Tag Archives: b2b

5 Steps to Digital World Domination

Global Digital Domination

There have been many headlines of late proclaiming that China’s economy is about to “overtake” ours. As a proud American, that makes me a bit uncomfortable. You? This is still the greatest country in the world, right? (I mean no disrespect to my ancestral homeland and its kin, but Greece’s economy isn’t exactly killing it these days. But keep sending those irresistible Kalamata olives, please!) The headlines about China got me thinking – how do we continue to compete? What can I do to help? Can I ask you another question?

Are Your Ready?

Is your company ready to compete on the world stage? I’m guessing this in on your to do list, but perhaps you’re not exactly sure where to start. And you don’t want to pay a consultant a king’s ransom to get on the path to world domination.

For starters, remember my golden digital rule: in order to be successful, you need a balanced plan that utilizes several digital marketing methods. Website, SEO/SEM, display, email and social are the key components. So, where to begin?

STEP 1: Chart Your Course

Start by choosing the countries that you want to do business in. Think about the basics – demand, local economic conditions, your ability to ship there, and of course, speak their language (or partner with someone that does). Most US-based companies I’ve worked with start with Canada and Mexico, then continue into South America. Those that can get their products and services to the other side of the globe – typically sell into Europe and Asia.

STEP 2: Build Your Global Empire

Once you’ve mapped out your battle plan, next step is to build your real estate, aka your websites! Here’s the process:

Get your website translated. While it’s tempting to use free translation services such as Google Translate, be careful! While these solutions work well for common speak, they tend to fall apart when it comes to translating more technically oriented industrial and commercial language. My advice would be to pay a translation service that specializes in this. Or, if you are lucky enough to have sales representation that speaks the local language, have them do it for you. This is probably the best way to go – cost will be minimal if at all, and they understand the nuances of your business and markets better than you do. If the budget isn’t there, as an absolute last resort, use a free service. Expect that you will have errors/miscommunications in there that will tarnish your image and cost you some business.

Build out a replica of your site in that language. You have no choice. If you are on a limited budget, then only do your primary pages – home, about us, contact page, and a line card for products or brief summary page for capabilities. Give enough to describe what you do, differentiate yourself from competitors, and make it easy for them to reach out to you. Then include strong calls to action and a form, so you can get that request to your rep asap. If you are fortunate to have the budget to build out the entire site, go for it. This will benefit search engine exposure, sales cycle time, and credibility – it shows that you are serious about doing business in that market. Be conscious of the local culture and tastes (a recurring theme throughout this article). For instance, if the locals find the color magenta offensive, and your logo is magenta – you’ll want to reconsider.

Pay attention to the critical technical stuff that is often overlooked. The strategy I’ve bulleted here is primarily written around Google’s rules for indexing. Since Google is the predominant search engine across much of the world, this really matters. (There are a few exceptions to Google’s world domination, discussed further down.) Here are the key tech tips:

  • Register your URL in the local extension/top level domain (TLD) – a key indicator to both search engines and visitor is the extension itself. While .com is the standard in US, and is respected internationally, it’s important to use the local extension if you really mean business. For instance, for Canada, you need to use yourcompanyname.ca, and Mexico, yourcompanyname.mx. It’s typically not that expensive to register the additional names. I would recommend using a well know company such as GoDaddy.
  • Host the site in that country – if you are targeting Mexico, then you’ll want to host your Spanish version of yourcompany.mx at a hosting facility that’s physically in Mexico. You are primarily doing this to show search engines such as Google that you are more than a paper tiger. How does Google know? It looks at the IP address of the host server, and knows where it’s located. Do some research to find a reputable hosting company in each country. True, you can host your .mx on a US server, but Google is smarter than that (are you surprised?), and will consider your exposure accordingly.
  • Display Your Local Address – another major clue for Google and visitors is the physical address that appears on the site. If you don’t have an address in Mexico to display, then use the one of your distributor/sales representation there. Ideally, put this at the footer of each page. At the very least, include it in your contact us page. For some search international search engines such as Baidu, a local address is mandatory to be listed in results.

