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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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Our easy-to-read and informative infographics help to demystify the challenges of business development.

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Powerful graphics & visuals in B2B marketing for manufacturers


More than just .dwg files

Often chatting with manufacturers about the visual content they have, or would consider, we focus on a very narrow scope.  

Photos of products and downloadable drawing files are the types that are both available and comfortable.

Unfortunately that substantially restricts both the reach of content in terms of personas and prospects, as well as the value and impact of graphics.

It's easy to say "Be creative"....
But check this out!

That's a great visual tool - and one that begs interaction no less.

How about infographics?

Infographics can be an incredibly effective tool....or a cheesy waste.  What's important is not some visual representation of your product, but rather an illustration of some point of insight about your target personas' business or world.

For instance if you sell a product which streamlines manufacturing, then show before and after workflows.  Or if you provide a service that addresses an operational risk, create an infographic of major points of commonly unmitigated risk along a workflow.

Obviously the goal is capture the attention of folks by helping them recognize a problem which won't get their attention with another lengthy whitepaper.  It's a quick and effective tool to help time starved managers intuit a point from their perspective.

Then make sure your infographic gives them the opportunity to learn more about the problem, and of course......to learn a bit about a possible solution!

And of course video

Video is an awesome tool.  (Read a couple previous articles here and here.)  Execs consistently convert at a higher rate on video than written content early in their buying journey.  And technical buyers as well as 'visual learners' (vs. auditory or kinesthetic) instinctively prefer video and graphics.

Often companies get hung up on fancy editing and production, and fret about the topic.  And once they do take the step of creating a video it's something dry and formulaic.  

But you're wondering how there could be a "fun" video for your traditional industry?  How about this one!!??

Still wondering whether you could make your product interesting to a wider range?  Seriously?


But whether you're talking images, infographics or video the key is a deep understanding of your prospects' businesses.  Simply entertaining them is of minimal value (perhaps a bit more in B2C).  If you don't contribute meaningful business insight then your content has failed - visual or text.

Want to chat about the business perspective which needs to inform your B2B marketing if it's going to succeed?

Give me a call.  978.238.9898

Evolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog

The Social Media Lightning Rod - B2B Marketing Challenge


Social Media Power & Cost

"According to the Q2 2014 Media Intelligence Report from Neustar, the cloud-based information services provider, social media was 70% cheaper than the average cost for digital spend across social, portals, networks, and exchanges.

Social also registered a 32% cost decrease from the previous quarter, which the report attributed in part to the growing use of demand-side platforms (DSPs) for programmatic and real-time buying, Marketing Profs reported." WARC Editors
Social media is a tool.  It isn't 'marketing' itself, and if you've paid some social media guru to implement a program at your company, absent other substantive structural and strategy changes, then you've kicked yourself for wasting the money.

However, or in many cases because of, mistakes like that and misconceptions, many B2B companies refuse to properly use social media.  And that refusal results in a large opportunity cost to their business.  Failing to use social media effectively in an integrated B2B marketing program is a business risk.

Why so resistant?

Many senior execs at B2B industrial manufacturing companies are about as comfortable with social media as esurance's Beatrice.

Facebook is a great tool for keeping up with grandchildren, and Instagram is something they read about in headlines in the context of celebrity antics and indiscretions.

Social media is neither intuitive nor comfortable for them to use personally, and that colors their opinion of how to use it for business.  Their decision is made on emotion (their truths) rather than real truths.

describe the imageBut they hear enough about it, and are harangued by enough folks to use it that they eventually relent.  And since it's not a serious tool (like a trade show) responsibility is assigned to the person in the company most personally adept at using the tools.  That's often the intern....who's now speaking to the world authoritatively on the company's behalf.

Would you send that junior staffer out to do a major trade journal interview?  Of course not!  And therein lies yet another business risk that many companies encounter in tentative use of social media for their industrial marketing.

Do executives know too much? 

I wrote recently about the management skills gap that faces manufacturers.  But Mark Twain put it much more succinctly.

"It ain't what you know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."

That's really the problem - everything that executives, and even traditional marketing folks know for sure....that is simply incorrect.

There are certainly risks associated with the use of social media in B2B marketing - and the biggest is failing to leverage it properly.  Others include competitive risks and actual warranty risks.  One recent article even suggests that use of social media by employees represents a compliance risk for multinationals!

But the risks can be reasonably mitigated once acknowledged - and the benefit when social media is properly used far outweighs the risks for most companies in most industries.

