The Growing Importance of a Digital Presence in the Aerospace & Defense Industry

Aerospace Digital marketing

Marketing has rapidly evolved over the last 30 years, to the point where many of the marketing professionals today work in a vastly different way than they did just 10 years ago. While some big businesses still cling to outdated models of working for press clips and cold calling, most are moving online. Regardless of industry, B2B or B2C, customers now seek information from a variety of online sources. When they look for potential suppliers, they aren’t doing it by contacting the supplier directly. They’ll look at the company website, Yelp, Google and Facebook reviews and social media pages get an idea of who they are buying from before they ever contact a salesperson.

Statistically, most people research about 70% or more of the way through their purchase decision before contacting a business. In fact, Market Think showed that 81% of B2B decision makers use online communities, websites, and blogs to influence their purchasing decisions. According to SiriusDecisions today’s sales process takes 22% longer thanks to Internet research. Therefore, it is critical that you have a website.

2017 Infographic for Aviation and Aerospace Digital Brand importance

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This shift in marketing approach has important ramifications for the aerospace industry as well, which has traditionally been offline, relatively secretive, and catering clients with long buying cycles. While the internet is often used to make quick sales, it can provide immense value for longer sales cycles as well. Besides facilitating good ROI for long buying cycles a strong online presence allows companies to showcase brand strength, reputation, credibility, and capability over time, which can be highly beneficial to companies in the aerospace industry who rely on these factors for sales.

Using Website as a Marketing & Lead Generation Tool

Marketing aerospace on the internet requires that you have a strong website to appropriately showcase the brand, capabilities, and quality. A poorly done website says unprofessional in the same way that slapping a brochure together out of an email would have said poor marketing in 2005. A website is the easiest place online to create leads, convert leads into opportunities, and to make sales. In fact, HubSpot’s 47 page report on the State of Inbound Marketing in 2015 shows that 54% more leads are generated using inbound marketing than traditional ads, and Demand Metric shows that content marketing generates 3 times as many leads as traditional marketing, but costs 62% less.

It’s also easy to create leads through natural traffic through SEO (search engine optimization) and PPC (Pay Per Click) marketing, which will allow you to drive visitors to specific web pages that you set up with relevant information.

However, bridging the gap between getting potential customers to a website and converting them into sales is something that takes a quality website, quality marketing, and an understanding of the target customer.

Assessing Company Needs

If you know the audience, then you have some idea of what they want to see. For aerospace, the target customer will vary based on what you manufacture or design and how much of it you manufacture or design. But, even the largest customers like NASA might actually find you through an online search.
Target customer or buyer profiles can help you decide on:

• Website style
• Website direction
• User friendliness
• Content style
• Amount of content
• Number of forms

You also want to consider company goals. If the goal is to increase your customer database by 500% over the next 5 years, then you need a very strong, interactive website with specific calls to action (CTAs) that will get people clicking and sharing. On the other hand, if the company is looking for a modest growth or even maintenance of current sales, you have much less to consider. It all depends on company goals.

Quality company goals should include the information you want to get acrossed, how you want to get it across (do you want downloadable whitepapers to generate leads?), what functions the website needs, which features it needs, and how often you have to update it.

Finally, you have to consider search. If you’re going to optimize a website for SEO, then you have to plan for it. While the aerospace industry isn’t a very high competition market, you still want to be able to come up in search above competitors. This means increasing your online presence, integrating a blog, creating documents and whitepapers and integrating social media, all while networking and creating content for peer and industry news sources. And, the website has to support all of that.

Creating Defined Goals and Objectives

If you know what you need, then you can create goals and objectives around those needs. This is important for web design, because it allows you to communicate company or brand needs and the defined objectives directly to the chosen website designer.

  • Message – The company brand, voice, value and mission statements, etc. How do you want clients to perceive the business? What do you want say? Who is the company’s ideal client? What are its proof points? How aware of its services are buyers when they first visit the site? How educated in aerospace is the typical buyer? What are the goals for someone who visits the website? A survey conducted by Google in partnership with The Corporate Executive Board (CEB) showed that 86% of buyers care less about differences between products and brands as an emotional connection with the brand. In fact, 60% of buyers who feel a high brand connection are more likely to purchase from a brand, even at a higher price, than from a brand they don’t connect with.
  • What Buyers Want – What is the client’s primary concern or pain points? How does the company address the industry pain points? How do you do it better than the competition? Research has shown that targeted content and marketing is twice as effective as non-targeted content, so it’s in your best interest to tackle these questions as you create your goals.

Creating Perceived Value – Perceived value is the effect of using high quality media and design to convince the reader that they are looking at a quality website, which should naturally belong to a quality company. Just like you wouldn’t buy a custom bench from a carpenter with a crooked table in his waiting room, most won’t invest in a large aerospace project if the ‘waiting room’ (website) looks shabby. Perceived value is the idea that things that look expensive are expensive, and therefore belong to very successful companies. This means that quality web design, quality graphics and photos, and good UX (user experience) actually create credibility for the website and the brand, even if it is new to aerospace. How important is perceived value? A Harvard Business Review showed that a 1% price optimization towards creating value resulted in an 11.1% increase in operating profit.

Reviewing an Existing Website

If you have an existing website, you can and should analyze it. If you don’t yet have a website consider the following points when building a new website.

Visual Storytelling – Visual storytelling uses graphics, images, and video to tell the brand’s story, even indirectly. It’s important for web design because it backs up text, reduces the amount of necessary text, conveys different ideas and emotions, and can work as a proof of concept or proof or quality for things like design and manufacture. According to the Online Publisher’s Association, 80% of consumers are more responsive to websites with video than to text-only websites, 26% looked for more information about the subject of the video, and 46% took some action after viewing the video.

