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. (note: this is part of a series I wrote for my day job, the International Society of Automation) If you haven’t checked out 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 be talking about more modern methods of marketing that you might not either be consciously aware of or maybe thought just weren’t for you. We’ll be covering channels such as podcast ads and OTT and CTV (Over-the-top and 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 but the point is to make you aware of their availability and understand how we at ISA use or experimented with them so you can make the call.

Podcast/Spotify Advertising

Spotify. Everyone knows who they are, almost everyone reading this uses them either free with ads or paid accounts so I won’t go into too much detail about why that specifically is a place you want to be because also, reasons for Spotify and podcasts are basically the same, so I’ll go into podcast advertising.

Podcasts are huge. Everyone loves podcasts. I do, you do, everyone does – and guess what – so do engineers, technicians, managers and decision makers. 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 and ZipRecruiter and Quip have literally 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 wants to 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 – and this is the same reason I suggest you experiment with all social channels, not just LinkedIn – because all those decision makers you are trying to reach are also people with varied interests.

Think about it, what do you do after you get off work? Do you sit there and watch only automation themed TV shows, listen to robot-themed music on spotify, or listen to only manufacturing-themed podcasts? Of course not – and if you do, you’re weird.

No, people need to unwind and relax and again, all the people you want to reach are human beings. 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 with 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, because this turns into sales at ISA by this 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 and 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 automation, it could be clothing, shoes, etc. – is not only a fan of your favorite podcast outside of 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 and if you overlook that 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 that worried about the ‘wrong people’ hearing your ad, you can only advertise on engineering-themed podcasts. They’re smaller but they may be a good choice as the smaller ones usually are less expensive to advertise on than the larger ones, just be very 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 like a rep who will help guide you and get to know you and your business, which I recommend for people brand new to it – especially if youre interested in a larger spend. There are also some self-service platforms as well 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 and 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 thinking this, no radio ads are NOT the same as podcast or Spotify ads in terms of response. Dive into this article to really see how it’s different.

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

OTT & 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’, this would be ‘information age TV ads’.  A quick definition of the difference between OTT (Over-the-top) and CTV (Connected TV) is just in how the messages are delivered. OTT is delivery through like streaming TV apps ‘over the top’ of traditional, linear TV providers and CTV is the actual TV device itself. So OTT are basically ads on apps like Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+ and those and CTV are direct ad placements on devices themselves like an Xbox, Playstation, Apple TV, Chromecast and more. Got it? Good.

As we touched on earlier, these channels can reach a lot of people at a relatively low cost and 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 me, that’s worth a lot more than you think, even in this niche.

Right now, we at ISA are taking this channel slowly and its 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 these so just like with audio, evaluate what you have to offer. The idea here is to build awareness and bring people into your ecosystem and get people talking about you.

For us, as an organization, it’s a little different because we can also use this channel as a recruitment tool for 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 and 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 off 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 you want to make sure your page and site are responsive! – so make sure your ads and links are memorable. Your standard ‘random person in hard hat on job site pointing at random things’ ads wont 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 and we the same kinds of ads speak to us no matter who we are – which is another reason I don’t believe in marketing differently between B2C or B2B, but that’s a whole other 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 question at ISA before we started using them and other more ‘general’ and mainstream advertising channels and the answer was remarkably simple.

We care about these channels for the same exact reason we care about anything else and for the same reason any company does – we’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 have heard of Pampers & Huggies and if you or a friend ever did need diapers, those would probably be your go-tos, right? Not everyone cares about a purse or handbag but I bet if you saw a Coach bag, you’d recognize it as quality, no? It’s the same thing here.

Look, I hear you already – ‘but that’s shopping! We’re automation! Nobody is giving anyone a butterfly valve as a holiday present!’

I get it, I do and a lot of us here at ISA thought the same until we saw the power of a solid brand to even people outside of our niche. Yes, nobody is going to ‘give the gift of a thermocouple this year’ but why do people ‘go to Jared’ or ‘Just Do It’ with Nike as opposed to like ‘Uncle Jim’s Foot covers’? – its because they are top of mind.

If I say ‘shoes’, I bet you think of a few names immediately like Nike or Adidas or a few others, right? Well, how great would it be if when someone said “I need a new PLC. Do you recommend anyone?” or “at work, we’re having a massive problem with our SCADA system and we have to get it replaced, any ideas?” the first thing, without even really thinking about it, your brand comes out? You want your brand to synonymous with that product or service and once you’re at the point where even people who have no absolute idea of what a multimeter is know that if you need one to buy your brand, you’ve arrived. It sounds crazy or 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 mom who has absolutely nothing to do with the industry knows 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 that I always say, have said for over 10 years and everyone at ISA has heard me say 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. The audience is 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 with them and tell them about them. If nobody knows you, getting people to try you is nearly impossible. We’re not making underground mix tapes here, we’re selling products so you need new and innovative marketing and distribution channels for your message and the old ways 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 place they probably never heard of.

That being said, if you have quality products and you’re in front of everyone more or less everywhere they go and 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 cant do anything without great content and SEO and 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! 

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