IHS Engineering360 recently published a fantastic study called “2015 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector”. Based on a survey of more than 1400 technical professionals, the prevailing message for marketers is this:
As industrial professionals spend more of their time gathering information online, those of us who sell our products and services to industrial professionals MUST begin shifting our marketing spend online accordingly.
A shift from traditional to online marketing media might sound intimidating. After all, most of the industrial sector has been marketing the same way for many years. But for the industrial marketers who embrace it, this shift comes with some good news: everything is measurable.
Industrial marketing campaigns in a traditional sense may have aimed to “grow awareness among our target audience” or “improve our brand image”. But what did any of that really mean? And how did we ever truly measure results against those subjective goals? On the flip side, online marketing initiatives allows us to set highly tangible and measurable goals like:
- Grow targeted website traffic by X%
- Generate Y sales-qualified leads/month through our website
- Attribute Z dollars in sales to contacts that originated through online media sources
In theory, that should be music to your ears. Real numbers mean measurable ROI. But you might be left asking yourself a few questions. What does successful online marketing look like? And what can I physically do to get my business started? Below I’ll illustrate answers to both of those questions. But before diving into it, I want to take a look at two specific statistics from the previously-mentioned IHS Engineering360 study:
- 77% of engineers use digital media to find components, equipment, services and suppliers
- 66% of engineers use digital media to compare produces across suppliers
Here’s what those two stats should mean to you:
- More than three out of four engineers are looking online for something you can offer or some kind of problem you can solve. Your prospects are searching on Google, Bing and Yahoo. They’re utilizing their LinkedIn networks. They’re browsing industry directories. Your job is to make sure they discover YOU.
- Two out of three engineers are researching and evaluating their options online. So under the assumption those potential customers can discover you in the first place, will they find the content on your website more helpful than that of your competition? Is what they find enough to prompt a real sales conversation with you?
Illustrating the online marketing solution
Taking these two points into account, here’s how a scenario with a new prospective customer might play out under the guidance of a smart industrial marketing strategy:
- Your prospect (since we don’t yet know his name, we’ll call him Prospect) has a business problem. And Prospect’s problem happens to be one that your company is really good at solving.
- Prospect searches Google, using a variety of different keywords in attempt to find information and resources that will help him solve that problem.
- Because your company is an expert on the topic, you’ve written a handful of related problem-solving articles on your website. Prospect discovers one of these articles in his Google search and clicks through to read it.
- He finds the article helpful – like a few of the other information sources he’s found online. But he needs more than this 500-word intro to the topic he’s researching.
- Because you’re a smart marketer, you’ve left a big call-to-action button at the bottom of your article, suggesting that Prospect downloads a more comprehensive 10-page PDF guide to learn about that topic in greater detail.
- So Prospect fills out a form, providing his name, company name, email address and phone number in exchange for the guide.
- Just like that, Prospect now has a name. It’s Jim. And your salesman gets an immediate email alert that Jim has downloaded your guide.
- Your salesman does a quick search for Jim and his company and determines that he looks like a qualified lead.
- So while Jim’s digging into your guide and the other resources he’s gathered online, your salesman calls and leaves Jim a voicemail, offering a short consultation. Jim receives an email follow-up with a similar message.
- Because Jim doesn’t feel like he’s being bombarded by a pushy salesman, but rather, an industry expert who’s offering to help, he happily replies to the email and schedules a consultation.
- In the meantime, none of your competitors call Jim because they’re busy putting address labels on direct mailers and hoping someone calls them with a purchase order.
This is no secret recipe. The idea here is very simple. Your buyers ARE looking for information online – solutions to problems, product specs, specific services, suppliers, partners. The data tells us this is true. And you can help them. So in 2016, begin channeling your time and marketing budget into becoming the best information source possible for those buyers.
5 ways to get started with online industrial marketing in 2016
- Answer five common questions your sales team gets from customers with short 500 to 1000-word articles on your website. You already know what those problems are. Put them in writing and publish them.
- Create your first opportunity to capture a lead through download of a white paper, product catalog, case study or informational guide. Give an anonymous website visitor who’s in the research phase of the buying process a reason to give you his contact information so you can take control of the sales conversation.
- Pitch an educational article to an industry publication. You probably share an audience with a lot of industry journals. And many of those journals are hungry for helpful content to publish both in their print and online media sources. Offer to write a guest article about one of those problems you commonly solve. Make sure it’s educational – not promotional.
- Take three hours to educate yourself on SEO (search engine optimization). If you play any role in marketing and your company and you haven’t yet read The Beginners Guide to SEO on Moz.com, there’s no better use of your time.
- Spend 20 minutes/week inside Google Analytics. If not yet installed, ask the administrator of your website to install it for you. That’s a 10-minute job. Google Analytics will help you understand the content your visitors are actually viewing on your site, how they’re discovering you and what’s contributing to them becoming (or not becoming) real leads.
The industrial sector is ripe with opportunity for online business development. Industrial buyers are getting younger, and as the data shows, more of their time and energy is being focused online. Whether you hire an outside B2B marketing consultant to help design your strategy and execute your plan of action, or go at it alone, make 2016 the year you shift that marketing budget online and get a step ahead of your competitors.
Joe Sullivan is a partner at Gorilla 76 – a B2B industrial marketing agency that helps manufacturers, distributors and industrial service providers grow their businesses through inbound marketing.