Follow the Three V’s of Managing Your Engagement Opportunities

In this era of marketing accountability, industrial marketers need an effective framework to manage and measure their engagement opportunities. You can’t measure everything—and you don’t want to measure everything. You want to focus on specific measurements providing valuable insight, which in turn can help you make decisions to improve the performance of your marketing program.

measuring roi

According to Forrester Research, the hallmark of top marketing performers is their ability to generate marketing leads at the right velocity, volume, and value. These three metrics are key indicators of funnel health—and a healthy funnel generally means healthy revenue.

  • Volume is the count of engagement opportunities or deals delivered by a marketing program.
  • Value is how much an engagement opportunity is worth in terms of dollar value.
  • Velocity is the speed at which an engagement opportunity converts to a sale.

What marketers must determine is how much weight and priority to give to each of the three V’s in order to optimize your marketing efforts and maximize your return. The answer is different for every company, based on your marketing goals, the makeup of your sales force and the nature of your customers’ buying behavior.

The dream world of every marketer is that the volume and value of engagement opportunities is high and the velocity of conversion is lightning speed. However, we all work in the real world, not the dream world. Therefore you must put these three V’s in perspective, understand how they align with your goals and use them to help make marketing decisions.

Volume, value and velocity intelligence can also help you segment engagement opportunities. For example, if a marketing program produces a high volume of opportunities, chances are many of those opportunities are not yet sales ready. They should remain with marketing in a lead nurturing program until more qualified. It might make sense to assign high-value opportunities to a salesperson for one-on-one cultivation and personal attention. Handle high-velocity opportunities in whatever manner will close the sale quickly.

Volume requires ironclad processes
Volume is historically the metric that gets the most attention, deservedly or not. What sales team doesn’t want more engagement opportunities? Some marketing programs are designed to maximize the volume of engagement opportunities. The upside of this approach is that you have more potential customers to convert and more of your target audience exposed to your message, which helps increase brand awareness.

On the other hand, the greater the volume of engagement opportunities, the more you need sound lead management processes. You must be able to separate real prospects from tire-kickers, prevent good opportunities from slipping through the cracks and avoid inundating your sales team with unqualified prospects who will never convert.

Value can trump volume
A highly targeted or specialized marketing program may not deliver a high volume of engagement opportunities. It can still be a strong program because the engagement opportunities generated should have a higher conversion rate and produce a higher amount of sales.

If your company’s objective is to close bigger deals or sell highly customized products or services, you’re likely looking at implementing a program that delivers fewer, but highly motivated prospects. You’re looking at quality over quantity.

Velocity offers intelligence
Velocity—the speed at which a prospect converts to a sale—can be considered independently or in relation to volume and value. Velocity is often directly related to your customers’ buy cycle and the nature of what you are selling. A long, complex purchasing process involving multiple decision makers and a significant investment may not have much in way of velocity. But if you’re selling parts or components that the market considers a commodity, you should expect high velocity.

No matter what you are selling, if you have a hot prospect motivated to buy, treat them as a high-velocity engagement opportunity. By tracking the velocity of deals, you can gain valuable intelligence on the length of your sales cycle and how well your marketing and sales processes are performing.

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Two Types of Content that Must Be in Your Marketing Mix

Content marketing is an essential strategy now that buyers do so much of their research online before contacting a supplier. Industrial marketers know that technical professionals crave a constant flow of useful content that helps them do their jobs better. But not everyone knows this content should fit into one of two categories: informational content or decision-making content.

content marketing800

You need both types of content in order to match up to the different stages of your customers’ buy cycle. Early in the buy cycle, when customers are becoming aware of their needs and researching how to meet them, informational content plays a big role.

Informational content is more educational in nature. This type of content might enlighten your audience on a problem it faces, such as an article on “Five Ways to Avoid Pressure Sensor Failure.” Another might be a webinar titled “Evaporation Methods Used in Industrial Coatings.” These types of content are focused on providing your audience with information that will help clarify their needs or point them toward further research in finding an appropriate solution.

Informational content would also include general information about a type of product or industrial process: “Breakthroughs in Diode Laser Technology” or “How Motion Sensors Work.” Background information on your company, product lines or services would also come under the realm of informational content.

Your goal in producing informational content is to help answer the initial questions your customers might have in the early stages of their buy cycle and to get them on the path to purchasing:

  • How does X work?
  • What types of products should I consider to do Y?
  • What are the common approaches to solving problem Z?
  • Which companies offer . . . ?

Informational content sets the stage for your potential buyers. It helps build awareness and affinity for your company and products. It puts you in the position of being an expert. It delivers insight and value to your audience, without putting pressure on them to buy before they are ready.

