Real-time marketing has long seemed like a tool solely for B2C marketers. However, as our understanding of this medium grows and evolves, we uncover new and exciting ways for B2B organizations to use these tools to reach and influence their customers. Using methods like social media, mobile marketing, analytics, and cloud computing, B2B industrial manufacturing marketers are able to expand their audiences and create more meaningful messages for their target customers.
However, given the heavy focus on B2C in marketing, many manufacturers feel investing in social or mobile marketing is a wasted effort. While they’ll give it their best shot, many B2B marketers are unsure whether or not their attempts are effective. In fact, according to a 2015 report from Brightcove, only 21 percent of B2B marketers are able to track ROI on their marketing strategy.
Given the tremendous difference between marketing confidence in the B2B sphere compared to that of the B2C sphere, it’s clear there’s a stark difference in the way these different industries use the real-time marketing tools available to them. Without clear direction, many industrial marketers find themselves aimless and uncertain of the impact they’re having on their audience. This can lead to stagnation and a lack of forward momentum.
By using the four most vital tools of marketing in a way that’s geared toward the unique needs of the B2B sector, you can create effective strategies and understand your return on investment at a deeper level. This will help inform your future efforts and give you confidence that your accomplishments are directly affecting the bottom line in a positive manner.
SOCIAL MEDIA FOR MANUFACTURERS
When marketing industrial products to other businesses, social media may seem like a futile marketing channel. However, there’s one vital fact to keep in mind: the businesses you’re marketing to are made up entirely of consumers. The blending of the business class and the consumer class has blurred the lines between B2C and B2B marketing, allowing the latter to reach their customers through uncommon avenues like social media.
The first step of engaging in social media as a manufacturer is finding your niche platform. For many, this is LinkedIn or YouTube. LinkedIn is a professional networking site that directly connects you to contractors in your area. There are a couple of options when it comes to LinkedIn connections. First, you can systematically find and reach out to these contractors on an individual level. If this isn’t your style, consider becoming a thought leader on LinkedIn.
To do this, begin by joining industry-specific groups. These groups allow members to share ideas via carefully created or shared content. You’ll be able to establish your company as an industry expert while increasing awareness of your brand. Keep sharing content, engaging in discussions, and getting your employees involved, and you’ll see the confidence in your company, as well as brand recognition, increase.
YouTube is another invaluable tool for manufacturers, and it’s quickly becoming one of the most influential social platforms available to businesses. It can be particularly useful for industrial companies, allowing you to create and share instructional product videos and how-to’s, as well as in-depth introductory videos to your company and the talented industry leaders who work there.
Facebook is generally a harder sell for manufacturers, but it is a necessary part of a comprehensive social media plan. Share instructional videos, curated content from other trusted sources, and your own unique content to establish thought leadership in your industry. While you may not see as much engagement as a B2C company, an active Facebook account serves to increase the impression that your business is a living, thriving organism. More and more customers are finding company Facebook accounts through search engines, and an active presence can dramatically increase their confidence in your brand.
MOBILE FOR MANUFACTURERS
The blending of business customers and classic consumers is even more pronounced when it comes to mobile marketing. Increasingly, executives and other business customers are making purchases or researching products from their mobile phones. They may do a quick search on their train ride to work, or they might search for a product during a business lunch. Recognizing this, we see it’s more important than ever to have a mobile marketing strategy.
The first thing you should do as a B2B industrial manufacturing marketer is ensure your site and product catalog are easily accessible with mobile devices (including tablets). Is your site mobile-friendly? How smooth is the checkout process from a smartphone? The good news is that most of your competitors will fail this test. This not only helps you in Google search rankings, it causes customers to gravitate towards your easy-to-use mobile site.
Once the site has been optimized for mobile use, it’s time to think of how it can be used to your company’s advantage. Mobile marketing provides businesses with more opportunities to offer highly individualized experiences to customers. For instance, if you know that a mobile IP address is associated with an executive at one of your preferred companies, using geotargeting and location-based personalization, you can design a customized landing page that speaks to that individual’s context. Content and offers that appear to be more relevant and empathetic to a customer’s context will help increase conversions.
Mobile marketing gives businesses more points of contact between a company and its customers; with a mobile site, an app, SMS messaging, instant chat, and other features, users’ experiences with the company are improved.
ANALYTICS FOR MANUFACTURERS
Analytics, on the other hand, is less about managing the way a business interacts with their customers as it is understanding how the customers interact with a business. On the most basic level, Big Data can be used to track the effects of marketing efforts. How are customers responding to informational videos? Does any content, in particular, perform better compared to others? By keeping a finger on the pulse of marketing through analytics, strategies can be adapted to suit the reaction of customers over time.
This tool goes much deeper for manufacturers, however. With extensive product catalogs and potential seasonal products and promotions, it can be difficult to track the ebb and flow of sales. Analytics solves this problem and allows you to anticipate drops or increases in product demand, track the performance of suppliers, and even track the performance of machinery via sensors. You’ll reduce unpleasant surprises in product supply or plant performance and increase productivity—all of which translates into benefits for customers.
On the CRM side, analytics provides a more in-depth look at customers’ behaviors during the research and shopping phases of their acquisition. As a result, you’re better able to target marketing to these unique phases and increase conversion rates among B2B industrial manufacturing customers.
CLOUD COMPUTING FOR MANUFACTURERS
Our world moves at a much faster pace than it has in recent years, and that pace is only getting faster. It’s no surprise, then, that customers expect speed and accuracy with every order. For manufacturers, this can be particularly difficult to get suppliers, distributors, and customer service points on the same page. This is where cloud computing comes in.
One of the biggest benefits of this new technology is the ability for lightning-speed collaboration between suppliers and distributors. Information is shared in real-time, which can be particularly useful for manufacturers that offer build-to-order products. When it comes to your product catalog, you can make changes quickly and efficiently, reducing the risk of mix-ups and confusion between contact points. Cloud computing provides a complete view of inventory, allowing you to adjust incoming supply with current demand.
When it comes to marketing, cloud computing takes the cake. Tracking the ROI on various marketing campaigns may seem like an impossible task, but with the cloud, you can plan and track each of your strategies to get a better understanding of your marketing efforts. Combined with analytics, cloud-computing offers a never before seen insight into your company’s B2B marketing needs.
Of course, there are additional benefits like automated customer service and support or cloud-based human resources management to integrate the HR processes at each of your locations. The possibilities with cloud computing are endless, and the benefits for manufacturers, in particular, are excellent.
THE FUTURE OF B2B MARKETING
Marketing industrial products is no longer limited to old-fashioned methods. Instead, manufacturers can take advantage of new technology like social media and mobile marketing, Big Data, and cloud computing to improve relationships with customers, as well as improving the company’s performance overall. These technologies are changing the way we do business, and B2B companies are seeing increased customer acquisition, retention, and satisfaction as a result.
Get rid of the confusion associated with B2B marketing by using these modern technologies to reach an unprecedented number of customers and engage with them on a more meaningful level. Once you have their attention, you can provide more complete service and a more streamlined customer experience, both in-person and through desktop or mobile devices.