Industry Marketing Tips
During my time at OpenText & GXS I have been able to gain extensive knowledge of how to execute industry marketing related activities. I thought it would be a good idea to try and capture some of these best practices because I am sure there are many companies out there wondering how to implement an industry marketing strategy. One of the great things I like about industry marketing is the diversity of the work that you can undertake, from supporting strategic deal opportunities, through to attending industry conferences, from defining industry based solutions through to developing thought leadership content.
The industry marketing function is broad but I just wanted to take a few minutes to highlight some of the key activities associated with this particular marketing role. This is by no means an exhaustive list but it does highlight some of the more important activities that should make up this particular role.
1. Keep up to Date with Industry News and Trends
Most industry marketing roles are global in nature which means that you must keep up to date with regional trends as every country supports their respective manufacturing industry in a different way. You will also need to keep up to date with the latest business and technology trends, which are key to understanding the pulse of today’s business environments. Over the last eight years I have maintained a list of key industry focused websites and resources relevant to global supply chain, manufacturing and technology trends. Spending a few minutes each day quickly scanning these websites will allow you to keep up to date with key activities within an industry.
Consider setting up RSS feeds for some of your more regularly visited sites and follow industry specific hashtags (eg #auto, #tech) on Twitter to obtain real time industry insights and trends. Towards the end of each year many analyst firms and industry leaders publish their thoughts on the following year’s key trends. It is important to review these trends and try and embrace some of the more common predictions as they will help to drive your industry marketing strategy for the year.
2. Develop Industry Based Solutions
This is a key requirement for any company looking to introduce an industry marketing function across their business. There are two key ways in which marketing and sales can drive sales opportunities, either product focused or industry/solution focused. The former focuses on feature/function type messaging which may be enough for most technology vendors. However if you want to engage with CXOs then you should really think about developing a suite of industry focused solutions. The messaging for solution based marketing is more business focused, typically looking at business challenges and then at a high level describing how specific solutions can address these challenges.
Try and tie in key industry trends, for example regional compliance initiatives as this will allow you to generate solution messaging around a current trend that businesses may be facing. For example adhering to the new Dodd Frank conflict minerals law as every company submitting to the SEC in North America must adhere to this new law. Do you have a product that can help companies embrace this new law?, if so then develop solution based messaging to address this. Try and identify a mixture of industry specific and cross industry solutions as this will provide flexibility for any potential campaign activity.
3. Participate in Industry Events and Standards Bodies
Attending industry events, either as a delegate or as part of wider company sponsorship, can help to improve your company’s image across an industry. For example in some industries it is a requirement to participate in industry related events to help demonstrate commitment to an industry both from your customer point of view and to demonstrate to any market competitors that you are serious about an industry sector. Even attending as a conference delegate will allow you to get access to the latest presentations from key industry and thought leaders from across an industry. This type of information can be invaluable when developing your own go to market strategy for a specific industry. In my case I try and attend two or three of the more important industry events each year, and I will look to either try and participate as a speaker or have some form of space in an exhibit area. These events prove invaluable from a networking point of view, an important aspect of any industry marketing role when trying to build your reputation as a thought leader for a given sector.
See if your industry has any standards bodies associated with it and if possible participate in work groups so that you can learn about new industry initiatives. The sooner your company can embrace new industry standards, especially if your solutions need to embrace these, then the sooner you can take these solutions to market and ultimately gain market share.
4. Focus on Sales Enablement
Sales and marketing need to work as one in terms of driving a co-ordinated industry focused strategy. For example you may consider producing internal industry focused newsletters that could be distributed to sales employees that work across a specific industry sector. Think about collating news articles from leading industry websites and compile an email based on this content, this would then be sent out to an internal distribution list of employees who have a mutual interest in a specific industry sector. Don’t just send news items out randomly, think about putting in some commentary about the news item, why did you include it?, how will it impact the industry?, how will it impact your business if it is a news item about one of your customers? If the news item is about one of your customers, for example setting up a new production plant in an emerging market, is there a business opportunity associated with the news item? Try and pull together ten or so articles in each newsletter and whenever possible copy across the whole content, rather than just links to the articles, as you may have acquired the news item from a subscription only site that others may not have access to, for example the Wall Street Journal.
Think about holding quarterly sales training sessions, develop industry tip sheets, basically try and do anything that will help your sales team to be more successful within a particular industry. Try running quarterly community of interest conference calls, for those internal employees who have a collective interest in the industry you are looking after. These meetings may be to discuss new trends, strategic sales opportunities or introduce new marketing campaigns/collaterals. All of these afore-mentioned activities help to achieve one key goal where a sales team is concerned, namely keeping you top of mind as an expert in an industry sector.
5. Know Your Customers and Their Business Processes
Make a point of learning the business of some of your key customers, what products do they make?, how have they deployed your solutions?, what business benefits have they obtained? Think about developing case studies or customer focused webinars that help to showcase your solutions. Having a customer name associated with marketing content can help to significantly improve not only the promotion of the content concerned but more importantly provide industry credibility to the solution being promoted.
