Most Industrial Websites Miss the Mark

I don’t know of any manufacturer or industrial company that doesn’t want their website to generate more leads and grow sales. Do you? Yet, most supplier websites are failing to meet the buyer’s expectations. And that has nothing to do with industrial website design.

According to Acquity Group’s annual State of B2B Procurement study, “Although supplier websites are the most popular channels for conducting research online (according to 83 percent of respondents), buyers are not satisfied with the level of information offered—only 37 percent of B2B buyers who conduct research through a supplier’s website said it was the most helpful channel for this purpose.”

Here are some more key findings from the same study:

  • Sixty-eight percent of B2B buyers now purchase goods online, up from 57 percent in the 2013
  • Forty percent of buyers research more than half of goods under $10,000 online
  • Thirty-one percent of buyers research more than half of goods costing $100,000 or more online
  • Fifty-seven percent of business buyers have made an online purchase of $5,000 or more in the last year
  • Less than half (48 percent) of respondents purchase goods online directly from suppliers, opting instead for third-party websites and other purchasing channels

Industrial buyers prefer self-serve and self-select modes for purchasing decisions

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Top 12 Industrial Marketing Posts of 2014

top 12 industrial marketing posts of 2014It’s time to look back at the most read industrial marketing posts that I published in 2014. I’ve culled the list down to 12 based on the data from my Google Analytics. These industrial marketing posts are listed in the order of published dates –oldest to the newest.

#1: What’s Hot and What’s Not in Digital Marketing for Engineers in 2014: I just downloaded my copy of the 2014 Digital Marketing for Engineers survey published by John Hayes and his team at ENGINEERING.com. There are some interesting and encouraging findings. I’ll use a few of the charts from the survey results that show what they found and then add what I am seeing firsthand with my industrial clients. Read more…

#2: Industrial Website Redesign Should Fit Your Sales Process: If you want your industrial website to generate qualified leads and drive sales (Of course you do), make sure you and your web developer takes the time to ask and answer the key question, “How will the redesigned website align with our sales process?” Many other related questions begin to surface whenever I ask that question. Read more…

#3. How to Create Successful Industrial Marketing Content for TOFU: Creating effective marketing content for TOFU is proving to be a challenge for many manufacturers. That’s because these industrial companies have plenty of product datasheets, user guides and other product-centric marketing collateral but very little content that is customer-centric. Why is this important? Read more…

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Planning Your Industrial Marketing Strategy for 2015

industrial marketing strategyI hope you have already started planning your industrial marketing strategy for 2015. You may be wondering why you need to spend the time and effort in creating an industrial marketing strategy when you already know the problem – not enough quality leads generated from your current website.

It would be easy to dive right into redesigning your current industrial website. That however could be a mistake because the lack of leads is the symptom you are feeling, the underlying cause of the problem may be something completely different. You need to first identify the root cause and then come up a with plan of action to solve the problem. That plan of action is what I’m referring to as your industrial marketing strategy.

Importance of a formal industrial marketing strategy

Let’s take a step back and see why formulating an industrial marketing strategy is so important. I’m sure by now you have read or heard enough about how content marketing is the best strategy for generating more high quality leads at a lower cost per lead. So making content the cornerstone of your industrial marketing strategy is vital.

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Industrial Website Redesign: Content Before Design

Industrial website redesignAround this time of the year, I get more calls and emails about redesigning industrial websites. This of course is very good news for my industrial marketing business but there is usually something missing that makes me cautious.

My “Spidey Sense” is heightened whenever I hear the other person say something like “We need to spruce up our website so we can be found in Google.”

It goes without saying that being found in Google is a must but there are two wrong assumptions in that statement.

  • Sprucing up or making the site look pretty is not going to produce better results beyond a spike in traffic right after the launch. You are not going to be any better off than you are now but will have spent thousands of dollars in nothing more than a cosmetic facelift for the current site.
  • A website redesign is not the same thing as search engine optimization (SEO). Don’t expect to suddenly appear on the first page of Google just because you’ve done a site redesign. SEO that produces sustainable results requires implementing proven white hat tactics and consistently applying good content marketing practices.

