Semiconductor Companies: You Need Digital Marketing, Now

(Cross post with IBM.com electronics)

In 2012, the top ten semiconductor companies locked up 51% of the business, with Intel leading that pack – with nearly 16% market share followed by Samsung with 10%. It was, of course a mixed bag of economic results – with different companies taking different strategies, some succeeding and some failing. Only 3 players showed growth.

Yet, when we look forward instead of back, we find that an industry that stands to equip not only the rest of the world with cellphones, tablets and even a few laptops. More importantly, there are smarter washers, dryers, thermostats, door locks, haptic shoes and countless other expected wearables that extend beyond watches. Solar and wind energy?  Medical applications? The Internet of Things (IoT) offers semiconductor companies an unprecedented opportunity for automated, intelligent interactions. And while the traditional electronics markets will continue to drive the lion’s share of the business, then next ten semiconductor companies whose market share ranges from 1 to 2% will be looking to step up their game. They will start to find those new entrants who will deliver smarter water pumps and filtration, smarter tennis racquets and lighting systems.

Let me ask you a question? How will the makers of tomorrow’s electronics find you? How will they evaluate your offerings? How will they make decisions to do business with you? How will you maintain their business and grow with them?

Current State

With 57 percent of the purchase journey completed before the buyer contacts a salesperson, it’s clear that even the best sales force can’t do it. Even if they knew all of the right markers, directed their attention in all the right places, the ratio of qualified to unqualified leads would fast prove unwieldy. Contributing to that potent fact, add another – the salesperson is 4th on the list of information sources. They fall behind technology and solution provider websites, subject matter experts and search engines, and are tied with peers/colleagues.

SMarter semi 1

Simply put, websites and search engines (along with the attendant search engine optimization) are now clearly and squarely on the docket as mission critical tools. Yet, these new digital tools of the trade are not the areas of greatest expertise in semiconductor companies, nor is the part of the organization that owns them – Marketing.  And smarter companies who want a bigger slice of the new IoT pie will start by making marketing a priority.

No one is saying that sales doesn’t have a role. In fact, the contrary is true: their role will be more important than ever, managing large and or strategic accounts. However, they will be better equipped and supported by digital efforts that drive better communications, interactions and demonstrations of industry and solution prowess.

Future State

So, you not only have to build a site, enable interactions on it and create content, you have to create frequently fresh and good content. Why? Simple – search engines such as Google place a value on the freshness of your content. That means your marketing can’t continuously try to drive potential visitors to the same static pages. At the same time, visitors (e.g. potential buyers and influencers) are placing a premium not entirely on the product information. They actually expect you to deliver thought leadership, research, analysis and information. A whopping 88 percent this was either critical or important to their decision process.

smarter semi 2

So, sure your spec sheets and downloadable configurations are great but you must go further. Much further. Your goal is to create a relationship with the visitor in which they find your content relevant and valuable. This again, represents a primary shift for many semiconductor companies. And you need to make it easy to find, easy to read and easy to share. You want to acquire visitors; you want them to take action (to engage) and to measure outcomes. You’ll note I did not say measure sales. There are multiple successful outcomes on the way to purchase. For instance, before a sale happens, an engineer might visit your site three times. In the first visit he might get specs. In the second he might share content with a trusted colleague or development peer (or even purchasing to find out other details he needs along the way) or ask a question. In the third, he might look at sample or reference architectures you have on offer. Maybe in the fourth, he finally orders samples. This process may take days, weeks or months.

This means you have to have a great site structure into which you are continually pouring high quality content to create a consistently great experience. So, you know how you thought you could get away with one or two site refreshes a year? That’s no longer going to work. You’ll need to optimize the structure and pages periodically, but you’ll need to look at least monthly (or even weekly) at creating engagement that brings engineers back over multiple visits.  You don’t even need to create all of your own content.  In a soon-to-be-published post, my colleague Rami Ahola (and industry-experienced semiconductor expert) talk about crowd sourcing and leveraging content created across the industry by your communities.  Which gets to my next point…

On sharing content: the top three semiconductor companies are not simply competing on their sites. They are creating conversation through a “League of Experts” – both within their own companies – but also through their partners and industry pundits.  Social drives share of mind. It drives opinions and influences whether a search engine term is put in generically or if someone goes directly to your site. Enabling the social conversation takes great concepts, content and conversations and moves them into the public arena.  One of my favorite albeit dated Intel commercials talks about how we look at industry rock stars.  Your employees are your rock stars, now it’s time to make them front and center.

Is it risky? Of course. But it’s much less risky than doing nothing.  When the CEO of Intel, Samsung or Qualcomm is featured in the media, and a wide variety of people tweet, post or discuss their content, it changes the game. And those three companies are out there talking about what comes next for them and for the world at large. Their content is evaluated and when it’s good, it’s shared. However, if you are not in the conversation – or are simply making social media an alternative means of promoting product – you can’t gain critical advocates.  You also can’t influence the group of engineers and innovators working on the next generation of products, services and commercial models. So, a great social strategy actually drives visits – which drives people to your great website – where they see your great content – and where they start a great relationship with you.

I’ve oversimplified this for a blog post, but it was in the interest of hoping you’d want to engage. We can have a conversation about the best practice examples we’re seeing. We’d love to share a deeper dive on how commerce, collaboration and content can change the future of semiconductor companies – especially yours.  -c-

Images: IBM Interactive – I love you guys

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