Why You Should Take Time for a Mid-Year Marketing Checkup Reply

Believe it or not, you’ve been executing your 2017 marketing plan for six months. How’s it going? Whether you’re floundering or charging full steam ahead, we recommend you perform a mid-year marketing checkup.

A mid-year checkup will help you take steps to keep your marketing plan healthy and on course. You’ll discover what’s working, what’s not, and what you can do to improve results (there’s always opportunity for improvement). This post offers you several ways to approach the checkup and how to take action based on what you find.

Analyze Quantitative Data

If measurable marketing objectives are part of your plan, you can compare a snapshot of current marketing data against those benchmarks. Gather up reports from your online media partners, social platforms, and web analytics programs, as well as your in house reporting tools. Take a good look at your click-through rates on e-newsletter ads, attendees and engagement opportunities from webinars, video views and time spent viewing videos, and white paper downloads.

Are you halfway to your goals? Are there any surprises—pleasant or unpleasant?

A challenge arises if you didn’t set up measurable goals at the beginning of the year, are using programs that are difficult to measure, or established only general objectives such as “increase brand awareness in our target markets” or “generate leads for sales” or “increase customer satisfaction.”

If this is your situation, take time now to determine what metrics are important, re-allocate resources to measurable programs, and commit to tracking performance for the remainder of the year.

Collect Qualitative Data

Talk to sales people about their volume and quality of engagement opportunities. Ask if they have any feedback on your marketing programs. Ask if any of their customers have said anything (positive or negative) about your company’s marketing presence or messaging.

Speak to customer service managers to find out what customers are saying. Ask your company’s executives what they’re hearing in the market. Perhaps the best strategy would be talking to a few customers or prospects and asking them what they find engaging about your market presence.

If you work with partners or distributors, make sure you check in with them. Are they aware of your marketing programs? Have they noticed anything about your company’s presence in the market?

Look for common themes in the anecdotal information you compile. What story does it tell? Between quantitative data and qualitative data, you’ll have a great understanding of how marketing is performing.

Look ahead

If you’re halfway to or ahead of year-end goals, you deserve congratulations. But if the metrics and anecdotal evidence show that your marketing is not as healthy as it needs to be, now is the time to make adjustments. If your business is dependent on the seasons or if the fourth quarter is always your biggest, you should account for those variations before drawing conclusions and jumping to make changes.

When deciding where to make changes for the second half of the year, follow these tips:

• Take resources from programs that aren’t working or whose performance you can’t measure, and put them into measurable programs that are more specifically aligned with your goals.

• Add more resource to programs that are working well. Keep in mind that at some point a program could be “saturated” and you’ll experience diminishing returns.

• Diversify your marketing spending across a greater variety of programs—as long as each one can laser target your audience and the programs work together as a cohesive whole.

• Share your results with your media partners and/or your marketing agency to get their recommendations.

• Change your marketing goals. This isn’t the cover-up it might sound like. If your industry or the economic climate has changed, or if something occurs beyond your control (budget reduction, acquisition, elimination of product line), you may need to change your plans for the second half of the year.

• Pick one or two new or revised objectives you want to achieve over the rest of the year, determine the measurements of success, and adjust your marketing resources to achieve them.

Most of all, stay optimistic, make decisions based on data whenever possible, work hard, and keep marketing. You’re halfway there.

How to Meet Marketing ROI Milestones Reply

 Measuring the success of marketing programs is nothing new. There has always been a focus among B2B marketers to quantify the reach and engagement of their initiatives. In the past, much of this measurement focused on metrics like the circulation of print publications, the growth of catalog mailing lists, business cards collected at trade shows, and completed magazine “bingo cards.”

Today, online channels command the bulk of B2B marketing budgets, providing marketers access to more data, more metrics, and more insight than ever before. So it’s not surprising that B2B marketers at all levels of an organization are under unprecedented pressure to quantify the return on their marketing investment. In fact, ROI is the number-one objective for B2B marketers in 2016. According to The Content Formula’s Michael Brenner, 93 percent of CMOs state that their greatest challenge is showing measurable ROI. And 81 percent of B2B marketers claim that measuring marketing effectiveness is their biggest riddle to solve.

