Traditional Marketing is Alive and Well for Industrial Companies

Despite all the buzz about digital marketing and proof of results, manufacturers, engineering and industrial companies continue to use traditional marketing tactics such as trade shows, print ads and telemarketing.

According to the 2013 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks–North America: CMI/MarketingProfs report, 67% of the 1,416 B2B Marketers surveyed, continue to rate in-person events as the most effective marketing tactic they use.

It would be easy to dismiss the continued use of traditional marketing by saying decision makers at industrial companies are resistant to change and they just don’t want to hear anything about current best practices in online marketing. While true to some extent, it doesn’t tell the complete story in my experience.

I have found owners and executives at industrial companies to be sharp business people who wouldn’t continue to spend good money on marketing tactics if they weren’t producing the desired results.

These people have now become more open to listening to me talk about the benefits of inbound marketing with content. The key IMO is making a strong business case for it rather than trying to convince them that they need to be current on marketing technology and tactics. They could care less about that if they don’t see how content marketing directly impacts their sales.

They do realize that their buyers are far more informed today before engaging with their sales team. They are beginning to understand the importance of content marketing setting the table for their sales team so that they can have conversations that are more productive and as a result, increase their win rates.

Does that mean industrial companies are abandoning traditional marketing in favor of digital marketing? In my experience, the answer is NO! I see them shifting more of their attention and budgets towards digital marketing while continuing to use print ads in trade magazines, attend major trade shows, update their marketing collateral and create digital versions at the same time.

Let’s face reality, an engineer or a CEO is not going to go on Facebook or Twitter to make a decision about a 6-figure purchase where one mistake can have dire consequences. Complex industrial sales cannot happen without strong relationships in place. Building these connections can’t happen just via social media. They require a strong network of District Managers, Sales Reps and other channel partners who can stay in constant touch with their customers. In-person events and print ads help to maintain that top-of-mind awareness. In industrial sales, often it is true that who you know is more important than what you know.

Decision makers within these industrial companies realize that the traditional marketing model is difficult to scale up, especially if they want to increase their market share globally. Hiring more sales people is far more expensive than implementing a well-planned digital marketing strategy. Digital and social marketing are helping them start the conversation in order to put the customer in touch with the right in-house expert who can guide them through the entire buying process.

Industrial companies use digital assets such as white papers, case studies, application notes and datasheets to provide relevant content to engineers who must specify their products first before an RFQ can happen. Blogging is just starting to take off.

Among my engineering and industrial clients, I am seeing an increasing interest in developing mobile apps such as calculators, CAD file viewers and measurement tools. Using technical videos and developing in-depth content for online training and certification are also becoming popular.

Overall, I see industrial companies taking more of an integrated marketing approach rather than going all digital marketing in 2013.

Are you using any traditional tactics or is it all digital marketing at your industrial company?

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Comments

  1. says

    Hi Achinta

    Thanks for this practical and balanced post.

    Digital marketing offers some very exciting opportunities, but many organizations, including industrial companies, are understandably slow to embrace them.

    We’ve come a long way though. Everyone has a website now (although most are not designed for lead capture). Many are using Google Adwords to generate leads (even if all leads are still going to the home page). And most are using email to communicate with prospects and customers.

    “Blogging” is still a dirty word, however. My approach for content marketing is not to mention the word blog, but to recommend adding instructional and informational pages to their website. This seems to be a more acceptable path for creating content.

    Of course, all this hinges on being able to measure response. Whether you’re using traditional or digital marketing, you need to be able to track and measure results – so you have some basis for making marketing decisions moving forward.

  2. says

    @Bob,

    Thanks for sharing your insights. Blogging hasn’t caught on as yet with industrial companies but that is slowly changing and gaining more traction.

  3. says

    “They could care less about that if they don’t see how content marketing directly impacts their sales.”

    Content marketing as you mention should be a part of your overall marketing mix, but you can’t just ignore it. As you mentioned, blogging hasn’t caught on with industrial companies – and yet this would be a prime opportunity for companies to take a new approach to their products and services. Developing a blog and a “voice” in a niche market can help build awareness, especially for industrial companies that are competing for a very specific type of customer.

  4. says

    @Nick,
    Thanks for your comments.
    The mindset is beginning to change to where industrial companies are now looking at content marketing and social media as part of their overall marketing strategy rather than stand-along marketing tactics.

    NDAs place many restrictions on what manufacturers can blog about and that includes using photos of equipment and projects. This definitely hampers their blogging efforts because the posts are deliberately made generic to avoid violating NDAs. They have to rely on answering technical questions without naming names and using engineering application notes to develop their “voice” as you called it.

  5. says

    Achinta,

    I agree with Bob…”a practical and balanced post”

    I would simply like to validate Achinta’ s post with my own experience and respond to Achinta’s question.

    Our company has worked with hundreds of industrial B2B manufacturers and industrial suppliers. My experiences are very similar to Achinta’s.

    As a forward thinker I get frustrated with the lack of movement on the marketing front…especially in the industrial market.

    But as you say, these folks are sharp business people and they would not spend money on sales and marketing tactics if they did not produce results.

    I have seen a marked difference in the owners’ thinking in the past year.

    I do believe we are at tipping point in terms of industrial marketing.

    From their acute instincts these owners know the old sales & marketing tactics will not work as they have. The buyers’ behavior has changed dramatically in the last couple years…and they know it.

    The buzz about “social media”, “content marketing”, “blogging”, etc. has created a natural curiosity for business owners that is forcing them to face market realities.

    Market realities tell these bright owners they better pay attention to what is going on out on the web and improve their brand message which always includes traditional marketing as well.

    The winners will be the ones that do pay attention to new digital opportunities mixed in with a strong brand message that is woven into traditional media.

    Good for them!

  6. says

    @Tom,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with manufacturers and industrial suppliers. I’m glad that we agree on how and where industrial marketing is headed with digital marketing mixed in with a healthy dose of traditional marketing tactics that are still producing results.

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