The Story of Content Marketing in Five Statistics

The results are in! Content Marketing Institute recently released the research report, “Manufacturing Content Marketing: 2017 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America.”

Sponsored by IEEE Engineering360 Media Solutions, the report proclaims: “In the four years we’ve been reporting on how manufacturers use content marketing, this year’s results reveal the most progress they’ve made thus far. The fact that we see a 72 percent increase over last year in the percentage of manufacturing marketers who have a documented content marketing strategy indicates they’ve taken one of the most important steps toward achieving content marketing success: putting their strategy in writing.”

Not all of the research results point to success, however, and manufacturers must still overcome a number of content marketing challenges. The following five statistics, taken directly from the report, shed light on the state of content marketing today in the manufacturing sector.

1. Eighty-five percent of manufacturers are using content marketing
Manufacturers get it: content marketing is important. Done right, content marketing increases brand awareness and engagement opportunities with motivated prospects. Successful marketers set content marketing goals, establish metrics, and measure results.

Unfortunately, not all manufacturers are experts at content marketing. Only 19 percent would rate their content marketing maturity level as sophisticated or mature. That’s okay, for now. Almost all manufacturers are in the game, and should become more sophisticated as they gain more experience.
You still have to wonder about the 15 percent not using content marketing. What’s their story? It’s all in the report.

2. Forty-nine percent are extremely or very committed to content marketing
Look a little further and you’ll find that 74 percent of companies that say they’re successful at content marketing also indicate that they are extremely or very committed to content marketing. Only 23 percent of the least successful companies say they are committed to content marketing.

No surprise there – commitment and success go hand-in-hand. Overall, marketers are improving: 59 percent are much more or somewhat more successful with content marketing than they were a year ago.

Increased success in content marketing was attributed to factors including: content creation (higher quality, more efficient); strategy (development or adjustment); content marketing has become a greater priority; spending more time on content marketing; and content distribution (better targeting, identification of what works)

3. Seventy-eight percent of manufacturing marketers use email newsletters
Email is the top content marketing tactic, and was also rated as the most important tactic to overall content marketing success, further reinforcing email’s importance to industrial marketing efforts.

The next most popular content marketing tactics are, in order: social media content, video, in-person events, print magazines, and blogs. Ebooks/white papers are also in the top 10, with 49 percent of respondents using that tactic. The average number of tactics used is eight.

In terms of paid content promotion, manufacturing marketers use an average of four methods, with social promotion, print, search engine marketing, banner ads, and native advertising rounding out the top five.

4. Eighty-two percent say that brand awareness is their top content marketing goal
While lead generation is often a marketers’ top goal, this isn’t the case when it comes to content marketing campaigns. Why? Content marketing can’t and shouldn’t stand alone. Rather, it should be included as part of an integrated program – to gain the attention of a target audience, educate and inform them, demonstrate thought leadership, and build brand awareness. And yes—generate leads.

Other content marketing goals include lead generation (71 percent), engagement (70 percent), sales (62 percent), lead nurturing (58 percent) and customer retention/loyalty (53 percent).

5. Sixty-seven percent don’t have enough time to devote to content marketing
Like economics, marketing can be considered a science of scarcity: how to allocate limited time, budget, and resources to what seems like an unlimited amount of marketing that must be done.

Lack of time was cited as the number one factor that resulted in stagnant content marketing success in the past year. Other leading factors included content creation challenges—62 percent; and strategy issues (lack of strategy, developing/adjusting strategy)—51 percent.

The reality is that content marketing can be a huge undertaking. You need to develop a coherent and integrated content marketing strategy, define measurable goals, create and distribute content, track performance and more.

And yet, 57 percent of industrial companies are limited to a one person marketing/content marketing team that serves the entire organization. That’s a lot of pressure.

Companies strapped for content marketing resources—yet still committed to content marketing because of its proven value—should consider using content marketing services from their media partners. IEEE Engineering360 Media Solutions offers expert content marketing services to help you develop compelling content, get it into the hands of your target audience, and generate engagement opportunities. You can find out more here.

