How to Get Started with an Industrial Marketing Strategy in 2024
A targeted industrial marketing strategy is key to increasing sales and revenue in today’s industrial marketplace.
With ongoing uncertainties in today’s economy and supply chain, having a solid strategy to guide your industrial marketing efforts is more important than ever. In effect, your website and digital marketing multiply your sales force, and, done well, can bring even more qualified prospects into your sales funnel.
Where once, not so long ago, engineers eagerly anticipated a visit from your rep and the printed literature they would leave behind, the expectation has shifted to easy access to information online. Your website, and the coordinated industrial-centric digital marketing strategies and tactics that drive your ideal audiences to it, haven’t taken the place of your sales reps. Instead, your website and digital marketing now do the jobs of informing prospects of your offerings and qualifying those prospects (by allowing them to self-qualify). This allows your sales reps to be more efficient because they have higher-quality leads to handle and close. The data sheets, brochures, product catalogs, research and specifications that all used to be printed have simply transformed into easier-to-access and easier-to-update online materials.
Whether you’re working with an aging website from 10+ years ago or you’ve been keeping pace and are ready to level up your game, this article will guide you through improving your industrial marketing strategy for today’s business climate. In this article, we’ll go into detail on:
What is an Industrial Marketing Strategy?
Marketing, at its simplest, is promoting goods and services to those in a position to buy them. Industrial marketing specifically focuses on the B2B (business-to-business) scenarios in which one company is promoting their industrial goods and/or services to another business that needs them. These could include a contract manufacturer or OEM working with another manufacturer that creates the end product, an industrial automation company that works within manufacturing facilities, manufacturers of rubber and plastics or other products used in a B2B setting, and B2B marketing for a whole host of other engineering and technical industries. Industrial marketing strategy is the practice of applying a method to the madness of marketing itself — setting specific goals, planning tactics, executing, measuring, learning and improving. Industrial marketing done without a well-thought-out industrial marketing strategy can fall flat and lead to sales teams disregarding its importance, resulting in missed opportunities.
What’s Unique about an Industrial Marketing Strategy?
Much of what’s written on the web about marketing is specific to B2C (business-to-consumer) marketing. While there’s also some content discussing broad-based B2B marketing, industrial B2B marketing is unique. In our specialized niche working with companies in B2B technical industries, we see these common traits among our industrial marketing clients:
Complex products & services
Industrial products and services are often complex and difficult to explain and understand, especially to those not familiar with the specific applications and use cases. Products are often customized, difficult to specify, and services are often bundled with them.
Very often, industrial marketing needs to serve an educational purpose as well as providing specs, data, features and benefits.
While many B2C brands can appeal to a very wide audience, B2B industrial marketing strategies need to hone in tightly to the very specific niche audience of those who have a use for your products and services. Engineers or other technical individuals in specific markets or applications are often primary website visitors and purchase influencers.
Long sales cycles
Most B2B industrial purchases are major, considered purchases. The value of an individual closed sale is typically quite large, and the relationship between purchaser and vendor can be strategically crucial to the success of the both companies. These are the opposite of impulse buys. While brand perception plays a role, a great deal of information-sharing, trust-building, consulting and knowledge transfer often takes place over the course of a long cycle from initial lead to closed deal.
During this long sales cycle, more than one individual is usually involved in the buying decision. Often, an initial researcher, such as an engineer, a scientist or another technical person, is searching for a solution to a problem, sourcing a new vendor, or trying to innovate or develop a new product. This person can be highly influential in a sale but is rarely the one signing the contract or writing the check. Others in the C-suite and/or the purchasing or quality departments typically also interact with your industrial marketing materials, looking at a different, but overlapping, set of criteria before finalizing the buying decision.
Transitioning from traditional selling to internet marketing
Until very recently, industrial marketing has tended to lag behind B2C marketing, leaning on traditional selling practices as the main driver of growth and sales. The post-pandemic shift in work culture has escalated the slow transition from more traditional approaches to fully making use of digital marketing and all that it has to offer. At Windmill, part of our practice is helping clients move forward from wherever their current position is along that trajectory.
Global reach & supply chain
Despite their highly specific niche audiences, many industrial companies need to reach those niche audiences across multiple time zones, continents and languages. This places even greater importance on a 24-7 frontline sales force—in the form of a hard-working website that integrates localization and translation features and keeps pace with global regulations such as GDPR.
