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What No One Tells You About Industrial Automation Marketing (Part 2): Admitting You Have a Problem

Complacency and stagnation. Two words that will crush any marketing teamnot to mention a businessfaster than anything.

But hold on, you say. "There's nothing wrong with our marketing!"

Your marketing team, your C-suite, the sales team, and everyone else has been doing the same thing for years and your company is still open and making some sales, so why should you change anything?

"If it ain't broke, don’t fix it," right?

Well, my friends, I’m here to tell you that most likely, it is "broke." It's just a matter of how broke.

How do I know this? Because I've seen a lot of marketing in my 10 years in the business, both inside and outside of this industry, and there's always a way to improve. Even the best, most modern marketing agencies and teams can find areas to improvein fact, that's why they're the best. They don't sit around thinking "good enough is good enough." Instead, they're constantly looking for ways to improve and optimize their operations. If you're not doing thisand doing it the right waythen it's "broke."

So how do you do this the right way? The easiest way to explain that is to give a few examples of the wrong way. A lot of what follows can be applied to marketing any type of business, but I've seen people in the industrial automation and engineering space make these mistakes more commonly than other industries.

Not Tracking Anything

First things first: your marketing should never be guesswork and gut feelings. It should never be "this worked five years ago, so let's do it again!"

You need to know the value of every single marketing activity that goes on. This applies to not only your digital marketing efforts, but also your traditional marketing. If you don't know how many people are engaging with your print ads or postcards, then you need to either start finding out or stop this channel.

This is not up for debateif you can't accurately measure it, you shouldn't be doing it. Imagine giving someone 5,000 USD to market your business, and when you ask them how it went, the best they can tell you is "well, some people must have seen it!"not a great reply, right? The same concept applies here. If you can't track it, you shouldn't be doing it, and you definitely shouldn't be paying for it.

There are a lot of ways to track your return on investment. It's not even that hard. For the bare basics of tracking, you can get yourself a free Google Analytics account, sync your website to it, and then use Google's free campaign URL builder tool to create unique UTM tracking codes for everything that leaves your business. This way, you can start getting a basic idea of where your traffic is coming from and what campaigns and channels are working for youand, more importantly, which ones are not.

Most marketers know how to use Google Analytics these days, but maybe you don't, or maybe you've been tasked with your company's marketing in addition to your other duties. Don't worry; there are tons of great courses online. They will not only teach you how to use this tool, but will also help you get a free certification from Google! Google Analytics is very powerful once it's set up properly and used correctly, so I strongly recommend having this or a similar tool in place if you don't already.

Of course, full URLs with UTM codes are too long to put in print and audio ads,  and so that's where short links come in. Simply take the full URL of the page you wish to track, UTM codes and all, and have your IT team turn that long link into a customized short link of your choosing. Most modern web platforms are able to do this easilybut make sure you only use the link in the proper way. For example, don’t use a short link that redirects to a full link with the "print" UTM source in your Facebook ads or you'll have false attribution problems, which is just as bad as no attribution.

Nobody Cares About (or Understands) Data

Imagine going to work every day, doing whatever you felt like for eight or nine hours, and just collecting a paycheck. Imagine making the same widget or class over and over again and nobody pays attention to how many sales it gets. You don't have to think too hard or do any research and you still get paid!

Great for you, I suppose, but bad for your company. Well, great for you until your company goes out of business.

As ridiculous as the previous statement sounded, that's what your marketing and product management team is doing if nobody is pulling reports on a regular basisor, worse yet, if marketing is providing people with reports but nobody on the product side is actually reading them or doing anything with them. Your marketingand your product R&Dcan't just be gut feelings and guesswork. If you're not making data-driven decisions (not "we've-always-done-it-this-way"-driven, not "well-everybody-says-to-do-this"-driven), you're cutting your legs off from under you.

Just like when you're not tracking anything, if you're not reporting on each campaign or using what you've learned from your reports, you can't really know how anything is doingwhich means you could be just throwing money away.

Results must be accurately tracked and the results must be reported to the right people in the organization who can make decisions based on this information. If your team doesn't care about what the numbers sayor flat-out doesn't know what all this data even meansyou have a big problem. There are a lot of places online (again, some are free) that will help you understand these things. Simply Google "How to understand marketing data." It's all out there; you just have to learn it.

Also, it is crucial to have a solid understanding of what key performance indicators (KPIs) are and what a conversion is on a campaign level. A very important concept that is commonly overlooked in the industrial automation space: the word "conversion" does not always mean "money in hand." There are brand awareness conversions, email sign-up conversions, and several other kinds. Just because one campaign did not necessarily lead to immediate money in the bank, especially when you sell high-ticket or niche products or services, does not mean it failed by any means. Everything must be measured on its own merits. The bottom line you want to ask every single time is, did this specific campaign do what you wanted it to do? If yes, great; if not, find out why and go from there.

