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Industrial Companies shouldn’t Replace Email Marketing with Social Media

Right off the bat let me say that this post is not about email marketing versus social media. However, I’ve had conversations with manufacturers and industrial companies where I am asked if email marketing is still relevant and effective since all the talk these days is about social media. Yes, social media generates all the buzz but discarding email marketing, a tried and true workhorse would be a mistake and here is why.

In a March 2012 online survey of US marketing professionals, trade publication Chief Marketer found that the most popular tool in digital campaigns, according to 78% of the respondents was email marketing followed by Email newsletters (59%) and a close third was social media at 58%.

Here is a chart from emarketer.com showing the growing number of tools used by marketers to improve Website engagement.

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Industrial Companies Underuse the One Social Media Tactic with Proven ROI

Social media usage by industrial companies has received some coverage lately. I’ve read two different survey studies about how companies within the industrial sector use or plan to use social media. Depending on which study you read, the results can be confusing. Here’s one example of the confusion that I’m referring to.

The study done by GlobalSpec reported, “Only 22 percent of industrial companies use Twitter, which reflects its low value among engineers as a social media resource.”

Whereas the study (2011 Social Media in Industry Survey) conducted by Semplice Industry Marketing states, “Of those who used Twitter in 2011, 78% found it somewhat to very useful.”

The one statistic that stood out for me and is consistent in both these studies is that company blogs rated low for usage across the board. Blogging is a proven social media channel and yet, industrial companies seem to severely under utilize this proven social media tactic.

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Are Community Forums Good for Manufacturers and Industrial Companies?

Blogging and mainstream social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube get all the attention these days. What about good ol’ community forums?

Community forums have been around a lot longer than the newer social media channels. Some even consider it the original crowdsourcing platform for content. Traditionally used as customer support tools by manufacturers and industrial distributors, the discussion threads were primarily text-based. However, the more modern incarnation of community forums support rich media content, file attachments and social sharing options.

According to a survey done by GlobalSpec (Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector – 2011), 33% of industrial companies provide an online discussion community for customers, and 32% provide one internally for employees. (See chart)

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Small Manufacturers Use Social Media Effectively

Social media still remains a mystery to many manufacturers and industrial companies even though there is an abundance of evidence of its success in general B2B marketing. Many engineers, specifiers, users and buyers of industrial products regularly use social media in their personal lives but work-related usage is limited among this audience.

I’ve read a few articles and blog posts about how some manufacturers are using Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to listen, engage and market to their customers. However, these have been from other industrial marketing consultants like me.

I needed to find some real-world examples of manufacturers using social media effectively. And I don’t mean multinational behemoths that have deep pockets and can afford to experiment with marketing strategies. What about family owned and operated machine shops, fabricators and smaller manufacturers?

Videos play a key role in manufacturing marketing

Probably the most common use of social media is videos on YouTube. I found quite a few small manufacturers that offer precision CNC machining and fabrication services to large OEMs in a variety of industries.

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How Blogs Help Manufacturers Enter New Markets

The current economy and a global supply chain have forced many manufacturers to reevaluate how they do business these days. Traditional sources of new business – word-of-mouth referrals and repeat business from existing customers have slowed to a trickle for many of these industrial companies. They now find themselves in uncharted waters where they have to think of and appreciate marketing as something more than mere sales support.

Business owners and executives crave stability and predictability but expectations and behaviors of industrial buyers have changed. It is time to get out of your comfort zones and rethink your industrial marketing strategies and tactics if you want your company to survive and thrive. That is an important and sometimes painful lesson that many manufacturers have learned over the past couple of years.

Entering new markets (49%) is cited as one of the top three areas where manufacturers and industrial companies will be spending more time and effort in 2011. (Source: 2011 Economic Outlook Survey by GlobalSpec.)

How do you enter a new market where you have no brand awareness, credibility or customer references?

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Manufacturer’s Marketing Video Becomes a YouTube Sensation

Industrial and manufacturing marketing doesn’t have to be dull and boring. Here’s proof.

Corning, a manufacturer of specialty glass and ceramics created a marketing video called “A Day Made of Glass” to demonstrate future applications of its specialty glass. Even though the original intent was to create a sales tool for its manufacturing customers, it went viral in a big way after the company posted it to YouTube.

I’m not talking about several thousand views; the 5+ minutes long video has been viewed 12,379,640 times since it was first uploaded to YouTube about two months ago.

View Corning’s “A Day Made of Glass” Video

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How a Global Distributor’s Online Community for Engineers Pays Rich Dividends

Building a thriving online community around your social media strategy takes a lot of hard work. Sometimes it feels like you are operating in a vacuum where nobody seems to be listening or responding to your initiatives.

It is heartening then to read about an industrial company’s success in building an engineering community, which in turn generates leads, produces sales and increases the company’s awareness among its target audience.

A recent article by Paul Gillin (@pgillin) and published in BtoB Online, caught my attention because it talks about how engineers can have fun while doing serious business.

In “Who says engineers don’t know how to have fun?” Paul reports on the phenomenal success of element14, an online community for electronic design engineers. Read more

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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Have Digital Marketing and Social Media Killed the Industrial Sales Job?

Remember the very first music video ever played on MTV? It was called “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the British band The Buggles and was aired at 0001 hours on August 1, 1981, the day the cable station was launched in the U.S. Every disruptive technology is known to cause major upheavals in any industry. And digital marketing and social media are as disruptive as they come.

Even though the widespread adoption of social media in industrial marketing has been slower than general B2B and B2C marketing, it has had a serious impact on industrial sales, especially on the traditional role of the outside sales rep.

Digital marketing has also changed how industrial and technical buyers behave, search and consume information that they need at different stages of the buy cycle. They are time-challenged and want to interact with salespeople based only on their needs and schedules.

The impact of digital marketing on complex sales

I am deliberately making a distinction here between simple transactional sales and complex industrial or technical sales. The first type uses a self-serve model and is typically completed in the very first sales interaction, be it in person or online.

Complex industrial sales require many face-to-face meetings with several stakeholders within the customer’s organization. Often closing the deal requires participation by many members of your sales team. Read more

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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