Industrial B2B Marketing: Hey Small Company, You’ve Got This!

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Simply put, manufacturing rocks.  I’ve had the good fortune to work in this industry for many years and have never looked back.  I am often inspired, never bored.  The industrial industry and manufacturing are not considered typically sexy or fun, like many B2C companies, which makes it harder for manufacturers to reach and engage with their highly targeted audiences.

A popular discussion topic in the B2B marketing community is applying consumer marketing programs to industrial marketing.  In the consumer market, celebrity-endorsed product launches, multi-million dollar ad campaigns and social media blasts are the norm.  Whether it is “The Rock” advocating for Ford, Brad Pitt endorsing Chanel or Kobe Bryant promoting Nike, the visibility for the product and subsequent social media blitz are hard to miss.

While I do believe those lines are converging (a bit) as we see B2B companies looking to do more “consumer”-type marketing, a strategy trending with many industrial companies is closer to home.  With the global economy, supply chain costs and other factors keeping marketing budgets flat, looking for proven practices from others in the industry is one approach industrial marketing organizations are using to help ensure program success.

Small Budgets Can Equal Marketing Success

When it comes to marketing, smaller industrial companies just do not have the same opportunities to implement programs that support objectives as larger companies do.  The reasons are obvious (such as cost and resources) and not so obvious (such as lack of executive support).  Because a company has been successful to-date, its leadership may believe that marketing is not needed: “We don’t need marketing, our product sells itself,” or my favorite, “Let’s just hire more sales people.”  This is not a slam to these successful organizations; rather, they just have to do more with the programs they have in place.  And changing habits within a limited budget can be difficult.

We have a unique opportunity to work with a range of manufacturing companies – from very small to quite large.  What they all have in common are smart, driven and innovative minds.  Because smaller companies face barriers higher than those confronted by larger enterprises, implementing global, multi-channel marketing programs, while desirable, is not always feasible.  However, the people that make up these marketing teams are often bright, creative and open to finding the best paths to reach their audience.

Here are a few ideas to consider as you look to expand your marketing initiatives.

Marketing Technologies: Yes, you really can.

Large organizations often look to enterprise software to help drive sales, improve decision-making, further customer engagement and empower overall marketing efforts.  These technologies include marketing automation platforms (i.e. Eloqua, Marketo), analytics, lead capture tools and many others. The dollar amount and resources required to successfully implement these technologies could easily scare away a smaller organization.  However, many new solutions on the market are not only good, but also free or low cost.

  • Email Marketing and Automation Platforms – While Eloqua and Marketo tend to dominate the large platforms and typically require a substantial operating investment as well as a deep content catalog and infrastructure to be successful, other platforms such as Act-on, Hubspot and Constant Contact (and many others) can scale to meet your needs and budget requirements. A word of caution:  In order to truly leverage a marketing automation platform, a deep catalogue of relevant content is highly recommended.  The content should be geared toward various levels of engagement; think educational (thought leadership), evaluate (product, solution, capabilities) and action (1:1 engagement).  Prepare early so you are ready to take full advantage of the software.
  • Analytic Tools – The first and perhaps most important is Google Analytics. Google Analytics measures the performance of your website and the content on it. And, the basic version is free.  By using Google Analytics along with Google Webmaster, your company will have a smart foundation for understanding the impact of your website.  There are many other analysis tools on the market – at all price levels – that focus on using advertising, public relations and social media to gather and analyze marketing data.  These important tools can influence your decisions and help validate marketing budgets.
  • Lead Capture – The tradeshow investment is often one of the largest segments of a company’s marketing budget. Ensuring that you get the most from those dollars and leverage a unique 1:1 customer engagement opportunity should be a priority.  If you Google the term “lead capture software,” you will find many companies that have developed software and apps to enable lead information gathering and engagement.  These types of technologies typically come in at a lower price point and can be used in place of “free” trade show tracking tools. They can give you not only the contact information needed, but the opportunity to begin creating long-term engagement with the prospect immediately after your discussion ends.

 Customer Engagement: Social Media Really Does Matter

Industrial companies have traditionally looked at social media as a “nice to have” but not a “must have.” However, I am happy to say that this way of thinking seems to be changing — and fast.

Social media is becoming more mainstream in B2B. It is also clear that engineers coming out of universities today rely heavily on social platforms for all of their communications. As Generation X and Y are becoming more comfortable with social as a business platform, LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter are go-to channels for industrial information gathering and sharing. The editors at industrial publications tend to be very active on social media as well, often looking for new ideas or insight into articles through social networking.  Whether it is promoting innovation, sharing industry trend data, driving recruiting or highlighting social responsibility successes, social media is an important segment of the corporate and marketing communications mix.  Here are a few suggestions that can help you get started:

Do it now, it’s easy…  If you do not have a social media program in place, start one.  Your customers, prospects, channel partners and future employees (and competitors) are already there.  And, again, it’s free.  That said, it is important to establish ground rules (think corporate social media policy) as you begin the process.

But, be consistent…  Once you start, don’t stop and then start again.  Fits and starts only hold you back from getting the right people to view your content regularly.  Create a schedule of posts that include interesting content, industry news, company initiatives and more.  Bring your customers, employees, channel partners, investors and even editorial contacts into the mix.  It’s a great way to cross-promote content and drive traffic to specific web pages.

With smart content!  No one wants to see a barrage of product pitches in his or her Twitter or LinkedIn feed.  Instead, find industry news of the day, case studies, innovations, corporate responsibility successes and other information that your audience will find interesting and of value.  Eighty percent of the content you share should be informational; the remaining 20% (or less) can be more promotional.  If you have a major product launch, share it.  However, focus on offering information that helps your audience as they do their jobs so they come back for more.  If a post matters to them, they will like, share or retweet it – and look for the next one.  This process allows your post to be shared with the entire network of each person that engages, further extending your message and brand.  The amplification of your content by your network gives your company exposure never before possible.

In addition to using marketing technologies and social media, there are many more ways to promote your company, products, culture and values to customers.  Don’t be afraid to look at your favorite consumer company for ideas – or your largest competitor.  Be inspired and go for it.

 

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Author: Christa Carroll, Senior Vice President, Outlook Marketing Services

Manufacturing is the foundation of our country, economy and national infrastructure – influencing our lives every day. Marketing success further fuels companies large and small, creating economic opportunities and the revenue needed to continue the amazing innovation that drives our world. 

 I would love to hear other ideas, suggestions and/or best practices. Feel free to reach out to me directly at christa@www.outlookmarketingsrv.com

 

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