And don’t forget to download your complimentary copy of the research report: “Manufacturing Content Marketing: 2017 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America.”
 

Content Marketing E-Mail Marketing Market Research Marketing Strategy Marketing Trends Marketing, General

Three Ways to Connect with Content

The recent “2017 Pulse of Engineering Survey” reveals how engineers and technical professionals work, the pace of engineering, their work environment, what they look for in a supplier and more.

The upcoming survey makes it clear that it’s more important than ever for suppliers to ramp up their content marketing efforts. Why? Engineers are being forced to do more with less, and are turning to outside vendors more and more for design input and technical information. Content marketing is a great way to provide this experience and demonstrate value to your customers and prospects.

But what kind of content are engineers looking for? And how do suppliers ramp up their content marketing efforts? The survey results help shine a light on the answers.

1. Seventy-one percent of engineers and technical professionals say that designs are more complex/sophisticated, 63 percent say there are more time-to-market pressures, and 61 percent say that design cycles are shrinking.

Your customers are looking to you for expertise. Thirty-eight percent of engineers and technical professionals said that design involvement from external partners, vendors and customers has increased. However, expect engineers to choose their outside influences judiciously. You can increase your opportunities to get closer to customers by creating content that markets your value proposition and approach to partnering on design. Why should customers consider partnering with you? White papers, webinars or technical articles can help get your message across.

2. Forty-five percent of engineers said that knowledge/information loss was very important or extremely important as employees left the company. But only 36 percent of companies have formal practices in place to preserve knowledge by leveraging senior-level and specialized experts.

What types of content can you produce that will align with your customers’ needs to preserve, protect and pass on knowledge? Approach customers and offer to form a partnership to develop a technical knowledge base or a library of articles. With many seasoned engineers nearing retirement age, it makes sense to reach out to a younger generation of technical professionals through articles, white papers, technical briefs and more to help them fill in knowledge gaps. Highlight your point of view on major industry trends and position your company as a thought leader and knowledgeable authority.

3. Colleagues, books, and technical white papers and training provided by vendors are the four most effective ways that engineers maintain and advance their professional skills.

The message here is pretty clear—offer technical content and training to educate engineers and help them advance their professional skills. Develop a series of training webinars or educational white papers that will help engineers grow their skills and knowledge as well as perform better in their jobs. If you can become a go-to resource for engineers to learn and improve, you will build a stable base of long-term, loyal customers. Engineers are asking for help. Give them the content they need.

I’m Ready to Create and Connect – Now What?

You may embrace the idea of ramping up your content marketing, but just don’t have the time and resources to do it. If you really want to overcome content marketing challenges, gain back time and earn a return on investment, you should probably consider turnkey content marketing services from a trusted media partner.

Content development and content marketing are just two of many services available from IEEE Engineering360 Media Solutions. Check out all the advantages here. Also, to further advance your content marketing efforts, download the complimentary white paper: “Content Marketing for Industrial Marketers: Establish Thought Leadership, Build Brand Awareness, and Drive Engagement Opportunities.”
 

Content Marketing Marketing Strategy

Why Print Media Should Still be Part of Your Advertising Mix

For the past few years, the B2B marketing world has been buzzing about the rise and relevance of digital media. It’s true that there are many digital channels available to help companies connect with their potential customers. From social media to webinars, online catalogs to video, email to apps—B2B marketing has experienced a sea of change.

Conversely, spending on print is declining. According to research from CMO Survey, investments in traditional advertising have consistently dropped by single digit percentages each year for the last half decade. Digital marketing spend, by comparison, has consistently grown by double digit increments year after year.

