Why B2B Manufacturers Must Embrace Digitalization to Thrive Today
As a leader at a B2B manufacturer, have you noticed that even post-pandemic, traditional sales and marketing methods are no longer delivering the growth they used to? If you're seeing this, you're not alone. According to ThomasNet research, B2B manufacturers' top struggle is the digital transformation of sales and marketing. Simply put, your customers are changing, and to continue to thrive, you need to adapt to the digital age.
After all, Forrester reports that 67% of the B2B buyer's journey is completed digitally before ever contacting sales. This statistic highlights the importance of having a robust online presence and providing all the resources your customers need to buy. Even in the most traditional of industries, this trend is evident, and companies that fail to adapt risk losing out to their more digitally-savvy competitors.
The manufacturing industry has been slow to embrace digital marketing, but the time for change is now. The shift in buyer behavior is undeniable, and if you want your company to thrive, you must recognize the opportunities that digital marketing presents. By focusing on creating a comprehensive online buyer's journey, you can not only address your customers' needs but also stay ahead of the competition.
In this blog post, we'll dive into the changing landscape of marketing in the manufacturing industry and explore how embracing digital transformation can help you drive growth, stay competitive, and meet the evolving needs of your customers. We'll discuss the shift in buyer behavior, the power of digital marketing for manufacturing, and the consequences of inaction. By the end of this post, you'll have a better understanding of the importance of adapting to the digital age and the actionable steps you can take to ensure your company thrives in this new frontier. So, let's get started on transforming your marketing strategy and setting your business up for long-term success.
A Tectonic Shift in Buyer Behavior is Impacting B2B Manufacturers
Your buyers have moved online. They research, compare, and make decisions without ever picking up the phone or attending a trade show. Manufacturers that fail to provide a comprehensive online experience will be left in the dust. Imagine a B2B manufacturer of industrial coatings that still focuses on outdated marketing tactics. Their competitor is sharing valuable content on the types of coatings available, corrosion resistance, and eco-friendly solutions. By engaging buyers throughout the buying process, the competitor builds more trust and wins more business. Meanwhile, the outdated manufacturer is left wondering why their sales are stagnating.
Stories like this are all too common today. That's why the time to pivot is now. Manufacturers must create a robust online presence that addresses the needs of modern buyers and stands out from the competition. This requires a deep understanding of your customers' buyer's journey, from the initial awareness stage to the final decision-making process. By crafting content and marketing materials tailored to each stage, manufacturers can guide prospects through their research, stay top-of-mind, and ultimately convert them into loyal customers.
In addition to providing valuable information, a strong online presence helps build credibility and trust with potential customers. When manufacturers demonstrate their expertise and showcase their solutions through high-quality content, they position themselves as thought leaders in the industry. This becomes an essential differentiator in a crowded market.
The Power of Digital Marketing for Manufacturing
Inbound marketing is the future for manufacturers. By creating and sharing valuable content that addresses the specific pain points of their target audience, manufacturers can attract more leads and convert them into customers. Digital marketing offers powerful tools for enhancing lead generation and customer acquisition, such as SEO, PPC advertising, and email marketing.
Picture a B2B manufacturer of industrial fasteners that embraces an inbound marketing strategy. They might create insightful blog posts about the latest fastening technologies, engaging videos demonstrating the strength and reliability of their products, and targeted email campaigns that address specific fastening challenges faced by their customers. This content enables their specific buyers throughout their research process.
But the benefits of digital marketing go beyond lead generation. By leveraging social media, manufacturers can engage with their audience, answer questions, and provide support, creating a stronger sense of community around their brand. This level of interaction helps foster loyalty and advocacy, encouraging satisfied customers to spread the word about the manufacturer's products and services.
Moreover, digital marketing allows manufacturers to measure and analyze the performance of their campaigns, providing valuable insights to guide future marketing decisions. By tracking key metrics such as website traffic, conversion rates, and customer engagement, manufacturers can continuously refine their strategies to optimize results and maximize return on investment.
Staying Ahead of the Competition: The Consequences of Inaction
Inaction is a death sentence in today's competitive market. Manufacturers that fail to embrace digital marketing risk losing market share, sales opportunities, and their brand reputation. The stakes are high, and the consequences of inaction are dire. Manufacturers that struggle – or refuse – to evolve will find themselves struggling to keep up with competitors who are providing the end-to-end digital experiences their buyers demand.
I experienced this scenario firsthand while leading digital marketing at a Fortune 500 industrial company. One of our biggest "global accounts," which comprised about 7% of our revenue and roughly $500 million in annual sales, was going through internal change. We had worked with the same point of contact for decades. But suddenly, he retired. And in his place was a millennial who was reevaluating our digital capabilities. He gave us 6 months to meet his expectations, or he would take his business elsewhere.
We were fortunate to be in the middle of implementing the strategies outlined in this blog, and so we kept the business. Will you be ready of this happens to you?
Practical Steps to Embrace Digital Marketing Transformation
To successfully embrace digital marketing, manufacturers must take a strategic and comprehensive approach. Here are some essential steps to help guide the digital transformation journey:
1. Identify the right digital marketing channels
Virtually no business can – nor should – try to do it all. Not all channels will be equally effective for every manufacturer. We often recommend marketing builds to be thought of as "crawl-walk-run." Focus on learning to "crawl" effectively. By understanding your buyer personas, you can focus on the tactics and strategies most likely to have an impact on your ideal customers.
2. Align your sales and marketing teams
Collaboration between sales and marketing is essential to ensure a consistent message and a smooth handoff of leads. Unfortunately, manufacturers often have sales and marketing marching to totally different drumbeats. Creating a Sales-Marketing Service Level Agreement (SLA) is often the first key step to accomplishing this.
3. Invest in CRM and marketing automation to implement a data-driven approach
A CRM and marketing tool is invaluable in managing leads, nurturing prospects, and driving sales. We partner with HubSpot because it offers a comprehensive suite of CRM and marketing automation features. They are especially impactful in helping B2B manufacturers streamline their sales processes and improve customer engagement. HubSpot's powerful marketing analytics allow you to track the success of your campaigns, including their impact on the bottom line, and optimize your strategies accordingly.
Transform Your Manufacturing Business with Digital Marketing
Digital marketing is no longer optional for B2B manufacturers who want to succeed in today's competitive landscape. By embracing digital transformation, manufacturing business leaders can seize the opportunity to drive growth, increase market share, and secure their position as industry leaders.
Falling behind as a laggard in the adoption of digital marketing can be detrimental to your business. Those who hesitate to invest in digital marketing risk losing ground to competitors who are already capitalizing on the changing buyer behavior and emerging trends.
Now is the time to take decisive action and embrace the future of manufacturing marketing. While your competitors are already taking action, it's not too late (yet). Don't risk getting left behind – embrace digital marketing now to grow sustainably and become a leader in your industry.
At Aspire, we specialize in helping B2B manufacturers grow their business by modernizing their digital operations. We offer a complimentary assessment to help identify areas of opportunity and create a tailored plan for your business. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you reach your growth goals.
Aaron Marks is the President and Founder of Aspire Marketing Group. A digital pioneer with nearly two decades of online marketing experience, Aaron has helped organizations ranging from fledgling startups to Fortune 500 enterprises, and global manufacturers to U.S. Presidential campaigns, get the marketing and business results they needed.