1 0 Archive | February, 2012

Take a step back

Like many people, I follow a number of companies and people on Twitter . One that I always appreciate catching is the Harvard Business Review. They have statistics, quick tips, and links to relevant articles that I enjoy. One such stat was “To Make a Task Seem Easier, Lean Back a Little."

The tip itself is simple, People who leaned back so that their eyes were an average of 38.8 inches from a computer screen found the task of pronouncing meaningless strings of letters easier than people who leaned forward to 12.5 inches…”

Straightforward? Yes. Logical? Yes. Something we think to do? Perhaps not. I know I can use a reminder. When I’m concentrating, I lean into my work – literally. So to be told to step back, while seemingly a common sense suggestion, is one I can use on a regular basis. As I thought about it, I realized it went beyond my physical posture.

When deep in the middle of a project I often find myself buried in the details. Are all the tasks being completed? Are we on track? Are people prioritizing appropriately? All items that need to be addressed. However, at the risk of mixing my metaphors, at times we can’t see the forest for the trees. I get so mired in the day to day that the big picture becomes a little fuzzy. When I do take the step back, the project while not any smaller seems a bit more manageable. That step can take many forms; talking it over with a co-worker who isn’t involved directly, reviewing the Gantt Chart (which I find more difficult than the original creation), or just revisiting the project plan. Once I’ve taken the step back, the project seems more manageable, and I may have new insights to overcoming obstacles that appeared insurmountable.

Sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference.

Do you find yourself mired in the details? How do you step back?
 

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Five Social Media Trends Industrial Marketers Should Know

What’s important in social media today? GlobalSpec recently conducted its third annual Social Media Usage Survey of engineering, technical, manufacturing, and industrial professionals. The results show social media adoption is steadily increasing, although the use of social media for work-related purposes among the industrial audience is focused on a few select platforms.

You can download the research report providing survey results, analysis and recommendations here: “Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector.” Plus, we’ve distilled the key findings into five trends that every industrial marketer should know.

1. Users are passive
Industrial professionals are largely passive users of social media. They prefer to read and watch content, versus creating and sharing content or adding their comments to a discussion. For example, when asked which forms of social media they used, the most popular response was “watched a video,” whereas the lowest scoring response was “created a video to share.”

The takeaway for marketers is that because your audience prefers to read and watch content on social media platforms, you have a good opportunity for marketing your content or establishing a thought leadership program using social media to reach your audience. Some ideas: create videos, write an executive blog, or promote white papers and Webinars using social media tools.

2. Your audience uses social media to stay up to date
The top reason industrial professionals use social media is to stay up-to-date. Sixty-one percent of respondents indicated that they use social media to keep abreast of the latest company, product, and technology news, which surpassed reaching additional contacts and networking (50 percent) as the primary social media activity. Social media is also used to find peer reviews, new suppliers, and industry expertise.

As a marketer, you can match up your audience’s primary reason for using social media with your own efforts. Use social media as an outlet for your latest press releases, product announcements, and other news, which will help you reach your audience in a timely fashion with information they seek.

3. LinkedIn is the fastest growing social media platform
Among your audience, participation in LinkedIn grew from 37 percent in 2010 to 55 percent in 2011, an increase of 18 percentage points, or a 49 percent growth rate over one year. Eighty-six percent of industrial professionals on LinkedIn belong to at least one group, with 38 percent belonging to four or more groups. Groups are comprised of members who share common interests, such as industrial design or automation control and engineering.

However, as with other social media, many professionals belonging to LinkedIn groups are passive members. While 59 percent read discussions, only 28 percent participate in discussions, and just 7 percent start new discussions. Yet, because of the penetration of LinkedIn among your audience, and its quick growth rate compared to other social media platforms, you should have a company presence on this site. If you haven’t already, start by creating a LinkedIn account and setting up a LinkedIn page for your company. Search for and join groups in your market space. Follow the discussions and begin participating when you have something useful to add to the conversation.

4. Users can get around corporate Internet restrictions
While nearly all survey respondents have Internet access at work, 41 percent also are restricted from visiting certain sites and accessing different types of content, including social media sites.

One way users can get around corporate Internet restrictions is by using smartphones. Smartphone use is growing, with 54 percent of industrial professionals now using one. Sixty percent of this group access work e-mail on their mobile phones, up from 30 percent a year ago.

With more and more industrial professionals using Internet-enabled smartphones, you have an opportunity to reach a percentage of your audience that faces Internet restrictions at work. Make sure your marketing campaigns — whether online, social, or e-mail — are easily accessed and displayed on mobile devices.