And yet, data shows that print media still plays a role in a successful multichannel marketing strategy:

• The CMO Survey also found that digital spend is only a portion of total marketing spend for most businesses, and that companies are also spending marketing dollars on offline/traditional media.
• Fifty-seven percent of B2B marketers use print or other offline promotions as part of their marketing mix.. (2016 B2B Content Marketing Trends – North America: Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs)

The Benefits of Print
There are many benefits to reaching your customers using print media. Print is still a top-of-funnel medium, and can help you establish the value of your brand. Additional benefits of print include:

• With print circulation down, readership for most publications has been culled to only the most engaged, targeted audience, which is a desirable trait from an advertising standpoint.
• Print is perceived to offer credibility, especially in the B2B industrial space.
• Readers of print are not interrupted by targeted digital ads being served up in real-time based on browsing history or digital footprint.
• Readers are more focused when engaged with print, rather than multitasking like they do when consuming digital content.
• Print offers pass-along exposure among colleagues.
• Print offers high visibility—fewer ads mean more impact.

Finding Where Print Belongs
Research by the sales and marketing firm Outsell showed that marketers are increasing the number of tools in their marketing stack. Research from Lewis PR found that 84 percent of senior marketers worldwide state multichannel marketing is a key focus of their current marketing strategy.

Print advertising can still have a place within your stack of tools and overall marketing mix. . The question is finding the right fit in an integrated and multichannel marketing program.

When choosing print media, keep in mind that the real value in print advertising may be in brand awareness and perception, and in getting your message or offer to stick over the long run. By simultaneously using both print and digital media, you can achieve concurrency of media and have a greater opportunity to connect with your target audience in different settings—whether they are at their desks, on their mobile device or offline.

Measuring the effectiveness of print is easier than in the past.. Do this by integrating print and digital efforts. Marketers can include scannable QR codes, or set up ad-specific URLs and corresponding landing pages so that they can track how much traffic is generated from a particular print promotion.

Digital channels are more plentiful, and offer concrete measurements and flexibility. Plus, the majority of the technical audience goes online first when searching for product, services and suppliers. However, a well-planned print should still play an role in your marketing mix – as long as it’s integrated with
digital in your multichannel marketing strategy.

Tell us – Where do you see value in print advertising? How are you merging digital and print?

Industrial Marketing and Sales Marketing Strategy Marketing, General Multichannel Marketing Thought Leadership

Five Industrial Marketing Trends that Matter in 2017

With the new year comes a fresh perspective and another chance to improve and optimize your marketing program. To make sure your plan is rock solid, check out the top industrial marketing trends for 2017 from the Marketing Maven and consider how to best implement them into your own strategy.

Trend #1: Media Mix is More Diversified
With so many media channels now in use, marketers have more competition than ever for share of voice, making it harder to capture the attention of your audience. Moving into 2017, we predict that more industrial marketers will incorporate a carefully planned, comprehensive mix of channels into their marketing plans.

According to a Content Marketing Institute/Marketing Profs survey, marketers use an average of 13 different channels to promote their message to the market. Leading the way are social media content, case studies, blogs and e-newsletters. B2B marketers also use an average of three paid advertising channels. The top three are search engine marketing, print or other offline promotion, and traditional banner ads. It’s not just paid search engine ads anymore.

The Industrial Marketing Trends Survey from IEEE Engineering360 shows that about 80 percent of industrial marketers are diversifying their mix, but the majority say they need to diversify more. If this describes your situation, you might want to work with media partners, agencies and other experts to help you determine the most effective mix for you.

Trend #2: Digital Spend Will Continue to Grow
The statistics are plentiful: At $83 billion, digital B2B spending outweighs all other B2B marketing spending by two times or more (Outsell). Forty-two percent of industrial marketers are growing their online budgets. Online display advertising is up 28 percent, while email spending is up 9.1 percent (Winterberry Group). Overall, 41 percent of marketing budgets will be spent online, a percentage that steadily increases year over year (Industrial Marketing Trends).
Industrial marketers are increasing their spending across a diverse mix of channels. The top areas of increased spending are content creation, search engine marketing, direct mail using in-house lists, social media, online directories/websites, and webinars. With the exception of direct mail, all of these channels are online or directly impact online marketing efforts. Digital is where your peers are focusing more marketing budget, and we expect this focus to continue in the year ahead.

