As an inbound marketing company with expertise in B2B manufacturing, there are a few things we’ve come to recognize as absolute truths with B2B sales and marketing. One of these absolute truths is that everyone does online research before making decisions. By everyone, I mean everyone in the world. We all do it. We’ve heard time and time again from manufacturing companies their customers “aren’t online.” That’s complete bull-sugar.
The fact of the matter is that while you may be likely to retain your current customers, you’re not going to get new ones (or better ones) by just sitting around. And telling your sales team to “hit the ground running” and “pound some pavement” isn’t going to get you the results you want either. Why?
Because your new clients aren’t out on the road, or a phone call away. They’re online. Doing research.
But, you don’t have to take our word for it:
According to a 2014 study done by the State of B2B Procurements, 94% of business buyers conduct some sort of online research before they make a purchase. That’s irrefutable evidence that your customers are in fact, online. The study also showed that:
- 77% of those B2B buyers use Google for their research
- 84% of them check out business websites before buying
- 34% visit 3rd party websites for unbiased information
- 41% read the user reviews
These stats make it pretty clear that people want to gather all the information they possibly can before they call your sales team. They know that they need your general product, that’s not the issue, they just need to know specifically which one they need, and from what company. A B2B manufacturing purchase is no small investment, and people are taking the time to make educated decisions based on the information that is available to them. And that information is sought after on the internet.
Your best potential clients are Googling whatever product they need, figuring out everything they can about it, and then, as the last two statistics show, comparing prices and quality before making their final decision. They want to know they’re getting the best product for the best price, and they’ll do extensive research (at least 79 days worth of it according to this study) to ensure they’ve made the right decision before they finally make a purchase.
What these stats are telling us is this: Your buyers are empowered. They know what they need, they just want the information to help them make the best educated decision for a solution. Your buyers don’t want to be sold on anything, they want the information to make their own decision.
That means they don’t want blogs or posts that tell them how great your company’s product is and how well it will work; that’s amateur infomercial content that won’t get you anywhere. Instead, they want the facts. They want complete, unbiased information that tells them how to troubleshoot their machine, what size machine they need for their factory, or what product will function best for their operations.
But why the different marketing stance? And when did your buyers become so empowered?
Consider who is making these purchasing decisions today. True, it used to be old, senior executives of the company who had the power and the ability to say “I want that product, and I want it in x amount of time, no matter the cost.” Then they grabbed their Rolodex and started making calls. But what you need to know, as a B2B manufacturer in 2016, is that your target market isn’t middle-aged men with business cards on a Rolodex anymore.
Who are they then?
Google conducted a study with Millward Brown Digital in 2014 that focused just on B2B buyers. They wanted to know who was buying, how they bought things, and what their buying process was.
One of the most relevant discoveries to you, is that nearly half of the people responsible for the B2B buying decisions were millennials. And what do we know about millennials?
They’re digital natives.
They grew up with technology in their hands. By the time they made it into the workforce, they already had Blackberrys and were firing off emails like they were born to do it. And let’s face it, they were.
Millennials are the most tech savvy generation in the workforce, and they’re taking over as B2B buyers. Google’s study shows that they research, research, research, do some price comparison, and then research some more, before they even consider making a call to a sales person.
So, what we’re trying to get at here, is yes, your customers are online. In fact, they’re all over the internet. The Millennial generation now makes up the largest percentage of B2B buyers, which means they deserve your attention. And if you don’t have useful digital content for them, they’re not going to come to you.
The old marketing plan used to be, “get your name out there, make sure people are aware of your brand, and hope they call you.” We suggest that you don’t hope. Although we do appreciate the positive mental attitude, you can’t build a business on hope alone. Don’t hope that someone will call you. Know it.
And how do you know that people are going to call you?
By generating compelling content that is useful to your buyers.
The research shows that people don’t want to be sold to anymore. Your buyers are empowered business men and women, who want to come to their own conclusions with the help of great, informational content.
That’s why content marketing works.
People are doing online research, and when you come up with all kinds of great content that helps them decide what products are right for their company, then you become a trusted authority.
When people trust you to provide decent, helpful, informational content, they’re more likely to purchase your product, because you’ve nurtured that relationship. They know you have their best interest at heart, and are working to sell them a quality product that will improve and make their lives easier, not just for your own personal gain.
Sound too touchy-feely for a B2B manufacturer?
That’s okay, we’ve got examples.
You’ve heard of John Deere, right?
Perhaps the largest manufacturer of farming and agricultural equipment, John Deere makes just about every kind of large machine that works outdoors: from tractors to combines to lawn mowers. But the real question is, why have you heard of them?
(If you’re guessing we might be hinting towards content and inbound marketing, you’re right)
Believe it or not, John Deere started content marketing over 100 years ago. John Deere’s son, Charles, started a magazine called The Furrow back in 1895, not as a catalogue to sell their equipment, but as a genuine farming magazine, dedicated to helping other farmers better their business. The magazine had tips and articles on farming, like how to grow your farm, and how to make a larger profit in the agricultural industry. Now, more than 100 years later, The Furrow is still circulated to millions of customers on six continents, and is translated into more than 30 languages. And without even so much as mentioning themselves in their magazine, John Deere has become the leader of the agricultural industry.
And honestly, that’s the trick. In all of their magazines, through hundreds of years of publications, John Deere has probably mentioned their own equipment a handful of times. Because endless self-promotion doesn’t do anything for your customers. The Furrow educates and informs its readers in an unbiased way, and those millions of customers respect John Deere for that. Though John Deere foots the bill for the magazine, it is completely independent of the publication itself, and yet one third of all of the millions of readers of The Furrow buy John Deere.
If that’s not a testament to content marketing, we don’t know what is.
John Deere published the best, most informative content that was relevant to their target market. Readers appreciated the honesty, and really appreciated the lack of selfish product placement. And because John Deere had the best unbiased content that spoke to their potential clients, they got the business anyway. No hard-selling techniques, no cold calling, just proven content marketing.
And this business model works across the board.
We’ve proven to you by now that your customers are researching online voraciously. With 94% of your potential customers searching for information about you and your product on the internet, you’ve got a massive opportunity to target customers through content creation. You know they’re doing the research, you just have to provide the information that fuels that research process.
The facts is, your best potential buyers are online. They’re tech-savvy, and they’ll put in the time and the effort to do months of online research deciding which big-ticket item they want from your B2B. To reach those buyers, you need to develop quality content that addresses their pain points and feeds them the information they’re looking for. When buyers keep coming back to your content for reference in their research, and to help them make major purchasing decisions, you become their advisor and the company they trust to purchase the product they need.