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This blog delivers business development resources for senior executives of B2B manufacturing companies. Built around our #SellMoreHere & #SellMoreThere approach, readers receive insight several X/week into strategies and tactics for domestic & international growth; and actionable recommendations to grow revenue, profit and enterprise value.

ed marsh international b2b business development expertMost posts are written by B2B biz dev, marketing & export growth expert Ed Marsh.

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Inbound marketing for manufacturers...and sales channel implications


Agents & Distributors - can't live with them and can't live without them

global channel partner salesWithout exception every B2B manufacturing company exec with whom I speak laments the challenges they face in channel management.  The complaints are nearly verbatim.  Channel partners expect and demand 10-20% (or higher) margins/commissions yet the manufacturer often must create, close and deliver the projects.

Certainly there are different, valid perspectives.  Some channel partners drive real value (often those focused on just a line or two) and some proactively create projects and manage the sales process.

But many just wait for the phone to ring....and piss and moan incessantly.

Supplement, replace, upgrade and delight

The internet, though, and industrial marketing tools can substantially shift this dynamic for companies willing to step back and consider alternatives. 

There are four fundamental ways in which digital marketing can reshape the manufacturer/channel partner relationship in the B2B sales world.

  1. Supplement - In some cases channel partners actually do a decent job managing and closing projects.  But they distinctly underperform in opportunity identification and project creation.  You can work with this (and in industries/geographical markets where relationships are a currency of business, you'll need to!)  Digital marketing can cast a wider net than any channel partner, anyway, and can be the source of a flow of marketing qualified leads.  Internationally you might need to hand off earlier in the process (let the partner nurture the lead to a sales qualified status) while domestically you can often run your nurturing through marketing automation, handing the lead off to the channel partner once it is sales qualified.
  2. Replace - But what if the channel partners not only don't create projects but basically just tag along while it's up to your employees to manage projects and close deals?  You're probably fed up with paying commissions in return for essentially no value - but you're hesitant to drop them because otherwise you'd have nothing.  With digital marketing you'll have far more than nothing - you'll have a flow of leads which you'll be working to manage and close just as you are now.  So why allow useless channel partners to continue to extort commissions from you?
  3. Upgrade - Somewhere you have one of those channel partners that really works.  They create projects, they nurture leads, they help enhance your brand while building theirs, they close deals, the create value for their customers and you enjoy working with them.  Why do you only have one?  Or at least a small percentage?  Struggle to find the right ones?  Have you thought of approaching that prospecting like customer prospecting?  Here's where digital marketing can help.  Create a "channel partner" persona and market for them, based on business issues and value, just as you would for customers.  You'll be easily able to filter out the opportunistic, single transaction crap from the legitimate business partner leads.  And further, you could effectively implement a GE/McKinsey style "up or out" system to continuously upgrade your channel.
  4. digital marketing lead generation for b2b manufacturersDelight - Have some awesome channel partners?  Plan to find more using digital marketing?  Once they're in place then you can further solidify strong collaborative relationships through a flow of high quality marketing / sales qualified leads.  You know the drill - even good channel partners always whine that you don't send enough leads.  And then when you do, the follow up is poor - often matching the quality of the leads that you've sent.  So break the cycle.  Start generating and sharing high quality leads that convert into profitable business for both of you....and see how the relationship flourishes then!

It's your business - run it like you mean it

Here's the bottom line.  If you had an employee that only worked occasionally - when you happened to stand there and demand it - they wouldn't last long.  And yet you tolerate that from channel partners.


Tools are available if you're willing to change your mindset and leverage the tools.

Want to explore upgrading your domestic and international B2B sales channel?  Let's talk.

Want to understand how to leverage internet marketing for your manufacturing business?  Check this out.

images - planetmarketing & cxotoday  
Evolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog

B2B Marketing - transactions or a flywheel loaded with energy?


The manufacturing marketing dissonance

B2B manufacturers tend to approach business with a transactional perspective.  They chase a lead, they get an order, the manufacture the products against that order, and then hopefully they've been chasing another lead in the interim.  Certainly there are repeat orders, some products are commodities manufactured for inventory, etc., etc.  So it's not a uniform rule, but generally there is a cycle which is repeated around projects.

