Call it digital marketing or inbound marketing with content, the fact is marketing is now playing a much more active role in complex industrial sales. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll refer to it as digital marketing in this post and state that content is what drives this engine for generating qualified leads and creating sales opportunities.
Manufacturers and industrial companies often use solutions or consultative selling to add value for their customers and transform themselves from suppliers into trusted partners. This has worked great in the past but the Internet and digital marketing have changed how that process works today.
Here are three quotes from well-known sources to validate my claim in case you have doubts about my statement.
- The industrial buy cycle has not changed. However, the way potential buyers look for information has. (Sources: Frost & Sullivan and GlobalSpec)
- A recent Corporate Executive Board study of more than 1,400 B2B customers found that those customers completed, on average, nearly 60% of a typical purchasing decision—researching solutions, ranking options, setting requirements, benchmarking pricing, and so on—before even having a conversation with a supplier. In this world the celebrated “solution sales rep” can be more of an annoyance than an asset. (Source: The End of Solution Sales, Harvard Business Review – HBR blog)
P.S. That article has generated a very active conversation for both sides of the argument.
- Only 22% of companies surveyed still follow the traditional RFP path, 78% are narrowing the field long before the RFP process, by conducting anonymous web research and relying on information from peers and others via social media venues (Source: SiriusDecisions)
I don’t want to open a can of worms here by taking sides on whether the Internet has killed the industrial sales job or not. One thing is certain; “business as usual” is not working in the industrial sector.
How can digital marketing help industrial companies gain an edge?
There are many ways that digital marketing can help industrial companies make their consultative selling process more productive.
- Don’t assume that your customers have correctly diagnosed their problems. Or they may have a latent problem with little to no awareness. Your digital marketing content can bring these issues to their attention and your sales team can refine them with more in-depth assessments. (See Problem-centric Industrial Marketing)
- Meet your customers where they are choosing to learn – online. Make sure your digital content focuses on helping them make an informed decision while moving the needle for you. (See Industrial Marketing Content that Helps Buyers)
- Your online content should help your sales team engage in more meaningful conversations with fully qualified leads instead of spending their time in pre-qualifying and prospecting (See Inbound Marketing Must Set the Table for Industrial Sales)
- Create a digital self-service center if you are having trouble generating high quality leads from your industrial website (See Is Your Industrial Website Leaking Leads?)
Read my post, The Real Value of Content Marketing for Industrial Companies for a better understanding of the value of digital marketing. You will find more insights on digital marketing for industrial companies using content from my other articles published here.
I am not suggesting that digital marketing can replace your crack sales team. On the contrary, I am saying that a good digital marketing strategy will make your salespeople more productive by engaging with fully qualified leads where conversations lead to RFQs/RFPs and more wins.
How do you use digital marketing to improve your industrial sales process?