are only going to scan the piece.
Use the customer’s point of view
Case studies are most effective when told from the customer’s point of view, not your company’s. Remember that it’s their story, their voice, that you want to promote. The point of the case study is that someone else is speaking on your behalf—a customer that other potential buyers can relate to. The case study doesn’t have to be a first-person narrative, but it has to be the customer’s story.
Prepare for the interview
Since you know that you want to follow a problem-solution-results storyline, you can prepare your questions ahead of time to make sure you get the information you need. Many companies develop and use a standard case study questionnaire.
Send your questions to your customer ahead of time so they can think about their responses. Customers may need to gather information or data concerning business results. Also ask permission to record the interview, whether you are in-person or over the phone. You’ll be able to write a more accurate case study and there will be no chance of misquoting your customer.
Think beyond a single case study
When asking a customer if they are willing to participate in a case study, it’s a good idea to expand your thinking and ask for a greater level of participation, or at least get them or their public relations department to sign a release allowing you to use their story for additional marketing purposes.
You may want your customer to co-host a webinar with you, or appear on a panel discussion at an event, or be featured in a video or podcast. You can include a customer’s story in a blog post or pitch an article for publication featuring their story. These are all savvy ways to re-purpose a traditional case study, and to extend your reach—and that of your customer’s. Because it’s their story, your customers also gain the benefit of greater brand visibility and increased awareness.
Use case studies everywhere
In whatever form they are produced in, case studies are powerful and compelling content in your marketing efforts. Promote them in your emails or through banner advertising, publish them on your website, and print and hand them out at tradeshows. IHS Engineering360 clients can link to relevant customer case studies from their company profile pages.
A final tip: While many customers who have experienced measurable success using your products and services are happy to participate in case studies, they are still taking time and effort to help you meet your goals. Be sure to express your gratitude. A discount or other incentive will be especially appreciated, but even a nice coffee mug or a gift card can appropriately express your thanks.
Webinars provide strong demand generation opportunities, and the ability to build brand awareness, engage with your target audience, and establish thought leadership.
One of the key reasons why webinars are an effective marketing tactic is that your attending audience is motivated and interested. They are committing an hour or so of their busy day to listen to your message and interact with your presenters. That takes a lot more effort on their part than, for instance, scanning an email or reading a web page. Additionally, webinars require less time, effort, and especially cost to attend than an in-person event, which helps increase their popularity.
As in-person tradeshows continue to experience decline in this digital era, webinars have filled the void for interaction between technical professionals and vendors.
Seventy percent of technical professionals attended at least one webinar or online event in the past year, and 32% attended four or more (IHS Enginering360 “Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector” survey).
Industrial marketers realize that webinars have an important role in their marketing mix. Thirty-six percent now use webinars as a marketing tactic, and 40% are increasing spending on webinars (IHS Engineering360 “Industrial Marketing Trends” survey).
A variety of webinar options
Webinars can require a lot of work to be successful - from choosing a topic; to creating the presentation and script; to promoting your event; to registering and reminding your audience; to having a platform to host the webinar; to following up with opportunities post-event; to archiving the event on your website for future on-demand viewing and lead generation.
Doing all of this on your own requires resources, technology, and expertise. You also must attract a targeted audience on your own. If you’ve successfully been producing and hosting webinars, and generating engagement opportunities, you deserve credit for a job well done. If you’re just getting started, don’t be intimidated by the work involved. There are other options available.
Whether or not you have experience with webinars, working with a media partner for webinar marketing offers a number of advantages:
• A broad, yet still targeted audience. The right media partner will have access to a motivated and targeted audience you may not be able to reach on your own, and will develop and manage a multi-channel marketing plan to target the specific audience you want to attract and to promote your webinar.
• Comprehensive project management. Partners offer easy registration capabilities, email reminders, post-webinar follow-ups, and other features to help increase registration, attendance, and audience satisfaction. They can also handle all the technical aspects of webinar production and delivery. These services free you up to focus on webinar content and integrating the event into your overall marketing mix.