International SEO Strategy

Step 3: Target Your Global Prospects

Now that you have your website out there, of course, you’ll want to drive traffic via SEO and SEM. Google is the largest in all of North America (number one in the US, Canada and Mexico), and much of Europe and most of the world for that matter. But if you are pointing your periscope toward Russia and China/Asian-Pacific markets, please consider:

Yandex – this is the largest search engine in Russia. Initially launched in 1997, it has a strong presence in neighboring countries such as Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus. If you are looking to break into the Russian market (if not, I totally get it), this would be the place to start. Google can’t be neglected either, since it receives a lot of usage, just not as much as Yandex.

Baidu – is the most popular search engine in China with a majority of market share. One key requirement for advertising (or even show up in organic search results), is that you must have a physical address in China posted on your site. Also, the language requirement is important – the site should be in simplified Chinese (over Traditional). “Licensing” your site with them will help boost your organic results.

In addition to the technical tips, make sure you follow the general rules of any good strategy. Be informative, avoid duplicate content, organize your information logically, in narrow slices. There are additional considerations that you need to make. Make sure you are using the local language – a simple translation of a word might mean something completely different there. This could get expensive if you are paying-per-click for the wrong words. Be aware of cultural differences and incorporate those as well. You don’t want to have a website or ad that’s offering a handshake when you’re supposed to be bowing! Be careful with humor too, what’s funny to us might be extremely insulting elsewhere.

As for directories, you’ll want to go with well established, credible ones. My favorite, of course, is ThomasNet.com, (never mind that they sign my paychecks). While ThomasNet maintains its focus on American manufacturers, its millions of monthly visits include plenty of global ones. In fact, at a recent annual meeting, one supplier took the stage and proudly proclaimed that “ThomasNet saved my business!” by attracting global buyers through the platform. Can you put a price on that?

Thomas International Publishing has global advertising and promotional opportunities as well. These include World Industrial Reporter – both website and newsletter, IEN Europe, and other solutions aimed at Europe, Japan, India and Brazil. You can learn more about those here.

As you explore the world, consider supplementing with other outlets such as Chinese-run Alibaba. Started in 1999, it was originally built to help Chinese suppliers market their products globally. I know, the exact opposite of what you want. It does allow for other companies to have a presence now. A note of caution though: it’s flooded with suppliers, and it might be difficult for many US-based companies to compete here, due to pricing and other factors.

Step 4: Nurture the Universe, Carefully

You’ll need to nurture your international leads and customers. You probably already know that email is the best way to do this. Since you’ll need to be really personal in this format, language and cultural differences will present further challenges. I strongly recommend that you work with your local representation or a translator/agency to help you with email content. Don’t forget the power of strong, appropriate graphics and photos as well. When designing your email, be conscious of local tastes, preferences and traditions.  As with US email campaigns, you need to be super-careful about email spam regulations. For instance, rules in Canada are much stricter than those in our CAN-SPAM act. Email can be an extremely effective tool at getting more business from your customers, and garnering new ones. But if you’re not cautious, can end up costing you significant amounts of money. I don’t want to scare you, just warn you to do your due diligence. Please be careful.

Step 5: Become A World Citizen

The last piece is also the toughest one: mastering a global social media strategy. Why? In order to succeed socially, you need to follow my rules for social – be human, helpful, genuine, consistent, etc. It’s very difficult to do that and appear “natural” when dealing with different cultures and expectations. My recommendation again would be to work with local people such as your distributors and manufacturer’s reps to help with this task. Make sure they focus on becoming valuable members of a community, and not international snake-oil hucksters. The world has enough of them. If you don’t have these types of partnerships in place, I have one more thought. Focus on social selling by placing targeted display and text ads that link to your local websites. While it’s not the most authentic way to break into the social sphere, it will get you some social exposure and site traffic.

The future of your company and our economy is now in your hands. Go forth and conquer!

Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

(c)2014, by Phil Paranicas


How Industrial / B2B Companies Can Leverage Twitter’s Paid Promotion


It’s no secret that industrial companies promoting their brands via Twitter by sharing their rich content, knowledge and experience. (If you aren’t yet, SLAP! what the heck are you waiting for?)

