Content and Social Marketing: Connecting and Engaging with 10K+ Engineers

Most marketers agree that content marketing and social media have become mainstream B2B marketing strategies. Nine out of ten B2B marketers are now using content marketing to grow their businesses, according to the recent study released by MarketingProfs and Junta42|Content Marketing Institute.

The reason for not using content marketing that I hear most often from my industrial clients is “we don’t have and/or can’t produce enough content that our customers (engineering, technical and manufacturing professionals) will find valuable.”

This is a problem across the board for B2B marketers as reported by the same study – the largest challenge is “producing the kind of content that engages prospects and customers” (36% of respondents). One-fifth say that “producing enough content” (21%) and “budget to produce content” (19%) are their greatest challenge in content marketing.

It is very refreshing then to find an engineering company like Texas Instruments (TI) successfully use content and social marketing to reach and engage with over 10,000 design engineers and customers. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, TI is a global company that develops analog, digital signal processing, RF and DLP® semiconductor technologies used in consumer and industrial electronics products.

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Variety of Content is the Key in the Early Stages of the Industrial Buy Cycle

In the early stages of the industrial buy cycle, you as the marketer have very little information about the visitor to help you tailor your marketing content to their needs.

In Needs Awareness and Research phases, the first two stages of the industrial buy cycle (see my earlier post Deconstructing the Four Stages of the Industrial Buy Cycle) your prospects and customers use a variety of online content to find solutions to their current problems and needs.

The chart below shows the variety of content used at different stages of the industrial buy cycle (Source: Understanding the Industrial Buy Cycle: How to Align Your Marketing with Your Customers’ Buying Process from GlobalSpec).

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Content Auditing and Mapping it to the Industrial Buy Cycle

These days it is popular to say “Content is marketing currency.” What does it really mean to an industrial marketer, especially if you work for or are a small to mid-size manufacturer or engineering company?

Industrial giants have deep pockets to create marketing content on a daily basis. You don’t have that kind of a marketing budget; smaller as it may be in these tough times, yet a lot is expected of you or your marketing team. How can you use marketing content to generate a decent volume of sales-ready leads at a low(er) cost?

What is effective content marketing?

Content marketing does not mean churning out white papers, case studies, articles, blog posts, podcasts and webinars for the sake of putting out content. Most B2B marketers find it relatively easy to create and use content to gain search engine presence. The big hurdle they face is in engaging and converting readers into prospects, leads and ultimately customers.

Passive reading of your content will not move the prospect along in his/her decision making process. He/she must take a desired action for that to happen. While conversion may be the ultimate goal, building trust, increasing awareness, improving the company’s reputation, expertise and credibility and encouraging social sharing are all worthy content marketing goals too. Read more

Industrial and B2B Customer Engagement Simplified

More and more industrial and B2B marketers now view customer engagement as the key to driving incremental sales and revenues. However, accurately defining and measuring customer engagement in complex business or industrial sales is still elusive.

The most simplistic approach to evaluating customer engagement is to measure conversion rates. For an eCommerce site that is easy, it is typically the value of transaction per visit. However, it is not so simple to measure customer engagement in situations with long sales cycles that’s commonplace with manufacturers, sellers of technical products and B2B consultative solution providers. I have written about this problem in my previous post, “The Disconnect Between B2B Content Marketing and Customer Engagement.”

Some B2B marketers are using more sophisticated ROI measurement tools to track activities over the entire life cycle of a lead. For example, at Sopheon, a software provider, measures qualified leads by their source, their region, volume per region, the speed of aging, movement through the sales cycle and other metrics.

These metrics are all linked to 10 stages in Sopheon’s sales process. This way the company can see exactly where the leads are coming from, how old they are, where they are in the process, which account executive is handling them and where leads typically fall out. Read more

The Disconnect Between B2B Content Marketing and Customer Engagement

While B2B content marketing has many purposes, its primary goal is to engage with prospects and customers in order to build trust so that they will want to contact you in order to do business with your company. The majority of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) consider customer engagement as their top priority according to a recent study done by Forbes Insights and George P. Johnson (GPJ).

The New Rules of Engagement: CMOs Rethink Their Marketing Mix is based on a survey of 314 marketing executives at companies with more than $500 million in annual revenue. Fifty-six percent of the participants were primarily B2B marketers and the remaining 44% were B2C. Nearly 97% of the respondents viewed customer engagement as very (67%) or somewhat (30%) important.

Robert G. Vallee Jr., Chairman and CEO of GPJ said, “This report suggests that engagement is now a key dynamic that should be considered when designing big-idea campaigns; without engagement, the message is quickly lost, its power diminished.”

That was the good news part of the study. The bad news — more than a quarter (27%) have no specific strategy for customer engagement, and more than a third (34%) feel their companies do only a fair or poor job engaging their audiences. “They [CMOs] believe they can do a better job at engagement, but often don’t know how,” said Stuart Feil, editorial director of Forbes Insights. Read more

Can Industrial and B2B Marketers Learn Creative Problem Solving from Fifth Graders?

