The behavior bending 'Dark Matter' of B2B Marketing for manufacturers

Ed Marsh | Aug 13, 2014

Referrals not cold calls

Senior executives in traditional B2B manufacturing companies typically aren't Twitter mavens.  There's no news in that, but the fact is important as it frames the perspective with which they view the evolution of sales and marketing.

If you think of "digital marketing" as a collection of functionally irrelevant and generally inane technologies that solve non-existent problems, then you tend to bias your business development thoughts toward traditional behaviors - cold calls and peer referrals for instance.

You certainly may sit around the 19th hole and grouse about the incessant problems you seem to have with your freight scheduling - asking your companions for any recommendations they can make regarding reliable carriers.

But just as no freight company will grow their business strategically relying on that perchance occurrence, neither will you.

Referrals are more important than ever....but they happen differently


Don't get me wrong - in a world of overwhelming volumes of information, referrals are potentially more meaningful today.  Rather than just a source of contact details, the importance of the associated credibility is enormous. 

But very few are the result of a phone call to your accountant; a casual conversation at the Rotary meeting; or an exchange on the golf course.

The mass of referrals are the dark matter of today's B2B marketing - They massively impact your business, but you'll never see them or really quantify them.  They are the sharing of relevant information between acquaintances, and they never appear on anyone's analytics reports. (The premise of the analogy originally came from a recent article from @CMOAustralia.)

Today's referral is the sharing of a web link by email (or maybe by text message or possibly even a LinkedIn message.)  

So for companies in traditional industries that rely on referrals for qualified leads, the key is to develop a strategy to foster such sharing of information.

Encouraging sharing

The problem is that most discussion around sharing is presented in the context of social sharing - in other words someone posts a story to their facebook, time line or twitter feed. The hope is often for viral traction, and the motivation (at least from the perspective of senior level execs) is often narcissistic.  Neither the platform nor the motivation are conducive to growing industrial sales - and so skepticism abounds.

But that doesn't mean that sharing is inherently undesirable or irrelevant.  Social sharing (some SEO inbound link value and huge potential in LinkedIn aside) may be unimportant, but sharing itself is not.

So what's the solution?  What sort of sharing is beneficial and probable, and how can it be encouraged?

Good content and easy email link sharing

Of course fundamental to any referral - or today's corollary, the share - is something worth referring/sharing.  In other words you have to have expertise and information / content that is solid, informative, relevant and empathetic.  Blathering on about your technical specifications is as relevant to your prospects as what type of underwear the Kardashian sisters happen to sport.  On the other hand, articles, blog posts, videos, etc. that provide somebody a new perspective on a business challenge with which they have wrestled, are likely to engage them and incline them to share that perspective with others whom they know have similar challenges.

So presuming you have something worthy of a referral, then make it simple to share.  Provide an icon/link to spawn an email - even something that says "To share this article with a colleague, click here to open an email" and fill in the subject and content (like this - please share with a friend whose business might benefit.)  All they have to do is complete the address.

And don't forget, as every sales trainer implores, ask for the referral / share!

Not sure you've got referral worthy content?  Let's talk.  We understand how you and your prospects in the B2B manufacturing world think and talk.

We need more referrals