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Date posted: February 26, 2015

In a recent post, we noted how search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) was taking center stage in the strategies of those B2B manufacturers selling industrial products. A recent article by Adam Heitzman on Inc.com speaks to how SEO is evolving— and how companies need to change their SEO practice in light of that change.

  1. The SEO mindset
    in the past, the goal was to focus on keywords and get rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs). That focus has shifted, notes Heitzman: “Marketers should focus more on a brand’s reputation, how people engage with that brand, and the quality of the product/service. In the end putting a focus on this should improve your rankings by increasing shares and natural linking across the web, but ultimately the focus needs to be on how your brand is viewed as opposed to its ranking position.”
  2. Keyword mentality
    In the past, the practice was to focus on one major keyword— research to find a keyword where the company wanted to rank, and then focus on that term almost exclusively. Now it is all about what the searcher is typing into the engine. The focus is on keyword intent and long tail searches, bringing semantic SEO into play, as well as being creative with search queries.
  3. Content approach
    Algorithms have changed the way content is being written. In the past, focus was on writing content to rank well on SERPs, using the right and right number of keywords. Not so today. The Panda algorithm has changed the game. “Thanks to the Panda algorithm, marketers learned quickly that content needs to be written for readers first, as it always should have been,” says Heitzman. “Content now focuses on relevance and engaging the audience.”
  4. Link building best practices
    Today links must be earned. It’s more important to build relationships and build links from relevant and authoritative sources, rather than place keyword rich links wherever possible. The key here— being more selective with links than was the case in the past.
  5. Social media stance
    As Heitzman notes, “In the past social media wasn’t leveraged for brands much because social signals were not a ranking factor for Google and other search engines. Because the SEO mindset was all about rankings in the past, social media didn’t have much of a place for brands.” No longer. Although social media is technically still not a ranking factor for Google, the opportunities to connect with your audience and increase visibility via social media have grown immensely— and become increasingly important. One example: Facebook’s meteoric rise as a purchasing influence.

The bottom line for B2B marketers according to Heitzman: “It’s important to make sure you’re evolving along with search engines and constantly thinking about these changes as you create your strategy.” SEO methods should be fluid, not static.

Date posted: February 24, 2015

Of all the questions set forth by the Bard, there’s no doubt that the most recollected is that posed in the Nunnery Scene of Hamlet:

To be, or not to be, that is the question—
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing, end them?

For today’s manufacturers, the question seems to be to integrate or not to integrate, for as heightened competition ramps up the pace of product development—and supply and value chains are increasingly extended, nuanced, and critical to competitive vigor—the integration of new product development and launch (NPDL) and supply chain practices appears to be essential for successfully navigating the sea of challenges the global business environment poses.

A recent SCM World research report speaks to this concern:

Early involvement of supply chain in product development has long been known to improve key metrics of innovation success, including cost, speed, and the ultimate profitability of newly introduced products. SCM World survey data shows that most supply chain organizations believe new product development and launch (NPDL) is now an essential capability.

The survey breaks down companies into two categories: innovation integrators, who consider NPDL an essential part of supply chain, and innovation isolators, who say that NPDL is not a part of supply chain. Compare the two:

  • Innovation integrators
    • Are more accountable for revenue growth, and even share prices.
    • Are managing more demand complexity.
    • Have deeper and better supply network visibility.
    • Are more advanced in using social networks to inform supply chain strategy.
  • Innovation Isolators
    • Are deeply siloed in their approach to organizational design.

The study found three key principles that work to improve design for profitability, all of which depend on integration of NPDL with supply chain: platforming (i.e., managing complexity with base designs and add-on modules to offer variety without entailing completely new development projects), supplier engagement in innovation (i.e., reducing the total number of suppliers while investing more deeply in relationship management and trust building to facilitate joint technology or capacity development), and NPDL orchestration (i.e., coordinating all involved to deliver on schedule every piece of the new product launch). These will be foundational elements for successful innovation going forward.

Expect solution providers to devise tools to help the implementation of these integration practices. A good example is E2open’s Design for Manufacturing module.

Date posted: February 18, 2015

Most of our content marketing clients are B2B manufacturers or sell to manufacturers. They buy things. How do they go about it?

Logistics giant UPS gives us a window into that question, with the results of a study they conducted with global research firm TNS. UPS B2B Purchasing Insights looks into the behaviors, preferences, and perceptions of industrial supplier performance, and what they find is more than a little interesting. For the study, TNS conducted an online survey of 1,501 industrial supplies purchasers. Respondents included sole/joint decision makers or strong influencers of sourcing and purchasing decisions. Here are some of the findings that caught our eye:

  • Factors affecting supplier selection.

While the vast majority of buyers rank product-related features as important when selecting a supplier, more notable is that delivery and returns capabilities, along with the ability to buy on a supplier’s website, are important to more buyers than having a sales representative and having a printed catalog.

