In 25 years of marketing, I heard from industrial manufacturing teams—whether it’s a salesperson, business manager or CEO—that marketing is just for B2C. Industrial B2B businesses need nothing more than sales tools and support.
So, it’s no surprise that many industrial businesses think that strategic marketing leaders only apply in B2C businesses—so they have not yet considered what strategic marketing can and should do for company growth. And they may not know what skills to look for when it comes time to hire a CMO or marketing manager.
Are strategic marketing leaders needed in industrial environments? And, if so, what should industrial companies look for when selecting a CMO or Marketing Leader? To answer those questions, I’d like you to first consider what is similar and different between B2C and Industrial B2B Marketing.
Any kind of marketing has an audience and a buying process. With B2C, it’s the consumer. With industrial, it’s often the C suite, Production, Engineering or Maintenance teams, or a purchasing agent—and usually a combination of the above.
B2B marketing (industrial or not) is often more structured. There are more people and channel partners involved in the buying decision that function in different roles.
We recently conducted a survey among the CMOs in our manufacturing practice asking what is or is not different in marketing to manufacturers versus consumers. They reiterated that, while the details are different, B2B marketers still must know their audience and their buying process.
No matter what audience you’re going after, though, what’s important is that you know who your audience is, how they select and purchase, and what’s truly driving the decision. Industrial decision-making is, by nature, very structured and sometimes very complex. But, with a strategic view of it, you can turn that into an advantage.
Once you really understand an industrial decision process, you’ll know how to become part of the consideration set (such as by meeting specifications or getting on vendor lists) and how to position your company to win in the market. That sounds strategic to me.
Skills to Look For
The first thing you want to look for in your marketing leadership—whether you’re selling manufacturing parts or consumer products—is someone who has the capability and interest to align their marketing plans with the buying process. How do you know that?
Typically, someone focused on the buying process won’t jump straight to what to do, e.g. let’s send out an email campaign. They’ll start with what behaviors to change along the buying process.
They’ll want to know the customer’s pain points and how to address those to move them forward at each stage of the buying process. And, they’ll want to know how your offering compares to alternative solutions (not just in-kind products), or not doing anything at all. Only then will they define which touchpoints you can influence and how to do that.
You’ll want someone who gets to know your channels and customers. They have to get out gather the data on who’s involved in the buying process and their motivations. Only then can they develop the approach best suited to the market.
Differentiated on Experience
For instance, I used to work for a large manufacturing company that made everything from textiles to chemicals. If you know that industry, there are a lot of companies making similar or at least substitutable products—with similar claims. So, differentiating on product wasn’t always possible—although many companies tried.
Instead, we differentiated on experience. The pinnacle of the experience we provided was to bring them on-site for a few days—even hosting them up at our boutique on-site hotel with five-star restaurant dining and local experiences.
This worked to differentiate the company because it wasn’t just the typical sales entertainment you get from a manufacturing company; it was truly inviting them to our home, where they were treated as part of our family.
Not only did we see close rates approaching 100% (can’t share the exact number), but we had incredible innovation relationships. In fact, one of our clients so felt that our campus was his home that his company shot their product launch videos at our site. (And he was there so regularly we nicknamed his favorite hotel room after him!)
Of course, understanding the buying process is just one thing to consider in hiring a B2B manufacturing CMO. In my next post, we’ll talk about the role of emotion in influencing the buyers’ decision.