Trend #3: Measuring ROI is a Priority and a Challenge
The pressure continues to rise for marketers to demonstrate ROI on marketing investments. Marketing budgets have gotten tighter, and are often under more scrutiny by executives. Additionally, the growth of digital media channels means an increased ability to measure marketing efforts — making demonstrating ROI no longer the exception, but the rule.

According to The Content Formula by Michael Brenner, 81 percent of B2B marketers say that measuring marketing effectiveness is their greatest challenge. But how is success measured? It depends on what metrics matter.
Salesforce reported that revenue growth is the top metric for digital marketing success. This makes sense, although it is often difficult to attribute a sale to a specific marketing program. A prospect has many touches with a potential supplier and there are often many decision makers and influencers involved before a purchasing decision is made. Hence, it remains a challenge to attach revenue gains to specific marketing initiatives.

After revenue growth, customer satisfaction and retention rates are the most important measures of success. In this way, the industrial space mirrors the overall B2B space. The number one metric of success is sales attributed to marketing campaigns. After that, metrics such as customer acquisition, customer satisfaction, leads and customer retention come into play.

Twelve percent of industrial marketers don’t have a method to measure success. If you fall into this category, consider working with your executive team and media partners to determine what results matter to you, and how you can begin measuring them.

Trend #4: Content is the Kingdom
As marketing expert Lee Odden says, “Content isn’t king. It’s the kingdom.” Content marketing is becoming more evolved, more sophisticated and is driving key performance indicators and measurements. Content is how companies get their message out to the market.

In a recent Content Marketing Institute survey, 88 percent of B2B respondents say they are using content in some way, shape or form. However, effectiveness varies. Only eight percent say they are sophisticated content marketers. Eleven percent say they are just taking first steps and have not yet made content marketing a process. Everyone else falls somewhere between these two extremes.

If you are just getting started with content marketing, you are not alone. Thirty-nine percent of industrial marketers are in the same situation (Industrial Marketing Trends). This means that 2017 presents a big opportunity for improvement and success in this area. Be sure to devote time and resources this year to developing a content strategy, producing engaging content on a consistent basis, and measuring content effectiveness.

Trend #5: Email Marketing Maintains its Value
You may have heard that email is dead, but that simply isn’t true. Email has remained a cornerstone marketing tactic for B2B marketers for almost two decades. With mobile phones and tablets, your audience can connect with email almost anytime, anywhere. And don’t forget that email marketing offers easy to measure metrics like opens, clicks, forwards and conversions.

Data reinforces email’s continued popularity and effectiveness. Salesforce reported that 73 percent of marketers believe email marketing is core to their business, 65 percent say email is an effective marketing channel and 58 percent are increasing their email marketing spend. Newsletters are the most popular email marketing tactic.

As you continue to shape your marketing efforts in 2017, be sure to keep email in your portfolio. If you already publish a newsletter, consider advertising in other industry newsletters to reach a broader yet still targeted audience.

Where do you see 2017 heading for industrial marketers? Comment below and tell us where you’re focusing your efforts in the year ahead.

Digital Media Industrial Marketing and Sales Market Research Marketing Strategy Marketing Trends Marketing, General Thought Leadership

Connect with Potential Customers Throughout the Buy Cycle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asked about which sources of information they typically use when purchasing products and services, engineers and technical professionals have settled on several:
• Colleagues
• Search engines and the websites of suppliers and other industry players
• GlobalSpec.com/Engineering360.com and its e-newsletters
• Catalogs—online or print
• Printed publications, directories and buyer’s guides (including materials from industry standards organizations like IEEE or ASME)
• Trade shows and conferences
• Educational materials such as video as well as white papers and webinars
• Online communities, blogs and social media

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

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

Industrial Marketing and Sales Marketing Strategy Marketing Trends

How to Meet Marketing ROI Milestones

 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/

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2017 Marketing Planning: Part 2

 Last month we got you jump-started with marketing planning for 2017, offering advice on evaluating your current marketing program, identifying trends that will affect your strategy moving forward, and pointing out ways to align your marketing efforts with business goals. Read Part 1 here. This month, as we’re nearing the final quarter of the year, we offer tips to help you develop the optimal marketing plan that fits your budget and targets your audience of engineers and industrial professionals.

