The Early Stage Buy Cycle is When the Relationship Starts

The early stage buy cycle for engineers and technical professionals is the equivalent of the top of the sales funnel for the manufacturer’s and supplier’s sales teams. It’s the beginning, when a buyer becomes aware of a problem or need and then begins to conceive of and search for a solution. If your company is already known to them, or becomes visible and sparks interest during a search, that’s when your relationship starts with a potential customer.

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Begin your relationship with prospects early as generating initial awareness is critically important to the success of your sales and marketing efforts.

Because of the vast amount of content available from digital sources, it’s easier than ever for early-stage technical buyers to discover and research information about products, services and suppliers, and to narrow down their options before getting a vendor involved.

In this early stage, you might not yet have any personal contact with your prospect, you may not even have captured their name, but this is when they enter the top of your funnel.

Generating this early-stage awareness is critically important to the success of your sales and marketing efforts. You must connect with potential customers early in order to be a contender later when they are ready to make a purchase decision. Beginning the relationship early, even an anonymous one, offers key benefits to your organization:

  • You make a positive first impression on potential customers. If your company name comes up when they begin their search, it’s only natural that they gravitate toward you. Your widespread visibility in itself instills a sense of expertise and fosters trust. For example, the engineer searching for new diode laser technologies will be interested if they keep coming across your name (especially if it’s linked to quality, useful content … but more on that in a bit).
  • You stay top of mind. If you put consistent effort into branding and visibility tactics that raise awareness and help to widen and populate the top of the funnel, prospects will be exposed to you more often and will keep your company and products in their mind when they have a need.
  • Perhaps most importantly, marketing for the early-stage of the buy cycle can help to shorten the sales cycle for your sales team. Your prospects will already be aware of your company and what you offer. They’ve been accessing valuable content that’s helping to educate them. This means your sales people are speaking to an informed prospect and don’t have to start from the very beginning every time.

The keys to early-stage success

The first thing to realize is that if a potential buyer does not know about you or find out about you in their early stage, they will not be contacting you in a later stage. They will be contacting one of your competitors. To be the brand that matters to your target audience, you should:

  • Build and maintain a strong online presence on those digital resources your customers use most in the early buy cycle stages. Research shows that general search engines, supplier websites, online catalogs and industry-specific search engines and information resources such as Engineering360.com are the most popular digital channels for engineers and technical buyers early in the buy cycle. Diversify your presence across these channels.
  • Produce and publish a steady stream of content on digital channels for your prospects and customers. Your audience is eagerly searching for content as they engage in their buy cycle. They are looking for white papers and technical reports, watching webinars and product demos and reading articles, newsletters, blog posts and more. At this stage, your content should be educating prospects on a high level by, for instance, comparing approaches to solving problems, explaining how something works or commenting on trends. Your goal is to get in the game by demonstrating knowledge and expertise. It’s too early to be selling and trying to close the deals.
  • Recognize and respond when prospects move to later buy cycle stages, such as consideration and comparison. At some point, either the buyer has dropped out or you will have generated an engagement opportunity, with your prospect registering for a webinar, subscribing to your blog, or initiating contact with your company. You should have in place a plan to manage your engagement opportunities, either through ongoing lead nurturing programs or escalating a prospect to your sales team if they are giving off indications they are ready to buy. Don’t waste those early stage efforts—make sure you know how to move prospects through the funnel.

Industrial marketers can sometimes overlook the importance of their customers’ early buy cycle. By focusing resources on building brand and raising visibility, you’ll attract more prospects at the top of your funnel, helping to ensure you have a pool of potential customers when it’s time for them to make a purchasing decision.

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Five Ways to Boost Your Content Marketing Efforts

Eighty-six percent of B2B marketers are using content marketing as a tactic, according to the Content Marketing Institute. However, in the industrial sector, some marketers are still struggling with content marketing.

The 2014 Trends in Industrial Marketing survey reported that just:

  • 29 percent of industrial marketers have a content marketing strategy
  • 15 percent of industrial marketers align their content with the different phases of their customers’ buy cycle.
  • Nine percent can demonstrate how content marketing contributes to sales.

