The headlines say it all: Chip and semiconductor sales fall; bellwether companies like TI and IBM announce layoffs; reported losses mount. But there is some good news: Engineers have more time to research products that could give their next development an edge.
“If the economy is slow, there's an opportunity there,” said Marc Diebold, president-CEO of dgs Marketing Engineers, an advertising agency that focuses on technology sales.
Companies should look at their marketing mixes and focus on developing integrated programs that build relationships, he said. That means leveraging both print and online resources. “There is a significant presence of people with a high level of buying influence still wanting to get their hands on a physical magazine,” he said.
Marketing dollars have followed engineers to online resources, especially as vendors that want to get their components built into next-generation projects face the difficult tasks of squeezing leads from diminishing budgets and building metrics that help them validate and better target their marketing spend.
But savvy marketers make use of a number of tools, said William Barron, VP-publishing director of Hearst Electronics Group.
“You can't compare print and online because they serve different purposes,” Barron said. “Print provides great real estate. It lands on their desk. That's a place to have your message seen. But online is for deeper evaluation. So it all depends on what your objective is.”
Branding, for example, usually occurs in the territory of print, online banners or outdoor advertising. “When somebody wants to do more of a product campaign, it's embedded in online tools that we have that go way beyond the banner,” Barron said.
Those tools have proven to be valuable lead-generators. Engineers have incorporated industry-specific, registration-based search products into their workflow. They have registered for sponsored webinars, white papers and e-newsletters.
That hunger for content and information bodes well for marketers like Brian Mac-Donald, a marketing services manager who focuses on driving online metrics within corporate marketing at electronic design automation software and systems provider Mentor Graphics.
“Our key values are capturing the interaction and sourcing new contacts,” he said. “We can capture real-time information on our prospect. We still do print, but within online we want to know everybody that interacts with an offer.”
The information helps the company understand where its customers are in the buying cycle, the products that interested them and the venues that reached them.
“The metrics and tracking allow us to know which placements are going to perform for us,” he said. “Our vendors know we invest in areas based on our success metrics.”
The company has created a pay-per- performance model that places an emphasis on a marketing partner's ability to generate new leads, MacDonald said. “That's where I put my ROI.”
Not all marketers are well-positioned to take advantage of the Web, said vertical search and e-publishing marketing experts at GlobalSpec and SupplyFrame Inc. The economic slowdown is driving increased emphasis on ROI and the Web tools that promise to measure it, but marketers are still working to define and track the metrics important to their objectives.
“The tendencies are for people to hunker down and give themselves time to figure it out,” said Guy Maser, senior VP-marketing at GlobalSpec. “We're seeing people spending time wondering, where am I going to get my ROI?”
Sponsorships of such registration-based vehicles as e-newsletters, industry-specific search products, white papers and webinars have proven successful because they provide content that engineers need, said Jeff Curie, VP-marketing at SupplyFrame.
“You've got to have the content to reach the people, and then you've got to know how to measure it,” he said.
That means setting up analytics that help map leads in the sales pipeline, he said.
“There is a very real sales funnel,” Curie said. “The engineer gives precursor signals that they are ready to buy.”
While marketers may not be able to directly connect a lead to a sale, they can follow a prospect's path from, for example, a search tool to a data sheet, then application notes, reference designs, pricing information and a sample order.
Companies should be advertising to fill the pipeline, then following leads through the funnel, he said.
But Hearst has seen few marketers manage leads once they've counted clicks, Barron said.
“A large percentage of them do nothing but use the data as an indication that they're going to the right audience to justify their spend,” he said. “A very small percentage takes leads and puts them into a database to cleanse them further and requalify them and pass them to their distribution channel.” M