5. Established online marketing programs still dominate
When researching work-related purchases, industrial professionals still find established online resources much more valuable than social media sites. General search engines (Google, Yahoo!, etc.), online catalogs, supplier Web sites, and GlobalSpec all rank higher than any social media platform for researching work-related purchases.

The conclusion for marketers is that with the growth of social media, you must start paying attention and developing a strategy for this new era. Our research report can help you with that. But you also must understand that social media is not “instead of” other marketing; it’s always “in addition to” other marketing efforts — and tightly integrated with your overall marketing strategy.

Continue to invest in the online media channels your audience relies on most for work-related information. And consider promoting your social media presence within your established marketing programs. For example, GlobalSpec offers suppliers the ability to include their social media links, such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, within their company profile pages, helping to build awareness and relevancy for your social media efforts.

For in-depth analysis and complete survey results, download your complimentary copy of “Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector.”

As you look to reach industrial professionals through social media, what are your observations? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
 

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Market Intelligence: Questions to Remove the Guesswork

Manufacturers and industrial sector companies can benefit from research that provides objective feedback, market insights, and guidance for decision making. Given the ever changing marketplace, research removes the guesswork and reduces risk, while bringing greater clarity to where your business is, where you can successfully go, and the most efficient way to get there. Four key research areas can serve to create an objective map of where your business exists in the minds of buyers, relative to your competitors.

1. Market Awareness: Is your company on the radar of buyers?
This research question gets at the basic foundation block of the market awareness of your business, products, and services in the minds of buyers. If purchasers do not know about you, they most likely will never buy from you. Quantifying your actual market awareness levels through representative research can help determine appropriate resources to increase your company’s awareness and offerings. Similarly, if your business is a market leader (highest awareness levels), you can be strategic by not overspending on existing branding campaigns, but rather strategically reallocating your marketing dollars for expanding untapped market segments. The key is to have objective data on your company’s market awareness relative to your competitors, so that decisions to spend more or less marketing and advertising dollars are based on sound metrics. Too often expenditures targeted for marketing and advertising are based on intuition and/or a media/advertising representative’s persuasive arguments to spend more, without any data proving effectiveness.

2. Reputation and Brand: What is your company’s reputation? What should you be known for to be more competitive? What, if anything, is unique about your business and distinguishes you from competitors?
Some businesses enjoy a premium in their pricing and continuous demand for their products because their brand is well understood and resonates with buyers' decision criteria. Understanding the brand attributes (quality, durability, ease-of- use, attractiveness, responsiveness, etc.) that motivate your customers to purchase your products is key to strengthening your brand relationship with current and potential customers. Significant gains can be made on competitors who may not possess similar brand strength in their businesses and products. Conversely, knowing what makes each of your competitors strong can delineate the most effective ways of competing against their offerings.

3. Customer Service: How is your business performing? What do your customers expect? Do you meet, exceed, or fail to meet your customer’s expectations? How does your performance compare to a market leader in a similar category of business?
Customer service data will help you uncover any ‘holes’ in your ship that may be slowly sinking your business. By measuring service data for your business in comparison to your competitors, you will benchmark the performance of your operations from the customer’s experience and perspective. If your performance on customer service dimensions, such as ease of ordering, delivery and resolution of problems, etc., is significantly below competitors, improvements will be necessary to stay competitive. The key is to measure dimensions of customer service that are actionable and that your customers value, so that improvements will translate into higher retention and profitability.

4. New Product or Service Introduction: Does your new product appeal to buyers in the marketplace? Is this new offering consistent with your brand? Are you meeting an unmet customer need, or looking to compete against existing products or services in the marketplace?
When you are designing and evaluating a new product or service, objective research can be a valuable process that tests your assumptions about its appeal and overall potential. Finding out in the planning stages whether your concept produces excitement, passivity or confusion among potential buyers, will save you from making a costly misstep, and potentially damaging your company’s brand. Using research techniques to help guide and validate the new product’s design, as well as strategies for communicating to the marketplace, can result in a significant savings and maximize success. If your product is competing with established products or services in the marketplace, strategic research will help you identify which of your new product’s attributes create the most compelling motivation to switch from existing offerings.

Each of these research questions provides objective insights that will confirm or challenge your assumptions about the marketplace, its buyers and opportunities for growth. Answering research questions such as these brings clarity to business decision makers, prevents potentially costly mistakes, reinforces the company’s brand, and serves as a valuable tool for guiding a company’s strategic decisions and ultimate success.

Stephen A. Ribner is founder and CEO of Fact Finders Inc., a market intelligence and insight research company that has been in business for over 32 years. For more information on research questions and their application for your company, contact steve@factfinders.com or 518-242-2000.

