Industrial Buyers – Their Preferences and How to Market to Them

Understanding the mindset of industrial buyers is important if you market to engineers and technical professionals. There are plenty of research reports published on buyer personas and the buying habits of consumers, but they focus mainly on B2C marketing. You can find data on general B2B marketing, but it is somewhat limited when it comes to industrial marketing.

There are four annual surveys/reports that are done specifically about industrial buyers and manufacturing or engineering marketing. I read them regularly and I’m honored to be quoted in some of them.

Sources and tools used by industrial buyers

It shouldn’t surprise you that the majority of industrial buyers prefer digital or online sources and tools for gathering information when making their buying decisions. That was clear from the findings from all the reports that I am about to cite here. It is okay if you are somewhat skeptical about the findings considering the sources of the data, but it shouldn’t take anything away from you gaining a better understanding of the behavior and habits of industrial buyers.

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Industrial Website Redesign for Marketing to Engineers

An industrial website redesign for manufacturers, system integrators and distributors that market to engineers, requires a different approach because marketing to engineers is different. This becomes a challenge if the outside web development company or your in-house marketing department doesn’t have a clear understanding of marketing to engineers and industrial professionals.

A website redesign that doesn’t match your sales process is doomed to fail. Marketing shouldn’t attempt doing a site redevelopment all on their own. You must get Sales and other key stakeholders involved from the very beginning of the redesign. Get their input while planning the site map, the architecture, the content, calls to action and the overall strategy. In other words, thoroughly vet the What, Who and the Why before you start designing the site.

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Stop Your Industrial Website Redesign from Derailment

industrial website redesign and train derailmentWhat does industrial website redesign have to do with a train derailment? I’m not trying to be funny here by using this image of the Montparnasse derailment that happened on October 22, 1895. The action of a train leaving its tracks accidentally can have catastrophic consequences.

Similarly, obstructions that prevent a redesigned website from meeting its goals and objectives can be devastating for a company. I’m not exaggerating to scare you, but I’ve seen too many industrial website redesign projects get sidetracked and go completely off course.

Are industrial website redesigns worth the time and money?

Let’s face reality here, it takes a lot of time (4 months or more) and money (budgets of 15K or more) to complete a redesign that will turn an informational website into a lead generating system. And that’s just the start, you have to continue to invest in optimization, promotion and content marketing.

It is worth spending that kind of time and money, because your target audience of engineers and technical buyers is online for work related purposes. They are in self-select and self-serve mode for a large portion of their buying journey.

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Content Marketing Strategy Must Drive Your Industrial Website Redesign

Jeffrey Zweldman on content and web designAn industrial website redesign shouldn’t be a quick decision because your site is the very foundation of your online presence. Why is it such an important decision?

According to the Industrial Buy Cycle survey of engineers and technical professionals conducted by IHS Engineering 360 (formally GlobalSpec), “The top three most frequently used sources for searching for products and services to purchase are search engines, supplier websites, and online catalogs.

The survey also found that in the early stages of the Buy Cycle, Needs Awareness and Research phases, industrial professionals use a variety of online sources of information.

By the time buyers reach the final Procurement stage, supplier websites and online catalogs become the most important sources of information. Take a look at this chart from IHS Engineering 360’s Buy Cycle survey.

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Industrial Marketing Plan: A 3-Phase Approach

Industrial marketing plan

As we go deeper into Q4 with the holidays right around the corner, most industrial companies start to think about their industrial marketing plan for the next year. As an industrial marketing consultant, I’m often asked by clients the best way to approach this important planning task.

My preferred way is what I call the 3-phase industrial marketing plan approach. I refer to them as phases instead of steps because each phase consists of several smaller steps.

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Most Industrial Websites Miss the Mark

I don’t know of any manufacturer or industrial company that doesn’t want their website to generate more leads and grow sales. Do you? Yet, most supplier websites are failing to meet the buyer’s expectations. And that has nothing to do with industrial website design.

According to Acquity Group’s annual State of B2B Procurement study, “Although supplier websites are the most popular channels for conducting research online (according to 83 percent of respondents), buyers are not satisfied with the level of information offered—only 37 percent of B2B buyers who conduct research through a supplier’s website said it was the most helpful channel for this purpose.”

