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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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Digital Marketing for Manufacturers: Making a Business Case

Imagine this all too common scenario if you are a manufacturer, distributor or an engineering company. Sales are slow; you need to do something right now to make the phones ring. The directive comes from the top – add more sales people, start working the phones and drop those prices just to book orders.

Uh oh, that isn’t working, something ain’t right! It has always worked in the past but not anymore. Why is that?

Digital marketing for manufacturers identifies invisible buyers

Invisibe industrial buyersToday’s industrial buyers are in self-serve and self-select mode, making them virtually invisible and hard to reach. They don’t need or want to talk to your sales people to get product information. Your buyers will engage with your sale team only when they are ready.

Hounding them with cold calls or unwanted spammy emails is not going to help them make a more informed decision of selecting your industrial product and/or solution.

Some of the key findings from a research study done by IHS GlobaSpec were:

  • 48% of industrial professionals spend at least six hours per week online for work-related purposes.
  • 42% percent visit more than ten work-related websites each week.
  • The primary uses of the Internet for technical professionals are to find components, equipment, services and suppliers (74 percent); obtain product specifications (73 percent); compare products across suppliers (69 percent); find pricing information (68 percent); and perform research (66 percent).

You need to be where engineers and industrial buyers are actively searching for answers to their problems. You need to be online with digital marketing.

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Lead Generation for Industrial Companies is a Process not a Campaign

I hear too many manufacturers and industrial companies talking about creating campaigns because they want to pump up their lead generation. That mode of thinking is outdated and simply doesn’t work today where you are dealing with mostly invisible and self-directed industrial buyers.

Buyers are looking for information online and interacting with sales people on their own terms. Your industrial lead generation needs to evolve to meet their needs. Otherwise you are going to struggle generating qualified leads that turn into sales opportunities. That is a virtual certainty.

Evolution of industrial lead generation

The old ways of industrial lead generation have changed. Engineers and technical buyers do most of their research, evaluation and finally selecting a vendor very differently today than in the past. Complicating the process is the fact that the buyers do not usually go on a linear buying journey. There are many stakeholders involved in the buying decision, some of whom may never visit your website and/or meet your sales people.

Now I know you’ve read/heard all this before so what exactly is different about lead generation today? Here’s a handy chart from Marketo that explains the differences between then and now.

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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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Industrial Content Marketing – Selling the Problem not Just Solutions

Industrial content marketing for problem solvingManufacturers, distributors and engineering companies want to jump into industrial content marketing because they’ve read the buzz about its effectiveness in generating high quality leads for selling solutions. They want to educate the market about their solutions and in the process create “thought leadership.”

Those are all great and valid reasons for industrial companies to do content marketing. There is a problem however and that is the problem itself.

I see industrial marketers assume that their audience is aware of the problem and is actively seeking a solution, presumably theirs. Their entire content marketing strategy is based on that assumption. They write blog posts about their solutions and create content that is very solution-centric.

You ask, “What’s the problem then? Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do with content marketing?”

Indulge me for a moment because I’m about to tell you something different.

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Content Marketing for Manufacturers Must Go Deeper than ToFu

Many manufacturers are using content marketing but few consider it effective in generating leads that turn into sales opportunities. According to the 2014 study done by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 86% of manufacturing marketers use content marketing but only 30% of manufacturing marketers say they are effective at it.

content marketing for manufacturers

Here’s another finding, according to the 2014 Forrester Research/Business Marketing Association/Online Marketing Institute study, while 51% of B2B marketing leaders rate their content marketing practices as very mature, an overwhelming 85% fail to connect content activity to business value — and, as a result, fail to retain customers or win their long-term loyalty.

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Top 12 Industrial Marketing Posts of 2014

top 12 industrial marketing posts of 2014It’s time to look back at the most read industrial marketing posts that I published in 2014. I’ve culled the list down to 12 based on the data from my Google Analytics. These industrial marketing posts are listed in the order of published dates –oldest to the newest.

#1: What’s Hot and What’s Not in Digital Marketing for Engineers in 2014: I just downloaded my copy of the 2014 Digital Marketing for Engineers survey published by John Hayes and his team at ENGINEERING.com. There are some interesting and encouraging findings. I’ll use a few of the charts from the survey results that show what they found and then add what I am seeing firsthand with my industrial clients. Read more…

#2: Industrial Website Redesign Should Fit Your Sales Process: If you want your industrial website to generate qualified leads and drive sales (Of course you do), make sure you and your web developer takes the time to ask and answer the key question, “How will the redesigned website align with our sales process?” Many other related questions begin to surface whenever I ask that question. Read more…

#3. How to Create Successful Industrial Marketing Content for TOFU: Creating effective marketing content for TOFU is proving to be a challenge for many manufacturers. That’s because these industrial companies have plenty of product datasheets, user guides and other product-centric marketing collateral but very little content that is customer-centric. Why is this important? Read more…

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How Industrial Content Marketing Builds Stronger Relationships Based on Trust

how industrial content marketing builds stronger relationships absed on trustStrong relationships have always been the cornerstone in complex industrial sales. That hasn’t changed and won’t change in the foreseeable future. How we start and build new business relationships have changed in today’s digital age.

Ask any successful salesperson and s/he will tell you that trust is the key to building strong and sustainable relationships. They’ll also tell you that trust needs to be earned. You can’t earn someone’s trust if all you do is talk about yourself and turn a deaf ear to the concerns of your audience.

Industrial content marketing when done right will help you earn trust by putting the focus on your customers’ challenges and issues instead of talking about your company, its products and services.

Note how I qualified my statement by saying “when done right.” That is the crux of the problem as I see it with content marketing done by most manufacturers, distributors and engineering companies.

It starts with a lack of clear understanding of what content marketing is and how it can drive the sales process. Most if not all my new client engagements start with answering the “what and why” questions about content marketing. And of course they all want to know how it will increase their sales and how quickly they can see results.

Here are some common content marketing myths that I’ve encountered in my daily conversations with industrial companies.

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To Blog, or Not to Blog…That’s the Question Many Industrial Companies are Asking

Industrial blogging questionsManufacturers, distributors and engineering companies have read or heard about all the benefits of content marketing in general and blogging in particular but many are still sitting on the fence. I’m often asked the question, “Should we start a blog?” It is a simple question but the answer is not a simple yes or a no.

Yes, you should start an industrial blog if you haven’t already done so. No, you shouldn’t blog if you don’t have a well-thought-out blogging strategy in place already.

Even though blog strategy comes before content creation, only 19% of manufacturing marketers outsource this function. That was one of the findings from the 2014 B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing Trends—North America: Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs.

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Industrial Content Marketing — Different Strokes for Different Folks

Any industrial content marketing strategy that is based on “one size fits all” content is likely to fail. That statement may seem like an overgeneralization but I have seen it happen one too many times to ignore.

Sure, there are many common types of content assets used by manufacturers and industrial companies but how they are used, who uses them and at what stage of their buying journey make all the difference. And that’s the main thrust of this post.

Before I dive into the subject matter, did you notice the two popular musical references I’ve made? First, “Different strokes for different folks” is a line from the 1968 hit song “Everyday People” by Sly and the Family Stone. It later inspired the title of the popular TV sitcom, “Diff’rent Strokes.” The second musical reference is “One Size Fits All” from the 1975 rock album by Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention. These two phrases became so popular that they are commonly used today in marketing, business and life in general, sometimes in a different context than the original meaning.

Commonly used industrial content marketing assets

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