These results reveal valuable opportunities for industrial companies to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their content marketing efforts.

To boost your content marketing efforts, here are five guidelines you can follow:

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1. Develop a strategy
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the need to create content when your audience is hungry to consume your good content. You need white papers, webinars, videos, articles, blog posts and so on. But first you need a content strategy. If you put time and resources into planning, developing, delivering and managing relevant content for your target audience, you’ll get better results.

Determine your objectives for content marketing. Is it to raise brand awareness? Educate prospects? Position your company as thought leaders? Generate engagement opportunities? Once you know your objectives, you can plan what type of content will work best to achieve those objectives. You can also make sure your content strategy fits your available budget and resources for the year.

2. Use an editorial calendar
Develop a content calendar at the beginning of the year, so you won’t be panicking later when trying to come up with content ideas. Start at a high level of planning by coming up with 12 monthly topics for the upcoming year. Choose broad themes that are aligned with your content marketing objectives and are relevant to your audience. Add any major milestones to the calendar that may require intensive content, such as online events or webinars or key announcements. Then, once a quarter, flesh out each week with specific ideas, such as how-to videos, blog posts or white paper ideas.

Also be flexible enough to adjust as situations arise. There could be a new trend or major news impacting your industry and you may want to respond with an article, press release or blog post.

3. Re-purpose content
Re-purposing content not only saves time it helps you deliver a consistent message to your audience of technical professionals. As you plan a piece of content, consider all the formats and channels you can use. For example, a blog post is a great way to test new ideas or points of view on industry issues. Some of these posts might lend themselves to longer, more detailed articles on solving problems or explaining technical processes. Or the content of a white paper can be re-purposed into a webinar. A video interview with a customer could become a case study.

4. Align content to the buy cycle
The industrial buy cycle can be long and complex, and include distinct stages from needs awareness to evaluation and consideration, and finally to a purchase decision. Your audience needs different types of content at different stages.

For example, in the early stages, engineers may be searching to find out what suppliers and products in the marketplace have a good reputation and can meet their needs. Articles, white papers, e-newsletters, webinars and online events are all sources of information for technical professionals in these early stages. In the later stages, when customers are close to a buying decision, they may want content such as detailed specification sheets, ROI calculators, specific case studies and service and support information.

Because prospects often don’t contact a supplier until they are close to making a buying decision, you need to publish robust, relevant content for the early buy cycle stages in order to get known and get on a potential customer’s short list for when they do decide to make contact.

5. Demonstrate results
With digital media, many metrics are available to track the effectiveness of your content marketing. Page views, clicks, shares, downloads, conversions and more can all be counted. These types of metrics will tell you about the popularity of any given piece of content, but this is only part of the equation when it comes to demonstrating results. You probably need to take a more holistic view.

Technical professionals will likely interact with your content a number of times before reaching the point where they are ready to make purchase decision. Each one of those interactions and each piece of content they access contribute to the sale. Therefore, tracking your customers through their journey by capturing their interactions with your content is a smart way to demonstrate results. You’ll be able to see how your broader content strategy is working and spot trends showing what types of content most often contribute to a sale.

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2015 Marketing Planning Part 2: Measuring Return on Marketing Investment

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

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

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

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

marketing planning

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

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

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

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

For example, web page accesses, clicks, content downloads, video views, webinar attendance, and mentions or shares on social media can all be tracked and tied to your marketing efforts. These important metrics measure customer awareness, interest and engagement with your brand, products and services. If your measurements in these areas continue to increase over time, then you can assume your marketing is helping potential customers through the early stages of their buy cycle and contributing to the engagement opportunity when they do contact your sales team.

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

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

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

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

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How to Respond to the Evolving Industrial Buy Cycle

Recent research has shown that the widespread availability and use of digital resources is resulting in changes to how technical professionals approach their buy cycle. The stages of the cycle are still the same, but the timing of contact between buyer and seller has changed.

The industrial buy cycle consists of distinct stages: Research & Needs Analysis, Comparison & Evaluation and Purchase. The cycle can be long and complex, involving multiple decision makers, recommenders and influencers; or it can be short and straightforward, with a single person presiding over a purchase decision. However, regardless of length or complexity, the buy cycle is evolving.

