You don't know "why"
Take a couple minutes, watch this, chuckle...and then let's talk.
Known & unknown unknowns
I'm always a bit disconcerted when I sit down to chat with a successful business owner, CEO or president and discover that most of their knowledge of their target buyers and buying motivations is essentially parroting back their company's marketing material.
Now certainly in many midsize companies those aren't the folks on the front sales lines. And just as the VP of Sales probably doesn't understand the intricacies of the commercial lending facility which provides the company's working capital, it's understandable that the CEO might not understand every product application in depth.
But on the other hand this is a person who is making value based decisions around return on capital and long-term strategy - and it's alarming when they're comfortable with a sophomoric sales justification.
5 or more layers deep - and 3 layers deeper than they've looked themselves
Why do companies buy? Why do individuals buy? Each is a complicated organism with many competing objectives - but NOBODY buys because of how many HP or kbytes or FPM some product has. Period.
Buying is predicated on the value to be realized. And while some companies with very sophisticated lean processes may understand the consequential implications of a change, or an investment, many others take a rather more simplistic view. (e.g. we're going to cut two workers from the process at a loaded average of $38/hour.)
So becoming a trusted advisor, or a thought leader on how your products drive value for your customers requires that you bring a broad perspective of experience across many projects (always observing formal and assumed confidentiality.)
Your sales process, most of which will occur virtually through your digital content (after all we know that B2B buyers are typically unwilling to speak to a direct sales rep until they are more than 2/3 of the way through their buying process) will need to progressively introduce nuanced business topics in digestible chunks. After all, very few corporate buying decisions are made by a single person anymore - different people with different job requirements and different personal perspectives will consider different implications in their own light. And buying is a journey of progressive research and learning - and the real "ah ha" moments are when you secure your position of credibility, critical to later securing the order.
Take that example, above, of some solution which will reduce the manual component of manufacturing by 2 workers. Here are a variety of not uncommon related business considerations that would potentially, substantially alter the importance of that change.
From the perspective of HR:
- How high is turnover (is it hard to keep bodies on the floor)
- What's the skill level of those positions (is it hard to find qualified folks)
- What other costs are related to turnover (employee referral bonuses, cost of training someone, frequency of unemployment claims from those who cycle out, recruiting & hiring burden in direct and indirect costs for fees and staffing, perception on forums & message boards, etc.)
- How much time is wasted on scheduling high volatility jobs, and what dissatisfaction does that create among others who are asked to work when they weren't scheduled?
From the perspective of operations:
- What's the shift differential (output delta between 1st, 2nd & 3rd - maybe the net result across three shifts is dramatically higher than a single shift)
- Is the facility considering expansion? Do they rent outside space? Taking two bodies off the floor doesn't fix that, but approaching staffing from an angle other than hourly cost creates interesting discussions. After all if improving productivity eases the requirement for space for production, it similarly reduces parking, cafeteria and locker room space requirements - and then the custodial and maintenance burden for those spaces.
- What overtime costs are incurred in plugging those gaps for sick & personal days and vacations?
- When others are rotated in to plug the gaps what are the quality and throughput implications?
- How often does a shift supervisor end up stepping in to plug holes due to turnover or last minute absence, and what implications does that have to efficiency across the operation?
These are typical, but hypothetical examples which may not apply to your specific situation. But the fact that you haven't asked, doesn't mean they don't apply. Perhaps you'd be surprised at the variety of responses you'd get - particularly valuable are the "Well that's not applicable to us, but...now that you mention it we do have XXXX challenge."
Creating probing content for various personas and various stages in their buying journey
If you fire all these questions at someone during a first meeting, or if you thrust all this information at someone during their first visit to your website, you'll fail. And the information which is important to operations is different than that which is important to HR.
Therefore not only must your B2B marketing content help to guide your prospects through a virtual process of business improvement and self-discovery, but it must be tailored to their perspective; it must be in various formats including video, images, short articles, whitepapers, online ROI calculators, presentations, etc.; and it must be mapped to the phases in their research and evaluation.
In other words, your thought leadership content will position you as an advisor to their business - and simultaneously distinguish you from the myriad of peddlers simply yammering on about their features and benefits. You'll have a director's panoramic perspective with focused x-ray vision. You'll understand some elements of your prospects' businesses better than they do in many cases.
