Marketing Tactics to Start and Stop – U.S. Manufacturers’ Roundtable

Posted by Michele Nichols on Fri, Dec 12, 2014

As important as it is to increase marketing activity and try new tactics, it’s just as critical to retire the worn-out or less effective ones. Doing so prevents burnout and improves your ROI.

What are your 2015 plans?

stop_start-croppedI asked this of business leaders last month at the APOMA Tucson Technical Workshop. This workshop brought together optics and photonics professionals from all over the country to celebrate optics manufacturing in the U.S. and to share insights and techniques. Launch Team hosted a Marketing Roundtable to discuss the challenges and successes these companies have experienced; based on that conversation, here are four marketing activities we recommend that high tech companies start as well as four to stop.

 

START…

 

1. Using Video to Your Advantage

Companies are shifting their video marketing strategy from a sales push to an educational approach.  “YouTube is great for tutorials,” one participant commented. For equipment sales, instructional videos can be used to supplement manuals or even in place of manuals. Live chats or webinars can also be used to give a deeper look into a complex topic or technique.  

Several roundtable participants have successfully used video to increase customer engagement.  One equipment manufacturer has had customers comment on the usefulness of its how-to videos. Corning’s “A Day Made of Glass” video series raised the brand visibility and customer demand for its Gorilla Glass.

Some general guidelines when making a video:

  • Keep it under 3 minutes – According to a recent study, the average time spend watching a single internet video is 2.7 minutes. Split meatier videos into shorter, digestible parts.
  • Mix up the shots – Talking heads and presentation slides can only hold a viewer’s interest for so long; a variety of visuals is needed. If you’re demonstrating a new product, get up close and personal and show how the product works from multiple angles.
  • Include an ask – At the end of the video (or sooner), give your viewer a next step. Whether it’s to visit your website, download a whitepaper, or sign up for an event, your video should be compelling enough to make people want to learn more.

2. Getting Strategic with Branding

Many manufacturers have found success thinking outside the branding box. Consider the following approaches:

  • A good tagline goes a long way. Sydor Optics, a leader in precision flat optics, has received a positive response to “Our World is Flat” – the new tagline Launch Solutions helped create. It’s catchy and highlights what Sydor does best.
  • It’s not you, it’s what you do. Corning’s win came from promoting the Gorilla Glass brand, rather than Corning itself. “Corning has never branded, but Gorilla Glass has taken off,” said Rick Nasca, manufacturing associate at Corning. “Our videos were very popular. Kids were asking for phones with Gorilla Glass.”
  • Share the love. One manufacturer successfully co-branded with a distributor. Co-branding is a great way to extend reach and impact for you and your partner companies.

3. Rethinking Email Marketing

Due to new Canadian email regulations and a need for improved follow-up, companies are making changes to their email marketing approach. Here are some takeaways:

  • Create a true opt-in to conform to changes in CAN-SPAM law. Make sure new contacts that enter your database are sent an email notification through which they can confirm that they want to continue to receive emails from you.
  • Start a more frequent e-newsletter that recaps new capabilities and hires, upcoming events, and customer resources. The worst thing you can hear from a customer is, “I didn’t know you do this.” A regular, comprehensive newsletter will keep them up to date on the important info.

4.  Changing Up Calls to Action and Lead Generation Activities

Companies we spoke to are rethinking the Request-for-Quote process. Many have struggled with RFQ submissions that are too incomplete to accurately quote; however, they’re now seeing this as an opportunity to start a conversation. A run-through of part drawings and tolerances needed is a great excuse to pick up the phone and call prospects.

Besides RFQs, companies are adding new offers to generate leads, such as a free sample or whitepaper download. These types of content provide a greater depth of information to those who aren’t ready to contact you directly.

Many companies are also adding follow-up to their lead capture strategy. For new inbound leads, set up automated email nurture campaigns that include links to additional resources or ask for feedback. Your company will stay on your prospects’ radar, and your relevant content will help guide them down the sales funnel.

 

STOP…

 

1. Trying to Win in Vertical Search Engines

The companies we spoke with are seeing a drop in return from sites like ThomasNet and GlobalSpec.  Google and other broad search engines are dominating the playing field, so instead of fighting a losing battle, we suggest a game plan that focuses on relevance and value. This includes:

  • keyword optimization
  • high-quality content
  • Google ads

2. Focusing on Traditional Advertising

We’re working with clients to cut ad spend for the new year and instead devote more effort to web activities. Because the buyer’s decision is more than half made by the time they contact your company, an inbound marketing strategy is key. Quality content on your website, blog, and social media sites let prospects do their own research while also bringing in leads.

3. Tying Up Limited Resources at Tradeshows

One comment we heard was that things aren’t getting done – there is too little time, too little money, and key technical people are often on the road. One company’s CTO attended over two dozen tradeshows last year. For a small company, that can delay a launch timeline and eat up a big chunk of the marketing budget.

Company leaders agreed that their time was better spent at a few smaller shows rather than trying to attend many different shows. Smaller, more technical shows tend to be better for lead generation as they often center on a niche topic. When deciding which tradeshows to attend, consider:

  • Past performance – What show has generated the most leads for your company in past years? The most meetings? If you’re not keeping track of lead count and other tradeshow goals, you should be.
  • Competitor and partner performance – Which tradeshows have been successful for others in the industry?
  • Educational value – Tradeshows aren’t just for displaying your product. Visit conferences that offer pertinent demos or lectures, and learn something new to apply to your business.

4. Shying Away from International Markets

We’re seeing a shift in thinking when it comes to China and other international markets. While companies have traditionally viewed China as a competitor, more are beginning to see it for its purchasing potential. Businesses are putting more effort into translation and re-evaluating their marketing style. “We are working to change our team mentality to be receptive of other cultures and languages,” said one manufacturer.

Topics: Business Insights, Marketing Strategy