Decision-making content is designed for the later buy cycle stages, when customers have narrowed down their choices to several possibilities and are close to making a buying decision. With decision-making content, your goal is to answer your customers’ final questions and put you in position to win the business.

  • Does this product have all the features I need?
  • Will it do everything I need it to do?
  • How much does it cost? What will be my return on investment?
  • Why should I buy this product and not that product?
  • Why should I choose this company and not that company?
  • What kind of customer support will I get? What warranties?

At this point, buyer’s guides that walk customers through the factors to consider when making a purchase are useful content. As are specification sheets, competitive differentiators, product comparisons, ROI calculators, warranties and customer service policies.

A catalog that buyers search by specification can offer you an advantage by helping customers quickly find exact products that meet their needs. A responsive web page that details important product features would be directed to an audience in the late stage of the buy cycle. Any potential customer close to making a purchase decision is sure to be spending time on your company website looking for that “X” factor that will sway them one way or the other.

Technical professionals tend to use a variety of digital resources during their buy cycle journey. Supplier websites and online catalogs are used during all phases. Online events, e-newsletters and webinars tend to attract technical professionals earlier in the buy cycle when education and awareness are critical. Choose the channels that work best for you and develop both informational and decision-making content to increase your opportunities to connect with potential customers at all stages of their buy cycle.

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It’s the Golden Era for Webinars

This may be the golden era for webinars as a marketing tool in the industrial sector. Broadband connections are nearly ubiquitous, webinar hosting platforms offer sophisticated features enriching the webinar experience, and marketers have learned to offer relevant, educational content that technical professionals find interesting and useful.

Aerzen webinar

Here are six other reasons why webinars make such an effective marketing tool:

1. Webinars are easy for your audience
Technical professionals are already spending hours per week online for work-related purposes, so it’s easy for them to join your webinar right from their office, coffee cup or snack in hand. Plus, webinars break down geographical barriers; you can be anywhere in the world and still attend. This is especially helpful if your customers are dispersed and difficult to reach or your webinar topic has broad appeal. You can also make webinars easy by keeping them short—definitely under an hour, including Q&A time at the end. If your content is long or complex, consider creating a series of shorter webinars to make it easier for your audience.

2. Webinars generate good engagement opportunities
While webinars may be easy for your audience to attend, they also require commitment. Not just any lazy tire-kicker is going to attend your webinar. A technical professional willing to take time out of their busy day for your webinar is likely highly interested in your webinar topic and eager to learn something new. These are exactly the people you want to engage and start a relationship with. And you already have their contact information because they’ve registered.

3. Webinars let you be the expert
In a webinar, you’re educating your audience—about industry trends, novel solutions to problems, hot topics, new products or technologies—and by the nature of your position as host you’re the expert on the content. You’re in control of the message and how it’s delivered, unlike, for example, on social media where you don’t have control over comments and feedback. This makes webinars a perfect tool for helping to establish and maintain your thought leadership position on important topics.

4. Webinars let you give and get
With webinars, not only can you deliver educational content to your audience, you can capture data from your audience in return. Adding several real-time polling questions to your webinar can serve as effective transitions between topics, help involve your audience, and return to you valuable information. You can ask how technical professionals currently solve a problem you’re presenting on. Or how often they use certain types of products. Or any other multiple-choice question they can answer quickly. You can display their answers in real-time and comment on the results, making the webinar even more interactive.

5. Webinar content can be re-purposed
If this is the golden age of webinars, it’s also the golden age of content marketing. Every marketer has a mandate to get content into the hands of their target audience using multiple digital channels. Webinars can help. You can promote the content of your webinar over channels such as social media, your website, e-newsletter ads and banner ads. You can also re-purpose the webinar content into other forms: articles, white papers, infographics, videos and more. Not only do you help fulfill content marketing goals, you can maintain a consistent message across different content formats and distribution channels.

6. Webinars have a long shelf life
Webinars don’t have to be live events only. You can archive past webinars on your website for on-demand viewing by technical professionals. This gives those audience members who missed or didn’t know about the webinar an opportunity to participate. You can reasonably ask for registration information from visitors who want to view recorded webinars, resulting in additional engagement opportunities for you.

If you’d like to know how leading industrial suppliers are using webinars to build thought leadership and generate engagement opportunities, check out the schedule of upcoming webinars hosted by IHS GlobalSpec.