Technical professionals today use digital resources at every stage of their buy cycle, particularly during the Research & Needs Analysis stage. The most popular resources are general search engines, supplier websites, online catalogs and industry-specific search engines such as GlobalSpec.com. Because of the vast amount of useful information available from these digital sources, it’s easier than ever for customers to discover and research information about products, services and suppliers, and to narrow down their options before getting a vendor involved.

In 2014, only 41 percent of technical professionals are contacting a supplier in the early Research & Needs Analysis stage of their buy cycle. Thirty-eight percent wait until the Comparison & Evaluation stage and 21 percent don’t contact a vendor until they are ready to make a purchase.

The evolving nature of the buy cycle has a number of implications for suppliers, including:

  • You must connect with potential customers early in their buy cycle in order to be a contender later when they are ready to make a purchase decision. This means you must build and maintain a strong online presence on those digital resources your customers use most in the early buy cycle stages.
  • From a sales perspective, think of your digital presence as a way for potential customers to add themselves to the top of your sales funnel when they are searching for products and services. They will then engage with you as they advance through the funnel.
  • Don’t make the mistake of thinking if you choose not to provide relevant, educational content to customers early in their buy cycle, that they will contact you earlier in order to get that information. Instead what will happen is customers will forget about your company and instead focus their attention on those suppliers who are meeting their needs for content over digital channels.
  • You should publish a steady stream of content on digital channels for your prospects and customers, including blog posts, product information, white papers, webinars, videos, web pages, spec sheets and more. Your audience is eagerly searching for this content as they engage in their buy cycle.
  • Your digital presence is required to build brand awareness and visibility so that when a customer recognizes a need and begins their research, they will already have your company top of mind and be able to find you easily, which will increase your opportunities to be under consideration from the beginning of the buy cycle.
  • When a customer or prospect does contact you, they are likely to be more educated than the person who reaches out to a supplier at the beginning of their buy cycle. This fact may affect your processes for handling engagement opportunities. Some prospects may be more sales ready. Most of them will have specific questions at this point and want detailed information, including product availability, specifications, pricing, testimonials, ROI calculators and other content that will help them make a purchasing decision.
  • Technical professionals rely on different digital resources at different buy cycle stages, according to the research. General search engines, supplier websites, online catalogs and industry-specific search engines such as GlobalSpec.com have increased in importance to support the Research & Needs Analysis and the Comparison & Evaluation stages of the buy cycle. In the Purchase stage, industry-specific search engines and online catalogs increased in importance.

The industrial buy cycle has been around as long as there has been industrial commerce, but the nature of it continually evolves. Stay on top of the current evolution by creating a strong digital presence and providing technical professionals with the information they are looking for. To gain greater insight into your customers’ digital behavior, download a complimentary copy of the new IHS GlobalSpec research report 2014 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector.

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Two Types of Content that Must Be in Your Marketing Mix

Content marketing is an essential strategy now that buyers do so much of their research online before contacting a supplier. Industrial marketers know that technical professionals crave a constant flow of useful content that helps them do their jobs better. But not everyone knows this content should fit into one of two categories: informational content or decision-making content.

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You need both types of content in order to match up to the different stages of your customers’ buy cycle. Early in the buy cycle, when customers are becoming aware of their needs and researching how to meet them, informational content plays a big role.

Informational content is more educational in nature. This type of content might enlighten your audience on a problem it faces, such as an article on “Five Ways to Avoid Pressure Sensor Failure.” Another might be a webinar titled “Evaporation Methods Used in Industrial Coatings.” These types of content are focused on providing your audience with information that will help clarify their needs or point them toward further research in finding an appropriate solution.

Informational content would also include general information about a type of product or industrial process: “Breakthroughs in Diode Laser Technology” or “How Motion Sensors Work.” Background information on your company, product lines or services would also come under the realm of informational content.

Your goal in producing informational content is to help answer the initial questions your customers might have in the early stages of their buy cycle and to get them on the path to purchasing:

  • How does X work?
  • What types of products should I consider to do Y?
  • What are the common approaches to solving problem Z?
  • Which companies offer . . . ?

