How-To: Developing a Content Strategy

One of your goals as an industrial marketer is to provide prospects with useful, relevant content that helps educate them, improves their decision-making capabilities, and increases their confidence level in their final purchase decision. According to the GlobalSpec Industrial Buy Cycle Survey, 83% of buyers review up to three pieces of content before making a decision on purchases under $1,000, while 70% of buyers review four or more pieces of content on purchases greater than $10,000.

This content is usually educational rather than sales-oriented in nature, fits different types of prospect needs at various points in their buying cycle, and can take many forms: white papers, data sheets, videos, Webinars/Webcasts, case studies, ROI calculators, and more. To provide this level of depth and relevancy, your company should have a content strategy. Developing a content strategy requires a continuum of steps that includes analyzing your audience, determining content gaps, creating content, delivering content, and ongoing content management. Let’s look at each step.

Analyze your audience
Planning your content needs starts with analyzing your audience. You should understand who your customers are, how they make buying decisions, and what type of information they need.

Even if your company sells only a few types of products, your customers’ buying behavior can vary widely. Typically, there are three different types of buyers, all of whom might be involved in the purchase decision. You will likely need content to meet the information needs of each of these buyers:

• Analytic buyers are concerned about whether the product being considered can solve the problem they face.
• Technical buyers care about how well a product works or fits within their company’s technology environment.
• Economic buyers are focused on achieving a return on investment for their purchase.

Determine gaps in content
Once you understand your audience, it’s time to assess your existing library of content and how it matches up to your audience’s needs. You probably already have a lot of content: Web pages, PDFs, white papers, presentations, case studies, perhaps some videos and Webcasts and blog entries.

Compile and organize all of your content and map it your analytic, technical, and economic buyers. What’s missing? It could be a lot. Plus, you may have new initiatives on the horizon and new products coming out. You’ll need to develop content for those as well. This is also a good time to archive any content that is out of date or no longer relevant in terms of messaging or positioning.

Create new content
You may have a long list of content you need to create. The good news is you don’t have to tackle it all at once. Prioritize the most important pieces that need to be created. There’s a good chance you can re-use or re-purpose some existing content. For example, maybe you can re-purpose a technical white paper into a best-practices brief or a series of blog entries for an analytic buyer.

Here’s another example: if you’re short on content for the economic buyer, consider creating an ROI calculator or customer case studies or video testimonials that talk about financial benefits. For analytical buyers, try a white paper that explains your company’s innovative approach to solving a customer problem.

You may need to harness additional resources to create content. Either recruit some team members or hire freelancers who have expertise in your subject matter.

Deliver content to your audience
Here’s where your marketing acumen comes into play. You probably already know that the vast majority of industrial buyers go online to find content, and that’s where you should focus your publishing efforts:

• Post all content on your Web site
• Place articles, white papers, and videos on industrial sites such as GlobalSpec
• Promote your Webinars and white papers through advertisements in industry-focused e-newsletters and to your own in-house e-mail lists
• Give presentations at online events

Manage content moving forward
One advantage of publishing content online is that you can see how popular it is with your audience by tracking page views, click-throughs, downloads, and time spent viewing videos. Create more content like the most popular content; archive the duds.

You’ll also want to come up with a simple system such as a spreadsheet to track all of your content. Add fields to your spreadsheet for audience, format (white paper, video, etc.), publication date, metrics on popularity, expiration date (if there is one), and anything else that would be useful to know. Place content that becomes out of date or is no longer relevant to an archive—you might be able to re-purpose or use some of it later in new materials you create. Then, at least once a year, start over with an analysis of your audience and continue through the content strategy steps.

Industrial Marketing and Sales Marketing, General Web Sites – Design & Usability

5 Steps to a 100% Lift in Key Metrics

The Marketing Sherpa recently posted a case study on a campaign that brought an IT consulting business extremely impressive results. 125% increase in unique site visitors? 153% increase in average page views per visit? With a mix of traditional marketing and website redesign, your site could get some serious attention.

These are the steps outlined in the article:

Step #1: Before you get started, identify your key targets. Who are your strongest customer segments? Are you looking to target by location? Consider your top 2-3 customer groups you want to reach.

Step #2: Then you can begin to redesign your homepage with those targets in mind. This redesign does not have to be a full overhaul of your site, either. The goal is to help prospects immediately find a click path into your website. In this case, they added large buttons in a billboard that were labeled after their target audiences.

Step #3: Even if your overall message is the same, tweak your standard copy so that each target audience feels that your message is unique to them. For example, when a prospect clicks on their button on your homepage, you can bring them to copy that includes your overall benefits and features that have simply been reworded to appeal to their specific needs.

Step #4: Reach your target prospects with direct mail. Once you’ve added your site updates, send out a postcard conveying your core message with a call-to-action.

Step #5: Simply enough – follow up with those postcard recipients. For example, your team could begin placing phone calls 3-4 days later to conduct a free evaluation of their needs and to schedule an on-site visit.

