How to Master Short-form Marketing Content

Last month, the Maven wrote a post offering tips for writing and producing long-form marketing content, such as white papers and research reports. This month, we’ll explore short form.

If long form is anything over 1,000 words, then short form is anything less. The majority of marketing content your company produces is likely short form, such as emails, blog posts, infographics, and social media posts.

Short-form content offers a number of benefits for both you and your audience:

  • Due to decreased attention spans on the part of your audience, especially in the digital sphere, short form is less intimidating and more likely to be consumed in full.
  • Short form is easier to see and read on mobile devices. Up to half of all content is accessed on mobile devices.
  • Short-form content is faster and cheaper to produce than long form.

Don’t Mistake Short for Easy

Just because short form is short doesn’t mean it’s easy to create or that you can treat it more casually. Short form is challenging because you have to do a lot with so little, you need to quickly capture your audience’s attention, any tiny mistake is magnified, and you need to be concise and to the point.

As the French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal famously wrote: “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” That’s because being brief takes careful crafting and editing.

Here are some tips for mastering short form:

It All Starts with the Headline

News editors know that story headlines must do two things: get the reader’s attention and reveal the main point of the story. It’s true for marketing content as well.

Write headlines that will intrigue your audience and set expectations. For example, the headline to this post—“How to Master Short-from Marketing Content”—should interest marketers tasked with creating short form and also promises “how-to” tips. The headline isn’t fancy or clever; instead, it does the job it’s intended to do.

Follow the Inverted Pyramid Rule

Again, we’ll take advice from the world of journalism. The inverted pyramid rule states that the most important information comes first, followed by secondary information. There’s no need to attempt to build suspense in the reader. They don’t want suspense—they want the main points as quickly as possible.

Stick to a Narrow Topic

If you can’t fully cover your topic in a thousand words or less, then your topic is too broad for short form. If you have to make more than one key claim along with its supporting information, then again, you shouldn’t be using short form.

If you find yourself in this situation you can do one of two things: switch to long form to cover your topic, or segment the topic into smaller units that can be covered in short form.

Edit Carefully

Nothing bashes credibility like grammatical errors or typos in a short piece. They really stick out and your audience will judge you negatively. Ruthlessly cut extra words, but proofread your final product with an eagle eye.

Choose an Appropriate Content Format

Research studies, white papers, and in-depth customer interviews or articles don’t lend themselves to short form. Instead, choose a format that dovetails nicely with short-form writing. Here are some examples:

Listicles—this ever-popular format (“Top 10 Ways To . . .”, “8 Tips for . . .”) offers a quick read and digestible information. Pro Tip: Keep your introductions to listicles to a minimum amount of text, or abandon the introduction altogether. You have to admit that when reading listicles you’ve skipped past the intros to the first item on a list.

Infographics—This combination of text and graphics is especially appealing for presenting and interpreting data.

Checklists—Kind of like listicles, checklists give straightforward information, such as “Must-have Features When Purchasing X.”

Visual + Caption—A single visual element with an extended caption. Take a look through your slide decks. Can you pull anything out that can stand alone with the help of a caption?

Three Questions With . . .—A mini-interview with a customer, partner, or subject matter expert. You’re already telling your audience this will be short and to the point. Variations on this include “Did You Know?” in which you promise an important and relevant fact or piece of information.

Social Media Posts—Get right to the point you want to make and your audience will be appreciative you are respecting their time.

Less Obvious Short-form Content

To really become a master, treat every little thing you write as short-form content. Comments you add on posts from companies or influencers you follow? That’s short-form content. Treat it as carefully as you would your own marketing content. Description tags on web pages? Same thing. Your company descriptions on social media profiles? Make your point, be clear, be helpful to your audience.

Content Marketing Digital Media E-Mail Marketing

Tips for Mastering Long-Form Content

The vast majority of web content is short: listicles of a few hundred words, Snapchats that disappear, tweets with character limits, web pages with more images than the copy.

