Tips for Marketing During Challenging Times

Your plan was set in place and the marketing machine was humming along, but then uncertainty set in.  You suddenly find that external factors you simply cannot control, such as the economy or the impact of the coronavirus, are affecting your marketing efforts.

Your instinct might be to pull back from marketing during difficult times, but this is unlikely to be the best strategy. Cut back and you could lose market share to competitors or you begin to fall behind leading to a downward spiral.

Instead, when faced with external challenges, you need to find ways to adjust your current marketing plan to be more effective. Your mantra should be to “prepare not panic.”

Here are some tips:

Focus on what you can control

While you can’t control the emergence of external factors, you can control how you react. For example:

  • Recognize where demand is and what markets are strong and allocate your investments in those areas.
  • Keep track of what your customers and prospects are saying and doing and adjust your marketing channels and messaging to align with their needs.
  • Maintain visibility in your most important sectors, even if it means reallocating budget from less essential or more experimental programs.

Re-examine your marketing goals

During challenging times, it’s important to take a close look at your marketing goals. You might have to make decisions regarding what goals are must-haves, such as supporting a new product launch, while others might be nice-to-have, such as trying to enter a new market.

Given the current situation, some of your goals may no longer be achievable or your plans no longer viable. The sooner you recognize what you can and can’t achieve—and prioritize what you must achieve—the quicker you can take effective action.

For example, if you usually promote a product launch at a trade show that has been canceled, you can reallocate that marketing budget to other activities, such as e-newsletter or display ads, webinars, or content marketing.

Stay on top of measurement

More than ever, you need to get the most out of every marketing dollar during challenging times. While it’s always the right time to purge marketing programs that don’t perform, it may be time to suspend or scale back any marketing plans whose results you can’t measure or are unsure about.

If uncertainty is causing rapid changes in the market, increase your frequency of measurement to spot any disturbing (or encouraging) performance trends in your marketing programs.

You might find that some programs are working better than expected, while others are underperforming your stated goals. Use this opportunity to reallocate your budget to those programs that are most effective.

Get more from your existing marketing assets

This could be a good time to focus on updating web pages, repurposing content for other uses, or even combining programs.

Whatever the external climate, your website is still the face of your company and prospects will continue to visit. Make sure the content is current and accurate, links work, and pages are optimized for search.

In addition, repurpose and reuse content. Take that white paper and create a series of blog posts or develop a webinar. Create infographics using market or product data. Conduct a customer survey. You remain the owner and in full control of your content, so focus on making the most of what you have.

Another possibility is combining programs. If you are running a webinar series and planning to exhibit at a trade show that is no longer part of your plan, you may want to integrate your tradeshow message into your webinar series and use email and e-newsletter advertisements to promote the combined event.

Stay visible in your most important markets

If you do have to make program adjustments due to external pressures or other factors, don’t sacrifice your most important markets or most effective programs. If anything, reallocate budget to those initiatives from weaker performing programs or uncertain markets. Challenging times are often the right time for “circling the wagons” and defending your territory.

Reap the benefits of working with media partners

In challenging times, you may be forced to make harder and smarter decisions about allocating budgets. You don’t have to do this alone. Ask existing or potential media partners, who may have a broader and deeper view of the market, their advice on how to handle market uncertainty.

Ask media partners to demonstrate how their marketing solutions can help your company achieve its goals during challenging times. You may come away with unique ideas to navigate this period of uncertainty and come out the other end in a position of strength.

Content Marketing Digital Media Marketing Strategy Marketing Trends Marketing, General Productivity

What to do About Tradeshows

Tradeshow

With many tradeshows and conferences being cancelled or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, industrial marketers are facing significant disruptions to their marketing plans.

An IEEE GlobalSpec survey conducted in the earlier days of the coronavirus outbreak found that 56 percent of marketers said the shows they planned to attend or exhibit at have been cancelled. Thirty-eight percent had cancelled their own plans. Those percentages can only be higher now.

The question for marketers is what they should be doing in place of tradeshows to pick up the marketing slack.

Reinvest or Cut Back?

The survey showed that 28 percent of industrial marketers will shift their tradeshow budget to digital ads, while 46 percent said they will not reinvest that budget.

It’s understandable that companies may want to save their budget during uncertain times. However, by reducing your presence in the marketplace you may lose business to competitors who don’t cut back and you may have a harder time regaining marketing momentum when conditions stabilize again.

Those companies that reinvest at least a percentage of their tradeshow budget to digital platforms can continue to maintain visibility and generate engagement opportunities with prospects who are in various stages of their buying cycle. When the situation improves, you will be in a better position to win new business.

