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Welcome to the official blog of the International Society of Automation (ISA).

This blog covers numerous topics on industrial automation such as operations & management, continuous & batch processing, connectivity, manufacturing & machine control, and Industry 4.0.

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What No One Tells You About Industrial Automation Marketing (Part 5): Modern Marketing Channels

Welcome back to our series on marketing for industrial automation businesses. If you haven’t seen the first four parts of this series, you may want to go back and check those out first before reading this one, just so you’re up to speed.

In this edition, we’ll talk about more modern methods of marketing that you might not be consciously aware ofor maybe you thought they just weren’t for you. We’ll cover channels such as podcast ads, OTT (over-the-top), CTV (Connected TV), and more. These channels will require some investigation on your company’s part, as they might not be a good fit for your business. The point of this article is to make you aware of their availability and to show you how we at the International Society of Automation (ISA) use or experiment with themso you can make the call on your own.

Podcast/Spotify Advertising

Spotify. At this point, pretty much everyone knows who they are. Almost everyone reading this uses Spotify, either free with ads or via paid accounts, so I won’t go into too much detail about why that, specifically, is a place you want to be. The reasons to advertise on Spotify and podcasts are basically the same, so I’ll focus on podcast advertising.

Podcasts are huge. Virtually everyone loves podcasts, includingguess whatengineers, technicians, managers, and decision-makers in industrial automation. According to a study from HubSpot, podcast ad spend was expected to reach over 350 million USD in 2020, and for a very good reason. Some companies, like Squarespace, Hello Fresh, ZipRecruiter, and Quip, have built their entire business around podcast ads. Granted, mostly everyone has teeth (Quip) and needs to eat (Hello Fresh). But not everyone is looking to hire employees (ZipRecruiter) or build a website (Squarespace)and yet those companies have had massive success. If you listen to nearly any well-known podcast in any genre, you’ll notice it will be sponsored by at least one of those brands.

But why advertise web design services on horror-themed or science fiction podcasts? Why advertise human resources services on comedy- or video game-themed shows? Glad you asked. This is the same reason I suggest you experiment with all social channels, not just LinkedInbecause all those decision makers you are trying to reach are also people with varied interests.

Think about it. What do you do at the end of the day, after work? Do you sit there and watch automation-themed TV shows, or listen to songs about process control on Spotify? If you like podcasts, do you limit yourself to ones that deal with manufacturing?

No, people need to unwind and relax. Again, everyone you want to reach is a human being. Think about it. Imagine you’re sitting there listening to your favorite podcast about whatever, and the host breaks in with "This episode is brought to you by *insert your favorite automation company here*" followed up by a short commercial pitch or special offer? How cool is that?

Hold on, you say. Yes, that’s cool, but I’m not paying for cool. I’m paying to make money!

Glad you said that, too. This cool idea turns into sales here at ISA with a simple formula:

  • Brand awareness
  • Brand humanization
  • A solid, low-cost offer as an entry point to your business
  • People try you; they like you; they come back
  • They spend money

Easy, right?

Look, people can get what you sell or do from nearly anyone. Branding, recognition, humanization, and even a sense of "belonging" can come from putting your business on places where others aren’t. Imagine thinking that your favorite niche brand (not just automationit could be clothing, shoes, and so on) is not only a fan of your favorite podcast outside their industry, but likes it so much they are willing to sponsor it? That makes it even more "yours," right? Brand affinity and humanization is extremely important. If you overlook those concepts in the pursuit of a few extra dollars, you’re going to be tripping over dollars to pick up pennies.

Also, if you’re really worried about the "wrong people" hearing your ad, you can decide to advertise exclusively on engineering-themed podcasts. They’re smaller, but the smaller ones usually are less expensive to advertise on than the larger ones. Just be careful with the ones you pick, as some may not get you the traffic you want.

So how can you get started with podcast advertising? It’s easy. Just visit services like Midroll if you need some help. A rep will help guide you and get to know you and your business, which I recommend for people new to podcast advertisingespecially if you’re interested in a larger spend. There are also some self-service platforms out there, like Audio Go and AdvertiseCast, if you want to try to go it alone. If you do, just remember that the spends can vary wildly from podcast to podcast. So will your results. If one fails, don’t be afraid to try again. Like anything else, this is all about testing.

Also, in case you’re wondering this: no, radio ads are not the same as podcast or Spotify ads in terms of response. Dive into this article to really see the differences.

Here at ISA, we’ve seen a lot of success with Spotify ads, but again, you need to have a solid, low-cost entry point to give to listeners. We started with our free first module offer to bring people in, so I suggest you go with something similar.

OTT and CTV Advertising

OTT and CTV ads are just fancy words for "streaming TV service ads." Just like one way of massively oversimplifying podcast and Spotify advertising would be to call them "futuristic radio ads," these would be "information age TV ads."

To quickly understand the difference between OTT (over-the-top) and CTV (Connected TV), just look at the method of delivery. OTT is delivered through streaming TV apps "over the top" of traditional, linear TV providers. CTV is the actual TV device itself. So OTT are basically ads on apps like Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Disney+. CTV are direct ad placements on devices themselves, like an Xbox, PlayStation, Apple TV, Chromecast, and more.

