Time-Lapsed? Why Industrial & Logistics Sites Need Better Internet Marketing Strategies for the New Online Business Era

Wednesday 14 October 2020

One major consequence of coronavirus has been the urgent reassessment of well-established business practices. Most obviously, many more activities have moved online, including customer interactions. This has brought about revolutionary change in the ways businesses use technology, with many gaining an edge on their competitors by adapting at impressive speed. On the other hand, companies that don't move with the times are likely to lose out.

As a case in point, I've observed for several years now that the way industrial and logistics sites are typically marketed online, by their owners or developers, has fallen behind internet marketing best practice. This observation may come as a surprise to some, because the way sites are promoted online often looks excellent. However, I would argue that this focus on appearances is the problem - because it conceals a lack of focus on the internet marketing strategies that will be essential to stay ahead of the competition in this new, online-dominated business era.

Popular Approaches

Let's consider some common characteristics of online industrial and logistics site marketing (which tend to be found with remarkable consistency across the sector):

1. A focus on visual creative content

As online technologies have developed, this particular area of B2B marketing seems to have focused most on their potential to deliver visually impressive content. For me, this is exemplified by construction time-lapse videos, which are seen everywhere in the sector. More generally, it's shown by the prioritisation of visual creative content - video, graphic design, CGI, photography - over solutions-focused content that prioritises site and location data.

2. A lack of focus on high-quality site and location data

Anyone familiar with this sector will know that site brochures always have a section on site and location data (notably drive times and demographics) towards the back. However, the data presented are often of little use to potential site occupants. Demographic statistics are typically headline numbers without proper explanation or source referencing, and certainly no comparisons with other sites and locations. Sometimes data are scrambled, for example confusing consumer and labour catchment areas. Overall, you'd think that whoever put the data there didn't understand them - and you'd probably be right.

3. A lack of focus on online lead generation

Here's a very simple example of this: I'm watching an expensively produced video on a logistics site developer's LinkedIn feed (and yes, it includes a construction time-lapse). For more information, I'm invited to click through to a website where I'm invited to download the site brochure, which I do. Creatively, no expense has been spared on the video, website or brochure. And yet nobody has thought to ask me for my contact details in return for what should be valuable information (to deliver an immediate return on marketing spend). Not missing easy opportunities to generate leads really is page 1 of the internet marketing handbook.

A More Strategic Approach

In contrast to this creative content-led approach, a more strategic approach, incorporating internet marketing best practice, would start with some fundamental questions:

 What types of businesses are we targeting?

What are the drivers of their site and location selection decisions?

How can we respond to those drivers in a unique way, to attract more of them online, engage their interest, and generate more leads for our site?

Target Business Drivers

The fact is that our target audience is made up of rational businesses making major investment decisions that need to deliver the best possible returns for their shareholders. This means selecting sites and locations that can be shown to deliver in key areas that affect business performance - for example fast access to markets, or the availability of a labour force with the right profile. And this in turn means that their priority, as well as what they're searching for online, is likely to be high-quality, trustworthy site and location data.

More Strategic Content

This realisation should underpin our approach to content development. We should ask: how can we select the right content formats (e.g. video, infographics, data sheets or insightful articles) to best communicate our valuable site and location solutions to target businesses, and achieve specific marketing goals (e.g. attracting new businesses, informing their site evaluations, or converting leads).

If industrial and logistics site marketers were taking this more strategic, customer-focused approach, their content would look very different. High-quality data would feature more prominently, presented in the formats that are most useful and valuable to investing businesses.

I would emphasise that this type of content can and should look great too. It's just that looking good is the icing on a more substantial cake, not the cake itself. With content more focused on real customer needs and priorities, it's unlikely that construction time-lapse videos would be quite so prevalent.

More Strategic Online Platforms

The same strategic thinking should apply to how we build and optimise our online platforms: website, social media pages, email, Analytics. How can we make them work together to maximise performance in specific, measurable ways - to build and engage with targeted business networks; attract more, relevant website visitors; maximise lead conversions; and develop relationships through ongoing communications?

It's quite clear that this isn't happening at the moment. As our 'brochure download' example shows, basic strategies often aren't even in place to generate leads, let alone build relationships with them.

What's Happening Here?

What's happening, I believe, is that the online approaches used to market industrial and logistics sites are being driven by the content that creatively focused agencies want to sell (because it's what they do), not the specialised internet strategies that would deliver the best possible, measurable marketing results, and the best returns on marketing spend. It's also quite clear that marketers are doing what they've always done, and what everyone else is doing in the sector. You could call it being stuck in a rut.

Essentially, approaches still dominate that have their roots in the earliest days of the internet - when glossy brochures were simply moved online, and before the internet's full marketing potential had been realised.

The Good News

As the world of business moves ever more online, the bad news is that site marketers who don't up their game are likely to lose out to those that do. The good news, however, is that better internet strategies are well-established in the wider world of B2B and industrial marketing. They can easily and quickly be applied in this sector, to deliver significant performance improvements, including more leads, for site owners and developers.

Nick Smillie, Managing Director
Clarity Business Strategies Ltd.

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