The manufacturing industry tends to fall back on traditional, old school marketing methods. They cling to the idea that trade shows are the only way to make new connections. They wine and dine their favorite clients to retain business prospects. They send direct mail campaigns and make cold calls to prospects.
These “outbound” marketing methods have become more costly and less effective, as access to information on the Internet has fundamentally changed people’s buying habits. Manufacturing companies, and B2B companies in general, face challenges and must adapt the way they connect with their potential buyers.
As a result, successful manufacturing marketers are scaling back their budget for traditional, “outbound” tactics. Instead, they’re shifting their efforts toward “inbound” marketing, redesigning their company website (which until recently has been little more than an online brochure), and opting for more cost-effective methods such as search engine optimization (SEO), blogging and online lead nurturing to connect and engage prospects and acquire new customers.
Survey results from marketing automation software, HubSpot show that traditional marketing methods like direct mail, telemarketing and trade shows, have become less important to B2B marketers.
What will Buyer Bob Do?
Let’s start with a little role-play. Let’s say your company manufactures machine parts. Buyer Bob works for a mid-sized business. One day Buyer Bob’s boss comes to him, disgusted. He’s complaining that their machines are constantly breaking down, and the sales people are upset that they can’t make delivery promises or keep up with orders. He wants his factory to use better quality parts.
What does Bob do? There are dozens of machine parts manufacturers and suppliers and thousands of available specifications.
- First, Bob does his due diligence and determines exactly what he needs.
- Then he goes to the Internet, does a search and checks out the top results from company websites that provide the information Bob is looking for. He browses some articles on the company blogs that provide more specific information that meet Bob’s needs and establishes the company as a thought leader in his mind.
- Next Bob visits some web forums and puts the question out to his social networks where he’s gotten valuable information in the past from trusted industry colleagues.
- In the end, Bob comes up with three or four machine parts vendors who can fulfill his needs.
Much of this has happened without the input of a single sales person.
According to research from the business research company, CEB and Google, on average, business buyers do not contact suppliers directly until 57% of the purchase process is already complete. That means for nearly two thirds of their buying process, your customers are self-educating, doing web searches, browsing company websites, getting recommendations from their friends on social networks and review sites, comparing you and your competitors. They’re forming opinions, learning technical specifications, building requirements lists, and narrowing down their options, all on their own, with minimal influence from you.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of an informed consumer. Trouble is, by the time they do finally make their decision, they have hardened opinions and are already mostly decided about what they want out of a supplier - and at that point, your job is simply to answer questions, take their order and fulfill it at the lowest price.
Worse yet, the prospect decided to contact your competition, and you didn’t even know they were shopping.
Why Inbound Marketing Makes Sense for Manufacturers
While there are good reasons for manufacturers to display at trade shows, advertise in the trades, and send direct mail, these traditional, “outbound” marketing methods have become more costly and less effective at generating leads. In fact, by comparison, marketers are twice as likely to see below-average cost per lead generated by “inbound” marketing.
Today the Internet makes it so easy for customers to direct their own buying cycle. They don’t have to wait for the next trade show, or your ad, or a call from your sales rep. Instead they’re able to get exactly the information they want exactly when they want it.
Inbound marketers understand that people value personalized, relevant content and connections -- not interruptive messages -- at every stage of their buying cycle. Successful manufacturers are adapting their long-held marketing beliefs, using inbound marketing methods to attract visitors and convert them into sales leads, nurture the business relationship and measure the ROI.
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