How Industrial Marketing Professionals Use Market Research

Half of industrial marketers now use primary market research to plan their marketing strategy, according to the results of IHS Engineering360 Media Solutions’ latest research report How Industrial Marketers Use Market Research.

Market research is rated as above average in importance by industrial marketers, yet 63 percent spend less than 10 percent of their annual budget on it, and 54 percent say that budget is a primary barrier to using market research. So there is some disconnect on the part of marketers between perceived value and willingness to invest in market research.

market research
Half of industrial marketers now use primary market research to plan their marketing strategy.

Types of research industrial marketers rely on

Primary and Secondary

There are two types of market research: primary and secondary. Half of industrial marketers use primary research, which is new and original research. Those that rely on primary research either conduct it themselves (64 percent), have other internal people do it (63 percent) or hire an outside vendor (46 percent).

Forty-eight percent of industrial marketers use secondary research, which makes use of information previously researched for other purposes and is publicly available. The most popular secondary research sources are Internet search, used by 85 percent, followed by industry analyst reports (78 percent) and books, periodicals and magazines (62 percent). The industry analyst reports most often used come from Forrester, Frost & Sullivan and IHS.

Qualitative and Quantitative

Market research can be qualitative or quantitative in nature. Qualitative research tends to provide information that has depth and subjectivity. Quantitative research is focused on being statistically relevant. Qualitative tactics include one-on-one interviews, phone interviews, usability surveys and focus groups. Quantitative tactics are typically surveys conducted online (the most popular tactic) or by phone or direct mail.

What industrial marketers want to gain from research

For those industrial marketers that conduct primary research, their goals are to gain knowledge about the marketplace/target audience (76 percent), develop competitive analysis (70 percent), understand existing customers (68 percent) and identify potential customers (65 percent). Entering a new market is the top reason why industrial marketers will invest in research.

Five Tips for Creating a Survey

1. Only ask useful questions.

Every question in your survey should have a purpose. The answer to any question should provide data you can use to help make better marketing or business decisions. If it won’t, strike it.

2. Use rating scales in a balanced and consistent manner.

On questions with rating scales, the lowest (or most negative) point should be the worst possible situation and the highest (or most positive) should be the best possible. The labels in between should be evenly spread. For example, “strongly disagree–disagree–neutral–agree–strongly agree” scale is a popular, balanced scale. Your scale direction (negative to positive or vice versa) should always go in the same direction. If “1” is the worst and “5” is the best, keep that rating model consistent throughout.

3. Avoid leading or loaded questions.

These types of questions will give you unreliable data. For example: “Expert reviewers have rated our oscillating water pumps the highest in the industry. Do you agree?” Most respondents will tend to strongly agree or agree with the statement because experts say so. A better way to phrase that question is: “How would you rate our oscillating water pumps?” and provide a rating scale for survey takers to offer their responses.

4. Use a funnel approach.

Ask broad questions first to introduce a topic, followed by more specific or complex questions. This helps your respondents loosen up before getting to the in-depth questions. End with your demographic questions, which are easy to answer.

5. Keep the survey short and simple.

The longer and more complicated your survey, the fewer number of respondents will complete it and some respondents may begin to answer questions without thinking them through. Having clear goals for your survey and making sure each question is relevant and has a purpose will help guide your structure and length. Market research experts agree that 15 minutes is the upper limit of what you can ask for your respondent’s time.

For additional tips on creating and designing market research surveys, and to access all survey results in chart form, download your complimentary copy of the How Industrial Marketers Use Market Research.

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What have you found successful with your market research efforts? What advice would you give to your peers in industrial marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Market Research

Industrial Marketing Trends: Shift to Digital Continues; Focus on Customers Intensifies

All marketers know you can’t achieve business success without paying attention to your customers, but this year the focus on customers is especially intense in the industrial sector. Forty-three percent of industrial companies say that customer acquisition is their primary marketing goal, according to the recent IHS GlobalSpec research report, 2013 Trends in Industrial Marketing, which is based on a survey of marketing and sales professionals in the industrial sector.

You can download the research report to access complete results along with analysis and recommendations.

The survey also found that customer acquisition, customer satisfaction and customer retention represent three of the top four ways industrial marketers measure success. In addition, focusing on the customer will be the number one area of emphasis over the next five years in marketing departments.

It’s not a surprise that customers are receiving so much attention. They have more control over the buying process (often not contacting vendors until they are near decision time), more information resources than ever before, and more suppliers to choose from. In response, industrial marketers are putting more effort and budget into digital channels to connect with customers, forge stronger relationships, and keep customers in the fold.

