In Part 1 and Part 2, we examined the importance of understanding the buying process and the role of emotion in B2B marketing. We concluded that you’ll want to hire someone who is not just familiar with your industry, channels and channel partners—but someone who’s truly interested in your customers, their pains and buying processes. They must understand what each buyer is trying to achieve, not just what they’re trying to buy.
Now, let’s look at some examples and consider the value of going beyond traditional sales support and investing in marketing for growth.
Going Beyond “traditional” Marketing Generates Growth
I worked with a manufacturer of office furniture where leadership believed that more awareness was all they needed to drive growth. Yet, working with ad agencies to drive brand awareness failed to generate the desired expansion. Why? Because they were competing against well-known, better-funded competitors.
The company simply could not win or afford to compete on awareness.
Instead, we looked at the buying process and motivations at each step and learned that the company wasn’t reaching some key influencers, and their product portfolio did not meet customers’ product needs. They wanted products that appealed to designers and filled gaps for furniture dealers, giving a niche player a more relevant value versus the big brands.
Marketing, engineering and sales partnered to reconfigure the portfolio and focused on a “Number 2” strategy to become the preferred secondary supplier to furniture dealers. Within two months, their first new product was so popular it was on backorder, and year-over-year revenue grew 94%.
Possibility Opens the Door
In another example, you may recall that I talked about a chemical manufacturer in my first post. Chemical manufacturers are often very sales-focused. That’s the main way they interact with customers—whether that’s at trade shows or through sales collateral. And, they’re generally all saying the same messages: better quality, better technology, more innovation.
So, it’s little surprise that, as we were trying desperately to get a large consumer products manufacturer to open up about their innovation needs so we could get our products in the door, we were getting no traction. After all, everyone wanted to get in the door with them.
Hence, we rethought our approach. Instead of touting our products, we touted possibility.
We invited them in for a one-day meeting, where we hosted a mini science fair. We’d dreamed up “wacky” ideas of what they might want in the future, with no real idea whether they wanted them or not. Remarkably, it turns out that we hit a few ideas that were similar to pain points they were trying to solve.
Immediately, the conversation changed, they opened up about their needs, and even changed their flights home to spend more time exploring possibilities. Hitting them at just the right moment—with a different way of sharing our message—led to a whole new innovation platform.
Hiring for Sales Support versus an Experienced CMO
So why do I mention these stories? Because neither one is about using the same old tactics to try to get the buyer’s attention. In fact, neither one is about tactics at all. Both are about really putting ourselves in the customers’ shoes, figuring out their pain points, and finding creative ways to demonstrate our value.
Which leads us back to the hiring question. Are you hiring marketing tacticians—or people who think first about what the customer needs?
Don’t misunderstand me—sales support and tactical marketing team members are absolutely important in most industrial marketing teams—but they will rarely influence the buying decision or customer loyalty in the way that a strategy marketing leader would. That puts the full burden for growth on your sales team and makes it harder for them to find, close and retain customers.
Hiring an experienced CMO will give you a more strategic path to growth. At first, it may be uncomfortable to get used to the data-driven approach of a modern marketing professional. But you’ll end up with a truly differentiated value proposition that will resonate with the market.
Granted, it will cost you more. And it will take more time. But it’s an investment in growth. An investment in knowing the buying process, or customer pains, needs and benefits. And, it’s an investment that a lot of your competitors aren’t making—so it gives you a competitive advantage. Think you can’t afford it? Let me pose this scenario:
A $30 million company wants to grow 15% per year, creating a $4.5 million increase in revenue and $1 million in additional profit each year. How much would you be willing to invest to get there?
Investing for Growth
To summarize, when considering your next head of marketing—whether that’s a part-time contract CMO or a full-time hire—look for someone who understands basic marketing, and by basic, I mean strategic marketing. You want someone who will discover untapped growth opportunities, understand buyer behavior and use insights to develop and launch products that meet existing and emerging market needs.
Making your marketing head part of the executive team is also very important. Remember, everything that touches the market is marketing—and ultimately, every function in your company will touch the market in one way or another. In manufacturing, it’s easy to be focused on operations. (I started my career there, so I understand it’s critical!) I write this with the hope that it will change how you think about winning, that you will start to think as much about the customer as you do about your product. The result of accelerated growth is well worth the effort and the cost.