The way people find information and products has changed. Think of a conversation pre-Google, and compare it to now — I don’t know about you, but I commonly fact-check myself as I talk, looking up details in the middle of a conversation. If I have a problem, I head to my favorite search engine to instantly find a way to solve it. In the past, if I didn’t know about a product or service, I had to wait for a sales representative to find me and sell me. Now, I can discover solutions myself.
B2B marketing in the age of the empowered consumer
While the empowered consumer first changed the way B2C companies go to market, these new realities soon caught up to many B2B companies. It’s a total myth that B2B customers are less likely to engage with internet research during their customer journey. In fact, 89% of B2B customers use the Internet to inform their research, and B2B customers prefer independent research to a briefing by a sales representative.
Over the past decade, it’s become increasingly important for B2B companies to have strong branding, search-engine optimized websites, compelling content marketing, and easy ecommerce options. Today, if a potential customer doesn’t find your B2B company online, they’ll probably find a competitor — and there’s a sale lost.
For a long time, however, it seemed like industrial manufacturing companies might be one of the fews holdouts. With sales often going through distribution channels, digital marketing and search engine optimization didn’t seem as important. An industrial manufacturer could get away with a website that hadn’t been updated since the late 90s and could opt out of even basic online directory tools like Google My Business.
Then, 2020 happened.
COVID-19 has rapidly changed the way we operate
The world is very different today than it was at the end of 2019, and marketers have had to quickly adapt. Face-to-face meetings or site visits are much more difficult, meaning the primary sales avenue for many industrial manufacturers is off the table. The days of just “dropping by” are behind us, but cold-calling via the phone doesn’t work so well anymore either.
But wait! There’s a silver lining for old-school sales teams: there has never been a better time to try an inbound approach. This year, HubSpot aggregated data from over 70,000 of their CRM customers globally and found that, over the course of 2020, website visits, email open rates, and live chat engagements have increased drastically. People are looking for help online — your company just needs to be there to be found.
Inbound marketing is a lead generator for sales
Inbound marketing is the process of using compelling content that is optimized for search to capture leads and nurture them until they’re ready to talk to sales. Think of it this way: instead of casting a net and hoping to catch some fish, you become the fish. Once you are the fish, you make it as easy as possible to be caught in your audience’s net as they search the Internet for solutions to their challenges.
The basic elements of inbound marketing — the things that help you get caught in more searches — include:
- a well-organized, functional website with good SEO
- regularly published content (usually a blog or social media)
- a reason to convert from a visitor to a lead (usually a downloadable offer or promotion)
- email marketing to nurture leads
- customer relationship management (CRM) software or processes to support alignment between marketing and sales
This last item is key. A good CRM allows industrial manufacturing organizations to easily track interactions with potential clients with notes, email functionality, open-deal tracking, and website analytics. The more you know about a lead, the easier it is to focus on the leads who are most likely to close, and tracking the entire relationship — lead to opportunity to customer — gives you insight into which marketing channels and sales activities provide the best ROI.
Inbound is a different way of working, one that allows marketing to build relationships over time so that sales reps can focus their energies on warm leads and top prospects, leading to more conversions with less wasted time.
Building on the basics
Most companies have at least a basic website these days. Building on that basic site by making sure it adheres to current web design and development best practices and is optimized for search is a great first step toward inbound marketing. From there, investing in content that demonstrates thought leadership and the effective use of your products or services is an easy next step, and one that Trekk has helped countless clients navigate efficiently and cost-effectively.
Most industrial manufacturers we’ve worked with have databases full of old contacts that simply need to be cleaned up, organized, and imported into a good CRM. Once they’re segmented, the prospects can be nurtured for future sales follow-up and the past customers can be reengaged.
Are you ready to make the transition from old-school sales techniques to the inbound methodology? We can help. Send us a message to start the conversation.
Subscribe to our newsletter for occasional Trekk updates.