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Industrial Marketing is not Disconnected Tactics

Many manufacturers and industrial companies are learning some hard lessons these days. Business as usual is not working – referrals are trickling in, if at all and the pipeline of leads is running dry. The old way of hiring away salespeople from the competition with their “ready book of business” is not producing the quick sales they had expected.

Next, they try a series of marketing tactics without a strategy or a plan, hoping something will produce results. When that doesn’t work, they turn to the Internet in search of information on how to do industrial marketing on a shoestring budget.

After being burned a few times by free tips from self-proclaimed experts online, they become frustrated and are suspicious of any more advice even if it is from a legitimate and proven industrial marketing consultant. In desperation, they start looking for a quick “Band-Aid” fix for their lead generation problems while spending as little as possible since budgets are tight or non-existent.

In short, they are now looking for Cheap Miracles or may be, Industrial Marketing Made in China.

Marketing for these industrial companies has always been a sales support function — put together a PowerPoint presentation for the next sales meeting, create a few posters for an upcoming tradeshow or make the product catalog look “pretty.” It is very difficult for them to change this mindset and think of an industrial marketing strategy before implementing tactics. Yes, there is a big difference between strategy and tactics. Google strategy vs. tactics and you’ll get 4,030,000 hits so there is no sense in me repeating all that here.

How can industrial marketing remove this disconnect?

The advice I’m about to share here is based on my 25 years of hands-on experience working with manufacturers and industrial companies. They are not marketing theories but lessons learned over the years.

  • Change your mindset from marketing tactics for quick results to creating a repeatable and sustainable marketing strategy for producing high quality leads on a regular basis
  • Create an effective marketing strategy built specifically for your business. It cannot be a cookie cutter template driven plan. Creating an individualized marketing strategy requires expertise, time and money. Information is free on the Internet but proven expertise isn’t
  • Encourage marketing and sales to work together as a team. Business development should be owned by both and cannot operate in separate silos
  • Actively participate in the development of your marketing plan. If you don’t have the time for the nitty-gritty details, then delegate it to someone who you trust and give that person the authority to act on your behalf
  • Hold marketing accountable but don’t measure its real value only by the number of RFQs generated. Marketing does a lot more by building trust among your customers (branding) and sets the table for prospects to engage in more meaningful conversations with your sales team (See Inbound Marketing Must Set the Table for Industrial Sales)
  • Nurture qualified leads that are not ready to buy now with effective content marketing. If you don’t, they will buy from your competition when they are ready (See my earlier post, B2B Lead Generation without Lead Nurturing is Doomed to Fail)
  • Measure, refine and repeat. Marketing is a process that takes time to gel and produce results. Don’t look for an instant miracle; instead focus on incremental results and improvements as you build the process

That’s my take on how a good marketing strategy helps manufacturers and industrial companies generate leads and grow sales on a regular basis. Let me hear your thoughts, especially if you are on the inside.

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8 thoughts on “Industrial Marketing is not Disconnected Tactics”

  1. More and more B2B companies in the non industrial segment are trimming down offline advertising and turning up the content marketing, leadgeneration campaigns online and reaping the rewards. The Industrial segment lacks savvyness to make the shift quickly, and look at these options only when all else has failed. They like the old fashioned print media, yellow pages,business directiry, tradeshows the proven marketing strategies that has worked in the past. Its time they realise and accept past results may not repeat itself. I had a customer wanting me to do an online campaign to promote his stall at a recent Automation trade show as he was not getting the right kind of footfalls, Amazing

    1. Anand,

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments and for sharing your experiences. I agree, it is difficult sometimes to change mindsets when companies have been doing something their way. The key, IMO is figuring out the right strategy for a particular company/industry before using any tactic, be it digital or traditional media.

  2. Great post, Achinta.

    Although my clients are more tech than industrial, I face many of the same issues. The two comments I find myself saying over and over again are: “Why do you want a (brochure, white paper, video, etc.)? Let’s take a step back and see what you’re trying to accomplish.” And, “Marketing is a process.”

    1. Bob,
      Thanks a lot for your kind words and for sharing your experiences. Looks like the problem is not just limited to industrial companies. And I thought technology companies were savvy marketers.
      I agree it is very important to take a step back and question, “Why are we doing this?” even if it means rocking the boat sometimes. I think we’ll be doing our clients right by injecting a healthy dose of reality if we keep repeating the mantra of “marketing is a process.”

  3. Good diagnosis, wrong remedy.

    An industrial buying decision involves lots of people, with complex interactions between them. Understanding that dynamic is critical to making a sale.

    Content Marketing talks at the person who contacted the company, telling them what you think they need to know. How does that help?

    How does it build insight into what or who really put the idea in play? How does it match needs? Find the seat of power? The real need? Uncover people who will block the purchase and what will defuse them.

    In the “Nurture with Content” model, the sale will often fall over in the late stages. The people promoting “Marketing makes Leads for Sales” know that by that stage the sales people will get the blame.

    While paying lip service to unified prospecting, you are actually undermining it.

    1. Peter,

      Thanks for expressing your views even though we disagree. At least we do agree on your first point, “An industrial buying decision involves lots of people, with complex interactions…”

      Effective content marketing requires addressing the needs (pain points) of various stakeholders, not just the person who visited the company’s site. One-size-fits-all content will not cut it and I have said so in many of my posts here.

      An objective lead scoring system that uses demographics data, site interactions and the type of content consumed will definitely help in identifying roles and their stages in the buy cycle. Overcoming objections and push backs should be part of developing an effective content marketing and lead nurturing strategy.

      Can content marketing do it all? Absolutely not!

      You can’t ignore the findings from numerous studies that today’s industrial buyers prefer self-help for a large portion of their decision making process, engaging with sales only at the very end. Content marketing satisfies their needs nicely by serving up relevant content that matches roles and stages. What is your alternate solution?

      Instead of Sales and Marketing pointing fingers at each other, they should work together as I have said in my third bullet. You seem to accept the old blame game.

      How have I paid lip service or undermined anything or anyone?

  4. Talking with owners of midsize tech companies, I hear the same situations you’ve laid out – phone calls and emails gone unreturned, fewer referrals turning into revenue, etc.

    Many, not all, do understand that the Web, social and the proliferation of information have changed buying habits. And they know they’ve got to do something about it. But there are a couple of problems: they’ve never invested any real money into marketing (so they can’t reapportion funds), and they don’t want to hear about “strategy” or “lead nurturing.” It’s way too complicated. So they do nothing or go for the quick fixes you’ve describe.

    A simpler and more comprehensible alternative is to use smaller campaigns as proof of concept. But they have to be well-designed and executed, from end to end. And realistic expectations have to be set. Then build a strategy, slowly, over time.

    The downside? They consider the first campaigns still too expensive and continue to do nothing.

    1. Michael,
      Thanks for sharing your insights. I agree, too many industrial companies have never spent any money on marketing and so get a sticker shock. The low cost short-term “quick fixes” are hit or miss at best and not a sustainable marketing strategy.

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