CRM, ERP, MAT integrations
Many industrial marketing websites require integrations with ERPs or other systems that manage inventory and specifications, distributor portals or other advanced multi-system integrations. If you’ve digitally transformed your sales practices, you’ll require a CRM integration with your website and marketing automation software to help fine-tune lead nurturing and follow-up.
Why is Industrial Marketing Important in 2024?
While recent years have sped up the digital transformation of industrial marketing strategies and tactics, trade shows and traditional marketing have been making a comeback. However, expectations can’t be quickly undone—and won’t be—as a more and more digitally focused younger generation of B2B technical and industrial buyers will continue to expect information at their fingertips. Excelling in your digital marketing practices will help you outpace the competition.
Key Components of an Industrial Marketing Strategy
Positioning: The cornerstone of industrial marketing
In order to do any marketing strategically, especially very specific industrial marketing, the first step is to get crystal clear on who you are as a company and what your key offerings are to your customers. What products and services are your key revenue and/or growth drivers? A good shorthand for a positioning statement is “We do ______ for _______.” Your positioning statement should also include your most important SEO key phrases and offer a point of differentiation against your competitors. Read more on creating a positioning statement and SEO keywords to drive your industrial marketing strategy.
Documenting your specific ICP & personas
Knowing who you are and what you want to sell is only one half of the equation; the other half is clearly defining who your best customers are and understanding their very specific needs, challenges, and pain points. While it may be true that you’ll sell your offerings to anyone willing to buy them, there is, for almost every B2B industrial company, a type of buyer that represents their ideal customer. You can define this with two components: an ICP (ideal customer profile), meaning the type of business that buys from you, and persona(s), typically the key individuals that drive a purchasing decision. The first step is identifying your ideal customers—the type that you’d like more of—by looking at patterns like:
- Company Size (in terms of both dollars and number of people)
- Project Size (in dollars)
- Annual Budget (in dollars, for the product or service you provide)
- Industries or groups of industries
Next, start to identify the job titles and positions of those in the buying teams for these companies. What do they have in common?
- Age range
- What is their day like?
- What keeps them up at night?
- What do they call the solution?
- How do they search for it?
- How do they benefit from your offerings?
You can find a lot of this information by interviewing your sales reps, but it’s an even better practice to dig deeper by interviewing your best customers on a regular basis. As your company evolves, grows and changes, your key personas also shift and change, so make a regular practice of revisiting your personas and getting deeper customer insights.
Fine-tuning your industrial website for more efficient marketing
For an industrial company, your website typically is the most visible expression of your brand and the most accessible way for customers and prospects to interact with you as a company. To make sure that the website is doing its job as an additional salesperson, it’s important to ensure that the user experience, content strategy and underlying technology are all working in lock-step to allow visitors to find the information that they’re looking for quickly and easily.
As a general checklist, a high-performing industrial marketing website should contain:
- Overview of what you do (Homepage)
- An overview and detailed information page for each product or service
- Case studies
- Market, industry, vertical or application pages
- Information about the company and its history (About Us)
- An easy way to make contact (CTAs and contact page for SQLs)
- A reason to exchange contact information before a need to buy is imminent (gated content, gated tools or resources, etc., for MQLs)
- Resource library/articles/videos or other instructional materials
Your industrial website homepage user experience should lead with your positioning statement and guide visitors through an introduction to your offerings, allowing multiple entry points into the types of content that interest them most, whether key products and services, industries you serve, case studies or more about your company or facility. For more information on industrial website content strategy, read “Website Content Strategy – Planning Critical Website Content.”
And, of course, make sure that the site loads quickly, for the sake of users as well as search engines, both of which will more heavily favor a website with efficient load times and fewer barriers to content.
Strategically driving more of the right traffic to your website
Once your website house is in order, it’s important to actively pursue getting it in front of the right people. “If you build it, they will come” may have worked in the very, very early days of websites and SEO, but today’s industrial marketing strategy needs to include a considered plan that uses information about your positioning and target audiences to draw in people who are likely to be interested in, and ultimately buy, your services.
