Manufacturers are continuing to modernize. Often their emphasis is on operations, but there is an opportunity to apply digital transformation to their sales and prospecting processes as well.
Modern buyers don’t want to disrupt their workflow by answering cold calls; their journey to making a purchase has become much more dynamic. They don’t sit around and wait for a pitch. In fact, research shows that 67% of industrial manufacturing purchases are influenced by digital in some way. This means their process is largely on the web, not with sales.
Modern manufacturers cannot rely on traditional sales methods alone. Customers are doing their own research to see what companies can solve their problems long before they talk to sales; this is how today’s purchasers build trust.
Their buying process starts with a small thought– an awareness that there is a problem that needs a solution. This stage begins the modern buyer’s journey. The first several steps of the journey take place before customers are in touch with a sales representative.
It’s a personal time where customers do a lot of research and identification, and it’s also the stage where marketing and branding are most powerful and impactful.
Provide Solutions Early and Often
Marketing teams manage the entire brand narrative, but it’s particularly important to have a content strategy in place for the early stages of the buyer’s journey, specifically before sales engage with prospects.
The first part of the buyer’s journey is where customers are confirming their awareness of a solution and educating themselves about possible solutions. Marketing should develop content for these stages, where customers are looking for valuable information to guide their decision-making.
Through the early positioning of the brand, marketing is able to provide prospects with information that helps them do research at home and educate themselves about their particular issue, and possible solutions. Targeted content such as blogs, e-books, industry articles, videos, infographics, and more are a great way to get in front of prospects at this stage.
Branding during this stage helps foster early connections to your company. Customers don’t want to just invest in any old product, they want to support a company that has strong values, that gives back to their team and the community at large. Your branding is supporting the same customer through these early stages as well. Strong brand messaging can be the difference between a prospect further exploring your company, or changing lanes and concentrating on a company that has a more consistent or appealing brand.
Take it Away, Sales!
The support that marketing and branding provide prospects in their efforts to self-educate is vital, as it sets sales teams up for success. Following the new buyer’s journey, by the time a customer talks to a sales representative, they are primed to make a purchase and feel confident in their decision to move forward with your company.
All of this is of course not to say that Sales Representatives are less involved in the buying process, it’s just that their responsibilities and time frame may have shifted. Sales teams now have to manage a more complex sales cycle. Even if customers are aligned with the brand and know that the products will likely fit their needs, there still may be questions of customization, engineering, and more.
In modern manufacturing, many of today’s salespeople serve as technical experts. They provide industry and business guidance and keep a pulse on supply chains, operations and progress, and lead times. Instead of spending their time prospecting, sales teams can provide the support and detailed information customers need (specs, order and delivery information) that solidifies the sale and ensures they are making the right purchasing choices.
In addition, sales personnel have an important role to play in relationship building and developing long-lasting trust. Salespeople become customers’ largest advocates and ensure they are satisfied with their products and services in the long run.
The Shift in Process
In manufacturing, marketing teams have long served as an addition to sales. Marketing created collateral at the request of the sales team, made the brochures, advertisements, sell sheets, and anything else needed to support sales.
These types of marketing activities still have a role in manufacturing and still need to happen-catalogs need to be created, trade shows need to go on, and product literature needs to get printed.
However, manufacturers who are embracing transformation are also repositioning marketing within the company. They are investing in proactive, rather than reactive marketing. This way they can strategically build trust and value over time, generate leads, and ease barriers to purchase and other sales hurdles.
Looking to Learn More?
Strategy House works with manufacturers like you to create and manage a powerful brand, and establish the systems you need to ensure long-term success. If you want to make an organizational shift to better align your sales, marketing, and branding efforts, reach out to our team today.