Connect with Potential Customers Throughout the Buy Cycle

 Engineers and industrial professionals are problem solvers, and the way they solve the problem of sourcing and purchasing products and services is by engaging in a well-documented buy cycle. The cycle consists of three stages: research and analysis, comparison and evaluation, and purchase.

From the results of the “2016 Industrial Buy Cycle Survey,” we also know:

• Access to information throughout the buy cycle is vital to engineers, and their dependence on proven sources of information is part of what gives them a leg up in their search for solutions and know-how, and to keep current with technology and business trends.
• Purchasing is a collaborative effort, with influence from engineers, management, operations, purchasing and more. Budget authority resides throughout the organization—not just with senior managers.
• The buy cycle averages 12-weeks and the cycle constantly repeats with every new project that comes an engineer’s way, an average of four buy cycles per year for an engineer.

From these facts, industrial marketers can draw two conclusions that will help steer their marketing decisions:

1. Create compelling content—You need to have a consistent overall message to market, but you also need to ensure that you are creating compelling content for and communicating with the entire extended engineering team (including operations, corporate management, and purchasing).
2. Choose the most effective media—A constantly regenerating buy cycle means engineers are regularly looking for products and services, which in turn is always bringing you new opportunities if you are using the most effective media channels to consistently connect with potential customers.

Create Compelling Content
In the early stages of the buy cycle—research and analysis—your engineering audience is searching for approaches to solving their problems, insight on which suppliers might have offerings to fit their needs, or guidance on what new technologies might have an impact on their buying decisions. Your job is to educate them on how you can help solve their problems. It’s too early in the buy cycle to be in selling mode.

As the buy cycle progresses, more team members get involved in the purchasing process. Engineering management, IT and operations, and finance, for example. They want to know not only if your product or service will solve the problem, but also if it will fit into the customer’s environment and deliver a return on investment. Potential customers will compare your offering to competitive solutions. At this stage content such as specification sheets, how-to videos, success stories, product samples, and cost and ROI calculators are important.

In the final buy cycle stages, when the entire team might have a hand in the decision making, you need clear pricing sheets, terms and support policies. For every stage of the buy cycle, your goal should be to develop and deliver content that makes the purchasing decision simple and straightforward, and that gives your buyers confidence. Make sure your messaging focuses on relevant issues and salient benefits, not just glittering generalities regarding supplier capabilities.

Choose the Most Effective Media
The “2016 Industrial Buy Cycle Survey” shows the many different information sources that engineers and technical professionals use throughout the buying process. The takeaway is that there is no single “go-to” resource preferred by industrial professionals at any stage of the buy cycle. Therefore, you need a multi-channel marketing strategy to connect with potential customers. The name of the game is consistency across multiple modes of information delivery.

Asked about which sources of information they typically use when purchasing products and services, engineers and technical professionals have settled on several:
• Colleagues
• Search engines and the websites of suppliers and other industry players
• and its e-newsletters
• Catalogs—online or print
• Printed publications, directories and buyer’s guides (including materials from industry standards organizations like IEEE or ASME)
• Trade shows and conferences
• Educational materials such as video as well as white papers and webinars
• Online communities, blogs and social media

Some sources are used consistently throughout the buy cycle—including colleagues, search engines, online catalogs, and supplier and industry websites. You should concentrate on showcasing your products and expertise and maintaining a consistent presence on these channels (except for colleagues, of course), particularly the digital media, where engineers turn first when beginning their buy cycle research. This way, you can increase the odds that you will connect with potential customers during their buy cycle.

Results of the “2016 Industrial Buy Cycle Survey” have just been published by IEEE Engineering360 Media Solutions. You can download your complimentary copy to see all the survey results, read the analysis, and access recommendations for industrial marketers. Click here to download.

Industrial Marketing and Sales Marketing Strategy Marketing Trends

Five Ways to Get Closer to Your Audience

 When you’re selling into the industrial market, it’s important to clearly describe your products, including their features, uses, and specifications. Facts, logic, and rationale—they all influence your customer’s buying decision.

