Three Tips for a More Effective Multichannel Strategy

With engineers and technical professionals using a variety of digital resources for work related purposes, industrial marketers must deploy a multichannel strategy to attract new customers and connect with current ones. But it takes more than simply placing advertising in different digital media channels.

Instead, you must be able to deliver a seamless, consistent experience across multiple channels in order to build confidence and trust among your target audience and increase opportunities to win business.

Being consistent and seamless requires that the attributes and value of your brand come across to your customers at all times, on all channels. Many customers might be exposed to your company through multiple channels: e-newsletters, websites, online catalogs, webinars, online events, banner ads and more.

You don’t have to—and shouldn’t want to—use the exact same message across channels, or make all your creative and layout look the same, but you should find the appropriate threads to weave through your marketing that will cause potential customers to recognize and understand your brand at every digital touch point. Here’s how:

Cross Media Multiplier Effect

1. Anticipate multiple exposures
There’s a theory that a potential customer has to interact with your company up to seven times before they’re ready to make a purchasing decision. If you’re truly deploying a multichannel strategy, you should work under the assumption that engineers and technical professionals will be exposed to your company numerous times across multiple digital channels.

For example, the person who sees your ad in an e-newsletter might click through to your website and later might view a video on your YouTube channel and read one of your tweets or blog posts. Provide visual consistency by using similar colors, layouts, fonts and other design elements across channels and content.

Provide message consistency by reminding your audience of your brand value. How do you want your audience to perceive you: Are you a technology innovator? A low-cost provider? Known for stellar customer service? Find a way to reinforce your major brand message, even if the specific marketing campaign is more focused.

2. Plan your content
Be the company that is always putting out fresh content on multiple digital channels. The latest news on your products or trends in the industry. A new white paper, video or webinar. If you strive to constantly refresh your content, it will be easier to maintain consistency and deliver a seamless experience across channels.

In addition, create a schedule for publishing content so that you know when and where your content will appear. This will help you avoid, for example, having last month’s story still promoted on your social media platforms while this week’s e-newsletter concerns itself with more recent topics. Remember that not every channel has to carry the same message or news (which would be dull), but they do have to work together and you have to be aware of what’s appearing where.

3. Tie it all back to your website
A good portion of your marketing effort is likely devoted to funneling customers to your website where they can accept your offers, make a purchase, contact you or interact with your company, brand and content in other ways. Whether a potential customer is exposed to your company through a banner ad, e-newsletter, online catalog, social media post or other channel, every potential customer that clicks through to your website should immediately recognize something familiar, whether it’s a message you want to continually reinforce or a consistent look and feel you want to promote.

If you integrate all the components of your multichannel marketing strategy in these ways, not only will you provide a consistent, seamless and memorable experience to your target audience, you will create the impression of being everywhere in the digital sphere. Customers will see and recognize your presence, which will help form a stronger and longer lasting connection with your brand, company and products.

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2015 Marketing Planning Part 1: Generating Results in Today’s Digital Environment

Now is the time to begin formulating your marketing strategy and developing plans for 2015. In Part 1 of this two-part series, we’ll look at how you must account for the dramatically changing marketing landscape due to the rise of digital media.

In the early days of digital, industrial companies could get by simply with a company website. This is no longer the case. Today there is an influx of new and relevant digital channels. Technical professionals now have more digital tools and sources of information to do their jobs better and more efficiently. Consider this new reality brought about by the “digital disruption:”

  • Technical professionals are exposed to more companies than ever before—which means more competition for you—because suppliers of every size are building a strong digital presence, giving potential customers more choices in terms of who they do business with.
  • Technical professionals have more personalized preferences and more control in how they choose to interact with suppliers, and often don’t engage with a supplier until later in their buy cycle because they can do so much of their research and evaluation online.
business solution puzzle 2

The takeaway for marketers is that it’s no longer enough to use a limited suite of digital channels to connect with customers and prospects. To be successful today, you need a broad and deep online presence. Expanding your media program to multiple channels will get your name and brand front and center across all stages of the buy cycle, which you need to build awareness and stay competitive. This phenomenon—that you can achieve higher ROI allocating your resources across multiple channels than you can by relying on a single method—is called the Cross Media Multiplier. In essence, it means the whole is great than the sum of its parts.

Of course, you likely don’t have a bottomless budget that will allow you to take advantage of all the digital channels available to you—from online events, webinars and catalogs to newsletters, custom emails, social media, your own website and more. The question is how to allocate your marketing resources in 2015 to optimize results and achieve your marketing goals. Here are three tips to help in your planning:

1. Use the channels your customers use.
Search engines, online catalogs and supplier websites are the three big channels that technical professionals use when researching a work-related purchase. They belong in your mix. But technical professionals also use a variety of other digital channels to keep up with the latest technologies, product news and companies—and these channels and the information technical professionals get from them all influence their buying decisions. E-newsletters, industry websites, online events and webinars are all important channels for your customers and should be considered as part of your marketing suite. Be sure to allocate some of your budget to these channels.

