Good artists copy. Great artists steal.
The famous quote from Apple founder Steve Jobs, which, ironically, may be borrowed itself, highlights one of the most successful business strategies in recent history. From sales techniques, to direct product knockoffs, and everything in-between, businesses aren’t shy about borrowing good ideas. And why not? There is no need to break trail on a new approach when a successful path has already been paved.
We spend a lot of time speaking with manufacturers, distributors, and industrial service providers about the changes taking place in industrial sales and marketing. But rather than just talking, we think there is value in showing. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words! We reached out to some of our most successful customers to uncover the keys to their industrial marketing strategy, in order to provide a roadmap for other industrial businesses to follow.
In this article, we’ll focus on a construction materials manufacturer that sells products across North America. They pulled back the curtains and talked to us about how they generate leads, move them through the sales cycle, and close new customers.
For them, an industrial marketing strategy starts by acknowledging the length of industrial sales cycles.
The combination of complex products, strict specification requirements, and the need to integrate with existing systems creates a lengthy sales cycle. In fact, according to the marketing team, only 40% of their sales happen within 4 prospect interactions.
“Most companies only go after people a few times because they go ‘Oh they’re not interested’ and they give up. They try to move onto somebody they think might be a little more likely to become a customer,” says the marketing manager.
For sales teams, this makes sense. They need to focus on the opportunities that are most likely to close in order to meet their sales goals. Wasting time on leads that don’t seem interested is impractical.
“What we can do on our end (marketing) is to mitigate some of that lost time for them. We’re able to provide our sales team with sales ready leads.”
By sales-ready leads, they are referring to prospects that have already been in contact with their business, are familiar with the products, and have expressed some form of interest before they are passed to the sales team to close.
To deliver sales-ready leads to their sales team they developed an industrial marketing strategy that combines elements of both traditional and online marketing.
It begins by generating leads in the first place.
To start, they attract interested visitors to their website through search engines and a strong social media presence. They optimized their website to encourage these visitors to fill out forms and download files – all of which help to identify leads and give the sale team valuable information about their interests.
As well, they attend tradeshows throughout the year to connect with buyers in their target markets and build brand awareness.
Next, they send an initial email to prospects introducing the business and its products. Email allows the manufacturer to track opens and clicks, painting a picture for the marketing team about who is interested, and in what.
They follow up on the email the next day with a phone call. The call is an opportunity to answer any questions they may have, but more importantly, it is a reminder of who the company is and what they do.
One week after the initial call, they follow-up with another phone call to answer any questions prospects might have, gauge their interest, and drive home brand awareness for the manufacturer’s products. Prospects who have performed activities on their website, such as downloading brochures and spec sheets are given priority since the callers know specifically what they are interested in and can prepare additional resources to help them with their purchase decision.
Finally, after this phone call, a promotional piece is sent to prospects which highlights the benefits of a specific product and provides some information about the company overall.
During this process, the marketing team is watching carefully for signs of intent. As prospects return to their website, fill out forms, or download product specification files online, the marketing team gauges their interest. When the time is right, they hand the lead off to the sales team to close the deal.
“All of this is to give my sales person a lead that is ready so that he needs to do nothing (but sell). He just needs to phone them up and do his magic. Or her magic.” says the marketing manager.
While this industrial marketing strategy sounds impressive, it might also sound intimidating.
For industrial businesses with a less established program, it may seem like a leap to implement such a formalized system. However, the important takeaway here is that something is always better than nothing. No marketing program is ever complete and it should always be evolving.
Obviously, this exact industrial marketing strategy won’t work for every business. It does, however, show how the right tools, approach, and resources can work together to improve sales. Industrial companies must first assess the ways their customers arrive at a purchasing decision, and then work to get the processes in place to support these decisions.
Given enough time, and the right strategic thinking, competitors may soon be trying to steal your sales and marketing ideas.
About Samuel Fordham
Samuel brings energy and enthusiasm to the marketing team at ActiveConversion. With a background in communications and digital journalism, Samuel focuses marketing efforts towards the goal of increasing opportunities for business growth.