And yet, long-form content—typically 1,000 words or more—is extremely important to both industrial marketers and their audience of engineers and technical professionals.

You might be able to grab attention with shorter content, but serious prospects want to dig deeper than a social media post or a list of bullet points. They want to know that you understand and can solve their problem. They want to make sure your company is legit and you know your industry and technology. While it’s true that a smaller percentage of engineers will take the time for a long read into a topic, those that do are more likely to be very qualified.

In addition, search engines love the long-form. It’s not enough to focus on keywords—you have to position yourself as a relevant authority. And most of the time, you can’t make an authoritative case in a short piece. Authoritative content can help marketers achieve higher search engine page rankings.

With long-form content, you can dominate a subject matter in a way that provides value to your audience. You become the expert and thought leader that readers depend on for important information on a key topic.

Choose a Subject Appropriate to Long Form

Not all subjects lend themselves to long form. Some that do include:

  • How-to articles: Go into detail about how to perform a task or solve a problem.
  • Research reports: Compile primary and secondary research into a report on market trends or user preferences.
  • White papers: Provide your audience with a comprehensive education on a topic relevant to them.
  • Solution guides: Compare or classify different approaches to solving a problem.
  • Technical documents: Explain the way a product or process works.
  • Case studies: In-depth case studies lend themselves to longer form.

Stick to a Pattern of Development

When writing long-form, choose a pattern of content development that is proven to work for making technical content easier to understand and retain. Here are several approaches. Choose one that is appropriate for your needs:

  • Step by step. A staple of industrial marketing content is the step-by-step tutorial that demonstrates how to use a product or explains a technical process. You might find that each step along the way has associated benefits. Why not mention the benefit of each step as a way to reinforce your value-propositions while providing educational information?
  • Classification. If you want to present an organized discussion of parallel items, you can classify the information that shares common characteristics. For example, if you are writing about industrial adhesives, you might group those that are made for bonding wood, for bonding metal and bonding plastic.
  • Comparisons. Engineers often must choose among competing products or alternative strategies. You can compare and contrast the key features of different products or approaches. Focus on the most important points. Avoid comparing minor details.
  • Cause and effect. This pattern of development can help persuade readers, for example, why using old products or technology can be detrimental, or to help readers understand the effect of increased water flow on pump performance. In this case, you are describing a situation that has a cause (increased water flow) and an effect (pump performance).
  • Problem-Solution. You can use problem-solution persuasively when you want your readers to agree that the actions you recommend will solve the problems they are trying to overcome.

Tell a Story

Even technical content lends itself to a good story with a beginning, middle, and end. A good story has a hero—such as your customer. The hero faces a problem that is costing money and time, and you step in with the solution to save the day. Corny? Not really. Customer testimonials and case studies are sought after by prospects and are highly effective in helping make technical concepts relatable.

Include an Executive Summary

Be kind to your readers and let them know in a brief executive summary the entire gist of your content. A one-paragraph summary of the piece can help readers quickly glean the main points and decide if investing additional time is appropriate for them.

Design with Your Reader in Mind

Long-form content requires commitment on the part of your reader. You can help them by using short paragraphs, subheadings, white space, bullet points, and imagery to make your long content easy to read and encourage readers to keep going.

Develop a Cornerstone Piece

A cornerstone long-form piece can be segmented into smaller, standalone chunks to use in your content marketing efforts. Repurposing long content into shorter pieces saves time, spreads a consistent message, and meets the needs of engineers who can’t or won’t invest the time required to digest long-form content.

Content Marketing Marketing, General

Simplify ROI Measurement

Demonstrating Return on Investment (ROI) is challenging for many marketers. Executives are demanding more accountability from marketing: What, exactly, are we getting for all this money we spend on marketing?

At the same time, marketing is complex, the buying cycle is long, and prospects typically interact with your company and content multiple times through multiple channels before making a purchasing decision. That can make it hard to measure ROI.