• Additional webinar options. Media partners that have webinar expertise can offer you a broad array of options. For example, you may want to create and deliver the webinar presentation, and have your partner handle the audience and production aspects. This is the more traditional route. But forward-thinking media companies offer other options for industrial marketers. For instance, your company could sponsor and brand a pre-determined webinar comprised of a panel discussion with industry experts. This option is a great way to build credibility and thought leadership around key topics that are important to your company. Another option is a more hybrid approach, with your media partner providing experts to collaborate with you and co-present on a mutually agreed upon topic.
Webinars are expected to show increased growth in the industrial sector. The main reason: they are effective. And more and more industrial marketers are working with media partners to strengthen their webinars and increase the return on their investment. For more information on custom webinar services from IHS Engineering360 Media Solutions, click here.
Studies show that 70% of new business can come from long-term leads, those prospects that are in the early stages of their buy cycles when they first engage with your company, but will be ready to make a purchase decision at some time in the future. Whether they decide to purchase from your company or from a competitor may come down to how well you nurture those leads throughout their buy cycle, which in the industrial sector can be long and complex and involve multiple decision makers.
Lead nurturing campaigns are designed to:
• Provide prospects with relevant information related to their area of interest
• Maintain their interest so they don’t abandon you for another supplier
• Keep in regular contact with prospects, always ready to meet their needs
• Give prospects appropriate offers to help them move forward toward a buying decision
Your lead nurturing campaign will be more successful in terms of converting more of your long term engagement opportunities to sales - and prospects to satisfied customers - if you follow these seven steps.
1. Set up your lead nurturing infrastructure
Before you can launch any campaign, you will need to set up an infrastructure to support the program. This includes assembling your team and assigning responsibility for the following tasks:
• Developing guidelines for how sales and marketing teams will work together, including at what point in the nurturing cycle you should hand leads off to sales
• Getting leads recorded into your system
• Scoring and segmenting leads so that you can determine what type of leads you have and what campaigns they belong in
• Responding to leads and tracking their behavior throughout the campaign
While some industrial companies might still be able to use a simple spreadsheet to manage campaigns and engagement opportunities, many are now deploying marketing automation software. There are a number of low-cost, cloud-based marketing automation tools that can help enable and streamline lead management processes.
2. Segment your engagement opportunities
If your company has only one product and one type of customer, you can skip this step. But most companies have an eclectic customer base with different areas of interest. In this case, you’ll want to segment your audience for your lead nurturing campaigns according to relevant criteria. It could be by product, status (based on lead scoring or position in the buy cycle, for example), geography, or other expressed interest.
When you segment your engagement opportunities, you can more closely target your campaign to their interests and needs, and in doing so, be more relevant and attractive to them.
3. Plan your content distribution
Once you have one or more defined groups for your lead nurturing campaign(s), plan targeted content to help move them closer to making a purchasing decision. For example, 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, customer case studies, ROI calculators, and competitive differentiators.
You probably already have a lot of content created that you can use in your lead nurturing campaigns. Other pieces you may need to develop to round out your library.
4. Create calls to action
With every piece of content you send and touchpoint you create, include a call to action by giving your prospects something to do. It could be download a white paper, read an article, register for a demonstration or webinar, fill out a survey, or any other type of action. These calls to action will enable you to gain two valuable insights: 1) you can find out what type of content is working and what isn’t, and 2) you can track the digital behavior of your prospects.
5. Develop a campaign schedule
Lead nurturing campaigns take place over time, usually at scheduled intervals, through email, phone, postal mail, and other outreach mechanisms. You might touch your prospects once a week for six weeks, or once a month for six months. The schedule depends on your goals and the needs of your prospects. The key is to develop a schedule, determine the content you will send at each scheduled interval, and stick with your plan.
6. Create response rules
As you execute your campaign, watch for signs of progress in your prospects by examining their digital behavior. If they are ignoring all of your offers, they probably aren’t that interested, but if they click on everything you send and act on every offer, you may have a hot prospect on your hands who is ready to engage with your sales team.
