B2B Marketing - transactions or a flywheel loaded with energy?

Ed Marsh | Jul 8, 2014

The manufacturing marketing dissonance

B2B manufacturers tend to approach business with a transactional perspective.  They chase a lead, they get an order, the manufacture the products against that order, and then hopefully they've been chasing another lead in the interim.  Certainly there are repeat orders, some products are commodities manufactured for inventory, etc., etc.  So it's not a uniform rule, but generally there is a cycle which is repeated around projects.

That's not a bad thing.  It focuses the operation on efficiency and supports consistent quality.  But that mindset and approach bleeds over into their B2B Marketing - with unfortunate implications. 

Where and when the buyers are looking

When companies approach marketing transactionally (XXX trade show in October, 3 X/year half page ads in XXX journal, 4 X/year direct mail send, etc.) the approach feels logical and appropriate.  It's a series of generally unrelated events, just like their order cycle.

The problem is that buyers now rely on the internet to search for products whenever, wherever they are (seriously - statistics on smartphone and tablet use show amazing penetration.)

So, statistically, a small number of your potential prospects may happen to be looking for your product at the same time you happen to touch them with a marketing "transaction."  But many more, in fact the vast majority, will slip through the cracks.  When you approach marketing transactionally you miss most of your prospects - no matter what the journal publisher says about print ads having a 12 month value!

What buyers are looking for....and how

But that's not the biggest problem.  Buyers no longer search for products.  In fact, at least through the middle of their buying journey the product is essentially irrelevant (they may not realize this and won't acknowledge it to you, but trust me!) 

Buyers use the internet (yes, even in B2B industrial and manufacturing applications) to research problems, symptoms and potential solutions.  If they're searching a specific product you know full well their self diagnosis is likely off the mark and you're already facing extensive competition.  In fact >90% of B2B purchases originate with an internet search.

How buyers are buying

Finally, buyers don't generally approach projects with a strict timeline anymore.  (Sure, they often tell you they do, but how many times do projects actually progress according to the schedule they described?) 

B2B buying buying journeys are no longer defined and linear.  They are now disconnected, long, inconsistent and have a number of false starts and dead ends. Why?  Because they can - because it's so easy to research solutions that folks frequently search "prematurely" and for hypotheticals.  And they know that they can move through much of their research, education and buying process (statistically nearly 70%) before they ever need to speak to a rep.

So with all the background shifts in behavior, are you starting to see the problem with your marketing approach?

Build a marketing flywheel PACKED with potential energy


The good news is that there's a solution which will make perfect sense to manufacturing and technical types.  Store up your marketing energy so that it's available all the time, immediately when needed (e.g. whenever a prospect happens to call for it.)  I love this flywheel analogy but can't claim credit.  Check out Rand Fishkin (@randfish) of Moz at about 22 seconds into this video

That's the premise of internet marketing for manufacturers.  (Hint - that means it's far more than your 5 year old (or even brand new) lame website that talks about your products and company history!) 

Digital marketing (when done right) for manufacturing is about so much more than a website.  It's about creating thought leadership around the value that companies realize from using your products.  It's about creating a huge store of potential energy in the form of educational, valuable and engaging content that responds immediately on demand from any prospect, anywhere, anytime.

B2B marketing today is about the cumulative footprint and authority companies build online around substantive business issues that their products impact.

This doesn't entirely displace traditional marketing activities.  Trade shows, for instance, remain a critically important element of the process, but in a different role.  They are now a part of the buying process in many cases, where relationships are fostered and in depth discussions take place.  Companies determined to maximize the value of their show investments are increasingly developing digital marketing campaigns around their show activity, with extensive pre and post show engagement objectives.

Resources and preloading your flywheel

This is where the train often runs off the tracks.  Intellectually it makes sense.  You are probably nodding.

But you've also got 10, 20 or maybe even 30 years of traditional transactional marketing inertia to overcome.  That's why most companies fail at their attempt to drive the process internally - and conversely why it's important to engage the right outside help.

Want to learn how we can help your company pack your flywheel full of potential industrial marketing energy?  Let's talk.

In the meantime you might find this free book informative.

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images - wistia