2. Include both creative and directional advertising in your marketing portfolio.
Creative advertising builds awareness for your brand in the marketplace. Creative advertising occurs near the top of the sales funnel and helps your target audience discover who you are, what you have to offer, and how you can provide value. Examples might be an e-newsletter sponsorship, banner ad, online event or social media. Directional advertising is more mid- to end-funnel focused and can lure in technical professionals when they are looking for a specific product or component and need to find the right supplier. Examples are supplier directories, online catalogs and optimizing your website content for search. You need both types of advertising to be 1) recognized by your potential customers, and 2) chosen when the time comes to buy.

3. Work with experts.
Your media partners, including IHS Engineering360, have a wealth of knowledge about the digital media landscape and how it functions. They can offer you guidance in matching your marketing goals and budget with the right mix of digital channels to achieve the results you need. Reach out early to your media partners and get your plans in place for 2015 so you can begin the next year with momentum.

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Survey: Industrial Marketers Must Optimize their Digital Mix

The good news is industrial marketers are making the evidence-based decision to invest more in online marketing. On the other hand, they still need to optimize their digital mix. This was one of the key findings from IHS GlobalSpec’s latest research report, 2014 Trends in Industrial Marketing, based on a recent survey of marketing and sales professionals in the industrial sector.

2014 Trends Industrial Marketing

The results provide new insight into the strategies, budgets and tactics industrial marketers use today.

Here are the highlights:

Diversifying the marketing mix
Currently, corporate websites command about 25 percent of online budgets, which amounts to more than twice the spending on any other channel. There’s no question your company website is important and will continue to be, but establishing and maintaining a broad and deep online presence is critical in this age of digital disruption, when technical professionals have at their disposal a variety of digital resources to find the work-related information they seek. Your target audience doesn’t primarily rely on a single channel, so why should you? Industrial marketers should consider shifting a portion of their budget to other online channels such as e-newsletters, webinars and banner advertising on industry websites.

Playing catch-up to customer behavior
Forty-nine percent of industrial companies are increasing their online marketing budgets, but on average less than half (46 percent) of the overall marketing budget is spent online. While this online marketing percentage is up from 40 percent last year and 32 percent back in 2007, it still may not be enough to keep pace with the behavior of your customers. It may also be a contributing factor to the level of satisfaction industrial marketers feel about their online marketing efforts. Twenty-nine percent are still dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their online marketing efforts and 40 percent are feeling neutral.

Customer acquisition is still king
Year over year, customer acquisition tops the list of marketing goals in the industrial sector. Almost half (47 percent) of industrial marketers said customer acquisition is their primary marketing goal in 2014, up from 38 percent in 2012. Related to customer acquisition is lead generation; 29 percent of industrial marketers say it is the biggest challenge in their profession. In addition, customer acquisition is a key measurement of success for 55 percent of companies, along with sales attributed to marketing campaigns (64 percent) and leads (47 percent).

Preferred marketing channels
E-mail marketing using in-house lists, tradeshows, content marketing and search engine optimization are the top marketing channels in the industrial sector. Direct mail using rented/purchased lists, mobile marketing and podcasts are at the bottom of the list. Five of the top six channels used are digital channels, indicating that many marketers understand the importance of devoting resources to a mix of digital channels. Fifty-five percent say they use both inbound (pull) and outbound (push) marketing programs but state they could better diversify their mix.

Content marketing efforts must mature
Sixty-one percent of industrial marketers are now using content marketing as tactic and 54 percent are planning to increase their spending on content creation. This reflects marketers’ understanding that their prospects and customers are hungry for relevant content that will help them do their jobs better and make informed buying decisions. On the other hand, 44 percent of marketers are just getting started with content marketing, just 29 percent have a content marketing strategy, only nine percent can demonstrate how content marketing contributes to sales and only 15 percent align their content with the different phases of their customers’ buy cycle. These results reveal the need for industrial companies to mature their content marketing efforts in order to be more efficient and effective.

Marketers are more social-media savvy
Industrial marketers have gotten more savvy in how they use social media. They are now focusing their efforts on those objectives that social media best fulfills. Seventy-eight percent use social media for branding and 72 percent for content delivery. Only 34 percent use social media to generate leads, down from 59 percent in 2011. The most popular social media channel is LinkedIn. Twenty-seven percent are satisfied with their social media efforts, up from 17 percent in 2012. As industrial marketers continue to get more comfortable using social media and understanding its place in their marketing mix, they will likely achieve better results and their level of satisfaction will continue to increase.

