March 15, 2016 01:08 PM

Whether in a boom or bust cycle, the most successful oil patch firms should make online strategy a priority now.

I often picture a time when the discipline known as “digital marketing” is referred to simply as “marketing.” There is no mistaking the prominent role the Internet now plays in our daily lives, both at work and at home. Why then are so many local industries’ online initiatives behind the curve?

I believe it’s due to a lack of awareness and natural resistance to change. The reality is that Internet marketing is becoming indispensable for business-to-business organizations. Here are a few reasons why.

Hiring and Selling to Young Professionals - Per drillinginfo.com, 71 percent of the oil and gas workforce is age 50 or older. The age gap in the industry, known as the “Great Crew Change,” is well documented. To remain viable, the industry needs to attract and train younger talent.

The best young candidates selected to help steer major companies will seek employers, perform research and conduct business online more frequently than ever. That means the importance of reaching a younger set of businesspeople is twofold: Companies must both hire the top applicants, who are likely to be highly Internet savvy, and support their preferred methods of communication.

In a GlobalSpec Digital Media survey, search engines like Google were the most frequently used informational resource for engineers in the research phase of the buying cycle. In fact, 84 percent of industrial professionals use the Internet to find components, equipment, services and suppliers.

We can infer that the strongest Internet users for product and supplier research are the younger generation. Imagine then the importance of being easily found through the Internet as the new breed of decision makers matriculates into the workforce.

Tapping New Markets - Companies with strong digital marketing programs are penetrating new verticals in an effort to diversify their businesses. For companies whose sales are anchored by demand in the oil and gas industry, it makes sense to explore comparable applications for their products and services for other types of businesses.

“Some of the work we’re getting from other areas in the United States wouldn’t be there if not for the Internet,” says Jerome Hebert, plant manager for Mark Tool and Rubber in Franklin.

“East Coast and West Coast inquiries are smaller, nonoilfield-related orders from new industries for us [including mining and directional drilling], which have helped to support our business,” Hebert continues. “We wouldn’t have touched them if not for our online marketing.”

Access to international demand can also prop up flagging domestic sales. The Internet is global in nature, and websites based in America are often strongly represented even in foreign search engines.

Joe Ramey, founder of Keystone Energy Tools in New Iberia, has experienced this firsthand. “We advertised in an international magazine, but couldn’t attribute much to it — unlike our digital advertising, which provides measurable global reach,” Ramey says. “I’m glad we started the ad campaign when we did because, due to the slowdown, there are much fewer rigs running in the U.S. compared to internationally.”

Greater Efficiencies, Lower Cost - Many are familiar with the adage, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Online marketing techniques are largely rendering this assertion false. For one, rapid testing and detailed measurement of online efforts make it easy to identify which initiatives are performing and which aren’t. This agility translates into greater efficiency and cost-control, such that there’s no longer an excuse for or expectation of wasted marketing dollars.

Embracing Change - Whether it’s connecting with a new workforce, industry or international partner, the importance of digital marketing to all businesses cannot be understated. Many tactics like paid advertising and email marketing can be set up and deployed quickly. Others, like search engine optimization and social media development, take place methodically over long periods of time.

Whether they’re preparing for a slump or resurgence, the most successful businesses are always poised and ready to adapt. Make online strategy a priority now — or prepare to play catch up later.

Nick Mouledous is a marketing consultant, avid outdoorsman and a marginal food and music critic. He works for Bizzuka Inc. in Lafayette.

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