But your sales and marketing materials need to appeal to more than just reason in order to win customers, especially for big or complex sales. Customers can be fearful of making the wrong buying decision. They want to be sure they can trust you. They want to be confident that you will be there to support them.

For these reasons, you must not only have great products, but also be able to establish a strong relationship and an emotional connection with your audience. Here’s how to get closer.

1. Talk to your audience as individuals.
You may not be able to speak one-on-one with every potential customer – and you may not want to, depending on what type of sale you are making. However, you always should communicate in a relatable way in your marketing materials.

You can do this by developing buyer personas and speaking to those personas. A buyer persona is a profile of your customers—who they are, what type of companies they work at, what positions they hold, what problems they would turn to your company to help solve, what motivates them, and so on. You might have a number of different buyer personas.

When developing content, write as if you were speaking to your buyer personas, and you will be able to connect better with them as real people. Use a conversational style. Pretend you are sitting across the table from them. Make it clear that you understand their needs, their concerns, and their motivations.

2. Educate your audience.
Rather than thinking in terms of sell, sell, sell, think in terms of educating, informing, and helping. Become an expert resource for your audience instead of just another vendor. Show them that you understand the challenges that they face. Outline different ways to overcome those challenges.

Focusing on educating and helping is the foundation of thought leadership programs, which can increase your credibility and the level of trust your audience has in your company. That, in turn, can reduce their fear of making the wrong buying decision.

3. Solicit their ideas.
Relationships are two-way streets. It can’t be just your company talking to your audience; it should be your audience talking to you as well. Customers who believe their voices are being heard are more likely to be loyal to your company and products.

Start by asking your audience questions. You can use one of the many free online survey tools that are available. Ask about their challenges, their views on your industry, their product and feature preferences, what’s important to them, and what’s not. Ask about their work environment. Ask about their company’s mission and strategy. Ask how you can help them.

By soliciting your audience’s feedback and ideas, you not only build a stronger relationship, you also gain valuable data your company can use to help shape product plans, develop marketing strategies, and hone marketing messages.

4. Tell stories.
Everyone loves a good story. People bond over stories. They are at the heart of many cultures, including business cultures. It could be a customer case study. It could be a story about an innovative use of your product. Or a story about a customer who left the fold and returned.

There are several elements of a successful story. First, it has to be relatable and relevant to the audience. Therefore, match the story to the buyer persona you are trying to reach. Second, something has to happen in the story, such as a customer facing and solving a problem. Or how a new technology or product impacts industry trends. Don’t be afraid to use humor or add some personal style or voice to the stories you tell.

5. Demonstrate that you care.
If your company offers loyalty programs or incentives, let your audience know. It shows that you want to establish an ongoing relationship with them. If your company has a social conscience or is environmentally friendly, share this with your audience. If all other things are equal between two companies or products, when it comes to making a decision, buyers will choose a company that shares their values and demonstrates its commitment to more than just selling products. They will choose the company that makes them feel a stronger connection.

Customer Relationships Industrial Marketing and Sales Marketing Strategy

Your Customers are Characters in a Good Story

You know how the characters in a good novel or movie seem so real? They’re not, of course. They’re fictional representations, but because they’re developed so fully, we think of them as real people. It’s the same when you create buyer personas—also referred to as customer profiles—which are fictional representations of the customers you want to find.

A well-drawn buyer persona of your ideal customers can seem so real you might think this imaginary person is about to give you a purchase order. That might be wishful thinking, but if you use buyer personas in your marketing efforts, you should be able to attract real and valuable customers.

Industrial marketers use buyer personas to develop targeted campaigns and content for different customer types, craft relevant and compelling messaging, and help unite sales, marketing, and service teams by sharing a greater understanding of customers. When the buyer personas you create truly reflect your customers’ wants and needs, they can even help guide product development efforts.

Source material for buyer personas
You need raw material to develop and shape your buyer personas. Where do you find it? Usually from a combination of the following sources:

• Anecdotal experience from your sales team or other institutional knowledge regarding the goals and needs of your customers
• Customer surveys or one-to-one customer interviews
• Analytics such as online behavior of your customers or tracking website visitors
• Content from existing case studies
• Purchased demographic and product sourcing data
• Industry research; for example, the IHS Engineering360 research report “Pulse of the Engineer” reports on the values, needs, and challenges of today’s engineers

What information to include
Buyer personas don’t need to be complex or long—a list of bullet points under appropriate headings should work well. Include only information that can help you target your marketing efforts or messages. If you have only one type of customer, you need only one buyer persona. If you have many types of customers, or if many people are involved in the purchase decision for your products (such as recommenders, influencers, users, and purchasing agents), you should develop a buyer persona for each type.

Here is the typical information you might include in a buyer persona:

• Professional profile. The profile includes the title or functional responsibility of your target buyer. Identify whether you are trying to reach an engineer (design, process, production), a department head or a team lead, a senior manager, and so on. What are their professional duties and areas of responsibility? Are they influencers, recommenders, or decision makers in the buying process?
• Challenges. What problem is your customer attempting to solve? How is this problem negatively impacting them? What are the consequences of not solving it? This goes back to the old adage of “what keeps your customers awake at night?” Different types of buyers are solving different problems. For example, a buyer with a financial perspective is trying to solve the ROI problem. A buyer that is the end user of your product wants to know that your product will perform as needed.
• Goals. What benefits or goals do your customers hope to achieve with the sought-after product/solution? In other words, what will help them to sleep better?
• Obstacles/Objections. Marketers sometimes overlook this, but knowing how to overcome potential customer objections is critical to creating effective messaging. What might prevent your customer from buying your product/solution? For example: financial constraints, strong competitive offerings, lack of confidence in your solution or perceived weaknesses, support or warranty issues.
• Value proposition. Describe the solution you are offering and how it addresses the challenges, meets the goals, and overcomes the obstacles/objections of your profiled customer.

Use a buyer persona template
In order to maintain consistency in your buyer personas, develop a template that you can fill in with the fields you need to collect. Each buyer persona will have the same fields, such as Customer Profile, Challenges, Objections, Solution.

Share buyer personas with your team and across teams, including sales, customer service, and product development. Help everyone get to know what makes your customers tick and what’s important to them. Buyer personas are also important tools for internal training efforts and when you bring on new team members.

Develop compelling marketing messages
Detailed buyer personas will help you develop stronger, more relevant, and more compelling marketing messages. You’ll better know how to match solution benefits to customer goals, needs, and challenges. You’ll also be able to more accurately position your products by focusing on what’s most important to your customers.

Developing buyer personas shouldn’t require excessive time and resources on your part, yet the payoff can be significant. Revisit the buyer personas when your company launches new products, enters new markets, or undergoes organizational changes such as mergers or acquisitions that could change your customer profile or mix.

Industrial Marketing and Sales Marketing Strategy Marketing, General

Top Priorities and Challenges for Industrial Marketers

 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.

Content Marketing Customer Relationships Demand Generation Industrial Marketing and Sales Marketing ROI Marketing Trends Multichannel Marketing

Two Important Measurements that Communicate Marketing’s Value

 More than ever, executives are demanding accountability for marketing expenditures. It’s not an unreasonable expectation. Companies devote significant resources to marketing, and one of our roles is to demonstrate those resources are sound investments that generate demand for your company’s products and services.

There are multiple ways to gauge marketing success. The top three measures for industrial companies are sales attributed to marketing campaigns; customer acquisition; and customer satisfaction, according to the IHS Engineering360 Media Solutions’ 2015 Industrial Marketing Trends research report.

For that top measure—sales attributed to marketing campaigns—you might be underreporting the value marketing is delivering to the business. That’s because when you attribute sales to marketing campaigns, you should be looking at two different types of marketing leads that can turn into customers: the marketing qualified lead and the marketing influenced lead.

1. The Marketing Qualified Lead
This is a lead that marketing has generated through one of its campaigns and passed on to the sales team after qualifying it. Qualification may come from any number of processes, depending on how you’ve established lead handling practices. It could be from survey questions, telemarketing follow-up, or a lead score based on attributes such as company size, industry, need, buying time frame or other criteria.

Qualified leads are gems. Marketing should be proud of them. You’ve generated interest from a potential client, and routed that prospect through your lead qualification process. And your sales team wants qualified leads that require less effort and are more likely to convert into customers. Qualified leads are the glue that binds marketing and sales. There’s no diminishing their importance.

2. The Marketing Influenced Lead
The marketing influenced lead is sometimes overlooked because this lead hasn’t gone through the qualification process and been handed off to sales. It’s less visible than the marketing qualified lead.

However, the marketing influenced lead is any person who engaged with your marketing content before becoming a customer. For example, they downloaded a white paper, watched a webinar, interacted on your social media accounts, subscribed to your newsletter, visited your website or performed some other engagement activity with your company due to your marketing efforts.
Marketing influenced leads likely far outnumber marketing qualified leads. That’s because in the early research phases of their buy cycle, engineers and technical professionals are often quickly gathering information from a variety of potential suppliers without yet making any formal contact. According to the 2015 IHS Engineering360 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector research report, the majority of engineers and technical professionals don’t make contact with a potential supplier until the latter stages of their buy cycle.

If these future customers haven’t filled out a form (such as a registration), you may not even know about them yet—but they know about you, and they are being influenced by your marketing content. When they eventually make a buying decision and become a customer, your marketing efforts helped define their path and contribute to their decision, and marketing should get credit for this marketing influenced lead.

Putting the Leads Together
The distinction between these two types of leads is important when trying to demonstrate marketing’s value to the business, and both must be counted. The distinction also has several other implications for your marketing efforts:

• Diversify your digital marketing presence as much as possible to expose your company to more potential customers who can be influenced by your content
• Content marketing has a crucial role to play in any industrial marketing strategy
• Track interactions with your marketing content: clicks, views, downloads, shares, comments and more
• Work with your sales team to document effective processes to qualify leads and pass them to sales

Next time you’re asked to communicate the value of marketing to the business, be sure to mention both qualified and influenced leads.

Buy Cycle Industrial Marketing and Sales Marketing Measurement Marketing, General

How to Overcome the Top Three Industrial Marketing Challenges

 The 2015 Industrial Marketing Trends results are in and here are the top three challenges that marketers face: increased competition, limited marketing resources, and generating enough high-quality leads for sales. This is a formidable trio of marketing challenges, but we know industrial marketers are pretty formidable themselves. You can overcome these challenges. Here’s how.

Increased Competition
For the first time, increased competition rose to the top of the list of what’s making life difficult for industrial marketers. It’s easy to understand why. The digital era and its multitude of channels has largely leveled the playing field for competitors. Engineers and technical professionals now have at their disposal more resources than ever to discover information and research purchases, making it harder for marketers to be highly visible and to differentiate their company, products and services.

Carefully evaluate your online marketing mix. Are you spending on the right channels—the ones that your target audience uses most often for work-related purposes? Putting significant focus on one area (your website, for example) will limit your exposure and visibility. The key is to diversify your spending.

The top digital resources for engineers and technical professionals are search engines, online catalogs and supplier websites, according to the 2015 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector survey. E-newsletters and webinars are also popular sources of information. Online communities have seen a significant growth among younger engineers, with 39 percent now using them.

You should also evaluate how you position and talk about your company in your marketing. Are you saying the same things that others are saying? Or have you found a niche that plays to your strengths and differentiates your company from competitors? You have unique attributes—your task is to identify and promote them.

Limited Marketing Resources
Let’s face it: scarcity is the nature of marketing. There is never enough budget, and never enough people, to do everything you want to do. Which means you have hard decisions to make about where to allocate your marketing efforts.

See above about spending on those channels your customers and prospects use most often. But also, look for ways in which the total impact of your marketing can be greater than the sum of its parts. The key here is to have an integrated marketing plan. Don’t just purchase a banner ad on a website; invest in a campaign that increases your visibility across a network of targeted industrial sites. Don’t simply get listed on an online directory; take the next step and drive traffic to your listing through other marketing efforts, or put your entire catalog online.

With 2016 quickly approaching, now is a good time to speak to your media partners about how you can get better results given your budget and marketing objectives. They can help you put together an integrated plan that makes optimal use of the resources you have.

Another way to make the most of your resources is to make your content work harder for you. Most industrial marketers are engaged in content marketing, and by carefully planning your content efforts in advance, you can save time and money. For example, a white paper can be re-purposed into a webinar, article or series of blog posts. A customer testimonial can become a video, a press release and a downloadable case study. Re-purpose your content and plan campaigns around promoting the content.

Generating Enough High-Quality Leads
“Marketing, please stop! We have all the qualified leads we can handle!” How many industrial marketers have heard that complaint from their sales team? None. Ever. Although sales people might tell you to stop handing over lousy leads. Year over year, generating enough high quality leads for sales appears near the top of industrial marketers’ list of challenges. You can change that.

Invest in marketing channels your target audience uses frequently, but that also generate valuable engagement opportunities for you. You should focus your efforts on the quality of leads rather than quantity, because that’s what sales people will appreciate.

Another important variable in measuring the worth of a contact or inquiry is 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, you should have lead nurturing program in place to cultivate those leads that are not yet ready for your sales team. Working this group with a drip campaign of regular touches through email communications and tracking their behavior can help you move them toward qualified and being sales-ready.

Industrial Marketing and Sales Marketing Strategy Marketing Trends

Eight-Point Checklist: Emails That Get Results

 Email remains one of the most popular marketing tactics in the industrial sector. However, to be effective with email marketing, you have to overcome a number of challenges.

First, everybody’s inbox is crowded — how do you stand out from other emails and capture your audience’s attention? Another challenge is making sure your email looks right. Industrial professionals read email on a variety of devices including desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones, and each device renders content differently. Of course, there’s the entire relevancy challenge: Are you providing information that your audience wants and will act upon?

You can overcome these challenges and get better results from your
marketing emails by following this eight-point checklist for success:

1. Identify a measurable goal. For every email you send, even one within a drip campaign series to nurture long-term leads, identify a goal that you can measure. This will help you create a concise, targeted email because every decision you face about crafting the email can be compared to the goal you have in mind. The goal could be number of opens, conversions, downloads, shares, or any other metric that aligns with your objectives.

2. Create immediate interest with the subject line and from line. When your audience scans their inbox, they’re quickly glancing at who has sent emails and what they are about. To capture attention, make sure the from line is identifiable to your audience. Use your company name and/or an individual’s name your audience will recognize.

In the subject line, provide value to recipients, such identifying a key customer challenge you will help solve, or offer a complimentary white paper or a webinar that will help them with a work-related issue. You can also create a sense of urgency by reminding your audience that time is running out to register for an event or that an offer is only valid for a certain period.

3. Quickly tell your story. Even the most engaged audience doesn’t have the time or motivation to read through long, dense emails. Use your subject line, headline, and first line or two of copy to tell your entire story, including what your email is about, why it’s important to your audience, and what you want them to do. Use bulleted lists and short paragraphs for easy scanning. Here are three words that always describe your marketing emails: clear, specific, concise.

4. Repeat your call to action. You’re sending marketing emails because you want your audience to do something. Make that part obvious by including a call to action (such as download, register, read, watch, etc.) in a number of places and using different styles. Put the first call to action near the top because some recipients will be sold right away based on your quick and compelling offer. Others will read through and then consider taking action, so you need a call to action near the bottom. Use both text and graphical buttons.

5. Add imagery, colors, and graphics. Plain text emails lack visual interest. By adding imagery such as photos, graphics, infographics, and buttons, you can make your email stand out and reinforce your company’s visual branding. You can even add multimedia such as video into the email. However, you should always give recipients the option of receiving plain text emails when they opt-in to your list. Tools offered by email marketing service providers will automatically create plain text versions of HTML emails.

6. Use responsive design. Responsive design can detect what type of device a recipient is using to read the email and will render the email optimally for that type of device, ensuring that all text and graphics look the best they can. Whether you are using an email marketing service provider or an in-house solution as your email platform, be sure you can create emails with responsive designs.

7. Keep testing. To get the best results from marketing emails, you should test different elements to see what performs best. The simplest tests are A/B splits, where you split your list in half and test one element in the email, such as the subject line or the placement/wording of the offer. With each subsequent test, you will learn a little more about what works and can incorporate your learning into future emails.

8. Segment your list. This tip isn’t about crafting an email, but segmenting your list will tell you what type of email you need to craft. Segment your list based on relevant criteria in your database, such as products owned, expressed areas of interest, geography, or other attributes. With a segmented list, you can create emails more targeted to your audience’s interest and needs and that kind of relevancy is the single biggest factor in getting the results you want from your email campaigns.

E-Mail Marketing Industrial Marketing and Sales

Digital Media is Essential to the Engineer’s Work Process

 Using digital media for work-related purposes is now “business as usual” for engineers and other industrial professionals, according to results from the IHS Engineering360 Media Solutions 2015 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector survey. And as the use of digital resources continues to rise for such activities as finding components, equipment, services, and suppliers; obtaining product specifications; and performing research, the use of traditional media platforms continues to decline.

Year over year, the results of this survey have supported the same conclusion: digital channels are the industrial professional’s preferred resources. For marketers, that means you must continue to adapt to these trends by deploying a multi-channel digital media strategy to connect with your target audience.

Below are some of the highlights of the survey. You can download your own copy of the research report, “2015 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector,” including complete survey results, analysis, and recommendations to improve your marketing results.

Industrial professionals log hours online
Engineers spend a good portion of their time performing work-related tasks online. Fifty-three percent spend at least six hours per week online for work-related purposes. Forty-three percent visit more than 10 work-related websites each week. Online communities have experienced a marked increase in use.

Engineers of all ages use digital
Industrial professionals of all ages use digital media, although patterns vary somewhat based on age. The up-and-coming younger generation of engineers has slightly different preferences. This is important to note because almost half of the engineering workforce will be eligible for retirement in the next few years.

Younger technical professionals use social media more than their older colleagues, and conduct more product searches and read more news and e-newsletters. Thirty-nine percent of the 18-34 age group actively engages with online communities. They also use smartphones more, so be sure your digital content displays well on mobile devices.

Use is consistent throughout buy cycle
Consistency of usage when compared to previous years demonstrates that digital resources are firmly entrenched among industrial buyers, regardless of age, in nearly every facet of their jobs. Throughout all stages of the buy cycle — from needs analysis/research, to comparison/evaluation and purchase — the top digital sources for information are search engines, online catalogs and supplier websites.

The primary uses of the Internet for technical professionals has not changed much either, demonstrating that engineers have established the value of digital media to perform specific work-related tasks in their buy cycle: find components, equipment, services, and suppliers (77%); obtain product specifications (73%); find product availability information (70%); perform research (67%); and compare products across suppliers (66%).

Webinars and digital publications are replacing traditional media
As in-person tradeshows continue to experience decline, webinars have filled the void for interaction between technical professionals and vendors.

More than half of all industrial professionals (53%) attended no in-person tradeshows in 2014, an increase from 49% over the previous year. On the other hand, technical professionals are finding value in attending webinars and other online events. In 2014, two-thirds of industrial professionals attended at least one webinar or online event, and 30% attended four or more. Webinars and online events have proven to be effective marketing platforms, attracting a motivated audience willing to take time out of their busy workdays to attend.

Digital publications trump printed trade magazines as an information resource across all age groups. In 2015, technical professionals are subscribing to an average of 4.4 digital publications, such as e-newsletters and digital trade magazines, versus an average of 1.4 printed trade magazines, a difference of more than three-fold.

The upshot for suppliers and manufacturers
It used to be enough to have a website as your primary digital presence. This is no longer the case. These survey results reinforce the need for suppliers to have a highly visible, multi-channel digital marketing presence that touches influencers and buyers at various stages of their buy cycle. The research shows that no single digital resource is the favorite among industrial professionals. Rather, they use a variety of online sources, from search engines to supplier websites, webinars to online events, and e-newsletters to online catalogs.

The new research report will help you better understand how your customers and prospects use digital media, and how you can optimally incorporate digital channels into your marketing mix in 2016 to gain advantage, remain competitive and win business.

Click here for your complimentary copy of “Digital Use in the Industrial Sector.”

Digital Media Industrial Marketing and Sales Marketing, General

2016 Marketing Planning—Part 1

 We’re about to enter the fourth quarter of 2015, and that means it’s time to start marketing planning for 2016. Companies getting an early start on their marketing plan can get a jump on competitors and are better positioned going into the new year to win business.

This two-part series will help you put together an effective marketing plan for 2016 that fits your budget and aligns with your marketing goals. Part One focuses on evaluating your current marketing program and understanding the trends that will affect your strategy for 2016. Part Two, publishing next month, will offer tips for developing the optimal marketing plan.

How is your current plan performing?
In simplest terms, marketing programs have two purposes: to raise the visibility and reputation of your brand, products, and services; and to generate engagement opportunities for your sales teams. How are your programs doing on those two fronts?

Digital programs offer the inherent advantage of measurement through page views, clicks, downloads, conversions, and other trackable metrics. You also gain the advantage of connecting with technical professionals where they turn first to find suppliers, products, and services: the Internet.

Marketing tactics that deliver high branding relevancy combined with high engagement opportunities include your website, webinars, specialized search engines, online catalogs, trade shows, and e-newsletters.

Keep in mind when evaluating current programs that your customers typically have multiple interactions with your company and content before they make a final purchasing decision. They may meet you at a trade show, visit your website, click on an e-newsletter advertisement, watch a video, and attend a webinar all as part of their buying journey. Each of these touches contributes to the eventual sale—not just the last action they took before making a purchase decision. Be sure to track all of these activities to better understand how your marketing programs are performing.

What trends will impact your marketing choices?
In the early days of the digital era, manufacturers could get by simply by having a company website. This is no longer the case. Technical professionals now have more digital tools and sources of information to do their jobs better and more efficiently. They are exposed to more companies, are driven by personal digital preferences, have more power, and can choose from a variety of vendors when they are ready to buy.

This phenomenon, called the digital disruption, has significantly impacted the industrial marketing landscape. Rather than relying on a single channel, such as a company website, you should broaden and deepen your online presence to engage technical professionals in ways that match their searching and sourcing preferences. In addition, broadening your presence across multiple channels will help you fend off increased competition online, as increasing numbers of companies allocate more of their marketing dollars to digital media.

Diversifying your marketing spend and expanding your media program to multiple channels will get your name and brand front and center during the important early stages of the buying cycle when potential customers are looking, and produce more opportunities to build awareness and generate engagement opportunities. Manufacturers that can display their products and services simultaneously across multiple markets will have the best opportunity to gain new customers. This is known as the Cross Media Multiplier—integrated cross media campaigns perform better than single channel campaigns.

What is your company’s business plan for 2016?
If your company is planning to introduce new products, expand to new markets or customer segments, or launch other strategic initiatives, you will need to build your marketing plan to account for these milestones.

Now is the time to meet with executives to learn about the timing of new initiatives. You should also meet with sales leaders to understand revenue growth objectives. This will not only give you information you need to develop your marketing plan, it also demonstrates that you are proactive about developing a plan that supports your company’s goals and objectives.

It’s also time to start talking about budgets and gaining approvals. If you wait too long, you might be playing catch up and unable to solidify your marketing plan until the new year has already begun. Be ready to talk about what’s working and what isn’t in 2015, and how you can make improvements to be more effective in 2016.

2016 Industrial Marketing Planning Kit
IHS Engineering360 Media Solutions has created the Industrial Marketing Planning Kit to help you evaluate the effectiveness of your current marketing choices, calculate the value of existing marketing programs, understand changes in the marketing climate, and plan more effective prospect and client engagement strategies for 2016. Download your complimentary copy.

Industrial Marketing and Sales Marketing Strategy

Three Key Tactics for Marketing to Support Sales

 Companies continue to devote resources and effort toward creating alignment between marketing and sales teams. The more these two teams are on the same page, the more efficient your sales and marketing machine will operate and the more business you can win.

Industrial marketers have many responsibilities: creating marketing plans, selecting channels, executing campaigns, producing content, tracking results, and much more. But at the end of the day, all of their work comes down to helping make it as easy as possible for your sales team to win deals.

Whatever stage your company is in—full alignment between sales and marketing or just beginning to break down silos—here are three key tactics industrial marketers can deploy to help support their sales teams.

1. Provide dynamic access to relevant content
Marketers have become expert producers of content to attract potential customers and guide them through their buying journey. Websites, white papers, webinars, articles, videos, case studies—all good stuff. But your sales team also has a need for content, some of which you must create specifically for their needs, such as:

• “Elevator pitches” that reflect the positioning and value propositions of your company
• Collateral designed to take down specific competitors—a late-stage sales cycle need when buyers have narrowed their choices to a few contenders
• Customizable slide decks with a core set of slides that sales people can build upon for individual presentations
• Customer testimonials and case studies along product lines or vertical markets
• Email or letter templates for sales to use when corresponding one-to-one with prospects
• A library of responses to standard Request for Proposal questions

These are just a few examples of the types of content your sales team might need. The other part of the content equation is making content readily and easily available to sales people. Consider creating a dynamic document or an intranet page that you update frequently with links to content along with explanations on how they can best use the different types of content and in what situations.

2. Pass only sales-ready leads to your sales team
Your sales and marketing teams should work together to create buyer personas and a lead scoring system. Lead scoring systems are generally based on how well a prospect fits a buyer persona and their patterns of interest, as exhibited by their behavior (such as visiting your website and taking some type of conversion action).

Once a lead scoring system is in place, it’s marketing’s responsibility to assign scores and to pass to sales people only those leads that have scores high enough to be sales ready. The remainder of prospects goes into your lead nurturing programs until they, too, are ready for your sales team, or you are ready to remove them from your database.

If you vet incoming opportunities for your sales team, they will thank you. They won’t have to waste time on leads that are not qualified and will have more time to devote to solid prospects who are more likely to buy. It’s a win for everyone.

Want to delve further into the sales and marketing partnership regarding leads? Read the article, “Don’t Fumble When Handing Off Leads.”

3. Communicate on a regular basis
Too often sales doesn’t know what campaigns marketing has planned, what marketing resources are available to them, and the rationale for what marketing does. You can solve this problem by communicating with the sales team on a regular basis. You can produce a weekly or monthly internal email to the sales team, or send a marketing representative to sales meetings (and, conversely, have a sales rep sit in on your group’s meetings).

You can introduce the campaigns marketing is working on and their goals, explain why and how you are using certain marketing channels, let them know what new content is available to support their sales efforts, and answer any questions they have.

Remember that marketing must take a proactive approach to working with and supporting sales. “How can we help?” should be marketing’s mantra. Follow these three tactics and your sales department will look at marketing as an invaluable resource in their efforts at winning business.

Industrial Marketing and Sales