Ask most manufacturers about their competitive advantages and you are likely to get one of two answers. Many will be quick to point out the superiority of their products and how other products simply don’t stack up when compared. Others will immediately jump to a description of their operations, such as on floor technologies, expertise, and processes that allow them to produce quality products much faster and cheaper than their competitors.
These descriptions make perfect sense and both are important to manufacturing success. However, there is a new trend which is silently beginning to leave its mark on the manufacturing marketing world. The adoption of sales and marketing technology, as a competitive advantage, by the leading manufacturers is receiving much less attention – and for good reason.
A report by the respected global consulting firm Bain & Company interviewed 370 sales and marketing executives working in the industrial sectors. Almost half of those surveyed indicated that digital capabilities have had a significant impact on the buying behavior of their B2B customers. In fact, B2B buyers now spend more than two-thirds of their decision-making research online.
Bain and Company aren’t the only ones to notice the mass shift of B2B buyers online.
In 2015, Google surveyed over 3000 B2B researchers and found that 89% of all B2B buyers trust online sources during the buying process. Acquity Group backs these numbers up in a 2014 study, suggesting that 94% of B2B buyers begin their buying research online. tweet
The leading manufacturers have responded, albeit silently, to the role online technology now plays in B2B sales and marketing. They recognize that B2B buyers are already 57% of the way to making a purchase decision before they are willing to perform an action on a website. Industry leaders understand that simply having a website is no longer enough and that integrating powerful marketing automation tools is the next step towards converting an online B2B audience, who are navigating a complex sales cycle, into paying customers.
There are some important reasons for this. First of all, unlike competitive advantages such as quality or pricing, a streamlined sales and marketing process doesn’t need to be publicized to be effective. Manufacturers with better products or cheaper production costs need customers to understand those advantages in order to make sales. A sales and marketing advantage, when executed properly, can (and arguably should) go unnoticed by those outside the company, while still being effective.
More importantly, however, most manufacturers launching advanced sales and marketing tools don’t want competitors to have access to the same advantages. Think about it; marketing automation tools give manufacturing businesses a detailed glimpse into the long and complex B2B buying cycle, making it much easier to follow.
As a result, companies with advanced marketing tools are able to understand when customers are in the market, often well before their competitors, clearly identify the best prospects and know when they are ready to make a buying decision, and understand when a competitor’s customer is considering making a change (often before their competitor does). tweet
This understanding of the modern industrial sales cycle gives manufacturers a distinct advantage over competitors who have yet to adopt a technology-based approach to sales.
With this in mind, it’s easy to see how the digital transition in manufacturing marketing has continued to bubble beneath the surface despite the new role online sources play in the B2B buying cycle. The leading manufacturers, who have adopted technology to better understand the modern industrial sales cycle, are best positioned to sell to this new age of B2B buyers. Industrial businesses hoping to keep up might consider doing the same – just be sure not to tell anyone.
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.
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