Job #1 of industrial marketing for manufacturers is to generate leads. Is that assumption valid? To me, that’s like putting the cart before the horse. So, before I explain why I said what I just said, let’s look at the goals manufacturing marketers have achieved by using industrial content marketing over the past 12 months.
Let’s reverse engineer the above chart to understand the process of generating good quality industrial leads using industrial marketing for manufacturers.
Step 1: Raise brand awareness – Your target audience must know about you and find you (SEO) during the early stages of their buying journey.
Step 2: Earning trust – You have to win their mindshare by publishing content that helps your visitors gain confidence in your ability to understand and provide a solution for their challenges or applications.
Step 3: Be prepared – When a prospect contacts you, you must be ready to provide relevant and technically accurate content to help that industrial buyer make a more informed decision. They don’t want to hear a sales pitch without proof of concept.
In this day and age, when industrial buyers are in self-select and self-serve mode, the adage buyer beware has been turned on its head to seller beware.
Engineers were most annoyed by the “lack of technical knowledge” when interacting with a supplier’s sales team. That was one of the findings from the State of Marketing to Engineers, 2022 report.
Sales first mindset is a problem with manufacturers
I had a recent conversation with a manufacturer of micro injection molding machines. He wanted his target audience to find his site on Google and contact his sales team. He didn’t have an answer when I asked him, “Why should a site visitor contact you and not the competition?”
He assumed that his site visitors would be so impressed with his history of being in business for 50+ years that they would contact his sales team after the first visit.
51% of manufacturing marketers were challenged to create valuable content instead of sales-oriented content and overcome the traditional marketing and sales mindset.
Discovery optimization (SEO) is hard enough, but it is not the same as conversion optimization (CRO), even though they are related. It is not uncommon to find manufacturers who find it hard to wrap their heads around the concept of Marketing and Sales working together as a team. It has always been that the sales team generated leads, and Marketing only provided sales support as in trade show graphics, brochures, and PowerPoint presentations.
Build new relationships using industrial marketing for manufacturers
A related problem to the sales mindset is relying too heavily, in some cases exclusively, on old relationships. I understand that building new relationships is hard work and takes time. Most manufacturers have heard of the Pareto principle, which states that 80% of a company’s sales come from 20% of its customers. So why bother building new relationships.
As Bob Dylan’s hit song goes, “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” if you haven’t already realized that.
The retirement of aging engineers is a well-documented problem in the manufacturing industry. On top of that, there have been cutbacks from offshoring and downsizing. The shrinking team sizes have led to two significant issues. These problems have a bearing on industrial marketing for manufacturers.
- About 33% of engineers stated that employee loss due to retirement or layoffs/downsizing has increased or increased significantly over the past two years
- 58% of engineers indicated that knowledge and/or information loss as employees left the company was very or extremely important.
In the first case, engineers say they are under tremendous pressure, more so than before, to do more with less.
As an industrial marketer, you need to do all you can to alleviate some of this pressure. The most effective way is to make content marketing a core component of your strategy for industrial marketing for manufacturers. It will help you forge new relationships with younger engineers and win their mindshare and loyalty.
Offering downloadable CAD files, eCatalogs, and online design tools are enormous time savers and improve design consistency. Added benefit – 82% of CAD/BIM downloads turn into actual sales.
Engineers and other technical professionals constantly seek out and use content to help them perform their jobs better. Younger and less experienced engineers are increasingly looking to their suppliers to fill the knowledge gap as in-house resources shrink.
What can you offer them to build new relationships? Think about creating a robust online resource library of online training courses, webinars, eBooks, quick start guides, and white papers. Focus on making these assets more educational with judicious mentions of your solutions and products.
A word of caution here, don’t just pump out more product-centric content and thinly disguised promotional pieces. Engineers want technically accurate and current content written by Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). This is another challenge for manufacturing content marketers. 50% of them said they are challenged with accessing subject matter experts to create content. (Source: CMI Report).
My solution and advice to others who have to overcome this hurdle is, do your own research, and then interview your SMEs with a list of relevant questions to ask based on your research. This will help you get the key talking points about the topic and then as a content marketer, it is our/your job to expand those points into cohesive customer-centric content. Don’t be in a hurry to publish before your draft is fully vetted by your SMEs.
The last point, publish your content under the SME’s name(s) for credibility, even though you did the heavy lifting.
Here’s something else I’ve observed working with manufacturers. Don’t just focus on getting in front of the key decision-makers and ignore strong influencers. Less experienced engineers are often tasked with gathering information in the early stages. They are the ones who are online, researching and creating the shortlist of vendors with possible solutions. You may never make it to the RFQ stage if you don’t build relationships with them.
Younger engineers may not have final buying authority today, but ignore them at your own peril.
Another strong reason for building new relationships is that people are promoted to new roles or move to other companies as part of their professional growth. Engineers stated they are, on average, only moderately likely to be employed at the same company five years from now. (Source: 2021 Pulse of Engineering Survey).
Since today’s engineers and technical professionals spend a good portion of their buying journey online before contacting a salesperson, it makes sense to use the full power of industrial marketing for manufacturers to start new relationships and build trust. This will pave the way for you to generate high-quality leads that turn into sales opportunities.