There are times when simplifying your approach to ROI can be helpful. You may not be able to measure everything, and some uncertainty may remain, but taking a simplified approach to ROI can still provide actionable insight and justify your marketing spend.

Start With Your Marketing Goals

Before you can start calculating ROI, you have to decide what to measure. The metrics available today to digital marketers are legion, since every click, view, open, forward, share, comment, and more can be captured.

How to choose which ones are important? Start with your marketing goals. The most common marketing goal for industrial marketers is lead generation, followed by brand awareness. But you might want to get more specific than that. To generate a single lead, a lot of touches—and therefore metrics—can be involved. Same with brand awareness: many metrics can contribute to its measurement.

Within lead generation, your goals could be to increase long-term leads for nurturing campaigns, or marketing qualified leads or sales-ready leads. Within brand awareness, a goal might be to increase subscribers or followers, or website traffic. You might have multiple goals. But if you’re new to ROI or struggling to get a handle on it, try focusing your efforts on one or two important marketing goals.

These Metrics Are Always Relevant

Whatever your marketing goals, certain metrics always make sense to track and are solid inputs for calculating ROI.

Website traffic—Your website is your company’s face to the market and your primary channel for attracting, educating, and converting potential prospects. Free Google Analytics is your source for the data.

New vs. returning visitors give a sense of how well you are reaching a new audience compared to keeping your current one. Other metrics within website traffic include page popularity, entrance pages, time on page, and exit pages.

If brand awareness is a goal, upward ticks in web traffic metrics are a good sign.

Conversions per activity—Getting visitors to your website is one thing, converting them is another and is essential to lead generation goals. Use forms completed on landing pages and content accessed to measure conversions.

Marketing qualified leads—You might generate a lot of leads, but how good are those leads? Many marketers using a scoring system to rank the quality of leads. What goes into the score is individual to each company, but common inputs include how closely a prospect resembles your current customers, the number of times they interact with your company, their industry/location, and their expressed buying timeframe. A marketing qualified lead can be tied to a specific campaign or come about as the result of a prospect interacting with multiple campaigns.

Engagement—This metric helps you understand how good your content is and how prospects respond to your marketing messages. Engagement is measured by clicks, shares, comments, likes, forward, mentions, and other purposeful activities on the part of your prospect. It can help you measure ROI on branding efforts as well as the value of your content.

Cost per lead—Most prospects who become leads will have multiple interactions with your company, so it can be challenging to attribute a single program and its associated costs to any given lead. What you can do is take your total marketing program costs, divide by the number of leads and get an overall cost per lead. But if you want to drill down to see which programs and efforts contribute most to lead generation, we recommend marketing automation.

Marketing Automation Makes Measurement Easier

With multiple marketing channels, so much content, and often a long sales process, it can be challenging to determine what influenced the lead’s desire to buy.

Marketing automation makes this process much easier. It allows you to track prospect activity across different channels and programs. You can also nurture leads with scheduled marketing touches and content throughout their buying journey.

You will be able to see all of the ways a prospect has interacted with your company, content, channels, and programs. You can get answers to the questions of what content they downloaded, what pages they visited, what social media they interacted with. You won’t run the risk of attributing a lead or a sale to only one program if several programs contributed to the outcome—which is a common occurrence.

There are free and low-cost marketing automation solutions on the market today. If you want to simplify ROI, take advantage of the technology and tools out there to help you.

Marketing Measurement Marketing ROI Marketing, General

Ten Tips to Increase Clicks in Your Marketing Emails

Earning a click-thru on a marketing email is a badge of honor. It ranks higher than an email open and is a measure of an engineer’s engagement with your content and your skills as a marketer.

With upcoming changes Apple will be implementing to protect user privacy (see companion article), clicks will take on even more significance as an email marketing metric. Here are ten tips for increasing click-thru rates on marketing emails.

1. Place buttons “above the fold”

“Above the fold” is a newspaper term referring to the top half of the paper. In an email, it refers to the area a user can see without having to scroll. Make sure the first appearance of your call-to-action (CTA) button is visible without scrolling, making it possible for a quick decision to click.