Meet the Mandate of Multichannel Marketing
Recent research (Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector) demonstrates just how important digital media is to your audience. Seventy-one percent of technical professionals visit at least six websites each week for work-related purposes. Nearly half of technical professionals use 10 or more work-related websites each week.

Due to this diversification, you will find it increasingly difficult to capture your target audience’s attention by using only a limited suite of online channels in your marketing efforts. Instead, try to diversify your marketing spend across multiple channels to generate the results you need.

There are proven benefits to engaging in multichannel marketing. Manufacturers that can display their products and services simultaneously across multiple markets will have the best opportunity to gain new customers. According to the research firm Outsell, advertisers will achieve higher ROI by investing in well-designed cross-media campaigns than by relying on any single media channel. This is known as the Cross-Media Multiplier—integrated cross media campaigns perform better than single channel campaigns.

Focus on the Channels Your Audience Uses
Given the benefits of the Cross-Media Multiplier, wouldn’t it be great if you could use every possible marketing channel available to you? Unfortunately, reality and budgets prohibit such a strategy, which is why you must prioritize your marketing investments according to your audience’s behavior and how well your programs work together.

Your goal should be to maximize the visibility of your brand and opportunities for engagement. When researching a work-related purchase, the top three channels for technical professionals are search engines, online catalogs, and supplier websites. But in reality, your audience uses many other digital channels to keep up with the latest technologies, product news, companies, and brands.

Webinars, e-newsletters, industry sites, and social media are all important influences on your customers’ buying decisions. To fund additional digital channels, consider moving investments away from traditional channels such as print that may no longer perform well or that are difficult to measure.

Invest in Content Marketing
Your customers and prospects are constantly looking for content to help them solve problems, understand new technologies, and make more informed buying decisions. Suppliers that can deliver valuable, authoritative content can position their companies as industry experts, build trust with prospects, and ultimately make it easier for sales teams to close deals and drive revenue.

Research from the Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs found that 88% of B2B marketers are using content marketing. You should, too.

Plan out the content you will need by creating an editorial calendar. Match up content to expected events in 2017, such as new product launches or major announcements. You’ll also need to line up resources for producing and/or repurposing content. Next, select the channels for distributing content. Here’s where your multichannel strategy pays off. For example, you can promote a webinar in an e-newsletter advertisement or on social media and drive prospects to your site to register.

Use Only Measurable Marketing Programs
Marketers are under tremendous pressure to demonstrate return on marketing investment (ROMI). However, ROMI can be complex to measure because it’s highly unlikely that any single campaign or tactic can be correlated on a one-to-one basis with a sale, especially in industries with long and complex buy cycles. Most prospects will have multiple touches with your company throughout their buy cycle. Keep track of all touchpoints because your tactics and channels work together.

A good starting point for measuring ROMI is answering a simple question: For the total marketing dollars you spend, what kind of return do you get in terms of engagement opportunities? 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. Specialized search engines and searchable catalogs tend to deliver good engagement opportunities because only your target audience would be using them, as opposed to general search engines which are used by everyone.

Work with Media Partners
Preparing an integrated, multichannel marketing plan is challenging, which is why it’s best to start now. As you begin, consult with an experienced digital media partner that understands and has the attention of the industrial audience you need to reach. Discuss your marketing objectives and have your media partners help you develop an integrated, multichannel media plan that will help achieve your goals and objectives.

