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Building a Digital Strategy for Industry

In this second special industry episode of the Marketing Science podcast, AZoNetwork’s head of marketing, Frank Barker, is joined by the marketing manager at Extronics, Stuart Milne.

You can listen to or read the discussion by clicking one of the links below.

Listen to Building a Digital Strategy for Industry

Read Building a Digital Strategy for Industry

Who are Extronics, what products do you sell, and which industries do you serve?

Extronics is a hazardous area equipment manufacturer specializing in asset tracking, personnel tracking, and asset management in the process industries. We also work with wireless infrastructure in hazardous areas, universal power systems, and bespoke systems if customer needs differ from our main product lines. So, for example, deploying wifi in areas where there are explosive atmospheres that require specialist equipment. We’ve been doing this for 25 years and are well-known in the industry. The specific markets we serve are oil and gas, chemical, agriculture, mining, and harsh or industrial settings with the potential for a hazardous environment.

It’s vital to have a sound reputation for safety within your industry. What would the cost of getting that wrong be if it were to happen?

The cost of getting it wrong is human life, which is what our industry comes down to. There are a lot of industry-recognized certifications developed by governments worldwide, dictating what can and cannot be done within specific environments.

We do our bit by providing rugged certified equipment that has passed all legal and certification requirements so that customers feel confident that they are getting equipment that won’t cause a potential environmental explosion. Our customers know that by buying from a reputable manufacturer, they are getting certified equipment.

You head up the marketing department at Extronics. What does a typical day look like for you?

As an SME, the marketing department is just me. My role is within a three-department triangle, with sales, product management, and marketing working closely to ensure we can cover everything to communicate our message to customers.

On a day-to-day basis, I could be developing campaigns to promote a new product, working with sales for a customer requirement, or working with product management to ensure data sheets and product information is accurate and up to date. It’s a varied role, but I get more insight into the business's overall operations and a sense of what is required at the customer level.

Do you typically outsource marketing tasks?

We require external resources. We work with AZoNetwork to help us with SEO, analytics, and copywriting capabilities. We also work with agencies to support graphic design, campaign strategy, automation management, and to develop our website. Without those additional resources, it would be challenging to operate the marketing function in an SME, so they are critical to both the day-to-day and the long-term strategy.

How do Extronics measure the success of the marketing efforts?

The objective is to help build pipeline growth. The marketing strategies and campaigns are geared toward generating high-quality leads. That is the critical KPI.

It is common for people to get caught up in too much analysis. Where there are so many statistics, you lose sight of what is essential. We have stripped it back over the last couple of years and decided we needed to be aligned with the other departments in the business to focus on pipeline growth.

Many of our industrial clients have long sales cycles. Is that the case for you?

On average, you are looking at anywhere between 6 and 12 months. There are specific scenarios where we sell off-the-shelf products that can be much shorter.

How many decision-makers are involved in a process like that, and what kind of collateral does it require?

It can vary, but there are usually multiple stakeholders involved. Depending on what route to market an inquiry comes through, there might be three to four layers of decision-making units to work with.

Our core strategy is education. Technical products require expertise in a particular solution. We want to educate people and develop the company's thought leadership around the overall features, benefits, and solutions to solve a problem.

We are looking to show people and educate people about the broader solutions available on the market, to get a real sense of trust in our brand.

Which tactics and channels do you find typically work best?

From a channel perspective, it can be difficult for an SME that doesn’t necessarily sell directly to the end user. As we often deal with partners or system integrators, we must deliver our message smartly. We work closely with our partners to ensure they have everything for their marketing. We provide materials and information specific to their particular area of the world.

We will also do targeted campaigns through LinkedIn to reach a wider audience, targeted by job title, function, or seniority. That can help us to deliver campaigns on particular products. Email marketing as well, but we find that it is less effective for us as a business than content marketing to build demand on a long-term basis is an effective strategy and tactic.

You say that content marketing is more effective than email marketing for you. How do you ensure that somebody finds your content?

SEO has been an essential part of the journey, underpinning the content strategies to have strong keywords. If we use, as an example, our boxes which you can put a wifi AP into and deploy in hazardous areas, people might search for EX wifi AP, hazardous area wifi, and so on. Because people don’t necessarily understand what it requires to take wifi into a hazardous area, but they know they need something.

They will likely be driven by the certification requirements for an end-user level and what they are searching for. So we’ve worked with AZoNetwork’s SEO team to ensure we match the search requirements' thought process, not just product keywords.

How do you build a long-term relationship when you have sold a system?

Creating a close relationship with your sales, product management, and technical services teams is essential here. If you’re a manufacturer developing complex systems, there is always an aftercare element. Delighting the customer is a big part of the process, not just from the front-end sale, but to justify the customer’s spend. Take them on the journey alongside you so they can install it correctly and be comfortable using it.

The marketing input here might be supporting documentation, following up on particular questions, video content, or a webinar that can help with any hurdles. For us, the ‘delight’ mentality has evolved, the customer care, the customer satisfaction, removing the friction, and making the customer feel loved, as our sales manager calls it. I think that's incredibly important with solutions and products.

If you were to advise an industrial marketer, what would it be?

Understand what your customers are asking, understand what resources and expertise you have in-house, and develop a content strategy that will make your future marketing much easier around that.

What are you most proud of since joining the Extronics team?

I’m pleased that we’ve taken a company that traditionally didn’t operate a digital marketing strategy and built a strong foundation that will grow over the next few years into a sustainable digital marketing engine.

How do you think industrial marketing will develop over the next few years?

Demand generation is the way the world is going with marketing. The way the user engages with businesses is through education for technical products. You are building demand. It’s important to remember that your company has a lot of crossover with other companies operating in a similar field, they may not be a direct competitor, but they could complement your solutions.

Demonstrating that you desire to help the overall industry and improve along the way will be vital to brand identity, creating trust, and putting the customer first. That is how I see industrial marketing developing.

Posted by Rebecca Turpin

Manchester born Rebecca has a first class B.A.(Hons) in Photography from the University of Plymouth. Rebecca began her career in 2017 working as a sales and marketing assistant for a healthcare company before moving in to an agency position in 2018. She spent two years running a small agency in Salford until 2021, gaining marketing skills and invaluable experience working with clients before coming to AZoNetwork. Outside of marketing, Rebecca loves anything outdoors, the theatre and any creative activity that lets her be covered in paint.

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