2. Use both buttons and text for links

Buttons in bright colors are attention-grabbing and might attract clicks, but text links within copy are just as important for users who block images or like to read the copy. Sprinkle both buttons and text links in strategic places throughout the email.

3. Use action verbs on buttons and text links

Make it easy for your email recipient to understand what to do and what they will get if they click. Action verbs get the job done. Words like Download, Read, Register, Watch, Get, Listen, Calculate, Compare and other action verbs are perfect for enticing clicks.

4. Offer different types of content

Notice some of the action verbs in the tip above: read, watch, listen. Each of these words promises a different type of content. Many engineers prefer to read the content. A growing percentage are watching videos. Podcasts offer another option for delivering content. Not every email has to contain all content types, but try out different formats and track your metrics to see what is popular.

5. Main offer, secondary offer

Each email should have one specific purpose with a CTA you are using to entice your audience to click. This main offer should be front and center to command the attention of your audience. However, it is also effective to add secondary content and click opportunities to your email. An engineer who does not find your main offer attractive might notice and click on a secondary offer.

6. Create a sense of urgency

Offers that are good for only a limited time or limited to a certain number of people such as event registrations that are closing soon or even “breaking news” are all ways to instill a sense of urgency in your audience and possibly increase clicks. However, do not deceptively use this tactic. If a discount on an event registration always applies, do not say it expires in two days.

7. Use responsive email templates

More than half of all emails are opened and read on mobile devices. For this reason, you need responsive email templates that render the content in an easy-to-read format on any device, whether the recipient is using a desktop, tablet or phone. An email that is too small to read on a cellphone or requires horizontal scrolling will likely be ignored. You will not get many clicks that way.

8. Use A/B testing

A/B testing is simple: divide your list (or a part of your list) in two and test two different versions of an email to see which one gets more clicks. Create your first email, then change only one aspect of it to create a second version. It might be your button placement, offer, headline, or another variable. You should only test one thing at a time in order to understand the results from that one change. If you have multiple changes you’d like to test, then you can perform more than one A/B test.

9. Segment and personalize

If you only have one product, one message, and one customer type, then you can ignore this tip and send everyone the same email. But it is more likely you have different types of customers who have different interests. The more you can segment your list and personalize content for them (even ‘Dear Dave’ is helpful personalization), the more likely you are to get clicks.

10. Be relevant

We would not be the Maven if we did not harp on relevancy. This is the most important tip of them all. The more you are tuned into your customers’ wants and needs—and address them with targeted content in your marketing emails—the more they will pay attention and the more clicks you can earn.

Content Marketing Digital Media E-Mail Marketing Marketing Measurement Marketing Strategy Marketing, General

Will Apple’s Privacy Changes Hurt Email Marketing?

Source: primestockphotograpy – stock.adobe.com

Apple’s recent announcement about protecting users’ privacy has marketers wondering about the implications for their email marketing efforts. Some pundits are declaring the end of email marketing, while others are mostly shrugging off Apple’s maneuvers.

Nothing is scheduled to take effect until September when a new version of the Apple operating system rolls out, and a lot can happen between now and then, but marketers will need to pay attention and likely make some adjustments to their email marketing tactics.

Apple’s new Mail Privacy Protection applies specifically to the native Mail app on iPhones and iPads, and the desktop email application.

According to the Apple press release, “In the Mail app, Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. The new feature helps users prevent senders from knowing when they open an email, and masks their IP address so it can’t be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location.”

There will be other changes as well, but these are the most significant for industrial marketers:

Email open metrics

You will no longer be able to track email opens from those using the Apple mail app. Apple will also block forward tracking. If your subscriber forwards an email to another email address, you will not receive any tracking information on the forward.

Masking IP address

Apple will mask a user’s IP address, which will prevent marketers from tracking a user’s location or other online activity. This means less insight into your subscribers’ behavior and tendencies.