Industrial SEO shares many commonalities with “regular SEO,” but just as with your offerings and audiences, there are additional complexities and nuances. Where much of the SEO world focuses on driving traffic and writing content around keywords that have high volume and low competition, in industrial SEO, there’s a good chance that those high-volume, low-competition keywords will be much too broad to truly apply to your business. Key takeaways and strategies for industrial digital marketing and SEO include many of the basic SEO principles, with a lot of additional specificity:
- Clearly define SEO topics that fit your sales and marketing mission
- Get specific with keywords for technical B2B and industrial SEO
- Write content for your users and prospects
- Modify and edit the content using industrial SEO best practices
- Publish and submit new content to Google
- Technical SEO for your B2B Industrial website
- Measure, monitor and improve over time
Industrial content marketing
Content marketing is a key part of driving organic inbound traffic to your website. A good content marketing strategy for an industrial company should include topics carefully selected to match your company’s positioning and SEO strategy and your best prospects’ challenges, interests and needs. It’s important to involve your subject matter experts in the content process— as interviewees and contributors even if not as writers—in order to ensure that the topics are covered in enough depth that they show your company’s expertise and give the technical audiences reading them sound information that increases their level of trust in your company.
Industrial lead generation
Once you’ve driven qualified traffic (i.e., people who match your ICP and personas and are likely to have a real need for your products and/or services) to your website, it’s important to make the next steps easy for them. Lead generation, the way we see it, is more than cold calling and appointment setting, it hinges on encouraging conversions on your website. These can include MQL conversions (marketing qualified leads) as well as SQL conversions (sales qualified leads). Many opportunities exist for generating leads via valuable gated content opportunities on your website, but resist the temptation to gate product information, specs or details. The content that you gate (i.e., put behind a web form asking for a prospect’s email address) should be value-add content like in-depth whitepapers or advanced tools. Every page on the website should have a clear call to action (CTA), ideally in both the header and footer, to guide a prospect into getting in touch with your sales department. For more on CTAs, read Five Tips for a High-Conversion CTA on Your Industrial B2B Website.
Linking marketing closely to sales
In the old paradigm, marketing and sales teams worked in separate silos. Now, with marketing taking on the role of the first-touch sales team, it’s more important than ever that sales and marketing initiatives are working tightly together. This means regular meetings between sales and marketing to review questions asked by prospects (which directly translate into future website articles and campaigns) and the quality of leads coming through the website (which helps marketing teams double down on the channels, messages, ads and types of content that drive qualified leads and step away from those that don’t).
Nurturing leads and staying top of mind
MQLs and SQLs in any long sales cycle business need ongoing nurturing until the time of the closed sale. For SQLs, this can mean developing a collection of sales enablement content, such as information that more deeply answers questions that come up during the sales process, an always up-to-date catalog of detailed case studies, and high-quality sales presentation materials. For MQLs, this could mean an ongoing email campaign that sends out helpful information (vs. self-promotional materials), an education program such as webinars or on-demand courses, and social media campaigns. Any qualified prospect who provides their contact information should be treated as your future best customer, which means being careful not to overdo it. Don’t drive them away with too much information or a pushy, sales-oriented email campaign. Communicate just enough that you stay top of mind for the moment when they’re ready to move ahead.
Evaluating & Improving Your Technology Stack
In order to get the most out of your marketing team’s efforts, a few key technology pieces are necessary. They are:
- Your website
- Your CRM
- Marketing automation
- Web analytics
Your website is, of course, the most visible aspect of your brand, and the main marketing engine, but don’t overlook the underlying technology on which it’s built. Is the software secure and up to date, so that your efforts aren’t undermined by a hack attempt? Is the CMS user-friendly so that it’s easy to maintain content, add new pages and update products? Does the site load quickly, which is important for both users and search engines? Take some time to evaluate the website’s performance for users, admins and search engines, and you’ll often find low-hanging fruit where small improvements can make a big impact.
If you’re not using a CRM (customer relationship management) system, there’s no better time to start than the present. This type of software improves the efficiency of your sales and business development teams, while also providing critical insights to marketing, so that they can see clearly which types of leads develop into closed business.
Certain characteristics and capabilities of CRMs are especially useful for generating quick wins. Easily the most important is that a CRM provides a single source of truth by being a central repository for customer data. Once you’ve centralized data, you can quickly begin to gain visibility into past trends and predict future sales.
From a practical, administrative perspective, a CRM means it’s easy to find contact information for any or all customers and prospects, whether you’re compiling a holiday card list or sending out a crucial email notification. A CRM also allows you to easily create a repository of correspondence and touchpoints. By using email integrations, call integrations and other productivity tools, you eliminate the need for endless copy and paste and duplicate entries, while maintaining a repository of information that helps sales reps be more effective. A bonus: It’s immensely valuable if a sales rep leaves your company.
By using consistent fields within the CRM, you’ll find it much easier to segment and filter the list to better understand customer and prospect cohorts. Using the “industry” field, for example, can often help send targeted messages as well as gain numeric backing for a gut feeling that, for instance, most of your revenue comes from the medical industry. Sometimes, once you dig into the data, you’ll be surprised to find that the sectors you thought were most lucrative might not actually be the strongest.
