Is Your Business Harnessing or Ignoring Evolving Internet Opportunities? Print E-mail
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Written by Susan Mucha   
Friday, 28 September 2012 14:57

Technology does not suspend basic marketing common sense.

The pace of technology frequently outpaces a target market’s ability to comprehend and utilize new capabilities. That statement is definitely true then when it comes to the Internet. The potential for sales relationship-building grows every day. It also opens the door to training without travel expense, and low (or no) cost avenues for employee recruitment. However, when poorly used, it can harm a company’s reputation or completely turn off the groups with whom it wishes to converse.

Electronics manufacturing services providers have special challenges. Most have a target audience of fewer than 900 customers widely scattered geographically. In the case of regional EMS providers, that audience might be fewer than 200. The challenge is further complicated in that OEM decision teams are tasked with doing more with fewer resources. They aren’t aimlessly surfing the Net, nor are they willing to invest time evaluating suppliers they haven’t heard of.

Recruiting faces similar challenges. Potential employees often know the brands an EMS company manufactures better than they do the company, because most EMS companies aren’t widely known beyond their immediate community.

In short, while the Net provides the medium for starting a range of new networking conversations, web-based networking without a strong strategy
is likely to produce mediocre results. Technology does not suspend basic marketing common sense. So, what issues should EMS providers consider in developing a good Internet strategy?

Don’t focus entirely on clicks. Internet ad salespeople and search engine optimization (SEO) experts often take a one-size-fits-all approach to selling their services. Remember two things when it comes to EMS and evaluating how much money should be spent in these areas: First, EMS is a popular acronym and niche industry, so 90% of traffic is often people looking for other services. That tends to distort traffic pattern information value. Second, decision teams are overworked and don’t spend a lot of time surfing the web to find suppliers. They are more likely to gravitate to sites they know cover EMS and contract manufacturing topics. Linking content with sites that already have EMS traffic is often the best way to get your content noticed.

Make it useful. Web-based strategies need to be focused on creating an efficient flow of information. Navigation needs to easily align with the initial information users will search for. Blogs or social network content should carry information that target audiences feel is worth taking the time to read. If your content helps solve a problem, you’ve started building a relationship.

Don’t pounce. The same strategies that apply in a trade show booth apply to the Internet. At a trade show, many attendees try to avoid direct selling situations. They stand in the aisle and take notes from a distance or walk quickly to snatch brochures, if they feel uncomfortable about having a detailed conversation on their sourcing plans. When people gather information via the web, they often feel the same way. If every interaction results in a sales call, you may drive away those not ready to buy. If more subtle information sharing occurs over time through informational emails, blogs or social networking, these people may continue the conversation and build affinity with your brand. Additionally, their choices in content selection help define their most likely needs over time. Most website dashboards, email services such as Constant Contact and blog-hosting services such as WordPress have tools that permit companies to see what content gets the most traffic and at least limited insight into how users behave after reading it. Mining that information for next steps can be more productive than simply sending repetitive general emails or having sales call immediately after first contact. For example, if a recipient of a marketing email passes it to three co-workers after receiving it, that should be a trigger for some sales follow-up. Conversely, if there appears to be a trend of LinkedIn contacts unsubscribing or email recipients opting out, that should trigger a review of content value, frequency of contact and follow-up actions. Give prospects easy choices for gathering additional information or increasing their contact either with your company or its content platforms.

Consider generational differences. People in their 20s and 30s are attracted to catchy phrases and short blurbs, because they’ve grown up in an environment where much information was conveyed verbally and visually. Teasers, attractive graphics and interactive content encourage them to explore more. However, people in their 40s and 50s may prefer more detailed content. Catchy phrases and short blurbs often signal vaporware to this group. Consider a mix of content and platforms to better address this.

Help people refer your company. When an OEM team is beginning a contractor search, they often ask people whose opinions they trust for suggestions. If your website or blog has links to material that highlights specialized capabilities that address common sourcing problems, you make it easy for those referrers to not only recommend your company based on their experiences, but also quickly highlight what makes your company especially good for that project by forwarding a link to an article or white paper.

Is it blocked? A recent magazine research study of engineering personnel social networking habits indicated that over 50% of respondents had their access to social networking sites limited or blocked at work. In developing a social networking strategy, it is important to consider which sites are best for different types of networking. Since many people use Facebook for personal networking, it is probably high on the list of sites that companies block. That said, having a Facebook page that job seekers can use in learning more about the company while surfing at home is probably a good investment. LinkedIn has a strong business focus and makes better sense as a business-linked networking tool. A branded YouTube page may be a good way to cluster informational podcasts.

Build synergy. The Internet doesn’t change the fact that people need to see something three to seven times before they remember it. Internet strategy should look to build synergy in message distribution. For example, when a company publishes an article in a trade magazine, it can be linked on their website, highlighted in their blog and sent out over social network feeds. It may also be emailed to a list of prospects likely to value the content. At the same time, the publication is promoting it on their website and through their teaser emails. In short, the same content is now distributed to multiple platforms with highly focused audiences with virtually no effort. If the content is useful to those audiences, relationships are built.

Slow it down. Internet communications are instantaneous. That is both good and bad. You can share an important news release quickly with just a few clicks. You can also tell the world you are illiterate or damage your brand widely with just a few clicks. Try to get second opinions before you post. Also, avoid carpet bombing social networking sites. Trust me. Your contacts don’t want to see 10 posts a day on their feeds.

Can you keep it up? While one element of strategy is determining what platforms should be used, the other critical element is frequency. It is better to use one platform well than three sporadically.

Be part of the conversation. The Internet is a great resource for problem-solving and distance learning. However, the quality of interactive learning experiences is dependent on participation. Comment on blogs or social feed posts that tie to your interests. If you use a training resource, such as Printed Circuit University (printedcircuituniversity.com), ask questions in forums and chats.

A good Internet strategy that delivers compelling content is a true competitive advantage. Companies that successfully tap Web resources in their problem-solving or training activities save money.

Susan Mucha is president of Powell-Mucha Consulting Inc. (powell-muchaconsulting.com), and author of Find It. Book It. Grow It. A Robust Process for Account Acquisition in Electronics Manufacturing Services; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Last Updated on Monday, 01 October 2012 13:21
 

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