Whether you are looking to quantify the performance of your current marketing initiatives, or want to have a plan in place for 2017 that will help you reach your ROI goals, these five keys will help you get started.

1. Target your desired outcome. Return on investment is the name of the game, but ROI is not a “one size fits all” term.

According to the 2015 State of B2B Marketing Report from Salesforce, the top three digital marketing metrics for success are revenue growth, customer satisfaction, and retention rates. And when IEEE GlobalSpec asked industrial marketers how they measure the success of their marketing initiatives as part of our annual Industrial Marketing Trends Survey, we found that marketers care most about sales attributed to marketing campaigns, acquisition, satisfaction, leads, and retention.

By having a strong understanding of the goals and objectives of your organization, you have built the foundation for your marketing plan. From there, you can define objectives and tactics that will help you reach your goals.

2. Diversify your marketing mix. Your audience has more digital tools and sources of information to do their jobs better and more efficiently, and they are also exposed to many options when ready to buy. And as companies continue to allocate more of their marketing dollars to digital media, it will become increasingly important to fend off competition online. That’s why diversifying your marketing mix is critical.

Our research shows that a majority of B2B industrial marketers are reaching their target audience via multiple channels and tactics, but many feel like they could be doing more. Not sure how to get started? Consider working with a media partner to develop a multichannel marketing strategy that is measurable and can reach your marketing goals.

3. Understand your customer’s buy cycle. In the B2B space, the buy cycle is often long and complicated, involving multiple stages – needs assessment, comparison, evaluation, and purchase. As a result, it can be difficult to correlate sales to specific marketing channels.

Buyers will often interact with your content and brand many times before contacting you or making a purchasing decision. For example, they may download a technical article they found in an e-newsletter advertisement, attend a webinar that you are hosting, watch a video, type your company name into a search engine, and visit your website – all before beginning a conversation.

Understanding your customer’s buy cycle – and having content that helps them meet their needs at each stage – will help you define and capitalize on the value that your marketing programs deliver.

4. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. It sounds simple enough – reach your audience by understanding what they seek. But remember that a key desired outcome is to reach your target audience where they can be found. Go beyond search engine marketing and consider the websites they rely on, the e-newsletters they read, and more.

Being found in the right place at the right time isn’t enough. Ask yourself, “Are we offering them content they want?” Your ability to answer this question correctly is dependent upon the tools you use to understand your customer and the quality of your analysis. In addition to the product data they are seeking, offer educational materials that position you as a thought leader and help them make a better, more informed decision. White papers, technical articles, datasheets, webinars, and videos are just some of the different content types used by today’s B2B buyers.

5. Implement a formal lead nurturing program. Now that marketing has brought in the leads, it’s time to convert them, right? Wrong.

Very few leads translate into an instant purchasing decision. Adding a clear lead nurturing program to the marketing mix has several distinct benefits that directly tie into ROI. First, you deliver more qualified leads to sales – making them happier and more productive. Next, you can successfully track contacts and inquiries along the sales process, resulting in easier and more accurate measurement. And finally, leads are less likely to fall through the cracks, reducing the potential for lost sales and wasted resources.

Hitting ROI milestones can seem like a daunting challenge. By taking a strategic approach to defining, executing and reaching your measurement goals, you will be well prepared to illustrate the value of your marketing efforts to the c-suite.

Patrick D. Mahoney is President and CEO of IEEE GlobalSpec. IEEE GlobalSpec connects a global audience of engineers and allied technical professionals with suppliers of industrial and electronic equipment, components, materials, and technology. The company combines rich technical product information with comprehensive digital media solutions that deliver measurable awareness, demand, and engagement opportunities at all stages of the buy cycle. Learn more by visiting www.globalspec.com/advertising.  

This was originally published on Marketing Tech News: http://www.marketingtechnews.net/news/2016/sep/15/how-meet-marketing-roi-milestones/

Top Priorities and Challenges for Industrial Marketers Reply

 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.