Dynamic content and device information

Apple will block dynamic content, such as live poll updates, carousels, and hamburger menus, forcing the user to actively download this content. In addition, marketers will no longer be able to discover what type of device is reading the email, which will impact email design decisions.

How industrial marketers should respond

Marketers should start preparing now for the upcoming changes Apple is implementing. One important measure is to look back at your analytics over the last six months to a year and identify trends.

Email opens have long been a metric tracked by industrial marketers to measure engagement. Your history of email opens documents how you’ve been trending in this area. Now you can expect a change, depending on what percent of your subscribers use the Apple email app. Your email open metrics are bound to increase, which will be inaccurate because with the Apple changes the open will be recorded as soon as you send the email.

Open rates can often be equated to the strength of the sender and subject line. They are not, however, the best measure of engagement. Nor is this the first time that marketers have fretted over open rates. Remember when email preview panes first became a thing? Subscribers could read some or all of the email content without actually recording an open of the email.

Most important: be relevant

The more important engagement metric is a click-thru on email content. A click-thru shows how interested your subscriber is in what you have to say and what you have to offer. The key takeaway is: make your content relevant to your audience. Click-thrus and subsequent conversions are the most powerful measurements of how relevant your content is and how well you engage your audience.

You may also need to pay more attention to other engagement metrics beyond email to get a better perspective on your audience. These include website visits, social media activity, orders, and account activity.

Another way to gain valuable information and increase engagement opportunities is to ask subscribers to update their preferences. Typically, you might ask what type of content subscribers are interested in receiving and how often. You can also add questions about whether they prefer dynamic content and what type of device they prefer to use.

Getting around masked IP addresses and the blocking of live content are more complex issues, although fewer marketers will need to contend with them. If you send live content and use IP addresses to track online behavior or location, you will likely need to get design and technical experts involved to work on solutions.

Ultimately, the impact of Apple’s privacy changes on email marketing remains to be recognized. It will likely be neither doomsday nor a non-event and instead fall somewhere in between. The Maven will continue tracking the situation and keep you updated as the new Apple OS rollout gets closer.

Digital Media E-Mail Marketing Marketing Measurement Marketing Trends Marketing, General
Lead Nurturing Tips for 2021

Lead Nurturing Tips for 2021

Few of the leads you generate are sales-ready at the first contact with your company. Prospects might be anywhere in their buying cycle when contact is made and they typically have questions and concerns they need to be answered before they are ready to place an order.

They might want to know more about your products, your brand, your support policies, your customers, and more. This educational journey takes time. It’s your job to keep your prospects interested, encourage them along their buying journey, and build meaningful relationships so they are more likely to choose your company when it comes time to do business. That’s lead nurturing in a nutshell.

The lead nurturing process can be long—research shows it takes anywhere from six to 13 touches to deliver a qualified lead to sales. Lead nurturing can also be fruitful—studies show that 70 percent of business comes from long-term leads, those that aren’t ready to buy when you first connect with them.

In addition, the disruption of the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic has placed increasing emphasis on the importance of lead nurturing. Leads you might have thought were close to buying have now gone cold. Budgets have been slashed. Projects were delayed or canceled.

But things are picking up again, and engineers are on the prowl for components, products, and services to help them complete their projects. It’s time to hone your lead nurturing efforts. Focus on these core functions:

  • Using a lead nurturing system
  • Segmenting your database
  • Planning email “drip” campaigns
  • Handing off to the sales team
  • Tracking and learning

Using a Lead Nurturing System

Many industrial companies are adopting marketing automation to help manage lead nurturing and other marketing efforts. Marketing automation allows you to capture prospect engagement across all digital channels and can help you score leads, create landing pages, track prospect actions, trigger automatic emails, report on the effectiveness of various content, produce analytics, and much more.

Some companies are embracing specific email-based lead nurturing platforms such as GlobalSpec Catalyst. Whatever system you choose, the three core capabilities you must-have for lead nurturing are the ability to segment your audience, create and send campaigns, and report results.