Informational content sets the stage for your potential buyers. It helps build awareness and affinity for your company and products. It puts you in the position of being an expert. It delivers insight and value to your audience, without putting pressure on them to buy before they are ready.

Decision-making content is designed for the later buy cycle stages, when customers have narrowed down their choices to several possibilities and are close to making a buying decision. With decision-making content, your goal is to answer your customers’ final questions and put you in position to win the business.

  • Does this product have all the features I need?
  • Will it do everything I need it to do?
  • How much does it cost? What will be my return on investment?
  • Why should I buy this product and not that product?
  • Why should I choose this company and not that company?
  • What kind of customer support will I get? What warranties?

At this point, buyer’s guides that walk customers through the factors to consider when making a purchase are useful content. As are specification sheets, competitive differentiators, product comparisons, ROI calculators, warranties and customer service policies.

A catalog that buyers search by specification can offer you an advantage by helping customers quickly find exact products that meet their needs. A responsive web page that details important product features would be directed to an audience in the late stage of the buy cycle. Any potential customer close to making a purchase decision is sure to be spending time on your company website looking for that “X” factor that will sway them one way or the other.

Technical professionals tend to use a variety of digital resources during their buy cycle journey. Supplier websites and online catalogs are used during all phases. Online events, e-newsletters and webinars tend to attract technical professionals earlier in the buy cycle when education and awareness are critical. Choose the channels that work best for you and develop both informational and decision-making content to increase your opportunities to connect with potential customers at all stages of their buy cycle.

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How to Meet the High Expectations Technical Professionals Have for You

Technical professionals are hard-working problem-solvers. They thrive on finding the right solution. They live for that challenge, and the more challenging, the better they like it. This group of professionals is constantly evolving—always looking for what’s better, faster, cooler. And they want information that’s going to keep them up to speed. They don’t just want it—they expect to find it when they go looking for it.

technical professional

As marketers, it’s important that you provide your audience with this information. Suppliers who can satisfy engineers’ vast appetite for content and meet their audience’s expectations will be in a much better position to win their business.

Nowhere are those expectations higher than they are in the digital arena. The reason is technical professionals spend more time online for work-related purposes than ever before. They seek access to content, resources, products and suppliers. Be there for them and yours can be the company that exceeds the expectations of your target audience. Here’s how:

Provide content for all stages of the buying cycle
Technical professionals go online during all stages of their buying cycle, from the early research phases to the later procurement phases. In fact, they do so much of their buy cycle work online that many do not contact a supplier until they are ready to make a purchase.

In the early research and identification stages of the buy cycle, technical professionals want to learn about different approaches to solving their problem. What processes or products work best? Who are the innovative suppliers in this area? What used to work but no longer does? This is the time to offer white papers, articles and videos, host a webinar or exhibit at an online event.

As they enter the consideration phase, they may look for case studies, testimonials, product demos, CAD files and other documents that can demonstrate benefits and set you apart from the competition.

Later in their buy cycle, technical professionals will be seeking information to help them make an informed and confident purchasing decision. Information such as ROI calculators, checklists and specification sheets all are helpful at this point.

Focus on educating and informing
Technical professionals can be obsessive about staying up-to-date. They never want to be the last person to hear about what’s new in their world. To stay educated and informed, they go online to read industry news, follow the latest trends and discover new technologies.

Suppliers who are engaged in building thought leadership and brand awareness have a chance to be noticed for their positions on industry topics that are important to their audience. These suppliers focus on publishing articles and interviews on industry websites and blogs, sponsoring and speaking at relevant online events, and hosting educational webinars. The key here is to establish your expertise by being educational and informative to your audience.

Maintain a presence where your audience can find you
Technical professionals use a variety of digital resources in their quest for information: industry websites, e-newsletters, online catalogs, YouTube and other video-sharing sites, online events and webinars, blogs, social media and more.

While it’s likely you can’t be everywhere, you should build and maintain a highly-visible presence on those digital channels that work best for you. You’ll have a much better chance of connecting with technical professionals and creating a strong brand.

