Is Industrial Automation and Manufacturing Behind the Digital Marketing Curve?

This post is authored by Joel Don, ISA’s community manager and a social media marketing & PR consultant.

Is the industrial automation industry behind the curve when it comes to the latest digital marketing strategies, new media tactics, website optimization options and social media marketing tools? That seems to be the conclusion of a new report that echoes earlier findings that a significant number of businesses operating in the industrial automation and manufacturing space have been slow to adopt new online marketing practices.

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Are You Missing Business Opportunities?

The study, conducted by the digital marketing firm Authentia, randomly selected 100 U.S. and Canadian control system integrators and reviewed their online presence. Despite the continuing disruption of traditional marketing methods and the displacement of print media vehicles, the report suggests industrial marketing is just not keeping pace with other B2B industries. Though the findings make it clear that important business opportunities are being missed, the result also mean forward-looking companies can capitalize on the report’s findings and recommendations to quickly move ahead of the competition and realize the benefits of the digital marketing revolution. More about that later.

The report was authored by Jon DiPietro, a digital marketing consultant who started his career designing, implementing and supporting PLC and HMI systems. Jon is well-known and respected in ISA circles, where he holds a variety of leadership positions and has received numerous Society awards. He also currently serves on the board of directors of Automation.com.

For the new study, Jon developed a digital marketing effectiveness ranking scale based on 32 separate criteria. He analyzed websites for applications of best practices in current marketing strategies, assessing use of new sales tools and strategies for attracting business prospects and nurturing existing customers, as well as applications of inbound marketing, search engine marketing and content marketing.

Automation & Control Industries Lag in New Media Strategies

There’s been a long-held perception that automation and control has lagged behind other industries in terms of the adoption of new media marketing strategies. This despite the increasing evidence that traditional outbound marketing practices are less effective and on the decline. The marketplace has built up a resistance to methods that rely on one-way communications and the positioning of selling as the prime objective, versus the new digital marketing approach that rewards companies that engage with customers and deliver value by offering high-quality content. In the new paradigm of digital marketing, the sale of a product or service is the outcome of a relationship, not the primary objective.

Though the Authentia study focused on control systems integrators, Jon said his findings were relevant to the larger scope of automation and manufacturing industries.

In the new paradigm of digital marketing, the sale of a product or service is the outcome of a relationship, not the primary objective.

“The control systems integrator survey was inspired by my previous surveys of the larger automation vendors, when I observed that although they had finally begun to embrace digital marketing, they weren’t embracing it quite quickly enough,” he noted. “This is what I dubbed the ‘Social Media Doppler Effect.’ Automation vendors and system integrators are both facing digital marketing challenges, but for different reasons. The larger companies are having trouble being nimble while the system integrators are having trouble marshaling the necessary resources.”

Cost of Ignoring Social Media Too High

The Social Media Doppler Effect is Jon’s reference to businesses that are standing still while new digital marketing innovations and technologies are speeding past at a highly accelerated rate. His message to industrial businesses is you can no longer afford to stand still or hope social media marketing is just a passing fad. The digital marketing bullet train has left the station and it’s time to catch the momentum.

Authentia Report Chart

Source: Authentia 2015 Control System Integrator Digital Marketing Benchmark Report

So what can you do if you find that your company or business is behind the curve? The Authentia study covers a wide array of digital marketing issues, and I encourage you to download the report and compare the findings to your own digital marketing practices. I picked three common issues identified in the report and offer solutions which you should implement as soon as possible:

1) Problem: Nearly half of the websites surveyed are based on static HTML web technologies. That means content cannot be easily changed by non-technical staff. This is the age of dynamic, fresh content, largely in the form of blogging and regularly updated sites pages. If your website is not being updated regularly with fresh content, visitors don’t have a reason to return and search engines will push your domain to the bottom of the list.

Solution: Convert your site to a content management system (CMS). CMS systems are abundant, competitive and can be low cost to deploy. Though there are elaborate systems offered by enterprise-class vendors, you can also convert your site to a CMS with little or no coding. For example, the do-it-yourself, globally dominant WordPress CMS platform is enriched by a vast universe of themes (site designs), plugins (functional add-ons) and packaged code enhancements. Or you can hire website developers to customize off-the-shelf designs and components or build a site from scratch. You can also consider more robust marketing automation solutions that bundle CMS with extensive analytics, advanced search engine optimization capabilities, email marketing tools and social media marketing.

2) Problem: Nearly 80 percent of websites are not mobile friendly. Don’t think your customers use mobile phones and tablets to search the web? Your view is handcuffed to the HMTL static page website era. Smartphones are the most predominant search tool, even excluding tablets which Google lumped with desktops. We’ve been warned for years that mobile devices would eventually overtake desktop and notebook computers for search, and now Google has declared it’s official. As Jon noted at his presentation at the 2013 ARC World Industry Forum, mobile computing is not replacing the desktop, it’s an additional tool for search and conducting business. Still not convinced? The analytics show 50 percent of visitors to this blog site are using mobile devices. Essentially, the Authentia study suggested most websites failed to leverage what’s known as responsive web design, a structural approach that adjusts to different mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets.

Solution: If your website is not responsive, you’re missing leads and losing business. The good news is if you are committed to converting your website to a CMS platform or a marketing automation solution, the design will invariably be responsive. For a business, selecting a non-responsive theme or site design is just not practical.

3) Problem: You’ve built a great website with fresh, compelling content, but there’s no way to engage with customers and business prospects. The majority of websites in the survey did not employ common methods to gather contact information from prospects or readers to join opt-in mailing lists, which is often cited as the most important sales tool on a website. In the new digital marketing paradigm, your website or blog is where you educate, inform and entertain. Your opt-in email list is your most direct way to communicate and engage with your followers, customers and prospects. Email marketing delivers incredible ROI, and virtually every digital marketing expert points to an email list as the most valued marketing tool.

Solution: Websites need to contain opportunities for visitors and readers to receive content site updates via email. You can also gather information via registration for free newsletters, webinars or white papers. Deliver valued content to your email list and you’ll eventually develop opportunities to create solid customers. By the way, you may not like them or even find them intrusive, but opt-in pop-up forms work. Jon DiPietro says he likes them as do many other digital marketing experts, and there’s plenty of science to back up the success rate of pop-ups vs. static sidebar web forms. Despite the grumblings, the reality is people respond to signup forms that pop, spin and shimmy on the screen.

How does your website rate? Click this link to download the 2015 Control System Integrator Digital Marketing Benchmark Report and to learn if your website lags behind the competition and what you can do to deploy best practices in inbound marketing. Have an online marketing question? Post it as a comment here and we’ll do our best to help.

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