2017 Industrial Sales & Marketing Recommendations
We've reviewed some of the latest sales and marketing research and used it to look forward and discover what's necessary for industrial suppliers' 2017 sales and marketing success. Links to and comments on some excellent research and white papers by leading US sales and marketing companies are shared along with our 2017 recommendations for industrial part and component suppliers (manufacturers and distributors).
Some Recent Sales Research
in 2015 sparked controversy with their Death of a (B2B) Saleman report. They predicted 1 million of 4.5 million US B2B (Business to Business) sales jobs will be lost to eCommerce by 2020. Salesmen they labelled as 'Order Takers', 'Explainers' and some 'Navigators' were the loss categories. However they predicted the overall number of one type of salesperson, 'Consultants', would increase. They also said, "too many of today’s B2B companies still insist that B2B buyers interact with sales reps... For a minority of customers who are buying complex and expensive products and services, talking to a sales rep can be a value-added experience. But for the majority of B2B buyers who are self-educating online ... nearly 75% of B2B buyers now say that buying from a website is more convenient than buying from a sales representative, 93% say that they prefer buying online rather than from a salesperson when they’ve decided what to buy. So what has happened since 2015?
MDM and Indian River Consulting
recently surveyed US distributors in manufacturing. Their answers are a useful picture of the current situation and what to expect next. You can watch a short video here but their results seem to show Forrester was right:
- Fewer field sales reps, emphasis on eCommerce and online sales
- More digital content to provide technical information
- Expanded role for the inside sales and customer service
- Shift field sales to expertise-oriented over relationship-oriented
is a sales training, assessment and improvement company helping companies adapt to the transformation caused by the internet. In their Future of Consultative Selling white paper they explain their approach to this transformation:
- 5 ways selling, overall, is changing
- Changes from traditional consultative selling to future consultative selling
- What it means to redefine your buyer’s reality and unleash value
- How to differentiate and move away from the capabilities battle and price pressure
Miller Heiman Group (MHG)
is a world class sales and services training organization, CSO Insights is their research arm.So what do they say about this transformation? Their recent Elevate Your Game and Win More white paper shares four key areas to focus on for sales success:
- How to build an effective sales enablement strategy to impact revenue
- The difference between talent and training
- The competitive advantage of sales transformation
- 5 modern executive buyer personas and how to use them. As an aside, MHG's found almost 80 percent of sales presentations are targeted toward 'Skeptics' and 'Controllers'. However those 2 personas represent only 28 percent of all buying executives. 'Charismatics', 'Thinkers' and 'Followers' represent 72 percent of all executives but these personas are only targeted 22% of the time by sales organizations! Perhaps review your sales presentations in case you have the same problem and of course that brings us on to marketing in general.
Some Recent Marketing Research
Content Marketing Institute
(CMI) has published the results of their 4th annual survey of North American Manufacturers, Manufacturing Content Marketing: 2017 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends. 85% of manufacturing organizations now use content marketing (and of the 15% who don't, 53% plan to launch a content marketing effort within 12 months). 49% of those using content marketing are 'extremely' or 'very' committed to it, 20% are 'extremely' or 'very' successful with their content marketing and 59% are 'much more' or 'somewhat more' successful with their content marketing. The manufacturing industry is clearly adopting Content Marketing but there are some other new marketing trends to be aware of too...
is a VC with an up-to-date view of 100's of companies. They share many insights so explore their site. A recently published post is 6 Marketing Trends to Implement in 2017. One insight from it, there's no such thing as a 'mobile user' or a 'desktop user' any more - a 'mobile user' one minute is a 'desktop user' the next. The distinction is entirely artificial so think 'mobile first' not 'mobile friendly' for your website!
Four Recommendations for Your 2017 Sales and Marketing
1. Smarter buyers require smarter sales and marketing! Industrial suppliers can adapt or begin to fail - so obviously we recommend adapting! As always in sales and marketing, it’s not about your or our style or preferences, it’s about the customer's 2017 style and preferences! If you don't know what those are then commission some research and find out! For example, look at your current way of doing things or the way you've always done them, old adages like "always be closing" may ignore buyers' needs and perhaps be changed to, "always be helping."
2. Expand the role of self-service eCommerce, reshape your channel sales strategies and rethink the role of your salespeople. According to RAIN Group research, less than 50% of the top performers have advanced consultative selling skills. Therefore acquiring them in your sales team likely represents an opportunity to gain competitive advantage.
3. Execute an up-to-date digital marketing plan, along these lines:
If you don't already provide customers with online product research and purchasing - catch up early in 2017 or you risk getting left behind and losing market share!
If you already provide customers with online research and purchasing keep up with these continually developing technologies and keep extending and improving your customers' experience ahead of your competition.
Your website should be the hub of your digital marketing activity
Each page should have a specific purpose and compelling calls-to-action (such as download the CAD model into their CAD design) that convert visitors to buyers. Within your website your product catalog must provide fast local search to easily find what users want and possibly intuitive configurators to help them choose the right product variant. Even more important is the influence of your content on the purchase decision: for manufactured part and component suppliers there is no more important content than a CAD model included in customer's CAD design. You should also expect your website will never be 'done'. Effective websites are carefully planned and created then perpetually refined and extended to maintain and improve their results.
For customers to find your products each website page must be Search Engine Optimized (SEO)
Today, most product research begins with search. 2/3 of searches are done on Google, 3/4 of searchers will click only on first page results. Therefore SEO success requires earning page one Google results for key pages and posts. That takes skill, time and persistence but if you need to produce website traffic fast, PPC ad programs can help though can be costly.
Content marketing is the basis of any search or social program
CMI found 85% of manufacturers using Content Marketing to some extent but as slide 5 shows Manufacturing is lagging the B2B average performance. As you create your content remember to keep it in context to the way and to the purpose of customers engaging with you - it can help in every stage of the buying process. If they are seeking parts, give them content about selecting and using your parts and, for example, we know that offering CAD models on Part Detail pages increases click through rates. Always make your content visually interesting with photos, illustrations, CAD models, infographics, charts and diagrams.
Blogging is often the centerpiece of a company's content marketing
Decide if it will be for you too but be aware that blogging success requires good targeting, editorial planning, content, quality writing and wide promotion/distribution. Promoting or distributing your content is the step after creating it, after all, if you don’t promote it, why create it to start with?
Re-purpose your content to boost the ROI on its creation.
Deliver it in new formats and through other channels. For example, your Blog posts, syndicate your product CAD models to other sites such as 3DModelSpace and publish your presentations on Slideshare.
4. Ensure your future sales and marketing teams are selected, trained and motivated to work closely together. Exactly why you'll need this alignment and how best to achieve it will be a future blog post.
As Robert Louis Stevenson said 'everyone lives by selling something' so we hope these recommendations help you in 2017. If you have any industrial CAD, Catalog, Configurator or eCommerce questions please call us, use either button below, comment below or explore our many blog posts on these topics. We look forward to helping you this year…