B2B manufacturing companies tend to downplay the role of marketing. Instead, sales play the dominant role. Historically this made sense. Salespeople beat the pavement, knocking on doors and building relationships with potential buyers. It wasn’t difficult to collect or buy a list of potential buyers and send a field sales person out to visit them. Even attending an industry’s major trade show offered a simple opportunity to get face-to-face with enough qualified leads to fill the pipeline.
Times have changed.
Whether manufacturing companies want to admit it, salespeople are no longer the gatekeepers to product information. Today, it’s accessible everywhere – peer-to-peer through social media, a quick search on Google, from other global (no longer regional or national) vendors, and step-by-step videos on YouTube. Roughly 50% to as high as 80% of a buyers’ research is conducted prior to even contacting a salesperson. By the time a buyer contacts a salesperson, he or she knows enough to set the call agenda and drive the selling process! Not good for your salespeople.
In addition, a majority of complex sales involves not just one decision-maker, but on average 5 to 6 decision-makers. Even if you have the opportunity to influence one, he or she is up against the barrier of influencing the others before a decision can be finalized. Then, there’s procurement stepping in late in the buying process to grind on the pricing and trample on the terms and conditions.
The game has changed.
Unfortunately, I’m not observing many manufacturing companies changing with it.
I have witnessed some toe-in-the-water testing. A company will hire a junior marketer or transition an engineer into a newly defined marketing role. Often, these roles focus on coordinating trade show events, creating sales sheets and updating a brochure-like website. In some cases, a little budget will be directed to a Google AdWords campaign. A slight tilt towards digital tactics but not nearly far enough to close the gap with the changing B2B buying behavior. And certainly not driven by a cohesive and comprehensive digital marketing strategy.
Industrial strength marketing for B2B manufacturing companies demands a stronger drive towards digital transformation. But before translating this statement into a budget debate, the first step is to gather and calculate sales performance data. Consider these questions right now:
- Who buys your product or service?
- Why do they buy?
- What does a lead cost to generate?
- How many leads does it take to close one customer?
- How long does it take to close that one customer?
- How much, on average, is that one customer worth?
- How often does this one customer repeat a purchase with you?
According to a study by CSO Insights, a leading sales management research firm, the top three dominant challenges for Sales Managers are (1) inability to generate enough qualified leads,
(2) a difficulty with competitive differentiation and (3) too long of a sales cycle. By answering the above questions, you can gather the necessary data to tackle all three of these challenges.
But this is only a start. It defines your current reality. It should demonstrate how you can better leverage marketing to attract more of the right buyers and convert these buyers more quickly. By getting out in front of buyers while they are researching online, you can attract the right ones into the sales pipeline. It’s at this point, where your best salespeople turn on their sales skills to advise buyers on the finer points of your product or services and close the deals. Instead of cold-calling, your salespeople are building relationships and closing deals. While your digital marketing strategy (more like an integrated marketing strategy) does the heavier lifting to draw in the right buyers.
And, with keen insights into your buyers and the journey they are on to buy confidently, marketers can develop the tools your salespeople need to speak clearly to the buyers. Adhoc emails and content cobbled together for a potential buyer aren’t helping the process. Buyers are typically talking with multiple vendors at the same time. The experience your salespeople create is being compared to the other experiences.
Buyers are even more comfortable with the status quo in many cases versus accepting the risk of buying. When a marketer can arm salespeople with the right content to offer to buyers are the right time, magic can happen. It can accelerate the sales process. It can position sales as a trusted advisor. And buyers today want a salesperson they can trust to help them make a great buying decision.
Developing an industrial strength marketing strategy – a customer acquisition program – isn’t hard. The mindset to leverage marketing in a new way is the hardest part. But that only requires a greater desire for more sales and a short-term willingness to learn and risk some budget. But if sales aren’t blowing out the growth numbers now, what do you have to lose? Test – give it six to nine months while concurrently running the same way as usual.
I have created a model to define an effective approach to customer acquisition for B2B companies. It’s not daunting. It does take time to implement but as it’s implemented, it’s throwing off better and better results. It raises the whole ship versus rearranging chairs on the deck which is what brochure-like websites, trade shows and dappling in AdWords are doing. It works – hence why so many larger B2B companies are now investing almost as much in digital marketing as they are in traditional marketing. It’s traceable and measurable – meaning you can calculate a return on investment from the dollars spent. You can identify what’s working (and what’s not.) And I bet in most cases, you can develop and execute a sharp digital marketing strategy for less than it costs to carry a full-time salesperson at half capacity for an entire year.
It’s time to move to an industrial strength marketing approach that attracts the right buyers and helps convert them into customers.
Call me at 513.601.8893 or complete the contact us form. You have nothing to lose from a conversation about your goals and a discussion on how I can help you achieve them.