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IMA Executive News & Views Blog

Shifting from Traditional to Customer-Centric Marketing

by Tyler Smith

Simple Machines Marketing is an IMA B2B Partner

There are far too many websites with designs that predate Facebook. (Except you, 1996 Space Jam website. Never change). This is especially commonplace among businesses in the manufacturing industry.

Too often, business leaders undervalue their company’s online presence and overvalue their products. This has led to product-centric marketing techniques dominating the manufacturing industry, with companies highlighting features while not giving much thought to the people purchasing the product.

For many businesses, it’s the way things have always been done. Until now.

In 2018, manufacturing companies have woken up to the fact that consumers need more ways to engage with a company besides just seeing the product. According to the 2018 Budget Trends in Industrial & Technology Marketing report by Engineering.com, marketers in manufacturing reported the highest levels of growth, with 55% saying that they would dedicate more budget to digital marketing.

The rising budgets are no coincidence; manufacturing marketers are rapidly playing catch-up to other industries. Stuck with outdated websites that don’t offer a clear way to engage visitors or capture leads, the time has finally come for manufacturers to embrace customer-centric marketing.

Let’s look at the consumer-focused trends that are changing the way manufacturers approach marketing.

Changing Marketer Evaluation

As consumers have become more and more resistant to traditional marketing messaging, the old product-centric approach isn’t generating the business it once did. Given that 78% of manufacturer marketers are evaluated on the leads they bring in, they’ve been forced to quickly adapt their tactics.

To bring in more leads, marketers are turning to more digital, consumer-centric marketing methods. The Budget Trends report states that manufacturing marketing success is always going to be about quality leads, and leaders are discovering that generating leads online is an effective channel for reaching people searching for a solution that they can provide.

Lead Generation Through Valuable Content

So, how is digital marketing bringing in more high-quality leads for manufacturers? Sharing quality content that addresses common issues or newsletters that keep contacts updated on the latest industry trends helps build trust with a consumer, for one.

This type of marketing is about building goodwill with the customer before you introduce the product into the mix. The old way of explaining why consumers need your product doesn’t work because they have access to far more information and options now. Digital marketing allows manufacturers to create a good first impression in a consumer’s search by providing them with valuable information they are seeking.

Once that trust is established, consumers reach out to your business, creating a much better dialogue about their needs than a potentially unwelcomed sales call.

Best Sources of New Customers

What’s the number one source of new customers according to industrial marketers? You guessed it: digital marketing activities. The second is sales team outreach and the third is paid digital marketing activities like Google or LinkedIn ads.

As the report notes, if you were to jump in a time machine and go back ten years, sales would easily be number one. In previous years, the report asks marketers if “marketing was becoming more important relative to sales,” and every year the answer was a resounding yes. It was so automatic, Engineering.com ultimately dropped the question from this year’s survey

It’s clear that companies who’ve switched their marketing approach have noticed benefits. Reaching customers at logical points, such as those who are looking for information on Engineering.com or Thomasnet.com, requires less effort than calling leads who aren’t currently looking for what you’re selling.

Digital marketing is providing manufacturers with more opportunities to get in front of higher quality leads.

Where are Budgets Being Spent?

With marketing budgets rising, where is money being spent? Here’s the breakdown of budget spend according to the report:

  • 33% on “other marketing activities” (i.e., trade shows, marketing collateral production, etc.)
  • 31% digital content creation
  • 29% digital content distribution
  • 7% print advertising

What’s apparent is that 60% of the budget is dedicated to content, indicating just how far the industrial marketing industry has come. The report makes it clear that there has been a shift from selling products through a sales channel to educating prospects on how to solve their problem by using the marketer’s product.

From the looks of it, video is king, with manufacturers increasing their investment by 39% from 2017 to 2018. Case studies are second at 35%.

Audience First

Now, before you run off and start creating digital content, remember that the type of content that your company invests in should be dependent on what your audience wants. Conduct tests or research to find out which content resonates the best with your audience, then invest in that channel. Don’t just make a video because they seem to be popular — do the work to learn if your audience will likely watch the video first.

If you’re dedicated to using digital channels, you’re putting your company in a much better position to bring in new, high-quality leads than much of the competition.

 

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