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B2B Digital Marketing - getting ready for the catch

25 October 2017

The majority of b2b marketers in the industrial space (manufacturers, engineering firms, construction companies, machinery & component suppliers, and contractors) have been slow to adopt digital marketing, but they are catching-up fast.

Here's why...

Picture a mineral processing maintenance engineer sitting in his donga (transportable office) somewhere in outback Western Australia. The wall rattler (air-conditioner) is banging away above his head and he is sitting in front of his PC.

He's looking for a supplier to deliver the part required to keep the plant running.

A technician has reported that the part in service is dying and could "let go any minute." If production stops, it will start costing $12,000 per hour in lost production. He's a buyer in "problem solving mode"; and he won't be haggling over price.

He has only two questions "have you got one?" and "when can I have it?"

His contracted supplier can't deliver.

So, our man is searching the internet. The search displays a few results - but one says "24 hours shipping anywhere in WA." Clicking on the advert takes him straight to a web page that shows a picture of the part, a brief description, tech data sheet, and a phone number. Calling the number, a technical service representative answers and after a brief conversation he places an order - "we'll drive it down to the airport, it will be on the next flight to Newman."

The alternative supplier was ready for the catch. Now, they have a new customer.

That's B2B digital marketing at work, and its happening every second across Australia (and the rest of the world). We work with many companies that have awesome supply and/or service capability, but they remain a best kept secret. They are largely invisible on the internet.

Building a high performance catcher's mitt

Getting ready for the catch requires many inter-meshed working parts, here's a checklist...

  • Continuous presence on the internet
  • A well oiled customer service team
  • Mature business processes
  • Business grade technology
  • A killer website
  • Knowing what to expect

We'll tackle these one at a time further down but first lets reveal to you the blueprint for digital lead generation and management...

The above schematic illustrates the b2b digital lead generation model.

It's an improvement on the normal digital lead model because it shows how external sales fits into the equation.

For B2B, the lead generation operational model is more than just what happens online.

Selling business-to-business often requires a sales person to meet face-to-face with the customer (we used to calling it "getting out and kicking rocks", back when I was selling to the resource industry).

The above schematic has several sections...

  • Digital lead generation: This is the delivery of the so-called "digital assets"; pay-per-click advertisements, blog articles, SEO, and social media content marketing. Their purpose is to drive traffic to your website.
  • Website: Having generated a website visit, the website (hopefully) captures the visitor's interest, and encourages enquiry.
  • Customer service: "Internal sales", "telesales", "technical customer service" - don't care what you call it, but somebody fields the enquiry and decides what to do with it. It's either a sales order to be processed ("run rate sales") or an enquiry that needs to be forwarded to an external sales person, (or someone looking for the Cat Hotel - see 'whacker enquiries' further down).
  • CRM: "Customer Relationship Management" is a loosely defined term to describe a wide range of software applications that (at the very least) store customer contact details (a fancy telephone and mailing list). It's the business storage tank for future sales (database). CRM's manifest in all shapes and sizes and are festooned with a bewildering array of bells and whistles, but the complex task of choosing one and getting it set-up daunts many organisations, so they never get around to it (this is more common than you think).
  • Remarketing: Having captured contacts and stored them in the CRM, the obvious thing to do is to stay in contact and see if you can generate more sales. Scheduled, organized, and well crafted e-newsletters and other communications feeds-off this database and generates future business.
  • External sales: Not all enquiries are 'run rate' sales. In B2B, (depending on your product mix), a company representative will need to visit the customer to better understand their requirements, return to devise a solution, write a proposal, and go back to close the deal. This is called a "high touch" sale. For many of our clients this is the ONLY way they generate business and the sales cycle can range from days, months and sometimes years.

Whacker enquiries

First, an anecdote to set the scene.

Many years ago, when I was a young marketer working for a Casino, "database marketing" was the latest technology sweeping the world.

The number of overnight experts in this field that popped-up and the zealous adoption of this new technology, parallels the current gold rush and experts coming out of the woodwork preaching digital marketing. The internet is crawling with 'em. Don't bother looking, they're coming to an Inbox near you.

We digress. The food and beverage manager wanted "some marketing" to boost sales in one of the casino's restaurants. We suggested direct mail (using things called "envelopes"). We mailed out some 20,000 direct mail pieces to our in-house mailing list.

A week later, the F&B manager stormed into a meeting and tipped a large box of returned mail on to the table (there seemed to be a lot), said unpleasant things and thumped the table a bit.

But, the count of returned mail was about 350 envelopes; a failure rate of less than 2%. So, I said...

"what about the other 19,650 envelopes, what happened to them?"

We found out, because a very many of the vouchers contained within came back (attached to customers); turnover increased for several months by an impressive percentage. We became addicted to database marketing.

Bringing this story into the digital age; unfortunately, when it comes to online marketing - failure is an option.

Once you start advertising online, along with the real customers ringing-up, you will also get the "whacker enquires."

It can't be helped (yes, it can be reduced, search terms can be narrowed, negative keywords used) but in the final analysis, more than seems reasonable will slip through the cracks and distract the people with the cheque book from the game plan.

Failure gets more airplay than success, so whereas the customer service team are "too busy to collect call statistics" they are most diligent reporting the number of "whackers" who ring-up.

Expectations need to be managed.

It's a fact of digital life, if you want to mine for gold, be prepared to sift through a lot of dirt.

"Whacker enquiries" fit into several main varieties:

  • Time wasters: These people are in the market for your product category but aren't commercially viable. We did a digital marketing campaign for a sheet metal components manufacturer. Their ideal customer was a large company looking for long run manufacture, unfortunately, the campaign generated a large proportion of people looking for (example) one-off sheets cut to a specific size to repair a garden shed.
  • Complete idiots: When you expose yourself to the digital general public via the internet, you will attract the weird and wonderful.
  • Maybe's: This last category deserves special attention.

Every so often, what initially sounds like a "whacker enquiry" turns out to be your next big customer.

If you are running a large organisation, unless you want to answer every call yourself, you need to train the people who answer the phone to spot the difference. After a morning full of 'time wasters' and 'whackers' interspersed with the long term customers, its very easy for a customer service person to call the wrong shot.

Many a business leader has at least one story about that strange, purely by chance, random business lead that turned into their "best customer ever", or the project that built their business.

No matter how board and tired they feel, after standing in the field all day, the team have to be ready to grab that one opportunity that can be a game changer.

Catches win matches.

Read more about "How to Win the online battle."

b2b sales and marketinglead generationdigital lead generationsales pipeline managementonline marketing digital marketingcontent marketing