Six Tips to Get the Best Return from Your Webinars Reply

One of the key reasons why webinars are an effective marketing tactic is that your attending audience tends to be motivated and interested. Think about it: they are taking 30 minutes to an hour or so out of their busy day to listen to your message and interact with your presenters. That takes a lot more effort on their part than, for instance, scanning an email or reading a web page.

If you aren’t already, you should integrate webinars into your marketing mix. If you currently are using webinars, you can make them stronger and more successful. Here are six tips (plus a bonus!) on how to be efficient and earn a higher return on your webinar efforts.

siemens plm software
WeBINARS ATTRACT MOTIVATED AND ENGAGED ENGINEERS AND TECHNICAL PROFESSIONALS. mAKE THEM WORK EVEN HARDER FOR YOU WITH THESE SIX TIPS.

1. Leverage content you already have

You might have an existing presentation from an industry conference, technical report, white paper, product demo, customer testimonial or other content that can make a strong foundation for a webinar or at least help generate ideas for a webinar. You don’t have to start from scratch every time. Another benefit of leveraging existing content is that it helps you deliver a consistent message to the market.

2. Be clear on your topic and the audience you want to reach

You need to be honest with your audience on what to expect during your webinar or they will lose trust in your brand and company. Webinars are ideal to deliver thought leadership content. If your webinar is about how additive manufacturing is transforming the automotive industry, then it shouldn’t be about your 3D printers. It’s standard practice for the host or sponsor of a webinar to deliver a brief promotion about its products. However, if you want to devote an entire webinar to the benefits of your products, then that needs to be clear in your webinar promotions.

Before creating your webinar, you not only need to define your topic but also the audience you wish to attract. Leveraging your existing content can again provide an advantage here. For example, you might invite everyone who downloaded a certain white paper to a webinar on a topic related to the white paper. That way, you are matching topic to audience, and will increase the likelihood of keeping your audience engaged.

3. Promote the webinar through multiple channels

First follow the tip above about identifying your topic and the audience you want to attract, and then determine the best channels to promote your webinar. Your in-house email list is a likely choice as are your own website and social media platforms. You might consider reaching farther out to connect with a wider audience, as long as your content is relevant to them. Advertising in industry-specific e-newsletters is an effective way to reach a potentially new, yet still targeted audience. If you are working with a partner on the webinar, reach out to their email list in addition to your own. For an even broader audience, try promoting your webinar through banner ads on industrial websites, distributing press releases, or posting on your directory listings.

4. Generate new content during the live webinar

Today’s webinar hosting platforms offer sophisticated features such as real-time polls and live Q & A. Not only can you deliver educational content to your audience, you can capture content from your audience in return. Poll questions can serve as effective transitions between topics, help involve your audience, and return to you valuable information. You can display answers in real-time and offer comments on the results, making the webinar even more interactive. After the webinar, results of your polls can be the basis for blog articles, social media postings, infographics and more.

At the end of the webinar, you will typically leave time for a question and answer period. Again, you can gain valuable information from your audience based on the questions they ask. You might be able to use this content to create an FAQ document to share on your blog, website and through social media.

5. Extend the shelf life of your webinar content

Your webinar content can remain useful long after the live event itself is over. You can archive the webinar on your website for on-demand viewing. Post it to YouTube or SlideShare. Write a blog post re-cap of the event. These other channels provide an opportunity for those in your audience who missed or didn’t know about the webinar to access the content. On-demand availability also gives you another opportunity to reach out to your email list (Sorry we missed you, now you can view the webinar at your convenience…). You can reasonably ask for registration information from visitors who want to view recorded webinars, resulting in additional engagement opportunities for you.

6. Follow-up with attendees

An engineer or technical professional who attended your webinar has demonstrated an active interest in your content. Be sure to have in place a marketing process to stay in touch with those attendees. Some of them might have expressed enough interest to qualify as a good engagement opportunity for your sales team; others may be better suited to a longer-term nurturing program. However you score these opportunities, be sure to deliver relevant content to them based on their interest in your webinar topic.

Bonus: Sponsor a webinar featuring an industry thought leader

If you would like to take advantage of the engagement opportunities generated by a webinar, without putting together and executing the actual presentation, you may want to consider sponsoring a webinar delivered by an expert in your industry.

