You might be so busy keeping your marketing machine rolling you didn’t notice it’s time to plan for 2014. By developing a plan now, you can begin next year in a strong competitive position, with your programs in place and budgets approved, instead of scrambling to make decisions and feeling behind from the beginning.

A good way to start 2014 marketing planning is to ask questions about what you’ve been doing this year and how your strategy might change for next year.

Are you still using the same media channels as two or three years ago?
This is the digital era, and industrial professionals have shifted online to search for and source products, vendors and services. Consider what your audience is doing: Forty-six percent of industrial professionals visit 10 or more work-related websites in a week, while 23 percent visit 20 or more sites. Eighty-four percent use the Internet to find components, equipment, services and suppliers. Other heavy uses include comparing products across suppliers, obtaining product specifications, and finding pricing information.

Best answer: We are putting resources into digital channels to avoid missing opportunity and being left behind.

Do you know how to reach your audience online?
The top four resources that industrial professionals use to find what they are looking for are digital: general search engines, online catalogs, supplier websites, and

At the same time, tradeshows are no longer a top way to learn about new products, technologies and suppliers. The majority of engineers (51 percent) did not attend an in-person tradeshow in 2012, and only four percent attended four or more tradeshows. In terms of subscriptions, engineers and related professionals subscribe to an average of 5.8 digital publications, such as e-newsletters, versus 1.8 printed trade magazines, a difference of more than three-fold.

Best answer: The best way for us to connect with our target audience and generate engagement opportunities is through the digital channels our customers use to actively search for products, services and suppliers and the online platforms where they go to read news and seek analysis and insight.

Are you using only one or two media channels in your marketing?
Because your customers are online have many digital resources at their disposal, they have more choices of products and vendors and more individualized preferences in terms of which information sources they prefer to use.

Suppliers who have a presence only on one or two channels will likely go unnoticed by potential customers. Instead, diversify your marketing investments across multiple channels to connect with customers and provide the service and consistency they expect. Evidence is mounting that multichannel marketing is producing the desired results for marketers, and that developing a multichannel digital strategy with multiple customer touchpoints is key to success.

Best answer: We will allocate investments across a relevant mix of digital channels to produce the best marketing results.

Are your brand, products and message discoverable by your target audience at all times?
Even when your audience does not have an immediate and pressing need that drives them to begin a work-related search, you still want to be in front of them because they could be a potential customer. This is where branding, visibility, and awareness initiatives come become important.

To meet branding and awareness goals, consider adding these programs in 2014: advertising in industry- and product-focused e-newsletters, hosting a webinar for a highly targeted audience, or using banner ads to maintain a highly visible presence on industry websites.

Best answer: Our company will maintain a digital presence on those channels that allow us to be “discovered” at all times.

Are you allocating enough of your budget to digital media?
Most suppliers will continue to use a mix of traditional and digital media in their marketing efforts with companies shifting more and more of their budget to online channels. Fifty-four percent report they are spending more online in 2013 than they did in 2012. Expect this trend to continue as suppliers realize online channels deliver the best results. However, just half of companies are devoting at least 36 percent of their overall marketing budget online, and only 30 percent are committing the majority of their marketing budget to online efforts. Is this enough? While industrial professionals have shifted work-related tasks to online channels (also known as the “Digital Disruption”), suppliers have only incrementally shifted their marketing

Best answer: We acknowledge that the Digital Disruption has transformed the way our target audience works and how we need to reach and connect with them. We are recalibrating our budget and resources and continuing to shift a greater percentage of our marketing budget to online programs.

Are you able to measure the results of your marketing efforts?
Marketers are under intense pressure to demonstrate ROI on their marketing programs. But you can only begin calculating ROI if you are using measurable marketing programs. Fortunately, the best-performing programs today are digital media. And digital media by its nature is measurable.

You may not always be able to calculate ROI by tying a sale to a specific program, especially in complex sales situations requiring multiple customer touchpoints. But you can track which touch points your customers use and gain a sense of how your overall marketing mix is contributing to revenue growth for your company.

Best answer. We plan to use measurable marketing programs and identify the key metrics that match up to our goals and objectives.
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Are you asking the right questions about your marketing budget and resources? What tips and ideas about marketing planning would you pass along to your peers in industrial marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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