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Search and Discovery: Why Both Should be Part of an Industrial Marketing Plan

Industrial marketers know the importance of being found online on GlobalSpec.com, Datasheets360.com, search engine results pages, and other resources when potential customers search for relevant products and services.
These searches tend to be based on customer needs. They are related to early and middle stages of the buy cycle: needs awareness, research and comparison and evaluation. Customers are motivated because they have a problem to solve and are searching for suppliers, products, and services that can help solve the problem.

That’s why marketers invest in online catalogs, search engine optimization, and pay-per-click marketing programs—to rise to the top for relevant searches and increase opportunities to engage with customers and prospects.

But search isn’t the only aspect of digital media that’s important to marketers, because search isn’t the only work-related activity industrial professionals do online. They also spend significant amounts of time reading news, keeping up with industry trends, learning about the latest technologies, seeking out educational opportunities and more. It’s during these work-related activities that their customers are performing when suppliers and manufacturers need to be “discovered.” Even though your audience many not have an immediate and pressing need, you still want to be in front of them because they could be a potential customer.

Allocating some of your budget to the discovery aspect of marketing will help raise the visibility and awareness of your products and services among potential customers. Your brand will become recognized by and familiar to potential customers, so that when they do perform a targeted search and your company, products and services appear, they will be more likely to choose you because industrial professionals—like anyone else—want to do business with a company they know and has a positive reputation in the industry. In this way, search and discovery work hand-in-hand.

Here are ideas for pumping up the discovery side of your marketing program. And all of them are easy to implement with the right media partner and to track in terms of impressions, clicks, and conversions:

  • E-newsletter advertisements: Engineers and related professionals subscribe to an average of 5.8 digital publications making newsletters a primary information source for work purposes. Look for opt-in e-newsletters focused on your industry or product area. Be sure to study audience demographics and profiles to make sure you are reaching the right people.
  • Online events and webinars: Nearly two-thirds of industrial professionals said they attended at least one webinar or online event last year. Twenty-six percent went to four or more. Exhibiting at an online event is a great way to build thought leadership and distribute content such as white papers, articles, videos and case studies.
  • Industry websites: Maintaining a presence on targeted industry websites (such as Electronics360.com) keeps you in front of potential customers while they are performing work-related tasks. Engineers spend time on sites reading recent news and learning about the latest technologies, as well as searching for products and services that meet their needs.
  • Banner ads: Banner ads that appear across a network of targeted industrial sites offer you broad and deep exposure to potential customers who might otherwise not know about your company or are hard to reach. Your banner ads can link back to your website, online catalog, or any other online destination that is useful to your target audience and meets your marketing goals and objectives.

Search AND Discovery—both are important to your marketing success. When planning for 2014, be sure to allocate marketing budget to both types of programs.

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What Your Digital Media Strategy May Be Missing

Almost every industrial company engages in digital marketing now. But if all you have are a website and newsletter, you’re missing out on something important — visibility and a better opportunity to connect with customers and prospects.

In this era of digital media teeming with innovation, industrial professionals and the companies that market and sell industrial products and services are faced with an influx of digital channels. From the introduction of general search engines, to an increase in specialized search, to the rise of social media, industrial professionals have more digital tools and sources of information than ever to do their jobs better and more efficiently. They also gain exposure to more companies to buy from. The result is that your customers have more choices, more individualized preferences, and more power than ever before.

A recent white paper from IHS GlobalSpec, “Marketers Require Multichannel Solutions to Achieve the Cross-Media Multiplier Effect,” documents the reasons why industrial marketers are rapidly adopting a multichannel digital marketing strategy and provides the benefits of diversifying your marketing spend across multiple digital media channels.

There are two primary reasons why industrial marketers are adopting a multichannel approach:

1. Customers have many digital tools at their disposal, and as a marketer you must engage them in ways that match their varied searching and sourcing preferences.

2. As an increasing number of companies allocate more of their marketing dollars to digital media, you must fend off increased competition online.

The evidence is mounting that multichannel marketing is producing the desired results for marketers in terms of improved campaign performance and a higher return on marketing investment. This phenomenon is known as the “cross-media multiplier effect.” It’s a classic case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

Marketers are getting savvy
Marketers are demonstrating their savvy in regards to multichannel marketing. Many are abandoning single campaigns and instead adopting broader campaign strategies that integrate multiple digital channels and produce the cross-media multiplier effect.

But that doesn’t mean you can simply spread your budget across all the online channels available to you and expect to be successful. Marketers must allocate their budgets wisely. Certainly you need to invest in your company website. Beyond that, you must evaluate digital media to determine those channels that will help you most efficiently and effectively connect with customers and prospects.