Design, aesthetics, coding and maintaining branding standards are all important. However, the single biggest factor that determines the success of an industrial website redesign is content. I say that based on my experience in successfully redesigning and launching several websites for manufacturers, industrial distributors and engineering companies.

Content is what fuels the digital marketing engine, drives traffic and generates quality leads from industrial websites. That means content is the foundation for SEO, differentiation, thought leadership, engagement, conversions, acquisitions and retention of customers just to name a few of the goals that you want to accomplish with the redesigned site.

You need to ask a few important questions about content before you start a website design or redesign project. It doesn’t matter whether you do this in-house or outsource it; you need good answers, preferably backed by data and research. Here are some of the questions that I ask to help me plan for content before starting an industrial website redesign project:

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Better Industrial Marketing Doesn’t Mean More Technology

Marketing Automation vendors have done a great job of spreading the message about the benefits of technology in marketing. Industrial companies are paying attention. I’ve been asked several times about using Marketing Automation (MA) in industrial marketing. I should be excited and jumping up and down with joy, right? Not so fast! Why do I say that?

Unless you get your marketing house in order first, technology alone isn’t going to solve all your industrial lead generation problems. A popular quote by Bill Gates sums it up nicely. He said, “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”

How Marketing Automation Works

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How to Create Successful Industrial Marketing Content for TOFU

Sales funnel for industrial marketingIn case you aren’t familiar with the content marketing acronym TOFU, let me define it for you. TOFU stands for top of the funnel and relates to content that attracts qualified visitors to your industrial website or blog.

Creating effective marketing content for TOFU is proving to be a challenge for many manufacturers. That’s because these industrial companies have plenty of product datasheets, user guides and other product-centric marketing collateral but very little content that is customer-centric. Why is this important?

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Industrial Website Redesign Should Fit Your Sales Process

Industrial website redesign

I have had many conversations with manufacturers and industrial companies where our discussions began with the statement, “We need to  redesign our industrial website.” Great news, right? Not exactly and here’s why.

If you want your industrial website to generate qualified leads and drive sales (Of course you do), make sure you and your web developer take the time to ask and answer the key question, “How will the industrial website redesign align with our sales process?” Many other related questions begin to surface whenever I ask that question.

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Two Controversies That May Disrupt Industrial Digital Marketing Plans

In the past week, I have read several blog posts about two content marketing controversies that have set the blog world on fire. Mind you, these bold predictions are not put forth by some obscure blogger looking for his/her 15 minutes of fame by publishing something controversial.

First up is “Content Shock” by Mark Schaefer. Mark is a highly respected and accomplished marketing consultant. I read his blog posts often. Here’s the graphic from his post that summarizes his theory.

Definition fo Content Shock by Mark Schaefer

As I said before, this is not a post written purely for the purpose of shocking his readers. Mark has given this a lot of thought and has provided strong points to support his point of view. Do take the time to read his complete post, “Content Shock: Why content marketing is not a sustainable strategy.” There are over 300 comments that provide even more insights from both sides of the argument. The people commenting read like a “Who’s Who” of the content marketing world.

I found three very well thought out rebuttals to Mark’s position. They are:

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What Content Marketing Functions Do Industrial Companies Outsource?

I hope your Holidays were wonderful and that you are off to a good start in 2014.

The views I have expressed in this post are based on my daily dealings with manufacturing and industrial companies that are looking to outsource their content marketing and are not based on any scientific research studies. However, I would like to validate my findings with data from third-party surveys. In this case, it is the 2014 B2B Content Marketing Trends—North America: Content Marketing Institute/ MarketingProfs.

