Industrial Marketing in the Digital Age [2020 Guide]
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Marketers working in the industrial (mostly B2B) space have shown no reluctance to transition to a digital age. Person-to-person meetings, business trips, and conventional offline marketing tactics have largely been replaced with digital or hybrid alternatives. There will always be a place for signage, print advertising and physical tactics in general, but a multi-directional digital model helps generate leads before the business even knows they exist. The key to successful industrial marketing in the digital age lies in striking the perfect balance between digital and traditional. Digital industrial marketing is growing in power and importance, but shouldn’t necessarily be seen as the only effective tactic for the 21st century. Adopting a holistic approach enables the business to capitalize on the benefits of traditional and digital B2B marketing alike.
Nevertheless, success is dependent on business owners and decision-makers exploring and embracing every digital channel of value to their organization.
Nature of Industrial Marketing
Industrial marketing being B2B differs from conventional business-to-consumer in a number of ways. Predominantly, business-to-business purchases are based on logic, careful research and analysis, while the typical consumer purchase may be motivated by emotion. A business buyer is more interested in the potential for a strong ROI, while the everyday customer prioritizes general satisfaction.
Roughly summarised, every industrial or B2B transaction is likely to involve considerably more analysis, evaluation, and decision-making at a variety of levels. It’s rarely up to a single person to make important business purchases – it’s a decision shared among managers and stakeholders throughout the business.
In the field of industrial marketing, the focus must, therefore, be on the logic of the product and its features. Personal emotion is largely out of the equation, so you need to think carefully about what matters to both the buyer and the business they represent. You need to convince them that your products and services are capable of getting the job done better than those of any competing provider within your niche.
Industrial Marketing Channels
There are essentially two distinct categories of industrial marketing channels – online and offline. Each of which contains a variety of different marketing channels, each with its unique advantages and disadvantages.
In the offline category, examples of the popular industrial marketing channels include:
- Attending and standing at industry trade shows
- Organizing or attending networking events
- Television and radio marketing campaigns
- Conferences and seminars
- Traditional print advertising and broadcasting
- Cold calling and telesales
Each of the above still holds value in the B2B domain, though in all instances have seen their power and influence diminish in the digital era. Digital industrial marketing hasn’t ‘replaced’ offline marketing in its entirety, but has nonetheless taken the lead for the proactive business.
In the digital category, examples of the popular B2B marketing channels include:
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Paid search advertising (PPC)
- Content marketing
- Social media marketing
- Blogging and guest posting
- E-mail marketing
Large and small businesses alike have more diverse and readily available channels at their disposal than ever before. For an industrial marketing strategy to succeed, it must combine the most effective components from both channels.
Characteristics of Effective Marketing for Technologically Advanced Companies
Precisely what defines an ‘effective’ marketing strategy must be determined by each business individually. A marketing campaign can focus on generating leads, boosting brand recognition, reputation management, improving conversion rates and so on.
Across the board, however, there are specific key characteristics of effective marketing for the companies in the manufacturing, industrial sector.
The four most important being as follows:
A strong value proposition is essential in all types of business, though it plays a particularly vital role in the B2B sphere. The purchase and use of products and services for business purposes involve approvers, decision-makers, influencers and gatekeepers at a variety of levels. None of whom may be the final users of the product. It’s, therefore, the job of the industrial marketer to create and communicate multi-level value propositions that appeal to every entity within the value chain.
UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITION
Just as important as a strong value proposition is a unique selling proposition. Very few businesses are truly unique, which can make it difficult to attract the attention of buyers. Effective industrial marketing means isolating what makes your business unique and why you’re the clear choice for the buyer. This, in turn, requires a detailed analysis of both your target audience and your competitors, to distinguish your organization from the pack.
The customer journey begins long before the business knows they exist. A compelling customer journey is about so much more than ensuring the customer’s needs are fulfilled, and their expectations met. It’s about exceeding their expectations and delighting them from start to finish, bringing a sense of enjoyment and satisfaction to the transaction.
Likewise, the user experience in B2B marketing isn’t simply about practicality. It’s about the elegance and simplicity with which the buyer’s requirements are met. In the case of a website, it needs to be a simple, streamlined and seamless digital representation of your business, which is a pleasure to use with no unnecessary complexities.
Evolution of the 4Ps Marketing Mix in the Digital Era (Product, Place, Promotion, Price)
Businesses continue to debate the relevance or otherwise of the 4Ps of marketing in the digital era. Rather than being rendered redundant, it’s simply a case of the 4Ps of marketing having evolved and shifted significantly over recent years.
The importance of clearly defining the value of your product has never been greater. Today, business buyers are less likely than ever before to stick with just a handful of trusted sellers or local suppliers. Whatever they need, a simple web search returns thousands of listings from hundreds of competing providers. Loyalty isn’t what it used to be, emphasizing the importance of defining your product’s value proposition.