That's not a bad thing.  It focuses the operation on efficiency and supports consistent quality.  But that mindset and approach bleeds over into their B2B Marketing - with unfortunate implications. 

Where and when the buyers are looking

When companies approach marketing transactionally (XXX trade show in October, 3 X/year half page ads in XXX journal, 4 X/year direct mail send, etc.) the approach feels logical and appropriate.  It's a series of generally unrelated events, just like their order cycle.

The problem is that buyers now rely on the internet to search for products whenever, wherever they are (seriously - statistics on smartphone and tablet use show amazing penetration.)

So, statistically, a small number of your potential prospects may happen to be looking for your product at the same time you happen to touch them with a marketing "transaction."  But many more, in fact the vast majority, will slip through the cracks.  When you approach marketing transactionally you miss most of your prospects - no matter what the journal publisher says about print ads having a 12 month value!

What buyers are looking for....and how

But that's not the biggest problem.  Buyers no longer search for products.  In fact, at least through the middle of their buying journey the product is essentially irrelevant (they may not realize this and won't acknowledge it to you, but trust me!) 

Buyers use the internet (yes, even in B2B industrial and manufacturing applications) to research problems, symptoms and potential solutions.  If they're searching a specific product you know full well their self diagnosis is likely off the mark and you're already facing extensive competition.  In fact >90% of B2B purchases originate with an internet search.

How buyers are buying

Finally, buyers don't generally approach projects with a strict timeline anymore.  (Sure, they often tell you they do, but how many times do projects actually progress according to the schedule they described?) 

B2B buying buying journeys are no longer defined and linear.  They are now disconnected, long, inconsistent and have a number of false starts and dead ends. Why?  Because they can - because it's so easy to research solutions that folks frequently search "prematurely" and for hypotheticals.  And they know that they can move through much of their research, education and buying process (statistically nearly 70%) before they ever need to speak to a rep.

So with all the background shifts in behavior, are you starting to see the problem with your marketing approach?

Build a marketing flywheel PACKED with potential energy

B2B marketing for manufacturers and a marketing flywheelThe good news is that there's a solution which will make perfect sense to manufacturing and technical types.  Store up your marketing energy so that it's available all the time, immediately when needed (e.g. whenever a prospect happens to call for it.)  I love this flywheel analogy but can't claim credit.  Check out Rand Fishkin (@randfish) of Moz at about 22 seconds into this video

That's the premise of internet marketing for manufacturers.  (Hint - that means it's far more than your 5 year old (or even brand new) lame website that talks about your products and company history!) 
industrial marketing flywheel loaded with potential energy
Digital marketing (when done right) for manufacturing is about so much more than a website.  It's about creating thought leadership around the value that companies realize from using your products.  It's about creating a huge store of potential energy in the form of educational, valuable and engaging content that responds immediately on demand from any prospect, anywhere, anytime.  

B2B marketing today is about the cumulative footprint and authority companies build online around substantive business issues that their products impact.

This doesn't entirely displace traditional marketing activities.  Trade shows, for instance, remain a critically important element of the process, but in a different role.  They are now a part of the buying process in many cases, where relationships are fostered and in depth discussions take place.  Companies determined to maximize the value of their show investments are increasingly developing digital marketing campaigns around their show activity, with extensive pre and post show engagement objectives.

Resources and preloading your flywheel

This is where the train often runs off the tracks.  Intellectually it makes sense.  You are probably nodding.

But you've also got 10, 20 or maybe even 30 years of traditional transactional marketing inertia to overcome.  That's why most companies fail at their attempt to drive the process internally - and conversely why it's important to engage the right outside help.

Want to learn how we can help your company pack your flywheel full of potential industrial marketing energy?  Let's talk.

In the meantime you might find this free book informative.

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Evolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog

Making your 2015 B2B Sales & Marketing tweaks...now?


Happy 4th!

It's great to celebrate; kick back for a weekend and reflect on the year half complete.  Enjoy your upcoming long weekend!


b2b sales and mid year planningDon't delude yourself.  If you own, or have P&L responsibility for a B2B business, 2014 is largely in the bag - for better or for worse.  Here's why.

July & August - That's vacation season.  You know full well (and your sales reps will consistently remind you) that capital budgets and major business initiatives aren't seriously considered, much less implemented during the bulk of the third quarter.  And although Labor Day arrives early this year (September 1) there's at least two weeks of 'ramp up' as folks return from vacations.  So you've got a couple Q3 weeks to work with.

October & November - That's B2B trade show season.  Companies aren't going to make major decisions or investments with a trade show just around the corner.  They'll wait, send a small team to the show to compare known options and scout new ones.  Then the team will return, take time to prepare a report, and then discuss it with colleagues. And of course November is effectively a three week month (how much really gets done in the three days of Thanksgiving week?)

December - Good news here.  There are a couple decent weeks before everything shifts to year end, closing, planning, etc...and of course holidays and other work limitations.

So according to common wisdom you've got a couple weeks in September and a couple in December.  Is that enough to hit your targets?

Buying process

If that doesn't 'feel' or 'sound' right that's because it shouldn't.   It's absurd (but widely believed!)  First, it's a function of a self limiting traditional mindset (like no company grows during a slow economic cycle.)

But more importantly it's a function of an outdated sales model.

It used to be that when direct sales people had to connect in person for a series of meetings and conversations, traditional scheduling conflicts did impact the pace of business.  That was back when direct sales people controlled information and the sales process.

Today, however, since >90% of B2B purchases initiate with an internet search and since research shows that the buying process is typically 70% complete before buyers are willing to speak to sales reps, many folks are embarking upon their buying journey on weekends, evenings, during vacation (and maybe even from their smart phone while their boorish cousin rambles on at the Thanksgiving gathering!)

So the real problem isn't vacations, capital budget cycles and holidays - rather the real problem is that you don't know who's buying, or who should be buying, what you're selling.  Nor does your model accommodate the virtual, protracted and convoluted buying process typical in todays markets.  Your direct sales model is disconnected from how your prospects are buying.

Syncing buying and selling cycles

The solution, therefore, isn't to lament the challenges and buy into the excuses.  Instead the solution is to develop a B2B sales approach which leverages the power of inbound marketing to sell virtually through the first 70% of the sales process.  You achieve this by establishing thought leadership around the business challenges your buyers face all year (and stew about at least 350 days/year,) and which you may understand better than they do.  You create a body of educational content in various forms, optimized for your key buyer/prospect profiles, which resonates with them and works on your behalf - independent of external factors.

And your huge fall trade show investments?  Is your B2B marketing treating those as 3 day events or extended campaign opportunities with pre and post components?

Stepping up your game

Here's the point.  If you're in the B2B manufacturing space, particularly selling complex products or services, to a large extent your ability to impact 2014 is fleeting.  But you've got a huge opportunity to impact 2015 by building a B2B sales and marketing model that will:
  • help prospects find you whom you'd never have found on your own
  • create a huge early stage sales footprint without increasing your sales staff
  • filter prime opportunities from low quality
  • prospect and sell 24 X 7 X 365
  • establish an entirely higher level of market position and authority
  • substantially grow marketing qualified leads, sales qualified leads and revenue
  • build out of 2014, grow in 2015 and rock 2016
But there's a lag time from when you start until you really begin to harvest the fruits.  

Maybe now's the time to start?  Intrigued?  Download our book on the evolving B2B Sales & Marketing environment for free.

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Evolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog

B2B manufacturing biz dev should be built on demographics - is yours?



Who has traditionally bought your products?  Who in the future will buy your products?  What traditional expectations/applications  have relegated your capability to a less impactful role than you might have?

Simple questions - but incredibly most B2B manufacturing companies never look deeper into their target buyer profiles than reflexively assuming that recent and traditional sales provide a prospective insight into who the profitable, enthusiastic customers will be in the future.

That's why an integral step in designing a B2B sales and marketing plan is a deep dive into target customer profiles and buyer personas.

You can't educate folks and articulate the value of using your products in a vacuum!

Demographic trends

But you've got to go a step further too.  Demographics are rarely discussed in the formation of long term business development strategy for B2B manufacturers - but they are critically important.

Periodically we write about demographics in the context of targeting specific international markets for export sales.  (get our free eBook on the topic here)  We've also explored the likely impact of demographics on the valuation of your business when you prepare for a liquidity event (and why sales growth and diversification will be critically important.)

But what about the millenials and the silver backs?

Why do aging consumers matter?  

demographics and B2B business developmentAfter all, you sell B2B.  True.  But the premise of our business development strategies is helping manufacturers create value for their customers.  In many cases those customers are B2C, and therefore cognizant of the specific requirements of their aging consumer base.

So any manufacturer which studies the issue, understands their customers' customers' requirements, and tailors products and marketing accordingly will be strongly positioned.

A recent AT Kearney studyhighlights the magnitude of the shift - and the risk/opportunity.  "
Mature consumers form a worldwide market segment that spent $8tn in 2010 and will be spending $15tn annually by the end of this decade...For manufacturers, responding to the ageing phenomenon will require a far-reaching re-thinking of product design, particularly in labels and directions, legible prices, and easy-to-open packaging...Above all, manufacturers will need to work closely with retailers to coordinate an effective response to the ageing consumer market...These key cultural and demographical changes need to be addressed by retailers and manufacturers to meet the needs of this market segment"

If you design, build and sell products to manufacturers of CPG products, you've got an opportunity to create real value for your customers by leading in this area.

Millenials...the generation that manufacturing forgot

The implications of aging consumers is a developing trend.  But here today, and disregarded by nearly every manufacturers with whom I speak, are millenials. 

hipsters are an uncommon site on factory floorsIf you walk into a software company you quickly find the kegerator, fussball table and other cultural indications of a largely millenial workforce.  In a manufacturing facility one doesn't.  Aside from the OSHA implications of workplace beer with heavy equipment, one known challenge to advanced industrial manufacturing in the US is the reticence of today's new workers to embrace manufacturing jobs.

So owners and execs of B2B manufacturing companies instead generally work in a time warp.  As they cross the factory floor each day they see not only the same faces, but the same type of faces.  Generally factory workforces in the US are aging.  One can understand why those execs struggle to intuit the impact of millenials on business.

And that's a critical myopia!

Buying vs. selling: habits, perspective and expectations

To understand why, let's back up.

Increasingly today people buy.  They resist being sold to.  And that resistance is stronger among Gen Y than Gen X, and substantially more so than among boomers.  B2B buying cycles have changed.  Information is so abundant that "leads" are now early stage musings rather than a hand raised to execute a transaction.  

Further, research shows that more than 90% of B2B purchases originate with internet search and that folks are typically more than 70% of the way through their buying journey before they'll entertain speaking with a rep.  And finally, all those internet searches that initiate B2B sales are increasingly executed from tablets and smart phones - and the goal is not product identification, but education.  Today buyers search for information on the problem they face and possible solutions.  The actual product is a late stage factor.

So with that background, let's look at who's buying (or would be) your products.  Somewhere there's a GM, president or CEO with whom you would comfortably bond at a conference table.  They will ultimately decide whether to authorize the purchase of your products.


They're not the ones searching and engaging.  Your B2B marketing must target those millenial engineers (the ones with whom you, as a middle aged manufacturing exec, have almost no interaction) to engage in the protracted B2B sales cycle of today.

In other words, while you used to be able to grow your business basically selling to folks like yourself, now to succeed you must market and sell to folks who view the world very differently.  They're still engineers, MBAs, etc.  but that's where the similarities end.

And to complicate things you still must market and sell to the maturing execs as well!

Have you accounted for that in your B2B marketing?

Want to learn more about how to manage internet marketing for today's B2B manufacturers?  Download free info here and check out the video below.

images - luismmostacero and imagemeestilo 

Evolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog

B2B inbound marketing isn't a checklist of steps - it's a synthesis


Managing workflow and priorities...or simply completing component elements?

Often B2B manufacturing companies, intrigued by the compelling ROI (and measurable nature) of inbound marketing, undertake to explore the potential for their business.  That exploration normally starts with a focus on one of three areas:
  • SEO
  • Website
  • Social media
That starting point is frequently determined by nothing more significant than personal preference or the emphasis of the content item that prompted someone to start.  But that starting point sets the tone for the exploration and almost inevitably the implementation as well - the execution plan that results is something like "We're going to SEO our site then we're going to get active on social media."

Essentially the linear approach so essential to efficient manufacturing is applied to the process of industrial marketing - and the initiative is conceived and implemented as a series of discreet steps.

And that inherently limits the effectiveness.

B2B marketing like a Long Island Ice Tea

b2b marketing requires blending like long island ice teaEver order a LI Ice Tea?  If they're made right the result is sweet, smooth and potent (just what you'd love your marketing to be.)  But if it's made poorly, it's simply an unappealing waste of spirits.  And inbound marketing campaigns are similar.

Imagine sitting down at a bar and ordering an Ice Tea and being presented with a series of five shots, a bit of lemonade and a tablespoonful of coke.  Not only would it be absurd, but you would also consume the ingredients in a particular order based on your preferences.  Maybe you're a tequila fan; or perhaps rum is your favorite.  Or maybe you'd simply sip the lemonade for enjoyment and grimace while you down the rest.

Either way, they are two very different experiences built on the same elements.  One the synthesis of ingredients - balanced, smooth and a product completely different in character, effect and impact than the ingredients alone.  The other...well you know.

Give me some gin (seo) and then chase it with a shot of vodka (social media)

It doesn't quite work, does it?  But if you'd never actually experienced the combination you simply wouldn't know any differently.  And what's worse is that many of the folks who run manufacturing businesses have been promised smooth and measurable business results from SEO, social media, or another fad du jour, only to be left with the harsh burn of poorly balanced spirits.

So that's the challenge - for folks who have been promised so much, for so long, by so many that purport to have the recipe for industrial marketing magic, how can they sift through the charlatans to find the real marketing mixologists?

Here's a simple five point checklist:
  1. Ignore anyone who says that XXX is the key - a mono-dimensional program fails
  2. Disregard folks who lack substantive B2B industrial business experience - they simply can't empathize with you OR your buyers
  3. Discount anyone who doesn't insist on exploring your target markets & buyers and challenging your assumptions - you may be right, but their perspective is myopic
  4. Cut short your conversation with any "agency" which claims that they don't need to understand your technology - no one will understand it intuitively as you do, but if they don't have the manufacturing background to generally understand your technology and thereby extrapolate the value it represents to buyers, they'll never drive strong results for you
  5. Be very, very skeptical of any team which doesn't push back on your product centric approach (I don't know you, but if you're a manufacturer I know that your marketing is based on your products!) - it's an 80s model that is ineffective today.

B2B marketing is about making businesses better

As a B2B manufacturing company that's the essence of successful inbound marketing.  An integrated program will help those seeking solutions to business challenges to learn of your solution; understand how it will help them; envision how it would fit into their operations and consistently supply insight.

But a series of "check the box" steps, even if it looks remarkably like "inbound marketing" will generally squander resources without benefit to you or the prospects whom you might have helped.

Do it right!

Download your free Step-by-Step Guide to Internet Marketing here

image cocktail365
Evolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog

Fakes & counterfeits - Should you launch your global sales in China?


It's not a fluke

In just a single day last week three crazy stories popped up in Google Alerts. 

You heard about the fake Apple store, how about the entire fake Ikea?

emerging market business development risks
It seems that Kunming in the southwest corner of China is the world capital of knock-off shops.

Apple recently found five counterfeit versions of its stores there after blogger BirdAbroad posted photos of one online - and now a fake Ikea has surfaced.

It's called 11 Furniture and is a 10,000 square metre, four-storey replica that's virtually identical to the Swedish-made version.

It copies Ikea's blue-and-yellow colour scheme, mock-up rooms, miniature pencils, signage and even its rocking chair designs. Its cafeteria-style restaurant, complete with minimalist wooden tables, has a familiar look, although the menu features Chinese-style braised minced pork and eggs instead of Ikea's Swedish meatballs and salmon.
Then there's a cottage industry of fake "doctors' notes" to allow World Cup viewing.  Sudden onset World Cup FEVER.

fake doctors note emerging market antics
The Global Times started it. The headline in the Communist Party controlled newspaper ran: Soccer fever kicks off fake sick notes.

Citing the painful 11-hour time difference between China and Brazil - meaning games kick-off sometime between midnight and 06:00 - the article suggested that opportunistic online wheeler-dealers were offering the fraudulent diagnoses to enable fans to take the day off.
And amid several stories of "fake" government officials from last week, the best was the audacious creation of an entire fake government structure!

chinese counterfeiting and export risk
'Fake' government toppled by Chinese police

Police in central China say they have brought down a 'counterfeit government' that had been operating under the noses of Communist Party officials

It will go down as one of the most audacious attempts at Chinese fakery yet: a bid to forge an entire government.