Twitter is evolving. It has no choice. Like all social networks, it started out as a “pure” exciting method of digital communication. The key to its success? Maximizing minimalism. Well played, Twitter. But over time, it got expensive to run. (Forgive me, Sister Pat, I started a sentence with “But”). Servers, bandwidth and engineers to support 400 bajillion users don’t come cheap. Until recently, Twitter wasn’t selling anything – no income other than investor support. As a Wharton MBA once told me, no business can survive long term without positive cash flow from customers. (Kidding. I actually learned that lesson first hand!) So Twitter had no choice but to “sell out”. Purity vs. sellout – their chosen approach suggests that they are painfully aware of this conundrum. Twitter elected not to flood screens with display ads that may scare “traditionalist” users away. Instead, they took the higher road less traveled (yep, two clichés in one), and are promoting companies less intrusively.

Now you can turn their opportunity into yours, by utilizing one of their various methods of “advertising”. A few of my favorites:

Twitter Cards – these expanded Tweets let you share more than just 140 characters – such as images and interactive functions. The latest flavor is the “Lead Generation Card”, which helps drive targeted leads via direct calls to action, such as “Give us your email address”. That’s gold to us digital marketing folk. Use this to promote your latest white paper, or build your email marketing/newsletter list.

Promoted Accounts – these feature your account to targeted viewers. So, if you are looking to reach aerospace design engineers, you can have your brand show up their screens. This is a fast way to build an active community of thought leaders and “brand ambassadors”.

Promoted Tweets – These are like typical tweets, however they are displayed to users outside of your network. This is another great way to reach new eyes. You can target by interest, device, geography, and similarity to existing followers.

Promoted Trends – if you are seeking brand dominance via significant exposure, and have the cash to support it – this is the avenue for you. Here, your promoted trend is featured at the top of trend lists – oceanfront property in the social world.

Do you see the common thread here? Each method is designed to promote your Twitter account and build your audience. As such, you must actively maintain your profile, adhering to best practices (You know, talk about interesting stuff other than your company; regularly and consistently…) The required time is in stark contrast to other effective forms such as directory listings, or banner/display ads, which typically drive targeted traffic to your website or landing page. These often require less maintenance. The lesson here is don’t spend money on promoting your account if you are not actively using it.

Also, you must regard my golden rule: There is no silver bullet to online marketing. You must employ a well-balanced digital mix, that takes time to refine, and is never perfected.

Happy (promoted) tweeting!

(c)2013, by Phil Paranicas

5 Hot Industrial Digital Marketing Trends

I just spent the better part of a month travelling across the country talking to industrial marketing specialists about the increasing role of digital media. One question kept coming up – what’s ahead?

There’s no doubt that 2012 was the year when social really exploded for the industrial/B2B space.  According to a recent study, 61 percent of engineers use social media for work-related activities. This study, by Cal Gavin, further showed that 8,522,177 engineers are currently on LinkedIn. Clearly, social isn’t going away, and plays a key role in virtually every marketing trend. Here’s the scoop:

1) Show Me!

Pinterest LogoAs Internet users become more passive, image-based social networks are becoming all the rage. The leader of the pack is Pinterest. Less than three years old, Pinterest now drives more referral traffic than Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube combined (according to a study by Shareaholic). Really. Pinterest is evolving beyond wedding cakes, cozy cottages, leather boots and such. The biggest clue that it’s time to start paying attention? Brand pages. That’s right – your company can now have a dedicated profile page with your logo on it – just like the other social networks. I know what you’re thinking, and I still (sorta) feel the same way: does anyone really want to see pictures of your bolts or pumps (the boring kind, not the shoe kind)? Not really – but, engineers are starting to share interesting images, infographics, drawings and more. In fact, infographics are the most shared content on Pinterest. If your products are visually exciting, your job is easier. Just as with other social networks, why not get in early? Start by registering your brand page, then poke around for a few images that relate to your industry. Then “pin” some of your own exciting photos on your website. Try it. You’ll like!

Instagram is slowly bleeding into the commercial space too. While it’s cool to share pictures about nothing with folks in Australia and Zimbabwe, the use is expanding. Instagram presents a fun way to humanize your company, and connect with people visually. The best tip? Start with great photography. Don’t bother with stock images or boring shots, you will need a creative eye and engaging images to be successful. It’s critical to #tag your #uploads accordingly, since this is how #neweyes will #discover you. If you have lots of snappy, thought provoking images, and contribute regularly, more and more will follow and engage with you. These relationships can eventually be monetized.