No Marketing Tech Stack

Another issue that happens all the time in marketing teams is that they simply just don’t have the tools to do the job. A lot of start-up companies have this problem because they just don't understand how important this is, but really, since we work in the engineering space, we have no excuse. Could we expect a modern industrial workspace to run with no PLCs or SCADA systems? To go low-tech, could we expect to build a house without a single hammer? Of course not. In the same vein, marketers can't be expected to "market" without the appropriate tools for the job.

This is the year 2020. If you're out there trying to run an entire marketing team with just an email marketing program, you're already far behind the curve. (Don't laughI've seen this done!)

Seriously, though, if you want to be successful, you need to get involved in omnichannel marketing, which is just a fancy way of saying "don't put all your eggs in one basket."

You can't just rely on email these days. You have to branch out into content marketing, social media (especially paid social ads, which we'll cover in a future article), SEO, paid search, video ads, and more. Just because you specialize in industrial automation doesn't mean you can afford to slack on your marketing. Sure, you probably won't ever be the next Amazon, and your products and services target a fairly niche audience. But your audience is still made up of people, and guess what, people are everywhere! You can't find or reach people without a good marketing tech stack. It simply cannot be done.

That being said, sometimes tools that once made sense aren't really useful anymore. You could be spending money you don't need to.

You should be doing at least yearly audits of the tools your marketing team has to do its job. If not, you have a major problem. There are a lot of resources online to help you learn how to do this, but the best way to start is to make a list of everything you have and figure out how much you actually use, what for, and how often. Eliminate redundancies and fill in the gaps. It's not that complicated.

Another crucial step is employee buy-in. You need to make sure your employees actually learn how to use all these new tools, and that they understand why they need to do so. The best tools in the world mean nothing if your staff isn't trained or can't be bothered to learn them.

We’ve Got a Problem. Now What?

These examples, of course, were not all-encompassing. I shared just a few of the most common issues I've seen. But let’s say they were enough to make you understand that there is a problem in your company. So what do you do about it?

Glad you asked. Actually doing something about it and not just going "oh well" is the second step to getting your marketing house in order.

If you're a manager, what you don't want to do is just charge into your marketing team's Zoom meeting on a random Tuesday morning and start saying they're all terrible and everyone should be fired. That will just likely cause a lot of defensiveness, and nobody is receptive to new ideas when they're on the defensive. This will also just cause your team to do just enough work to not be fired.

If you’re a member of the marketing team, what you don't want to do is start saying nobody around here knows what they're doing, leadership is terrible, and who knows how much money we just burned in the last year. That will probably just get you ignored at bestand fired at worst. Either way, no one will be willing to listen. Again, that will put everyone on the defensive, no matter what statistics you bring to back up your claims.

Regardless of your position, the first thing you want to do is figure out exactly what you're doing wrong as a team. I don't mean in the abstract; I mean clearly define it. If you can't summarize what you're doing wrong in less than three sentences, you don't understand it yourself.

Once you've done that, make a list and start gathering the data that you can. If you're not tracking anything, that's going to be a lot harder to do, so maybe start asking around for the people who should have the answers to your questions.

For example, let's say you sent out 6,000 postcards last quarter to promote a new product. But there was no trackable short link in them, and you're planning on doing it again. You could start by asking the product manager how that campaign did and what the return on investment was. They should know or be able to tell you how to see it, right? If they point you to some arbitrary sales total number, ask them about the breakdown between the different advertising channels and how they calculate the attribution. That’s when you plant that seed of, "yeah, how do we know these postcards are really responsible for this many sales?"

That’s how you make your first allyand you’re going to need them.

Most of the time, just throwing problems and numbers at people who aren't used to it does more harm than good. But if you ask the right questions in the right way, more often than not, they will discover the problem for themselves. This is far more effective than an avalanche of data and accusations, which basically tells people they don't understand their jobs. After all, nobody wants to hear they've been doing something wrong, especially if the company culture is prone to ending conversations by saying "we've always done it this way."

Asking pointed questions and sparking people's curiosity about what's been going on around them is a good way to get them onboard with understanding how and why things need to change.

We’ve Got All These Changes In Place. Now How Do We Improve?

You've fixed all that stuff, built a marketing stack, and implemented tracking already? Wow! That was fast!

In that case, join me for the next installments of this series, when I will discuss specific marketing channels and how you can improve each one for your business, starting with the industrial automation industry’s long-time favoriteemail marketing.

I'll be running down do's and don'ts, tips and tricks, list-building techniques, and exactly how to craft messages that are more likely to hit the inbox rather than spam folders. You'll learn how to keep your followers engaged and wanting moreinstead of dreading seeing your name.


Catch up with this series by reading Part 1 here.

Interested in reading more articles like this? Subscribe to ISA Interchange and receive weekly emails with links to our latest interviews, news, thought leadership, tips, and more from the automation industry.

Chris Sciulli
Chris Sciulli
Chris is the digital marketing lead for ISA and specializes in content marketing, social media marketing, and SEO. He is a featured speaker on various digital marketing topics, the owner of the digital marketing blog, "Smokehouse SEO," has been featured on several digital marketing sites such as "Search Engine Land," and was listed as a top social media marketing expert for 2020 by "Search Engine Journal."

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