To be successful in industrial and B2B marketing, one has to engage with prospects and customers in a meaningful manner. Consultative selling is one of the recommended ways and that requires us to sharpen our listening and creative problem solving skills.

That’s great, if you are a natural born consultant but for the rest of us, we have to learn and master these skills. That is why the headline “The Creativity Crisis” in a recent article from Newsweek caught my attention.

According to the article, the Creativity Quotient (CQ) among American children has been in a steady decline since the early nineties. Kyung Hee Kim at the College of William & Mary discovered this in May, after analyzing almost 300,000 Torrance scores of children and adults. Kim found creativity scores had been steadily rising, just like IQ scores, until 1990.

Since then, creativity scores have consistently inched downward. “It’s very clear, and the decrease is very significant,” Kim says. It is the scores of younger children in America—from kindergarten through sixth grade—for whom the decline is “most serious.”

Many other media outlets have reported the same creativity crisis in America. What are consequences of this creativity decline to the business world? Read more

Is Content Curation an Easy Way for Content Marketers to Do More With Less?

Even though “content curation” is not a common phrase, there’s plenty of discussion to be found on the Internet. Heck, even MS Word kept flagging curation as a misspelled word.

Google News, aggregating content via RSS feeds and social bookmarking sites have been around for a while. Bloggers of all stripes have counted on the popularity of “list” posts whenever they’ve run out of fresh ideas for content. So curated content is not something new.

What is content curation?

I searched Wikipedia for information but couldn’t find an exact definition. Instead, I found something on Media Curation, which I thought was close enough:

Media Curation is the emerging trend toward creating media content using a mix of machine and human resources. The practice includes aggregation (gathering) and curation (sorting, categorizing, art directing, and presenting) such that material from multiple sources creates a unique editorial experience for readers/visitors.

Hmmm…not very satisfying. So I Googled “content curation” and lo and behold, it returned 77,600 results. I hit the mother lode!

Curation: Doing more with less is the topic of a video I found in a post by Steve Rosenbaum who is the CEO of Magnify.net, a video curation and publishing platform. Read more

How Relevant Marketing Content Helps B2B Branding

Branding is usually not a popular topic in B2B marketing, especially in the industrial sector. Most CEOs of manufacturing, engineering and technical companies do not believe in the value of brand building and consider it the domain of consumer marketing (B2C). Branding is an expense item like the rest of marketing.

That’s a shame and here’s why — among the top ten in Interbrand’s Best Global Brands 2009, IBM was listed at #2, Microsoft, GE and Intel at number 3, 4 and 9 respectively. Yes, GE and Microsoft sell directly to end-users but they are primarily B2B companies.

According to a study done by Professor John A. Quelch, the Lincoln Filene Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, the common characteristic shared by the top B2B Global Brands is that their “CEO is a willing brand cheerleader, loves the brand heritage, and is a great storyteller.” He suggests that B2B marketers take a cue from their B2C counterparts when it comes to increasing brand awareness.

One of the key findings from the study was that B2B marketers are realizing that developing brand awareness among their customers’ customers can capture a larger share of channel margins and build loyalty that can protect them against lower-priced competitors. Professor Quelch provides the example of Intel and its very successful advertising campaign “Intel Inside.”

He ends his post by asking, “Would Dupont’s shareholder value be the same today if it had not made consumers aware of nylon, Lycra, [Teflon], Stainmaster and linked these innovations to the Dupont name? Definitely not.” Read more

Creating Relevant B2B Marketing Content: Walk the Talk

There is plenty of advice out there about engaging B2B and industrial buyers with relevant marketing content at every stage of the buying cycle. That is pretty much the mantra of B2B content marketing.

Transforming that concept into an actionable reality is a very different story. Nothing happens until your site visitors and blog readers take some kind of an action after reading your content. In other words, it is time to walk the talk!

Personas do matter in B2B content marketing

You would be wasting your scarce resources if you pumped out marketing content without first having a clear and complete understanding of the personas of your B2B buyers. Even if you have carefully segmented your target audience by demographics, different people within the same company can and do react differently to your content. And they use different sources to get their information. The chart below from a research study done by Forrester illustrates this point very clearly. Read more

Deconstructing the Four Stages of the Industrial Buy Cycle

B2B marketers agree that lead generation and nurturing campaigns must deliver relevant content to their target audience to be successful. Typically, that means understanding the prospect’s pain and then offering a solution for relief.

Sounds simple, right? But not easy to execute because there usually is a disconnect between what your prospect wants to hear and what you want to say about your company and its products and services.

The problem becomes more acute for the industrial sector because the industrial buy cycle can be a long and complex process that often involves multiple decision makers. Without a clear understanding of the stages, it is difficult to align your marketing content with your customer’s decision-making process.

Industrial Buy Cycle White PaperI downloaded a white paper called “Understanding the Industrial Buy Cycle: How to Align Your Marketing with Your Customers’ Buying Process” from GlobalSpec that has done a very good job of explaining the four stages of the industrial buy cycle and how to match your marketing content to each stage.

The white paper has deconstructed the complex industrial buy cycle into four distinct stages that the buyer systematically goes through. The stages are: Read more