Tradeshow Substitutes

One coveted feature of tradeshows is the ability to meet person-to-person. While that is no longer possible when a tradeshow is canceled or postponed, you can still engage your audience, show prospects who you are, and provide a personal touch.  

Webinars

For years, webinars have been carving into the tradeshow market, and with good reason. Ubiquitous broadband and technology advances have allowed webinars to become an interactive, engaging experience between presenters and their audiences.

You can include real-time polls, offer live Q&A, and show video during webinars, while your audience remains at their desk.

Webinar solutions from IEEE GlobalSpec offer additional benefits, including:

  • Promotion of your webinar to your chosen target audience
  • Audience registration and attendee tracking
  • Webinar files for continued on-demand viewing on your corporate website or other marketing channel such as YouTube

Video

Video is another effective substitute for a tradeshow. From your office, you can film that keynote speech or educational workshop you were going to present at a tradeshow and post the video on your website, social media or supplier hub on IEEE GlobalSpec.

Engineers, particularly younger ones, are steadily increasing their use of video as a way to discover companies, products and services.

Digital Ads

Digital platforms such as e-newsletter ads and display advertising can help you reach your tradeshow audience and achieve similar branding and visibility benefits:

  • Advertise in targeted, opt-in e-newsletters that reach the same audience as you were targeting with your tradeshow. You can use the ad to promote a video or webinar that might be serving as your tradeshow substitute.
  • Stay visible to your audience and keep your message in the market through the use of display ads on industrial websites. You will be able to showcase your brand to many of the same engineers and technical professionals who might see you at a tradeshow.

Content Marketing

Tradeshows have a reputation as being time and resource intensive. You can put some of the saved time and resources to good use by updating or creating content. Your audience is always looking for educational information to help them do their jobs better, and with travel and tradeshows down, many engineers and technical professionals will be conducting more online search for content to help keep them current.

You can also consider contributing content to Engineering360.com or taking advantage of an Engineering360 product advertorial which provides engineers new ways to learn about your product offerings—a good alternative to a tradeshow. Click here for more info.

Yes, these are uncertain and challenging times both personally and professionally. However, it’s no time to panic. Instead, carefully evaluate your situation to determine how you can best persevere and succeed in your role as a marketer.

Content Marketing Marketing Strategy Marketing, General Tradeshows

Lead Nurturing Simplified: 5 Core Principles

A prospect could be anywhere in their buy cycle when they first reach out to your company, but few of them are ready to make a purchase decision at that point.

That’s why lead nurturing is so essential to your marketing success. You must be able to keep your prospects interested, encourage them along their buying journey, and pass them off to your sales team when appropriate. That’s lead nurturing in a nutshell.

The lead nurturing process can be long—research shows it takes anywhere from six to thirteen touches to deliver a qualified lead to sales. Lead nurturing can also be very fruitful—studies show that 70 percent of business comes from long-term leads, those that aren’t ready to buy when you first connect with them.

Lead nurturing can also be complex, with many moving parts and variables affecting your ability to execute. However, if you adhere to these five core principles, you can simplify the process, gain efficiencies, and deliver more qualified opportunities to your sales team.

1. Use a Lead Nurturing System

It’s possible to use manual processes and spreadsheets to nurture leads, but the process will be labor intensive.

Many industrial companies are adopting marketing automation to help manage lead nurturing and other marketing efforts. Marketing automation allows you to capture prospect engagement across all digital channels and can help you score leads, create landing pages, track prospect actions, trigger automatic emails, report on the effectiveness of various content, produce analytics and much more.

Other companies are embracing specific email-based lead nurturing platforms such as IEEE GlobalSpec Catalyst. Whatever system you choose, the three core capabilities you must have for lead nurturing are the ability to segment your audience, create and send campaigns, and report results.

Develop the process you want to use for lead nurturing, then find the system that best supports that process.

2. Segment Your Audience

Unless all of your prospects are about the same, you will need to segment your audience so that you can craft different lead nurturing campaigns to meet the needs of different audiences.

Segments vary for different companies, but common segments include area of interest, phase of buy cycle, market, geography/territory, among others. You’ll also want to segment out hot leads that are sales-ready and that you immediately pass to your sales team.

The definition of a sales-ready lead, as well as your audience segments, should be determined jointly between you and your sales team. Lead nurturing only works if sales and marketing organizations are on the same page working from the same playbook.

3. Nourish Prospects

To maintain and grow prospect interest until they are ready to make a purchase decision, you should continually offer them educational, relevant information they want and need to feel confident that you are the right company.

Nourishing takes place through what are called email “drip” campaigns—meaning at regular intervals, you show up with a content offer in their inbox. Your campaign could touch prospects once a week for six months or once a month for a year. You decide, based on your segments and your prospects’ needs.

