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.

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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.

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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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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.

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Social Media with Email Marketing – is it the Super Combo?

Lately, social media seems to garner all the attention in the media and blog posts with very little mention about email marketing. This long time staple has become the Rodney “No Respect” Dangerfield of B2B and industrial marketing.

I’ve read several articles about the impending death of email marketing because of the steady decline in open and click-through rates (CTR). Are those predictions a little premature? Can we deliver a powerful 1-2 punch by combining  social media and email marketing? I came across two research studies that answer the last question with a big YES!

The first study done by AWeber (aff. Link), was a survey of small business owners and found that the two most common tactics used in 2009 were tweeting e-mail newsletters and sending out blog entries to e-mail lists. In 2010, almost 50% of small businesses will include “follow us” links in their e-mails, and about 44% will include share options in their messages. (See charts below).

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Focus on Content in B2B Marketing

Lately all the talk in B2B marketing has centered on social media. However, to be successful with social media, you have to provide real value and that usually comes from great content.

Paul Dunay in his blog post, “4 C’s of B2B Marketing” has defined this very nicely. His 4C’s are:

  • Content – the creation of a steady stream of engaging content
  • Connection – connecting with the audience you wish to attract
  • Communication – communicating with them in an ongoing conversation
  • Conversion – and then converting them at the illusive moment of need

What is content marketing?

Wikipedia defines content marketing as “an umbrella term encompassing all marketing formats that involve the creation or sharing of content for the purpose of engaging current and potential consumer bases.”

The old ways of pushing out content is no longer effective. Now, B2B content marketing’s agenda is to educate and inform customers and prospects. Content Marketing’s slogan is – “Don’t pitch. Don’t sell. Don’t interrupt. Educate, inform and provide value to customers and prospects. Your business will grow.” (See Content Marketing – The Ultimate Cheat Sheet).

Here’s a short but highly informative slide show that explains how to use content effectively as inbound marketing.

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Business Value of Social Networking

Saw a very interesting video where Seth Godin talks about how useful social media is to businesses. Even though the use of social media like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn is growing exponentially, there is a … Read more

Top 5 Tools for Streamlining Twitter

Now that twitter has taken flight, there are dozens of tools available to streamline the process and make you more productive. If you are an avid Twitter user, these five tools will help you manage your Twitter accounts without tying up your entire day.

  1. TweetDeck – This application works on your desktop. It allows you to manage your Twitter account without having to visit the site each time. You can create groups for friends, business associates or anyone else you like with this application. Best of all, TweetDeck works in the background and can be used offline at your leisure. Some cool things about TweetDeck to point out include:
    • The ability to post your Facebook status and keep up with your friends within your TweetDeck window.
    • You can group certain users together in one window so you don’t miss any tweets from them.
    • You have a separate window for your @ replies, direct messages and your main stream.
    • No need to refresh the page as it updates automatically for you and you can change the amount of time in between updates.

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Social Media Marketing: Time Trap or Opportunity Magnet?

New Study Reveals the Answers. This new report exposes the best tools and benefits of social media marketing.

A surprising 64 percent of marketers are spending five or more hours weekly using social media sites like Twitter, found the just-released Social Media Marketing Industry Report: How Marketers Are Using Social Media to Grow Their Businesses.

"Social media marketing is an engagement with online communities to generate exposure, opportunity and sales," says report author Michael A. Stelzner, founder of WhitePaperSource," and the real shocker is that experienced folks are investing more than 20 hours each week with social media."

Businesses of all sizes are leaping into the social media pool–and many are well-known brands. Computer giant Dell recently reported a million dollars in sales by issuing coupons on Twitter. Even Ford is using social media to interact directly with its customers.

"Social media has helped Ford quickly achieve its goal of being a top social brand and has broken down the more conservative communications processes that were in place," said Scott Monty, head of social media for Ford.

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The Gender Gap in Social Networking

It is no secret that the whole social networking phenomenon got started with the younger generation. However, there is a distinct gender gap as its acceptance has grown to become more mainstream. 

Rapleaf has done a study of 13.2 million people to see how they were using social media. While the trends indicate both sexes are using social media in huge numbers, their findings show that women far outpace men. Usually men tend to be early adopters of technology but when it comes to social networking, women are way ahead of the men.

The study found that among twenty-somethings, women and men are just as likely to be members of social networks. Facebook, MySpace, and Flixster are very popular. However, they found that young women are much more active on these sites than young men. In addition, men above 30—especially married men—aren't even joining social networks. With the notable exceptions of LinkedIn users and venture capitalists in the Bay Area "friending" everyone on Facebook, married men are not hanging out on social networks. Married women, however, are joining social networks in droves. In fact, women between ages 35 and 50 are the fastest-growing segment, especially on MySpace.

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Have You Heard of Sales 2.0?

While I was researching sales and marketing automation solutions, I came across several videos that were talking about Sales 2.0. I found them on allbusiness.com.

It is true that they are referring to the current trend of using social media but in ways that are fundamentally different from the traditional sales process. I found the videos very informative and learned something new. You may find them interesting too.

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