Are all emerging markets equal?

Of course not.  Each has challenges and each has opportunities.  But one of the first mistakes many companies make when they consider global expansion is to first focus on headlines and population.

The former seems to compel expansion into the BRICs.  But why?  Are you chasing sexy news stories or profitable business growth?

The latter lures companies to pockets of large population without regard to how the diversity of that population actually creates functionally disparate markets to be managed individually, or even how aging trends and consumption habits impact the opportunity for given products and a medium term market opportunity.

What to look for in a market

High level criteria include:
  • Surmountable barriers - your ability to actually generate pipeline, projects, revenue and profits within a reasonable time frame
  • Actual market for a given product (price, habits, culture, etc.)
  • Diversification - not all in LatAm or ASEAN for instance
Are demographics important?  Absolutely.  But keep in mind that if your goal is to grow beyond the 350MM domestic US market, then a market of 75MM with 60% comparable purchasing power represents a 13% growth opportunity.  A diversified group of five of those in turn represents 65% growth.

And you could well do that without a single 1B person market.

How substantial is the risk?

There are a host of real, and innumerable imagined and overhyped risks of global expansion.  Nearly all can be inexpensively and reasonably mitigated.

The biggest is general business/strategy risk - and the best mitigation for that is simply common sense.

If you realize that China is really like 5 or more distinct markets; that fakery is endemic across multiple aspects of the market; that many SMBs have stalled their export growth there; that it will take 5 years to get traction and that regulations are very difficult to understand as an American business person....why would that top your list?

The risks in the BRICs are larger than in emerging markets in general - why assume them when so many other compelling opportunities beckon!!??

Check out some of our info on where to go first.

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images - DailyMail, infolinkchina and safemedicines 

Evolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog

Inconsistency - crippling SMB export initiatives at multiple levels

"Report finds small business export initiatives lack consistency"
So true......

Government support programs

The GAO report was speaking generally about the multitude of government programs intended to support SMB international sales growth.  

The good news is there are many.  And the bad news is the same.

The National Export Initiative intended to streamline and consolidate resources as did the elevation of SBA administrator to a cabinet level position.  Despite the good intentions, and some progress, there is much more to be achieved.

While it's not perfect, though, numerous success stories highlight what SMBs can do when they decide to succeed globally and expend a bit of effort to engage with the government programs which can help them.

Company programs

inconsistent and disorganized global business development programsBut the same headline is essentially just as applicable to most companies' internal export initiatives.  They lack consistency and are often chaotic and disorganized.

Most SMB international sales efforts are "accidental."  The vast majority of initial overseas forays are in response to their domestic customers own global support requests.  And once they decide to go, they typically focus on "transactional" details while ignoring important strategic questions.

Sales channel is often an randomly selected; marketing isn't localized; market selection is in reaction to inquiries rather than proactively against criteria for success; key risks are unmitigated (and often unrecognized); and the net result is that the results suffer.

The justification

But why go through the hassle?  Why labor to find the right government programs even if it takes some work?  Why work to build internal capability and a cadre of capable advisors?  

Here's the answer from Wells Fargo
"The global marketplace is no longer the exclusive domain of large corporations as mid-sized U.S. companies focus on doing business internationally in order to be financially successful...'U.S. companies are bullish on international business ,' said Sanjiv Sanghvi, head of Wells Fargo’s Global Banking Group. 'They view international markets as growth opportunities for their products, services and supply chains. The results of our inaugural International Business Indicator provide insights into the ‘why, how and where’ of the international strategies for these U.S. companies.'
Business is global.  Just as you might have initially held out on a fax machine, a cell phone and a website...and eventually caught up, the same will happen in this regard.

Wouldn't you rather drive the range rather than be buffeted by it?

Check out our free guide on selecting your first export markets.


image - business insider 

Evolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog

Why owners of B2B manufacturing companies are skeptical of marketing


"It’s the same old saw: marketers seeking easy-peasy answers to VERY difficult problems."
the fallacy of B2B marketing and selling crap
You've got to love Hugh MacLeod.  He pretty quickly cuts through the inanity of a lot of the digital, internet & content marketing conversation going on today.