You'll harvest answers that surprise you for sure....although perhaps never "because I smoked too much dope"!
images - memolition
and urbantimes Evolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog
"About half of the engineering workforce will be eligible for retirement in the next few years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As a marketer, you must make an effort to attract and cultivate younger technical professionals early in their careers as they form habits and opinions about their industry and the suppliers and products available to them." IHS Global Spec Research Report 2014 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector
The buyers you know
Many senior managers at B2B manufacturing companies have matured with the business or at least in an industry. There's an implicit connection between senior engineers on both the vendor and buyer sides, and there's a comfortable, natural rapport that often exists among senior, experienced engineering and management folks on both sides of typical B2B transactions.
The upside is that it's pretty easy to connect, quickly assess competence and credibility, and dive into project details and operational requirements.
It's comfortable - and traditional sales and marketing methods continue to work in this peer to peer, traditional world.
The buyers you don't
But...if the Department of Labor Statistics is correct, your world as you know it is about to change. Over several years HALF of the engineering workforce will retire.
And when was the last time you chatted....much less bonded with a millennial engineer?
You probably don't recall, because they probably aren't using the phone or introductory meetings to meet folks like you. They have different habits.
Now you don't need to feel comfortable with their approach. But if you expect your business to thrive over the next decade you'd certainly better develop a marketing and sales approach with which they are comfortable and which effectively helps them buy according to their buying preferences and processes.
By the numbers
There are certain general buyer behaviors which are statistically important:
- research indicates that more than 90% of B2B purchases originate with an online search
- buyers generally indicate that they aren't interested in speaking with a rep until they are more than 2/3 of the way through their buying process
But typically research in the B2B world looks at buyers monolithically rather than distinguishing between demographic groups. And that's an important perspective because as broadly used as the internet is for B2B purchasing, the difference in use behaviors between younger (< 35yo) and older (>=35yo) engineers is striking.
For instance, among engineers spending more than 6 hours/week on the internet, the younger group is substantially more prevalent.
And among the activities which they undertake online, IHS's research finds "growing importance of general search engines, industry-specific search engines and webinars among the under 35 group, whereas online catalogs and supplier websites grew in importance among those over 35."
And from IHS' associated 2014 Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector report
comes this information on how industrial buyers and engineers are using social media (primarily LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter.)
So what's an over committed B2B manufacturing company exec to do? With inadequate resources to do everything, what's most important?
- Understand your target personas - not just those with whom you've traditionally worked, but those on whom your business will depend 5-10 years from now
- Don't disregard print, trade shows and other effective industrial sales and marketing tools, but recognize that the internet has vastly broader reach
- Don't misunderstand the relative importance of other sources (e.g. webinars, online communities, whitepapers & blogs) - 89% are relying on general internet search. That means that to even participate in the early virtual sales process you must be found by that internet search. And therein lies the compound power of valuable content like a robust blog - it's critical first to "get found" and then once found it's invaluable in building virtual rapport based on credibility and expertise.
- Traditional B2B websites that are well optimized around product specific specs will generate some traffic. But they will only serve transactional purposes. To build relationships with engineers predicated on thought leadership and professional credentials requires an ongoing virtual dialog. That requires a site built around industry challenges and solutions, with great content in various formats optimized for target personas. Simply focusing on your products and specs will miss most of your business development opportunity.
It's no longer a fad
Even among older engineers and industrial buyers digital media is effective - and poor digital marketing will negatively impact your sales. But among upcoming generations of younger engineers it's critical to not only have robust digital marketing - but to have awesome marketing. Younger engineers that are digitally fluent will often perceive stilted and poorly presented digital marketing as a manifestation of a poorly positioned supplier.
Don't let your hesitance to embrace internet marketing give a faulty impression to potentially profitable buyers!
images - IHSGlobalSpec Evolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog
Referrals not cold calls
Senior executives in traditional B2B manufacturing companies typically aren't Twitter mavens. There's no news in that, but the fact is important as it frames the perspective with which they view the evolution of sales and marketing.
If you think of "digital marketing" as a collection of functionally irrelevant and generally inane technologies that solve non-existent problems, then you tend to bias your business development thoughts toward traditional behaviors - cold calls and peer referrals for instance.
You certainly may sit around the 19th hole and grouse about the incessant problems you seem to have with your freight scheduling - asking your companions for any recommendations they can make regarding reliable carriers.
But just as no freight company will grow their business strategically relying on that perchance occurrence, neither will you.
Referrals are more important than ever....but they happen differently
Don't get me wrong - in a world of overwhelming volumes of information, referrals are potentially more meaningful today. Rather than just a source of contact details, the importance of the associated credibility is enormous.