Here’s the critical difference between Pinterest and Instagram: on Pinterest, you are finding, grouping and sharing images you like online (even your own), while on Instagram, you are developing, sharing and promoting your unique images and graphics. For either, keep your content simple, yet interesting and engaging. Remember that most of your users are on mobile devices, most likely a pocket computer (aka cell phone). So, jamming 20 pages worth of stats into one infographic won’t get you too far.

Lastly, the veteran of the pack is the slowly dying Flickr. While it’s been a great way to organize and share photos, it never quite mushroomed like Pinterest and Instagram. It’s still a good solutions for cataloging lots of photos, and applying organizational structure – ie categories, subcategories, etc. There are also many apps out there that allow for publishing Flickr content on your website. This can be great for image galleries of your products or completed jobs. Remember to add captions to each image to help educate the viewer and the search engines.

2) Bait Me, Educate Me

ID-10076544Content. Content. Content. This is certainly not a new concept, but content has been promoted from King to Emperor! It comes in many forms:

Blog – this is the easiest way to develop and grow your content library. This is my favorite piece of the social puzzle since you get to talk in paragraphs instead of virtually incoherent chopped-up sentences. (Sister Pat, my 3rd grade teacher, would be very proud to hear about that!) Blogs are the ideal way to establish your thought leadership, and expand your search engine promotion (since Google loves fresh, well-written relevant content!). Focus on topics that are interesting to your industry as a whole – news, breakthroughs, new applications for old capabilities and products. Limit the focus on your company/brand. Nobody is reading blogs to be sold anything. Write as often as you can. Trust me, it’s hard to stay on schedule, but it’s also important to train your readers so they know when to come back. After you have a few solid entries, think about promoting your blog and syndicating your content through related blogs and websites. This will help you pull in readers and maximize your reach.

Whitepapers and Ebooks – while these take longer to develop, the will help you attract new customers and establish your position as “go to” people in your industry. With the explosion of inbound marketing (discussed later), it’s time to stop dreaming and start drafting. These digital docs act as tempting bait that lure prospects ripe for nurturing into buyers over time. Your white papers should cover a few simple rules: the theme must be interesting enough for a visitor to give up their precious email address to give it to you. Don’t simply write an article fit for Wikipedia, think about it from a different, much more enticing angle. Answer the questions your clients and prospects are asking, let them learn from you. Again, don’t be “salesy” in your language – educate your audience. It’s ok to have your logo, toll free and website subtly on every page, they’ll know why it’s there and use it when ready.

Case Studies – I’m almost tempted to move this one into the “show me” section! Why? Well, you can brag about your capabilities all you want, but proving that you can do it, particularly for custom manufacturers, is how skeptics become believers. Would you hire an architect without seeing a portfolio of previous projects first? Of course not! Follow the classic format here: client came to you with X challenge, and you delivered Y solution, and you all lived happily ever after in Disneyesque fields of rainbows and butterflies. Focus on stories that will resonate with larger audiences. Also, use attractive images and other snappy graphics to support your text. Nobody reads anymore. In fact, I’m shocked you made it this far on my longest blog ever!

3) On The Run

ID-100113509Cellphones and tablet devices are everywhere. Chances are, you are staring at one right now. By 2015, tablets will outnumber desktop computers. In fact, seven out of eight people sitting around me on the train right now are lost in them as I clickity click away. Are you ready for them?

Let’s start with the basics. Make sure your website is accessible and usable on mobile devices. While most websites will show up on them, many are still not optimized for various formats. In the recent past, people would develop multiple versions of a site – typically, one for desktop and one for mobile. This required paying for a website twice. Today, there is a better approach. Basically, you have one set of content, then multiple sets of display rules (that are handled by multiple style sheets). As a result, websites are smarter than ever, and can automatically adjust to their displayed environment. It’s ancient news now, but remember that languages such as Flash do not work on Apple devices. If your site requires Flash to deliver key content, stop reading this blog and go fire your web developer.

