How To Create and Implement An Effective Industrial Marketing Strategy

Ed Marsh | Nov 2, 2022

Your Industrial Marketing Strategy Must be Proactive and Intentional

Guide to episode

  1. Strategy and tactics are different - don't conflate the two
  2. Board's corporate strategy needs to drive the industrial marketing strategy
  3. A framework will help to translate the corporate strategy into a marketing context
  4. From there it's possible to proactively apply industrial marketing tactics and techniques in support of the marketing strategy, which in turn supports corporate strategy

Transcript follows:

Hi, I’m Ed Marsh. Welcome to this episode of Signals from the OP. I create these brief videos every couple of weeks to provoke some thinking for industrial manufacturing company execs. If you know of one who you think might find some value in this, please share it with them.

Industrial Marketing Strategy is Different Than Digital Marketing Tactics

Today we’re going to talk about industrial marketing strategy. And let me start by quicky venting about a pet peeve of mine – perhaps related to time in the military and/or sitting in countless marketing meetings listening to people who are inept tactically, but grandly wrap their ill-informed recommendations in some “strategy” wrapper.

Strategy guides where you’re going and why it’s important to get there. Tactics are the how. And you can certainly have embedded layers of strategy. For instance, corporate strategy which is an important piece of my ORE™ model, must inform the product roadmap, the finance strategy, the HR strategy, and of course the revenue growth strategy.

Many of these are interrelated, although none as much so as the marketing strategy and sales strategy which are part of revenue growth. Each merit lots of discussion and effort, but today we’re going to focus on one piece – the industrial marketing strategy.

Most companies get this wrong. And they get it wrong for two reasons:

First, because they either try to do it inhouse (after all manufacturers love to build stuff and they’re good at it – and they assume that means they’re good at building all kinds of stuff including machines and industrial marketing!), or engage some outsiders for tactical assistance (e.g. SEO) that’s executed without strategic context and therefore fails.

Second, it’s because markets are continuously changing and any strategy created today, based on research and conditions observed yesterday, is inherently outdated and less effective with each passing day. There’s some interesting theory on this that we’ll look at quickly.

Inductive vs. Deductive Strategy

John Boyd was an Air Force pilot who was an exceptional dog fighter but is perhaps best known for developing a common military planning tool that’s actually used broadly in business. The OODA loop – which stands for Observe, Orient, Decide and Act. You’ve probably used it in a business context. (I’ll drop a link below with more info.) Boyd also spent time thinking rigorously about strategy and tactics, and how they are created and should evolve. He recognized that there are approaches that are inherently in conflict. One approach is to destroy – or break down what you must do to understand it and adjust it. The other is to build new – to create.

He explained that “Destruction is related to deduction, taking the big parts and breaking them down into constituent pieces. Creation is related to induction, synthesis, and integration. It’s taking the little bits and re-building them into a coherent whole.” If you want to dive in a bit deeper, I’ll drop a link to Boyd’s “Destruction and Creation” essay below in the notes.

Behind all this is the idea that you must have an accurate mental model of what is happening. Your strategy is faulty if you don’t, and therefore, your tactics will be as well. And this is hard because the market is changing – always changing, and of course it changes slowly at first and then suddenly. That’s the way change happens.

An example to think about is 3D printing. For industrial manufacturers this has the potential to dramatically change the world. What if things are all made on site? Or in the home? Or at final mile distribution centers? Or even on delivery vans? That would mean that factories, factory machines, factory software, distribution infrastructure and so much more that we take for granted would all be obsolete. Will that happen? We can only predict. But the likelihood is far higher than many manufacturers acknowledge – and higher than can be ignored in strategy.

Building Marketing Strategy in Support of Corporate Strategy

So back to the B2B industrial marketing strategy. Let’s stipulate that a strong corporate strategy is in place. You know what you’re going to sell, to whom, and why they’ll buy it – all to hit the important corporate goals of growth, profitability, and vitality.

And remember that the market is constantly changing. You might decide that heading into a recessionary period you’re going to prioritize outbound sales to privately held middle market companies that are likely to be more agile in capital spending decisions than multinationals. Based on significant currency fluctuations, you might decide to emphasize export or domestic sales because of relative value. And based on regulatory trends, you might focus on certain opportunities to win new logos and new market segments.

But what comes next? How does that get translated into the industrial marketing strategy and then into tactics?

A Marketing Strategy Framework

You must create a framework to help make the transition from corporate strategy to the industrial marketing strategy. This framework will help to shape the allocation and priority of industrial marketing resources to support the corporate strategy. It should include:

  • Competitive intelligence, market and regulatory research and intense understanding of buyers – buying teams, buying journeys, unmet needs, etc.
  • Product roadmap planning
  • Partnership opportunities – avenues to reach new markets, technology and more
  • And collaboration with sales to understand how they’ll build their strategy – perhaps including sales model updates – like more or less indirect sales – and inorganic vs. organic options

This is a critical step. It’s not something you get done in one brainstorming session. It’s a process that will proceed to some degree in parallel with corporate strategy and tactics development.

Turning Marketing Strategy into Effective Marketing Tactics

Then, of course a strategy that just sits in a slide deck is useless. To bring the industrial marketing strategy to life, you’ll need to overlay your industrial market toolkit on the framework to figure out how to weave functions and tactics together to drive the results. Generally the industrial B2B  marketing functions to consider include:

  • competitive intelligence
  • branding
  • content
  • public relations
  • technology
  • data
  • marketing operations
  • sales enablement
  • trade shows and advertising
  • partnerships
  • analytics.

Your industrial marketres may want to chunk them out differently, but the main point for most traditional industrial companies is that trade shows are just one piece of many.

Here's the main takeaway. Your industrial marketing strategy isn’t “what you did last year” with a couple tweaks. It’s founded in a solid corporate strategy created by the board and executive management. It then brings the major marketing functions together in a combination to specifically achieve the corporate strategy. And from there gets translated into tactics and execution – with continuous measurement and adjustment.

I’m Ed Marsh. If you found value in this episode of Signals from the OP check out the full playlist and maybe even like it, share it, and subscribe – either to my YouTube channel EdMarshSpeaks.TV or at the related blog