2017 Industrial Marketing Planning Kit
IEEE Engineering360 Media Solutions created the 2017 Industrial Marketing Planning Kit to help you develop an effective marketing plan that targets your audience of engineering and technical professionals. Add this valuable resource to your 2017 planning efforts today. Click here to download.

Marketing Strategy

2017 Marketing Planning – Part 1

We know what you’re thinking: Is it that time already? Yes, it is. The year passes quickly. Even though you’re deep into executing this year’s marketing programs, we’re about to enter the fourth quarter of 2016 and that means it’s time to start marketing planning for 2017.

It’s best to proactively plan your marketing efforts and gather evidence to justify your expected expenditures. This way you can receive executive endorsement and be ready to go when the timing is right. Companies getting an early start on their marketing plan can get a jump on competitors and will be better positioned going into the new year to win business.

This two-part series (Part 2 next month) will help you create an effective marketing plan for 2017 that aligns with market and customer trends, fits your budget, and helps achieve your marketing goals. Part 1 focuses on evaluating your current marketing program and understanding the trends that will affect your strategy for 2017. Part 2, next month, will offer tips to help you develop the optimal marketing plan.

Assess performance of your current plan
How are your current marketing programs performing? The complimentary “2017 Industrial Planning Marketing Kit” includes a number of tools to help you measure the performance of your marketing programs. It has a chart to plot the engagement and branding capabilities of your current programs and to identify gaps, a reference table to measure the quality of your contacts and inquiries, and a matrix to help you analyze the effectiveness of your expenditures across various media channels.

Access your complimentary copy of the “2017 Industrial Planning Marketing Kit” here.

If you are deploying any marketing program that you can’t measure, you’re taking a huge risk because you have no idea if you’re wasting resources that could be better invested in measurable programs. Measurability is just one of many reasons why industrial marketers are increasing their use of digital media. Digital marketing programs offer the inherent advantage of measurement through page views, clicks, downloads, conversions, and other trackable metrics. You also gain the advantage of connecting with technical professionals where they turn first to find suppliers, products, and services: the Internet.

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

The trend in the industrial sector—in all corners of the B2B economy—is toward digital. According to the research firm Outsell, digital B2B spending outweighs other B2B investments by two times or more.

Today, technical professionals have a broad portfolio of digital tools and sources of information to do their jobs better and more efficiently. They are exposed to more companies, are driven by personal digital preferences, have more power in the buying process, and can choose from a variety of vendors when they are ready to make a purchase decision.

When customers have many tools at their disposal, marketers can’t rely on a single channel, such as a company website. You should broaden and deepen your online presence to engage technical professionals in ways that match their searching and sourcing preferences. General search engines, websites, online catalogs, e-newsletters, webinars, and social media are some of the popular channels engineers use to source information and research purchases. Broadening your presence across multiple channels will also help you fend off increased competition online, as increasing numbers of companies allocate more of their marketing dollars to digital media.

Assess your content
Eighty-eight percent of B2B marketers use content marketing, according to 2016 research conducted jointly by the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs. And in the words of renowned digital marketing strategist Lee Odden, “Content isn’t king. It’s the kingdom.” Almost all effective marketing revolves around the ability to deliver relevant content.

To avoid long lead times, now is the time to audit your content and determine what content you will need to create, refine, or repurpose to support your 2017 marketing plan and goals. Also make sure your marketing collateral and website are up-to-date with current messaging and the latest product versions.

Align with your company’s 2017 business plan
If your company is planning to introduce new products, expand to new markets or customer segments, or launch other strategic initiatives in 2017, you will need to build your marketing plan and create content to account for these initiatives.
Meet with executives to learn about the timing of new plans. You should also meet with sales leaders to understand revenue growth objectives. This will not only give you information you need to create your marketing plan, it will demonstrate that you are proactive about developing a plan that supports your company’s goals and objectives.