These types of webinars are usually on a pre-determined topic (although the sponsor may have some input) and feature a trusted authority in the market presenting on a topic of interest to your audience.

The sponsor receives branding and association with the expert’s thought leadership as well as exposure to an audience they might not otherwise have attracted to their content.

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How are you using webinars in your marketing strategy? What advice or tips would you give your peers in industrial marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Learn more about webinar solutions from IHS Engineering360 Media Solutions.

2015 Marketing Planning Part 2: Measuring Return on Marketing Investment Reply

Financially focused executives are putting unprecedented pressure on industrial marketers to demonstrate return on marketing investment (ROMI) for their initiatives.

This pressure often leads marketers to examine each marketing program individually, asking questions such as: How many new customers did our webinar deliver? How much revenue did our e-newsletter ad produce?

Not only are these questions extremely difficult to answer in isolation, they may not be the best questions to be asking. The reason is it’s unlikely that any single campaign or tactic can be correlated on a one-to-one basis with a sale, especially in the industrial sector where the buy cycle can be long and complex.

Still, you need to demonstrate ROMI and should be making your marketing plans for 2015 with that in mind. Here are five tips to help you.

marketing planning

1. Understand the relationship between ROMI and the buy cycle
The industrial buy cycle consists of multiple stages, from needs assessment to comparison and evaluation, to a final purchasing decision. In most cases, buyers will interact with your brand and content multiple times through a variety of digital channels, often before they contact you, and each interaction and channel influences the buying decision.

For example, a prospective buyer might download a white paper, attend a webinar, watch a video, connect with you at an online event, search your online product catalog, and type your company name into a search engine—all before contacting your sales team. Each of these touch points are part of your broader marketing plan of creating brand awareness, building thought leadership and generating engagement opportunities. And all of them contribute to moving a prospective buyer closer to a sale. Therefore, it’s difficult to measure ROMI on any given tactic. However, you can measure relevant metrics for each tactic.

2. Commit to measurable programs
You can’t manage what you can’t measure. Yes, it’s a cliché, but only because it expresses a universal truth. By committing only to measurable programs in your 2015 marketing plan, you are laying the foundation for determining ROMI. Fortunately, the best-performing programs today, and the channels technical professionals turn to most for work-related purposes, are digital media. And digital media by its nature is measurable. You can track impressions, clicks, inquiries, shares and likes, conversions, downloads, time on page, length of view and more.

3. Measure ROMI for early stages of the buy cycle
Although many customers don’t initiate contact with a vendor until later in their buy cycle, you can still demonstrate ROI of marketing efforts that support customers in the earlier buy cycle stages.

For example, web page accesses, 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. If your measurements in these areas continue to increase over time, then you can assume your marketing is helping potential customers through the early stages of their buy cycle and contributing to the engagement opportunity when they do contact your sales team.

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

4. Maximize your digital presence
Your products, solutions and brand need to be found in various places online in order to connect with technical professionals, all of whom have individual preferences for what digital media channels they prefer. Technical professionals have many options and visit multiple websites to discover new suppliers and learn about products during the course of their work. Allocating your marketing investments across a balanced mix of channels keeps you from missing potential engagement opportunities, plus you can compare performance across channels.

5. Don’t make the “last-click” assumption
The “last click” assumption attributes a sale to the last marketing touch point a customer has with your company before making a buying decision. This is a mistake because the buy cycle includes many touches that cumulatively add up to help achieve a sale. Today’s path through the buy cycle crosses multiple devices, platforms, sites, and user needs and behaviors. Last click ignores all the other marketing touch points and tactics that help drive a purchasing decision.

It’s better to take the position that multiple exposures to your brand, especially early in the buy cycle, will have a cumulative effect and will help a prospect think of your company as a preferred/considered brand, and therefore more likely to contact you at some point. While this makes the last marketing touch point relevant, other exposures to your brand can contribute just as much or even more to your success.

