3 Rules for Developing a Digital Media Strategy

It’s the digital age. Engineers and other industrial professionals are spending more time online than ever before. They use a variety of digital resources to perform work-related tasks, transforming their buy cycle and, in turn, challenging traditional marketing and sales processes for suppliers and manufacturers. This phenomenon, often called the Digital Disruption, has ushered in a new digital era and a mandate for suppliers to develop an effective digital media strategy.

The Digital Disruption is fully explored in the new IHS GlobalSpec white paper: “A Strategic Approach to Digital Media: How to Develop a Budget, Create a Strategy and Measure ROI.”

The majority of industrial marketers already use digital channels to connect with customers and prospects. However, their efforts do not always generate desired results. Only 35 percent of industrial marketers are satisfied or very satisfied with their online marketing efforts, according to the research report “2013 Trends in Industrial Marketing.”

1. Take a multichannel approach
The main reason there is so much room for improvement is that many marketers think of digital as a single tactic. They are not taking a holistic or strategic approach to digital marketing. Just as “traditional” (print advertising, trade shows, direct mail, etc.) was never a single marketing channel, “digital” is also a broad term encompassing many online marketing strategies and tactics.

Because industrial professionals have many digital tools and sources of information at their disposal—from general search engines to specialized search, from industry websites to supplier websites, from online events to e-newsletters, digital catalogs, social media and more—suppliers must deploy a multichannel digital marketing program to be successful.

Of course, you can’t be everywhere, but you can make strategic decisions about where to allocate your resources. You should focus on the channels that:

1. Your target audience prefers
2. Align with your goals and objectives
3. Match your customers’ buy cycle behavior

One point to consider: Many industrial buyers do not initiate contact with a vendor until they have completed the early stages of their buy cycle and are close to a purchase decision. Therefore, it’s important to build and maintain brand visibility and awareness as part of your multichannel approach, so you can be discovered by customers at all times during their research.

2. Create a digital media budget
The first step in creating a budget for digital media is to consider reallocating resources from marketing programs that have performed poorly or are difficult to measure into digital channels that your target audience is using.

Industrial marketers are making the shift to digital, some faster than others. Fifty-four percent of manufacturers report they are spending more for online marketing in 2013 than in 2012. However, half of companies are devoting at least 36 percent of their overall marketing budget to online media and only 30 percent are devoting the majority of their marketing budget to digital efforts. With a target audience that has already made the shift to online resources, industrial marketers have to ask themselves if they are committing enough budget and resources to reach and engage their customers and prospects through digital channels.

3. Meeting the Challenge of Measuring Marketing ROI
Many marketers swallow hard when the discussion turns to measuring marketing ROI, and there’s no question that this measurement is a challenge. At the same time, there’s no doubt that marketers need to be more accountable.

Here are several ways to get started measuring ROI:

1. Commit only to measurable programs. 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.

2. Focus on those measurements that provide valuable insight leading to decisions that will improve your marketing program. These include the volume of engagement opportunities, the value of a lead in terms of revenue it helps to generate, the speed with which a lead converts, cost per inquiry, and brand awareness (such as reach and exposure numbers).

3. The industrial buy cycle can involve multiple decision makers and include many marketing touch points. It’s not easy to determine which touch point(s) contributed to a sale, even for companies using sophisticated marketing automation software and having the benefit of tight integration and communication among sales and marketing to share data and insights. Most likely, all touch points contribute to a sale. You may need to assign a weighting to different tactics to help measure ROI.

The white paper, “A Strategic Approach to Digital Media,” includes four additional tips for measuring ROI. Plus recommendations on developing a multichannel marketing approach and reallocating your budget to the digital side. It’s a valuable resource for every marketer. Download your complimentary copy.

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Do you have a digital media strategy in place? What ideas on crafting a digital media strategy would you pass along to your peers in industrial marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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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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Demand Process: Taking a Strategic Approach to Demand Generation

Most B-to-B companies focus on too many marketing tactics without taking a strategic approach to demand generation, resulting in weak performance and ROI of marketing initiatives. This is one of the key points brought up at the Industrial Marketing Digital Summit by Adam B. Needles, chief strategy officer at ANNUITAS, a B-to-B demand generation firm.

Needles quoted a Forrester Research study that reported B-to-B marketers are juggling too many tactical balls, with 75 percent of them using 15 of the 26 marketing techniques surveyed. The findings held true across the SMB segment as well as larger enterprises.

The number one pain point for these organizations is the lack of quality leads for sales. This is a problem even in organizations using marketing automation technology, because the technology itself does not solve process issues. Another problem is that content does not support the buying process, because most companies lead with what they want to sell, and not with what customers want to buy. Needles referenced another survey that found 86 percent of the unique benefits touted by vendors were not perceived as unique or having enough impact to create preference.

Need for a strategic demand generation process

To overcome these challenges, Needles offers a four-step demand generation process that is strategic and perpetual with the goal of engaging, nurturing and converting buyers, driving repeatable revenue, and maximizing customer lifetime value. The four steps are:

  1. Put the buyer at center
  2. Address gaps in the middle of the funnel
  3. Build and operationalize a demand generation process
  4. Constantly optimize

1. Put the buyer at the center. Customers are living in a different world now. Due to their online research and participation in social networks and online forums, they are more informed and have more choices than ever before in terms of products and services available to them. In short, they are in control. Marketers must adapt because the power has shifted to buyers. The sales-driven culture is gone; the buyer-driven culture is here.

Companies must now build messaging, programs and systems around the goals of educating and qualifying their prospects. They must have the right content at each stage of the buy cycle and must understand at what point a potential customer wants to interact with a sales person. That’s when a lead is sales ready—when they’re ready to talk to sales person.

2. Address gaps in the middle of the funnel. Companies may be good at building awareness and generating initial contact, but too often the prospect disappears because there are no nurturing programs to support them through their buying process.

Lead management is not a strongpoint for most B-to-B organizations and less than one-fourth has a defined lead-to-revenue process, according to Forrester. Only 5 percent claim that every prospect interaction is orchestrated.

Needles also quotes a study performed by the marketing automation firm Eloqua in which the lack of lead nurturing had a negative impact on the number of leads. It is in this stage that prospects need to be understood, scored and segmented, offered relevant content, and generally cared for (or nurtured) until they are ready for sales. It is also where you continue to ask more questions of prospects that will help you further define their needs and qualify them. Also, successful companies continue to nurture prospects who many never become sales-ready because it keeps their name top of mind for referral situations or if the prospect changes jobs.

3. Build and operationalize a demand generation process. While technology such as marketing automation can help support your demand generation process from end to end, technology in itself does not build the process. The demand generation process requires a business and cultural shift in which the sequence of engagement, nurturing and conversion of buyer demand into revenue is treated as a series of steps that can be both managed and optimized.

The demand process must be structured to support each of the three phases of engagement, nurturing and conversion. You must define rules for content marketing, prospect scoring and segmentation, lead management, team member roles, and use of technology. Most importantly, the process must be used consistently and perpetually by your organization.

4. Transform and optimize the process. Improvement of the demand generation process is not an option; it’s a necessity. You should be tracking metrics and performance at every stage of the process. Two key areas to focus on are outcomes and governance. In terms of outcomes, volume and quality of leads, conversion, ROI, and customer lifetime value should all be on your list of metrics to optimize. Governance includes overall program management, end-to-end process documentation, and incorporation of best practices.
Making demand generation a strategic process is not a simple task, but it is an essential one for B-to-B companies.

For more details and several case studies, view Needles’ presentation on demand.

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Demand Generation