But very few are the result of a phone call to your accountant; a casual conversation at the Rotary meeting; or an exchange on the golf course.
The mass of referrals are the dark matter
of today's B2B marketing - They massively impact your business, but you'll never see them or really quantify them. They are the sharing of relevant information between acquaintances, and they never appear on anyone's analytics reports. (The premise of the analogy originally came from a recent article
Today's referral is the sharing of a web link by email (or maybe by text message or possibly even a LinkedIn message.)
So for companies in traditional industries that rely on referrals for qualified leads, the key is to develop a strategy to foster such sharing of information.
The problem is that most discussion around sharing is presented in the context of social sharing - in other words someone posts a story to their facebook, time line or twitter feed. The hope is often for viral traction, and the motivation (at least from the perspective of senior level execs) is often narcissistic. Neither the platform nor the motivation are conducive to growing industrial sales - and so skepticism abounds.
But that doesn't mean that sharing is inherently undesirable or irrelevant. Social sharing (some SEO inbound link value and huge potential in LinkedIn aside) may be unimportant, but sharing itself is not.
So what's the solution? What sort of sharing is beneficial and probable, and how can it be encouraged?
Good content and easy email link sharing
Of course fundamental to any referral - or today's corollary, the share - is something worth referring/sharing. In other words you have to have expertise and information / content that is solid, informative, relevant and empathetic. Blathering on about your technical specifications is as relevant to your prospects as what type of underwear the Kardashian sisters happen to sport. On the other hand, articles, blog posts, videos, etc. that provide somebody a new perspective on a business challenge with which they have wrestled, are likely to engage them and incline them to share that perspective with others whom they know have similar challenges.
So presuming you have something worthy of a referral, then make it simple to share. Provide an icon/link to spawn an email - even something that says "To share this article with a colleague, click here to open an email" and fill in the subject and content (like this - please share with a friend whose business might benefit.
) All they have to do is complete the address.
And don't forget, as every sales trainer implores, ask for the referral / share!
Not sure you've got referral worthy content? Let's talk. We understand how you and your prospects in the B2B manufacturing world think and talk.
image - ventureneerEvolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog
It's not all umbrella drinks and lay flat seats
The shine comes off the global business development travel apple pretty quickly. Sure it seems glamorous to some (and absolutely beats being stuck in a cubicle in the office all the time from my perspective) who have romanticized notions of travel based on their occasional vacation forays.
But for someone traveling routinely, hassles abound; destinations mean a different hotel & airport (maybe a chance to see a bit from a taxi and have a local meal), and depending on time zone probably 1.5 to 2 full days of work as you work locally and then work through the night while folks are in the office for their normal workday at home.
And sometimes there are real hazards and complications well beyond overbooked 1X/day flights from many emerging markets.
Illness, accident, security & natural disaster
Illnesses range from routine (gastrointestinal) through immunizable (hepatitis, yellow fever, etc.) and preventable (malaria, but even the prevention causes other issues) to alarming (ebola which has recently been quite high profile.)
Accidents are far and away the most common risk faced by travelers, and vehicle condition, driver habits, congestion, underdeveloped roads / infrastructure and chaotic traffic all contribute to a higher incidence of accidents in many emerging markets. But perhaps more concerning than the injuries themselves is the prospect of an extended stay in a hospital which is foreign (literally) and where best practices and conditions may not be according to the standard to which you are accustomed.
Security is a common concern as recent incidents like Westgate Mall, the Arab Spring, Gezi Park riots in Turkey and Russia's invasion of Ukraine demonstrate. While there are often warning indicators, at other times there are not. And being caught inadvertently in the maelstrom of local conflict is unnerving.
And natural disasters of various types are also an omnipresent risk. The Japanese quake and tsunami, Icelandic volcano eruptions and the Haiti quake are examples.
An obligation to employees
If you're a company that's doing business which requires travel, you should have policies in place to guide planning, mitigate risks and prepare for contingencies. Even someone from the NY office injured in an auto accident in LA, or an industrial accident in Juarez may well require medical transport to a facility which can provide the proper care and be accessible to their loved ones. That can be VERY expensive.
And if you're sending folks into places where the likelihood of various types of incidents (even traffic accidents) is elevated, particularly if access to care is limited, then you must plan for international medical evacuation. And how will you even assess the best course of action (assuming cost truly isn't a consideration - but at $100K for a med flight that's a big assumption for many companies) to ensure your folks are properly treated?