Next up, mobile apps. You might be thinking, “What? I couldn’t possibly come up with an app that anyone would care about!” Well, how about a calculator? How about an app that helps your sales people, distributors and customers figure out what product is best for them? If you are a distributor, a catalog app would make lots of your customers happy. Think about apps that will make their jobs easier. Since you have to create separate versions for each mobile platform, development can get costly. Make sure you do some ROI estimation, but when calculating, don’t underestimate the size of your potential usership – and their desire to have your app! It’ probably best to go with a firm that specializes in app development. In any case, make sure you beat up their portfolio of completed projects before handing over that meaty deposit check.

Of course, there are mobile ads. You’ll need to develop digital advertising specifically for users on the go. There are many facets to this approach. For instance, Google now allows you to target mobile users differently than desktop ones. Your ads can show phone numbers, even with a  “call now” button when displayed on a mobile device. Usually, if someone is search for your product or service on one, the need is urgent. So you’ll want to capitalize on their situation and make it simple for them to connect with you, (and maybe charge them double?). Also, consider opportunities for mobile display – there are many networks, including Google, that have rather unprecedented ways of reaching target audiences.

4) Entertain Me!

ID-10019437Here’s another one that belongs in the “show me” section, but video usage is so huge now – it deserves its own spotlight. Let’s start with one of my favorite facts: YouTube is the #2 search engine, second only to Google (which happens to own YouTube!) As a result, videos do get preferential treatment in Google search results. Start with a simple company profile – capture the essence of you company in a minute or two. Focus on what you do, how long you’ve been doing it and for whom, why you do it better than anyone else. Use humans to personalize the video, allowing viewers to make a connection. Don’t forget the most important part – finish with a strong call to action, “Call us now”, or “Click to Learn More at our Website”, or, “Click to Request Info/Quote”. Additional videos can feature happy clients and their strong testimonials, case studies, educational videos on new uses for old products and capabilities.

Have a little fun here! While I don’t recommend it unless you are a semi-pro, you can start with your phone or camcorder and a free video editing app. Or, spend a few bucks and have a professional do it. Prices can range from $500-$50,000, but it’s pretty amazing what you can get on the lower end of the scale! After your videos are done, load them up to YouTube or Vimeo. Make sure you write keyword-rich descriptions and tag the videos with other relevant words to help people find them. You can also add them to your  website  by grabbing the YouTube/Vimeo link, and inserting it into your site’s code. Simply if you have a CMS, or just call your webmaster – they’ll know what to do.

5) “The whole of your digital marketing is greater than the sum of its parts.”

ID-10022997Yeah. I said it. While each of the strategies outlined here will help you, the magic really starts to happen when you do them all and strategically link them together. How? Enter inbound marketing. Through this method, you strategically mix the various forms of digital media to increase your lead generations and new business. The approach starts by baiting prospects with delicious content that they can not resist. So shiny. So yummy. Their desire for your content is so great, that they are willing to give up their precious email address to get it. Once you have that, the fun begins. You can now market directly to them based on their stated interest. Of course, you have to promote your content so they see your bait in the first place. This is where blogs, and social come in. These approaches will scratch the surface, but invite them to download the core content – such as whitepaper or ebook. Online display ads can be used for the same purpose. Once you have their email address, then you can reach out regularly and eventually turn a few into customers.  This is just one example of how an integrated strategy can work. There are so many other things you can do. Be creative!

“So how do I manage all of this stuff, Flip?” Glad you asked! By using a marketing automation platform. These web-based solutions allow you to launch, maintain, track and improve your inbound strategy all in one convenient place. While the list of inbound solutions is growing, HubSpot remains the forerunner. Do not be fooled by it’s ease of use, as the results are extremely powerful!

In Summary

I’m sure I’m going to get yelled for a few things I missed. Actually, I can’t believe I wrote this entire blog and mentioned LinkedIn only once (actually, my daughter would remind me, “That’s twice now, Daddy! Silly Daddy…”). Digital marketing continues to explode, and there are many players in the game that fill different needs, while new solutions help tie them all together for integrated strategies. In case you haven’t noticed, we are still amidst a revolution in communications. It’s time to take it up a notch. Don’t be a Luddite stuck in the Dark Ages!

Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

(c)2013, by Phil Paranicas

Hey, Industry, Your Reputation Matters!

“I gotta rep to protect.” You might remember that line from the classic movie, Grease. This should be your new mantra too, as your reputation will affect your sales and your search engine exposure.

