Whether you’re a senior executive or a business development manager, managing the marketing budget is an inescapable challenge. Understanding how to use that budget most effectively will help you make the right decisions that bring new business to the company. Often one of the most effective opportunities to evaluate and improve return on how that marketing budget is spent is in choosing the right marketing channels for your industrial company.

Traditional marketing brings personal interaction at premium prices

One common delineation in marketing channels is between traditional, off-line marketing and digital, online marketing. With traditional marketing, there’s a familiarity and comfort tied to the usual trade show and print publications. Backing these channels is the understanding that your business’ prospects are reading these topical publications and attending your industry’s trade shows for the latest news and industry developments. With trade shows specifically, you’re getting that face-to-face interaction that can be tough to beat with online marketing channels.

However, off-line marketing brings with it some limitations that the digital solutions can quickly overcome. Trade shows and print publications bring along a hefty cost that can be difficult to track returns on. Between a trade show’s print materials, signage, and the time your team sinks into attending them, one event can run your team $12,000 (In another cost breakdown, totals were ranging up to $40-60k). Print publications can bring similar costs for a single full page ad. In either case, these one-off marketing buys can add up quickly—consider three trade shows a year or bi-monthly ad buys—with little to show.

With some technical expertise, marketing dollars work harder online

With online marketing channels, there’s a transparency to how marketing dollars work toward company growth. Search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) are two popular approaches to attracting prospective customers to your website via their keywords in search engines. In the case of either digital channel, today’s technology can connect website visitors to ERP tools to identify how customers find your website and what pages they looked at before becoming a customer.

If you’re skeptical whether engineers or operations managers are seeking solutions online, consider this: 70% of that technical audience uses general search engines as information sources for products or services. That’s only surpassed by the websites of suppliers themselves.

Source: IEEE Engineering360’s 2016 Industrial Buy Cycle Study

When the prospect has found you but are not yet ready to buy, other online channels like email marketing and social media can serve as avenues for ongoing touch points with prospects until they are prepared to buy. While social media has the limitation of a less industrial audience, email is a strong opportunity to communicate with leads at any scale. In either case, social media and email are easier to get started due to their lower costs, and they bring with them additional insights on how your prospects respond to your marketing efforts.

No matter the channel, online brings with it a barrier of technical knowledge to excel. While consulting or partnering with a specialized marketing agency are always options, there’s a variety of online resources to begin learning about each channel. Check out these 101 resources to get you started: SEO, PPC, Email, and Social Media.

Bring digital to your traditional marketing efforts

If trade shows and print publications is where your company thrives, there’s great value in maintaining the brand you’ve established there. Moving full force into the digital realm can get overwhelming. However, digital media can support those traditional channels and help reveal some ROI for your effort and budgetary investments. Creating a unique page on your website that is dedicated to your print ads or trade show can reveal how many prospects are interested in your company. Once they’re on-site, continue to educate them on your products or services until they are ready to request a quote.

As with recommending solutions in manufacturing, there’s rarely a one-size-fits-all solution to marketing channels. Each can offer benefits to a business development strategy, just as each has its challenges. With today’s engineers looking more frequently online for vendors and answers for their projects, online marketing channels should make up at least part of your marketing plan. The cost efficiencies and added insights about your prospects only support that idea. However, the decision should factor in your business’ needs and be based on where new leads are. After all, if marketing isn’t serving the bottom line, why have it?

Looking for the next step to developing your marketing strategy? Check out our Industrial Marketing Guide for a comprehensive outline of marketing strategy for companies in the industrial sector.