Can a B2B Marketing Agency Really Help a Capital Equipment Company?

Ed Marsh | Apr 26, 2023

B2B Marketing Agency, or Strategy Consultant - What's Best for Capital Equipment Sales?

Introduction to SignalsFromTheOP

Guide to Episode

  1. Typical B2B marketing agency model
  2. Challenges matching the B2B marketing agency model against the industrial manufacturing and capital equipment sales environment
  3. An alternative approach to B2B marketing - build your own....with help
  4. How a consultant can support a manufacturer's efforts to build a strong manufacturing marketing function

Transcript follows:

Hello. I’m Ed Marsh. Thanks for watching my bi-weekly video blog that I call SignalsFromTheOP. I share advance warning, if you will, of marketing and sales topics that I believe should be on the radar of industrial manufacturing companies. If you know someone who’d like it, please share it with them.

Can Machine Builders also Build Their Own Manufacturing Marketing?

Here’s today’s question. Should a capital equipment company hire a B2B Marketing agency?

Alternatively, should you hire a strategy consultant? Or a digital marketing consultant? And/or a B2B Sales consultant?

Let’s define things a bit before I answer.

By capital equipment company, I’m talking about a:

  • mid-size manufacturer – say $20-300MM in annual revenue
  • build machines or systems that sell from $100K to $10MM, with an average of $300-500K/machine and roughly $1-2MM/order
  • often privately (family or investor) held
  • operated by Gen 2 or 3
  • anchor employers in their community
  • strong brands in their industries

This is the type of client I work with –sometimes with the US subsidiaries of German manufacturers that fit this profile.

Describing a B2B Marketing Agency

By a B2B marketing agency, I mean a group that provides consolidated manufacturing marketing services, including content marketing, digital marketing, SEO, website design and development, paid ad management, marketing automation configuration, perhaps some branding, a bit of strategy, media management, trade show support, PR, some video editing and production, social media guidance and some print ads.

They strive to be a single source, pulling in contractors to support requirements as needed.

Their common financial model is what they often call a retainer. Rather than a true retainer (payment for availability as required), these retainers are an agreed bundle of services for a consistent monthly fee on an annual contract.

For manufacturers that fit the profile I described above, those monthly fees are probably $7-15K/month. That’s supplemented by projects as required.

The way the agency makes money is to optimize utilization and maximize the delta between what they pay and what they charge. The reality, therefore, is that while some strategy, maybe some creative brainstorming, and some account management may be handled by folks with seniority, much of the work is very task driven and is handled by inexpensive junior folks with long lists of items to check off, not a lot of business savvy, and very little experience outside of “marketing.”

Digital Marketing Agency Results

Most agencies that I’ve encountered really want to do well. They want to renew agreements, so they want to show results. How “results” are measured and defined is an important question that often doesn’t get enough attention. Beyond some KPIs are more important questions. Chief among them – can they create value through specific skills and insights, or is a company essentially paying for administrative marketing operations support?

Let’s use SEO and content as examples.

Capital equipment buyers, their colleagues on buying teams, and management look at the world in specific ways. Factory environments and manufacturing efficiency demand analytical perspectives. All of that factors in as context into how a company should market and sell; the intersection of domain experience (e.g. capital equipment for food manufacturing) and technical discipline (like SEO and content marketing.)

There’s no way to fake it. Having several manufacturing clients doesn’t build the body of experience to truly understand what’s involved. Regardless of the founder’s CV, the staff (the ones that do the work) won’t bring the same perspective.

They haven’t run companies. They haven’t carried a P&L. They haven’t bought machines. No matter how hard they try, they can’t possibly understand the capital equipment procurement process. So typically, manufacturing companies churn through agency after agency, experience frustration with each, and then give up. And critical marketing efforts falter.

Alternatives to B2B Marketing Agencies for Industrial Manufacturers

There are a couple of possible solutions. One is to keep trying, probably in vain, to find an agency that can deliver. Another is to be frank about what you really need vs. want from an agency.

You might want to wash your hands of functions that you don’t really understand. That saves you from hiring folks who will need skills and management that you cannot give. But that’s a mirage based on my experience.

I have learned through working with many manufacturers that you need help building a plan, a roadmap, and an understanding of resource requirements and the likely return. You need help finding the right skill sets, building the right team, identifying the right technology, and prioritizing the work. You need an internal marketing function beyond trade show coordination.

In a perfect world, this in-house team would have all the required technical knowledge and skills. But it’s not a perfect world. So you need insights, coaching, and supervision to help your team succeed.

The Role of a Digital Marketing Consultant

Now I’m admittedly biased. I’m a consultant. I’ve been in the machinery manufacturing business, in manufacturing marketing, and in industrial sales. And now, I’m a digital marketing consultant, a strategy consultant, and a B2B sales consultant.

I work with a company’s management and marketing and sales leadership to guide them to results in areas outside of their core competencies. And in some cases, I refer them to B2B marketing agencies for outsourced marketing operations assistance and/or to freelancers for specific skills and capabilities.

I’ve never seen a marketing agency that could conceive and execute the range of capabilities a capital equipment manufacturer needs to succeed in their industrial marketing.

In contrast, I’ve got a track record of helping manufacturers actually to achieve the marketing results which agencies couldn’t.

In some cases, that’s as a strategy consultant, really understanding the market opportunity. In other cases, it’s as a digital marketing consultant, helping them turn unproductive content marketing into lead generation success. And in some cases, it’s as a B2B sales consultant helping them turn lead generation success into revenue dollars.

Often it starts in one area and gradually expands into all three using my Overall Revenue Effectiveness™ methodology, as my familiarity with the machinery business, target markets, and the manufacturing environment becomes clear.

>Here's the bottom line. It’s enticing to think that a B2B marketing agency suddenly changes everything. It doesn’t. That doesn’t mean there’s not a role, but it’s important ot understand very real limits.

I’m Ed Marsh. Thank you for joining me for this episode of Signals from the OP. If you enjoyed it, please share it and subscribe – either to my YouTube channel EdMarshSpeaks.TV or at the related blog