Segmenting Your Database

If all of your prospects are similar and interested in the same products, you don’t need to segment your database. However, many companies will have a variety of prospect types interested in different products and services. In this case, you will need to segment your database to craft different lead nurturing campaigns to meet the needs of different audiences.

Common segments include area of interest, phase of buy cycle, market, geography/territory, among others. Another important segment leads that have had no contact with your company for an extended period. You might create a segment of these cold leads to re-engage with them.

Planning Email “Drip” Campaigns

There are tons of ways to connect with your audience, but email is the most effective channel for nurturing the engineering audience. Nourishing takes place through what is called email “drip” campaigns—meaning at regular intervals, you show up in their inbox. For example, your campaign could touch prospects once a week for three months followed by once a month for six months. You decide based on your segments and your prospects’ needs.

What do you send to an engineer’s inbox? According to the “2021 Pulse of Engineering” report, engineers seeking technical documentation, product specifications, and data sheets to help complete their projects. You should also sprinkle in the type of high-level messaging that increases their confidence in your company. For example, many engineers are confronting supply chain issues for parts they need. Can you assure them of availability and delivery? Can you highlight the strengths and stability of your company? Can you demonstrate a high level of support?

Other useful content includes white papers, webinars, infographics, case studies, and articles. During the nurturing process, keep the content educational rather than sales-oriented. Engineers hate to be sold to; they want to learn and discover.

Handing Off to the Sales Team

The definition of a sales-ready lead should be determined jointly between marketing and the sales team. Lead nurturing only works if sales and marketing organizations are working from the same playbook.

Often a lead reaches sales-ready status when it achieves a score based on a scale you develop that awards points for specific prospect behaviors. For example, a prospect that clicks on every offer is a five and likely sales-ready, while a prospect that only visited a web page remains a one.

Tracking and Learning

Some of your emails and offers will perform better than others. Keep track of how the prospects in your campaign interact with your offers and content.

Get rid of nurturing emails and content that don’t perform well while building on content that is popular by creating similar offers. Continually refine your campaigns and you should see improved results.

Lead nurturing is an essential marketing tactic to increase sales-ready leads and potential sales. This is true at all times, especially during this period of market disruption due to the pandemic.

Lead Management Marketing Strategy Marketing, General

Sustainable Manufacturing in the 21st Century – Why You Should Be Talking About It

You might have noticed that a lot more manufacturers are talking about sustainability: both their own sustainability initiatives and how their products and services help customers pursue sustainability efforts.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, sustainable manufacturing is the creation of manufactured products through economically-sound processes that minimize negative environmental impacts while conserving energy and natural resources.

The increased attention toward sustainability is coming from two sides. First, manufacturers are realizing economic benefits from sustainability initiatives. And second, buyers are demanding products manufactured using greener and more environmentally sound processes.

Manufacturers focused on sustainability can achieve a number of business benefits:

Reduced costs—Whether making use of natural lighting on a shop floor, reusing wastewater, investing in energy-efficient machinery, reducing scrap and waste, or gaining tax credits through use of renewable energy sources, green practices can contribute to cost reductions over time.

New customers—Many buyers are now concerned with sustainability and are looking for greener products and products sourced more locally. This presents new market opportunities for suppliers adopting green policies and practices.

Positive brand associations—Sustainability initiatives can help increase positive attributes associate with your brand. Customers and the market are paying much greater attention to sustainability and those manufacturers that are part of the solution can become the object of that attention.

Attract new employees—As older engineers retire, manufacturers must compete with each other to attract a new generation of millennial engineers. Younger engineers tend to care more about environmental issues such as climate change, natural resource use, and green business practices. Manufacturers committed to sustainability have that extra something to offer in their recruiting efforts.

Both small and large companies are embracing sustainability practices, for economic as well as ethical reasons. They are working to educate the market about the importance of carbon footprint reduction and energy savings, and showcasing their sustainability plan in their marketing and communication efforts. You should too, if your company is committed to sustainability.