In the old world (you know, before 2000), reputation was generally spread by word of mouth and in print – magazines, guidebooks etc. Today, reputations are a matter of public record. And they are easy to research. A bad reputation could hurt sales, and possibly destroy your business.

There are many online channels for customers to share their experiences, a lot are vertical specific. Here are a few popular ones:

Social Media Sites – every social site can make or break your reputation since the public can basically say whatever it wants. Social sites are also building functions specifically for spreading opinions. For instance, LinkedIn now has the popular endorsement feature which allows people to vouch for the skills of others. This could be very helpful when people are seeking out new vendors. If someone is looking for an injection molder with excellent in-house engineering capabilities, and you have a high endorsement rating – that could help land new customers looking for that specialty.

Yelp! – a user review site primarily for B2C/retail companies such as the local restaurant or auto mechanic. It draws over 70 million users a month!

Zagat – Google purchased this “power brand” last year “to bring the power of Google search and Google Maps to their products and users, and to bring their innovation, trust and wealth of experience to our users,” according to former “mastermind” Google exec and now Yahoo! “top dog”, Marissa Mayer.

Ripoffreport – another negative only based website where unhappy customers share their horror tales.

TripAdvisor – this one is for the travel industry. It’s a personal favorite of mine – a great place to read reviews about places to visit, stay and dine. (I know, it doesn’t have much to do with our industrial space, but you do escape every now again, yes?)

Why Should You Care?

Well, if someone went around town telling everyone that the local diner has, “roaches the size of rats, and rats the size of cats”, you probably wouldn’t eat there, right? However, if the word on the street was, “the portions are so huge that you always need a doggie bag, and the food is delicious and cheap”, you just found your new favorite eatery.

But there is much more to it than just buyer perception. With Google’s insatiable desire for quality experiences for its users, it will give preferential exposure to companies with better reputations. But how does it know? Very simple – by looking at the reviews and scores that you receive on the networks mentioned previously among others. Companies with better reputations are likely rank better and get more exposure, even they are paying for it via PPC/AdWords.

Protecting Your Rep

This is no easy task, since it’s hard to police everything anyone says about you online. But here are some things you can do:


Monitor your brand mentions, respond accordingly – you can do this through software or the help of an agency. If you happen to find a negative comment, write one to neutralize it. For instance, if a customer says “this company shipped the wrong parts to me”, you may respond, “We apologize for the inconvenience and did ship you the correct parts overnight the next day at our expense.” In this case, you take the focus away from the mistake, and on to HOW you dealt with it. Prospects walk away thinking, “Sure, we all screw up, but I like the way they handled that – good customer service.”

Secure your brand name in social sites and directories – this clever tactic helps push down any negative reviews about you – hopefully off of the first page should they come up in a brand name search. Don’t just register the name – fill out the basics too. Search engines are more likely to rank these pages higher if they have content.

Encouraging your happy customers to write legitimate positive reviews. Something I learned as a kid while working at a catering hall: “for every good party we do, we’ll book three in time. For every bad one, we’ll lose TEN!” Why? Simply because humans are unfortunately more likely to complain about bad experiences than they are to brag about delightful ones. Since folks would rather write negative ones, encourage legitimate positive ones to balance them out. No gushing here – just the facts.


Stuff the sites with fabricated reviews. “This was the best company that I ever dealt with and delivered their products on time, with superior quality and on budget!” Yeah. Right. People are much smarter than we think when it comes to reviews and can spot a fake a mile away.

Delete negative reviews. This will only force the enemy to come back stronger with more negative reviews. It’s best to neutralize them – again, the reader is likely to be more concerned with HOW you respond. However, if you have lots of negative reviews, and you can admit to yourself that they are true – you probably have much bigger problems to address than online reviews. Your customers are talking, you need to listen to them and change accordingly in this scenario. If you are that diner, it might be time to get an exterminator (organic, Mother Earth friendly, of course), change the name and get a new manager – then unfurl that “Under New Management” banner!

Get salty and argumentative – nobody wants to read cranky responses. Use your positive voice when responding to negative comments. This will go a long way.

Image courtesy of Master Isolated Images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

© 2012 Phil Paranicas

INFOGRAPHIC: B2B Digital Marketing from the Inside Out

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Phil Paranicas

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