Additionally, you can often re-purpose content for use in multiple channels, helping to save you time and money. For example, a white paper on your website can become the basis for a webinar or an article for an online industry publication. A video customer interview can become a case study. You can promote the same content in multiple ways: e-newsletter ads, banner ads, social media, blog posts, etc.

Be considerate and helpful
At the end of the day, marketing’s goal is to help contribute to the growth of your company. How you do that is open to interpretation. If you want to meet the expectations of your audience, our suggestion is to avoid the hard sell.
In the industrial sector, there’s very little impulse buying. There may be some incentive purchasing—volume discounts, end-of-year orders and such, but for the most part technical professionals don’t make a purchase until they have a specific need and only after they’ve done careful research. In addition, multiple decision makers are often involved. If with every marketing touch you are asking potential customers to “Buy now!” or forcing them to register for every piece of content, technical professionals will quickly turn away and look for another source of information.

It’s better to err on the side of being helpful and considerate. Wait for buying signals from your prospects, such as attendance at an important webinar or a certain number of website visits or other criteria you set. Until that point, focus on providing useful and relevant content that fulfills their expectations.
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Four Best Practices to Optimize Your Lead Nurturing Efforts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Marketing Chart: At which stage of the buy cycle, do technical professionals contact a vendor

For the Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector research report, technical professionals were asked about when they contact a vendor.

Fifty-six percent of technical professionals don’t contact a vendor until they reach at least the comparison & evaluation stage of the buy cycle. Nineteen percent don’t contact the vendor until they are ready to make a purchase.

Buyers are relying on digital resources to discover and research information about products, services and suppliers, and to narrow down their options before even getting a vendor involved, which means you must be found in the early stages of the buy cycle to be on a buyer’s short list.

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5 Ways to Upgrade Your Content Marketing in 2014

As 2014 gets into full swing, content marketing remains a hot and highly effective marketing strategy in the industrial sector. Your audience of technical professionals has an insatiable appetite for relevant, engaging and useful content, which means you have to keep the content marketing machine producing and distributing at a high level.

Resolve to upgrade your content marketing strategy so that it operates at peak efficiency. Here are five ways to get you started:

1. Re-purpose whenever possible

Re-purposing existing content into new formats helps you achieve three valuable benefits:

  • You don’t have to keep coming up with new content all the time.
  • You can reinforce your core messages across multiple mediums
  • You can give your customers flexible options to access content in their preferred formats.

Some people like to read reports, others want to watch videos, still others prefer to scan web pages or attend webinars. Re-purposing your content can serve all these needs as well as strengthen your brand and message.

2. Produce content for the entire buy cycle

The industrial buy cycle consists of distinct stages your customers pass through: from awareness and research, to consideration and comparison, to buying decision and procurement. You need content to support potential customers through all stages, especially the early stages, because studies show that many buyers do not contact suppliers until they are ready to make a purchasing decision. That means they’ve already done their research and narrowed down their choices of products and vendors to a short list.

Entice customers in the early stages of their buy cycle with educational content that establishes your company as a leader and an expert with a unique and advantageous way of solving the problems and challenges that your customers face. Use content that introduces new technologies, new ideas, analysis of trends, etc. Compare and contrast your approach to that of competitors’. Later stage buy cycle needs include specification sheets, case studies, ROI calculators, and warranties.

3. Expand the types of content you offer

White papers, blog articles, videos, webinars, research reports, case studies, data sheets—these are standard types of content that most marketers include in their portfolio and that your audience finds valuable.

There are other types of content you might consider as well. Infographics combining text and visuals have become increasingly popular as a way to explain complex ideas or processes. You can also create online polls and share results, or quick surveys. Stage a contest. Create a game. What about contracting with a partner to produce a mobile app? There are apps that calculate pressure drop, estimate pipe size, calculate volumetric flow, connect with other engineers, and many more. While not traditional content, an app is something that can go viral, showcase your brand, and help you promote other content.