With each campaign touch, you should offer your prospects something of value: a white paper, infographic, webinar, video, article or other helpful content. Keep the content educational in nature rather than sales-oriented. Engineers hate to be sold to; they want to learn and discover.

If you are using marketing automation, you can set up rules for your campaign, such as “any prospect that downloads a white paper receives a webinar invitation the following week.”

4. Hand-off to Sales

Because you’ve already come to an agreement with your sales team about what constitutes a sales-ready lead, you’ll know when a prospect in a nurturing campaign is ready for sales.

Often a lead reaches sales-ready status when it achieves a score based on a scale you develop that awards points for specific prospect behaviors. For example, a prospect that clicks on every offer is a five and likely sales-ready, while a prospect that only visited a web page remains a one.

5. Track and Learn

Keep track of how the prospects in your campaign interact with your offers and content. You can find out what offers resonate and are popular, and which fall flat. Get rid of offers that don’t perform well, while building on content that is popular with other similar offers. Continually refine your campaigns and you should see improved results.

Those are the five basic principles. For a deeper dive into lead nurturing, including best practices to optimize your lead nurturing efforts and quick tips for following up with leads, download the complimentary toolkit, “The Industrial Marketer’s Guide to Lead Nurturing.” You’ll learn the finer points to be successful at lead nurturing. Download here.


 

Customer Relationships Lead Management Marketing, General

Content Creation and Distribution: 5 Best Practices for 2020

content marketing creation and distribution

Manufacturing marketers are taking a more strategic approach with their content marketing and are gaining confidence in communicating complex content.

In addition, many are reporting success with their overall approach to content marketing, according to the research report “Manufacturing Content Marketing 2020: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends” produced by the Content Marketing Institute and sponsored by IEEE GlobalSpec.

One key area covered in the report is content creation and distribution. Manufacturers were surveyed about their processes, and the results reveal a number of best practices manufacturers should adopt to help improve their content marketing efforts in 2020.

1. Create Content for Different Audiences

The more closely your content is targeted to the needs of your buyer, the more likely potential buyers will pay attention because the information is relevant to them.

On average, manufacturers create content for four different audiences, with 45 percent creating content for 2-3 audiences and 53 percent creating content for four or more audiences.

Unless all of your customers fit the same profile and have the same needs, you should be creating different types of content for different audiences. One way to define your different audience’s content needs is to create buyer personas, which are profiles of the different types of customers you have. This article can help.

2. Create Content for Different Stages of the Buying Cycle

Currently, 40 percent of manufacturing marketers create content based on specific stages of the customer journey: from awareness of need, to comparison and consideration, to purchasing decision.

Half of the content that manufacturers create is for audiences in the early stages of their buying journey. The purpose of this top-of-funnel content is to create awareness and interest. But manufacturers also need content for their customers’ consideration, evaluation and purchase stages, as well as post-sale content to drive loyalty and brand advocacy.

3. Choose a Variety of Formats for Content

Engineers have personal preferences when it comes to searching for, discovering and consuming content, which means you need a variety of content types in order to effectively connect with your audience.

The top five content formats manufacturers use are social media (such as tweets and stories), videos, email newsletters, blog posts/short articles and in-person events. The majority of manufacturers also use infographics/charts/photos/data visualization content and case studies.

4. Align Content to Marketing Goals

The Content Marketing Institute survey asked respondents which content types are the highest performing for their organization in terms of building brand awareness, securing leads, nurturing leads and converting leads.

For both securing and converting leads, in-person events was the most common response for what type of content was the highest performing. However, for building awareness, social media was the highest performing content. Manufacturers should conclude that they need some type of social media presence as part of their awareness campaigns, but should also realize that social media, while important for capturing attention, is not a primary lead generator.

For nurturing leads, email newsletters are the top performers. Most manufacturers that nurture leads set up email drip campaigns to stay in touch with prospects who are early in their buying journey and to help move them along toward a purchase decision.

5. Use the Right Channels

Manufacturers use both organic (nonpaid) and paid channels to distribute content to their target audiences.

The top organic content distribution channels that manufacturers used in the past 12 months are social media platforms, their organization’s website/blog, and email.

Of the organic social media platforms they use, respondents say that LinkedIn generates the best overall content marketing results, although Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are also widely used.

The top paid content distribution channels are social media advertising/promoted posts, search engine marketing/pay-per-click, sponsorships (booths, workshops, branding), and banner ads to promote content.