Likewise, the vast majority of business buyers now use the Internet to guide their purchase decisions. Whatever they need and whenever they need it, they’re more likely to find it online than anywhere else. It’s therefore up to the seller to ensure their products and services are positioned appropriately via the most effective and relevant digital channels.
A multitude of marketing channels to choose from prompts countless questions concerning effective promotion. These days, however, effective promotion often means selling without the hard sell. Buyers in the B2B space are increasingly less inclined to listen to the marketing/sales talk of sellers. Instead, they put their faith in customer reviews, recommendations, testimonials, write-ups and so on.
B2B buyers are inundated with choice when making key purchase decisions. Hence, they’re unwilling to pay excessive prices when more affordable options are available elsewhere. Nevertheless, research has shown that most businesses are willing to pay more if the seller provides better customer support and a more amicable customer journey from start to finish. Price is no longer the primary determining factor for B2B sales.
Effective Industrial Marketing Channels
As touched upon previously, there are countless industrial marketing channels open to small and large businesses alike. There are, however, certain inbound industrial marketing channels that consistently prove the most effective of all.
SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMISATION (Inbound Marketing)
The vast majority of B2B buyers researching available options begin their journey with an online search. Google, Bing and a handful of others accounting for more than 95% of all web traffic worldwide. Youtube is the second largest search engine worldwide now. And as our survey shows, Youtube is the 2nd largest marketing channel at the research stage at industrial, manufacturing and technology companies. If your company website gets most of the traffic from your brand relates search terms, your business might be in danger 3-5 years from now. If your potential customers don’t find your products and services website pages by the valuable search terms, e.g., your product or service name, in the top 10 search results on Google and Youtube, you do not exist online at all. Every CEO and Marketing Director at the Industrial, Manufacturing, Technology company must know the following Google Search statistics: 93% of the clicks happen on the first page of search engines:
- 5-15% of clicks land on the Ads (Company pays to Google for every click by the searcher)
- 35% on Maps, Images and Video Results
- 50% on organic position 1
- 35% on position 2
- 15% on position 3
- the latter on positions 4-10.
An effective B2B search engine optimization (SEO) strategy can ensure your business appears prominently on the top positions on Google, Youtube, Bing for relevant keywords and search terms, both at the awareness and later stages across the Marketing Funnel. Quality B2B Industrial and Manufacturing SEO typically deliver unbeatable ROI. It is by far the cheapest customer acquisition channel with the lowest CPA.
PAY-PER-PER CLICK ADVERTISING (Inbound Marketing too)
Despite being a paid strategy, PPC advertising still qualifies as inbound B2B marketing in most cases. LinkedIn InMail, being a PPC method, is an outbound technique instead. By positioning your ads and your message right at the top of the SERP listings and/or within the LinkedIn feed, you stand to generate a healthy and near-immediate influx of traffic, in accordance with your selected keywords (search terms) and selected target audience. The benefits of a PPC campaign may be time-limited, but begin generating results from the moment of implementation. Typically, it takes several months for a B2B online marketing agency to optimize the pay-per-click campaign to an optimal cost and excellent performance.
SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING (Inbound Marketing)
From LinkedIn to Facebook to Instagram to Twitter, a multi-directional social media marketing strategy is no longer optional. Maintaining a strong presence on social media provides the opportunity to not only connect with potential buyers, but also keep an eye on your competitors and their activities. SMM is one of the best tools for leads nurturing and for bilateral communication with your market.
YOUR BUSINESS BLOG (Inbound Marketing)
A business blog serves as the perfect platform to enhance your authority and reputation within your niche. Become known as a reputable source of information and your readers will know exactly to whom to turn to when the time comes. Tell your story, engage your audience and enhance your SEO profile with a steady stream of rich, relevant and regularly–updated content. Ask an SEO expert to optimize your article, and you’ll be rewarded by thousands of monthly readers relevant to the very core of your business. Update the Blog posts on a regular basis to keep the content up-to-date and deliver even more value to your customers, suppliers, and colleagues.
WEBINARS AND EVENTS (Inbound Marketing)
Traditional seminars and conferences still hold lots of value, but don’t offer the same convenience or accessibility as webinars and similar online events. Today, it’s possible to improve upon the results of a traditional conference, without having to leave the office. What’s more, online events open the door to the kind of interactivity that goes above and beyond any traditional seminar. However, I still am a big fan of shaking hand in the real world. Being out in the market and network is crucial. Therefore, I highly suggest finding the balance between online and offline events.
OPT-IN EMAIL CAMPAIGNS (Non-Intrusive Outbound Marketing)
Never underestimate the power and influence of an effective e-mail marketing campaign. Particularly when engineered using the latest personalization and automation tools, e-mail marketing can be highly engaging and impactful. Something as simple as a regular newsletter to keep your readers in the loop can make all the difference. Email Marketing is arguably the number one leads nurturing marketing channel, if you are able to deliver true value to your subscribers.
