Marketing is a function whose time has come in the business-to-business world. For most of its history, business-to-business (B2B) companies like manufacturers focused on sales people in order to generate revenues. Marketing was just the graphic design department that handled the brochures and trade show booth. But those days are gone. With buyers going online to do their vendor identification and due diligence, B2B companies are having to get serious about marketing.
But the reality is that marketing still isn’t well understood by many B2B executives. Here’s a quick run-down of the 6 things that business leaders should be looking to achieve with strategic marketing:
1. Lead Generation
Every company wants leads. Even better if those leads develop into sales very quickly. Getting leads is difficult, particularly for B2B organizations that sell primarily in niche, hard to access markets.
When thinking about sales team strategies, you can generally divide people into hunters and farmers. Hunters are the people who go out and find new prospects and opportunities. Farmers are the people who nurture existing relationships, encourage ongoing sales and growth from existing customers.
The challenge is that hunters are very hard to find. VERY hard to find – and getting harder. This is where effective lead generation is getting increasingly valuable for B2B companies. Lead generation is the function within strategic marketing that makes the phone ring (or website forms get submitted). It’s one of the most visible and valued elements of strategic marketing.
2. Raising Awareness
Many B2B companies provide very specialized services or products. This means working in a niche market where finding prospects and opportunities can be a challenge. The key to accessing these sales is by raising awareness of your brand so that customers find you, rather than the other way around. If potential clients don’t know you exist, they certainly won’t be knocking on your door.
There are many ways a strategic marketing function will bring your company to the attention of prospects – from advertising to sponsorships to search engine listings.
Lead generation and raising awareness usually work hand in hand. You can’t generate a lead if you haven’t landed on the radar of a prospect. A balance between brand awareness and lead generation is usually the best approach for B2B companies.
3. Convey Credibility
One of the fundamental truths in business-to-business is that no one wants to do business with a risky vendor. Jobs are on the line when it comes to B2B decisions, so buyers are risk averse. They want to choose a company that looks like it will be a good partner. That is why credibility is essential for a B2B company’s strategic marketing.
Once you’ve gathered leads and initiated contact with potential buyers, you want to be sure that your company or service is identifiable as a credible and able partner. Before making big spending decisions, B2B organizations take their time in evaluating vendors. Credibility lets others know they can trust and do business with you.
Strategic marketing lends integrity by creating value in your outward appearance. This can be achieved, in part, through a quality website that shares information about your knowledge and past successes. Conversely, a ‘flashy’ website filled only with loud images and noise may bring prospects in initially but is unlikely to drive real sales.
4. Nurturing Opportunities
In a consumer market, buyers often make impulse buying decisions, whether that means purchasing a last-minute chocolate bar at the grocery store or a t-shirt through an online social media ad.
Companies, on the other hand, are more methodical with most of their first time purchases. They take the time to compare vendors, research the product or service, and set a budget.
This is why nurturing is essential in B2B revenue generation. Perhaps your company was contacted for a quote or information in January but received no follow-up over the next 8 months. That’s a long period of time where your sales team has likely moved on to other, hotter, opportunities. Staying in touch with these leads through a strategic marketing function means your company is far more likely to land a deal with them – when they’re ultimately ready to make a purchase decision.
5. Increasing Share of Wallet
Most businesses initially are known for one particular item that they excel at. But maybe over the years, additional related products have been added to the repertoire of offerings. For example, perhaps your organization is known for producing lighting for commercial trucks. Over time, your business grew to also provide associated wiring and professional installation services for the whole system. This is information worth promoting through every step of client interaction.
Your clients can’t purchase items that they don’t know are available. Your website can provide information and links between products. Your sales team can provide additional quotes to add on suggested items preemptively. Putting marketing strategies in place to promote the full breadth and depth of products and services you offer is a great way to produce strong ROI.
One of the most important things that a marketing team will do for a company is position it well in the market so that it’s differentiated and its value is well understood by target customers. Are you the innovator or the low-cost provider? The full service firm or the specialist in one very specific aspect of your industry? Having a position that is clear will help your business attract the right customers on a consistent basis. It makes everything else you do in marketing more powerful.
In the ever-changing business world, strategic marketing is taking a new role in B2B companies. It's becoming a business function that matters. The 6 areas outlined here will help you identify your priorities and make the right investments.
To read more about how marketing can impact a manufacturer, download the whitepaper How To Market A Manufacturing Company to get the do's and don'ts of successful marketing.