4. Consider paid distribution of content

If you’re having trouble getting content into the hands of hard-to-reach prospects using typical channels such as your website, email or social media, you might want to consider paid distribution strategies. You can also use paid distribution to reach new markets.

For example, LinkedIn offers sponsorships that allow you to target a specific audience with your content, and the majority of technical professionals have LinkedIn accounts. You can also invest in promoted posts on Twitter and Facebook. Digital media platforms like IHS GlobalSpec offer a number of effective ways to distribute content to your target audience, including e-newsletter ads, online banners, co-branded webinars and more—all of which can significantly increase the number of prospects exposed to your content.

Focus on content performance

For all of your content, you should establish goals and metrics to measure performance. Downloads, views, shares, comments and more could all be metrics you decide to track. By tracking performance you will know what types of content are most popular with your audience and what channels work best for distribution. You will have better information to make decisions about enhancing your content offerings and distributing through those channels that are most effective in helping you achieve your goals.

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Content Marketing Industrial Marketing and Sales

Content Fuels the Buy Cycle for Engineers

Specification sheets and technical drawings are still very much alive as marketing tools in the industrial sector, but they’re no longer the only content marketers must produce, or even the most important content.

Product specifications and data sheets support the later stages of the industrial buy cycle, when engineers are ready to make their final purchase decisions. Examining spec sheets is like buyers dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s to make sure a product they’re considering is the best fit for their needs. In the earlier stages of the buy cycle—needs analysis, research, consideration, evaluation—engineers require a different type of content. They’re looking for best practices, tips, new technologies, and industry trends.

Marketers are investing in content creation
According to the article “Content sparks buying cycle: Marketing to engineers now focuses on digital channels, communities,” which recently appeared in BtoB Magazine, vertical industry marketers are now focusing on new types of content, including thought leadership, community engagement, how-to videos and more. While marketers may already have some of this content available on their websites, they also may need to invest in creating new content and using more channels to distribute it.

Many industrial marketers are already focused on content creation. Results from the IHS GlobalSpec survey Trends in Industrial Marketing 2013 show that 51 percent of industrial marketers are spending more on content creation this year than they did last year. Content-focused videos (58 percent) and webinars (49 percent) are seeing increases as well. In addition, creating and distributing content will play a major role in marketing plans over the next five years, placing second in importance only to focusing on customers.

Creating content is not a simple matter. You need writing, design and production resources, but you also must understand engineers and their buy cycle, and then create content that matches their needs. Engineers don’t like to be marketed to and they don’t like sales pitches. What they want is useful information that is relevant to their jobs and the problems they are trying to solve.

Useful information might be why one technology is superior to another, or why one approach to solving a problem is faster and better than others. But what engineers want are facts and expertise, not hype. The company that produces this type of solid, relevant content will elevate its brand and attract more potential buyers.

Digital is the way to distribute content
Engineers are extremely busy today. They no longer have time for browsing print magazines. Few of them can take time away from the office to attend tradeshows and walk the aisles. Instead, when they have a need for information they immediately go online to find it.

Marketers who distribute their content across multiple digital channels are creating the best opportunities to connect with engineers and other technical professionals. Digital channels such as exhibiting at online industry events and advertising in e-newsletters that are product or technology specific allow marketers to get highly-focused content into the hands of their target audience. Interpower, a manufacturer of power system components, uses this strategy and exhibits regularly at online events. Not only can they connect with their audience, but product specialists and technical experts in the company who might not be available to travel to an in-person event can often be available to answer customer questions online. Read: “How Interpower builds its pipeline through virtual events.”

Tradeshows continue to be a popular traditional channel to distribute content, while websites, online directories, e-mail marketing, and Internet banner advertising are experiencing growth on the digital side. Social media is a good fit for content delivery as well—65 percent of industrial marketers who use social media channels use them to distribute content. Many companies are also building online communities for customers to engage in discussions and answer questions.

We all keep hearing that content is king because it does rule. Make sure you have plans in 2014 to create and distribute good content that will help your customers navigate their buy cycle.

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How do you distribute content to engineers throughout their buy cycle? What tips and ideas about marketing planning would you pass along to your peers in industrial marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Content Marketing Industrial Marketing and Sales