Industrial Marketing Trends: Shift to Digital Continues; Focus on Customers Intensifies

All marketers know you can’t achieve business success without paying attention to your customers, but this year the focus on customers is especially intense in the industrial sector. Forty-three percent of industrial companies say that customer acquisition is their primary marketing goal, according to the recent IHS GlobalSpec research report, 2013 Trends in Industrial Marketing, which is based on a survey of marketing and sales professionals in the industrial sector.

You can download the research report to access complete results along with analysis and recommendations.

The survey also found that customer acquisition, customer satisfaction and customer retention represent three of the top four ways industrial marketers measure success. In addition, focusing on the customer will be the number one area of emphasis over the next five years in marketing departments.

It’s not a surprise that customers are receiving so much attention. They have more control over the buying process (often not contacting vendors until they are near decision time), more information resources than ever before, and more suppliers to choose from. In response, industrial marketers are putting more effort and budget into digital channels to connect with customers, forge stronger relationships, and keep customers in the fold.

Industrial marketers face challenges, make spending changes
Marketers are feeling the pressure to demonstrate ROI from their efforts. Thirty-one percent say it’s the biggest challenge in their profession, while 58 percent consider sales attributed to marketing campaigns as a measure of success.

At least most marketers are shifting more of their budgets to digital channels, whose performance is easy to measure in terms of impressions, clicks and conversions. Fifty-four percent of industrial marketers are spending more on online marketing in 2013 than they did last year. Fifty percent will spend at least 36 percent of their overall budget on online channels. Five of the top seven most popular marketing channels are digital.

Traditional marketing channels will experience a decrease in spending. Direct mail, printed directories and trade magazine advertising are among the channels taking the biggest budget hits by marketers in the industrial sector.

In terms of overall marketing spend, 32 percent of companies are spending more on marketing in 2013 than they did in 2012. About half are spending the same as last year.

Content plays an important marketing role
Content continues to play an important role in industrial marketing as engineers and other technical professionals seem to have an insatiable appetite for information and education to help them do their jobs better. Fifty-one percent of industrial marketers will spend more on content creation this year. Video (58 percent) and webinars (49 percent) will see increases as well. In addition, creating and distributing content will play a major role in marketing plans over the next five years.

Social media finds its place
After a number of years of experimenting with how to use social media, industrial marketers are settling on branding and content delivery as their top goals for these platforms. LinkedIn is the most popular social media platform in the industrial sector, with 72 percent of marketers now using it.

It’s time to evaluate marketing efforts
While industrial companies are wisely reallocating resources to digital channels, just 35 percent of companies report satisfaction with their online marketing initiatives. This is a good time to evaluate the initiatives you are employing, before planning begins for next year. Are you allocating your marketing resources to those same channels that your target audience of industrial professionals relies on most frequently? Your audience is fragmented online, using multiple platforms. You need to use those same platforms to build awareness and generate engagement opportunities.

Download the full results, analysis, and recommendations of the 2013 Trends in Industrial Marketing research report.

To get a better sense of how your target audience is using digital media and the best ways to reach industrial professionals online, download these complimentary reports: Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector and New in Digital Media: Marketers Require Multichannel Solutions to Achieve the Cross-Media Multiplier Effect.

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What trends do you see in industrial marketing? Are you focusing more on the customer and/or shifting more resources to digital channels? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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