Their results were fantastic – imagine how tailoring a classic campaign like this to your organization could help you reach new prospects and bring in business in areas you never have before!

Read the full case study here:

Marketing, General Usability Web Sites – Design & Usability

Landing Pages: 10 Tips to Improve

A landing page is a custom-designed single Web page a visitor arrives at when clicking on an advertisement or other link. Usually its sole purpose is to capture leads for a marketing campaign. Effective landing pages are essential to successful online marketing and are probably the single biggest factor in determining whether or not you will convert a Web visitor into a lead willing to give you their contact information.

Follow these 10 tips to create compelling landing pages that deliver a strong, clear message and entice industrial professionals to accept your offer.

1. Brand your landing page.
Your company logo and name should be visible on the landing page so visitors immediately know who is responsible for the content. This is important whether your company is widely recognized in the industrial sector or not. Visitors want to know whose site they are on – it increases their comfort level and trust.

2. Provide continuity between ad and landing page.
An industrial professional sees an ad that grabs their attention and clicks to learn more. If you use graphics and copy on the landing page similar to your ad, the visitor will know they’ve come to the right place. You’ll also be repeating the image or offer that motivated them to click in the first place, further increasing their desire to get what they came for.

3. Sell, sell, sell your offer.
Whether you are offering a white paper, a Webinar registration, a free product sample, or other valuable content, your goal is get visitors to accept your offer. Create a clear call-to-action and place it prominently near the top of the landing page. Use a bold button: “Download Now” or “Register Today.” Repeat the call to action as text links on other parts of the page.

4. Be brief and to the point.
Write as little copy as possible to put forth a compelling value proposition that your visitor will act upon. Focus copy on the benefits of accepting your offer. Use bold headlines, bullet points and short sentences and paragraphs. Remember that people skim-read on the Web. There are times where longer, more detailed copy is appropriate, but it should be written keeping in mind that many people will merely scan what is written. Getting right to the point will get it done.

5. Leave out the navigation.
Don’t include your main Web site navigation on your landing pages. That only invites your visitors to click away from your offer, which will likely cost you a potential lead. But you say you want to give them options just in case your offer doesn’t entice them. It’s not worth it. You’ll lose other would-be leads because some visitors can’t resist clicking around, never to return. Stay focused on your offer. Remember that logo you added to the landing page? Have it link to your home page if you want.

6. Avoid clutter on the page.
Design clean, open pages. Use big, easy-to-read fonts and plenty of white space. Show visitors exactly where to look (at your value proposition and offer). You may be tempted to cram as much as possible on the page, assuming more information is better. But resist the urge to over-explain. If your offer is too complicated to articulate in a single page, either re-think the offer or add a couple of pop-up links that provide extra info without requiring the visitor to navigate away from your page.

7. Make no mistakes.
This is true of any Web page. Triple-check your copy for grammatical or spelling errors. Make sure links work and forms submit. Many people are turned off by mistakes and that alone will cause people to click away. You’ll not only miss out on leads, you could damage your brand reputation as well. If your landing page isn’t correct, what does that say about your products or work processes?

8. Simplify the form.
Long, complicated forms with many required fields are an invitation to abandon the page. One look at such a form can turn otherwise interested prospects away. Your goal is to capture a lead to make initial contact. Ask for name, company, e-mail address, and maybe a phone number. That’s all you need. The rest of the information can be filled in later as you begin to engage with your new lead and learn more about their needs.

9. Test page variations.
Let’s say you’re running an ad for three consecutive months in an industrial e-newsletter. Try out three variations of the landing page to see which performs best. Experiment by placing the call-to-action in different places, using different words, different page layouts, and long versus short copy. Incorporate your findings into the next version until you have a page that performs at its best.

10. Do something with your new leads — right away.
This isn’t about the landing page itself, but it’s important to the success of your campaign. Respond as soon as possible to all leads you get through your landing pages. You could even set up an automated response system that sends out an e-mail to thank the prospect for accepting your offer and providing links to other information that will be of interest to them (now that you’ve captured the lead, go ahead and give them more content options).

Industrial Marketing and Sales Marketing, General Web Sites – Design & Usability

Industrial Video SEO

As engineering and industrial technical users’ media consumption preferences shift towards video, it’s only natural for industrial marketers to increasingly utilize video to promote their products and services. This shift towards increased utilization of video promotion has been seen on GlobalSpec, as suppliers have incorporated videos into their product announcements and information pages.

In the sprint to create video content, it’s important for marketers remember SEO when publishing their video content. The most compelling video content is useless if prospective customers can’t find it.

Be sure to use keywords in your video title and description (in a way that makes sense for human readers) so that when it is indexed by search engines your video will appear in the results pages for those terms.

Saavy marketers are also including closed captions and/or external textual transcripts of their videos along with the video itself, which has the dual benefit of making the content accessible to those with hearing impairments (or just with no sound capability on their PC), while providing additional fodder for the search engines to index.