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How do you measure your marketing efforts in relation to the buy cycle? What advice would you give to your peers in industrial marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Four Best Practices to Optimize Your Lead Nurturing Efforts Reply

In this digital era when technical professionals have more sources of information and a broader choice of vendors than ever before, many do not contact a supplier until they are close to making a buying decision. Other potential customers contact every possible vendor that could serve their needs. In either situation, and everything in between, you end up generating leads from technical professionals who could be anywhere in their buy cycle—from early research to late stage.

lead nurturing

Photo Credit: Taz etc. via Compfight cc

To convert more of these leads to sales, to keep your sales reps happy with qualified leads, and to improve marketing ROI on your campaigns, you need a solid lead nurturing program to help prospects move along to the next stages of their buy cycle. The word nurture means to nourish, protect, support and encourage. And that’s exactly what you need to do with your leads:

  • Nourish—provide them healthy servings of relevant, useful information
  • Protect—keep them interested so they don’t abandon you for another supplier
  • Support—stay in regular contact always ready to meet their needs
  • Encourage—give them offers to help them move forward in their buy cycle

An effective lead nurturing program will fulfill all of these goals. Here are the best practices you need to follow:

1. Segment and score leads
Sales and marketing need to work together to define different types of leads; for instance, leads that are sales-ready versus leads that belong in marketing’s nurturing program. Use any criteria that work for your organization to segment and score leads. It could be demographics, product interest, buying timeframe, purchasing authority, budget, size of potential deal, location, digital behavior (such as website visits, webinar registrations, white paper downloads)—or any combination of these attributes. You can apply weights to different lead attributes and come up with a lead score. Example: leads that score a one, two or three belong in marketing; leads scoring four or five are ready for sales.

The way that you score leads—and adjust their scores over time—is the foundation for all other best practices in lead nurturing.

2. Maintain prospect interest
If you do a good job of segmenting and scoring leads, you will gain a solid understanding of your prospects’ interests and needs. Your goal then is to feed them a steady supply of content and offers related to their needs and interests. Technical professionals are looking for information that will help them solve the problem they are facing, which is directly related to the reason they contacted you in the first place. They want to know how things work, how your product helps them complete a task, what their different options are and what are the latest technologies and newest products.

You can deliver this information in a variety of ways. New leads might be most interested in educational content such as infographics, blog posts, articles, white papers and webinars. Prospects that score a little higher would be looking for demos, product overviews and technical specs. The next level might include buying guides, ROI calculators and competitive differentiators. Get the right information to the right prospects and you will keep them engaged.

3. Watch for signs of progress
One reason lead nurturing programs exist is that the buy cycle can be long, complex and involve multiple decision makers. Prospects do not want to be pressured into making quick decisions. You must keep the long view and respect their timelines in your lead nurturing programs. That said, look for signs of prospects moving forward, and when they do, take appropriate action, such as passing them off to a sales representative or sending them a customized offer.

To do this requires that you keep track of what your prospects are doing and adjust their lead scores along the way. For example, a lead that scores one upon initial contact with your company could become a three after spending three months in your lead nurturing program, based on their digital behavior. Therefore, you must continually monitor your prospects, track their behavior and look for signs of progress that indicates a change in the status of their readiness to engage.

4. Use Marketing Automation
It’s possible to develop and execute a lead nurturing program using manual processes or spreadsheets, but marketing automation software is becoming a common tool and an investment might make economic sense. The fact is, your prospects are everywhere on digital media—websites, social media sites, online events, blogs, webinars, video sharing sites and more. They are downloading, clicking, reading, streaming, watching and commenting. Plus you’re likely using multiple digital channels in your quest to connect with prospects.

Marketing automation software allows you to capture all of this action across digital channels. It is built to excel at lead management and nurturing. It can help you manage all of this complexity by scoring leads, creating landing pages, tracking prospect actions, triggering automatic emails, reporting on the effectiveness of various content, producing analytics and much more.

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How do you nurture leads? What tips or strategies would you pass along to your peers in industrial marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Seven Strategies for Measuring Marketing ROI 1

The pressure has never been greater on marketers in the industrial sector to demonstrate results from their marketing programs. Yet many marketers aren’t able to measure ROI or don’t know how to begin. These seven strategies will help you. Not all of them may apply to your organization or situation, so pick the ones that make the most sense and use them. Soon you’ll gain a solid approach to measuring marketing ROI.