Make a point of learning about the more important business processes and supply chain structure for the companies that you are working with. For example how does ‘Just In Time’ manufacturing benefit a production operation?, what does the product returns process look like?, how do they design and manufacture their products, centrally or across multiple locations. From a manufacturing perspective learn about new trends such as 3D printing and the ‘Internet of Things’ and try and develop your own opinion of how companies could leverage these technologies. Try and stay ahead of the game as new technology starts to enter the market, this helps to position you as a thought leader, someone who can be contacted to get an opinion on something or how your products may support the introduction of these new technologies.
6. Understand the Sales Pipeline
Understanding the sales pipeline is critical to learning about what makes your business tick. Which countries have the largest revenues?, which products are selling well and which are not so popular?, who are your more successful sales employees and which ones may require more support? Try and undertake an analysis at least once a year of the key customers across an industry sector, do you have the Top Ten accounts across an industry sector?, if not is there a chance to explore opportunities across the white space? Is there an up sell opportunity to expand the amount of products or services across a particular company?
Think about running strategic workshops with your customers or work with marketing to develop a series of Customer Advisory Boards. These types of activities are key to getting to know your customers and hopefully identify new business opportunities. Try and keep track of the top 5 sales opportunities for each sales person, from when and how the opportunity was initially discovered through to closure. Try and understand what your competitors are doing, how do they price their solutions or services?, what kind of global or industry coverage do they have?
7. Support Strategic Deals
As soon as you learn of a potentially strategic deal opportunity, for example to possibly enter a new country, reach out to the sales person concerned and offer your services. It is up to you to be proactive and reach out as some sales employees may think they have everything covered but with your industry knowledge and expertise you can not only bring value to the sales process, you may be able to help accelerate the closure of a deal opportunity as well. You will probably offer support for an RFP response or provide content towards a presentation or conference call.
I have certainly learnt over the years that companies like to hear other voices as part of the overall sales process, especially those voices such as industry marketing that understand key pain points faced by a company but more importantly can speak the same language. Hence the importance of learning about the key industry related business processes. Travel will not be an issue for a truly global industry marketing role so offer your services at key presentations if required to do so.
8. Establish Thought Leadership
Establishing thought leadership is a key part of developing your industry marketing role. Given that you could be representing your company in a particular industry sector you have an opportunity to become a thought leader in the industry. Think about setting up your own blog channel, either as part of a corporate blog platform or perhaps invest in your own blog using a platform such as WordPress. I have been blogging for nearly seven years and written over 220 blogs during this time. I have used my blog to not only develop original thought leadership around the industries that I look after, but I have also used it to promote new solution offerings or to offer my opinion on industry related news or trends.
Try and work with your marketing team and external PR company, if you have one, to ensure that your blogs are promoted to the outside world. Overtime your blogs will get ranked by Google and you will start to notice readers following your blog. Think about linking your blog to a Google Analytics account so that you can track what visitors to your blog are reading. In some cases external online publications and industry magazines may reach out to you for an interview about a particular blog that you have posted. This integrated approach to promoting a blog helps to get thought leadership out into the market and more importantly you will become recognised as a trusted advisor on news and trends that may impact an industry.
9. Embrace Social Media
If a blog can provide a platform to develop original thought leadership content, then social media tools can help to accelerate the propagation of this content into the market. Social media tools have become a key part of inbound marketing strategies today and you should consider using these tools as it will help your content to be distributed around the internet. Twitter is clearly the easiest way to get content out into the market but of course you will need to build up your followers first to be able to do this effectively. Consider using hash tags with your tweets as these will help your content to be found more easily.
Consider sharing your blog or other marketing content via LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest and other leading social media sites. If you are a member of special interest groups on LinkedIn, remember to post links to your content in the groups, group members won’t mind as this is why they joined the groups in the first place, ie to learn. You may find that some social media platforms work better in some industries than others. For example the picture based nature of Pinterest may suit the retail industry better. Remember that YouTube is owned by Google so if you want your videos to be found on the internet, think about either posting to your own YouTube account or ask your social media team to post to a corporate YouTube account on your behalf. Think about how any content you produce can be shared via social media channels, you will quickly discover which platforms work best for your industry and content offerings.
10. Become a Content Engineer
Content marketing is being embraced by nearly every company today and from an industry marketing perspective you are likely to become a key ‘content engineer’ for your company. Whether preparing a Powerpoint presentation, being recorded for a corporate video or simply writing a blog, content is king in marketing today. Whether you like writing content or not, content creation is a key part of today’s industry marketing role and it will help you to strengthen your position as a thought leader across an industry. Being able to latch onto an industry trend, develop content to discuss the trend and then identify a way in which your company can address the issue concerned is not a skill that can be acquired overnight.
So coming back to the first tip that I highlighted, whilst reviewing industry news websites, look for news items that you might be able to provide a comment on, for example how a recent natural disaster could potentially affect a supply chain. Don’t be afraid to offer an opinion on more unusual events. For example for the Olympic Games in London two years ago I drafted a blog about the complexities of the logistics to support such an event. Within days the blog had been picked up by industry related logistics magazines but more importantly the article was retweeted by UPS, one of the key sponsors of the London Games. Success in industry marketing can be measured by what you put in and for me content creation is a key part of my own industry marketing activities.