If you are a marketer in the maritime industry it’s likely that your performance in your role is ultimately judged on the leads you manage to generate.
If you are a salesperson it’s likely that your ability to do your job hinges on the quantity and quality of the leads that are passed to you.
If you are a Managing Director or board member it’s likely that the growth you want to report hinges on your business’ ability to generate leads and turn those leads into clients.
Even in changing times, some things never change.
We work with maritime equipment manufacturers to help them grow and in this article we’ve distilled the basics into a few actions that you can adopt.
We hope you find them useful...
Change your approach to your website
It is difficult to understate how important your website is in the modern lead generation economy. Everything flows through your website.
Potential customers enquire through it and research you using it. And yet most maritime companies approach websites in a traditional manner and are dissatisfied with the results.
In fact the majority of companies we speak to aren't aware of the conversion rates of their website or how it performed one week to the next.
Your website should be constantly monitored, measured and improved. It’s never ‘done’, just made that little bit better.
Maritime companies that embrace that mindset save money and improve website performance exponentially.
Those modifications drive website lead generation performance and increased lead generation drives growth.
- Your website is the best lead generation tool you have available.
- Treat your website as an ongoing project, rather than ‘done’ at go live.
- Measure, test and gradually improve everything that matters.
A ship operator's first instinct - even if they have an idea of what they want and who they want it from - is to research the market.
What are the regulatory requirements? What options do I have to choose from? Do I need to be aware of any issues before I purchase? Is there a new upstart company that do things differently?
70% of buyers fully define their needs on their own before engaging with a sales representative*
For a buyer to research the market he needs to source information. You need to produce that material.
Not sales literature or promotional items but helpful content that shows buyers that there is another way to do things; another solution, an alternative, innovative approach.
If you can: hire someone dedicated to producing regular content that knows and empathises with your potential customers challenges.
Getting found online today means you need to produce quality content regularly.
- Buyers are researching online more than ever before.
- You need to produce content to feature in this research.
- Help, don’t sell.
* CSO Insights
Stand out in search
Earlier we discussed changing your approach to your website. In the new online world you can see your website as something to incrementally improve, constantly pushing you forwards to heightened online lead generation performance.
Appearing prominently in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) for searches relevant to your company and product is still a huge part of your website and lead generation equation.
This remains true because despite the help that social, video and other channels will give to your marketing efforts, search is likely to still be the main way to get visitors to your website.
How is your maritime company ranking on Google?
Without high website visitor volumes, you are unlikely to generate high lead volumes.
68% of online experiences begin with a search engine*
It may be a less fashionable marketing topic to discuss these days but we all still need websites with strong search performance. Using Google to research maritime equipment is very common.
Google enjoys in-depth, well-formatted articles. Your website needs to be fast and your content well-optimised.
The technicalities here can seem a turn off, but search matters more than ever if you want to drive up your visitors and increase your leads.
- Search still matters.
- If an article isn’t attracting visitors, what is it doing?
- You need sound technical setup and SEO nous as well as creative content production.
Don’t just ‘be’ a thought leader - stand out as one
The concept of thought leadership as a marketing tool has now been around for a while.
You will have ‘thought leaders’ within your business. People with unparalleled levels of knowledge on your particular niche in the maritime sector.
How is their trend-setting direction and unique perspective being taken to the marketplace?
To stand out as the ‘go to’ voice in your area, you need to think like a publisher.
Don’t just settle on one channel. We all watch and listen to videos and podcasts and we are all on some form of social media. These may not be considered ‘traditional’ channels for the sector, but we are all there as consumers, which means that we are all there as business people too.
Four times as many people would rather watch a video about a product than read about it*
There is a temptation after you have written an article on a topic to consider that topic as ‘done’. You have shared your ‘thought leadership’ on whatever you have covered and you can move on.
In reality, consider how many of your potential audience has seen that one article. Whilst you will have been successful in reaching some of them you will have missed many more.
Repurpose the content into a short video, or an infographic or a podcast. Think like a publisher and exponentially increase your thought leadership reach.
- Think like a publisher.
- Use alternative channels for your thought leadership.
- We’re all consumers: embrace consumer-friendly channels.
Add downloadable or gated content to your website
If your website is successful at attracting traffic you will need to consider how you are going to turn that traffic into leads for your sales team to follow up.
Offering some form of content in exchange for a visitor's contact details is a tried and tested way to do this. On ShipInsight.com they give away a huge amount of valuable content and generate hundreds of leads per month. You don’t need to replicate that level of publication to achieve similar results.