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How to Measure Marketing Visibility

Increasing your company’s visibility in the marketplace should be on every industrial marketer’s to-do list. Potential customers want to do business with brands they recognize. Contacts and inquiries come in faster when prospects are aware of your company and products. And broad visibility provides more opportunities to engage with your audience.

However, measuring how visible your company, products and services are to the industrial marketplace requires that you pay attention to many factors and metrics. Measuring visibility is not as straightforward as, for example, measuring the results of e-mail marketing, where it’s easy to track sends, opens, clicks, and conversions.

Programs that Promote Visibility
The first thing to do in measuring visibility is identifying those marketing programs you implement that do a good job of promoting visibility. You should have some mix of these tactics in your marketing plan:

• Banner ads — Your banners that appear across a network of targeted industrial sites offer high visibility to your audience.

• Directory listings — Your company name, logo, description, products, and services in relevant industrial directories help increase brand awareness.

• E-newsletters — Advertisements in industry-focused e-newsletters will help promote your current offers and new products and services while also building your brand and driving traffic to your Web site.

• Media relations — PR efforts such as pitching stories, writing by-lined articles, providing quotes for current newsworthy topics, and sending press releases can increase the number of mentions your company receives.

• Online events — Sponsorship of respected online events offers strong branding and high visibility to targeted prospects.

• Social media — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and blogs provide opportunities to engage and interact with your audience and increase your company’s visibility and influence.

• Video — Many people prefer to watch than read. Branded videos with keywords posted on YouTube and SlideShare can be found by your audience.

Metrics that Help Measure Visibility
Depending on what marketing programs you use, a variety of metrics can help you measure your brand’s visibility. However, keep in mind that a snapshot of these metrics at any given point in time really doesn’t tell you much. For example, let’s say you have a company blog and last month it received 43 comments from readers. Is that a lot or a little? It’s hard to say.

What’s important is to choose the metrics that are relevant to your marketing programs and track them over time. Those 43 blog comments gain meaning and context if last month you had 20 comments — and if next month you get 70 comments. You’ll know that your blog efforts are paying off because your audience, and therefore your visibility, is growing. So as you track visibility metrics, look for positive growth over time.

• Online banner ads — impressions, or the number of times your ad is shown, is a good measure of visibility.

• Directory listings — the number of visitors to your page on the directory measures visibility. The number of clicks from your directory listing to your Web site measures your influence and relevancy with your audience.

• Online events — track the number of attendees who stop by your “booth.” A good online event producer will be able to provide this metric, along with others related to your presence. Length of stay and content accessed measures engagement and influence.

• Social media — for blogs, track the number of comments, as opposed to the number of posts you publish. For Twitter, the number of follows, re-tweets or “mentions” — other Twitter users that mention your company name or Twitter handle. For Facebook, the number of “likes” of your page and the number of comments and likes on your posts. The more comments, re-tweets, and mentions, the more engaged your audience is with you, the more influence you have over them, and the more they are spreading the word about your company.

• Videos and presentations — YouTube offers analytics for account holders. You can track the number of times your videos have been viewed and the length of the view. If your audience drops off early, you are not engaging them well enough. With SlideShare you can view the number of times your presentation or video is viewed and downloaded and the search terms used to find your presentation. You are also able to see how they are being shared on other social networks.

• Media relations — the number of “hits” in the media, or the number of relevant mentions of your company, products, and services. One effective way to track these mentions is through the use of Google Alerts, a free service that lets you track any set of keywords on the Web and be notified when new content such as Web pages, news articles, blog posts, and YouTube videos with those keywords (such as your company name) is published.

In addition, you are probably already using an analytics package to measure the performance of your Web site. One useful metric for measuring visibility is “new versus returning visitors.” If the percentage of new visitors increases over time, you can conclude that your company’s visibility and presence in the market is increasing, and more prospects are coming to your Web site to check out your company.
 

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Using Social Media to Fill the Funnel

The manufacturing industry has been somewhat slow to accept social media as a marketing tool. This is largely because it can be difficult to see how social media plays into the larger business-to-business (B2B) marketing strategy. That, however, appears to be changing. According to a Forrester report released in March of 2011, 30 percent of global manufacturers intended to increase social media investments in 2012.

As global manufacturers increase their social media spending, the case for small- to mid-sized manufacturers to invest in social media grows stronger. The opportunities are particularly attractive in the contract and job shop manufacturing segments, which have traditionally relied on word-of-mouth marketing to win new business. I’d like to share two ways that manufacturers can start using social media today to improve their brand visibility and win more business.