Functions that B2B Marketers Outsource

Functions that B2B Marketers Outsource

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Use Content to Uncover Tacit Know-how Inside the Minds of Engineers

I recently read the survey, 2012 Mind of the Engineer that was released by UBM Electronics, the global leader in media and marketing solutions for design engineering and the electronics industry. The findings are very interesting and blew away some of the myths about how engineers think.

The key takeaway for me was the concept of “tactic know-how” and its implications for engaging with engineers when it comes to industrial marketing with content.

To get a quick overview of the survey, watch this short video (2:15) from UBM Tech’s CEO of Electronics, Kathy Astromoff where she talks about tacit know-how, engineers’ challenges, perceptions, and information-gathering habits.

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Priming Industrial Websites for Content Marketing

Many of my industrial clients are starting to plan and budget for 2014. High on their list of priorities is redesigning their industrial websites. A welcome change in these discussions is that redesigns are now driven by the needs of inbound marketing with content rather than just a cosmetic facelift to the site.

Manufacturers and industrial companies are more willing to accept the fact that their customers and prospects are interacting with them differently and this change in buyer behavior is permanent. They’ve seen how expensive traditional outbound marketing tactics are and how difficult it is to track results from those efforts.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that one should abandon outbound marketing. However, the balance has definitely shifted more towards online digital marketing for industrial companies.

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Why Many Industrial Websites Underperform

Industrial websitesThere are many reasons for an industrial website’s failure to deliver anticipated results. The list is long – poor search engine optimization, bad user experience, content that doesn’t match visitors’ needs and/or lack of calls to action to name just a few.

However, there is one common trait that I have noticed for many industrial websites to underperform – there is very little thought given to how and where the website fits in the sales process.

The focus of most industrial website redesigns is on everything but its role in the sales process. Search engine optimization (SEO) is obviously critical to the success of your online marketing but you are seriously underutilizing your industrial website if all it is doing is attracting traffic.

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Industrial Content Marketing is NOT New

Everything old is new again in industrial content marketingManufacturers and industrial companies have been using content marketing for a long time whether they know it or not. What do I mean?

Product Releases have been a staple of industrial marketing long before inbound marketing with content became so popular.

Case studies, application notes, calculators, how-to articles, white papers and frequently asked questions (FAQs) have always been a part of industrial marketing.

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Creating Thought Leadership for Manufacturing and Industrial Companies

Thought LeadershipThought leader is a term first coined in 1994 by Joel Kurtzman, editor-in-chief of the Booz Allen Hamilton magazine, Strategy & Business and used to designate interview subjects for that magazine who had business ideas, which merited attention. It has since evolved into describing someone who is supposed to have progressive and innovative ideas. (Source: WikiPedia).

If you are doing any form of industrial content marketing, you know that thought leadership is now a catchphrase. Everyone wants it but how do you create it? Just pumping out content that is nothing more than thinly disguised product promotions won’t cut it.

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9 Must-Have Content Assets for Successful Industrial Websites

Compiling any kind of list is always risky because we all have our own preferences and there is no way someone else’s list can satisfy everyone. This is my list of “must-have” content assets that I advise my clients to add to their industrial Websites. It is definitely a two-way street; my industrial clients also often request many of these same content assets.

The usual content marketing assets such as product data sheets, application notes, case studies, whitepapers and blog posts are a given and expected if you want your website to be found in search engines (SEO) and engage your target audience of engineers and industrial buyers. Take a look at my post, “Content Auditing and Mapping it to the Industrial Buy Cycle” for more on how and when to use these content assets.

Must-have content assets that persuade industrial buyers to take action

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Guest Blogging: An Important Strategy of Industrial Marketing

I’m sure by now you’ve heard about all the great benefits of blogging as a cornerstone of your content marketing. However, one aspect of this industrial marketing strategy that doesn’t get much attention is guest blogging. There are unique benefits of guest blog posts that deliver powerful marketing ROI.