Industrial marketers face challenges, make spending changes
Marketers are feeling the pressure to demonstrate ROI from their efforts. Thirty-one percent say it’s the biggest challenge in their profession, while 58 percent consider sales attributed to marketing campaigns as a measure of success.

At least most marketers are shifting more of their budgets to digital channels, whose performance is easy to measure in terms of impressions, clicks and conversions. Fifty-four percent of industrial marketers are spending more on online marketing in 2013 than they did last year. Fifty percent will spend at least 36 percent of their overall budget on online channels. Five of the top seven most popular marketing channels are digital.

Traditional marketing channels will experience a decrease in spending. Direct mail, printed directories and trade magazine advertising are among the channels taking the biggest budget hits by marketers in the industrial sector.

In terms of overall marketing spend, 32 percent of companies are spending more on marketing in 2013 than they did in 2012. About half are spending the same as last year.

Content plays an important marketing role
Content continues to play an important role in industrial marketing as engineers and other technical professionals seem to have an insatiable appetite for information and education to help them do their jobs better. Fifty-one percent of industrial marketers will spend more on content creation this year. Video (58 percent) and webinars (49 percent) will see increases as well. In addition, creating and distributing content will play a major role in marketing plans over the next five years.

Social media finds its place
After a number of years of experimenting with how to use social media, industrial marketers are settling on branding and content delivery as their top goals for these platforms. LinkedIn is the most popular social media platform in the industrial sector, with 72 percent of marketers now using it.

It’s time to evaluate marketing efforts
While industrial companies are wisely reallocating resources to digital channels, just 35 percent of companies report satisfaction with their online marketing initiatives. This is a good time to evaluate the initiatives you are employing, before planning begins for next year. Are you allocating your marketing resources to those same channels that your target audience of industrial professionals relies on most frequently? Your audience is fragmented online, using multiple platforms. You need to use those same platforms to build awareness and generate engagement opportunities.

Download the full results, analysis, and recommendations of the 2013 Trends in Industrial Marketing research report.

To get a better sense of how your target audience is using digital media and the best ways to reach industrial professionals online, download these complimentary reports: Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector and New in Digital Media: Marketers Require Multichannel Solutions to Achieve the Cross-Media Multiplier Effect.

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What trends do you see in industrial marketing? Are you focusing more on the customer and/or shifting more resources to digital channels? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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The Digital Disruption: Three Digital Usage Trends in the Industrial Sector

Engineers and other industrial professionals are spending more time online and using a variety of digital resources to perform work-related tasks, which has transformed their buy cycle and challenged traditional marketing and sales processes for suppliers and manufacturers. This phenomenon is called the Digital Disruption.

IHS GlobalSpec recently conducted a survey of industrial professionals that helped uncover the key trends leading to the Digital Disruption. You can download the complimentary research report, Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector, to access the results, analysis and recommendations.

Here are three of the key trends:

1. Industrial Professionals Rely More than Ever on the Internet
It’s no surprise that engineers and industrial professionals are going online for work-related information. Forty-six percent visit 10 or more work-related websites in a week, while 23 percent visit 20 or more sites. Fifty-three percent of engineers spend at least 6 hours a week on the Internet for work. In the 18-34 age group, 39 percent spend more than 8 hours a week on the Internet for work.
One of the reasons the Internet is so valuable to engineers is that they can and do perform a variety of work-related tasks online. Eighty-four percent use the Internet to find components, equipment, services and suppliers. This “searching and finding” is the most commonly performed task. Other top uses include comparing products across suppliers, obtaining product specifications, and finding pricing information.

The variety of uses reinforces the need for suppliers to shift away from traditional media to be found by their target audience online and to provide timely, accurate and relevant content that meets the needs of customers and prospects.

2. Customers Wait Longer and Longer in the Buy Cycle to Contact Suppliers
The industrial buy cycle consists of distinct stages: Needs Awareness and Research, Comparison and Evaluation, and Purchase. At one time, suppliers were engaged with buyers throughout the stages of the buy cycle. Today, the Digital Disruption has changed that. Fifty-six percent of buyers don’t contact a vendor until they reach at least the Comparison and Evaluation stage of the buy cycle. Nineteen percent don’t contact the vendor until they are ready to make a purchase. Buyers are relying on digital resources to discover and research information about products, services and suppliers, and to narrow down their options before even getting a vendor involved.