1. Create a Blog to Tell Your Story
Blogs give manufacturers an opportunity to do more than just promote their brand. Blogs allow manufacturers to communicate with their customers and prospects using a richer form of media with longer-form stories. They’re also a great avenue for sharing company information and providing industry knowledge. Manufacturers can use blogs to announce major company milestones, such as getting ISO 9001 certification, as well as share general industry trends and news. By striking a balance between promoting a brand and sharing useful information, manufacturers can gain a thought leadership position that will help win customers later down the road.

2. Use LinkedIn to Help Fill the Sales Funnel
For manufacturers, getting the most out of LinkedIn requires more than just becoming a member of the social network. Manufacturers can use LinkedIn to prime the sales funnel by using their networks to gain access to sales prospects. Once you get a few hundred contacts, your typical network usually reaches into the millions. This network can be used to get an introduction to a potential sales contact - or at the very least to connect with someone that can help strategize on how to contact the prospect. LinkedIn can also be a great place to demonstrate industry expertise by participating in relevant community discussions. Answering a difficult question in a Q&A forum, for instance, could very well lead to an unexpected contract.

Derek Singleton is an ERP Analyst with Software Advice, a company that helps buyers find the right software, including Manufacturing Resource Planning (MRP) software, for their business. To read the complete article, go to How Manufacturers Can Use Social Media to Win Business.

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Two Practices that Should be Part of Your Subject Line Testing Process Today

We recently posted an article on writing a compelling subject line. A recent article on the Silverpop blog highlighted tips for subject line testing. Two tips stand out as key items that may not be part your testing practices: Test types of subject lines three times to increase confidence and consider segmentation.

Testing types of subject lines three times is a important because while a single test may favor a certain type of subject line, only continued testing will show if the results are consistent and repeatable.

Considering segments is also important. Even if a type of subject line tests well overall, it may still not resonate with a particular group of your subscribers. It’s even possible that a type of subject line that didn’t perform well overall could be performing well among a certain group. Examining the results by segment will reveal subscriber groups where further testing is needed.

Whether you are already practicing the techniques above or will be trying them for the first time, leave us a comment below and share your experiences.

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Content Marketing: It’s a Matter of Trust (and Sales)

The Information Age has transformed your company’s prospects into savvy researchers and confident buyers. They are hungry for content and are finding plenty of online and offline outlets to satiate their appetites. While it may be true that more knowledgeable prospects are more difficult to sell to, providing them with the valuable, authoritative content they need to help solve their problems will position your company as an authority in the field, build trust with your prospects and, ultimately, make it easier to sell your products and services and to drive revenue.

What's your take on content marketing? Check out the post and comment below.

Seeking Information
According to the Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA), nearly two-thirds of business-to-business buyers (regardless of what product or service they plan to purchase) conduct their own research before contacting a vendor. Before they even pick up the phone to call you or send you an email, they likely know who you are, what you do and what you sell. This may be intimidating to some companies but a huge opportunity for others if a dynamic content marketing strategy has been implemented to attract, engage and inform your prospects.

Establishing Authority, Building Trust
Strong content marketing positions your company as a thought leader in your industry and helps you rise above your competitors. Going beyond simply discussing your products, effective content marketers also provide competitive analysis, industry trends, case studies, best practices and other materials that establish their companies as the expert and “go-to” resource for their types of solutions and services. For industrial suppliers that could also mean product specifications, CAD files, technical datasheets, a request for quotation form, searchable product catalogs, product availability, pricing information and part number search. Through content marketing, you have helped make your business prospects smarter and more knowledgeable about your industry, products, and services and have positioned yourself as the potential answer to their needs. You’ve also begun a relationship with them and can start fostering that critical – and often elusive – trust. Building a high level of confidence with your prospects isn’t simple and is more important than ever. This will lead to a greater comfort level with your company and make it easier for your prospects to buy from you.

Marketing Intelligently
Content marketing is cost effective, as materials can often be created in-house and used across multiple online and offline platforms. For example, you have produced a research report on the latest trends in your industry. A summary of your findings (linking back to the original report) can be part of an e-newsletter, posted to a company blog and distributed through social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. It can be the basis for an article that can be pitched to industry-specific magazines and turned into a print collateral piece for a direct mailing or trade show. An interview with the author of the report can be turned into a podcast or a short video for a YouTube channel. With one piece of content and a well-constructed strategy around it, you have delivered valuable information to your prospects where they are most likely to turn for these resources.

Driving Revenues
Ultimately, the reason why content marketing is an essential piece to your company’s strategy is revenue. You are placing your prospects in a better position to buy from you rather than your competitor by delivering the information they seek, becoming the authority they want and building the trust they need before making a purchasing decision.

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