Want to learn more?  Download our free eBook on the 7 Biggest Business & Legal Risks of Social Media in B2B Marketing.

free eBook download business and legal risks of B2B social media marketing

image - gapingvoid 

Evolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog

Then again, maybe I won't download your eBook after all hot shot


Really?  Are you serious?

What follows is the redacted text of an email I received in response to my registering recently to receive blog articles by email.
"You have successfully joined our newsletter.

Download Link: redacted 

Terms and Conditions for the redacted eBook

Clients downloading the redacted eBook are granted a non-transferable license to access and use the eBook for personal reference and informational purposes subject to the following:
  • The Client shall not move, copy, reproduce, network or otherwise transfer any eBook file to any computer or other device of any other person;
  • The eBook must be downloaded within 12 hours from the time the email for downloading is received;
  • The Client is permitted to download one (1) copy of the eBook;
  • The Client shall not move, copy, reproduce, network or otherwise transfer any eBook file to any computer, t ablet [sic] or other device of any other person; 
  • The Client shall not make alterations to, or modifications of, the whole or any part of the eBook, nor permit the eBook or any part of it to be combined with, or become incorporated in, any other document; and
  • The Client shall not share, lease, loan, rent, sell, license, sublicense, transfer, network, reproduce, display, distribute, translate or otherwise make any of the eBook available to any other person. 
Access to redacted’s eBooks is granted on an individual user basis. If these Terms are violated the Client’s right to use the eBook will be terminated immediately. In the event of termination, the Client must destroy the original and all copies of the eBook. Redacted reserves the right to seek and may pursue all legal remedies for any infringement of copyrighted materials."

And it started out so well - social media straight through conversion

legal barriers to B2B content marketingThis seems wrong, or at least really odd, on lots of levels:
  • I signed up for a blog subscription (which they confirmed in the first line), not an eBook
  • I'm not a client - this download was from a public page on their site
  • I can't share it?  Isn't that content marketing nirvana?
  • 12 hour window?  Seriously?
  • 'alterations' to your eBook?  Not to worry.  Did you really think I would even actually download it after seeing this?
What's really a shame about it is that just by chance I stumbled across the company's website as a result of an interesting tweet on a subject of interest.  Turns out they have a pretty strong digital marketing approach - one that makes them unique (as far as I know) among companies in their space.

Everything seemed perfect - Twitter actually drove interested traffic to a site about manufacturing business valuation (not exactly a sexy B2C topic) and the site held my attention across about 10 pages and 10 minutes - finally resulting in a conversion.

And then this disappointment.

Important B2B Marketing Lessons

How does this apply to your activities?  After all, you're not some kind of control freak who's going to create great content and then discourage people from using it, much less sharing it.

This company couldn't have created the volume of multi channel content they did without some talented, empathetic and strategic minded folks driving and contributing to the program.

They did lots of stuff well - including even using social media effectively for this very unique area of expertise to rise above the noise.

But somewhere, some bureaucrat got involved and created this absurd form email.  And sadly, perhaps not knowing or thinking they could just pick their fights, the folks that did the great work acceded to this absurdity.

And you ask, isn't it just a small point?  It worked, didn't it?  

NO.  A typo is a small point.  But content marketing and lead nurturing (in this space it's often a 3-5 year buying cycle) entails a journey.  When that journey is disrupted, the value of the conversion is lost.

Needless to say this email didn't just interrupt my journey, it resulted in a full on crash with air bag deployment.

Don't squander your results.  Bought into the concept of content marketing but need some business grade advisory on how to optimize it?  Let's talk.

image - HuffPost
Evolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog

What makes your industrial marketing mediocre? Self absorption


What you're not hearing

Ever have a day during which you receive no emails?  Or at least almost none?  On the one hand it's a tremendous relief...but on the other there's a little voice asking "Is something broken?  What should I be receiving that I'm not?" 

That's the hard part about B2B marketing.  You can't know what's not working; what prospects aren't finding you; or what website visitors bounce and why.  At best you can benchmark against best practices and industry standards, and you can diligently monitor metrics and continuously adjust your approaches.  You never really know who you're not connecting with....

But there's a more basic and immediate change you can make.  Stop talking about you, your company, your facilities and equipment, your history and your products - and start talking about your prospects' businesses.

In fact the message your prospects would deliver if it was worth their taking the time (and if they are even consciously aware of it) is that they want a conversation with you about them!

Empathy - key to B2B inbound marketing

Is this another lame blog using pop culture to tease out some obtuse point about marketing?  I hope not (I agree those are lame!)  I understand the video's a bit much - but lately I've encountered so many otherwise sophisticated manufacturing companies that are obsessively focused on pushing a selfish B2B marketing monologue that I'm intent on making the point unforgettable.

