In 2020, due to the pandemic, digital marketing for industrial products has come in spotlight as a sales support activity. Is marketing worth the effort if you sell industrial products? Does marketing support sales or is it a waste of time and money? Where to start?
In this post I will introduce you to digital marketing for industrial products. I will share my experience and help you with the following key topics assessing digital marketing for industrial products:
- How does marketing work (with best ROI)?
- 5 ambition levels in digital marketing for industrial products.
- How much to invest in digital marketing for industrial products (to get a good ROI)?
- What type of digital marketing is best (selling industrial products)?
- Best digital marketing process for industrial products.
So, with no further due, let’s talk about how you can use digital marketing for industrial products.
Read more about sales or marketing 2021 (which one is better in B2B sales).
How does marketing work (with best ROI)?
The way marketing work depends on your purpose, intent and marketing target:
- To generate sales-leads?
- To nurse your relationship with prospects and customers?
If your intent and target is to generate leads you will focus on providing industry insights and best practices. You do this to create curiosity and eventually a sense of urgency.
Should your intent and target bet to nurse your relationship with prospects and customers, you will focus on awareness and your expertise. In this case, your purpose will be to support your credibility, trust worthiness and industry authority. It will be your passive nursing and support of an ongoing relationship journey.
Important take away: Digital marketing for industrial sales is different from consumer advertising. To understand how does marketing work you first need to be clear with your intent and marketing target.
Another aspect is how you measure a digital marketing effort. Is it worth it?
For some years of my career I worked as a controller and a CFO. To finance professionals, return on investments, ROI, are measured in financial terms. Usually we would divide net cash flow or the pre-tax results with the investment or expenses made.
Consider that your marketing target is either to help generate sales lead or to help nurse your relationship journeys with prospect and customers. This would be what you should measure to understand your marketing ROI. It will not be a financial measure but an activity-based measure.
Two way’s to measure marketing ROI:
|Marketing target||Marketing ROI (qualitative judgment with complexed sales)|
|Help generate sales leads||New sales lead’s vs. investments.|
|Help nurse relationships with prospects and customers||Sales and up sales vs. investments.|
It will be important to trust that the digital marketing you set up contribute to the sales process when judging marketing ROI.
5 ambition levels in industrial digital marketing
Like any other business discipline, there are different ambition levels in digital marketing for industrial products. As an industrial entrepreneur you can most certainly map yourself in one of the 5 marketing ambition levels listed below:
- The visibility ambition: You have an updated corporate website and you regularly post content on the company LinkedIn page.
- Traffic generation ambition: You invest to help drive traffic to your website so more people can read about your products and company. This is usually core when your marketing target is to help generate new sales leads.
- Audience targeting: You aim to increase your relevance to potential prospects. An ambition level that can give a high marketing ROI in your quest to nurse prospects in your relationship journey. A combination of marketing skills and industry insight is required to be successful.
- An ambition to support sales prospecting: This is where you aim to stay top of mind of your prospects: it’s a resource intense ambition, in particular if your sales cycles have long lead times. This is an ambition level worth investing in if your customer spending is large. Typically, in the millions of dollars.
- Customer retention ambition: This is a similar ambition to the sales support prospecting ambition. Here you target customer satisfaction, customer retention and up sales. This can often be a good marketing ROI if you have the customer volumes.
Usually, and unfortunately, a pure visibility ambition like investing in a fresh website and positing on the company LinkedIn page gives very low ROI. It’s a minimum necessity but does not really drive traffic, leads, prospects or customers to sales closure.
Like in any engineering or sales activity you need to be purpose driven investing in digital marketing for industrial products. That’s how you increase sales.
How much to invest in digital marketing (to get a good ROI)
So, which of the 5 ambition levels in digital marketing for industrial products shall you aim for? It depends. Each ambition has a value and will add support for your sales relationship journey’s. Less or more depending on strategy and execution.
To decide which ambition level is right for you, you will need to consider your sales and sales processes:
- Low value contracts, off the shell products? Invest with mindfulness in the first 3 ambition stages: visibility, traffic and audience. No need to invest in marketing to support prospecting and customer retention. This is probably a safe way to overspend on marketing with limited marketing ROI.