So much for industrial concerns being slow to adopt digital behavior.

The top ten criteria ranked as extremely important attributes to consider when choosing which industrial vendors to purchase from:

  1. Product quality (70%)
  2. Product availability (66%)
  3. Delivery when products are needed (63%)
  4. Product price (61%)
  5. Shipping costs (50%)
  6. Return policies and procedures (42%)
  7. Product catalog/information available on supplier website (41%)
  8. Contract/negotiated pricing (41%)
  9. Ability to make purchases on the supplier’s website (39%)
  10. Value-added services (36%)
  • How suppliers are performing on those factors
    Buyers indicate their suppliers are performing very well on all the criteria important to selecting a vendor. No meaningful differences could be found among different annual spending levels.
  • Most used and most preferred research methods
    More buyers choose websites and search engines to research industrial supplies purchases, and they’re also the most preferred methods. A majority of buyers are researching supply purchases via supplier websites (68%), and 52% are using search engines.

These were the top seven methods used to research products:

  1. Suppliers’ websites (68%)
  2. Search engine results that take me directly to the product I need (52%)
  3. Suppliers’ print/hard copy catalog (47%)
  4. Account/sales representative (43%)
  5. User reviews and recommendations (40%)
  6. Reviews from independent trade publications (29%)
  7. Technical articles or whitepapers from the product manufacturer (27%)

Interestingly, most purchases were found to be a combination of repeat and one-off orders:


The majority of buyers across all spending levels report making a combination of repeat and one-off purchases, indicating that suppliers may have ample opportunity to acquire new customers. Since buyers expect to increase their online purchases in the future, and a clear majority prefer to research supplies online, having robust e-commerce and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) strategies are essential for suppliers seeking to add or potentially retain customers.

This rings true to us, as we’ve been preaching the importance of SEO and SEM to our customers for years, as well as providing practical advice on how to improve these disciplines to their advantage.

Date posted: February 13, 2015

Social media marketing has left long behind the idea that it’s the exclusive domain of the younger generation. What it is is central to today’s B2B marketing strategy.

An article on TechWeek Europe puts this into breathtaking focus, stating that social marketing technology will be the number one priority for chief marketing officers (CMOs) until the end of the decade. They cite a recent report from The Economist, which says the next three to five years will see a surge in investment by CMOs in technology, and social is where a good part of that investment will be made: “More than 80 percent of marketers plan on using technology to engage customers over the next five years – and it’s social marketing where they’re going to invest most heavily.”

This may reflect unhappiness with the current situation, as only 30% of the study’s respondents “strongly agree” with the statement that they are currently using technology to engage customers.

Expect that to change.

Following investment in social marketing, CMOs cited mobile marketing, analytics, and then email marketing to follow as priorities. Predictive analytics is a particularly hot area, as evidenced by Microsoft’s recent purchase of Revolution Analytics.

In the meantime, expect Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and other sundry social networks to take a more prominent place in the B2B marketing boardroom. Nothing is more indicative of the times.

Date posted: February 11, 2015

SCM World’s “Chief Supply Chain Officer Report 2014” points decidedly to changes in how supply chain operations are unfolding. The report’s main message: “Supply chain strategists need to raise their sights from traditional cost-cutting, process-standardizing principles and prepare for a new era.” What is driving this?

  • Growing volatility in customer demand
  • Greater complexity in customer expectations
  • Deeper operational integration throughout value chains

The inclination to outsource supply chain activities as a means of cutting costs is giving way as the above drivers take hold. As the authors note, “Manufacturing is growing more vertically integrated, route to market is now a two-way street, and suppliers are increasingly consolidated and powerful with capacity and technology that customers cannot find elsewhere. Efficiency alone no longer wins the game.”

What does win the game is agility. While operating cost reduction remains top of mind among supply chain practitioners, agility in meeting customers’ needs is fast rising to rival it. The top three areas SCOs find high-performing supply chains impacting business:

  • Enhanced customer service and loyalty
  • Accelerated new product introduction
  • Stronger supplier relationships

All these areas can be seen as key contributors to an agile supply chain. The report notes:

Agility appeals now because it means winning many different battles. Process standardization will wane in importance as a new generation of opportunistic supply chain professionals masters the deeply interdependent networks they are building to consistently say “yes” to profitable orders and “no” to the impossible.

Since the survey’s data shows an explosion in the complexity, volume, and urgency of demand, it’s understandable that big data analytics has emerged as the most disruptive technology for supply chain strategy. The importance of volatile demand—coupled with the hope that better visibility may come from drilling into huge new data sources—makes big data a big winner in the new era of supply chain operations.

This is an important study, the substance of which goes far beyond the brief points above. You can download it here.