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.

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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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Three Ways to Prioritize Your Marketing Investments

Now is a good time to make a few tweaks to your marketing programs for the last quarter and to begin marketing planning for next year. In both cases, you should prioritize your marketing investments in a way that allows you to use multiple tactics to maximize your exposure and opportunities for engagement opportunities. The other goal to keep in mind is reaching your prospects and clients at every stage of the buying cycle.

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Here are three different approaches to consider when prioritizing your marketing investments. Choose the one that works best for you, or create a hybrid approach that takes advantage of elements from each.

1. Prioritize based on objectives
Your marketing objectives probably include both raising brand awareness in the markets you serve and generating engagement opportunities with clients and prospects. Some channels are proven effective at meeting both objectives. These include webinars, online catalogs, online events, tradeshows and e-newsletters. Channels that tend to be low in both brand awareness and engagement opportunities are general search engines, print directories, and rented e-mail and direct mail lists.

2. Prioritize based on audience behavior
Technical professionals have more digital tools and sources of information than ever before to do their jobs better and more efficiently. They are also exposed to more companies and have many options when ready to buy. Therefore, you can no longer rely on a limited portfolio of online channels to achieve the marketing results you are looking for. For instance, it’s not enough to put most of your resources into your company website. Instead, try to broaden and deepen your online presence to engage your audience in ways that match their searching and sourcing preferences.

When researching a specific work-related purchase, the top three channels technical professionals use are search engines, online catalogs and supplier websites. However, your audience uses many other digital channels to keep up with the latest technologies, product news, companies and brands—all of which influence their buying decisions. E-newsletters, industry-focused websites, social media, online events and webinars are all important industry information sources for your customers.

3. Prioritize based on the buy cycle
For many companies, the industrial buy cycle is long and complex, involving multiple stages, from needs assessment to comparison and evaluation, to a final purchasing decision that may be influenced by recommendations from multiple stakeholders within a company. 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.
Therefore it is essential that you have a highly visible and uninterrupted presence on those channels your customers favor during the early, research-oriented buy cycle stages. These are the channels buyers favor: e-newsletters, online events, webinars and online catalogs. By taking advantage of these channels you increase your opportunities to connect with potential customers early on, so that they keep you top of mind when ready to make a purchasing decision.

Try Something New
The industrial marketing landscape is constantly changing. If you’ve been using the same marketing channels over the past year or longer and haven’t achieved your goals, it may be time to try something new. The fourth quarter is a good time to experiment. It’s not a high-risk proposition. Try sponsoring an online event. Or raising brand awareness through banner advertising on industrial sites. You could even combine several tactics. For example, place ads in industry-specific e-newsletters to increase attendance at an upcoming webinar.
Work with your media partners to evaluate new ideas and choose a tactic or two that fits best with your objectives and your overall marketing portfolio.

Get the Marketing Planning Kit
Each year, IHS GlobalSpec publishes the Industrial Marketing Planning Kit that includes analysis of the industrial market and channels, worksheets to analyze your current marketing mix, and recommendations on developing marketing strategies that target engineers and technical professionals. The 2015 version just came out and you can download your complimentary copy. The 2015 Industrial Marketing Planning Kit is one tool you don’t want to be without when it’s time to prioritize your marketing investments.

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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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Marketing Planning for 2014: 6 Questions to Ask Yourself

You might be so busy keeping your marketing machine rolling you didn’t notice it’s time to plan for 2014. By developing a plan now, you can begin next year in a strong competitive position, with your programs in place and budgets approved, instead of scrambling to make decisions and feeling behind from the beginning.

A good way to start 2014 marketing planning is to ask questions about what you’ve been doing this year and how your strategy might change for next year.

Are you still using the same media channels as two or three years ago?
This is the digital era, and industrial professionals have shifted online to search for and source products, vendors and services. Consider what your audience is doing: Forty-six percent of industrial professionals visit 10 or more work-related websites in a week, while 23 percent visit 20 or more sites. Eighty-four percent use the Internet to find components, equipment, services and suppliers. Other heavy uses include comparing products across suppliers, obtaining product specifications, and finding pricing information.

Best answer: We are putting resources into digital channels to avoid missing opportunity and being left behind.

Do you know how to reach your audience online?
The top four resources that industrial professionals use to find what they are looking for are digital: general search engines, online catalogs, supplier websites, and GlobalSpec.com.

At the same time, tradeshows are no longer a top way to learn about new products, technologies and suppliers. The majority of engineers (51 percent) did not attend an in-person tradeshow in 2012, and only four percent attended four or more tradeshows. In terms of subscriptions, engineers and related professionals subscribe to an average of 5.8 digital publications, such as e-newsletters, versus 1.8 printed trade magazines, a difference of more than three-fold.

Best answer: The best way for us to connect with our target audience and generate engagement opportunities is through the digital channels our customers use to actively search for products, services and suppliers and the online platforms where they go to read news and seek analysis and insight.

Are you using only one or two media channels in your marketing?
Because your customers are online have many digital resources at their disposal, they have more choices of products and vendors and more individualized preferences in terms of which information sources they prefer to use.

Suppliers who have a presence only on one or two channels will likely go unnoticed by potential customers. Instead, diversify your marketing investments across multiple channels to connect with customers and provide the service and consistency they expect. Evidence is mounting that multichannel marketing is producing the desired results for marketers, and that developing a multichannel digital strategy with multiple customer touchpoints is key to success.

Best answer: We will allocate investments across a relevant mix of digital channels to produce the best marketing results.

Are your brand, products and message discoverable by your target audience at all times?
Even when your audience does not have an immediate and pressing need that drives them to begin a work-related search, you still want to be in front of them because they could be a potential customer. This is where branding, visibility, and awareness initiatives come become important.

To meet branding and awareness goals, consider adding these programs in 2014: advertising in industry- and product-focused e-newsletters, hosting a webinar for a highly targeted audience, or using banner ads to maintain a highly visible presence on industry websites.

Best answer: Our company will maintain a digital presence on those channels that allow us to be “discovered” at all times.

Are you allocating enough of your budget to digital media?
Most suppliers will continue to use a mix of traditional and digital media in their marketing efforts with companies shifting more and more of their budget to online channels. Fifty-four percent report they are spending more online in 2013 than they did in 2012. Expect this trend to continue as suppliers realize online channels deliver the best results. However, just half of companies are devoting at least 36 percent of their overall marketing budget online, and only 30 percent are committing the majority of their marketing budget to online efforts. Is this enough? While industrial professionals have shifted work-related tasks to online channels (also known as the “Digital Disruption”), suppliers have only incrementally shifted their marketing

Best answer: We acknowledge that the Digital Disruption has transformed the way our target audience works and how we need to reach and connect with them. We are recalibrating our budget and resources and continuing to shift a greater percentage of our marketing budget to online programs.

Are you able to measure the results of your marketing efforts?
Marketers are under intense pressure to demonstrate ROI on their marketing programs. But you can only begin calculating ROI if you are using measurable marketing programs. Fortunately, the best-performing programs today are digital media. And digital media by its nature is measurable.

You may not always be able to calculate ROI by tying a sale to a specific program, especially in complex sales situations requiring multiple customer touchpoints. But you can track which touch points your customers use and gain a sense of how your overall marketing mix is contributing to revenue growth for your company.

Best answer. We plan to use measurable marketing programs and identify the key metrics that match up to our goals and objectives.
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