Lots of it is genuine and well intentioned...but vacuous.  Inbound marketing agencies are often staffed by marketing folks and/or millennials.  Neither is a group that has much empathy with industrial manufacturers or their prospects.  Yet that often doesn't stop them from bandying about cliches and bromides...and making rather outrageous projections for what a few blog posts and social media updates will do for a B2B manufacturing business.

That costs credibility - not only for the group making the optimistic / poorly informed claims, but for anyone who speaks a similar language.

Buzzwords are profane

Turning again to Hugh....
b2b sales and marketing buzzwords
Is it any wonder that folks that make "real stuff" have a rather dim view of folks that just run off their mouths?

And then consider the tens, and often hundreds of thousands of dollars that most manufacturing companies have been cajoled into dumping into marketing over the years which had no clear ROI or even demonstrable impact.

Combine years of frustration and squandered resources with folks tossing around buzzwords and applying marketing approaches to sell products they don't understand to prospects with whom they can't empathize and you have a toxic brew.

B2B marketing is more important than ever

That's the sad paradox.  As more folks babble about it (and owners of industrial companies become even more jaundiced and skeptical) it's increasingly important.  After all, 93% of B2B sales initiate with an internet search, and research shows that buyers won't engage with sales reps until the buying process is nearly complete.

So the model of cold calling direct sales is decreasingly effective - and the marketing alternative is increasingly necessary.  

So what's the answer?  How can marketers with real business background and industrial experience assuage the understandable concerns of B2B business owners?  That's a story that's still being written.

Want to learn more about how B2B Sales & Marketing are evolving?  Download our free book.

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Evolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog

Inbound marketing implementation isn't all smiles & optimism


Recognizing the challenge

For those of us that are advocates of digital marketing for manufacturers and B2B sales growth, it's easy to focus on the outcomes (since the ROI is what drives most programs and distinguishes inbound marketing from traditional "marketing.") 

Ultimately that accrues to everyone's benefit - at least nearly everyone.  But it overlooks the angst that even a simple inbound marketing implementation creates in a company.

Successfully integrating well planned and appropriately executed digital marketing into an existing B2B marketing program is a significant change management challenge.

It begins with understanding who's impacted by the change, their likely perspective, and whether the ultimate consequences will be positive or negative for them personally.  After all, while nearly every business that "does it right" benefits, there are some folks that end up left behind.

Change management theory

the change management aspect of inbound marketing implementationA 2013 Strategy&/Katzenbach Center survey of global senior executives on culture and change management found that the success rate of major change initiatives is only 54 percent

The three key issues around change management which tend to derail efforts included:
  1. change fatigue
  2. "lack the skills to ensure that change can be sustained over time"
  3. "transformation efforts are typically decided upon, planned, and implemented in the C-suite, with little input from those at lower levels"
None of that should be surprising - Dilbert's hardly the only one to offer commentary on change management (or lack of!) in organizations.  But it's rarely discussed amidst the excitement and projections of a new inbound marketing initiative.  And the second obstacle is often overlooked. 

This trips companies up in two ways.  First, as noted, the skills.  Too often inbound marketing is perceived as a set of discrete tasks (e.g. blog posting, social media promotion, SEO) which can be implemented independently.  Second it's assumed (actually often sold as) to require relatively little work.

Both are wrong.

There's no surer path to failure of B2B digital marketing than simply treating it as a bunch of tasks to be managed in parallel.  Without unifying strategy to guide and synthesize each element, the effort will nearly always flounder - EVEN THOUGH almost 100% of the effort is being expended.  Similarly without the resources (internal or outsourced) to support the volume of work required over the long-term, initiatives will also fail.

Inbound marketing - who's likely to chafe at the change

Let's take a quick look at who may resist the change.

CEO/President - They are accustomed to delegating.  Once they look at the numbers and approve the investment, they'll assume they're going back to the usual assortment of tasks with lawyers, bankers and accountants.  Watch their expression when you tell them they will be writing blogs too, tweeting from their new handle and participating in LinkedIn group discussions.  

VP Marketing - You'd hate to be this person....you know the one who's been budgeting and squandering resources on traditional marketing approaches without measurable ROI or even demonstrable results.  Add as the revelations around target customers, value proposition and pain points arise from the work, this individual will likely feel threatened.

