Industrial marketing (circle) vs Consumer marketing (square)

Industrial B2B companies have a tendency to not embrace marketing. And if they do, marketing usually means print ads in trade journals or direct mail campaigns – neither of which tend to generate much of a measurable return on investment.

To these industrial companies, marketing is an overhead expense, plain and simple. Write a catchy headline, add a few paragraphs about superior service and a wide selection of products, write the check and call it a day.

But here’s the problem. Industrial marketing is (or at least needs to be) very, very different than the consumer marketing we experience around us every day on tv, on billboards, online and in our mailboxes. After all, we’re not selling cheeseburgers here. We’re selling highly technical, typically very expensive niche products and services for very targeted audiences. The bottom-line, getting more qualified leads that convert into customers, is the name of the game with industrial marketing.

Industrial marketing vs. consumer marketing: 5 key differences

Let’s take a look at five reasons industrial marketing needs to be approached differently than consumer marketing.

1. The industrial buyer is looking for something (very) specific

Your buyer might be looking for steel pipe. But more likely, he’s looking for carbon steel pipe. And even more likely, he’s looking for A-106 carbon steel pipe. The point? Mass marketing doesn’t work when each buyer has such specific (and technical) needs and requirements. A successful industrial marketing strategy requires a much more targeted, niche-specific approach.

2. Research (lots and lots of research) precede the purchase

Long sales cycles often accompany big industrial B2B purchases. Lots of money is involved. Often lots of people are involved. And sometimes lots of office politics are involved. As a result, this kind of big purchasing decision is typically accompanied by a significant amount of research by the buyer.

You might argue that many consumer purchases also involve a good deal of research. A new home. Expensive furniture. A car. A computer. But rarely do even these biggest of consumer purchases take the good majority of a year (or multiple years). That leads into the next point…

3. Purchases mean partnerships

When the sales cycle does take months, or a year or more, staying top of mind, earning trust and qualifying your business are all critical steps in the buying process. Successfully catering to these steps is what we call “lead nurturing”. The industrial buyer needs to feel confident in you and know that he is being taken care of.

Often a B2B purchase means that a relationship is about to form. Your buyer may have to work closely with you for months or even years to come. He doesn’t want to start over again next year. He wants to make the right decision, right now. So the relationship matters.

4. The researcher often isn’t the decision maker

The person who discovers you is not always the person writing the check. Maybe a car salesman needs to convince both you and your spouse that this minivan with the built-in tv and vacuum is exactly what you need to effectively transport your kids to soccer practice. But the industrial marketer needs to equip an engineer or procurement staff member with the knowledge to sell a product or service up the chain to his or her boss, and his or her boss’ boss. That’s no easy task.

5. Contact information is the currency of an industrial marketing transaction

Industrial sales and industrial marketing are closely tied together. But they are NOT the same thing. Here’s how I’d describe the difference in one short paragraph:

The job of marketing is to generate awareness among a niche audience, educate them, qualify your business in front of them, keep them engaged and convert them from anonymous prospects into hard, qualified leads with names, phone numbers and email addresses. The job of sales is to turn those leads into paying customers.

The currency of an industrial sales transaction is of course the dollar. But the currency of an industrial marketing transaction is contact information. The perception of an equal trade occurs when your website visitor fills out a form – whether to download a white paper or case study, or to request a quote or consultation. This person is giving you his or her contact information in exchange for some piece of information that he or she perceives to have equal or greater value.

And by doing so, this person is moving from “anonymous website visitor” to “potential sales target”.

Each of these transactions fits into a different stage in the industrial buying process. And this is just one reason why it’s so important for marketing and sales to work hand in hand.

So where do you get started with industrial marketing?

Try our Tactical Guide to Industrial Lead Generation. This guide takes the industrial marketing concepts above and shows you how to put them into practice. And if you’d be interested in a consultation with a B2B marketing consultant that specializes in industrial marketing, click here. We’d love to talk.