Effectiveness – Whether you have an existing website or not, the new one has to be effective at achieving goals. Your primary considerations should be whether the website assists your marketing efforts, helps you to generate leads, and provides a vehicle to create brand awareness. You also want to ensure that your website provides education and information for prospective customers just entering the purchase process. Finally, you want the website to make you a thought leader, to show that you are authoritative in a particular aerospace niche.

How Visual Design Affects Business

Visual design affects quality and perceived value, which we’ve already discussed, but it also affects a few other things. The first and most important is brand recognition. If someone can visit the site, see the logo, and then go away and not recognize the logo or remember the site, then you’re making a mistake and you’re probably losing customers because of it. Customers should be able to recognize the brand based on something as simple as colors and an attention-grabbing logo. Consistency is key. Use the same font, the same colors, and the same style, across the entire website. More importantly, you should know why you chose those things and how they tie into the brand. You also want to take some time here to do competitor research to ensure that the website stands out, so it doesn’t blend in with the competition. Adobe shows that 39% of viewers will stop loading a website if it is too slow, and another 38% will stop engaging with the site if it is unattractive or ugly.

Visual design also affects user experience. A clean, simple design that highlights the company’s primary offerings without offering too much is essential to success on the web. More than 50% of web traffic is on mobile, and number is set to rise, so simplicity is key to making an easy to use visual design. Website graphics affect usability, user experience, professionalism, and communication. In early 2015, LocalVox showed that 49% of sites fail to comply with basic usability principles, and 50% of online sales are lost because visitors can’t find content. You don’t want to make that mistake.

Integrating Changes

To get the best ROI on your website, know why you are doing what you are doing. For that reason, many site changes and the new site’s focus, should be based around creating a website that performs well in search, that creates leads, and that is capable of making your company money.

Optimizing for Aerospace Clients – In 2014, only about 67% of B2B businesses used the Internet to find leads. Today, that number is much higher – at 84% – according to Aberdeen. Customers look for businesses on LinkedIn and Facebook and then go to their website where they expect to be met with the information, quality assurance, and sales data that will allow them to make a purchase decision. You can meet these expectations with the following items:

  • Landing Pages – Landing pages should be easy to read, should tell a story, and should lead the person down the page from start to finish. Most landing pages get people to click by promising something and it is crucial that the landing page delivers on the marketing promise. You also have to convey enough information to interest a potential buyer, offer something of value, and create a call to action with a sign up form to get the reader into the sales funnel.
    Establishing a Blog – Companies that blog get 55% more web traffic, 97% more inbound links, and 434% more indexed pages than those that don’t according to HubSpot. That’s a lot, and it is worth consideration when you’re trying to build your company’s reputation as a thought leader in aerospace, and when you’re trying to draw potential customers to the site. Marketing Charts also shows that 75% of B2B buyers want brands to furnish substantive content that helps them to research business ideas, but 93% of brands focus their content on “marketing” their own products and services. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to create informative content that helps the audience make decisions.
    • Launch Whitepapers and Other Brand Leadership – Knowing the best way to create online whitepapers, reports, and other brand or thought leadership in aerospace will give you the freedom to do so when you’re ready. You should create original HTML content that requires users to sign up or give you their email for things that offer extra value to readers. If it’s primarily a promotional piece, it should be readily available. What should you include? What information does a prospective customer need to know when researching the product?
    • Search Optimization – SEO is necessary if you want to come up in search and this means optimizing the front and back end of the website, the content, and building the site’s links and reputation. You can start by researching a list of terms that you want the site to rank for and then devise a plan to improve ranking for those search terms over time.
    • Integrating Email Marketing – Email marketing is still one of the most powerful tools available for B2B businesses because it allows you to directly contact consumers who have expressed interest in available services, and offer them what they need. This means that the site has to support collecting email addresses for a newsletter. Done right, you can actually offer very direct marketing to an audience that wants to hear from you and create a great return on your investment.

Figuring out marketing goals and working to integrate them into the site is essential if you want to see a return on investment. These goals should be considered as you redesign or build your website.

Tracking Results

It doesn’t matter how much time, energy and money you put into a website, if you don’t know how it performs for you it’s just a pretty online billboard. You have to track the results and make sure that you’re getting the results you want, based on your business objectives and marketing goals. If you aren’t, then you need to tweak and adjust the website until you do. The first and most important step is integrating analytics so that you can reliably track visitors, bounce rate, and other data. Google Analytics is a tried and true option, and includes premium and free versions. Is it important? The CMO Survey showed that CMOs of major companies report they spend 8% of their marketing budgets on marketing analytics. But you don’t need to spend anything if you just install Google tracking code and use the free version of Google Analytics.

Using Data – Once you’ve started collecting data, you can use it to track individual statistics like which pages users visit most often , the bounce rate (the percentage of visitors who leave immediately after reading just one page), where users visit, exit rates, return visitors, visitor demographics, and many other details. Analytics can help you to track the success of marketing campaigns, help you to track the success of email campaigns, and can help you to track SEO. It also allows you to see which pages perform, which social media platforms drive the most traffic to your website, which pages get users to sign up to forms, and much more. This data will guide you in making conscious decisions about website revisions and optimizing. Long term optimization is crucial for ensuring that the website remains visible and stay on ahead of the competition.

A great website combines quality design with a value proposition that offers to solve problems for the company’s target customer. It shows visitors that the company is expert in aerospace design or manufacture, that it provides quality, and that its employees are professional. A great website also allows you to collect leads, post content and to show that the company is a leader in the industry. And, while that’s a lot for one website, it’s necessary if you want to stand out in the aerospace niche.

If you want to know more about what goes into a website, contact Rory Martin, specialists in aerospace web design, for more information, a free quote, or for a look at some of our previous work.

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