VP Sales - Inbound marketing "leads" are awesome - but they are different.  The sales team is going to have to accept the new reality - that the marketing sales continuum has shifted much of the sales responsibility to marketing; AND that a new set of sales skills is required of both management and reps.  They may intuitively understand and embrace the change....or they may protest (probably passive aggressively!)

Marketing Staff - Imagine if suddenly you showed up at work and learned that you were now going to be measured on what you did each day?  That you would have to be accountable to an editorial calendar, and swing way up the marketing skills spectrum from artist to data wonk?  Good folks will quickly come to embrace the new challenge - but not without some trepidation.

Sales Staff - The "right" ones will be thrilled.  And the others.....well that's why you have a sales manager.

Outside resources - Your "PR" agency that writes occasional press releases but has no clue about how to create releases as a form of content, optimized for personas and oriented around campaigns, won't be comfortable as this gets rolling.  Neither will the other "marketing agency" resources you might use for specific design tasks - after all, they'll realize they've missed the boat.

IT - "Oh no...not another integration!" is what they'll think.  And every integration they've ever faced has been sold as simple. They're going to be skeptical, and you won't convince them otherwise.  Just roll with it.

Darkest before dawn

b2b content marketing implementation will create some doubtsFinally, like every major change initiative, initial excitement wears off quickly as the slog begins.  There is a lot of work to be done, over an extended period of time, before there are likely to be substantial results.  Sure there may be some quick wins and indications of success; but often there is simply hard work and growing skepticism that inbound marketing really will work.

That's the phase during which a change management strategy is critical to the process.  When real success is close, but not quite yet apparent.  (But it's also why a strong B2B manufacturing business background, solid strategy and meticulous execution are critical - because all the work could be for naught if it's simply poorly coordinated effort!)

Not sure if inbound marketing is right for your manufacturing business?  Check out this brief video below, and download our free guide.

Download your free Step-by-Step Guide to Internet Marketing here

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Evolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog

Where oh where are the growth opportunities for manufacturers today?


Are you looking in the right places?

“With budgets tightening, the (company) is looking to grow its international sales...the CEO told reporters in a speech Monday. 'Our international expansion will fuel our company’s sustainable growth'" Washington Post

"US sales slipped again as it faced 'ongoing broad-based challenges in May (while) an increase in global sales in its Asia, Middle East and Africa region was driven by strength in China and other Asian markets"
Frustrated with slow domestic sales many companies are finding growth in global markets.  But others, overwhelmed with routine business hassles or intimidated by common myths around risks of exporting, simply "hunker down."

Small is not a disqualifier

global sales offer a real opportunity for B2B sales growth even as markets slowOne of the common assumptions among SMBs is that they lack scale for global sales.

Try telling that to Wheeling, WV's Wheeling Truck Center.  One of this years "Presidential 'E' Award" winners for global sales growth, Wheeling Truck Centers is a family owned company founded in 1933 and now run by two grandsons of the founder.  They sell new and used truck parts for Volvo trucks. 

In 2010 they began to explore international sales growth....and then got to work.  And in three years have reaped enormous benefits including:
  • sales to 94 different markets (of approximately 160 in the world)
  • USD $2MM in sales growth
  • 3 new FTEs
  • diversification against cycles in any one market
As US Commerce Secretary Pritzker commented when presenting the award “By selling Made-in-America goods and services internationally, U.S. business can grow faster, hire more employees, pay higher wages, and help spread American ideas, innovation and values”

Determination and Creativity

It's not magical.  First there's a decision to grow globally.  Then there's an ongoing effort which is sensibly directed through strategic focus (not just helter skelter 'international' activities.) But it doesn't happen by accident.

Companies that succeed embrace the challenge.  While they recognize that they will face new and different hurdles they simultaneously acknowledge that different doesn't mean riskier.  It simply means.....different.

And most companies that succeed in global sales growth (without investing in an expensive and extensive corporate footprint on the ground in many markets) share a common tactic.  They leverage digital tools.

Inbound marketing provides a remarkable platform to help buyers from around the world find your products.  But it's about more than just having a website.  Is your digital marketing helping qualified international buyers find you?  Is it even optimized to drive domestic growth?

This tool is an amazing equalizer for companies that use it.

But in the meantime, wondering if it's the right time to explore exporting for your business?  Check out our free eBook.


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