The Industrial buyer’s journey can be complex and typically involves a committee of decision-makers. Sometimes the sales cycles may be as long as 12 to 18 months, for example, custom-engineered systems. Of course, not all industrial sales take that long. You may want to read my earlier post on the industrial customer journey.
The industrial buyer’s journey has changed
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 5 – 7 years, you’ve undoubtedly heard and read plenty about how most of the buyer’s journey is now done online while prospects remain anonymous. So naturally, these changes affect industrial marketing and the sales process. The pandemic has not only accelerated this trend, but some of the changes are expected to be permanent.
Here’s a direct quote from the Future of B2B Buying Journey Report published by Gartner:
“B2B buyers report spending exceedingly little time with sales reps. Considering the average deal involves multiple suppliers, any given sales rep has roughly 5% of a customer’s total purchase time.”Gartner
The norm is to think of the industrial buy cycle as four discrete stages—1) Needs Awareness, 2) Research, 3) Consideration & Comparison, and 4) Procurement. That hasn’t changed, but the B2B buyer doesn’t go on a linear journey from one stage to the next.
According to the same Gartner report, the B2B buying journey is much more complicated than that. It almost looks like a maze!
Does this mean salespeople are obsolete now? No, not in my opinion, not in industrial sales, but their role has changed dramatically. There will always be a need for consultative selling where the sales rep adds value to the process and helps the buyer make a more informed decision. However, the prospect doesn’t need to and/or want to contact your sales team for product information. They’ll interact with your salespeople only when they are ready.
The adage, “Buyer Beware,” has been turned on its head to “Seller Beware” because industrial buyers today are in self-select and self-serve mode.
There is a built-in skepticism about what buyers hear from sales reps, and it varies by age group. The following chart from the Gartner report underscores this point.
To understand the importance of the age difference among engineers, read my post, Industrial Content Marketing that Engages Engineers.
What do manufacturing marketers need to know to adapt to today’s industrial buyer behavior?
What can manufacturing marketers do to increase the effectiveness of their marketing given this shift in buyer behavior?
Needless to say, the industrial website needs to be the hub of your digital marketing strategy. This point is reinforced by a finding from the 2021 Industrial Buying Habits Survey published by Thomas™.
Pay close attention to the quote at the bottom of the chart from Thomas to understand what information buyers want from a vendor’s website.
Online product configurators and downloadable CAD files play essential roles for industrial components and parts manufacturers targeting design engineers. (See Using CAD and BIM Files in Manufacturing Content Marketing).
Product datasheets and specifications play a significant role in the early stages of the buyer’s journey. However, those alone cannot help you earn their trust and create a true differentiation when there is a parity in Value Proposition between vendors. That’s when you will need manufacturing content marketing to build strong relationships based on earned trust. That’s how your customers will begin to see you as a real “value-added partner” instead of just another supplier.
Manufacturing marketers must take the time to understand the industrial buyer’s journey as it stands today for them to generate better quality leads that turn into sales opportunities.