Investing in vain?

industrial marketing success requires detail focusWe all know that business success requires trial and error; experimentation & innovation.  But even knowing that, it’s easy to rue business investments which seemed sensible and adequately justified but which fail to deliver expected returns.

Many B2B Manufacturing companies find themselves in that position after pouring resources into content marketing…and receiving minimal return.

As we recently explored, the return on inbound marketing isn’t linearly correlated to effort and work.  And as many companies discover after buying into the sexy story, inbound marketing requires not only hard work and consistent allocation of resources, but also technique, vision and perspective in execution.

Spending hours, days, weeks and months on content creation may be fruitless if it’s not done well.  Even great content will be for naught if the process breaks down at other points.

Translating effort to results

Great content must be supported by great processes to succeed. And once real, honest to goodness Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) are generated, they must be sold artfully – not in some ham-fisted ’80s style.

Typically sales people schooled in a traditional direct B2B sales approach approach “leads” with a presumptively.  The conversation sounds something like “You requested information on our XXYY970L product.  Tell me about your application requirements and let’s see if it’s a fit.”  Sound familiar?  Sound effective?

You probably answered “yes” and then “no.”  Because it is so common, and oh so ineffective.  And it fails for many reasons.  First, nobody is interested in your product.  The interest is around how your product creates business value for them.  Second, they are unwilling to be sold.  The internet has spoiled them – they now buy.  They research solutions to their problems using abundant information available online, and they only entertain sales conversations once they are approximately 70% of the way through their buying process.

Strong sales people today discern among their leads those which really are (and strong B2B marketing facilitates that with behavioral algorithms and metrics.)  Of course they review the prospect’s website and LinkedIn profile before contacting them.  But they know that’s not enough, so they go further.  They also:

  • know precisely which pages on their site the prospect has visited for how long, how often and within what window (has the investigation been over 3 day sor 3 months)
  • infer from the specific content pieces which a prospect has consumed both what business issues they are focused on AND how advanced they are in their research and analysis – in other words how far along they are in their buying process
  • gauge how the initial visitor has shared the site and content with colleagues (by evaluating unique visitor behavior, source and timeline)
  • identify areas of suspected concern for prospects (e.g. a visit to warranty information and technical support pages) which should be artfully, but preemptively, addressed as part of a dialog (or perhaps nurturing content)
  • consider how the prospect has responded to nurturing – was theirs a one-time, fleeting interest or are they journeying not only on their own but participating in the virtual dialog of marketing automation

And then, armed with that nuanced insight, they reach out to prospects – not to discuss a product, but to acknowledge their research, to affirm the business issues the prospect hopes to overcome and the implications/value of failure/success in doing so – their goal is to become a resource.  Successful B2B sales people today are knowledgeable guides for the complex buying journey.  And they must seamlessly pick up from and draw upon the B2B marketing resources and content.

And marketing must execute flawlessly too

It’s not just sales that must refine and substantially improve their game.  Marketing must now not just collect business cards in a fishbowl at trade shows, but understand that they are now performing 70% of the B2B sales function.

The demands on both sales & marketing now range from minutiae to high level strategy.  Not only must they understand the cascading operational and financial implications of their solutions, but they must instinctively understand execution details including:

  • Suppressed navigation on landing pages
  • Personalized email subject lines
  • A/B testing of Calls to Action
  • Nurturing and behavioral segmentation
  • Extensive cross-selling on thank you pages
  • Individualized website content

And it’s not merely enough to have vague familiarity, but success requires a deep understanding of the technique, rationale for and objective of each of those details and many more.  (Hint – if you don’t know what these mean, why they are important and whether your effort incorporates them, then you’re the one I’m talking to!)

The bottom line for B2B manufacturing and industrial companies is that simply deciding “to do content marketing” isn’t enough – sadly, in fact, it’s likely a recipe for squandered resources.  Undertaking a DiY program is akin to purchasing a used mill and lathe and having the shipping clerk start to fiddle with them to produce some parts for your products.

You wouldn’t run your manufacturing that way….so why do you run your sales and marketing with an approach you wouldn’t tolerate in production?