B2B buyers use vendor websites for sourcing technical and industrial products and services -- so of course, getting buyers to your website is a top marketing concern.
While optimizing your website for search is one way to help drive these buyers to it, you must also consider building brand awareness. Why? According to Gardner’s 2015 report, Media Usage in Manufacturing, a whopping 93% of survey respondents indicated they select the companies they recognize in the search results.
The problem here, however, is that while buyers rely on search engines to find vendors and suppliers, getting your website to appear when the right buyers are searching is tough!
One, buyers use dozens of search queries; for a smaller vendor site, you simply can’t optimize for the dozens or even hundreds of keyword opportunities that exist. And two, search is . . . complex. It’s no longer simply a matter of tucking in some keywords and watching your site “rank.”
Thus, in my role as a marketing consultant to small, family-owned industrial manufacturers, I educate my clients on how and why other marketing tactics, used in conjunction with a well-thought out SEO (search engine optimization) strategy can help drive targeted traffic to the website and in the process, increase inquiries.
One of these tactics I recommend, if it’s right for the company, is an e-newsletter.
Vendor E-Newsletters Build Brand Awareness and Website Traffic
Vendor e-newsletters play an important role in the Awareness and Research stages of the buying process. According to data from the Media Usage in Manufacturing report, 68% of respondents indicated e-newsletters were their first and second choices in terms of effectiveness in finding information about potential suppliers and vendors.
And, although email inboxes continue to be jam-packed, deliverability and open rates have remained stable for the manufacturing industry. According to data from Return Path, deliverability rates for Manufacturing rose from 74% in 2014 to 85% in 2015. MailChimp, which tracks billions of emails every month for more than 8 million customers, reports that open rates and click rates have remained stable -- at 23.4% and 2.7% respectively.
E-newsletters also offer vendors a number of other benefits, including brand visibility and most important, driving traffic to the website and generating inquiries over time.
Yet, measuring whether your e-newsletter is “working” -- that is, getting traffic to your website and generating inquiries -- requires more than simply looking at open and click rates -- both of which are simple, and usually inaccurate, measures of success.
Why Open and Click Rates Aren’t Accurate
To measure open rates, an image pixel is included in the html code of the newsletter template; this pixel is downloaded when the person opens the email and thus an “open” is registered. However, if the recipient has “images turned off” in their email application, the open can’t be measured because that little pixel isn’t downloaded.
Ditto for if recipients view email in a “preview pane” (e.g. Microsoft Outlook) versus clicking the email to fully open it.
The term “click” also doesn’t mean anything because we all click things all day long! So when you see your newsletter report and it says 1.8% of 1,865 subscribers “clicked” on a link -- well, so what? What exactly does that mean?
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 why it’s useful to also look at other data, such as Google Analytics.
Use Google Analytics to Track What Happens After “The Click”
When used in conjunction with Google’s URL builder, Google Analytics can provide you with more detailed and accurate data about what your subscribers do when they click through to your website. (I’m assuming you have information in your newsletter that provides links back to your website.)
First, you can track website traffic by channel (e.g. organic, paid, referral, social, and email). Second, you can analyze channel-specific behavior. What this means is that if you used Google URL’s builder, you can see the specific pages newsletter subscribers viewed -- as well as conversions, such as filling out a form.
While Google Analytics is pretty good at giving you insight into your subscribers and their website behavior, it doesn’t give you one other important measure of success: direct feedback and inquiries.
Measuring Direct Feedback and Inquiry Data
When you send out your e-newsletter and nothing happens (meaning, you get zero response), it’s easy to assume your newsletter “isn’t working.” Yet when I press clients and ask if they’re getting feedback, many reply that customers will tell them verbally they’re getting the newsletter. Or, they’re getting email responses, but the response has nothing to do with sales -- perhaps the subscriber simply made a comment about one of the articles.
While this type of direct feedback is hard to measure, it’s important to note when it does happen as it shows people are reading your newsletter.
When analyzing your newsletter metrics, it’s important to tie in inquiry data as well. When working with clients, I urge them to track where their inquiries come from (e.g. referrals/word of mouth, search, tradeshows, editorial, ads, etc.) It’s good to track inquiries by source in order to determine which marketing metrics and channels work at delivering the right kind of buyers and which don’t.
This is especially true for e-newsletters. As Gardner’s survey data shows, buyers will often subscribe to e-newsletters while in their research stage -- which can take months or even a year or more.
So while it may appear your e-newsletter isn’t “working” because you don’t get an inquiry (or two or three) with every issue, what you don’t know is which of your subscribers are keeping your company “in mind” until they’re ready to move forward. It works this way in my own business: a prospect contacted me six months ahead of the time she’ll have the budget to move forward -- and told me the main reason my company is at the top of her list is due to her receiving my newsletter.
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 your e-newsletter, determine what you want to improve, set a baseline, make a few tweaks, and then measure the results. Once you have one thing figured out, such as how to accurately track channel-specific traffic, then figure out the next improvement.
Conducting your marketing this way requires a great deal of patience, but it reduces overwhelm and ensures small details aren’t overlooked. More importantly, it ensures that marketing is done strategically in order to reach the right buyers rather than increasing a relatively meaningless metric, such as “clicks.”
Need more information?
Founder and President
Huff Industrial Marketing, Inc.
37 Plaistow Road, Unit 7-245
Plaistow, NH 03865
DIANNA HUFF is a marketing consultant who works with small, family-owned industrial manufacturers and job shops to help them market, grow, and succeed. She focuses her expertise on delivering fresh insights and strategies scaled to smaller manufacturers and their unique challenges. An award-winning marketer, Dianna has been quoted or featured in the trade media, including Forbes, BtoB magazine, and Search Engine Land as well as industry blogs and marketing books. She is a proud supporter of and advocate for the growing Made in America movement.