Here are some more key findings from the same study:

  • Sixty-eight percent of B2B buyers now purchase goods online, up from 57 percent in the 2013
  • Forty percent of buyers research more than half of goods under $10,000 online
  • Thirty-one percent of buyers research more than half of goods costing $100,000 or more online
  • Fifty-seven percent of business buyers have made an online purchase of $5,000 or more in the last year
  • Less than half (48 percent) of respondents purchase goods online directly from suppliers, opting instead for third-party websites and other purchasing channels

Industrial buyers prefer self-serve and self-select modes for purchasing decisions

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Why do so Many Industrial Website Redesigns Fail?

why industrial website redesigns failThis is a long post, so grab a cup of coffee and get comfortable. You are going to be here for a while and thanks for taking the time to read.

We’ve all heard or read about industrial website redesigns that have failed. I’m not talking about the aesthetics of a site which can be subjective; I’m referring to a site redesign that fails to produce results. For manufacturers and industrial companies that usually means that the redesign failed to deliver enough high quality leads that turned into sales opportunities.

I’ve had many conversations with prospective clients that start out something like this, “We’ve spent a bunch of money with an outside company to redesign our website but it hasn’t done much for our sales.” Some have even gone as far as saying “This other web developer did a disservice to us.”

Understandably they are now reluctant to spend more money on another industrial website redesign. What went wrong? It’s not that the other web development company deliberately ripped off these people, though there are some unscrupulous companies out there.

Most web design companies are led by graphic designers and coders; some are also experts at search engine optimization (SEO). Their primary focus is on creating an attractive site that gets found in Google for certain keyword phrases. Well, what’s wrong with that, you ask?

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Planning Your Industrial Marketing Strategy for 2015

industrial marketing strategyI hope you have already started planning your industrial marketing strategy for 2015. You may be wondering why you need to spend the time and effort in creating an industrial marketing strategy when you already know the problem – not enough quality leads generated from your current website.

It would be easy to dive right into redesigning your current industrial website. That however could be a mistake because the lack of leads is the symptom you are feeling, the underlying cause of the problem may be something completely different. You need to first identify the root cause and then come up a with plan of action to solve the problem. That plan of action is what I’m referring to as your industrial marketing strategy.

Importance of a formal industrial marketing strategy

Let’s take a step back and see why formulating an industrial marketing strategy is so important. I’m sure by now you have read or heard enough about how content marketing is the best strategy for generating more high quality leads at a lower cost per lead. So making content the cornerstone of your industrial marketing strategy is vital.

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Industrial Website Redesign: Content Before Design

Industrial website redesignAround this time of the year, I get more calls and emails about redesigning industrial websites. This of course is very good news for my industrial marketing business but there is usually something missing that makes me cautious.

My “Spidey Sense” is heightened whenever I hear the other person say something like “We need to spruce up our website so we can be found in Google.”

It goes without saying that being found in Google is a must but there are two wrong assumptions in that statement.

  • Sprucing up or making the site look pretty is not going to produce better results beyond a spike in traffic right after the launch. You are not going to be any better off than you are now but will have spent thousands of dollars in nothing more than a cosmetic facelift for the current site.
  • A website redesign is not the same thing as search engine optimization (SEO). Don’t expect to suddenly appear on the first page of Google just because you’ve done a site redesign. SEO that produces sustainable results requires implementing proven white hat tactics and consistently applying good content marketing practices.

Design, aesthetics, coding and maintaining branding standards are all important. However, the single biggest factor that determines the success of an industrial website redesign is content. I say that based on my experience in successfully redesigning and launching several websites for manufacturers, industrial distributors and engineering companies.

Content is what fuels the digital marketing engine, drives traffic and generates quality leads from industrial websites. That means content is the foundation for SEO, differentiation, thought leadership, engagement, conversions, acquisitions and retention of customers just to name a few of the goals that you want to accomplish with the redesigned site.

You need to ask a few important questions about content before you start a website design or redesign project. It doesn’t matter whether you do this in-house or outsource it; you need good answers, preferably backed by data and research. Here are some of the questions that I ask to help me plan for content before starting an industrial website redesign project:

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Industrial Web Design – Visit to Call is Not Automatic

Calls from industrial websitesNine out of ten times, manufacturers and industrial companies want their site visitors to call them right after they visit the site. Right or wrong, this is the primary call to action they want when discussing industrial web redesign. They do like the idea of generating leads via content downloads but that is secondary to the phone call.

To a large extent, I do understand their need for the phone call. Most industrial sales require an applications engineer or an expert to talk to the visitor to fully understand their needs before presenting a solution. The exception may be distributors using eCommerce to sell components online. Even they are moving more towards solution based selling.

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Industrial Website Redesign Should Fit Your Sales Process

Industrial website redesign

I have had many conversations with manufacturers and industrial companies where our discussions began with the statement, “We need to  redesign our industrial website.” Great news, right? Not exactly and here’s why.