The fact is that no prospect will make the decision to buy your products based on how many years you've been in business, what CNC machines you run, how many square feet your building is or any other fact like that.

They'll buy based on how you'll make them more profitable.

Now, it could well be that the size of your facility means you can stage products for JIT delivery unlike any nearby competitor which means the prospect can:
  • purchase in volume at a discount
  • avoid consuming their own floor space which they need for other reasons, and therefore
  • eliminate the need to rent outside space which would require a tractor and trailers (with all the direct AND indirect associated costs), extra staff and logistics hassles
  • reduce price and lead-time to their prospects
  • and gain market share  
But the fact that you've got 120,000 ft sq. is irrelevant.

Talk to them about them

That's where content marketing becomes so incredibly powerful for the disjointed, protracted and unpredictable sell cycle companies encounter today in complex sales.  Buyers who want to research and compare on their own without a sales rep bothering them are searching for insights and expertise to consume.

You've got that expertise internally - between product marketing, application engineering, field technical staff and your high performing sales folks.  But your marcom folks continue to produce boilerplate corporate speak....about you.

It's not complicated - but as the saying goes, it's not easy.  What you must do is shift the perspective and context of your dialog.  Engage, virtually, with visitors and prospects.  Share your incredible expertise with them in a way that makes sense to them and creates value.

And don't shoot me, the messenger.  I'm just telling you what your prospects would if they didn't have 75 other better results that popped up in their search.

Stop being self-absorbed and start growing your business!

Evolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog

The B2B Business Development Management Skills Gap


"The 'skills gap' is real"

"...Nevertheless, employers still have real difficulties hiring workers with the skills to deal with new technologies.

Why are skills sometimes hard to measure and to manage? Because new technologies frequently require specific new skills that schools don’t teach and that labor markets don’t supply. Since information technologies have radically changed much work over the last couple of decades, employers have had persistent difficulty finding workers who can make the most of these new technologies." HBR Blog, James Besson
If you're an advanced manufacturer no doubt you spend lots of time talking about how to find the right folks with the right skills to scale your growth.

Expert machinists, for example, are always in demand.  And you've probably created some internal training program to take the good ones you find and get them up to your company standard.

But what if the 'skills gap' is in the executive suite?

b2b business development skills gap and managementWhat if the new technologies which are enabling process excellence in business development are too unfamiliar to senior management to really understand how they can be properly applied to your business? 

Sure it's kind of cute to gruffly cuss with your golf buddies about how incredibly inane Twitter is.  You've got a common vibe going and feel some kinship.  And it could be that Twitter is entirely irrelevant to your business.

But here's the bottom line.  >90% of all B2B purchases begin with an internet search and buyers are now more than 70% of the way through their buying process before they're willing to talk to a rep.

And if you're ignorant of the best practices to ensure you're found in those searches and sell those buyers who won't talk to you yet, then you're a liability to the company you manage.

You only have to know enough to manage

In a perfect world every manager would be as capable in each skill and discipline as their best employee.  That's not realistic - and so you delegate not only for time management purposes but also to let the best folks work their magic.

You don't need to know all, or even most of the detail of different functions.  But just as you need to know enough accounting to sleep easily at night with your personal guarantee exposure and to be confident your controller isn't embezzling, similarly you need to know enough about digital marketing to determine if your company is maximizing the opportunity and to avoid being sold a "bill of goods."  After all, how many times have you heard a fellow business owner lament the amount they spent on SEO with no measurable results?

And how do you know if your marketing "guru" really is?  If their primary qualification is that they know more than you - when you don't know enough to gauge what they know - you're likely to squander resources AND opportunity. 

Business grade B2B marketing

That's why some companies turn to consultants (vs. agencies or staff hires) to explore best practices and options. 

If that's an option you're considering, make sure the consultant has at least a couple gray hairs AND cutting edge digital marketing credentials.  Only someone whose walked in your shoes, and your prospects', can really advise on how to craft a strategy and which tactics to leverage.

In fact, find a consultant who understands the approach to process excellence that you use in your manufacturing and operations, and can apply a similar approach to your business development - complete with metrics, KPIs and an ROI.

image - salary.com 
 Evolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog

Building a successful manufacturing biz on copied & "me too" products


Real success on a rock solid foundation

It's been brutally hard work.  In the early days it was about sourcing and reverse engineering all the products.  Later you concentrated on mimicking processes and fixtures to manufacture the knock-offs as efficiently as possible.  Today, as you survey all that you have created, you can say with confidence that there's not one new thing which has contributed to your success - it's a demonstration of the immense power of copying!

