For B2B buyers, vendor websites are important with regard to sourcing technical and industrial products and services. Getting these crucial buyers to the website is a top concern for many industrial vendors and suppliers.
Search, of course, plays an important role. Based on my own work with small manufacturers and jobs shops, many people believe it’s the job of SEO to drive this traffic. This belief is backed by data.
In a December 2014 survey, Marketing to Engineers, by TREW Marketing and CFE Media, 60% of 1,000 engineers surveyed stated that search engines were “valuable content sources.” Vendor and supplier websites were the second most valuable content source, at 47%.
The problem here, however, is that while buyers rely on search engines to find vendors and suppliers, getting one’s website to appear when the right buyers are searching is tough! Many people believe all you have to do is tuck in some keywords — and presto, your site will rank.
Errr . . . no. Google has over 200 ranking factors, it has various algorithms, search is highly competitive, etc. etc. etc.
And, as I’ve written already, putting all one’s marketing eggs into the search basket is a somewhat risky practice because you’re relying on another company’s business model to support your business growth.
It’s been my mission to help educate my clients on how and why other marketing tactics can help drive targeted traffic to the website and in the process, increase inquiries.
In this post, I share what I learned working with a small manufacturing client on a monthly e-newsletter. Although the numbers are small, I’ve learned (and relearned) a few key lessons, namely that as a marketer, it pays to look at all pieces of data versus standard industry metrics, which can be misleading.
Because I work under NDA, I can’t post names or full details. But the company is real, as is the data.
Objective: Use an e-newsletter to help drive traffic to the website
As the TREW Marketing and CFE survey report indicates, 55% of respondents consider vendor and supplier e-newsletters to be “valuable” and “moderately valuable” sources of content.
When perusing this content source, buyers want to see New Technical Content, Application Notes, Quick Facts and Bulleted Lists, and the news about when new products or services are available. In other words, information they’ll find useful — versus information that’s highly promotional.
For this particular client, we’ve been producing a monthly e-newsletter with this type of content since early spring 2015. While open rates have been relatively low but steady, click-through rates have been almost non-existent. Both the client and I interpreted this metric as “no one is visiting the website.”
It wasn’t until the client emailed to ask, “Should we re-do the newsletter template and the content to improve click-throughs?” that I began doing some investigative work. Here’s what I learned (and relearned).
1. Email open and click-through rates aren’t an accurate measure of campaign success — I knew these standard metrics can’t be measured accurately unless the recipient has “images turned on” in their email application. Another reason may be that recipients view email in a “preview pane” and thus don’t download images even if that option is turned on.
So while I knew this, I had forgotten it, mostly because I’ve become used to reading my own email within Gmail with images off. For emails that have been configured properly, this isn’t an issue as they’re still very readable. And I do respond to these emails when I’m compelled to do so.
When analyzing the success of an email campaign, relying on open and click-through metrics alone means you can end up making faulty assumptions, which is what I did initially.
2. People were visiting the website — A thorough analysis of Google Analytics on the days the newsletter went out showed a definite spike in direct traffic. For one month, the traffic on that day increased 393% over the average daily session metric.
In addition, the people who visited due to clicking through from the newsletter also viewed the most number of pages on that day — over three-quarters.
3. Inquiries weren’t being measured — When I presented my findings to the client, I asked if people were replying via email from the newsletter. “Yes,” he replied, “I am getting email replies and a few inquiries each month. I just want more!” Ahhh!
The client also confirmed that when he made his sales calls, customers were mentioning that they were receiving the e-newsletter and found it informative. Although this anecdotal evidence can’t be measured, it’s still important and should be factored in as part of the whole.
4. Results-based marketing is an “always be testing and learning” endeavor — In order to improve productivity and lower costs, manufacturers are constantly making tweaks to their process. No change, however small, is overlooked if it improves productivity. It’s these hundreds and thousands of tweaks made over time that changes a company’s ability to compete and be profitable.
It works the same with marketing. For this client and the newsletter process, we agreed to make a few tweaks and then measure the results. We’ve revised the newsletter template and will be focusing more on sharing the client’s successful results to challenging applications.
I’ll now be using the Google URL builder to better track traffic from the e-newsletter to the website. On the client’s side, I’ll be asking him to keep track of the number of inquiries he gets from each issue and whether these inquiries become sales.
And finally, the newsletter is only one tactic. I’ve learned from my manufacturing clients that it pays to focus on one thing at time and ensure it’s working before moving on to the next process improvement.
Doing it this way requires a great deal of patience, but it reduces overwhelm and ensures stuff gets done correctly and that small details don’t get overlooked. More importantly, it ensures that marketing is done strategically in order to reach the right buyers rather than increasing traffic for traffic’s sake.
What do you think? Do you have a “lean marketing” story to share? Leave your feedback in the comments section.
Marketing to Engineers Report by TREW Marketing and CFE Media
The Ultimate Guide to Email Image Blocking by Lauren Smith, Litmus blog
Reasons to Diversity Your Marketing Efforts, my blog post, November 11, 2015