The channels that are right for you are the channels that your customers use—and the channels your prospects use in new markets you want to penetrate. For engineers and other industrial professionals, the top channels they use to research a work-related purchase are general search engines, online catalogs, and supplier websites. But they also use many other digital channels to keep up with the latest technologies, product news, companies and brands. E-newsletters, social media, industry websites and directories, and online events are all important information sources for your customers, and all exert influence over their buying decisions.

Follow these two recommendations
1. With many channels to choose from, it’s not always easy to know which ones are best given your target audience. Reach out to experts such as your digital media partners for recommendations on multichannel, integrated solutions that can help you achieve your marketing goals.

2. Download your complimentary copy of, “Marketers Require Multichannel Solutions to Achieve the Cross-Media Multiplier Effect” and share it with others on your marketing team. It offers you a better understanding of the multichannel mandate.

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Demand Process: Taking a Strategic Approach to Demand Generation

Most B-to-B companies focus on too many marketing tactics without taking a strategic approach to demand generation, resulting in weak performance and ROI of marketing initiatives. This is one of the key points brought up at the Industrial Marketing Digital Summit by Adam B. Needles, chief strategy officer at ANNUITAS, a B-to-B demand generation firm.

Needles quoted a Forrester Research study that reported B-to-B marketers are juggling too many tactical balls, with 75 percent of them using 15 of the 26 marketing techniques surveyed. The findings held true across the SMB segment as well as larger enterprises.

The number one pain point for these organizations is the lack of quality leads for sales. This is a problem even in organizations using marketing automation technology, because the technology itself does not solve process issues. Another problem is that content does not support the buying process, because most companies lead with what they want to sell, and not with what customers want to buy. Needles referenced another survey that found 86 percent of the unique benefits touted by vendors were not perceived as unique or having enough impact to create preference.

Need for a strategic demand generation process

To overcome these challenges, Needles offers a four-step demand generation process that is strategic and perpetual with the goal of engaging, nurturing and converting buyers, driving repeatable revenue, and maximizing customer lifetime value. The four steps are:

  1. Put the buyer at center
  2. Address gaps in the middle of the funnel
  3. Build and operationalize a demand generation process
  4. Constantly optimize

1. Put the buyer at the center. Customers are living in a different world now. Due to their online research and participation in social networks and online forums, they are more informed and have more choices than ever before in terms of products and services available to them. In short, they are in control. Marketers must adapt because the power has shifted to buyers. The sales-driven culture is gone; the buyer-driven culture is here.

Companies must now build messaging, programs and systems around the goals of educating and qualifying their prospects. They must have the right content at each stage of the buy cycle and must understand at what point a potential customer wants to interact with a sales person. That’s when a lead is sales ready—when they’re ready to talk to sales person.

2. Address gaps in the middle of the funnel. Companies may be good at building awareness and generating initial contact, but too often the prospect disappears because there are no nurturing programs to support them through their buying process.

Lead management is not a strongpoint for most B-to-B organizations and less than one-fourth has a defined lead-to-revenue process, according to Forrester. Only 5 percent claim that every prospect interaction is orchestrated.

Needles also quotes a study performed by the marketing automation firm Eloqua in which the lack of lead nurturing had a negative impact on the number of leads. It is in this stage that prospects need to be understood, scored and segmented, offered relevant content, and generally cared for (or nurtured) until they are ready for sales. It is also where you continue to ask more questions of prospects that will help you further define their needs and qualify them. Also, successful companies continue to nurture prospects who many never become sales-ready because it keeps their name top of mind for referral situations or if the prospect changes jobs.

3. Build and operationalize a demand generation process. While technology such as marketing automation can help support your demand generation process from end to end, technology in itself does not build the process. The demand generation process requires a business and cultural shift in which the sequence of engagement, nurturing and conversion of buyer demand into revenue is treated as a series of steps that can be both managed and optimized.

The demand process must be structured to support each of the three phases of engagement, nurturing and conversion. You must define rules for content marketing, prospect scoring and segmentation, lead management, team member roles, and use of technology. Most importantly, the process must be used consistently and perpetually by your organization.

4. Transform and optimize the process. Improvement of the demand generation process is not an option; it’s a necessity. You should be tracking metrics and performance at every stage of the process. Two key areas to focus on are outcomes and governance. In terms of outcomes, volume and quality of leads, conversion, ROI, and customer lifetime value should all be on your list of metrics to optimize. Governance includes overall program management, end-to-end process documentation, and incorporation of best practices.
Making demand generation a strategic process is not a simple task, but it is an essential one for B-to-B companies.

For more details and several case studies, view Needles’ presentation on demand.

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