Content marketing gets three times more leads than paid search advertising*
Whilst a guide, ebook or other download can still work, you should not rule out something more innovative. A live webinar with a prominent industry guest speaker will attract sign ups, as will an educational course.
Whatever the end production your website needs to have something more than the ‘contact us’ page to convince visitors that you are worth engaging with.
- Consider how you are going to turn your visitors into leads.
- A whitepaper or an ebook could work but…
- Don’t rule out a webinar, course or other valuable multimedia content.
Track what’s actually happening
Improvement without measurement is fundamentally somewhere between ‘very difficult’ and ‘impossible’.
Even if you think you have improved something, it will be problematic to prove that fact without being able to point at a measurement.
Measuring marketing performance is a key task when it comes to modern marketing. Everything needs to be tracked, so that everything can be improved.
37% of marketers did not review the metrics from their last website*
Along with that comes a need for flexibility. There is no point producing a detailed 12-month marketing plan when after three months your reporting is going to indicate you need to switch off your carefully planned 12-month AdWords campaign.
If something is working, and you can prove it is working, you need to be able to pivot your plan towards it. The result? More leads.
This applies to everything you do. If a certain topic generates more visits then cover that topic again. The result? Yet more traffic.
This level of tracking and reporting also applies to the leads that you generate. Don’t stop at knowing the lead is now with sales.
You need a process and system in place to pass leads on to the relevant people and monitor their engagement with the company.
There is nothing more disheartening than generating lead after lead, only to watch those leads disappear into poor internal process or dubious systems.
- If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.
- Do more of what works; don’t assume you’re done on a topic after one successful article.
- Have a process and system for tracking contacts from first touch until they become a client (and for their full lifetime as a client).
Whilst visitors will have their own idea on how to use your website, you should constantly be pointing them in the right direction.
On any given page it should be easy to identify what visitors can do to find out more or where you want them to go next. Depending on the page in question this could be filling out an enquiry form or reading a blog or signing up for a webinar or asking for a call back. Whatever the option, there needs to be a next step.
Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost*
At some point that ‘next step’ may become direct communication of some kind. Nurturing your prospects by automated email is still a popular and successful tactic, which increases the rate at which visitors convert to leads, but you need to be careful how you employ it. No prospect wants to receive multiple automated emails per day.
Instead consider how you can make your nurturing efforts more personal and relevant. Try to deliver them at the point in the sales decision where they will have the most impact. Declutter your emails so there is less marketing ‘fluff’ and more offers of personal help and assistance.
- On any given website page you (and your visitor) should be able to easily identify what next step they are expected to take.
- Nurtured leads are more likely to convert to clients.
- Make sure nurturing is timely, appropriate and personal.
Advertise in the right way
In order to build a successful maritime marketing strategy, it’s important to promote your services in the places your audience is searching and paid media can accelerate your strategy.
Whether it’s across Google Search, LinkedIn or specialist media, a well-timed promotion can make all the difference. Furthermore marketing technology can now allow us to target customers on different stages of the buyer journey. For example, we can target our campaigns to only those customers that already exist in our CRM.
Be sure to track, monitor and improve on all campaigns. If your goal is to generate leads then you should be tracking the conversion rate of any paid media campaign for its performance.
The benefits of paid media and PPC include enhancing your reach, advertising to new consumers and having control of your advertising budget.
33% click on a paid search ad because it directly answers their search query.*
Let’s take a look at a few examples of paid media:
- Google Ads: These ads appear at the top of Google and are great for driving more traffic to your site.
- Sponsored Content: Paying for content like blogs to appear on social media channels is a good way to drive more engagement because this content can appeal to the audience of different platforms.
- Display ads: This covers pop-ups, wallpaper ads, video ads and more. Display ads are cost-effective types of paid media but should be used strategically.
- Identify the types of paid media that work best for you.
- Ensure you are promoting your services on the right channel.
- Be strategic with your ads and constantly test to see what is effective.
Up your PR game
Getting the word out about your business is key to increasing brand awareness.
Maritime PR agencies can help you navigate uncertain waters and steer your products into the hands of customers. But beware, many will charge thousands of pounds to send out your press releases to deliver zero results.
80% of PR professionals and marketers believe the future is digital storytelling*
If you are working with an agency then ensure that they are aligned to your goals. Whether the metric is backlinks, social shares, brand mentions, increasing domain authority, driving site traffic or conversions every action should be tracked.
