Who?Who has traditionally bought your products? Who in the future will buy your products? What traditional expectations/applications have relegated your capability to a less impactful role than you might have?
Simple questions - but incredibly most B2B manufacturing companies never look deeper into their target buyer profiles than reflexively assuming that recent and traditional sales provide a prospective insight into who the profitable, enthusiastic customers will be in the future.
That's why an integral step in designing a B2B sales and marketing plan is a deep dive into target customer profiles and buyer personas.
You can't educate folks and articulate the value of using your products in a vacuum!
Demographic trendsBut you've got to go a step further too. Demographics are rarely discussed in the formation of long term business development strategy for B2B manufacturers - but they are critically important.
Periodically we write about demographics in the context of targeting specific international markets for export sales. (get our free eBook on the topic here) We've also explored the likely impact of demographics on the valuation of your business when you prepare for a liquidity event (and why sales growth and diversification will be critically important.)
But what about the millenials and the silver backs?
Why do aging consumers matter?After all, you sell B2B. True. But the premise of our business development strategies is helping manufacturers create value for their customers. In many cases those customers are B2C, and therefore cognizant of the specific requirements of their aging consumer base.
So any manufacturer which studies the issue, understands their customers' customers' requirements, and tailors products and marketing accordingly will be strongly positioned.
A recent AT Kearney studyhighlights the magnitude of the shift - and the risk/opportunity. "
Mature consumers form a worldwide market segment that spent $8tn in 2010 and will be spending $15tn annually by the end of this decade...For manufacturers, responding to the ageing phenomenon will require a far-reaching re-thinking of product design, particularly in labels and directions, legible prices, and easy-to-open packaging...Above all, manufacturers will need to work closely with retailers to coordinate an effective response to the ageing consumer market...These key cultural and demographical changes need to be addressed by retailers and manufacturers to meet the needs of this market segment"
If you design, build and sell products to manufacturers of CPG products, you've got an opportunity to create real value for your customers by leading in this area.
Millenials...the generation that manufacturing forgotThe implications of aging consumers is a developing trend. But here today, and disregarded by nearly every manufacturers with whom I speak, are millenials.
If you walk into a software company you quickly find the kegerator, fussball table and other cultural indications of a largely millenial workforce. In a manufacturing facility one doesn't. Aside from the OSHA implications of workplace beer with heavy equipment, one known challenge to advanced industrial manufacturing in the US is the reticence of today's new workers to embrace manufacturing jobs.
So owners and execs of B2B manufacturing companies instead generally work in a time warp. As they cross the factory floor each day they see not only the same faces, but the same type of faces. Generally factory workforces in the US are aging. One can understand why those execs struggle to intuit the impact of millenials on business.
And that's a critical myopia!
Buying vs. selling: habits, perspective and expectationsTo understand why, let's back up.
Increasingly today people buy. They resist being sold to. And that resistance is stronger among Gen Y than Gen X, and substantially more so than among boomers. B2B buying cycles have changed. Information is so abundant that "leads" are now early stage musings rather than a hand raised to execute a transaction.
Further, research shows that more than 90% of B2B purchases originate with internet search and that folks are typically more than 70% of the way through their buying journey before they'll entertain speaking with a rep. And finally, all those internet searches that initiate B2B sales are increasingly executed from tablets and smart phones - and the goal is not product identification, but education. Today buyers search for information on the problem they face and possible solutions. The actual product is a late stage factor.
So with that background, let's look at who's buying (or would be) your products. Somewhere there's a GM, president or CEO with whom you would comfortably bond at a conference table. They will ultimately decide whether to authorize the purchase of your products.
BUT....They're not the ones searching and engaging. Your B2B marketing must target those millenial engineers (the ones with whom you, as a middle aged manufacturing exec, have almost no interaction) to engage in the protracted B2B sales cycle of today.
In other words, while you used to be able to grow your business basically selling to folks like yourself, now to succeed you must market and sell to folks who view the world very differently. They're still engineers, MBAs, etc. but that's where the similarities end.
And to complicate things you still must market and sell to the maturing execs as well!
Have you accounted for that in your B2B marketing?
Want to learn more about how to manage internet marketing for today's B2B manufacturers? Download free info here and check out the video below.