Content marketing is one of the most significant and most effective ways for manufacturers to connect with their target audiences and to generate opportunities. Download your complimentary copy of the research report “Manufacturing Content Marketing 2020: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends” to find out more about how manufacturers approach content marketing, including strategy, teams, budgets, and overcoming challenges. Click here for your report.

Content Marketing Digital Media Marketing, General Social Media

What Engineers Want from Your Website

Collaboration

For any industrial company, your website is an important marketing asset. With engineers conducting the majority of their buying research online before contacting your company, a prospect is sure to visit your website in hopes of discovering information they are looking for.

If engineers find what they need, and if your products and services compare well against the competition, then you’ll likely generate a potential sales opportunity.

If your website falls short, you’ll miss out.

According to the research report, “Smart Marketing for Engineers,” produced by IEEE GlobalSpec and TREW Marketing, engineers want access to the basics on your website. They are looking, first and foremost, for technical content.

This audience is not as concerned with website bells and whistles. Items that an industrial marketer may view as a “must have” – pre-filled forms, interactive graphics, online chat, and more are not so special to engineers.

Get Technical, Get Specific

When asked what features of their favorite websites were most important to their experience, engineers overwhelming said in-depth technical information (81 percent) and technical specifications (75 percent).

The next closest were features to help configure products/systems (30 percent). Interestingly, only 11 percent said that a wide range of content was important to their experience.

The takeaway is clear: engineers want technical content specific to their need, and they don’t want other stuff getting in their way.

How to Structure Information

As for web usability, 75 percent of engineers prefer concise information with links to in-depth content, so they can drill down if needed. Forty-three percent want to see imagery/icons related to the content.

This puts the responsibility on you as a marketer to develop a logical taxonomy and clear hierarchy for organizing and presenting information on your website. The drill-down model works because you won’t overwhelm the engineer with too much information at once or confuse them by presenting secondary information before they are ready for it.

This type of information presentation makes sense. It somewhat mirrors the news story, inverted-pyramid approach, where the most important information is presented first, with secondary details to follow. The difference is that on the web, instead of writing a continuous narrative, you segment the content into discrete chunks users can access by clicking on links.

The Coveted Content

The content that engineers find most valuable when researching a product to purchase are datasheets, case studies, product demo videos and white papers.

You should have as much of this content as possible on your website. Whether you offer the content freely or keep it gated behind a form is a choice each company must make. But the majority of engineers are willing to provide work email, first name, company name, last name, job title, and industry in order to access content they deem valuable to them.

Don’t be afraid to put content behind forms—as long as the content is valuable. Engineers will trade their contact information for information that helps them.

Your Website Must Build Trust

Because most engineers are researching your offerings before contacting you, it’s important that your website helps to establish trust between your company and your potential customers.

When engineers were asked what causes them to lose trust in a company or brand after looking at their website, the top two answers were lack of technical information (69 percent) and lack of product information (50 percent), further reinforcing the need to have technical content on your website.

Other trust-eroding factors for engineers include getting no response after contacting a company and having no ability to contact a company for additional information.

You should have a contact link on every page on your website—and of course you should monitor and respond in a timely manner to any prospect that contacts you.

Keep it Simple

That’s the lesson here—your website should be simple. That lesson should also be encouraging to you. If you are struggling with limited resources (time, people, and budget), focus your website efforts on what will deliver the most value to your target audience. In this case, it is detailed, technical content that is easy to access and understand.

For a more in-depth look at engineers’ content, online and website preferences, along with survey results about an engineer’s buying journey, download your complimentary copy of the report “Smart Marketing for Engineers.”

Content Marketing Digital Media Marketing, General Web Sites – Design & Usability

How to Address the Top Content Marketing Priorities and Challenges

What are manufacturing marketers prioritizing in 2020? According to the latest Content Marketing Institute (CMI) research, “Manufacturing Content Marketing 2020: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends,” it’s both content quality and quantity, as well as distribution and promotion.

Unique challenges manufacturing marketers face include overcoming the traditional marketing and sales mindset and creating content that appeals to multi-level roles within their target audiences.

This post takes a closer look at these priorities and challenges, and offers ideas on how to successfully address them.

Marry quality and quantity together

Fifty-six percent of manufacturing marketers will be focusing on content quality/quantity. However, the choice isn’t between creating a lot of average content or a few pieces of high-quality material. You need to have both quality and quantity. But with limited resources, how do you do it?

  • Focus content creation on your areas of expertise that are of most interest to your target audience. You will create better content if you have access to subject matter experts.
  • Always create content with the needs of your audience in mind. What do they need to know? How will this information help them?
  • Re-purpose content for multiple uses to increase the quantity of pieces. White papers can be become technical articles or a series of blog posts. Create both a video and a text version of a customer case study or testimonial. Use a trade show presentation as the basis for a webinar.
  • Outsource some aspects of content creation. Most manufacturers (64 percent) do. Contract with writers or designers who have experience and knowledge in your field to help ease your burden.