Email for Industrial Marketing Campaigns
GDPR is a topic that is present in many Board Meetings still for a good reason. The privacy regulations must be respected. The negative consequences of GDPR violation are massive. There are many ways you could get your target audience to opt-in to your newsletters. While many companies have the emails database completely erased in 2018 to comply with the GDPR, your creative approach to getting the online visitors to opt-in will give you a competitive edge.
Inbound Vs. Outbound Marketing in Manufacturing, Technology
Recent years have seen once-effective outbound marketing tactics become increasingly interpreted as intrusive, interruptive and often counterproductive. Anything that amounts to cold-contacting prospective buyers directly has the potential to have the opposite of the desired effect.
Conventional outbound B2B marketing channels that rarely deliver quality results include:
- TV and radio commercials
- Billboards and poster advertising
- Mass e-mail campaigns (illegal in many parts of the world now!)
- Direct mail marketing
- Outbound cold calling
- Intrusive popups
Much as these marketing methods still hold value in certain scenarios, they can be risky ventures in an industrial marketing environment. Typically best-avoided, substituted instead for the effective inbound marketing channels and techniques detailed above.
For those who still don’t know the difference between the Inbound and Outbound Marketing, here is infographic dedicated to this:
Some Advice for International Industrial Marketing Executives
The digital age has created a unified global economy, in which businesses can target markets that would previously have been out of reach. Even just a couple of decades ago, the idea of small business in Singapore selling to a company in New York would have been far-fetched.
Inevitably, such opportunities for international expansion also bring unique challenges. Competition is ferocious across all industries and sectors, calling for a strategic approach to global industrial marketing.
Top-Level Market Research for Quick Decisions
Achieving the above without intensive market research is implausible. All businesses have certain basic knowledge and understanding of their home market, but a foreign market overseas could be an entirely different story. There’s zero room for assumptions, calling for intensive and on-going research. Traditional in-depth market research is quite expensive. However, a digital marketer can provide a rough idea about the demand in any specific country in the world within 5-15 minutes. A C-level executive at a manufacturing company must have an online marketer’s phone number saved in Contact because the amount of the high-level data a digital marketer can provide on a live call is truly impressive.
Reassess Your Industrial Marketing Mix
The marketing channels used at home may not prove nearly as effective in your target overseas market. Some nations and audiences still respond very strongly to offline channels, while others have become almost exclusively digital. Your marketing mix will, therefore, need to be adjusted accordingly.
Focus on Building Relationships with All the Stakeholders
Ultimately, your international industrial or manufacturing marketing channels should focus on the establishment of your reputation in your target market overseas. This means placing heavier emphasis on building strong and meaningful relationships, generating word-of-mouth and becoming a reliable, reputable and recognized the brand. As we say, an unsatisfied customer will tell ten people; a satisfied customer will tell one person, an entirely happy customer will tell two people. Digital Channels help companies to communicate bilaterally with so many more people now. Digital channels amplify everything you do, good or bad. They also help you understand how the market reacts to changes and (very important!) if the company employees are happy too. I suggest to check out what your employees think of their current employer on the Glassdoor website. You’ll be surprised.
Industrial Marketing Consultants
Unless you have a dedicated, full-time team of B2B sales and marketing experts in-house, including online marketers, you could benefit enormously from professional consultancy. Particularly in the digital era, the industrial marketing landscape is shifting and evolving at an astonishing pace. What works the industrial SEO, PPC or Social Media today is not what worked even six months ago.
Getting ahead and staying ahead means carefully monitoring industrial sales and marketing trends worldwide, to create effective and efficient ROI-positive strategies within the brand’s budget.
Typical scenarios in which you could benefit from the involvement of a professional sales and marketing consultant include:
- You wish for a consistently predictable lead generation
- You wish to be seen among the global leaders in your niche market on the very top of the search results
- Your competition captures all the inquiries from online channels leaving you unnoticed
- You need an extra push to start dominating in your niche market domestically and/or internationally
- You are considering entering new markets or segments
- You plan to introduce a new product or service
- Your competitors are thriving and leaving you behind
- You’ve noted a sudden or gradual decline in sales and inquiries
- You’ve not yet completed the move to digital
- You want to increase sales and revenues
- You haven’t explored all available marketing channels
- You’re interested in overseas expansion
Contrary to popular belief, outsourcing B2B digital marketing tasks doesn’t mean handing control of your business to an unknown third party. It’s simply a way to finding a long-term partner able to help you reach your strategic business objectives faster. Much faster than with traditional marketing channels. The right online industrial marketing partner enables you to grow your digital assets that work for your business and get you closer to success.
Author: Dennis Dubner, CEO of SONDORA SA. 20+ years of B2B Marketing and Business Development experience worldwide.