It’s also time to start talking about budgets and gaining approvals. If you wait too long, you might be playing catch up and end up unable to solidify your marketing plan until the new year has already begun. Be ready to talk about what’s working and what isn’t in 2016, and how you can make improvements to be more effective in 2017.

2017 Industrial Marketing Planning Kit
IEEE Engineering360 Media Solutions created the 2017 Industrial Marketing Planning Kit to help you develop an effective marketing plan that targets your audience of engineering and technical professionals. Add this valuable resource to your 2017 planning efforts today. Click here to download.

Marketing Strategy

Five Ways to Get Closer to Your Audience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Customer Relationships Industrial Marketing and Sales Marketing Strategy

Does Branding Still Matter in the Digital Age?

This is the digital age in the industrial sector—in every market really. Engineers and technical buyers have access to more information and resources than ever before to research and support their buying decisions.

From industry-specific websites and e-newsletters, to social media, webinars and customer ratings, digital channels and content have helped to level the playing field for competitors and are driving a fundamental shift in how industrial professionals discover, evaluate and purchase products and services.

As an industrial marketer you might be asking: With all of this information now easily available, does branding still matter?

The answer depends on how you define branding. If you still think of branding in terms of its origins when ranchers seared into their cattle a distinctive and recognizable ownership mark, then branding probably doesn’t matter that much. A pretty logo, slick collateral, or an impressive tradeshow display—while nice to have—might not sway buyers in your direction.

But if you think of branding as a strategic initiative that encompasses everything your company does to build trust and credibility with customers and prospects, then branding matters. If you accept the fact that your brand is defined by how customers and prospects think and feel about your company, products and services, then branding is more important now more than ever.

The fact is, while the number of channels and the volume of content have provided engineers with more information and choices, they may be overwhelmed with the flood of options available to them, and as always they are still faced with the possibility of making the wrong buying decision.
On the other hand, if they buy from a company whose brand they trust and respect, they will have more confidence in their decision. Therefore, branding matters. A lot.

Here are five reasons why you should still invest in creating a strong brand:

1. Strong brands reduce risk for customers and prospects. You’ve heard the expression, “No one has ever gotten fired for buying IBM.” That might be the greatest brand statement in history. What it means is that buying from IBM is the right choice because its brand is reputable and safe. Many companies who might have offered better products and feature sets lost business to IBM simply because of IBM’s brand strength. A strong brand mitigates the perception of risk that accompanies significant investments and alleviates some of the fear that buyers inevitably experience when they’re facing a major purchase decision.

2. A strong brand offers clarity. Effective branding puts a stake in the ground that says to all involved: “This is who we are, this is what we do, this is why we do it.” As a customer, you know what you’re getting when you know what a brand stands for.

3. A strong brand fosters trust. Business is all about relationships, even when the products offered for sale might be perceived as commodity components. And relationships are based on trust. Without trust, there is no transaction. If a potential customer trusts your brand, he or she is more likely to buy from you.

4. A strong brand builds customer loyalty. Many industrial companies have customers they have supplied for years. These are your loyal customers. They buy from you with confidence. They buy knowing their expectations will be met and that any issues will be quickly resolved.

5. A strong brand can shorten the sales cycle. If your brand is known and recognized in your market and among potential customers, your company’s sales people can save a lot of time by not having to explain what your company is about and why a prospect should buy from you. With an unknown brand, sales people are starting at the bottom rung with every sales opportunity, working to convince prospects that your company and products are worthy.

Get to Work on Branding
Branding should be an important part of your marketing strategy, if it isn’t already. Fortunately, branding tactics don’t have to work in isolation; they can also help to generate engagement opportunities with your target audience.

Programs such as display advertising on industrial websites can expand your reach and increase visibility and awareness of your brand. E-newsletter advertising can get your brand into the inbox of motivated engineers and industrial professionals. And webinars and other content marketing efforts can help position your company and brand as experts and thought leaders in your industry.

Branding still matters. Talk to your media partners about programs to strengthen your company’s brand.

Marketing Strategy Marketing, General