1. Shift the marketing conversation
Whether you are the executive making financial and budget decisions, or reporting to one who is, you need to reframe the marketing conversation. For example, rather than focusing measurement on marketing “activity,” focus on marketing “results.” Rather than presenting in terms of “defending” your marketing budget and having executives look at marketing as a “cost center,” advocate to alter perceptions so that marketing is considered an “investment in revenue and profitability.” This strategy may represent only an attitude or culture change, but it should definitely help in your efforts.

2. Design measurable programs
You’ve heard the cliché that you can’t manage what you can’t measure. It’s only a cliché because it expresses a universal truth. By committing only to measurable programs, you are laying the foundation for determining ROI. Fortunately, the best-performing programs today are digital media. And digital media by its nature is measurable. You can track impressions, clicks, inquiries, conversions, time on page, length of view, and more.

3. Choose measurements that matter
Focus on those measurements that can give you valuable insight leading to decisions that will improve your marketing program. Here are some measurements that matter:

  • The three V’s: Volume, Value, and Velocity. Volume is the count of leads or deals delivered by a marketing program. Value is how much that lead is worth; a program might not deliver a high volume of leads, but can still be a strong program because those leads produce a higher amount of sales. Velocity considers how fast a lead converts to a sale.
  • Cost per inquiry. Measure, but beware of deceptive results. For example, a program may have a high cost per inquiry but deliver highly qualified prospects and more sales. On the other hand, a program that delivers a low cost per inquiry might look good but not result in sales.
  • Brand awareness. Brand awareness is the fuel that powers other marketing programs and can help prospects accelerate through their buy cycle because they are familiar (and presumably comfortable) with your company and its reputation. Good measurements of brand awareness include how much of your target audience you get in front of, the frequency of being in front of them, and cost per branding tactic.

4. Meet the needs of financially-focused executives
Many of the metrics that marketers track—impressions, clicks, video views, engagement opportunities, and so on—may not interest financially-focused C-level executives. Their interest is in revenue, growth, and net contribution. If you need to demonstrate ROI to an executive team, you should think in terms of financial outcomes, which are the most challenging to measure in marketing.

If a sale occurs quickly after initial contact, or if you are using only a limited number of marketing channels, it may be apparent what program generated the engagement opportunity that led to the sale, making financial ROI easier to measure. But it’s not always this easy. The industrial buy cycle can be long and complex, involve multiple decision makers, and include many marketing touch points. So when the sale finally occurs, which marketing program(s) get the credit? Most likely, all of the touch points contributed to the sale.

Some financial-based measurement strategies include assigning all credit for a sale to the first, or last, touch point. This approach is an easy one to take, but also serious flaws. It can make otherwise effective marketing programs that helped contribute to the sale look bad, or weak marketing programs that may have been the first or last touch look better than they are. Another approach is to track all touch points for a customer and assign them a weight, then calculate a percentage contribution to each touch point.

5. Demonstrate ROI for early stages of buy cycle
Although many customers don’t initiate contact with a vendor until later in their buy cycle, you can still demonstrate ROI of marketing programs that 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. If you perform well in these measurements and show improvement over time, then you can reasonably assume your marketing is helping customers through their early stage buy cycle, and you are increasing opportunities to be on their list in later consideration and purchase stages.

6. Assign responsibility to ensure success
A person or a team should be assigned responsibility for measuring ROI. This includes tracking contacts and inquiries through the marketing and sales funnel, knowing the status of any contact or inquiry at any given time, and tracking all marketing touch points for any given customer or prospect. This is critical information as it is the only way you accurately measure the quality of your engagement opportunities, effectiveness of marketing programs, and the return you achieve.

7. Make decisions to drive improvements
Don’t just measure something because you can. Measure only what you can act upon to improve the performance of your marketing program. Each measurement should help you expand your understanding of how to make the program better and align it with your company’s strategic objectives. With every measurement, always ask: Why am I tracking this? What decisions will I be able to make? How will this help our program improve?