In the past, many SEO experts pushed publishing guest articles and blog posts for the sole purpose of generating inbound links with keyword-rich anchor texts. This SEO or content marketing strategy relied heavily on quantity over quality of links. Google’s war on content farms has pretty much rendered this tactic useless. Don’t get me wrong, quality inbound links still matter in SEO.

IMO, there are three bigger benefits of guest blogging. They are:

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Traditional Marketing is Alive and Well for Industrial Companies

Despite all the buzz about digital marketing and proof of results, manufacturers, engineering and industrial companies continue to use traditional marketing tactics such as trade shows, print ads and telemarketing.

According to the 2013 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks–North America: CMI/MarketingProfs report, 67% of the 1,416 B2B Marketers surveyed, continue to rate in-person events as the most effective marketing tactic they use.

It would be easy to dismiss the continued use of traditional marketing by saying decision makers at industrial companies are resistant to change and they just don’t want to hear anything about current best practices in online marketing. While true to some extent, it doesn’t tell the complete story in my experience.

I have found owners and executives at industrial companies to be sharp business people who wouldn’t continue to spend good money on marketing tactics if they weren’t producing the desired results.

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Not All Industrial White Papers Merit Registration

White papers are used most frequently for lead generation and nurturing in industrial marketing. Many of these white papers are very technical and require engineers and other domain experts to spend quite a bit of their time in producing these content marketing assets. A freelance copywriter cannot create them with an hour or two of work.

It is natural for industrial companies to want to maximize their ROI after investing all that time and resources. However, should all industrial white papers be gated – require registration? There are two schools of thought on this.

On one hand, you have those who insist on registration because they believe it is an equitable value exchange. Free knowledge and valuable educational content in exchange for contact information.

Then there are those who advocate setting all your content free. This isn’t a pie-in-the-sky concept. There are well-known content marketers in this camp.

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Content Marketing Must Go Beyond Inbound Marketing in Industrial Sales

There is quite a bit of confusion among my industrial clients about the terms Inbound Marketing and Content Marketing. For many, the two are synonymous and it is just a matter of semantics. IMO, Content Marketing goes well beyond Inbound Marketing.

The classic definition of Inbound Marketing focuses on the top of the sales funnel (ToFU) and is built on the principle of being found in search engines and social media, attracting traffic and converting visitors into leads with relevant content. All worthwhile goals and takes a lot of hard work to accomplish them. However, you are likely to be very disappointed if your industrial marketing stayed focused only on ToFU.

I prefer the broader definition of Content Marketing because it addresses every phase of the buyer’s journey, both before and after the sale. I found a very fitting football analogy by Joe Pulizzi (@juntajoe) – the Founder of the Content Marketing Institute and the author of the books Managing Content Marketing and Get Content Get Customers, in a blog post Joe wrote, “If content marketing were a football field, inbound marketing would get you to the 35-yard line. Definitely critical, but hard to score from that distance.”

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5 Most Popular Industrial Marketing Blog Posts from 2012

Happy New Year!

For my first post in 2013, I thought I would take a quick look back at the past year. Here are the five most popular industrial marketing blog posts from 2012. I picked these based mainly on the number of Pageviews and the Average Time on Page according to my Google Analytics.

Social sharing and comments also played a part but to a lesser extent since my primary audience of engineers and industrial professionals tend to be passive participants in those channels as many studies have shown.

  1. Content Marketing for Engineers
    I’ll go out on a limb and state that content marketing for engineers is different. Yes, I do get it that the lines between work and personal lives have blurred thanks to today’s hyper-connected world where everybody is always “On.” And I agree that at the end of the day, marketing to engineers is still all about communicating with people. Call it P2P (People-to-People) marketing if you will. (Continue reading…)
  2. How Manufacturers Use 3D CAD Models and 2D CAD Drawings as Sales Enablers
    Manufacturers usually want their industrial marketing to generate leads that result in RFQs as quickly as possible. Inbound marketing tactics such as SEO and other content marketing strategies do fill the top of their sales funnel but converting leads to sales opportunities takes too long for their liking.

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