The key takeaway for suppliers: You must be found in the early stages of the buy cycle to be on a buyer’s short list. During the Needs Awareness and Research phase, the most frequently used resources are general search engines, supplier websites, online catalogs, and GlobalSpec.com.

You also must be able to connect with a variety of buyers, recommenders, influencers and decision makers during the buy cycle. For purchases under $1,000, there is only one decision maker 54 percent of the time. But for purchases of more than $10,000, there are three or more decision makers involved 65 percent of the time.

3. The Number of Digital Resources Available for Industrial Professionals Continues to Grow
The Internet isn’t just a single destination for industrial professionals, but rather a collection of innovative, relevant and useful digital resources for helping engineers be more productive and efficient in their work processes.
The top four resources engineers use to find what they are looking for are digital resources: general search engines, online catalogs, supplier websites, and GlobalSpec.com.

While attendance by industrial professionals at traditional tradeshows has declined, the majority of engineers (51 percent) did not attend an in-person tradeshow in 2012, this audience’s participation in webinars and other online events is robust. Nearly two-thirds of industrial professionals said they attended at least one webinar or online event last year. Twenty-six percent said they went to four or more.

Another trend contributing to the Digital Disruption is that digital publications have taken over from print publications. Engineers subscribe to three times as many digital publications, such as e-newsletters, as they do printed trade magazines. Social media is also being used for work purposes. LinkedIn is the most popular channel, with 58 percent of engineers having an account.
Because your target audience relies on multiple digital channels, you must have a highly visible presence on those channels to connect with customers and prospects. Only through a multichannel approach can you achieve effective marketing results.

For a more in-depth analysis of the digital usage in the industrial sector and the Digital Disruption it is causing, read the complimentary report Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector. It will help you make more informed decisions about your marketing strategy and tactics.

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How have you responded to the Digital Disruption? What tips and ideas would you pass along to your peers in industrial marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Optimism Brewing in the Industrial Sector Despite Concerns About Economy

The industrial economy is showing a number of positive signs. Nearly half of companies expect higher sales in 2013 than last year. Engineers are working on more projects and companies are focused on expanding sales to new markets. Yet there are no equivalent positive dynamics showing up in company budgets. Sales and marketing spending is flat and hiring is sluggish.

IHS GlobalSpec conducts an Economic Outlook Survey every year to determine the state of the industrial economy. Engineering, technical, manufacturing, and industrial professionals are asked questions about their company’s revenue projections and areas of focus and concern, as well as individual factors such as workload and job satisfaction.

This survey represents the audience you must connect with, and the economic conditions you must operate within. IHS GlobalSpec developed a research report that presents the complete results of the survey and offers analysis and advice to suppliers and manufacturers about how to succeed in the current economy. Download your complimentary copy of Economic Outlook Survey 2013: State of the Industrial Marketplace.

Results: positives and negatives
2013 is proving to be a representative year for the industrial economy: some signs are positive, others are not. As mentioned, many companies expect higher sales this year, engineers are working on more projects and new markets are being explored for expansion. All bright spots.

Yet companies are slow to invest more in their marketing efforts and reluctant to hire additional engineers to handle an increased workload.

Simply put, the economy is an era of concern for the majority of companies (58 percent), and that can lead to caution. Nevertheless, in any economy, there are winners, and there is business to be won.

Hot and cold sectors
Sectors with the brightest sales outlook for 2013 are Biotechnology/Pharmaceuticals (64 percent expect higher sales), Instrumentation & Controls (60 percent), and Automotive (59 percent). Among sectors expecting to be down this year compared to last year are Computers, Systems & Peripherals (52 percent); Government (46 percent); Education (41 percent); and Communications (40 percent).

If you sell into sectors that are doing well, ramp up your marketing efforts there to help capture more business. If you primarily do business in lower performing sectors, see if your products and services are a good fit for industries that are doing well. Look for online programs such as online catalogs, directories, banner ads and others that can display your offerings simultaneously across multiple markets.

New markets beckon
Forty percent of companies are increasing sales into new markets, and 60 percent report they are focused on entering new markets. Attention on new markets is to be expected, for several reasons. First, when sales are flat in traditional markets, it’s natural for companies to seek new markets. Second, it’s easier than ever to connect with customers and prospects in new markets through online marketing. With 28 percent of companies reducing travel, market expansion plans may increasingly rely on channels such as online events, which provide all of the benefits of an in-person trade show but without the travel costs and time spent away from the office.

Where companies are spending
It’s a positive sign that in a year when 51 percent of companies are reducing spending, very few companies are reducing spending on components, parts, products and services. In all product and service categories measured, the vast majority will spend the same or more in 2013 compared to 2012. Leading the field are calibration & testing services, electronic components and mechanical components.