What techniques do you use to make sure your videos get found?

Industrial Marketing and Sales SEO Social Media Web Sites – Design & Usability

By Definition: Keywords are Key to SEO Success

What is the reason for all of the mixed messages surrounding SEO? The tactics required to achieve high search engine rankings are complex and ever-changing. The one thing that hasn’t changed is the importance of identifying and using the right set of keywords in your SEO efforts.

According to our 2010 Economic Outlook Survey, your prospects and customers use the Internet to do research, request price quotes, purchase parts/products, compare suppliers and perform other work-related activities. More and more, you need to get your online presence ready to attract attention and rank higher on search engines.

None of this may be news to you. There is plenty of buzz today around online marketing terminology such as SEO, keywords, web crawlers and search engine ranking. What most of us don’t understand is what this boils down to in terms of commitment, tactics and what the trick is to actually getting results.

Industrial Marketing and Sales SEO Web Sites – Design & Usability

Why Your Web Site Isn’t Enough

Your company may have a robust, full-featured Web site, complete with a searchable online catalog, product specification sheets, technical articles, intuitive navigation, a site map and more. If this is the case, you should be commended for a job well done.

Yet, in the digital age, having a great Web site isn’t enough to help you rise above your competitors and gain the attention of potential customers. The fact is, your target audience and customers use a variety of online sources to seek out suppliers, products and information. Your company Web site is one of those sources—and an important source—but it’s not the only one, and usually not the first one that potential customers find.

According to the 2010 GlobalSpec Industrial Buy Cycle Survey, in the early stages of the buy cycle, when buyers are defining needs, conducting research, and identifying vendors, a broad array of information sources are used, including social media, Webinars, e-newsletters, search engines and GlobalSpec. It’s not until buyers reach the procurement stage of the cycle that supplier Web sites become the most important information source.

Industrial Marketing and Sales Marketing, General Web Sites – Design & Usability

Three Tactics that Belong in Your Marketing Mix in 2010

The 2010 economy is showing signs of recovery and suppliers must apply marketing pressure to generate prospect interest and win their share of new business. This year, make sure you have these three tactics in your marketing mix, each of them effective for connecting with an industrial audience where they are looking for products, services, and suppliers—online.

Events Industrial Marketing and Sales Web Sites – Design & Usability

Winning Landing Pages: An Eight-Point Checklist

If you want to increase your conversion rate from online marketing programs—and we know you do—pay close attention to the landing page that prospects visit after clicking on one of your ads. Well-written and professional-looking landing pages that fulfill visitors’ needs will help you convert more visitors into qualified leads for your company.

With landing pages, you have little margin for error. The majority of visitors will click away from your page within a few seconds of arriving, unless you compel them to stay. Follow this eight-point checklist to help optimize your Web landing pages.

E-Mail Marketing Marketing, General Web Sites – Design & Usability

When web-site redesigns aren’t necessary

New years often bring the desire to launch "new and improved" web-sites. In his article, "Why Most Website Redesigns Have a Half-Life" Mike Volpe, VP of inbound marketing at HubSpot, explains why it may not always be in a company's best interest.

The article points out that frequent redesigns can work against you both in regards to search engine optimization and usability. Mike points out that refreshing a site and making sure content is relevant is important, and not the same as a complete redesign.

Ultimately, it's important to maintain your web-site, just be sure to keep your prospects and customers in mind and temper the desire for new and different for the need for content and usability.

SEO Usability Web Sites – Design & Usability

This Year’s Most Popular Marketing Advice

Most companies faced challenges this past year, and marketing effectively online under budget constraints was one of them. In 2009, many Marketing Maven readers were drawn to our practical advice about improving e-mail marketing results, strengthening company Web sites, and maintaining customer relationships. Here are the most popular articles from the past year.

  1. E-mail marketing continues to deliver good results and be cost effective, so it’s no surprise one of the most widely read articles of 2009 was “E-mail Marketing Dos and Don’ts.” Discover what you can do to make your e-mails more interesting and relevant to your audience, how to generate more leads, and new ways to connect with specific target audiences. Plus, benefit from a refresher on those crippling mistakes you need to avoid.
  2. “Five Things to Include on Your Web Site, Five to Avoid” is another one of those useful articles that help you do the right things while staying away from the wrong things—this time on your Web site. Follow these pointers and your Web site can attract more prospects, generate more leads, and do a better job promoting your brand.
  3. Looking to be more efficient with sales and marketing? Keep the customers you’ve already worked hard to acquire. “Five Tips for Maintaining Customer Relationships” offers ideas you can put to use right away to keep customers coming back to you and increase referrals from existing customers.

We’re looking forward to a strong year in 2010. Keep up the good marketing, everyone.

E-Mail Marketing Industrial Marketing and Sales Marketing, General Web Sites – Design & Usability