Seek new content distribution channels

Fifty-two percent of survey respondents want to improve content distribution/promotion. Most already rely on a combination of both paid (social media advertising/promoted posts, pay-per-click, sponsorships, banner ads) and unpaid (social media, company website/blog, email) distribution channels.

There are also other distribution and promotion tactics you can consider. For example:

  • Events and speaking engagements can be a conduit for content in the form of presentations and handouts.
  • Building relationships with the media and industry influencers can help you place articles or promote specific content.
  • Contributing guest posts or articles to third-party publications can extend the reach of your content to new audiences and markets.

Always be educating

Fifty-five percent of manufacturing marketers cited their top challenge is overcoming the traditional sales and marketing mindset. This isn’t surprising. It’s the nature of sales and marketing to be promotional, but the nature of content marketing is educational.

The challenge, then, is not only to make sure your marketing content is educational rather than promotional, but also to educate your marketing colleagues and executive team on how content marketing works.

Your audience is seeking relevant, educational information that can help them make more informed and confident buying decisions when they are further along in their cycle. But in the early stages of their buy cycle, before they have contacted you, it’s all about education. Engineers don’t like to be sold to, they like to be educated, and if you’re aggressively promoting early on, they will be more likely to turn away from you.

Keep reminding your team that tradition doesn’t apply when it comes to content marketing. Success is all based on educating your audience with facts, data, and defendable positions.

Create content for different buyer roles

The second unique challenge, reported by 53 percent of manufacturing marketers, is creating content that appeals to multi-level roles within their target audience(s).

Serving the information needs of technical professionals operating in different roles and different mindsets may seem complex, but there is a straightforward and useful way to approach the challenge. Whether an influencer, recommender or decision-maker, the audience you are creating content for is generally driven by one of three concerns. Make sure your content meets the needs of these three different buyer roles:

Analytical concerns — Does the product solve my problem?

The analytical buyer is often the first point of contact your company has with a potential customer. They’re the person who has performed initial research to identify the suppliers, products or components that could meet their needs.

They’re asking: What functions does the product perform? What are its specifications? Why is your product better than another product? Or: How does your service meet my needs?

Economic concerns — Will we earn a return on investment?

Economic buyers often have significant sway in any large or long-term purchase. Economic buyers ask if the return they earn in terms of economic benefit will be higher than the price they pay for your product or service.

The benefits to economic buyers might be measured in terms of expected time savings, increased efficiency, uptime, product lifespan, reliability, warranties, or other factors.

Technical concerns — Is it the right fit for my company?

The technical buyer is often behind the scenes and may not come into play early in the buy cycle. They are concerned with the bigger picture of whether your product, component or service will fit into the larger technical infrastructure, environment or policies at their company.

For example: Are your products compatible with other products the customer uses? Do your products integrate well or will modifications elsewhere be necessary? How is support provided? These questions are particularly relevant with software and hardware purchases, but also for other industrial products.

For complete survey results, download your complimentary copy of “Manufacturing Content Marketing 2020: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends.” This report can help you improve your own content marketing efforts by discovering how other manufacturers view content marketing, where they plan to focus resources, and what challenges and opportunities they see on the horizon. Download your complimentary copy today.

Content Marketing Marketing, General

Why You Should Document Your 2020 Marketing Strategy

Document

Most manufacturing marketers craft a marketing strategy for each new year. The “Manufacturing Content Marketing 2019—Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends” research report by the Content Marketing Institute found that 78 percent of survey respondents now have a content marketing strategy.

However, only 41 percent have documented their strategy. This is problematic, given the importance and benefits of having a documented marketing strategy. A documented marketing strategy can:

  • Align your entire team, and even those outside marketing such as subject matter experts and salespeople, around a common mission and established goals.
  • Define what success means for your marketing efforts and the metrics by which success is measured.
  • Help you prioritize your own resource allocations in terms of people, time, and budgets devoted to creating content and managing programs.
  • Help you respond quickly and intelligently to unexpected marketing opportunities or company/market changes that arise throughout the year.
  • Provide a basis on which to justify and defend marketing budgets.
  • Serve as an historical record and source of learning to improve your marketing strategy over time.

That’s a significant list of benefits for having a documented marketing strategy. But how do you create this document and what should go into it?

It’s Similar to a Business Plan

If you don’t yet have a documented marketing strategy for 2020, it’s time to get one written. There’s no single template to use, because every company’s needs are different. It may be helpful to think of your document as a business plan, especially if you need executive buy-in.

