3 Stages Of Industrial Digital Marketing: Where Are You Now?

Digital marketing continues to grow at an astounding rate — PricewaterhouseCoopers forecasts the category will grow by almost 20 percent in the next five years, with spending hitting $720 billion by 2020.

Amidst the projections of growth, what gets lost is that not all markets have adopted digital marketing at the same pace. Industrial markets have begun to aggressively embrace the approach, and we can clearly see three distinct stages in their digital marketing evolution. 

As an industrial marketer, it’s essential that you identify which stage you’re in, and ensure that you are advancing toward what should be the ultimate goal of your digital marketing — generating customers and driving revenue.

Stage 1: From Traffic to Audience

When you start out in digital marketing, you’re typically focused on simply driving “traffic” to your website. Using tools such as Google Analytics, you track traffic numbers and feel like you’re showing results from your digital marketing spend. 

Unfortunately, those numbers hide a harsh truth: the majority of Internet traffic is fraudulently generated by worthless, machine-to-machine bots. Estimates vary, but most researchers believe that bots account for upwards of 60 percent of current web traffic.

Consider these startling facts:

Ad Fraud is projected to hit $16.4 billion in 2017. According to the government, the inappropriate use of sophisticated bots and other technologies is an organized crime second only to the illegal drug trade in this country. 

comScore can’t filter out bot traffic. I'm not a comScore basher -- they're one of the leading Internet traffic measurement companies, and may well be the best of what’s available in giving a relative sense of traffic metrics. But while they have added panel and survey-based methodologies to define "non-human traffic," the actual science here is limited at best. comScore also will not explain how this filtering process works, so as not to “give the bad guys the ability to game the system.” In other words, they don’t quite have an answer for bots and ad fraud.

Google Analytics doesn’t filter out bot traffic. Smart bots can now run the Google Analytics code and show up as traffic in your Google Analytics reports. Some bots can even log into your site and pretend to be a specific audience segment.

Many of these occur in services you pay for, such as Webmetrics. You can do some bot filtering with the paid version of Google Analytics, but it is limited. Advertising on Google AdWords or the Google Display network does not assure your advertising “ROI” isn’t counting worthless bots, as the recent headlines about Google’s challenges with Proctor and Gamble, Verizon and Chase reflect.

The key in shifting your digital marketing focus from raw traffic to a targeted audience is to establish a clear and realistic understanding of your market and prospective customers.

For example, let's say manufacturers are your typical customers. There are 259,000 manufacturers in the U.S. Ask yourself how many legitimately have the need for what you offer, and don't already have another supplier providing it. For most suppliers, asking this question narrows their potential customer pool down to a few thousand, a few hundred or even less.

Your goal with your digital marketing is to reach and engage a legitimate, high quality audience of key prospects from that realistic and valuable audience – not to generate worthless “traffic” made up of bots and people with no interest or ability to buy your product.

Our approach with THOMASNET.com is to deliver detailed ROI reports that focus on the “who” as opposed to the “how many.” Through ongoing user registration initiatives, we’re able to identify upward of 60 percent (and growing) of visitors by company name and location; we also employ behavioral recognition and IP blocking tools to identify bot traffic and exclude it from our advertisers’ ROI reporting.

Stage 2: From Audience to Prospect

Once you’ve established achievable expectations and ensured that your digital marketing can yield an appropriate audience, it’s time to focus on converting that audience into prospects (or more specifically, leads) for your business.

Here too you need to set your expectations by asking yourself a few questions: What’s the sales cycle for your business? How often do your customers typically change suppliers? What market dynamics create the opportunity for you to pitch a prospect who is evaluating new suppliers?

Today the typical industrial/B2B buyer is over 70 percent of the way through their purchase process before they engage with a sales rep. They’re using professional platforms to evaluate potential suppliers and create their shortlists, then calling or emailing those suppliers on the list. 

It's critical to do what you can to stay “top of mind” with those buyers throughout their evaluation and shortlisting process. The content you provide on your site, and the type of related digital marketing you employ is the key here. Content marketing, the use of white papers, blogs, videos and SEO best practices, all are a part of this process. Additional options are retargeting and advertising on websites and platforms that cater to the audience segment you are trying to reach.

You also need to make sure that your website is an effective resource for professional buyers, and that you’re able to register prospects and have a system to appropriately nurture your relationship with them via email, with content that helps them in their selection process.

Stage 3: From Prospect to Customer

Now that you’re generating an audience of relevant prospects, it’s time to focus on converting them into customers. One great thing about digital marketing is that your prospects leave digital “footprints” that express their purchase intentions. In other words, you can see who is most likely to be interested in your products, which gives your sales reps valuable insight on whom to reach out to, and when.

Having the right analytics tools helps you achieve this by showing you the audience you’re generating, where they are coming from, and what they are looking at. The good news is that implementing sophisticated tracking for your web site and incoming sales phone calls is actually quite easy — my company’s WebTraxs and our call tracking solutions are great examples.

In fact, I encourage you to take a look at Thomas if you’re interested in a partner that can maximize the results you achieve from your digital marketing. We’ve been the leading resource for industrial/B2B buyers for nearly 120 years (including the Thomas Register), and we have implemented more successful marketing programs for industrial suppliers than anyone on the planet.

Our THOMASNET.com platform is industry's leading resource for Actionable Information, Product Sourcing and Supplier selection. We’ve built over 5,000 industrial/b2b websites, including a product catalog solution that has helped manufacturers and distributors sell tens of millions of parts online.

We manage custom advertising programs for over 8,000 suppliers on our platform, and offer the full suite of digital marketing services powered by the data and information we generate from THOMASNET.com. For the largest industrial suppliers and distributors, we offer related content management and syndication products and services.

This  wealth of first-party data, information, and industrial/B2B experience gives us a unique understanding of how buyers use online resources to make decisions – which makes us an ideal digital marketing partner to help you grow your business.

For more information about Thomas advertising and marketing services please contact us today

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