The time to start marketing your business online was yesterday. According to an IHS report from 2015, 50 percent of technical professionals spend six or more hours a week on the web for work-related purposes. Technical professionals are going online for a number of reasons:
- 77% use the internet to find components, equipment, services and supplies
- 73% obtain product specifications
- 70% find product availability information
- 67% perform research
- 66% compare products across suppliers
The internet has become an integral part of doing business for even the most technologically sluggish companies. The question is, what digital marketing channels are worth investing in?
Start with the right mindset: driving more qualified leads
If you’re in charge of marketing your business, you’ve probably solicited feedback from your team that sounds something like this:
“We need to go viral on Twitter!”
“Let’s start a YouTube channel!”
“Why is our competitor ranking in Google? We need to be first!”
“We need 100,000 followers on Facebook!”
It’s easy to become fixated on individual channels and tactics. But if you shift the mindset from micro-level metrics like followers, views, impressions, clicks, rankings and visitors to the most important metric, qualified leads, you’re already heading in the right direction. Set a lead generation goal based on what kind of revenue growth you expect to see, and let that be your focus going forward.
At the end of the day, you should care about whether a particular channel is driving more qualified leads to your website. So let’s start with the channels that have the greatest potential to drive leads when figuring out what channels to prioritize. Note: The channels that work for some companies might not work for your company, but if you’re measuring qualified leads coming from each channel, you’ll be able to decide what’s working.
Organic search: buying a condo on Google’s beachfront
Let’s start with organic search. Search engine optimization (SEO) has been around a long time; people have been trying to figure out Google’s secret sauce since its inception. While there are a lot of technical hurdles to overcome before your site is SEO-friendly, let me save you a lot of time and explain the two core principles of SEO: create amazing content that’s keyword-targeted and convince other sites to link to that content.
SEO is time and labor intensive: you need to mine your sales team and technical experts for informative and useful content ideas and turn those ideas into keyword-targeted content. Then you need to build links to your website to increase its authority (see here for a massive list of link building ideas). If you’re going to spend all this time creating content and building links, is it really worth it?
My answer: yes, but only if you’re willing to commit at least a year to ongoing SEO efforts. Here’s why: 83 percent of technical professionals in the industrial sector (construction, aerospace/defense, machinery, design engineering and facility management) use search engines as a source of information during work. Supplier websites are the second most popular information source, which are usually found in search engines.
Clearly, there’s a huge benefit to showing up in search results when your customers are actively researching products and services you offer. But SEO isn’t as simple as flipping on a switch — building a content library and earning backlinks from other sites takes time. If you’re afraid of commitment, paid search might be a better option in the short term.
Pay-to-play: Google AdWords and paid search
Those metrics mentioned above apply to paid search as well; if you want to get in front of the 83 percent of technical professionals searching for solutions, paid search is a viable channel. With Google AdWords you can start bidding on keywords and buying search engine real estate right away. You essentially buy an ad on search engine result pages for particular keywords and pay each time someone clicks on your ad. If you crunch the numbers on how much time and energy you spend on SEO vs. AdWords, you might think AdWords is a clear winner.
But there are a few caveats to paid search worth considering. First, you’re renting ad space. Once you stop paying, you lose the real estate. Also, paid search only accounts for around 5 percent of traffic through Google on desktops. That’s a huge chunk of searchers that won’t land on your site. Still, paid search is a channel worth investing in, especially if you’re already committed to SEO.
The biggest benefit of paid search is the ability to pay for keywords you can’t rank for in organic search (at least, not right away). Highly competitive keywords can take years to rank for organically, and AdWords gives you a way to instantly start driving traffic for those terms.
Paid search can also complement organic search by showing your company name and website twice for searches you’re already ranking for. Having that added brand exposure can help drive more clicks to your site overall, because searchers view you as an expert on the topic they’re researching.
Lastly, if you’re selling commodity products that can be sold directly through an e-commerce platform, you can measure results and calculate ROI through AdWords. Setting up conversions in AdWords and inputting the average value for each conversion helps you determine if your AdWords spend is paying off.
The most important thing to consider when setting up your paid search campaign is what landing page you’re sending visitors to and how you intend to convert them into a lead. You’re spending money on each click, and you’re catering to a much smaller portion of the overall search engine market. Make sure the content is relevant to the keywords you’re bidding on (this affects your Quality Score, which affects bid and placement), and make sure to send visitors to a page with a compelling call-to-action.
There’s a lot to love about AdWords, and you can learn more about setting up different campaigns here.
Connecting with other businesses through LinkedIn
There’s a diverse social media landscape for marketers to navigate, each one promising to help your business thrive. While each has it’s own strengths and weaknesses, LinkedIn is the platform B2B industrial companies should be using to reach their customers.
Like all social media, LinkedIn has opted to serve up more paid content than organic content. Sponsored content can be served directly to your audience’s newsfeed. Given the business-focused nature of LinkedIn and its sophisticated targeting options, LinkedIn is an excellent option for businesses trying to connect with other businesses.
LinkedIn’s targeting options are robust. Take a look at the options below.
There’s a lot to choose from. Location, company name, industry, size, job title and years of experience are ones I find most useful. But you can choose whichever criteria make the most sense for your campaign.
Wanting to target C-level executives at general contracting companies in Idaho? No problem.
Trying to reach hospital facility managers with at least five years of experience? Easy.
Looking to connect with Boeing software engineers over the age of 30? LinkedIn has you covered (also, this one sounds like it could be an ad for an engineer dating site).
In addition to the built-in targeting options for reaching new audiences, you can load in existing business emails and reach specific individuals. So if you’re trying to reengage leads that have gone quiet, serving them up content that helps move them along their buying process is a viable tactic. Alternatively, if you just attended a big trade show and have hundreds of business cards from potential customers, loading those customers into LinkedIn’s advertising platform can help your sales team close.
Speaking of reengaging contacts, retargeting is a new technology you can’t ignore in 2017.
Retargeting with AdRoll
AdRoll is a retargeting platform that puts a cookie in a user’s browser after they’ve visited your website. Once the tracking code is live, you can create banner ads and social media ads based on the pages users visit. When the user visits a website that’s in AdRoll’s publishing network, such as Facebook or a news publisher, there’s a chance they are served the ads you’ve created.
This is a fantastic way to reengage visitors that come to your website but fail to convert into a lead. In fact, visitors who return to your website from a retargeted display ad are 70 percent more likely to convert on your website than a typical visitor.
AdRoll can be used for products and services with low and high complexity. For example, if you run an e-commerce platform that sells widgets, you can create an ad for visitors that drop off on the checkout screen with a 15% off discount code.
For more complex products and services with longer buying cycles, AdRoll can be used to re-engage visitors with case studies, comparison guides and other qualifying content that helps them along their buying process.
Hypothesize, measure, analyze, optimize, repeat
Whatever marketing channels you decide to use, measuring results has never been easier. Make sure you have a web tracking software like Google Analytics that can measure traffic, engagement and leads for each marketing channel. Keep track of what’s working and refine your marketing budget and plan on a quarterly schedule based on the results. Don’t hold on to marketing channels that are underperforming, and be ready to try new tactics that support your larger marketing strategy.
Tommy O’Shaughnessy is a digital marketing strategist at Gorilla 76, a marketing agency that works exclusively with B2B industrial companies. He develops marketing plans for clients ranging from conversion-focused website redesigns to content marketing campaigns.