In the recent IHS Engineering360 Media Solutions research report, Trends in Industrial Marketing, we revealed the top priorities and challenges that industrial marketers are facing today. The priorities that matter to industrial marketers include customer acquisition and retention, brand awareness, and content production and distribution. The list of challenges includes increased competition, generating leads, and measuring success.
That’s a lot to manage for any marketing team. The Maven is here to help. We’ll look at each of these priorities and challenges and put them into context for you. Why are they important? And what can you do to best manage your priorities and conquer your challenges?
Priority: Customer Focus
Customers are the lifeblood of every business. Industrial marketers know this. Customer acquisition is the primary marketing goal for 43% of survey respondents, earning it the top spot six years running. In addition, focus on customer retention has grown every year for the past several years, with 15% stating it is their primary marketing goal in 2015. Moreover, 54% state that customer acquisition is used to measure marketing success.
To stay focused on customers, industrial marketers are investing in digital programs such as email marketing, e-newsletters, webinars, and catalog programs to get closer to customers and potential customers. They also are focusing on working with media partners who best understand the customer and can offer programs that produce significant levels of awareness and engagement.
Priority: Brand Awareness
Over the next five years, industrial marketers indicated their marketing teams will be placing more emphasis on brand awareness. Having a brand that is positively recognized in your market puts your company in a position to shorten the sales cycle and win more business.
Marketing programs that deliver a consistent and persistent presence – such as your website, online catalogs, and banner ads – can increase the visibility of your brand. Webinars and content marketing initiatives can help personalize and strengthen your brand.
Priority: Creating and Distributing Content
Another area of focus for marketing departments will be creating and distributing content. Engineers and other industrial professionals are constantly looking for relevant, educational content to help them do their jobs better, such as webinars, articles, how-tos, white papers, spec sheets, and more.
Fifty-one percent of industrial marketers increased spending on content creation in 2015. However, 39% are just getting started with content marketing, and only 12% can show how content marketing contributes to sales. Marketing teams should develop a content marketing plan and schedule, which will help them produce needed content and get it into the hands of customers and prospects using the digital channels they prefer.
Challenge: Increased Competition
For the first time, industrial marketers report that increased competition is their number-one challenge. The digital era and its multitude of channels has largely leveled the playing field for competitors. Engineers and technical professionals now have more resources than ever at their disposal to discover information and research purchases, making it harder for marketers to be highly visible and to differentiate their company, products, and services.
The solution is to diversity your marketing presence across the channels your customers prefer to use. Putting too much emphasis on one area, such as the company website, can leave you vulnerable to competitors who are increasing visibility and generating engagement opportunities across a variety of digital channels. Past research demonstrates the performance benefits of diversifying your marketing spend across multiple digital media channels versus relying on a single platform.
Challenge: Generating Qualified Leads for Sales
Thirty-five percent of industrial marketers report that generating enough qualified leads for sales is one of their top three marketing challenges. What’s more, demand generation is the second most important marketing goal for industrial marketers and a precursor to the top priority — customer acquisition.
The key to overcoming this challenge is to invest in marketing that generates valuable engagement opportunities for you. You can often measure the worth of a contact or inquiry in its timeliness. Engagement opportunities coming to you in real time, as they are generated, are more likely to convert to a sale than those weeks or even just days old.
In addition, marketers should have lead nurturing processes in place to help transition early-stage leads into qualified prospects ready for your sales team. For additional advice and best practices in this area, download the complimentary white paper, “Best Practices for Managing and Increasing Engagement Opportunities.”
Challenge: Measuring Return on Investment (ROI)
The top measurements for marketing successes are sales attributed to marketing campaigns and customer acquisition. Because the industrial buy cycle can be long, complex, and involve multiple decision makers, you will likely engage with customers along a number of marketing touchpoints before they make a buying decision.
For example, a customer may first see your banner ad, later visit your website, download a white paper, and eventually attend a webinar. It’s important to track all of these interactions along the buying journey in order to measure the effectiveness of individual marketing tactics and your program as a whole. This will also prevent the mistake of attributing a sale to the last touchpoint with a customer, because rarely is any one interaction, or even the most recent one, the sole contributor to marketing success.
Download the white paper “2015 Trends in Industrial Marketing” for an in-depth look at the goals, challenges, budgets, and plans of industrial marketers, along with recommendations on how you can strengthen your marketing efforts in the coming year.