A pretty silly premise

b2b business development must be unique and not reverse engineeredOf course - it's patently absurd.  You wouldn't take that approach...and even if you tried it wouldn't work.

Except that you are taking that approach with your business development, and while you may not realize it yet....it's not working.

Why do so many B2B manufacturing companies innovate the bejeebers out of their product and then create a biz dev approach that is regurgitated crap?

You know, the website that looks like:
  1. Home - "We're great!"
  2. About - "Founded 25, 50 or 100 years ago, 3rd generation, 25,000 sq. foot facility with computerized manufacturing equipment, highest quality, & we're great"
  3. Industries Served - "We've got lots of customers in these industries...because we're great"
  4. Services - "Milling, turning, grinding, bead blasting - We do the same things as everyone else....but we're great!)
  5. Products - Here's where you have all the detail on everything you make or made.  You may even still have some placeholder 'lorem ipsum' text in here - and tons of technical detail and spec that will never help you get a deal but be used to disqualify you from many - even though it's clear how great you are!
  6. Contact - Impressed by how great we've told you we are?  Fill out our form so we can call and ask what you're ready to buy
And of course the corporate overview video and the 8.5 X 11 product data sheets....put a different logo in the corner and see if you can tell which is which!
Your product is different, and the resulting impact on your customers' businesses is vastly different - shouldn't that be clear?

Breaking from B2B marketing mimicry

The range of tactics, approaches and opinions for how to distinguish your B2B Sales and marketing is endless.  So let's stick with two fundamental points:
  1. Forget about you - everything needs to be about your prospects, their business, their challenges and how your products can make a difference in their business
  2. Skip the navigation - maybe not seriously, have it there like a pacifier just because without it you'd feel naked.  But remember that anyone coming directly to your home page has a clear idea of what they're looking for.  Those folks know you generally.  The vast majority of prospects arrived on specific pages of your site based on an internet search (>90% of all B2B purchasing starts that way) for solutions to some challenge they have.  The point is that when they arrive via this VIP entrance, not enduring the line and ID check at the front door, they want a worthwhile experience.  They want relevant info that helps them - not a treasure hunt.
That's where most B2B manufacturing sites (and sales & marketing programs) break.  Online catalogs are of limited value - unless you're a catalog business like MSC or Grainger.  Rather B2B sales success is built on a huge variety of focused discussion, information and solutions around the business problems your prospects have.  You need a huge array of different, focused and worthwhile pages that each addresses typical challenges.  And you need not just written pages but graphics, videos and presentations.  And as prospects engage with your resources you need to have more the share - deeper dives and in depth discussions of key topics.

Why did I say B2B sales rather than marketing?  After all, we're talking website, right?  Because buyers are increasingly resistant to 'being sold.'  Instead they buy - at their own pace according to their priorities.  And research shows that they are typically >70% of the way to their purchase before they'll talk to a direct sales rep.  So today....your online presence is your early stage sales effort - it's not just marketing.

If you've got 1 more HP; longer life sealed bearings; a slightly more compact design or any of many other technical differentiators - good for you.

But if you want to grow your business you'd better figure out how that's good for your prospects, and then help them in their business.

You wouldn't stamp out the same products as everyone else - isn't it time you stop making yourself look the same?

image - julileemag 
Evolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog

The B2B Sales Growth Conundrum - clinging to sunk costs


Persistence or ignorance?

"As the Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman and his collaborator Amos Tversky pointed out decades ago, we tend to chase sunk costs - the time, effort, and money that we put into something and can't get back out.  It's irrational behavior. Once your team realizes that a project is failing, previous investments shouldn't matter.  The best you can do is try to make smart choices with what you have left to invest.  but too often we stay the course, unwilling to admit that we have squandered resources that would have been better spent elsewhere."  from HBR May 14
Facing an existential crisis, American manufacturers battled back.  They released their iron grip on traditional manufacturing and management practices, adopted new ones, and are now experiencing a renaissance.

But it required letting go - 'abandoning' much that was ingrained, assumed, instinctual and understood about how to manufacture.  It was traumatic - and although the sunk cost investment which was abandoned was more emotional than capital, the tremendous resistance to walking away took many companies to the brink.  It was only the black & white alternatives, change or die, which prompted action.

Business development isn't yet a crisis

For most manufacturing companies, revenue & profit trends are concerning, or maybe just perplexing, but not yet critical.  Revenue is stagnant or maybe contracting or growing slowly; business and sales cycles are unpredictable; margins are pressured; and there's a general feeling of unease not unlike the operational uncertainties of twenty years ago.  And the threat is less clearly identifiable - changing buying habits is less galvanizing than the invasion of cheap Chinese products.