Website

Your website is the first impression many of your customers and prospects have with your company. Bring your sustainability message to the forefront by dedicating a page to your efforts. Include sustainability practices, certifications, awards, and other content that promotes your company’s commitment to sustainability.

KPS Global, a manufacturer of insulated panels, has a Sustainable Solutions page under its About Us section.  Chromalox, a company that engineers thermal solutions, leads with a sustainability message on its home page. These companies realize the importance of promoting sustainability to the market.

Marketing Content

Consider including a brief sustainability message on marketing content such as datasheets, white papers, and presentations. You might also have an opportunity to add sustainability language to boilerplate content such as company descriptions. Go further and produce a webinar that is focused on sustainability and why it matters to your customers.

If your products and services help customers save resources or energy or operate in other environmentally friendly ways, those benefits should appear in your marketing content. Make clear to your customers your awareness of the importance of sustainability.

Take Advantage of Lean Manufacturing

The goal of lean manufacturing is to eliminate all unnecessary waste from operations. Waste is defined as anything that doesn’t add value for the customer.

If your company engages in lean practices, you might find that your lean manufacturing processes produce sustainability benefits that you can talk about.

For example, Baxter Healthcare Corporation developed a value stream map that saves 170,000 gallons of water a day. Columbia Paint & Coatings reduced 15,000 pounds of paint solids from wash water and saved 18,000 pounds of shrink wrap. These are the kind of results that companies should communicate to their customers.

It’s important to keep in mind that sustainability isn’t just a buzzword you adopt to get attention in the market. Customers will see through any transparent attempts. If your company hasn’t done so already, it’s time to address sustainability in a coordinated, integrated, and formal manner. Marketing has an important role to play in this new era.

Content Marketing Customer Relationships Marketing, General

Are Tradeshows Coming Back in 2021?

This question seems to be on everyone’s mind these days. While some are craving face-to-face interactions and are eager for the return of in-person events, others remain hesitant.

A recent GlobalSpec research report, “Industrial Marketing in 2021,” found that 57 percent of marketers are not planning to attend in-person tradeshows in 2021, despite the fact tradeshows were once one of a marketer’s top strategies.

Twenty-nine percent of marketers have decided not to budget for in-person tradeshows in 2021 and 38 percent have a smaller tradeshow budget than in the past. Only 12 percent have restored their budget back to normal levels.

This hesitancy to return to tradeshows and cutting back of tradeshow budgets may signal concerns about how quickly the industry will return to its former state.

Other industry experts tend to agree. The Wall Street Journal reported, “The roughly $11 billion U.S. trade-show and exhibition industry is slowly coming back to life after a largely lost year due to coronavirus.” However, industry executives say a full recovery isn’t expected for about two years.

Industry analyst PwC expects the U.S. B2B tradeshow market, which was one of the fastest-growing B2B markets, to shrink by 64.3% to $5.56 billion. Their report forecasts a rebound next year, followed by growth in the coming years.

The PwC report states that by 2021, the market is expected to grow to $8.62 billion and by 2024, it should be $14.5 billion. However, that would leave it shy of pre-pandemic levels. PwC doesn’t see this market recovering to last year’s size until sometime after 2024.

Forbes noted that many companies’ sales were unaffected by their absence from trade shows and that those companies saved the money that previously had been spent on sponsorships, booths, collateral material, travel, and hotels. Could it be some of these companies never return to the tradeshow circuit? A lot might depend on what their competition does and how well tradeshows rebound.

Freeman, a global event firm, said in Tradeshow Executive that it’s time to “get your show back on the road.” They conducted a survey in February and found that 74 percent of attendees and 78 percent of exhibitors expected to return to the show floor by the end of the year. Freeman also reported confidence and optimism are at an all-time high, “meaning the timeline for a return to events for fall has strengthened significantly, with added confidence for even as early as July and August.”