This post on measuring ROI was partially excerpted from “Taking a Strategic Approach to Digital Media.” This complimentary white paper also details ways to develop an effective digital media strategy and create a budget for digital marketing, as well as how to solve the challenge of measuring marketing ROI in this digital era. Download your copy today.

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Marketing Planning for 2014: 6 Ways to Evaluate Your Media Choices Reply

It’s time to take off the gloves and get tough with your 2014 marketing planning. That means taking a hard look at your media choices and drilling down to find out what really works and what doesn’t. Last month, in Part One of this annual two-part series, we posed six questions you should ask about your marketing efforts. You can access the article here. This month, we give you six criteria to evaluate your media choices to help you choose the right channels to meet your goals and objectives.

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You have many choices about where to spend your marketing dollars. Digital channels. Traditional channels. Some combination of the two. It almost makes you long for the days of being limited to trade publications and printed directories. However, those channels have reached their twilight years.

Today industrial professionals are online looking to discover products, services, and suppliers. In a recent IHS GlobalSpec survey, 81 percent of engineering, technical and industrial professionals reported spending three or more hours a week on the Internet for work-related purposes, with more than 31 percent indicating the spend nine or more hours a week online.

But before you allocate your marketing budget for 2014, hold each of your media choices up to the light of these six criteria:

1. Reach. At its foundation, effective marketing is about reaching as many of your target audience as you can: long reach, right people, right time. Do you know how many people you’re reaching with your marketing programs? Are they the people who will specify, recommend, and purchase your products and services? Also, consider this often overlooked question: do you reach your target audience at the right time, when they are actively looking for products and services?

More than 70 percent of engineers use the Internet to obtain product specifications, and more than 80 percent are online to find components, equipment, services, and suppliers. Online catalogs and searchable databases of datasheets and product pricing and availability, like Datasheets360.com, help you effectively reach active searchers.

2. Frequency. It’s the digital era. It’s a global economy. Who knows when engineers might engage in a quest to discover products and suppliers? The answer is anytime, all the time. Which means your target audience must be able to find you 24/7. Channels that offer continuous frequency include your company website, search engines, and online catalogs. Compare that to print directories that are typically published once a year or an annual tradeshow.

3. Timing. Don’t underestimate the importance of timing in your marketing programs. Timing is about making a connection with your prospects when they are proactively seeking products and services. In other words, hooking them when they’re hungry. There are many good channels for connecting with active searchers, including your company website, online catalogs, webinars, and online events. Print catalogs and print directories will help you reach active searchers, but you’ll miss out on reach, frequency, and the ability to measure ROI.

4. Return. ROI can be complex to measure, but it’s often smart to start by answering a simple question: For the marketing dollars you spend, what kind of return to you get in terms of brand awareness and engagement opportunities? For example, programs such as webinars tend to have high return because prospects have proactively registered for the event, which already indicates their interest. Inquiries on your website from existing customers also offer high return; it’s lower for new customers. Searchable online catalogs tend to deliver good engagement opportunities because only your target audience would be using them, as opposed to general search engines.

5. Contacts and Inquiries. Do your marketing channels deliver contacts and inquiries in real time or is there a lag between prospects expressing interest and you finding out about it, leading to stale data? Also, do you get contact information for individuals and do you know their expressed area of interest? Work with media partners and choose channels that provide real time contact information containing useful data. This will get you that much closer to a qualified prospect from the beginning.

6. Branding. Branding and awareness are key components in the marketing equation. A highly visible brand helps build trust with customers and can reduce the time between inquiry and closing a sale because your brand is already recognized by prospects. Your company website, along with webinars and other online events and e-newsletter advertisements, offer solid branding opportunities.

A final recommendation as you prepare for 2014: Get a complimentary copy of the IHS GlobalSpec 2014 Industrial Marketing Planning Kit. This valuable and trusted resource will help you make the most of your marketing budget and choose the optimal channels to reach your goals and objectives. Download your copy today.

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How do you evaluate your media choices? What tips and ideas about marketing planning would you pass along to your peers in industrial marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Marketers Must Help Customers Through Their Buy Cycle Reply

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.