Imagine if one of your technicians, or VP of Sales is stranded by an uprising - how will you coach them on the best course of action? Safely extract them?
And what policies do you have in place to ensure that they are flying carriers with strong safety records; staying in hotels which provide adequate security; avoiding travel to places which are simply too volatile; and engaging in appropriate prophylaxis (medical and scenario planning)?
Does your company "cross load" key leaders? The military plans around aircraft being shot down, or even having to turn back for mechanical reasons. While you don't plan around the former in business, does your company have a similar policy for the latter? Even if you consider the risk of a loss like Freescale's on MH370 to be too remote to merit planning, scheduling delays, missed connections, strikes and mechanical cancellations are common. Sending a team for an important presentation internationally? Maybe they shouldn't travel together.
The bottom line is that employees must know that you have their (and their families') well being and interests in mind when you ask them to travel - because travel is critical to business both domestically and globally. And many of the most active and dynamic markets are also ones where travel can be most adventurous. It's good business, and it's ethically imperative.
Obviously the answer to this starts with where your folks travel, for how long, how often and with how much notice. And much of what's appropriate is a matter of common sense - after all not many mid size manufacturing companies have a CSO (Chief Security Officer.)
First, have simple policies and follow them. These aren't simply pages in an employee manual. Examples might include:
- Restrict travel per US State Department guidelines
- Require that all travelers visit an accredited travel clinic (which will follow CDC guidelines) and follow recommendations for immunization & prophylaxis
- Whenever possible fly only on carriers which are approved to fly in and out of US / EU airports
- Stipulate that all local transport is with hotel approved taxis/limos
- Require that all travelers complete basic familiarization training for operational security (not discussing or widely disseminating travel & meeting itinerary - it's sensible protection against widespread industrial espionage as well) and situational awareness (info here & here)
- Ensure that travelers are briefed on any noteworthy local/regional risks and are rehearsed & conversant in how to handle security situations
- Require travelers to register with the Bureau of Consular Affairs Smart Traveler Enrollment Program
- Subscribe to a daily / situational alert briefing service
- And for those times when events outpace your prevention, ensure that all travelers are covered with a medical and security travel policy. Specifics will depend on the nature of travel, but well known providers include GlobalRescue, InternationalSOS and FrontierMedex
It's also important, though, to keep risks in perspective. Have you stopped to think about what travelers from abroad are hearing about Chicago? But you wouldn't hesitate to travel there - so balance what you hear in the "news" with what informed sources suggest. Here's an interesting graphic comparing rate of gun violence between American metro areas and notable global destinations. (article here
What works for you?
Have you established procedures to ensure Duty of Care for your employees? What does your company do for you? Have you lived with cumbersome bureaucratic policies that impeded routine business? Jump into the conversation adding your comment below.
Don't lose sight of why you're traveling!
At the end of the day this is about growing your business. You mitigate risks and plan for contingencies because that's prudent business regardless of latitude / longitude. So don't forget about the important business objectives and ways to really drive profitable global growth....like effective management of sales channel for instance. Download our free whitepaper on the Six Critical Phases of Channel Management
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& citylab/the atlantic Evolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog
It's not just global behemoths any more
If you've heard of the FCPA (Foreign Corrupt Practices Act), and perhaps researched it a bit, you're in a minority of US business leaders - even among those that export. You're probably generally aware of the high profile actions against Siemens and the investigation of Wal-Mart. But you probably haven't dug much deeper.
As experts have been predicting, though, greater SEC activity (FCPA was traditionally enforced by the DoJ but is now aggressively leveraged by securities regulators as well) has somewhat changed the landscape.Recently a $2,000,000 fine was levied on Smith & Wesson
for a transaction in which a local rep provided just over $10,000 in free product and cash to secure a deal in Pakistan on which S&W earned just over $100,000.
One could argue that there is political motivation (around firearms manufacturing) which added zeal to this prosecution, and privately held companies could take solace in the fact that they wouldn't face compound scrutiny from the SEC in addition to the DoJ. But to do so, even for privately held SMBs, would be to 'whistle past the graveyard.'
Because most businesses are generally unfamiliar with the FCPA, perhaps assuming it's not pertinent to their activities because naturally they don't condone corruption, there are areas of unmitigated risk which represent both short and long-term exposure...for every business with international sales.
- Personal criminal liability of officers and directors - You're on the hook. And what makes it worse is that typically D&O insurance policies exclude FCPA defense. At typical white collar defense rates, even an investigation is likely to cost you $50K at a minimum, and defense against an enforcement action far more.