- High value contract orders? It’s probably well worth investing in all 5 marketing ambition levels. Sales relationships, relevance, expertise and trust are important selling high value contracts. This is spot of where digital marketing for industrial products comes in to play with reasonable high ROI.
- Long sales cycles? It’s probably well worth investing in all 5 stages of marketing. Sales relationship journeys are important with long sales lead times. You need to find ways to constantly stay top of mind with your prospects. Digital sales support marketing can be a great way to achieve this. Relatively cost and time efficient compared with physical face-to face sales meetings. Do both but reduce your investments in general sales travelling and increase your digital marketing for industrial products ambition.
Many small business entrepreneurs are pre-occupied with sales, engineering and daily operations. Marketing is often seen as something with low ROI, nice looking but low value activities. I used to share that perception. I have been proved wrong multiple times by truly successful businesses.
What type of digital marketing is best (selling industrial products)?
The best digital marketing used to be online advertising on industry specific websites and online industry news sites. No longer. The best digital marketing for industrial products is content marketing.
With content marketing you provide value to your potential leads, your prospects and your customers. Providing value is key when building a sales relationship journey.
It’s important that your content is truly valuable in the eye’s of your target audience. You need an outside-in perspective avoiding the usual sales pitches and product presentations.
Examples of valuable content in digital marketing for industrial products are industry insights and best practice examples.
Industrial sales are different from consumer sales. Lead time are usually longer, contract values are higher, solutions and applications are more complexed.
Digital marketing for industrial products therefor requires a different approach than consumer marketing. Brand recognition strategies using social media advertising and influencers does not work well with expected marketing ROI in industrial sales.
These are 4 digital marketing channels that work best with industrial products:
- Content marketing on LinkedIn, industry news sites and the corporate webpage.
- Email newsletters that included high value contents but also new sales releases or R&D updates.
- Webinars on industry specific insights or topics.
- Online training on specific application specific considerations and features.
One mistake that entrepreneurs sometimes make is to over-use corporate accounts on LinkedIn. Content marketing posts from your LinkedIn corporate account fills a role and remain a must do, but true marketing ROI impact is done using personal accounts.
Business is personal. Industrial sales are personal. Dare to use your CEO, other leading executives and sales staff to post contents for content marketing purposes.
Best digital marketing process for industrial products
The best digital marketing process for industrial products is similar to your other business processes:
- Purpose and target setting: Do you aim to generate leads or to nurse relationship journey’s?
- Strategy and planning: To be resilient and able to produce large volumes of content requires a clear strategy and planning. That’s how you know you do the right things, that you deliver and so that you can follow up.
- Production (content production): This is core to digital marketing for industrial products. It’s a bit tricky. You can outsource the content production but inhouse marketing specialists usually makes a better job working closely and daily with your sales and engineering teams.
- Execution with resources, marketing automation and outsourcing: Today there are plenty of marketing automation tools to schedule and publish content and to manage webinars. Still, you need to budget for resources and good ones tend to be expensive within the industrial content marketing industry. You either need two very skilled content marketing specialists, or a senior content marketing manager that purchase outsourced services.
- Follow up: You should be clear with your intent and marketing targets. You have good possibilities to follow up if you also plan with milestone targets and marketing ROI’s. Be resilient but make sure you get your buck for the money you invest.
- Learn, adopt and adjust: Over time you will see positive signs and you will learn to trust your marketing activities. Learn, adopt and adjust.
Conclusion – should you increase you digital marketing ambition (selling industrial products)?
Treat your marketing ambition as any other investment. Be clear about your purpose, intent and target and learn to understand what needs to be done to deliver on those targets. That is when marketing truly starts to contribute to increase sales.
Marketing is not only advertising or industry fairs. Your brand is not only colors, fonts and logotypes. Your brand that you need to communicate, based on your intent and target, is other people’s opinion about your product and your company.
I hope I have opened a window for you if you have not yet stepped up your marketing ambition? If you’re marketing ambition is on that refreshed website and LinkedIn posting, you may have to reconsider.
Digital marketing for industrial products definitely work. You save travelling time and you’re likely to provide valuable content to a broader target market with less resources. Most importantly, you can support your sales lead generation or help nurse your sales relationship journeys with prospects and customers.