Most marketing strategy documents include some or all of the key components discussed below.

Start with Your Goals

Goals are statements of what you want to accomplish through your marketing strategy. Examples of goals might be to grow brand awareness, increase market share, generate qualified leads, enter new markets, or support new product launches, among others.

Your goals drive all other marketing decisions and serve as an arbitrator when you might be deciding between alternative programs, channels, content, etc. You always ask the question: What goal will this help us achieve?

Define Your Audience(s)

Who are you trying to reach through your marketing efforts? The best way to clearly identify audiences is to create buyer personas. Much more effective than vague definitions that include only title, industry and demographics, buyer personas are detailed descriptions of the different types of customers that you have, including their needs, motivations and influences. Buyer personas are essential aides in helping to product the right content. Here’s a helpful article on creating buyer personas.

Allocate Resources

Your documented strategy should outline the resources required to achieve your goals and fulfill your marketing strategy. These include people to create and design content, marketers to manage programs, and budgets. Who is on the marketing team? What secondary people are needed to support a successful marketing strategy (such as subject matter experts, website personnel, or your media partners)? Have you budgeted for key initiatives such as product launches or new market penetration?

Determine Metrics for Success

How will you measure the success of your marketing strategy? What metrics are most important? How will you define key performance indicators?

The answers will vary depending on your marketing tactics and channels, and will also be different for high level goals vs. campaign-specific goals. For example, you might measure the success of your overall email marketing by the number of qualified opportunities generated, but specific campaign measurements might include opens, clicks, shares, downloads, and conversions.

Be aware that measuring marketing ROI is not an exact science. The nature of your customers’ buying cycle can make it difficult to correlate sales to specific marketing channels. The industrial buy cycle is often long and complex, involving multiple stages, from needs assessment to comparison and evaluation, to a final purchasing decision. In the vast majority of cases, buyers will interact with your company’s content and brand many times and through multiple channels, often without contacting you, before they make a purchasing decision.

For these reasons, it’s best to track every interaction a prospect has with your company, because ultimately each touch contributes to a sale. For more on measurement and ROI, read the “2020 Industrial Marketing Planning Kit.”

Programs and Channels

The meat of your strategy is how you will execute it. Your documented strategy should include a list of marketing programs and channels you plan to use throughout the year.

In this era of digital media, few companies rely on just one or two channels. Rather, manufacturers need a mix of traditional and digital media to successfully connect with their target audience.

The top five channels that manufacturing marketers plan to use this year are email marketing using in-house lists, content marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), tradeshows, and organic social media such as LinkedIn and Facebook.

How do your channels compare to others? Are your programs designed to meet the documented goals of your marketing strategy and the needs of your defined audiences?

Additional Resources

These two complimentary reports can help you develop and hone your marketing strategy, putting you on the path for success in 2020. Download them today:

Marketing Strategy Marketing, General
content marketing research

New Research on How Manufacturers Use Content Marketing

content marketing research

The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) recently released the results of its annual survey, “Manufacturing Content Marketing 2020: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends The results are encouraging in many ways—manufacturers are becoming more strategic as content marketers and many are reporting more success.

However, challenges remain, and manufacturers must continue to up their content marketing game to achieve their goals.

The CMI report, sponsored by IEEE GlobalSpec, highlighted these five key findings:

1. Manufacturing marketers are becoming more strategic

Having a documented content marketing strategy in place is a sign of an organization’s commitment to content marketing. Forty-one percent of those surveyed now have a documented content marketing strategy, almost double from 21 percent last year.

Another 37 percent stated they have a content marketing strategy, but it is not documented. If you fall within this group, consider the advantages of documenting your strategy:

  • Everyone involved in content marketing will be aligned around a common mission, helping to increase effectiveness and efficiency.
  • It is easier to determine what types of content to develop, helping to marshal resources and streamline production.
  • A documented strategy, like a business plan, will help to justify and defend budget allocations and expenditures.

2. Many manufacturing marketers create content for different audiences

On average, manufacturers create content for four different audiences, with 45 percent creating content for 2-3 audiences and 26 percent creating content for six or more audiences.

Manufacturers should be lauded for segmenting their audiences and targeting them with different types of content. However, only 40 percent of manufacturers craft content to align with specific stages of the customer buying journey. This is a missed opportunity to be more relevant to your customers.

The content that buyers seek early in their journey is educational in nature, such as articles, white papers, webinars, how-tos and more. As they progress toward making a purchasing decision, content such as customer case studies, product specs, competitive comparisons, and ROI calculators become more valuable. Make sure you create content to support your customers’ entire buy cycle.