Marketing budgets are steady
Over the past three years, marketing budgets have remained constant. Thirty-five percent are spending more in 2014 than they did in 2013; only 17 percent expect to spend less in 2014. About half are spending the same. For those companies with marketing budgets of $1 million or less, the average marketing budget is $166,000. Forty-two percent of companies have marketing budgets under $50,000 and 12 percent of companies have marketing budgets greater than $1 million. Forty-one percent of industrial marketers are spending at least half of their 2014 budgets for online marketing.

This annual survey can help you evaluate your marketing strategies in relation to your competitors, fine-tune your marketing programs and keep pace with your customers and the market. For complete survey results, along with recommendations for industrial marketers, download your complimentary copy of 2014 Trends in Industrial Marketing.

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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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Digital Media Use Survey Shows Different Work Habits by Age

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost half the engineering workforce will be eligible for retirement in the next few years. A younger generation of technical professionals will be taking their place, a group that exhibits different online work habits compared to their older colleagues.

This finding from the 2014 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector research report will impact your marketing strategy. You must make an effort to attract and cultivate younger technical professionals early in their careers as they form habits and opinions about their industry and the suppliers and products available to them. You can download a complimentary copy of the survey results including charts, detailed analysis and marketing recommendations.

digitalmediause

Trends Among Younger Technical Professionals

  • At greater rates than older technical professionals, those under 35 years old use the Internet for collaborative design, career research, to compare products across suppliers, for competitive information, to download software demos, and to purchase parts.
  • Forty-two percent of technical professionals visit more than ten work-related websites each week. In the under 35-year-old age group, significantly more respondents than any other age segment visit more than 20 websites each week.
  • Younger technical professionals are more likely to use the Internet for research and product comparisons, whereas the older crowd is more likely to be obtaining product specifications and finding components, equipment, services and suppliers.
  • Year-over-year comparison shows the growing importance of general search engines, industry-specific search engines and webinars among the under age 35 group, whereas online catalogs and supplier websites grew in importance among those over 35.
  • Technical professionals are mostly passive users of social media. They prefer to read and watch rather than to create content or join discussions. However, younger technical professionals are more likely to actively participate in discussions than are older technical professionals.
  • Technical professionals under age 35 conduct significantly more product searches and read more news and e-newsletters on their smartphones than their older colleagues do. We can expect the use of mobile devices to continue to grow. Suppliers should consider creating websites and e-newsletters that have response design features, which improves rendering and increases their usability on mobile devices.
  • Industrial professionals over age 49 have more autonomy with purchasing decisions than do their younger colleagues, regardless of the spending amount.

Findings Applicable Across All Age Groups

  • Technical professionals average six hours per week on the Internet for work-related purposes, with 29 percent spending nine or more hours.
  • The primary uses of the Internet for technical professionals are to find components, equipment, services and suppliers (74 percent); obtain product specifications (73 percent); compare products across suppliers (69 percent); find pricing information (68 percent); and perform research (66 percent).
  • The top digital resources technical professionals use for work are general search engines (89 percent), supplier websites (79 percent), online catalogs (76 percent) and industry-specific search engines such as GlobalSpec.com (54 percent).
  • Only 41 percent of technical professionals contact a vendor in the early needs analysis/research stage of their buy cycle. Fifty-nine percent wait until the comparison/evaluation or purchase stages. 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.
  • Almost half of all technical professionals (49 percent) did not attend an in-person tradeshows in 2013. On the other hand, seven out of ten technical professionals attended at least one webinar or online event. Thirty-two percent said they went to four or more. Webinars and other online events continue to be effective marketing programs in the industrial sector.
  • Technical professionals subscribe to an average of 4.9 digital publications, such as e-newsletters and digital trade magazines, versus an average of 1.5 printed trade magazines, a difference of more than three-fold. Digital publications make it easy to connect with your target audience.

Access All Survey Results

The Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector research report offers industrial marketers valuable intelligence you can use to help evaluate your own marketing strategies and optimize your marketing programs. The age of your target audience has become an important consideration when making marketing decisions.

Our new research report includes all survey results, along with charts and graphs and key recommendations for marketers. Get your complimentary copy today.

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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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Seven Strategies for Measuring Marketing ROI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Demonstrate ROI for early stages of buy cycle
Although many customers don’t initiate contact with a vendor until later in their buy cycle, you can still demonstrate ROI of marketing programs that supports customers in the earlier buy cycle stages.

For example, web page views, clicks, content downloads, video views, webinar attendance, and mentions or shares on social media can all be tracked and tied to your marketing efforts. These important metrics measure customer awareness, interest, and engagement with your brand, products, and services. If you perform well in these measurements and show improvement over time, then you can reasonably assume your marketing is helping customers through their early stage buy cycle, and you are increasing opportunities to be on their list in later consideration and purchase stages.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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