From February to April 2021, overall positive sentiment increased from 30 percent to 45 according to Freeman, and negative sentiment decreased from 51 percent to 36 percent.

While opinions vary, most experts believe in-person tradeshows will slowly make a comeback this year. However, virtual events or at least virtual components associated with in-person tradeshows are likely here to stay. It remains to be seen what kind of staying power hybrid events combining virtual and in-person will have.

Even with those tradeshows that do take place, corporate compliance and a variety of travel restrictions may tamp down attendance. Attendees who are spending a good bit of money on products and solutions will likely show up to ensure they are getting the best products and deals for their companies. And as tradeshows come back online, early exhibitors may have less competition and a more focused audience, which will tend to drive up future exhibitors and audiences in its own way.

The bottom line: if one of your top tradeshows is scheduled for the second half of the year, you may want to exhibit or attend in some capacity, perhaps with fewer people or a more scaled-back presence. It’s unlikely there will be a huge rush on tradeshows, so it’s okay to take modest steps forward and make sure any tradeshow potentially on your schedule is aligned with your marketing objectives.

Industrial Marketing and Sales Marketing, General Tradeshows

Creating a Webinar with Limited Resources

Webinars have historically been an effective way to connect with an industrial audience. During the pandemic, interest in webinars has soared to new heights due to the cancellation of most in-person events and engineers spending more time at their desks. Marketers have taken note.

Webinars can be flashy and expensive to produce, with high-end graphics, video, animations, interactive features, brand-name presenters, and more. But there’s no reason a webinar has to break your budget. Even simple webinars produced with limited resources can meet the quality test and be effective in helping you achieve your goals.

Follow these tips for creating a webinar with limited resources:

Research Webinar Platforms

If you don’t already have a webinar platform, you’ll want to research before choosing one. There are low-budget, no-frills platforms, and there are high-end webinar platforms. Even some of the budget ones offer robust feature sets. You can also take advantage of free trials that some webinar platform providers offer.

Focus on the Needs of Your Audience

Engineers attend webinars to learn and discover information to help them do their jobs better, not to be wowed by production values. If you keep your focus on your audience‘s needs and produce a webinar designed to meet those needs, you will save time and money as well as better serve your customers and prospects.

Repurpose content

You may not need to spend a lot of time or resources developing content if you have existing content you can repurpose it for a webinar. Educational presentations, keynote speeches, technical how-to’s, product briefings, and white papers can all serve as foundational content for webinars.

Another way to create content on a budget is to look in product support forums and Q&As where you will often find topics that are top of mind among your customers. You can design a webinar that answers some of the most common or pressing product or support issues, and also use a chunk of webinar time to conduct a live Q&A.

Call on Internal Experts

A webinar doesn’t require a paid external speaker to be effective. Internal technical experts can be a source of content ideas and can also serve as presenters on technical topics of interest to your audience. Not every internal expert will be comfortable as a speaker, but there are likely some who would shine in this role. It’s also likely easier to recruit a colleague to participate than it is an outsider.

Partner Up to Defray Costs

You can work with a partner to co-host a webinar on a relevant topic. Partnering has the double advantage of expanding your audience reach to your partner’s database and sharing the costs of marketing and producing the event.

Co-hosted webinars typically include multiple speakers and help add variety to the content, which can be appealing and engaging to your audience. The key is to find a complementary partner whose message neatly integrates with yours.

Use Templates for Landing Pages and Registration

Reusable templates help you save time and money when creating event landing pages and registration forms. There’s no reason to start from scratch each time. Templates also give you an easy way to maintain a consistent brand look and feel to your pages and forms.

Work with a Media Company

Sometimes the best approach, when faced with limited resources, is to work with a media company to produce and host a webinar. If resolving technical glitches, handling registrations, conducting pre-and post-event marketing, and meeting production values is too much of a resource strain for you right now, consider working with a third party for your webinars. You’ll also be able to free up some of your internal resources to focus on other pressing marketing matters. Read more about outsourcing webinars here.

Marketing, General Webinars