Business of Metalforming
The Media Mix: Physical vs. Digital
If you are anything like me, you entered the digital-communications age kicking and screaming. I didn’t understand how an industry as creative and hands-on as marketing could deliver its messages without lots of process and lots of paper.
But I’ve learned my lesson. Marketing has been transformed by new technology choices that make it increasingly difficult for companies to figure out just exactly where to spend their marketing dollars. A colleague of mine, with her own successful blog, spends two to three hours each day simply evaluating new digital technologies.
So, as a manufacturer with so many media options, how do you know which venues to use? Print or internet ads? Social media or trade shows? E-mail marketing or mobile devices?
Bottom line: It’s not an either/or situation. Putting together the correct marketing mix relies upon understanding your audience and its needs, the media they use, and where they are in the buying cycle.
I still advocate for the power of print advertising, a belief supported by numerous studies showing that B2B publications still rank high in effectiveness. Manufacturers still use trade magazines to find work-related information.
Search engines, industry websites and supplier websites also rank highly as go-to media when people seek information on processes, products and potential suppliers. And it’s not enough to simply have a website, unless you only want to use it as a reference tool for existing customers or for new prospects with which you have already established a relationship. If you want to find new business via search engines, you must perform continual search-engine optimization of your website.
Search engines reward higher rankings to websites that consistently add new content. Blogs can help in this arena, making a website more dynamic. Blogs can help position your company as a leader in a particular arena. However, regularly adding new website content takes time and money. Don’t set up a blog page unless you have a well-developed plan to keep it updated.
What about direct mail? This approach has evolved primarily into e-mail marketing, an affordable and relatively easy way to reach the masses, provided your list is strong. However, physical mail, like print ads, still can serve as a great way to establish your brand and stand out from the crowd.
And let’s not forget the value of face-to-face interaction for lead generation. Trade shows continue to provide an effective use of marketing-dollars. Just remember that effective trade-show communication takes time before, during and after the show to convert prospects into customers.
Within the manufacturing sector, social media still seems to be the 900-lb. gorilla in the room, remaining a bit of a mystery to many manufacturing and industrial companies. Everybody thinks they should be engaging in social media, but are not quite sure how or why. Many who jumped on board with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn now are watching their pages and tweets lay dormant.
Social media appears to be an easy, cost-effective approach to reach potentially interested customers. However, the reality is that for most companies, it always takes more time (and money) that initially believed to develop an effective social-media campaign. You must have someone specifically assigned to handle the management and messaging of this medium. The value of social media is the real-time phenomena, but real-time means real-time postings and real-time responses to questions.
Additionally, while many manufacturing decision makers tend to be aged 50 or more and not quite social-media savvy, we must realize that the next generation will be big users of social media. Therefore, its significance will only continue to grow. So while you may not feel a burning need to develop a social-media marketing plan, beware—it deserves your attention.
“There’s an app for that” has become the statement of the day. Mobile applications are accessible and a great way to stay front and center with your audience. Cost calculators, for example, can help customers evaluate ballpark pricing—pretty useful. And mobile apps, whether for smartphones or tablets, deliver information in a way that people are quickly adopting. The current issue, however, is which platform or operating system is best suited to reach your customer base.Bottom line: Planning and executing an effective marketing campaign requires assembling the right media mix to reach your target audience, and integrating that media to deliver a consistent message that reflects your company’s brand. While certain mature communication venues continue to provide value within the industrial sector, successful companies won’t rest on the status quo. Rather, they will continue to position themselves for the future—a future that’s coming at a rapidly accelerating pace. MF
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