PR agencies must be able to prove their worth or risk being swept under with obsolete methods. A successful PR strategy involves having clearly defined goals.
Writing a press release and sending it to publishers in the hope it gets views is not going to help you achieve your overall business goals.
Once you’ve figured out the direction of a PR campaign and metrics that need to be measured, you’ll be in a much better position to generate significant ROI.
- Focus on telling the story of your brand through all maritime marketing material.
- Generate meaningful backlinks that increase the domain authority for your online store.
- Clearly define your goals.
Share your maritime expertise at events
Event planning is a powerful tool in your maritime marketing armada. It provides one-on-one customer engagement and can wow your audience with entertaining and educational content.
95% of marketers agree that live events provide attendees with a valuable opportunity to form in-person connections in an increasingly digital world.*
The events you want to invest in will vary on your goals and there is plenty of opportunity to be creative in-person and online.
You could organise a small roundtable of industry experts or create a virtual festival that people can access from all over the world. Exhibiting at a major trade show like SMM or Nor-Shipping is a great way to meet customers that have engaged with you in the past in order to meet in person.
Developing an online workshop to deliver valuable content to your customers who have already engaged in your brand can bring many rewards.
- Find the right balance between in-person and virtual event to ensure you are engaging with prospects across all touchpoints.
- Nurture customers with educational content throughout the year.
Tap into the power of email marketing
In a world of chatbots and Instagram influencers, email marketing remains one of the most effective messaging channels. Maritime businesses have the power to deliver relevant information to prospects quickly, capture their attention with new offers and build an ongoing relationship.
Marketers who use segmented email campaigns note as much as a 760% increase in revenue.*
To create a memorable email, start with your buyer persona, understand what they want and tailor the campaign to your audience’s needs. Then, segment your subscribers into relevant lists and send them the kind of content they want to read.
Always remember that email marketing is about putting your customers first. By keeping this golden rule in mind, you’ll be able to delight your subscribers on a regular basis.
Email marketing should not be limited to the marketing team but is also an effective way for sales people to keep in touch with their customer base. Marketing automation and sequencing makes this process easier.
- Personalise your emails and offer customers exciting content in every message.
- Experiment with subject lines, call-to-actions and email design.
- Measure metrics like Click-Through Rate (CTR) and bounce rate so you can identify what isn’t working and what isn’t.
Build a community on social media
In a fast-paced digital world, social media is crucial for connecting you with ship operators in the maritime industry. Twitter and LinkedIn are the most popular networks for maritime brands, creating a strong sense of community that can be leveraged for ongoing success.
54% of social browsers use social media to research products.*
When marketing on LinkedIn, you can use tactics such as sharing high-quality content like whitepapers, infographics and eBooks. You can also join relevant maritime groups and engage with buyers from across the sector.
For Twitter, be sure to monitor relevant hashtags and keep your finger on the pulse. You can also advertise your services through promoted tweets and drive traffic to the most relevant products.
- Regularly interact with followers and build a social community.
- Take part in social listening and stay ahead of the latest maritime trends.
- Utilise paid advertising options across social media platforms to increase your reach.
Put your sales and marketing teams on the same page
To be truly successful in the maritime industry, it’s imperative that you align your sales and marketing teams around a common set of goals. When sales and marketing are on the same page, you’ll be able to increase productivity, drive more leads and generate more revenue.
Marketing and sales alignment leads to 36% higher customer retention.*
Achieving this alignment is an ongoing process and bringing the teams together can be done in several ways. This includes having regular meetings, sharing insight with each other, coordinating on content campaigns and using the same tools to connect with customers.
By investing the time in sales and marketing alignment, you’ll ensure your business is shipshape and ready for smooth sailing.
- Encourage clear communication between your sales and marketing team so everyone is working towards the same objective.
- Improve the bond between your staff with regular socialising and events.
- Optimise the sales funnel at both ends with targeted content.
- Invest in platforms like Hubspot to streamline internal processes and increase productivity.
Taking the next steps
As we said in my introduction, I would love to hear what you think about these suggestions.
Are you using some of these techniques already? Are they paying off for you? How else are you attracting ship operators in today’s marketing environment?
If you would like to discuss those questions or otherwise just discuss the state of the maritime industry as it stands, please feel free to contact us.
Otherwise, I wish you the best of luck in your marketing efforts.
We’re here to help.