As we touched on earlier, these channels can reach a lot of people at a relatively low cost. They are great for branding, awareness, and to give your brand that "cool" factor to set you apart from literally every other company in your space. Trust methat’s worth a lot more than you think, even in this niche.

Right now, at ISA, we are taking this channel slowly. It’s still in the experimental phase, but so far, we are seeing good results. We are using Hulu’s recently introduced self-service ads manager (still in open beta at the time of this writing), and running a few campaigns for only a few thousand dollars total for things with a broad appeal. You don’t want to go too niche on theseso, just like with audio, evaluate what you have to offer. The idea here is to build awareness, bring people into your ecosystem, and get people talking about you.

For us, as a nonprofit professional organization, it’s a little different because we can also use this channel as a recruitment toolfor younger student members for the organization, and to promote the awareness of industrial automation as a viable career path in general. But who says you can’t do that, too? Remember, not all KPIs are cash in hand!

Why not be the brand that is known for helping young people realize that there are good jobs in this important industry? What about making a few lower-cost ads (the current minimum ad spend on Hulu is around 1000 USD) to talk about how your tools or services are helping keep the power on and water flowing to all homes in your country during these "unprecedented times?"

OTT and CTV ads are trackable, relatively low-cost, and can help you reach lots of people out there that your emails, social ads, and postcards just can’t.

The thing to be aware of with CTV and OTT targeting is that, just like with podcast advertising, your targeting options are limited. You will want to use a short link to your service that is easy to remember, type, and track on your side. Nobody is going to go running from their couch before their show starts to visit your website and see your stuff (though they may pull it up on their phone from the couch, so make sure your page and site are responsive!). Your ads and links should be memorable.

Your standard "random person in hard hat on job site pointing at random things" ads won’t work here. Use humor, FOMO, or some kind of emotion that will stick with the person to stand out. We’re having success with humor in our videos.

Remember, whether in our niche or not, people are people. The same kinds of ads speak to us no matter who we are. That’s another reason I don’t believe in marketing differently between B2C or B2B—a complex topic that deserves another article I may write one day.

Branding Is Crucial

So why do we care about podcasts, Spotify, CTV, and OTT? I mean, lots of people use these things, not just engineers or technicians.

Great question! We asked the same thing here at ISA before we started using them and other, more mainstream advertising channels. The answer was remarkably simple.

We care about these channels for the same exact reason any company doeswe’re building a brand.

The sheer importance of branding cannot be understated. to not just people in our industry but also those outside of our industry.

Not everyone has a baby, but you’ve probably heard of Pampers and Huggies. If you ever had to buy baby diapers, those would probably be your go-tos, right? Not everyone cares about purses or handbags, but I bet if you saw a Coach bag, you’d recognize it as quality, no?

It’s the same idea here.

Look, I know what you’re thinking. "But that’s shopping! We’re automation! Nobody is giving anyone a butterfly valve as a holiday present!"

I get it. I really do. A lot of us here at ISA thought the same, until we considered the power of a solid brand even beyond our niche. Sure, nobody is going to "give the gift of a thermocouple this year." But why do people "Go to Jared" for jewelry or "Just Do It" with Nike? It’s because they are top of mind.

If I say "shoes," I bet you think of a few names immediately, like Nike, Adidas, or a few others, right? Well, imagine someone asking a friend, “I need to upgrade my PLCs. Do you recommend anyone?” or “At work, we’re having a massive problem with the HMIs on our SCADA system and we may need to find a new solutionany ideas?”

What if the first thing that comes to mind, without even really thinking about it, is your brand? How great would that be?

You want your brand to be synonymous with your product or service. Once you’ve reached the point where even people who have no idea of what a multimeter is, know to buy your brand if they need oneyou’ve arrived. It sounds like a vanity metric, but it’s not.

It’s not really hard to grasp. If you need a new pressure calibrator and even your parents who have absolutely nothing to do with the industry know to buy from Brand XYZ, is there really another choice? Think about it…do you reach for a "facial tissue" or a "Kleenex?" Do you like "sandwich cookies" or "Oreos?"

Quality Products and Quality Marketing

I will now say one other thing. I always say it. I have said for more than 10 years. Everyone at ISA has heard me say it at one point or another.

You can’t market a punch in the face.

This means simply, if you don’t have actual quality products that people want and actually help people do their jobs, even the best marketing in the world can’t help you. No channel, no campaign, no gimmick, nothing. Audiences are just too smart these days to fall for the old gags and snake oil.

Also, the best products and services in the world mean nothing if you don’t know how to reach people and tell a story. If nobody knows you, getting people to try you is nearly impossible. We’re not making underground mix tapes here; we’re selling products.

You need new and innovative marketing and distribution channels for your message. The old math of "find stock picture of man in hard hat + stick on postcard + send to list we bought = money!" doesn’t work. The audience doesn’t have the time or the money to spend on something that might or might not help them from a company they’ve never heard of before.

That being said, if you have quality products, if you’re in front of everyone more or less everywhere they go, and if you have built a brand name becoming more or less synonymous with the product itself, you’ve got it made.

Speaking of having it made, you can’t do anything without great content and SEO. That’s what we’re covering in our next and final installment, so be sure to join us again next time when we wrap it all up!

Interested in reading even 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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