It’s hard to think of a more challenging (or rewarding) buyer for marketers than audio engineers.
The profession seeks out individuals who are meticulous, patient, and pragmatic. The best engineers are perpetual tinkerers; they love doing research. And they're painstakingly picky. (If they’re willing to spend 2 hours dialing in an echo for a tambourine, you can imagine how much time they invest into purchasing a $5,000+ item.)
One trait that all audio engineers share is a progressive spirit. They always have their eyes on bigger and better things––which means they essentially live in the consideration part of the marketing funnel. Because of this, there are audio companies bombarding engineers with marketing from every digital angle.
Yet, what is perhaps the best digital marketing in this industry comes from an unlikely company.
Universal Audio (UAD) is not only a leader in the professional audio software industry, they’re also one of the oldest companies in the space. Started at nearly the same era as the first commercialized recording equipment, UAD began making compressors and preamps in 1958, and within a few years, their products became a staple in every studio in the world. It can be assumed (without exaggeration) that almost every major music recording over the last 50 years had some part of it run through a piece of UAD hardware.
Like almost every other industry, however, the audio production world was turned upside-down by the computer revolution.
Instead of slowly fading into the background of the changing market, UAD led the digital revolution and fragmented their business operations into producing both world-class analog hardware, and innovative, hardware-emulating software.
The same revolution that changed the hardware-only company into a software-first company also democratized its buyers, and its advertisers were forced to re-think what was valuable to audio engineers. Here, UAD thrived again, and has in many ways become a model of how a company can rely on its hardware legacy to make great marketing in its software future.
So how does UAD remain disruptors in an evolving field? It all starts with their unwavering focus on values rather than individual products. And this commitment drives everything the company does, including their marketing.
Here are just a few of the strategies and tactics that Universal Audio has deployed that prove why this niche brand can teach marketers a thing or two regardless of category:
Make Kick-Ass Content for the Buyer (Not the Brand)
It’s no secret that content is crucial to reaching an engaged buyer, but not all content is created equal. Too often, content is made that attempts to either position the brand as the greatest thing since sliced bread or highlights the idealized applications of a product (as opposed to its more everyday use-cases).
Universal Audio gets it right. As the audio company with the richest legacy, UAD creates confident, stylized content that goes into painstaking detail about their core belief that the road to great software starts with understanding how these elements function in the physical world.
White papers and spec sheets? UAD’s got them. Thought-leader blogs penned by big names in the industry? You better believe it. But what’s more impressive is the production investment that goes into their tutorial videos and detailed product descriptions. UAD understands that their buyers are often researching tools for specific needs, and while a flashy landing page with a bunch of moving GIFs is cool, the ability for the buyer to “crack open the hood” and see how the software could impact their day-to-day is significantly more valuable.
Remember, the sexiest advertising isn’t something that looks sweet on an agency reel or makes your internal comms team go, “Whoa;” it’s about providing real value to the consumer.
Take Online Offline (And Vice-Versa)
Any marketer who has worked in the software space understands that conventions are a way of life––and for audio engineers and the companies that target them, there’s no bigger event than the National Association of Musicians and Merchants (NAMM).
Every year, NAMM attendees attempt to make a big splash (both in person and on social media) by showcasing their newest products and creating a one-of-a-kind booth experience for engineers who attend. And every year, Universal Audio seems to steal the show. One way UAD has been so successful is their ability to market the connection between their digital future and analog past.
In 2015, UAD blurred the two worlds when they turned their booth into an interactive replica of a 50-60s era recording studio (complete with Mad Men garb and cigarette-smoking engineers). The experience allowed attendees to witness a “recording session” – the live band was at the Universal Audio studios in Northern California, visible through a video conference TV made to look like a window in the studio – featuring the famous vintage equipment UAD was known for. The trick? All the audio was manipulated and managed via software, helping showcase that their software was a natural evolution from the decades they spent making world-class hardware.
Of course, the entire experience created a swell on social media as attendees crowded around to share photos of the booth featuring iconic, vintage equipment. It was a simple tactic that allowed UAD to use analog equipment to tell their digital story, which was then shared in digital spaces.
Don’t Ever Stop the Conversation
While it may seem like the steak and potatoes of a software campaign, Universal Audio does an amazing job delivering “perpetual nurture” programs to its buyers.
Once a prospect creates a measurable connection with the company, UAD instigates a personalized retargeting experience that reaches the buyer all over the web. As mentioned above, UAD understands this buyer is always looking for the next big thing (even when they’re not actively researching/shopping), so partnering with ad networks allows them to deliver sexy banner ads featuring their software in unexpected places. Don’t think a software banner is sexy? Psh. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!
Email is a huge driver of engagement, as well. Weekly, customized emails are sent out to prospects that are personalized based on buy and search histories, allowing UAD to tout upsells as complementary items or upgrades. UAD even goes one step further. When a buyer purchases an initial piece of software, they’re required to fill out a form that includes elements like genres that the engineer works in. UAD incorporates this knowledge into its CRM, often delivering third-party articles and news about popular and aspirational engineers, producers, and musicians in this realm.
It all adds up to the highest-fidelity marketing experience in music.
I received this personalized holiday email from Universal Audio after I purchased a few Neve plugins. It’s now showcasing a reduced price on the remaining plugins that would complete my collection. Also, note that there was a $25 coupon added to my account! This email is ostensibly a virtual salesperson who knows what I like, what I’ve bought in the past, and incentives a future purchase. Are your software nurture emails doing all this?