- Liability for actions of others - It's not just what you and your employees do. So keeping your staff on a short leash and conveying a clear intracompany philosophy of zero tolerance for corruption isn't adequate. If your distributor or rep undertakes corrupt practices on your behalf, even without your knowledge or agreement, and even if entirely routine and common in their market, you have liability.
- Customs clearance - It's not just the Boeings of the world selling to foreign governments that need to worry. In fact a HUGE percentage (some estimate 80%) of enforcement actions originate in customs shenanigans. If you sell internationally, your products clear customs - and in many places customs inspectors are underpaid and there's almost a formally codified system of capricious enforcement and bribes.
- Distressing your company valuation - Seems like a long way off that you might entertain sale of your business. But your actions today, in your effort to grow global sales, could impinge on your planned liquidity event. The US Chamber has long advocated for some clarification of inherited liability. Ben DiPietro (@BenDiPietro1) of WSJ RiskJournal recently reported on comments by Mayer Brown attorney Laurence Urgenson:
"The first thing his firm does when it looks at a potential deal is to ask whether the acquiring company is buying itself an FCPA problem. Even if there is no FCPA issue, there may be practices at the target company that raise red flags and will require fixing."
And further, your compliance may become a gateway component of due diligence among potential private equity investors/acquirers
- Advisors bear risk as well - If you serve on another company's board, or recruit folks to serve on yours, there is likely unrecognized FCPA exposure inherent in that role as well - even for PE managers sitting on the boards of portfolio companies.
"Another area of concern is the increasing focus on private equity companies and their deals, particularly by U.S. regulators, Mr. Urgenson said. While private equity firms have generally flown under the radar with respect to FCPA, and may not even be subject to rules covering the keeping of books and records and the implementation of internal controls, there remain ways under which PE firms can be subject to FCPA enforcement, he said.
A firm looking to invest in a company with problems needs to uncover their full extent. FCPA exposure may affect the target company’s financial statements, which could include profits from illicit activities, Mr. Urgenson said. There also is risk for individual investors who are asked to serve on boards, and could expose themselves to FCPA risk by doing so, he said.
'The risk from FCPA to individuals turns on their knowledge and participation, and is not driven by their percentage of ownership.,” Mr. Urgenson said. “If you are going to get involved in a business and learn things and participate in decisions, you could obtain liability. Whereas, if you stand on the sides as a passive investor you won’t.'"
- Reasonable compliance defense - You won't get much defense traction from having periodically mentioned the importance of compliance to employees. In fact there is no formally recognized compliance defense (something that many, including @FCPAProfessor Mike Koehler, strongly support.) But in practice certain reasonable and prudent steps applied consistently across employees, contractors and partners, can substantially mitigate a company's risk. And they're often not consistently applied in most companies.
- You're a revenue opportunity - Whether local police have ticket quotas or not, there's no doubt that financially strapped communities value permitting fees and traffic citation fines as revenue. And the US success in collecting FCPA enforcement penalties has been so noteworthy that some predict other countries will emulate the program not, cynically, to impact corruption as much as to raise revenue.
So what's the upshot? Simply cower within the US borders and eschew the dynamic opportunities of global markets? That's one approach. But remember you face similar expansive risk with employment law domestically, for instance, and you've figured out how to mitigate that.
Alternatively you could endeavor to really understand the landscape of FCPA enforcement and develop and implement consistently applied best practices across your global business activities. Doing so will substantially reduce the potential for a violation, and in the event of a rogue employee or rep violating the FCPA you'll have a framework for handling the violation and a strong case to argue against an enforcement action.
But first you have to understand what you face. Do you?
Wondering what other poorly understood risks or missed opportunities might exist in your global business program? Check out our free eBook
...and consider the value of an experienced export consultant!
image - phoenix-bailbonds Evolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog
Perspicacious Ann Handley (@marketingprofs
) is always worth reading - and her Content Rules
tops my list of must reads for folks trying to understand the evolution of marketing.
But with this post
she's stepped her game up to a new level.
To capture the essence of her article about the video available below,
"Are you underwhelmed?
I was at first. Then I thought about it, and I realized that the video is so simple, it’s kind of genius… because it busts a few video content myths:
Myth 1: Video is hard, expensive, complicated, and time-consuming.
Truth: Nope, nope, nope, and I’m-sorry-but-you-couldn’t-be-more-wrong.
Myth 2: Brand videos should be slickly produced.