Other winning characteristics of CRMs include the benefits of setting tasks and reminders, using general productivity tools and shortcuts, email segmentation and email sequences, setting up multiple pipelines, tracking deal source and using lead scoring and an activity feed to sense engagement in a prospect so that you can reach out at exactly the right time.
Marketing automation is often bundled with CRM software, as it is in the case of HubSpot. Other popular tools include Marketo, Pardot and ActOn. These tools make it easy to nurture leads that have converted on your website through email campaigns, lead scoring (to filter out and identify which leads are highly engaged and might be worth outreach by your sales team), lead intelligence and other methods. Most tools also support the creation of landing pages, gated content features and forms, and much more.
In this category, Google Analytics is the industry leader for gathering information about visitors to your website, which pages they visit most, where the traffic is coming from, how they move throughout the site and other metrics. Most websites have transitioned to Google’s GA4 code, but many marketing teams are still transitioning their practices in how they use this new data.
Test, Measure & Improve with Reporting & Analytics
To keep your industrial marketing strategy on point, it’s important to test, measure and make improvements. To analyze content performance, you can use a variety of tools, including Google Analytics, SEMRush, HotJar, HubSpot and Google Search Console. Analyzing your B2B industrial website’s current content performance sets you up to support what’s working and set goals to make improvements. It’s not just about page views, but about the quality of the leads.
Challenges Facing Industrial Marketers
The industrial marketers that we help at Windmill Strategy are typically at mid-sized companies on small marketing teams—sometimes a team of one. These folks wear multiple hats and are often busy, overstretched and trying to do it all while keeping up with the moving goalposts of modern marketing. Wherever you are on that journey, we can meet you there. Our role is to help people move along the trajectory of modernizing their marketing and making it smarter, more targeted and more efficient in the process. In today’s quickly changing economy and marketing climate, marketers need to be even more nimble than ever, focusing on the metrics that matter most and finding quick wins, while also moving longer-term initiatives along. And that in itself can be an impactful industrial marketing strategy.
Recruiting or capacity challenges
When a company is overstretched and understaffed, the day-to-day challenges and struggles can often push marketing lower on the priority list. However, a lack of focus and innovation in this area ends up building a kind of “debt,” as you fall farther behind in digital marketing, website improvement and overall performance. The thing is, attracting new talent is easier when people have a good first impression of your website. Read this article for a few focused, relatively quick ways to gain traction with your website and digital marketing.
Recession fears (pandemic or not)
Recommendations from our 2020 article on marketing in a recession make sense even when economic headwinds aren’t the result of health emergencies.
If your budgets are shrinking or frozen, it’s a time for heavy prioritization and data gathering. Set up heat-mapping tools to gain more data, regularly review your analytics, and schedule and implement quarterly marketing reviews. Every quarter, set goals for what you can incrementally improve, starting with the easiest-to-implement, biggest impact activities. Invest time learning more about creating compelling content and developing your email marketing practice. If a website redesign is needed, but not in the cards yet, begin working on the strategic plan and requirements. Consider whether pulling back or ramping up marketing is the better strategy—there may be many areas where a renewed investment in marketing can bring in the revenue growth needed to counteract any economic concerns.
Content is a critical element of industrial marketing strategy, but creating it on a regular basis can seem daunting. In this article, we review quick wins and simple strategies for improving content over time. First, you’ll want to have a good idea of how your current content is performing. Then, you can start the process of prioritizing updates to your content to achieve continuous improvement over the long term. These are are the actions you will want to take:
- Update existing website content for better performance: Focus your efforts on the top five most viewed pages on your website.
- Remove content that doesn’t serve you: Remove or modify pages that rank well in search queries for a topic unrelated to your primary business and have a high bounce rate. This gives Google a poor impression of your website.
- Prioritize the creation of “missing” content: It’s easy to fall behind as your company develops new products or services. Make sure they’re represented, and keep generating fresh case studies, too. Adding industry-specific or application-specific pages is also worthwhile, as these pages tend to do well in organic search.
- Implement a schedule for continuous improvement and new content creation: Create a content calendar with achievable milestones. Build a sustainable habit of content creation.
Industrial marketing can be just as nuanced and complex as the products and services in the B2B industrial & manufacturing marketplace. Building a solid industrial marketing strategy will help you chart a course forward.