Asset vs. activity - unpacking a misunderstood industrial marketing choice

Ed Marsh | Feb 16, 2016

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What's the industrial marketing plan for '16?

That kind of question typically gets an answer like "We've got a busy year planned. We're updating all our sell sheets. We'll be running ads in a few key trade journals for our industry. And of course we've got a large booth planned at the two 'must attend trade shows' in the fall. Busy, busy, busy! We're excited about our plans to promote our brand!"

That approach is so common, many consider it risky to challenge. I disagree for three reasons:

  1. Brand is great....if you've got it - but most B2B manufacturing companies vastly overestimate the importance and value
  2. The classic indictment of industrial marketing - that it's impossible to measure and attribute revenue to specific investments - is validated by this approach
  3. The only way to grow is to hire more, spend more & do more - this approach is built on a series of activities that are difficult to scale and it fails to build an asset of enduring value to the company - your promotion never lasts beyond the half-life of your last activity. It's essentially impossible to build inertia.

The first two are straightforward and widely explored. But it's time to shine a bright light on the negligence of industrial marketing and corporate management to create a revenue growth asset while they squander precious resources on short duration activities.

"Get me last June's Widget Weekly!"

said nobody since about 2003...

Traditional industrial marketing approaches have a very short half life. The print ad lasts for an issue; the trade show lasts 3-5 days; the direct mail campaign and banner ads...well those belong in an even different category of irrelevance.

Chet Holmes' research has found that only 3% of any market is actively considering any product or service at any time. That's got enormous consequences for traditional marketing. For a magazine with circulation of 50,000 or trade show with similar attendance, then theoretically there are only 1,500 potentially qualified leads. Of those receiving the magazine many will discard without reading it and others will skim through and may completely miss ads as they focus on a few articles of interest. Similarly, attendees at the trade show with tight schedules and aching feet are very likely to bypass booths which they don't realize might help them solve a problem.

Only a small percentage of the already small number of active prospects are likely to actually receive the intended message - and once the carpet is stripped from the exhibit hall, or the magazine is recycled, the value is lost.

BUT, practically every buyers turns to Google to search practically every problem. Those searches happen before, during and after work; on Saturday mornings and after the kids' homework is done.

So it stands to reason that being available to answer prospects questions, when they have them and where they're asking them, is the key to connecting with more.

Always answering

That's the principle of inbound marketing for industrial manufacturing companies. It's beyond the "getting found" implication of traditional SEO. It includes not only getting found, but getting selected from among search results, connecting with the prospect by directly and effectively answering precisely the question they had in mind, convincing them to convert - to provide their name and email in exchange for more info - and then gradually building a virtual relationship.

When companies create an easy to navigate, customer focused website and extend their digital footprint with content and broad digital engagement, they substantially increase the likelihood of beginning the conversation with much of the rolling 3% of any market that's considering something. 

When they create broad content, they even begin conversations with prospects beyond the 3% who may not have even properly diagnosed their problem and would welcome help at an early stage. In this case the help is framing, understanding and quantifying the challenge - later the help will morph into suggesting possible solutions.

Industrial marketing that lives and evolves, continuously engaging whomever is part of today's, and tomorrow's 3%, is a business asset. It creates inertia which compounds the results. It's difficult to build for sure, just like any asset. But the easier approach, wasting money on activities, is often no less expensive and substantially less effective.

Do you own or rent your prospect relationships

Who'd have guessed that the fundamental question of marketing to industrial prospect might be a philosophical one!? But it really is.

Will you simply rent relationships through someone else's mailing or attendee list? Or will you cultivate those relationships yourself, one by one?

In reality a combination is almost always the most effective approach - but the ongoing return on investments in assets is almost always substantially greater than in simple expense lines on the P&L.

And B2B marketing is no exception.

Want to understand how to apply the process to your business to create your own business development inertia? Download our Inbound Marketing Guide for B2B industrial Companies.

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