Truth: Scrappy trumps slick."
Video as a tool in B2B Marketing and Sales
I've written about this here before
(not nearly as effectively as Ann) but believe it's an important topic.
There's a tragedy that's common in the creation, production and use of video in the traditional B2B space.
B2B video tends toward corporate speak, canned, overproduced, formulaic, glitzy and predictable...as a result it's expensive, resource intensive, boring and ignored.
And that's doubly wasteful. First, not nearly enough B2B video is created. It's such an awesome tool to connect quickly and empathetically with people - especially the half of the world that isn't going to read your whitepapers! But it often takes days, weeks & months and costs tens of thousands of dollars. So faced with finite marketing budgets and too many competing priorities, after the gruelling process of producing the ever scintillating and obligatory corporate overview video, no more get made.
Second, if some do make the second cut, they are so dreadfully stilted and boring that nobody watches. So even though some investment was made, the return (as could have been predicted for such crap) is essentially zero.
So stop trying to sell with your video. Start educating or even simply empathizing. That will get people's attention so you can begin a dialog.
How simple? How about this $70 combination (smart phone not included...)
Evolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog
Use a cheap mic, write a quick script, record a couple takes and publish to YouTube.
Don't mindscrew it - you'll never get it done; you'll lose the enormous biz dev value it represents; and potential prospects that would benefit from your solution will never learn of it.
Will all you videos be good? Of course not (but neither are Pixar's....) Will some be bad? Unfortunately. But if you keep them simple, light, empathetic and focused on buyers perspective, they'll be at least OK and gradually get better.
Take Ann's advice - don't obsess, just do.
Want to discuss how you can incorporate effective, simple video into your B2B marketing? Call me 978.238.9898
images - ephotocraft
It rolls off your tongue
It's habit. "Sales & Marketing." It's simply what we call it. All of us.
And habit and repetition make it fact - "fact" pregnant with whatever connotations each of us imbues it with.
Wrong name for an old model
The problem is that the B2B world associates the term with a traditional model which is decreasingly effective. But as long as we persist in using the term, all discussions around strategies and tactics to improve results will be interpreted in the context of the model which is inexorably linked to the term casually and reflexively used.
Industrial marketing used to be an internal function - and generally one which was accorded somewhat less prestige and importance than its "sales" sibling. Certainly competitive analysis, pricing, product marketing, product road maps and other functions were and remain valuable and necessary.
But often, particularly in SMBs, marketing was viewed as arranging trade show participation and details, planning direct mail campaigns and designing magazine ads. Of course there were some brochures and presentations to design and an occasional video to produce. But all of that was oriented around providing the tools to the sales team - the beans and bullets to the front line warriors.
A different era - when B2B sales reps controlled the conversation
There was a time when the direct sales team really controlled the sales process. They were the repository of information which wasn't otherwise available to prospects and buyers.
Of course we all know that has changed. We understand it intellectually - of course the availability of information on the internet doomed the rainmaker juggernaut. And we understand it emotionally - each of us who is responsible for growing business profitably simply feels that it's different, and potentially harder than it used to be.
Now there's less and less selling and more and more buying. Buyers manage the process according to their terms - and statistically are loathe to speak to a rep until they are 70% of the way through their buying process.
Self service sales
But buyers still go through the same process - perhaps even a more extensive process than they used to. And if they aren't navigating that process with a direct sales rep as their pilot, then they are doing it on their own using the results Google serves as their map.
That means that "sales" now increasingly happens virtually. Many of the same steps still occur (bonding and rapport as credibility building; needs assessment as problem research; competitive comparison and budget throughout the process) but they happen in private. Sellers have none of the traditional interactions by which to gauge their position.
The problem is that the sellers still assume they are selling once they have active leads...and the marketers still think their role is to generate early stage leads. And the bulk of the sales/buying process is falling into no-man's land between parochial and traditional marketing & sales stovepipes.
Time for managers to manage
There's a straightforward solution. When you sit down to work on your annual budget and someone suggests incremental adjustments to "Sales & Marketing" throw the BS flag. Stand up and manage. Take the organization through the process of divorcing your critical business development process from a dysfunctional and outdated model, and embrace an approach which mirrors today's buying habits.
It's really a bit of marketing research which informs a sales continuum. Much of that B2B sales continuum is virtual and digital (whether that feels comfortable or not.) But each buyer is different and today's superb sales folks understand instinctively how to engage at what point in the process, to complement the buyers experience.
