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Guest blogger - Ryan Gould is Vice President of Strategy and Marketing Services at Elevation Marketing
The fundamentals of marketing are fairly straightforward. Whether you’re in the B2C or B2 arena, the goal is the same: to position your brand in a way to increase awareness among your target audience and thus drive leads and sales. B2B manufacturers, while trying to reach this end point, are traveling a different and much longer road than B2C companies.
There are famously longer sales cycles in B2B than B2C. This changes the marketing dynamic, as traditionally manufacturing companies haven’t had as clear a view of the end-customer/buyer that their channel partners often have. But in an age of changing customer search habits, B2B manufacturers not only need to embrace a direct-to-customer approach, but they need to be able to learn from customer behavior across all channels.
To achieve this it’s now all but mandatory for B2B marketers in the manufacturing industry to implement strategies that help identify buyers and allow them to more quickly react to their needs. This is crucial to driving growth, and you need to utilize all the tools at your disposal to do this. Below we look at some ideas geared towards supercharging growth for B2B manufacturers in an omni-channel age with ever-changing customer demands.
Invest in an e-commerce platform
Anyone in the B2B world overlooking e-commerce as an avenue for growth is committing a cardinal sin. According to Forrester, for example, digital commerce enjoys a 15% annual growth rate and is projected to account for over 12% of all B2B sales by 2020. For this, you can thank Amazon.
The B2C giant has reshaped B2B commerce, and now all customers have gotten used to such things as vendor transparency and shorter delivery times. Also, B2B buyers are expecting Amazon-level transparency in the form of sophisticated tracking systems. Customers want to be able to have product, part, and delivery-time info right at their fingertips 24/7.
To meet these expectations it’s incumbent upon B2Bs to adopt e-commerce platforms that offer a number of features and benefits to the customer. Namely, platforms should include:
- A simplified structure for price quotes, product configuration, payment processing, online ordering/reordering, etc.
- Relevant shipping and delivery info
- Efficient catalog management
- Support and payment options based on the customer’s location
- Optimized for mobile
This goes to the heart of offering your customer’s an omni-channel shopping experience, which we’ve now established as being all but mandatory to drive growth.
Focus on UX/UI
What makes a great e-commerce platform is the overall user experience (UX). Just as crucial is how intuitive and user friendly the interface is (UI). It’s not enough anymore for a B2B website to function as little more than a product catalog. As mentioned above, business customers want access to wholesale prices as well as purchase options immediately.
Take Fathom for example. This Oakland-based company specializes in prototyping and advanced manufacturing. A visit to their website reveals why they are successful. Customers can not only access relevant info and price quotes from the home page, but they can upload CAD files to get quotes tailored to exact specs, which makes online ordering a breeze.
The result of offering B2B customers a “one stop” shopping experience has resulted in Fathom becoming a leader in their industry. Moreover they made the prestigious Inc 5,000 list of top-growing businesses multiple years running. All B2B manufacturing companies should be looking to companies like Fathom for inspiration on designing an ideal user experience.
Adopt an omni-channel approach
Millennials represent 73% of those making buying decisions for companies. As more and more millennials become involved in B2B purchase decisions, it makes sense for you to cater to their sensibilities and lifestyle if you want to earn their business and drive growth. Part of this means offering a seamless, consistent shopping experience across a variety of channels.
Millennials should be able to access their e-commerce platform from one device, put it down in the middle of the shopping experience and continue later from another device with no interruption of data.
The key, of course, is determining which channels to focus on when marketing to specific buyers. It’s no small feat, and it requires mapping out sales cycles so you can tailor online content to meet specific customer’s needs. It also requires putting together detailed customer profiles, risk analysis, and sales pipeline analytics. However, if you implement the right CRM solution, you’ll eliminate a lot of the legwork.
Go all in personalization
It’s not hyperbolic or fatalistic to say that without making personalization a core aspect of your marketing strategy you likely won’t experience explosive growth. Even effective channel marketing requires you to personalize your branded message to the buyer’s pain points. Segmentation and personalization should be a facet of every aspect of your marketing, from your email list to your content.
For example, you’ll want to segment your email database according to demographics, role within the company and location. The goal is to make your personalized message especially relevant to the customer/buyer. Use AI solutions to help analyze massive data sets gleaned from a variety of touch points (social media, website, chatbots, email, etc.), then use these insights to deliver smarter content that speaks directly to your target.
If you need further proof that B2B growth is directly linked to the points mentioned above, consider this statistic: 89% of B2B buyers use the internet in their research process. On average they look at 12 sites before engaging with a particular brand. The lines between B2C and B2B are becoming ever more blurred. Those manufacturers who capitalize on this trend now will be better positioned to experience major growth than those who don’t.
Vice President of Strategy and Marketing Services
From legacy Fortune 100 institutions to inventive start-ups, Ryan brings extensive experience with a wide range of B2B clients. He skillfully architects and manages the delivery of integrated marketing programs, and believes strongly in strategy, not just tactics, that effectively align sales and marketing teams within organizations