Plan ahead of time and apply logic, rules, and perhaps even branching (if they do this, then that, otherwise something else) in order to optimize your campaign’s flow and effectiveness—and to get high-potential leads into the hands of sales reps at the right time.
7. Measure and improve
A lead nurturing campaign requires structure and discipline. It also provides a trove of valuable data based on your prospects’ behavior. Because you have established goals and defined campaign rules, you can track what works and what doesn’t. Get rid of offers and content that don’t perform well, while building on what’s most popular by creating similar offers. Continually refine your campaign and you should see improved results.
Infographics are a popular and effective way for industrial marketers to communicate information. Why does everyone love infographics? Because the best ones provide fast, easy access to important information. Our brains require less effort to digest visual content than text, and visual content drives more traffic and engagement than plain text does.
Here’s an example of three infographics from IHS Engineering360: an Infographic 3 Pack. Each one summarizes a set of research data that was also used to produce a white paper and other content. See how much you can learn from a quick scan of the infographic?
But as with any other type of content, some infographics are better at getting the job done than others. Make sure you adhere to these best practices when using infographics as part of your content marketing efforts.
1. Tell a visual story
You can’t simply assemble a collection of data and statistics and call it an infographic. Your infographics should tell a visual story that has a main theme or objective. It should adhere to both a logical and a visual flow. To determine the story you want to tell, ask yourself the following questions:
• What am I trying to communicate?
• What are the main points of the story?
• What should my audience learn?
• What do I want my audience to feel, think or do? (include a call to action)
2. Choose a compelling topic
Like a white paper, webinar or other marketing content, infographics must be interesting and relevant to your audience. Timeliness is also a factor with infographics. What’s happening right now in your industry? What research, data and statistics support your story and are compelling to your audience?
Dig deep into your research to uncover data behind key trends you want to tell a story about. Be sure that you cite the data sources that you use. You can either integrate the citations where the data appears or use some kind of footnoting and put citations at the end.
3. Adhere to design principles
Because infographics are so visual in nature, it’s essential that you create a harmonious and pleasing design that is attractive to your audience. Follow these principles:
• Keep visual elements such as icons as simple as possible. Complex designs are distracting and hard to understand. They also might not render well in small sizes. The same goes for fonts. Use simple, clean typography. Try to stick to one or two fonts and a limited number of font sizes.
• Choose a complementary color palette and group related information by color. But don’t use too many colors. You don’t want the infographic to look like a circus.
• Use white space. If you clutter up the entire canvas with information, your audience will be overwhelmed and won’t know where to look next. White space helps segment information and create a visual flow that moves your story in the right direction.
• Use a vertical, not a horizontal, layout. Your audience can scroll down as needed to see information below the limits of the screen, but horizontal scrolling is difficult. A good rule of thumb is to make your infographic no wider than 600 pixels.
• Use brief blocks of text to support or explain visuals. The main story should be told through the graphic elements; consider text as secondary and keep it to a minimum.
4. Create your infographics
Not everyone is an artist. If you’re not a designer, you can take advantage of online tools that let you create visually powerful infographics from templates. Or reach out to your media partners that offer content marketing services – infographic development may also be on their list of product offerings. One benefit of relying on a media partner for assistance versus using online tools is that they can help you with both the design, as well as identifying and organizing the right data and content.
5. Market your infographics
Infographics are for sharing. Be sure to add social sharing buttons to your infographics, along with your logo and a call to action. In addition, promote your infographics as you would any other content as part of your integrated marketing program. Post them to your website, link to them from emails, use them to pitch articles to editors, and highlight them on your social media accounts.
Also think about ways you can use the content of infographics in other ways. The infographics examples mentioned above from IHS Engineering360 were created from research reports. Repurposing content can flow in the other direction as well. Can elements of your infographics be used as slides in a presentation? Or as the basis of an executive brief or article? Smart marketers are always finding ways to effectively repurpose content.