If you've got a team of brochure designers and cold calling direct reps you may struggle. If you've got savvy, intelligent, strategic-thinking team-players then you have the required building blocks who need guidance and direction.
But whether you have the right team now or not, buyers have changed their behavior. Simply referring to your growth function as "Sales & Marketing" disregards the change as well as the adaptation required of your business.
Change your language, change your behaviors and change your business fortunes....or not. Your call.
We're here to help.
image - benstroup Evolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog
'Tis the season...for hurricanes & trade shows
Trade shows are an integral part of a strong B2B sales & marketing program. Folks in the digital marketing world point to statistics around shifting budgets and attendance, but for the foreseeable future companies will continue to invest in exhibiting and attending - because there's value in doing so.
However, shows are expensive. If you've ever had to review the drayage and utilities invoice from the Javitz, or sift through a stack of show travel and entertainment expense reports, you probably not only know, but FEEL the impact.
So it's important to not just invest in the event, but to convert the event into a campaign. And inbound marketing offers the perfect tools to do that.
Ever "walk the floor"?
Maybe that 3rd or 4th day of the show, you know the last one...the dead one, you've walked the show floor. Remember how your feet ached and booths sort of flashed by on either side? And that was at your show, for your industry, about which you're passionate. Imagine the visitor perspective wandering aisles full of people while his phone keeps ringing with crisis back at the factory. If you're banking on him simply stumbling into your booth with an open mind and eager to hear your pitch (which sounds remarkably like every other one he's heard), you're going to be disappointed.
But don't fret. Not only do shows offer a variety of on-line tools (show planners, category filters, etc.) for which you can contract to be found, but solid content marketing provides the ability to turn a reasonably successful 3 day event into a very successful 6 week campaign. And by doing so to ensure that no matter how bad his feet ache, you'll be on the must see list of that weary show attendee well before he even heads for the airport to head to the show.
Skip the products
Nobody cares which machine you'll be showing...even if it is the latest "V79CCX" version! And skip the press releases about how you'll be there. Again, nobody cares.
Instead use your blog, listings and press releases to focus on business problems which you know folks will attend the show eager to solve. Those for which they will be searching for solutions anyway, both pre and post show. Toss in a bit of optimization around the show itself, provide some offer content and nurturing around interaction at the show, and if you'd like, even some value associated with interaction there (e.g. a 30 minute phone consult within a couple weeks after the show.)
Whatever you do, don't prattle on about your features or even benefits, and don't under any circumstances offer purchase discounts.
Conversation and dialog
Establish your credibility and relevance by fostering and participating in dialog and chatter about the event. A couple blog posts around industry trends and events written during the show, and social media engagement in real time during the event (in addition to your pre and post show updates) will position you as an active industry participant.
Don't waste everyone's time with "Come visit us in booth 2947" drivel, but rather focus on topics that may not be directly related to your product/service, but will be of interest to folks at the show.
And by all means use social media to promote your valuable posts and content around business problems and solutions (not products) to appeal to the growing number of Gen Y folks active in industry as well as Gen X advanced users of technology. Have you noticed how many folks wander the floor guided by their tablets or smart phones?
And this content you create? Not only will it help drive qualified traffic to your booth and boost results among your leads, but it will create new leads for you for years - seriously. If you properly optimize your articles, posts press releases and even social media updates, you'll create an on-line lead generation asset with a long half-life.
Staring down the barrel at a big trade show investment this fall? Give me a call to brainstorm how some key digital marketing steps implemented quickly could substantially enhance the return on your substantial show investment. (978) 238-9898 or firstname.lastname@example.org
image - pcma Evolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog
"I bought that machine because I simply loved the logo."
Ever heard that before? Expect to ever hear that? I didn't think so.
Let's get this out up front - brand is a powerful concept which can have a powerful impact on business. For companies in the B2B space that have broad brand recognition (e.g. Grainger, ITW and Safety-Kleen) certainly some portion of their leads and new revenue can be attributed to their brand.
But your company probably doesn't have that. So where should you focus - on trying to build brand awareness, or generating sales qualified leads?
I recommend that latter - without hesitation. Here's why.
Your company's essence
Your brand is really the distillation of what you do, your business philosophy and how you impact others. And the first barrier to branding is that many B2B manufacturing companies have never codified those elements into a brand which they have internalized. Indeed before a brand can be publicly effective it must first be embraced internally.