But absent a crisis, the resistance to change is too much to overcome in many cases.  It's hard to condemn the VP Sales who hesitates to suggest cutting his direct sales force and investing substantially in virtual, early stage sales, through content marketing and marketing automation.  Similarly the COO, who comes from an engineering background and whose focused on continuous manufacturing improvement and the bottom line can't be readily faulted for assuming that the business development function simply needs the right people and right management pressure.

Sure, the right people are key.  But great people working on the wrong things are a waste of resources.  And NO frequency of excel spreadsheets is going to grow the top line.

The emotional 'sunk costs' of traditional B2B sales

B2B business development considerationsExcerpting from the HBR quote above, "It's irrational behavior. Once your team realizes that a project is failing, previous investments shouldn't matter.  The best you can do is try to make smart choices with what you have left to invest.  but too often we stay the course, unwilling to admit that we have squandered resources that would have been better spent elsewhere.

It's easy, natural and psychologically predictable that as revenue growth slows, sales cycles stagnate, margins decline and the "top line" becomes problematic that those who are invested in traditional business development will resist change.  They'll stay the course.

So what's the solution?  First companies must be positioned to accept a solution.

5 prerequisites for B2B sales growth

  1. A CEO/President who recognizes that unpredictable B2B sales is actually a symptom of gradual failure of the current approach
  2. Acknowledgement that the approach wasn't always bad - but that markets and buyers have changed
  3. Sr. management with "the balls" (thanks GapingVoid) to walk away from the emotional 'sunk costs' of traditional business development
  4. An open mindnedness to accept that effective approaches may not feel comfortable, even while they are correct
  5. A willingness to change staff if they can't change themselves, even long-time employees and heroes of yesteryear, to find the right skills and mindset to drive B2B marketing and sales based
It's easy to list the bullet points - but particularly for manufacturers who are obsessively focused on product specs and details, with traditional management and direct sales teams, these are five enormous hurdles.

Change to what?

That's a fair question, but one that can't be satisfied with a canned answer.

But it starts with a "zero moment"....here's a sneak peak via an interesting post by Daniel Newmanon HufPo
"Data that cannot be ignored

The paramount shift from 1:1 marketing that took place between a sales rep and a buyer has gone by the wayside. Even brands that still see this as a viable channel must realize that clients are more informed than ever and it is the boundless volume of content that is creating information parity that at the very least realigns the sales professionals role from informer and educator to creator and innovator.

If nothing else, brands must recognize that by the moment the prospect has landed at your door, the process has long been underway. The companies that 'get it' will recognize and prescribe content as a means to be more involved and engaged in creating those moments, those zero moments of truth and those that don't "get it" will be left on the outside looking in with little more than hope to guide them to their next cycle of growth."
Is your B2B manufacturing business up to the challenge?  Are you mr. company president?

image - gapingvoid 
Evolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog

Applying Process Excellence to B2B Business Development


Rock solid bottom line

American B2B manufacturing companies can tell you precisely what's happening within their lean manufacturing, optimized supply chains and tightly managed operations.  Cost controls are as effective as quality controls.

There's neither mystery nor surprise in the manufacturing output, or cost component of the income statement.

Squishy top line

In contrast, however, the top line is much more problematic.  Sure, it's tightly managed (how many pipeline reports get produced in your company each week?)  But the management is more hopeful than scientific. 

It's time to apply the same process excellence which makes your operations so effective to your B2B business development

Evolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog

Ever Had a B2B Sales Prospect Answer "I smoked too much dope"?


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

xray vision into b2b sales opportunities is fundamental to industrial marketing resized 600Why 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.

perspective and insight are key to industrial marketing resized 600Therefore 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"!

Help us create x-ray content

images - memolition and urbantimes 
Evolutionary Marketing & New Markets Blog

B2B Marketing Fail - Your target persona's retiring & you're stuck!

"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:
  1. research indicates that more than 90% of B2B purchases originate with an online search
  2. 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.

industrial sales buyer internet use
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."

digital b2b marketing for engineers resized 600
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.)

b2b sales industrial use of social media resized 600


So what's an over committed B2B manufacturing company exec to do?  With inadequate resources to do everything, what's most important?
  1. 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
  2. Don't disregard print, trade shows and other effective industrial sales and marketing tools, but recognize that the internet has vastly broader reach
  3. 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.
  4. 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
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