Manufacturers are planning for a better future
Industrial companies are investing to put themselves in a stronger position as the economy continues to improve. The majority (54 percent) are spending more time and effort on new product design and development. In addition, 51 percent are researching future projects and 45 percent are engaged in new technology research. While waiting for the future to arrive, companies are becoming more efficient in the near term. Forty-five percent are focusing on increasing production capacity from existing lines, and 44 percent are concentrating on decreasing quality rejects.

Engineers are satisfied—and busy
We asked engineers about their jobs. Ninety-four percent would recommend engineering as a career choice to high school students. That’s a powerful testament to a high level of job satisfaction. It’s a good thing they like their jobs, because they work hard. Forty-six percent are working on more projects in 2013 than they did in 2012. And the extra work may not go away anytime soon, because headcounts are stabilizing. Almost an equal percentage of companies are adding headcount (21 percent) as reducing headcount (19 percent).

Put these results to work
Get your copy of Economic Outlook Survey 2013: State of the Industrial Marketplace. You can use the reported data as a benchmark to measure your company’s activities, and the conclusions and recommendations to plan for the remainder of the year and to adjust your marketing strategy and positioning based on customer behavior and trends in the marketplace.

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What are your observations on the economy and the industrial marketplace? Are you seeing optimism? Caution? Or perhaps it’s a cautious optimism. Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Industrial Marketing and Sales Market Research

Economic Outlook: Opportunity in an Unsettled Marketplace

If you want to know the economic outlook in the industrial sector, here’s one answer: signs point to improving conditions, which means there are opportunities to grow your business. Here’s the other answer: signs point to continuing challenges, which means you need to make smart decisions on where to invest your marketing resources. In other words, economic indicators are decidedly mixed, with some companies optimistic and others more cautious, according to the results of the 2012 GlobalSpec Economic Outlook Survey.

This annual survey of engineering, technical, manufacturing, and industrial professionals in the U.S. measures the impact of economic conditions in the industrial sector. In the most recent survey results, 49 percent of companies anticipate growth for the remainder of the year, while 51 percent of companies expect to remain flat or fall short of plan. And although 40 percent expect higher sales than last year, 32 percent estimate sales will be lower. Clearly it’s an up and down economic environment.

Outlook varies by industry
Some industries are faring better than others in this economy. In the Biotechnology/Pharmaceuticals sector, the majority (58 percent) estimate that sales will be ahead of plan in 2012, making it the best performing sector. Additionally, 50 percent of those working in Computers, Systems & Peripherals and in Industrial Machinery/Tools & Equipment expect sales to be up. Communications – Data/Telecom/Wireless Networks is the hardest hit industry, with 57 percent expecting sales to be down from their 2012 plan.

Companies are focused on growth
Despite these conditions, many companies are focusing on growth. Industrial companies anticipate spending more or the same over the next six months compared to the last six months in all product and service areas. They also are focusing on growth initiatives such as entering new markets (56 percent), new product design and development (50 percent), and researching future projects (50 percent). And 42 percent of engineers are working on more projects this year than last year.

These are positive signs for manufacturers and suppliers marketing to an industrial customer because the growth initiatives will lead to product, services, and component spending.

New markets are attractive
When economic conditions are in flux, companies often seek to expand their presence in markets that are performing better than the average and where their products and services may be a good fit. This strategy also helps to limit their exposure and risk in other markets that may be underperforming. Fifty-six percent of companies are applying time and effort on entering new markets, the top initiative reported among respondents. Thirty-eight percent stated they were focused on new markets, and 26 percent stated they are specifically expanding sales into new markets.

Biggest area of concern? It’s the economy.
When asked what issues or areas of concern their companies were focused on, 55 percent of respondents said the economy. No surprise there. Other frequently noted issues or areas of concern were quality, improving production efficiencies, and expanding into new markets.

These survey results offer several key takeaways for industrial marketers.

First, manufacturers can find new opportunities by focusing on the markets expected to perform the best, such as Biotechnology/Pharmaceuticals; Computers, Systems & Peripherals; and Industrial Machinery/Tools & Equipment.

Second, now is the time to build awareness and recognition among engineers who will need to research and specify products and components to support their growth initiatives. Over the next six months, industrial companies will be focusing on entering new markets, new product design and development, and researching future projects.

Online programs allow you to display your products and services simultaneously across multiple markets, giving you the best opportunities to connect with potential customers in both current and new markets, while making the most efficient use of your marketing investments. Research shows that engineers and technical professionals spend significant time online for work-related purposes such as searching for products and services. That’s where you need a strong presence as well.

For complete survey results, including charts, analysis, and recommendations on how to use the survey findings to measure or adjust your marketing strategies, download your complimentary copy of this latest GlobalSpec research report, “Economic Outlook Survey 2012: State of the Industrial Marketplace.”
 

Industrial Marketing and Sales Market Research Marketing, General

2012 Industrial Marketing Trends: What You Need to Know

The Industrial Marketing Trends Research Report is compiled from an annual survey conducted by GlobalSpec of marketing and sales professionals in the manufacturing sector. The survey reported that many companies are increasing their marketing spend in 2012, especially their online marketing. Thirty-five percent of companies are spending more overall on marketing in 2012 compared to 2011, and 42 percent are increasing the percentage they allocate to online marketing. Hiring is increasing as well, with 22 percent of companies adding marketing headcount in 2012.

Of the top ten areas where marketing spending is increasing, eight of those are online channels. In addition, four of the top six demand generation sources are online: company Web sites, e-mail marketing, search engine optimization, and online directories.

The most prevalent area for increased spending is on Webinars, with 68 percent of companies stating they will increase spending on this channel. This includes both Webinars that companies host on their own and custom Webinars produced in conjunction with a media partner to connect with a broader, yet still targeted audience.

Some trends are lasting
Year over year, industrial companies report that their top two marketing goals are lead generation and customer acquisition, although brand awareness is trending to become a strong third. Sixty-seven percent of companies stated that customer acquisition or lead generation is their primary marketing goal in 2012, the same top two marketing goals for the past six years. Twenty percent said brand awareness was their top marketing goal.

Marketers face many challenges
Industrial markers state the top challenges in their profession are generating leads for sales, measuring marketing ROI, and understanding how to incorporate social media into their marketing efforts.

If you can relate to any of these challenges, there are steps to overcome them. For instance, a diverse mix of marketing programs that offer both engagement opportunities and brand awareness can help your lead generation efforts. Those struggling with measuring ROI would benefit from using online marketing programs, which not only help you connect with the industrial audience where they are today, but also lend themselves to measurement through the tracking of impressions, views, clicks, and conversions.

Also, a Web analytics program can help you measure the performance of your company Web site. While 68 percent of companies are using Web analytics, that still leaves 32 percent who are not able to track the effectiveness of their Web site.

Integrating social media into your marketing can be facilitated by choosing digital channels such as online directories and Web sites that offer marketers opportunities to integrate their social media presence.

Speaking of social media
The survey demonstrates that social media has become part of the equation in the industrial sector. The majority of companies (57 percent) now use social media applications in their marketing efforts. The most popular applications are LinkedIn (used by 73 percent), Facebook (55 percent), and Twitter (40 percent).

However, social media presents its own set of challenges. While marketers understand that social media now belongs in their marketing mix, only 17 percent are satisfied or very satisfied with their company’s social media efforts, while 32 percent are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied. Only 7 percent have a full-time employee dedicated solely to social media.

If you are struggling with incorporating social media into your marketing mix, you can find some good advice and recommendations in the GlobalSpec research report, Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector.

A strengthening industrial economy
A significant majority of industrial sector companies — 83 percent — anticipate an increase in sales compared to 2011. This indicator of a strengthening industrial economy represents the third consecutive year the economic climate has been positive in the manufacturing sector.

Trends in Industrial Marketing 2012
A complimentary copy of the “Trends in Industrial Marketing 2012” research report will be available on Wednesday, July 11. View the survey results in graph form, read in-depth analysis, and discover recommendations to help you optimally allocate your marketing budget and plan marketing programs more effectively.

Chris Chariton, Senior Vice President, Product Management and Supplier Marketing at GlobalSpec, will present “Industrial Marketing Trends Survey Results: What You Need to Know” at the Industrial Marketing Digital Summit on Wednesday, July 11. This is the only online event focused on marketing in the industrial sector. Free to attendees, industrial marketers will lead educational sessions on using social media, driving more leads, capitalizing on your content and more. You can also connect with your peers in real-time and chat with marketing services companies about their latest products. Register now.
 

Industrial Marketing and Sales Market Research Marketing, General

How to Successfully Survey Your Customers

The prevalence of low-cost online survey tools gives industrial marketers the opportunity to easily capture the thoughts and feedback of their customers. The results of a properly designed and targeted survey can help you make decisions about product direction, technical support policies, communication strategies with customers, and more.