3. Communicating complex content and accessing subject matter experts has improved

Only 36 percent of survey respondents reported being challenged with communicating complex content, down from 60 percent last year. In addition, 40 percent reported being challenged with accessing subject matter experts in order to create specialized content, down from 50 percent.

These results indicate that manufacturing marketers are finding ways to access and communicate the deep technical information their audiences are looking for. Building a team of reliable subject matter experts to support your content marketing team is essential to creating content. Marketers by themselves can’t play the role of technical experts.

4. The majority outsource at least one content marketing activity

Sixty-four percent of manufacturing marketers outsource some aspect of their content marketing. Among those who outsource, 87 percent outsource content creation, which may help explain why their ability to communicate complex content has improved. Content distribution is the next closest activity outsourced, by 32 percent of survey respondents.

Writing and designing are the two major skillsets required to create content, and they always seem to be in short supply within the company. You can find outside experts through trade associations, networking, and even through internship programs. If your company lacks internal resources to create content, outsourcing can help save time and money, and free up your internal teams to focus on other pressing needs.

5. Marketers are overlooking several organic (unpaid) opportunities to distribute content

Manufacturing marketers rely on both paid (social media advertising/promoted posts, pay-per-click, sponsorships, banner ads) and unpaid (social media, company website/blog, email) tactics to distribute content.

However, several organic distribution tactics are being overlooked that, if implemented, can help extend the reach of your content. Currently, few are taking advantage of speaking/events (43 percent), media/influencer relations (33 percent), or guest posts/articles in third-party publications (31 percent).

These distribution tactics should become part of your documented content marketing strategy. If you are going to make the investment in content creation, you should do everything you can to promote the content to your target audiences. Expanding your modes of distribution will also help you maintain a consistent message across all channels in the market.

Would you like more insight into the state of content marketing in the manufacturing sector? Download  your complimentary copy of the full report, “Manufacturing Content Marketing 2020: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends.” This valuable resource will help you jump-start your content marketing efforts for the year and help pave the way for your success.

Content Marketing

On-Demand Webinars: Tips for Success

Webinars are one of those marketing tactics that can keep on giving. You host the live event, and afterward you can offer a packaged version of the webinar for on-demand viewing.

Data gleaned from IEEE GlobalSpec’s webinars are consistent with industry standards, which report that 84 percent of B2B audiences opt for replays over live webinars. That’s a huge percentage. The reasons are primarily two-fold:

  • Only a small percentage of your potential audience will be available on the exact date and time of your live webinar.
  • Engineers and technical professionals—much like other professionals—prefer to consume content on their own terms.

On-demand webinars offer several advantages to the marketer:

  • Any technical difficulties that sometimes happen during live presentations are eliminated during on-demand viewing.
  • Most of your webinar costs have already been sunk into the live event. The costs to provide on-demand viewing are much lower.
  • The webinar can add value to your marketing portfolio for months to come.

However, you should also be aware of several caveats regarding on-demand webinars:

  • Interaction in an on-demand webinar is limited. You can’t have real-time Q&A, live polls, or other interactive features.
  • Promotion efforts rarely match the level of the live event, so some of your target audience may not know about the availability of the on-demand version.

With careful planning and targeted outreach, you can incorporate on-demand webinars into a successful, integrated marketing program that helps you attract a motivated audience and generate more demand for your products and services.

Create a “webinar hub.”

Make sure your on-demand webinars are easy to find by creating a webinar hub where you post your content. Whether you have a few webinars or dozens, make the webinar hub an important part of your website by adding it to navigation schemas and site indexes, and using house ads to promote it.

Be sure to curate the content on your hub. Classify the webinars under appropriate headings. Delete out-of-date webinars. Rearrange as needed for emphasis.

IEEE GlobalSpec’s webinar hub is a single, comprehensive destination that offers engineers the opportunity to view on-demand webinars and to participate in live events. Click here to view.

Build a registration form.

Click on any on-demand webinar link on IEEE GlobalSpec and you’ll be taken to a page with a thorough description of the content and key takeaways, along with a registration form.

The whole purpose of the on-demand webinar is to begin a conversation with a potential prospect, so you’ll need to ask them for some information by setting up a registration form. Name, email address, and company are likely enough to get the conversation going. You can fill in more information later as your relationship deepens.

Make content changes.

You’ll want to tweak your webinar for the on-demand version. First, remove the date, which often appears on the first slide. This way, the webinar will never feel dated to your audience.

