Marketers Must Help Customers Through Their Buy Cycle

With pressure to demonstrate return on investment (ROI), industrial marketers often focus most of their attention and resources on the end of the buy cycle: the purchase decision. When you can build a marketing ROI case based on sales it’s easier to justify marketing expenses.

But there are two pitfalls to this approach:

1. The industrial buy cycle consists of distinct stages: needs awareness, research, consideration and comparison, and procurement. It’s important to use marketing to build awareness and connect with customers in these earlier stages or you probably won’t be a candidate to win business when decision time comes.

2. You can establish goals and track metrics for marketing programs that reach prospects in the earlier stages of the buy cycle. In this way you can use awareness and engagement opportunities as additional evidence to demonstrate ROI for your marketing efforts.

Why the early buy cycle stages are important
Fifty-six percent of industrial buyers don’t contact a vendor until at least the consideration and comparison stage of the buy cycle, according to the “2013 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector” research report. Nineteen percent don’t contact the vendor until they are ready to make a purchase.

Before making a purchase decision, buyers rely on a variety of digital resources to discover and research information about products, services and suppliers. They use this information to narrow down their options prior to even getting a vendor involved, which means you must be found in the early stages of the buy cycle and support customers with helpful, relevant content to make it onto a buyer’s short list of vendors.

Buyers use different information resources in different stages. During the needs awareness and research phases, the most frequently used resources are general search engines, supplier websites, online catalogs, and GlobalSpec.com. In addition to these online platforms, other resources, including colleagues and printed directories, are used in the consideration and comparison stage. During the procurement stage, the resource used most often is supplier websites, followed by online catalogs and general search engines.

Establish your presence on these digital channels to reach customers early in the buy cycle and you will be able to create a large pool of engaged opportunities for your sales team to work on closing.

Measure Success Throughout the Buy Cycle
Calculating ROI by tying sales to marketing programs can be an effective way to justify marketing expenses. But you can also demonstrate ROI when marketing supports customers in the earlier buy cycle stages.

For example, web page views, clicks, content downloads, video views, webinar attendance, and mentions or shares on social media can all be tracked and tied to your marketing efforts. These important metrics measure customer awareness, interest and engagement with your brand, products and services.

This type of ROI measurement is every bit as important as tying to sales, because without effective marketing in the early buy cycle stages, you won’t gain nearly as many opportunities for your sales team.

Keep in mind that early in the buy cycle customers want content that educates them and helps them do their job and move closer to a decision. Think about producing and distributing white papers, “how-to’s,” case studies, blog posts and product demo videos, rather than technical specifications or pricing and ordering information which can come later in the buy cycle. You can even measure the effectiveness of your content by tracking what gets downloaded, clicked on or shared the most.

It’s true that everyone wants immediate results. But the reality is that the industrial buy cycle can be long and complex, and might involve multiple decision makers. Plan your marketing to connect with customers early on in their buy cycle and you will have more engagement opportunities for your sales team to close in the later stages. You’ll also have the metrics as evidence to support your marketing decisions and justify your investments.

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How do handle the early stages of your customer’s buy cycle? What tips and ideas would you pass along to your peers in industrial marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Marketing Measurement Marketing ROI Marketing Strategy Marketing, General

Four Ways to Measure Social Media Effectiveness

Many industrial marketers who are incorporating social media into their marketing mix are still unsure how to measure the effectiveness of their efforts. Last month, the Maven reported survey results about how your audience of engineers and technical professionals use social media and how industrial companies use social channels to connect with customers.

You can download the full report, Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector, which includes charts, analysis, and recommendations. Or view the on-demand webinar based on this research.

This month we’ll discuss how to measure your social media marketing efforts. As with any other marketing initiative, measurement is the only way you can intelligently manage social media initiatives and make improvements to your program. It’s not that difficult, as long as you understand your goals for using social media and pay attention to the metrics that matter.

The Metrics that Matter
There are four primary ways to measure your social media efforts:

  • Reach
  • Engagement
  • Sentiment
  • Conversion

The emphasis you place on each measurement is determined by your social media goals. Simply trying to get your brand name in front of the widest audience? That’s reach. Hoping your audience takes some type of action? That’s conversion. Monitoring reaction to a new product announcement? That’s sentiment. Let’s look at each metric and what it means.

Reach
Reach is measured in basic statistics: Number of LinkedIn connections, Facebook likes, Twitter followers, third-party mentions of your company, etc. Reach is easy to measure (you’re simply counting) and it’s easy to spot progress as the numbers increase. At the same time, reach by itself provides little concrete business value.

What’s more relevant is what causes your reach to expand. For example, if an industry analyst tweets about your company and you experience a surge of new Twitter followers, you can conclude it’s worth applying resources to get industry analysts to pay attention to your company. Or if you include a link to your company’s Facebook page at an online event you sponsor and get new likes, you’ll know that promoting your social media presence at online events grows your brand visibility. It’s this kind of intelligence that can help you hone not just social media marketing but all of your marketing.

Engagement
Engagement measures audience response to your content. While it’s known that the industrial audience is generally passive in its use of social media, preferring to read and watch rather than post and comment, you should pay close attention to the responses you do get. Twitter re-tweets, Facebook wall posts or shares, blog responses, comments on LinkedIn discussions, length of video views—all of these forms of engagement measure how interesting and relevant your content is to your audience. You can test different types of content and see what generates the most engagement, then use the results to optimize your content efforts.

Sentiment
Sentiment measures the qualitative, emotional reaction to your content and company on social media channels. Are the reactions you get positive, negative, or neutral in tone? Are mentions of your products positive, but comments about your company’s customer service negative? By paying attention to sentiment, you’re taking the temperature of customers and the market and getting a sense of brand perceptions about your company, products, and services. It’s valuable insight.

Conversions
Most marketers think in terms of conversions as the key metric in measuring the success of a marketing program. And if conversions are your goal with social media, then this will hold significance. Although in the social media world, it’s one metric, and may or may not be the most important one.

To measure conversions, your social media content must include a call to action: register for a webinar, download a white paper, watch a video, etc. Tracking social media conversions not only gives you straight numbers, it gives you data for comparison purposes across integrated programs. Did your tweet result in more conversions or did your e-newsletter advertisement? You can discover which channels are most effective for different types of offers, and the intelligence you gain can help you optimize all your marketing, not just social media.

Be sure to download the report and view the webinar to gain more in-depth knowledge about social media use and measurement in the industrial sector. Also, if this article was helpful to you, please spread the word using the share buttons below.

Do you measure social media? What insights have you found? How has measurement shaped your social media strategy? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Marketing Measurement Social Media