Assuming you've been through the important work of developing your brand, but it's not widely recognized, then traditionally you would need to convince the market one individual at a time. (A tremendously resource intensive undertaking!) Typically that involves a number of interactions, and many more declarations.
But if you're like nearly every SMB you have neither the time nor money to tell folks repeatedly how groovy you are. So what do you do?
Instead of blathering on about how each glance at the corporate mirror reconfirms your company's awesomeness, rather use your digital marketing to reach new folks and legitimately help them with your great content and thought leadership. Simultaneously you'll spread your message and demonstrate the essence of your brand...and instead of an useless "awareness" metric you'll have a lead too!
In today's world of spin and messaging you instinctively understand that the "chitter chatter" is meaningless. That's why you have a particular opportunity to move the needle with substantive business value - because it's relatively rare. The "pitter patter" of your content marketing will attract potential customers, establish your thought leadership and introduce them to your brand, convert them to leads and then help you nurture them into customers. Each interaction will establish and reinforce your brand as a byproduct - and as a result of their experience rather than your "say so."
Blocking & tackling
None of this is complicated - but none is easy. If you have a strong, recognized B2B industrial brand that's great. It's not going to translate to revenue directly, but rather it will give you an initial credibility boost. If you don't have a widely recognized brand, but have clearly defined the important elements of a brand internally, then work on building your business and brand will follow. But if you don't have a clear understanding of your company's brand, then don't waste time or money on marketing because your message is likely to be so diffuse as to be worthless.
Have a clearly defined brand and need help attracting the right prospects to introduce them to your brand and capability? Maybe we can help. Check out our approach to internet marketing for manufacturers.
image - marketects Evolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog
Yesterday's headlines weren't unexpected, but they had to be a bit disconcerting for anyone for whom memories of the '08-09 market turmoil are still poignant.
But it reminded me of a conversation I had with an entrepreneur once who told me that he would never put money in the stock market because by his estimation it was entirely too risky. His preferred vehicle instead? Concentrating his wealth in his successful small business.
Well that small business eventually became distressed and not too long ago filed for reorganization.....
Manage your business like a portfolio?
There's a lot of risk, a lot of uncertainty, and a lot of science inherent in successfully managing either an investment portfolio or a manufacturing SMB. And some of the fundamental approaches which are appropriate for both are sometimes ignored in both.
Global diversification is a great example. Here's an excerpt from a recent Moneywatch article
by Larry Swedroe (@larryswedroe
"Don't get stuck in your own backyard. Investors should consider building globally diversified equity portfolios that avoid the persistent and worldwide phenomenon of home-country bias. That's when you allocate a greater weight to your home-country stocks than their percentage of total global market capitalization.
Among the reasons investors around the world exhibit this bias is that they confuse the familiar with the safe. Unfortunately, Lake Wobegon -- home of the perennially above-average -- exists only in fiction. It cannot be that every developed country is safer than the others.
Compounding the problem is that investors tend to believe not only that their home country is a safer place to invest, but also that their home country will produce higher returns. This belief defies the basic financial concept that risk and expected return are related."
I speak with a number of brilliant product folks who run successful manufacturing businesses and who are plagued by this home country bias in assessing growth and market opportunities for their companies.
Many of the same rationale for global diversification in investing (e.g. 'It cannot be that every developed country is safer than the others.') apply to business development.
Sure there are differences - you don't have a Fidelity research team and manager to find and vet your global channel partners for instance. I understand. But if the principle applies, then the reaction should be to find a reasonable solution - rather than justify inaction.
"Self Attribution Bias
" which basically says that business owners who have been successful (by whatever metric they consider an appropriate benchmark) will attribute that success to their own capability.
Now clearly it's not all luck. The right person at the right time and place with solid instincts can't be discounted - but it's not the sole factor. Some research indicates it might not even be, typically, the primary factor.
So is that a reason for owners of B2B manufacturing companies to plunge blithely into emerging markets? Of course not. But it does mean that the inclination to try to solve evolving challenges with renewed application of traditional solutions may feel appropriate but is unlikely to work
. Keep at it long enough and eventually momentum fades and a feeling of confusion and dejection replaces the exuberance of early business growth.
Just as companies embrace improvements in their operations (e.g. lean and six sigma programs) they should similarly embrace evolved approaches to business development.
Primary among those is global diversification. Similarly digital marketing offers expanded horizons well beyond the traditional B2B direct sales model common among manufacturing companies.
Wondering whether it's the right time for your company to begin to consider global expansion? Check out our free eBook on choosing the right time
and bbc Evolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog