Do you know how all the different marketing activities your company undertakes fit into an overall industrial sales cycle? Have you wondered about the precise business value of some of the marketing channels out there, and when and how best they should be used?
We're going to attempt to unpack these questions in this article, contextualising how some of these activities fit within the journey of today's industrial customer.
The key to marketing success is to align your marketing activities with the media behaviour of your prospects so that you can reach them across all stages of the buy cycle.
A 2017 global study by IEEE GlobalSpec Media Solutions surveying 2 239 technical professionals across a wide range of industries – including engineering, manufacturing, construction, materials handling equipment and defence – paints an interesting picture of how the role and value of media channels shift as a potential purchase matures.
We know that these sales processes are approximately 20% longer than they were 5 years ago. That's primarily because of the wealth of information now available to buyers in making business purchases – in many cases at their fingertips.
Media, therefore, has significantly shaped the nature of industrial transactions in recent times, and so we should seek to understand its use in industrial marketing environment more thoroughly, especially in terms of how and why their function shifts as your business converts lead to sale.
The most common uses of media amongst engineers is to find and look for information about suppliers; to source components, equipment and services; obtain product specifications; and to find technical standards.
The following graph demonstrates how the study sample of engineers typically used media across a business purchase. The buying cycle here is divided into a research and needs analysis phase; a comparison and evaluation phase; and culminates in the purchase.
Across the buy cycle, the top 3 channels used by engineers to find information are search engines, online catalogues and supplier websites. It's digital media where today's industrial professionals turn first for information. That's why a multichannel digital strategy, which combines these 3 channels into a single resource based around an optimised website, should be the centrepiece of an industrial marketing programme.
Search engines are by some way the preferred information channel leading into the buy cycle, and become even more important in the comparative phase – but by the purchasing stage, supplier websites are the #1 preferred source in finalising the sale. Search engine marketing – SEO and AdWords – will help drive the search engine traffic to your site, which, if designed according to an informative and intuitive user experience, gives you the best chance of your salesperson getting that phone call or email enquiry.
But also notice how the spread of media channels is more evenly distributed leading into the buy cycle, with channels that demonstrate less influence towards the end of the sale – such as blogs and social media – holding considerable value in the early stages of the sale.
It's not the decrease in lead generation potential of these channels across the buy cycle that's the key takeaway from this data. It's the powerful abilities of these channels to enhance brand awareness and thought and leadership positioning that give companies a distinct initial advantage – the inside lane – in brand equity terms before a potential customer is ready to engage vendors.
Industry professionals are busy people, and so communications that best meet their information needs improve the awareness and perception of their brand and be more top-of-mind with potential customers once they're ready to contact a vendor.
Channels like print publications and white papers are excellent in establishing brand credibility through showcasing the level of skill, expertise and capabilities your company possesses, while channels such as e-newsletters, webinars and tradeshows can help you connect with hard-to-reach audiences and different markets.
Social media and video marketing are used increasingly by the younger generation of technical professionals, and so are invaluable in connecting and fostering new relationships with the generation that will soon occupy the majority of the global workforce.
This is why it's important for companies to diversify their marketing investments. Your audience is using a variety of media channels, and you want to be seen on all of them. Have a strong content marketing plan in place that targets these channels so that content gets into the hands of your audience when and where they need it.
While companies are understandably keen to invest in the more measurable, quantifiable channels that produce tangible lead generation results, it's paramount to consider how each marketing channel are often the qualitative basis that increases downstream lead generation potential. All these channels act as powerful springboards that simultaneously allow companies to broaden their marketing reach that can then begin to funnel into your more direct lead generation and nurturing activities.
Where some companies hurt their marketing efforts is in pursuing a marketing strategy that only partially covers the industrial buy cycle. The consequences of this can be anything from less than satisfactory customer interest to seemingly quality leads going cold.
That's why CubicICE will always work with you to evaluate and identify the media channels best suited to your unique marketing objectives to get maximum returns from your marketing investments.
That's what integrated marketing is all about.
Ultimately, the question you need to ask is: Does your company appear in the media spaces your audience is most likely to use when looking for work-related information?
If not, your marketing spend isn't making the impact it could. Greater alignment between users and content marketing efforts should be the very basis enabling you to optimise your marketing ROI.
IEEE GlobalSpec Media Solutions. 2017. 2017 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector. http://www.globalspec.com/advertising/trends-wp/2017_DigitalMediaUse