To survey your customers, all you need is an objective, a customer e-mail list, and an online survey tool, such as SurveyMonkey (www.surveymonkey.com) or eSurveysPro (www.esurvesypro.com). There are a number of online survey tools out there; a quick Internet search will return many offerings.

What are the different types of surveys?
In the industrial space, there are two main types of surveys that marketing might conduct to gain valuable, actionable information.

• Market research survey — solicit customer feedback on potential new products or planned services.
• Customer satisfaction survey — this could entail satisfaction with products, services, your company, technical support, or anything else your company offers.

Why ask THAT question?
When conducting a customer survey, the first thing to do is define the reason you are surveying customers, what you expect (hope) to discover, and — perhaps most importantly — how you will use the survey results.

The reason this last item is so important is that you can use it as a litmus test for every question you ask in a survey. For example, let’s say your company manufactures ball bearings. You might ask this question: Which of the following types of bearings do you anticipate purchasing in the next year (check all that apply):

• Radial Ball Bearing
• Angular Contact Ball Bearing
• Mast Guide Bearing
• Thrust Bearing
• Slewing Ring/Turntable Bearing

Before including that question in your survey, ask yourself how the results will help you make an informed decision. If you discover from the answers that most customers anticipate needs for thrust bearings and radial ball bearings, will that information influence product or production decisions? If you don’t think you can use the results of a question to help make a decision, you probably don’t need it in your survey.

What questions have value?
The more you can gather quantifiable data from a survey, the more analysis you can perform on the results. Two types of effective questions that provide quantifiable data are a forced ranking question or a multiple-choice grid that allows only one answer per row.

Let’s say you make centrifugal pumps. You could ask a customer to rank the importance, on a scale of 1-7, of the following pump benefits:

• High Efficiency
• Low Maintenance
• Gentle Product Handling
• Low NPSH Requirements
• Long Seal Life
• Quiet Operation
• Reliability and Durability

In this question, your customer weighs the benefits in relation to each other and in that way prioritizes them. You might discover that the top two benefits are ‘Reliability and Durability’ and ‘High Efficiency.’ You can then evaluate your products against these benefits or highlight these features in your marketing communications.

Another way to present a question like this is in multiple-choice grid style, with each benefit its own row, and columns across the top with a ranking scale from, for example, ‘not important’ to ‘important’ or the 1-7 scale. In this way, each attribute gets ranked on its own, rather than in relation to other attributes.

How long should a survey be?
There is no set length for a customer survey, although ten minutes seems to be a magic number. Anything less and you might not capture enough information to make the survey worthwhile. Anything more and customers might not finish the survey. You should be able to create a 15-question survey that can be completed in ten minutes or less.

Consider it a best practice to tell customers at the beginning how long the survey should take to complete. And you will know how long it takes because you’ve tested and revised and tested again and again. A status bar showing the percentage of the survey completed is a nice touch. Most survey tools will offer this.

Your survey should be made up of multiple choice questions to help your customers quickly respond. You could include some questions like “Please provide additional information you would like to share about our products,” which require an open-ended response. However, you may not want to require a response to those questions, which brings us to…

Should we require an answer on all questions?
Probably. This comes under the thinking that if you don’t need an answer, you don’t need the question. The usual reason to make a question optional is that the survey taker may not be qualified to answer a question or may not know the answer, despite your effort at creating a relevant survey for a targeted list. Therefore, they might just choose any answer, which compromises the validity of your data. A way around this issue is to offer ‘N/A’ (not applicable) answer choices, or ‘Don’t Know.’

Do we need to offer an incentive?
The short answer is yes. An incentive for completing the survey, such as entering their name into a drawing for a cool electronic gadget or giving every customer who completes the survey a discount on their next order, can help you in several ways. First, it will increase your response rate. Second, it will demonstrate that you know your customer’s time is valuable and you are willing to reward them for their time.

How do we get the word out for customers to take the survey?
Since you’re offering an online survey, e-mail may be the best way to inform your customers that you’d like their input. You can send a separate e-mail to your mailing list or include it in a regular communication like a newsletter. Another idea is to have the e-mail come from the client’s customer service or sales rep or some other familiar name to make the e-mail more personal. You may need to also send a reminder depending on your response rate. Don’t forget to let your clients know it’s a quick survey and include your incentive in the e-mail.

What if my customers are concerned about privacy?
You should let them know up front that you take their privacy seriously and they can take the survey anonymously. If they wish to participate in the incentive, they may need to provide an e-mail address or other contact info but that, in no way, will be linked to their responses. Asking for general demographic information such as industry, job title, and company size is common but you really don’t need to ask for any personally identifiable information to create a successful survey.

How do we analyze the results?
Most online survey tools provide a wealth of analytic features, including the graphing of answers and the ability to create pivots that provide different views of the data. For example, you might have a question that asks about the size of your customer’s company. Then, while analyzing results, you might create a view that shows only the answers for companies of a specific size.

Have you conducted successful customer surveys? What were the keys to your success? What best practices would you like to share with other industrial marketers? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
 

Industrial Marketing and Sales Market Research Marketing, General

Market Intelligence: Questions to Remove the Guesswork

Manufacturers and industrial sector companies can benefit from research that provides objective feedback, market insights, and guidance for decision making. Given the ever changing marketplace, research removes the guesswork and reduces risk, while bringing greater clarity to where your business is, where you can successfully go, and the most efficient way to get there. Four key research areas can serve to create an objective map of where your business exists in the minds of buyers, relative to your competitors.

1. Market Awareness: Is your company on the radar of buyers?
This research question gets at the basic foundation block of the market awareness of your business, products, and services in the minds of buyers. If purchasers do not know about you, they most likely will never buy from you. Quantifying your actual market awareness levels through representative research can help determine appropriate resources to increase your company’s awareness and offerings. Similarly, if your business is a market leader (highest awareness levels), you can be strategic by not overspending on existing branding campaigns, but rather strategically reallocating your marketing dollars for expanding untapped market segments. The key is to have objective data on your company’s market awareness relative to your competitors, so that decisions to spend more or less marketing and advertising dollars are based on sound metrics. Too often expenditures targeted for marketing and advertising are based on intuition and/or a media/advertising representative’s persuasive arguments to spend more, without any data proving effectiveness.

2. Reputation and Brand: What is your company’s reputation? What should you be known for to be more competitive? What, if anything, is unique about your business and distinguishes you from competitors?
Some businesses enjoy a premium in their pricing and continuous demand for their products because their brand is well understood and resonates with buyers’ decision criteria. Understanding the brand attributes (quality, durability, ease-of- use, attractiveness, responsiveness, etc.) that motivate your customers to purchase your products is key to strengthening your brand relationship with current and potential customers. Significant gains can be made on competitors who may not possess similar brand strength in their businesses and products. Conversely, knowing what makes each of your competitors strong can delineate the most effective ways of competing against their offerings.

3. Customer Service: How is your business performing? What do your customers expect? Do you meet, exceed, or fail to meet your customer’s expectations? How does your performance compare to a market leader in a similar category of business?
Customer service data will help you uncover any ‘holes’ in your ship that may be slowly sinking your business. By measuring service data for your business in comparison to your competitors, you will benchmark the performance of your operations from the customer’s experience and perspective. If your performance on customer service dimensions, such as ease of ordering, delivery and resolution of problems, etc., is significantly below competitors, improvements will be necessary to stay competitive. The key is to measure dimensions of customer service that are actionable and that your customers value, so that improvements will translate into higher retention and profitability.

4. New Product or Service Introduction: Does your new product appeal to buyers in the marketplace? Is this new offering consistent with your brand? Are you meeting an unmet customer need, or looking to compete against existing products or services in the marketplace?
When you are designing and evaluating a new product or service, objective research can be a valuable process that tests your assumptions about its appeal and overall potential. Finding out in the planning stages whether your concept produces excitement, passivity or confusion among potential buyers, will save you from making a costly misstep, and potentially damaging your company’s brand. Using research techniques to help guide and validate the new product’s design, as well as strategies for communicating to the marketplace, can result in a significant savings and maximize success. If your product is competing with established products or services in the marketplace, strategic research will help you identify which of your new product’s attributes create the most compelling motivation to switch from existing offerings.

Each of these research questions provides objective insights that will confirm or challenge your assumptions about the marketplace, its buyers and opportunities for growth. Answering research questions such as these brings clarity to business decision makers, prevents potentially costly mistakes, reinforces the company’s brand, and serves as a valuable tool for guiding a company’s strategic decisions and ultimate success.

Stephen A. Ribner is founder and CEO of Fact Finders Inc., a market intelligence and insight research company that has been in business for over 32 years. For more information on research questions and their application for your company, contact steve@factfinders.com or 518-242-2000.

Industrial Marketing and Sales Market Research Marketing, General

E-Newsletter Best Practices for 2012

You probably get more than a few of these delivered to your inbox daily and chances are you may contribute in one way or another to your own company’s. E-newsletters are a tried and true way of reaching your audience. Now that they may be an automatic part of your marketing plan, it becomes increasingly necessary to step back and review your newsletter as a whole. As we get ready to move into the new year, here are ways your newsletter can remain successful in 2012.

1. Mobile – It’s not going anywhere – more and more people are reading work email on their mobile device. If your audience is moving in this direction or already has, you’ll want to make sure your newsletter templates can accommodate a mobile-friendly design.  

2. Include the right images – Seems like a no brainer, yet there are still many images in newsletters that aren’t effective. You’ve probably already branded your newsletter, so try not to use logos in the body. The most clicked images support the article content, are large enough to see clearly and generate curiosity. If you want to generate more traffic from your newsletter, make sure your images are both hyperlinked and interesting to the reader.

3. Use social media – Once you’ve finished your latest article, be sure you maximize its effectiveness by getting the word out beyond your newsletter. Tweet it, post it to Facebook and LinkedIn and get it on your site. Having members of your sales team promote it to their “friends” and “followers” can also get it in front of new readers.

4. Sell it – At the end of the day you are trying to sell something. While you don’t want your newsletter to look like a web page or print ad, you should always have a call to action. Ask your readers to click, sign up, download or keep reading.

5. Subject lines – As a general rule, try to keep it 50 characters or less. The more timely the information and useful to the reader, the better. Don’t get too hung up on personalizing it – research has shown that doesn’t increase open rates. And as always, stay out of the spam folder. Avoid using “help”, “reminder”, “percent off” and of course “free”. 

6. Headlines – When you open a newsletter you skim headlines and only read what’s most relevant to you (or what’s just too interesting to pass up). Keep your headline copy short and full of benefits to the reader.

7. Solid content – Put yourself in their shoes. What do they care about? What issues do they face? Whether you’re sharing survey results or industry news, every issue should be full of valuable content.

8. Plan ahead – Make sure you’ve always got content at the ready by building an editorial calendar at the beginning of the year. You can follow it loosely as new content comes during the year, but this way you will always have something to fall back on.

What other newsletter best practices are out there? Which ones do you swear by?

E-Mail Marketing Industrial Marketing and Sales Market Research Marketing, General Social Media

2011 Marketing Trends Survey Reveals Social Media A Legitimate Player in Industrial Sector

According to the results of GlobalSpec’s annual Industrial Marketing Trends Survey, not only do 87% of companies anticipate an increase in sales this year, but the majority is planning on using social media to help them achieve their marketing goals in 2011. Download your own copy of the Survey results here.

The survey also reveals that as marketing spending increases, the top eight channels for increased marketing spend in 2011 are all online, and even more interesting, the top three channels are video, social media, and search engine optimization (SEO).

Specifically, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, video and blogs are all seeing increased usage in 2011 over 2010. LinkedIn is the most popular social media application, now used by 69% of companies. 64% of companies are increasing spending on video; and 47% of companies are spending more on online events.

And while these results are really not surprising, because as marketers we realize that the vast majority of our customers and prospects go online first when searching for information, the presence of social media as a top channel may be a little unexpected.

So what does this mean? That after a few recent years of cautious “wait and see”, social media is now being regarded as a legitimate tactic for increasing branding and awareness, promoting thought leadership and interacting with customers and prospects.

But what if your company is not in the majority, and has yet to implement social media? Well, now might be the time to start evaluating these tactics. Although make sure you understand the specific reasons and goals for your own social media strategy. For example, the top reasons industrial companies use social media are branding and lead generation, yet only 3% of companies report that social media is one of their top three sources for leads. So it’s safe to conclude, at least for now, that, increasing brand awareness is the goal most effectively achieved via social media.

If you are considering social media you ought to remember it should never be “instead of” other marketing tactics; it should always be “in addition to” other marketing efforts and integrated with your overall marketing strategy.

You don’t want to take budget, time and resources away from existing marketing efforts that are performing for you and put them toward social media. Although social media tools are free in terms of establishing accounts, there is a learning curve and they do require time and effort. For more information on how to develop your own social media strategy, read GlobalSpec’s white paper, “Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector“.

Clearly most industrial marketers are not only online, but now more than ever see the value in social media applications as a way to interact with customers and prospects, increase brand awareness, promote thought leadership, and so much more.

Is your company in the majority when it comes to using social media? What tactics have you found to be most effective? Facebook? Your company blog? Twitter? Share your own experiences, and suggestions here!

Industrial Marketing and Sales Market Research Marketing, General Social Media