If you want your industrial website to generate qualified leads and drive sales (Of course you do), make sure you and your web developer take the time to ask and answer the key question, “How will the industrial website redesign align with our sales process?” Many other related questions begin to surface whenever I ask that question.

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Priming Industrial Websites for Content Marketing

Many of my industrial clients are starting to plan and budget for 2014. High on their list of priorities is redesigning their industrial websites. A welcome change in these discussions is that redesigns are now driven by the needs of inbound marketing with content rather than just a cosmetic facelift to the site.

Manufacturers and industrial companies are more willing to accept the fact that their customers and prospects are interacting with them differently and this change in buyer behavior is permanent. They’ve seen how expensive traditional outbound marketing tactics are and how difficult it is to track results from those efforts.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that one should abandon outbound marketing. However, the balance has definitely shifted more towards online digital marketing for industrial companies.

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Why Many Industrial Websites Underperform

Industrial websitesThere are many reasons for an industrial website’s failure to deliver anticipated results. The list is long – poor search engine optimization, bad user experience, content that doesn’t match visitors’ needs and/or lack of calls to action to name just a few.

However, there is one common trait that I have noticed for many industrial websites to underperform – there is very little thought given to how and where the website fits in the sales process.

The focus of most industrial website redesigns is on everything but its role in the sales process. Search engine optimization (SEO) is obviously critical to the success of your online marketing but you are seriously underutilizing your industrial website if all it is doing is attracting traffic.

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9 Must-Have Content Assets for Successful Industrial Websites

Compiling any kind of list is always risky because we all have our own preferences and there is no way someone else’s list can satisfy everyone. This is my list of “must-have” content assets that I advise my clients to add to their industrial Websites. It is definitely a two-way street; my industrial clients also often request many of these same content assets.

The usual content marketing assets such as product data sheets, application notes, case studies, whitepapers and blog posts are a given and expected if you want your website to be found in search engines (SEO) and engage your target audience of engineers and industrial buyers. Take a look at my post, “Content Auditing and Mapping it to the Industrial Buy Cycle” for more on how and when to use these content assets.

Must-have content assets that persuade industrial buyers to take action

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Does Your Website Content Meet the Needs of Industrial Buyers?

When was the last time you actually read the content on your industrial website? Put yourself in your buyer’s shoes and see if the current content will persuade you to take an action that will ultimately lead to an RFQ.

The answer I get most often is either a no or a may be. Your site content must match the industrial buyer’s needs if you want your industrial website to be an effective sales tool for generating qualified leads.

The tendency for most companies is to talk about their product features and available options. Those are great and technical specifications are important to engineers and a technical audience. However, one-size-fits-all content is not very effective because of two reasons. They are:

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Responsive Web Design Becoming Important to Industrial Companies

Lately I have been fielding a lot of questions about responsive web design from companies that are planning an industrial website redesign. In case you are wondering what the heck is responsive web design, let me give you Wikipedia’s definition first:

“Responsive web design (often abbreviated to RWD) is a web design approach aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones).”

I found a better description in an article from Forbes (You know something has gone mainstream in the business world when Forbes publishes a featured article on it). They define it simply as, “Responsive Web design is a new design approach that enables Web designers and developers to build and maintain a single website to serve to all kinds of devices: smartphones, tablets, laptops and more.”

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Is it Time for Your Industrial Website to Sing Auld Lang Syne?

As 2012 ends and we look forward to 2013, it is a good time to review your current industrial website. In keeping with the tradition of celebrating the start of the New Year by singing “Auld Lang Syne,” it may be time for you to say farewell to the old site and greet the New Year with a redesigned website.

There are many reasons for redesigning your industrial website, mainly because it is outdated or it is underperforming or not producing any results at all. However, before you dive into the deep end of a site redesign, you need to first plan your content. By content, I don’t mean just the text on your web pages.

Based on my experience in developing successful sites for manufacturing and industrial companies, I suggest you spend a lot of time on the following tasks before beginning the redesign:

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Add a Blog to Jump Start Industrial Websites

It is not uncommon to find industrial websites that have not been updated for a long time or with outdated content. Providing a cosmetic facelift is not going to improve the site’s performance either. What can you do if a complete website redesign is not feasible?

Adding a blog to your current site is a quick and easy way to breathe new life into an old or underperforming industrial website. Now, every time I mention the word blog to manufacturers and industrial companies, they put on their mental brakes. This is because they think they won’t have anything to write about, at least not as far as publishing new blog posts on a weekly or even a monthly basis.

Here are two practical tips to help you overcome this hurdle of content creation for industrial marketing:

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