Recession-Based Marketing: EMS Faces the Perfect Storm Print E-mail
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Written by Susan Mucha   
Saturday, 28 February 2009 19:00
Focus on Business

Old school meets new school, and both have something to learn.

Every few months in this space I try to discuss marketing. Given the current economic challenges we face, I thought the timing was good for one that deals with changing promotion options. One impact of the current recession may be the death of print advertising. It has been dying slowly for years because the web has proven an effective medium for products and services with short sell cycles. However, many older decision-makers prefer to read print magazines. Products and services with longer sell cycles, or those that require an educated sell, often benefit from the combined complementary editorial in a well-respected publication.

In some ways, the announced cutbacks in magazine issues or transitions to entirely digital content delivery that have occurred across electronics publications over the past year or so are good for the market because they migrate even the most stubborn print readers to focused digital content. The big challenge industries with complex selling processes such as EMS have faced over the past decade is a cross-functional decision team that prefers to absorb information from a range of digital and print sources. Media consolidation ultimately means less money needs to be spent to reach the same audience because the choices become limited. At the same time, a shift to the web as the preferred source of industry news and features can create challenges for EMS, as digital content delivery sites are not all optimized for long-sell cycle marketing activities.

So, what does this likely shift in content delivery mean to EMS marketers, and given that marketing budgets are the first to be cut in a recession, why should anyone care?

The fuzzy logic behind some digital ad campaigns has much similarity with the language some on Wall Street used to justify derivatives. After all, if you are maintaining a 30% share of voice (SOV) on site, 20,000 people clicked on your ad, and 5% of those clicked through to your website, it has to be generating sales. Never mind that 4.7% of those clickthroughs were people trying to figure out what EMS stood for because you couldn’t explain it well in a leaderboard (those large, rectangular ads at the top and bottom of a web page), and another 0.2% were competitors checking out your site. Yet, at the same time, ads that generate impressions and clickthroughs are more measurable than many print advertising campaigns.

The reality is increased use of digital content will not change the basic rules of EMS marketing. EMS has a 12-to-18-month sell cycle. Companies able to differentiate their points of value to customers compete on capabilities, while those who don’t compete on price. While small regional EMS providers may pull their customers from a 200-mile radius, most EMS providers have a geographically scattered customer base. That makes direct selling very expensive. It is not unusual for a single sales call to cost $1000 to $1500. The ROI on a good marketing campaign is reduced costs of selling, shorter sales cycles and often better differentiation of value propositions. Any marketing campaign, including those on the web, needs to address these sales complexity issues or it won’t be effective.

Understanding the mechanics. A good marketing campaign (print or digital) should address the concerns that keep prospects up at night. The more closely an EMS provider’s business model and proposed solutions fit their best-fit prospects’ needs, the more likely the competition for the business will be focused on quality of solution vs. lowest price. So the marketing message has to be understandable and compelling enough to grab the attention of target prospects quickly. When the proposed solution is introduced just as the prospect is realizing they have a critical need, the company offering the solution is often one of the first contacted. When salespeople are calling on prospects ready to buy, the sell cycle is shorter and more efficient.

In an effective marketing process, prospects identify themselves through their information requests before a salesperson gets involved. However, one of the casualties of a slow print to digital transition has been lead generation. Prospects often go to a website and get their required information without leaving a trail. A good digital marketing strategy creates content that only can be accessed by request and generates leads that can be qualified.

Good digital strategy. Making digital work for EMS isn’t easy because good lead generation requires an integrated content creation strategy. It is not simply enough to have eye-catching ads. It is also necessary to have compelling content that visitors to that particular website are willing to register to view.

Just as magazines are chosen for relevance of circulation to the product or service advertised, media websites need to be chosen for the relevance of their visitors. The role of the media in content creation has shifted. First, a digital publisher must create a site that channels information in ways that make it easy for its target audience to quickly find what they are looking for. Second, the publisher must deliver new content at a frequency that attracts sufficient traffic. Finally, the publisher must offer advertising packages that permit advertisers to create campaigns that generate trackable leads at reasonable cost.

A good advertising package will include a mix of advertising and educational content, such as short webinars or white papers dealing with topics that keep the target audience up at night. It will have some advertising content for prospects who visit the site, but also should include advertising that is pushed to the target audience through emailed newsletters.

The challenge with this type of campaign is finding the internal bandwidth to create compelling content, and screen and efficiently distribute incoming leads. The lead management aspect is a very important part of the process because often there is a period of relationship building before the prospect enters a ready-to-buy mode. That early cultivation period may be best handled through targeted information mailings designed to escalate prospect interest or an inside sales screening resource. When uncultivated leads are simply distributed to outside salespeople, often those who aren’t ready to immediately schedule a sales call are discarded.

There is no question this type of strategy has a heavy upfront workload and represents significant cost, since integrated content programs are typically at least as expensive as full-page print advertising. However, once created, this type of campaign has the net effect of helping to eliminate wasted sales calls and shorten sales cycles by broadening the pool of serious, well-qualified prospects.

For more on this topic, register for PMCI’s tutorial Find It. Book It. Grow It. A Robust Process for EMS Account Acquisition, part of the IPC EMS Program Management Training & Certification program at Apex next month. For information:

Susan Mucha is president of Powell-Mucha Consulting Inc.; ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Her new book, Find It. Book It. Grow It. A Robust Process for Account Acquisition in Electronics Manufacturing Services, is available through,, IPC and SMTA.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 March 2009 10:09


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