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Can Industrial Manufacturers Benefit From Inbound Marketing?

inbound-marketing-for-industrial-manufacturersWe get all kinds of businesses and organizations as leads, but some of the most exciting — because there’s so much opportunity to help them succeed — continue to be industrial manufacturers that build complex, relatively expensive items for other businesses. Their targets tend to be engineers, scientists, operations and plant managers, supply chain directors — all very serious, responsible people trying to make effective, valuable decisions about vendors, technologies and business-improvement strategies.

Many manufacturers are run by individuals who’ve cut their teeth as engineers, accountants, or operations and don’t view marketing in the same way as they do R&D and sales. They often don’t realize that marketing has moved well beyond logo design, trade show booths, news releases and sales sheets to be more customer-driven, more dynamic and ROI-driven with new technologies, and more reliant on a cooperative relationship between sales and marketing. 

So why do I like doing business with these folks? Among other things, I enjoy how quickly they reveal the contradictions they’re living with regarding their industry, the changes in buyer behaviors, and the capabilities of marketing technology. It often leads to something called the “Oh s**t” moment.

So how does this expletive-infused discussion start? Conversations often go something like this:

Me: So, why are we talking today?

Prospect: Well, the things we’ve traditionally done to grow our business just aren’t working like they used to, and our sales staff is having issues discovering the right leads, so we’re trying to explore other potential methods. We’ve heard inbound marketing is working for many companies and feel it’s something we should at least investigate.

Me: That’s great! Inbound marketing is all about making your business visible online to your best prospects. We use online content marketing, SEO, social media, and marketing automation to turn traffic into leads and nurture qualified leads into customers.

Prospect: Now just wait a minute. Our business is different.

Prospect: What I mean is, our prospects and customers are different. They’re serious people who aren’t wasting their time online. They read trade journals, not blogs, and social media is mostly “fluffy” and not really relevant for their day-to-day jobs.

Me: I’m pretty sure the facts don’t support that. Did you know B2B buyers perform an average of 12 searches before engaging on a brand’s site? And that B2B buyers go through 70% of the sales process before talking to a person?

If you don’t show up online with answers for what they’re searching, you won’t make their short list.

Prospect: You mean consumers, right? People looking for a new car, or an iPhone, or an HD TV.

Me: No, I mean people looking for a new conveyor system, or packaging equipment, or someone to build a storage tank farm. They start by entering questions about problems they’ve had, or deficiencies in their current equipment, or new technologies they’ve heard about. And the companies that show up as credible experts make it on to their shortlists.

The “Oh S**t” moment is priceless because it signals that they admit, at least directionally, that things have changed and they need to change too. If they need more than just fear to motivate them, here are the top 5 reasons we give industrial manufacturers that they need to commit to inbound marketing:

Top 5 Reasons Industrial Manufacturers Should Use Inbound Marketing

  1. Your best prospects are online looking for better solutions every day, and they’re selectively engaged in social media as they search
  2. The more considered a purchase is, the more research prospects will do (and the more opportunity for potential vendors to grow their credibility by turning up in search engine results)
  3. Using your customers’ and prospects’ own words to describe challenges and potential solutions will lead to keyword topic clusters that you can own
  4. The complexity of challenges your prospects face plus the equally complex products and solutions you provide translates to a cornucopia of content possibilities
  5. A committed inbound strategy can make some traditional strategies — trade shows, for example — far more effective

The last thing I love asking industrial manufacturers who aren’t sure if they are ready to commit to inbound marketing is this:

How would you feel if your most direct competitor rolled out an inbound campaign 6 months before you could be ready to go? What would that do to your business development plans?

Are your palms feeling a little clammy?

Written byGreg Linnemanstons

With 18+ years in senior management roles at Fortune 500® and medium-sized companies, he has deep marketing and sales experience with CPGs and manufacturing. Greg leads strategic initiatives with clients and is involved in developing client inbound marketing plans. Greg holds an M.B.A. from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and a B.A. in Economics from Lawrence University.

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