According to the IHS GlobalSpec “2013 Trends in Industrial Marketing” report, 54 percent of industrial marketers spent more on digital marketing in 2013 than they did in 2012. With online industrial marketing typically delivering rapid ROI, better-qualified sales leads, and numerous opportunities for brand exposure, there’s no reason to doubt that this trend will continue in 2014 and beyond.
Say, though, that you haven’t yet fully embraced online marketing. But you’re starting to feel like you need to commit to a digital program if you’re going to continue to compete. Where do you begin? And what sorts of resources do you need to allocate if you’re going to be competitive?
Honestly, the answer to that question largely depends on your business goals, which will dictate your marketing strategy. In turn, this strategy will determine which online marketing channels you’ll need and how best to use them. But if you’re looking for some basic starting points, there are a few areas that all online marketing programs should cover: a website, directories, search, social media, and email marketing.
According to the GlobalSpec report mentioned above, websites accounted for 22 percent of industrial companies’ digital marketing budgets in 2013. This is because websites are some of the most cost-intensive areas for online marketing, but also because they are still the hub of all digital marketing activity in the industrial sector.
Your website is your publishing platform — where you can curate and host as much content as you want. You can include a comprehensive account of your products and services, elaborate on your brand identity, host technical papers, and make timely posts about newsworthy items.
The flexibility and depth of content offered by a website is complemented by the different levels of customer engagement it enables. While it can introduce a new prospect to your company when they find it through an online search, your website is also your ultimate conversion point. On it, you can host forms for customers who are farther down the sales pipeline to request a quote, get in touch, enroll in a promotion, or access valuable content you’ve house behind a gated landing page by submitting their contact information.
Directories such as GlobalSpec, MacRAE’s Bluebook, ThomasNet, and Zycon are still effective as sources of website traffic and RFQs if administered properly. They have large subscriber bases and comprehensive industry listings that can generally be segmented to suit any industrial company.
What does need to be evaluated, though, is whether or not these directories need to be such substantial parts of any industrial marketing budget (12 percent on average, according to the GlobalSpec report). Often, directories have free or lower-tier programs that can prove just as effective as some of the more expensive options if they are combined with the right mix of onsite search engine optimization (SEO) and search advertising programs.
Search Engine Optimization and Advertising
While SEO isn’t as preeminent as it used to be, it’s still important. Common sense dictates that you want to create content that includes the same terms potential customers use when they search for the products or services offered by your company. So while you shouldn’t be creating pages and posts just to serve as bait for online searches, you still need to make sure that your content conforms to current SEO best practices.
Too, focusing on organic search is a relatively slow way of enhancing discoverability. It certainly helps in the long run, but if you want quick search results, you need a search engine advertising program, usually comprised of Google pay-per-click (PPC) and display ads. Per GlobalSpec, industrials are spending about 11 percent of their annual online marketing budgets on search advertising.
A social media marketing program will include a blog, as well as branded presences on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Twitter, at a minimum. You should also secure a YouTube profile, although you’ll need to produce video content on a regular basis to make effective use of it.
According to the GlobalSpec report, online industrial marketing programs only devote an average of 4 percent of their budgets to social media. This is because it is inherently a low-cost channel, but also because it is viewed as largely unproven in the industrial sector. This is starting to change, however, as more companies and professionals begin to adopt social media as a business tool.
If wielded properly, social media can have surprising results. For one, it can be a way to connect with principals at other companies. But it can also be used as an effective branding tool and can become a significant source of website traffic, provided you create engaging content that can attract an audience and sustain their interest.
GlobalSpec reports that industrial companies spend 11 percent of their annual marketing budgets on email marketing, and with good reason. After all of these years, email remains one of the most effective online marketing tools with click-through rates of over 4 percent in the manufacturing sector according to email marketing leader MailChimp.
Email marketing is a great way to connect with existing customers, keeping them informed of new offers and introducing them to the full breadth of your products and services. It is also a reliable way to convert prospects you are already in touch with into customers by keeping your company top of mind as they undertake the evaluation process in their buying cycle. These prospects can include people who filed RFQs in the past but did not convert, as well as top-of-funnel leads such as interested parties who have submitted email addresses to access gated content on your website.
Integration & Strategy Are Key
This overview of online industrial marketing surveys the most prevalent and most effective digital marketing channels being used by industrials. To truly reach their potential, though, these digital marketing efforts need to be integrated with one another and need to be motivated by clear strategies tied to business goals.
Integration implies organizing your online marketing efforts so they work in concert with one another. For instance, social media efforts could be geared to drive traffic to your website, which could be set up to capture prospects’ email addresses, funneling them into your email marketing program. Digital marketing can also be integrated with more traditional marketing efforts, becoming an important part of your existing marketing mix. Some examples include: using social media to promote trade show appearances; or hosting a form on your website to add contacts to your direct mail list.
Developing an online marketing strategy will involve reviewing how your marketing efforts are tied to business objectives. And, if you have traditional marketing programs in place, it can also involve evaluating whether or not digital techniques can replace those “analog” efforts — either because they hold more strategic value or because they offer more cost-effective ways of achieving the same goals.
If you’d like to learn more about these online marketing channels or want to discuss putting together a strategic marketing plan to make the best use of them for your business, feel free to contact us at Industrial Strength Marketing.