Archive for May 2009
On Wednesday, May 27, I attended our local Erie Ad Club program featuring Google Ad Words Marketing Manager, Maureen Schumacher entitled, “The Digital Landscape; Trends Shaping the Future of Marketing.” She discussed 8 important trends:
- Last month there were 1.6 billion people online; there are 5 times more people with mobile phones than computers.
- Search is a core (human) behavior; something that we do instinctually.
- No medium is an island. Marketers need to be cognizant of the relationship between online and offline media. Use internet media to capture offline buzz.
- Put video at the center of your online campaign. One of the fastest growing categories on the internet is “How to”.
- Don’t think “if I will build it they will come.” Even a highly technical, graphically desirable website can fail. Suggestion: atomize + distribute. Use select content and develop a widget or video to distribute.
- Ideas come from everywhere, tap into the ideas of the crowd. Her suggestion was to tap into Google Labs new tool, Google Trends. Many companies create campaigns to solicit user generated content; example: Heinz Top This! Campaign.
- Reach consumers at the moments of relevance; while the internet is 24/7, timing is a significant factor.
- Marketing should be accountable.
For the most part, most of these trends are just good marketing practice. For B2B industrial marketing, the most interesting point is #4, “Put video at the center of your online campaign. One of the fastest growing categories on the internet is ‘How to’.”
Pre-internet, a company selling large industrial equipment would spend thousands of dollars to ship equipment to a trade show where it would be on display for product demonstration. Alternately, one customer would visit another customer’s plant to see equipment in operation. When video first hit the marketing scene, the going cost was $1,000 a finished minute for a professional video on a VCR tape – a cost only very large companies could afford. The capital equipment market was flooded with home-made, poorly written and organized videos, duplicated and sent out in snail mail.
Today, with Flip video cameras and freelance studios, a company can produce high quality You Tube videos at a fraction of the cost. B2C is full of video – why is B2B so slow to provide this type of content?
One important reason is that US manufacturers are reluctant to allow any photography in their plant – they do not wish to have their competitors see the inside of their plant. The second issue is the loss of intellectual property to competitors; the very factors that differentiate products can easily be stolen through viral video. A “How to” video can easily become problematic for B2B industrial equipment without careful selection of content, preservation of customer confidentiality and poor quality.
Gary Anderson, writing for Marketing Professors says that video is not limited to your website or You Tube alone. “The array of tools at a communicator’s fingertips can accomplish so much: interactive training sessions, video sales presentations, live meetings with prospects, ‘video voicemails’ recorded and sent with just a few clicks…” in addition to posting on a website. He feels that all videos should be available as iPod ready. He also suggests getting professional assistance when starting a project.
In B2B, we need to analyze how video can fit into the marketing mix, not just because it’s cool, but because our customers expect it.
There are few examples of the successful application of emerging media in industrial B2B, however one of the most surprising and effective examples is ThomasNet, owned by Thomas Publishing LLC. Not familiar with ThomasNet? From their Press Room, “ThomasNet (http://wwww.thomasnet.com) is the leading online destination connecting industrial sellers and buyers worldwide…ThomasNet provides access to over 607,000 industrial companies, indexed by 67,000 product and service categories.”
Harvey Mark Thomas founded the original media property, the Hardware and Kindred Trades, in 1898. The original book was later renamed the Thomas Register Directory, and when I started working in the industrial furnace business in the 1970’s, Thomas Register was the all-inclusive source for industrial suppliers that was an essential part of any purchasing or design library.
I do not know whether or not Thomas invented the “pay for position” business model now used for Google AdWords and other internet advertising, but they had perfected it in the 80’s and 90’s when most industrial companies had 5-6 figure advertising programs. Around 1995, Thomas saw the future of the internet and embarked on an ambitious program to use this new media to expand. They offered free websites for their small customers and packaged media deals for both print and on-line. They viewed on-line as an additional revenue stream, because the billings could not compare to the print version.
By 1999, no one wanted the books or the CD’s because by then, Google was mainstream – people cancelled the books, and the website lost its appeal. Why go to Thomas when you could use Google to find what you are looking for? Thomas lost clients in the droves. They did their research and re-invented themselves, keeping the best from their legacy brand, and expanding their website from a print catalogue on-line, to a highly interactive resource where buyers can download CAD drawings, do e-commerce, participate in discussion forums, download RSS feeds, watch videos, read white papers, post press releases, receive topic specific newsletters, download gadgets & games and link to the ThomasNet My Space, Facebook, Twitter and Linked In sites.
ThomasNet took a huge hit in billings during the transition from a print + on-line to a new media business model, nonetheless, they have re-invented themselves making a 100+ year old brand relevant.
ThomasNet competitor, Global Spec, in their <Marketing Maven® Blog> says not so fast because engineers and technical staff are not there yet. In their article, “What Role Should Social Media Have in Your Marketing Mix?” they state, “Social media such as blogs, podcasts and online networking sites are getting a lot of attention, both in the consumer and business-to-business world. Does this mean it’s time for suppliers and manufacturers in the industrial sector to add social media to their marketing programs? The short answer is: Maybe not yet. However, it is time to learn more about social media and how you might effectively use it as part of your online marketing strategy in the near future.”
I disagree. Now is the time to begin to experiment with new media, not just sit on the sidelines – there is a whole new generation of engineers and technical people coming into the work force that will expect to find information via new media channels. As Gen X and Boomers come to realize the effectiveness of new media tools, they will become ubiquitous.
What enhances your brand? Being the first adaptor or the last?
In my experience working with primarily Gen X and Baby Boomer engineers, social media is not currently on the radar screen, mostly because this group relies primarily on e-mail as their primary source for communication. I believe that this will change quickly for two reasons:
1. Social media’s great strength is the ability to create community around specific topics, for example, I belong the American Wind Energy Association (http://www.awea.org ) Group on Linked In (http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=1903248&trk=hb_side_g) that allows me to monitor discussions, news and the companies involved in this important new market, all in a single location, complete with links and regular e-mail updates. In fact, I belong to variety of groups where I can post questions and get quality feedback.
2. In 2005, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) launched the Dream It. Do It. (http://www.dreamit-doit.com) campaign to attract young workers to manufacturing. In a report dated 9/9/2005, NAM reports that by 2010, “there will be a skilled worker shortage of 8 million, increasing to 14 million by the year 2020.” (http://www.nam.org/~/media/Files/s_nam/docs/233300/233259.pdf.ashx) Social media is the ideal medium to use to reach Gen Y and Gen X workers looking for new opportunities, networking and training.
Jon Miller, VP of Marketing for Marketo, an automation software company feels that social media fails B2B marketing because, “More broadly, since social media rewards popularity, not quality or accuracy, there is an inherent push to write about trendy topics that will get links, not the time-proven tactics that B2B marketers use on a day to day basis. I’m not saying that social media doesn’t play a role in B2B marketing, since it clearly has a big role to play in driving traffic, building thought leadership, and facilitating word of mouth referrals. “ Read the entire post at http://searchengineland.com/what%E2%80%99s-wrong-with-social-media-for-b2b-marketing-11395.
What do you think? Is there a place for social media, Linked In, Facebook, etc. in B to B for old economy manufacturing?