You’ll also likely need to strip out live polls, but you can keep the results of polls from the live event. As for Q&A, while it isn’t feasible to have a live session, you can provide a prompt for your audience to submit questions you can answer asynchronously via email. It’s a great way to open the lines of communication and learn more about what your audience is thinking.

Promote the on-demand version.

As soon as you’ve posted the on-demand webinar, you should begin promoting it. Here are some ideas:

  • Contact everyone who signed up for the live event but didn’t attend. This might be up to half of your registrants. The registered-but-didn’t-attend group is your most qualified (other than live attendees) because they’ve already expressed interest. Invite them to view the on-demand webinar and remind them of what they missed.
  • Promote the on-demand webinar using house email lists, social media, e-newsletter advertisements, banner ads on your website or on an ad network—use any channel that you used for the live event.
  • Mix things up and promote the webinar from different angles: highlight the speaker, or the technology, or the problem being solved. This gives your content a fresh feel.
  • Divide the webinar into shorter snippets that are easier for your audience to consume. Instead of requiring 45-minutes of their time, for example, you’re asking for seven minutes. This technique can work well as long as you plan from the beginning to build a webinar that can be chunked into logical standalone sections.
Marketing, General Webinars

SEO Versus Paid Search: Which is Better?

Generating qualified traffic is the heartbeat of all search engine marketing efforts. Whether it’s by the means of search engine optimization (SEO) or pay-per-click (PPC), appearing near the top of search engine results pages (SERPs) is every marketer’s goal.

So which tactic is better—SEO or PPC?

The short answer is that both SEO and PPC can be effective. To succeed with either method, or with both, manufacturing marketers need to know the advantages and disadvantages of each. Armed with this knowledge, you can make informed decisions on where to allocate your resources.

What is SEO?

SEO, often called organic search, is the process of optimizing your web pages so that they organically appear near the top of SERPs for specific keyword searches.

What is PPC?

PPC is a marketing program in which manufacturers create advertisements that appear on SERPs for specific keyword searches. You pay a set amount each time your ad is clicked on.

When looking at a typical search engine results page, you’ll see that the sponsored PPC ads take up the first few positions (and sometimes the last few), and the organic, or SEO results, take up the rest of the results listings.

What are the advantages of SEO?

  • It may take a long time to achieve high rankings, but once you’ve reached the position you want to be in, you can often maintain a consistent, persistent presence on SERPs for specific keyword searches.
  • Websites that organically appear near the top on SERPs are often considered authority sites. If you are ranking high on specific SERPs, you will be perceived as an expert, which should help you build trust with your target audience.
  • You don’t need to pay for clicks, including those from unqualified users.

What are the disadvantages of SEO?

  • SEO is a long game. It can take months to rise in the rankings and there is no guarantee that you will.
  • Search engine algorithms can change, causing you to lose hard-earned high positions.
  • While you don’t have to pay for clicks, SEO is not free. You need expertise, time, and budget to research keywords; develop keyword-focused page content; write meta tags, descriptions, and snippets for search engines; execute an incoming link strategy; stay abreast of search engine algorithm changes; and more. SEO is both a specialized science and a creative art.

What are the advantages of PPC?

  • You can gain instant top-of-the-page positions and dominate SERPs for a given keyword category, if you’re willing to pay for that position.
  • Campaigns can be up and running quickly.
  • It’s your only alternative if your website isn’t built to be optimized for search engines.
  • You can target beyond keywords: by geography, for example, or by demographics on social media sites.

What are the disadvantages of PPC?

  • Costs can climb quickly, particularly for competitive keywords.
  • Many searchers ignore the paid ads and only focus on organic results.
  • Invariably, you will pay for some amount of unqualified traffic.
  • You must create ads and manage campaigns and budgets, or pay someone to do it.

Are there similarities between SEO and PPC?

  • Extensive keyword targeting is required to be successful at either.
  • Both require effective landing pages to convert users who click and visit your site.
  • Either tactic can get you near the top of SERPs.

How can you use SEO and PPC together?

Ultimately, both SEO and PPC belong in your search engine marketing strategy. How you use them in conjunction with each other depends on your timeframe, budget, and goals.

As stated above, SEO is the long game. Use it to gain visibility for your best products, services, and value propositions—those that are foundational and don’t change much over time. Find the keywords that are the best fit and optimize specific pages for them.

While waiting for your SEO efforts to deliver results, you can fill in with PPC ads. You can also use paid search to quickly make a splash in new markets or to promote a time-sensitive offer. Additionally, having a website with good SEO will mean that when users visit your site after clicking on an ad, they’ll find what they’re looking for.

Used together and deployed appropriately, SEO and PPC can be effective tactics in every manufacturer’s marketing portfolio.

Marketing, General SEO