The Manufacturing Executive Podcast Joe Sullivan

The Manufacturing Executive: Episode 8

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Episode show notes

A few years ago, we at Gorilla 76 took a close look at the common components among our most successful manufacturing clients’ marketing strategies.

Then, we boiled these down to seven specific elements. Once we put them together, we built a model we call the Seven Core Elements of an Industrial Marketing Strategy.

On this episode of The Manufacturing Executive, we discuss these seven key elements of manufacturing marketing:

  1. Positioning
  2. Website Foundation
  3. Technology Stack
  4. Content Strategy
  5. Lead Generation Strategy
  6. Pipeline Management Strategy
  7. Data Analysis

Resource discussed on the episode:

Downloadable 7 Core Elements Guide and Audit Spreadsheet

To ensure that you never miss an episode of The Manufacturing Show, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts.

Transcript of Episode

Joe Sullivan:
Welcome to another episode of the Manufacturing Executive Podcast. I’m your host, Joe Sullivan and a co-founder of the Industrial Marketing Agency Gorilla 76. So, a few years ago, we took a close look at all the common threads on the marketing front among our most successful manufacturing clients. And we decided we’d boil them down to seven specific things. And those things are positioning, website foundation, technology stack, content strategy, lead generation strategy, pipeline management strategy, and data analysis. And we decided to put all these things together and build them into a model that we now call the seven core elements of an industrial marketing strategy. These are essentially the seven puzzle pieces that you want present and optimize and working in sync to drive a successful marketing initiative as a manufacturing organization.

Joe Sullivan:
So, what we’re going to do today is take you through these seven things, help you understand what they are, and then leave you with a couple tools really, one that’ll help you audit where you are right now in each of those seven key areas. And then there will be a guide as well that I’ll direct you to that is really a written version of what I’m talking through today. But it will be a good reference point for you to go back to. So, let’s get into it. The seven core elements. The first of these seven is right at the center of your marketing initiatives, and that is your positioning. And we define positioning as the perception of your business in the mind of your customers. So, positioning is not who you think you are, but who your customers think you are.

Joe Sullivan:
And effective positioning, it really all starts by identifying and documenting who your ideal customer is, both at a company level and at an individual human level. And then it’s followed by crafting of positioning language or positioning story that clearly articulates how you create value for those specific individuals. And this is how you can start to shape the outward facing perception of who your business is, or start to be able to influence that. So, let’s talk about the first step inside of that first core element positioning. And that’s establishing who your ideal customer is. So, there are, probably at least from all the clients that we have consulted over the years, they all say, “Oh, we serve 10 different types of customers or 50 different types, and all these different verticals and their big customers and small customers and…”

Joe Sullivan:
I think the thing to do here is to try that identify what are the common threads among your very best customers, the types that you really want to build your business on. Because positioning is really about, it’s forward looking, it’s not about who you’ve done business with but who you want to be doing business with. And often that’s rooted in who your best customers are. So, what do those best customers look like? How big are they? Where are they located? What do they buy from you? What are the triggers inside of those companies or externally that lead them into the buying process? How long and complex is the buying process? How does the sale play out? Who on the customer’s side gets involved in the buying process?

Joe Sullivan:
So, once you’ve identified who those ideal customers are and the characteristics of those, then you want to take a closer look at the individuals who make up the buying committee, or the buyer personas as you might call them. So, these are the people whose attention and trust you need to earn throughout the buying process. Often early on, we’re talking about engineers, technical professionals who are experiencing very specific problems that they need to solve. Maybe plant managers, facility managers, maintenance people. And then as you move up the chain somewhere along the sale, when your sale is complex, you’re probably dealing with procurement. Almost certainly you are. And maybe CEOs, presidents, owners of companies, but who are those individuals that influence the buying process and therefore you need to be able to influence them with the message you deliver?

Joe Sullivan:
What are their responsibilities at the company? What decision making authority do they hold? And most importantly, what are their personal pains and goals and common questions that they ask? These are the things you want to be able to address in your outward facing messaging, in a concise way, through the way you craft your positioning language. But then also in the content you create, which we’ll talk about in a little bit here. Inside of positioning, the first core element, once you’ve identified who the ideal the customer is at a company level and individual human levels, then it’s a matter of crafting language that will speak to them. And what you’re trying to do here essentially is say, who we help and how. What are those issues we solve? What are those common problems we address and common goals we help these types of people from these types of companies achieve?

Joe Sullivan:
And the best structure I’ve seen for articulating this is, we’ve pulled from a book called, New Sales Simplified by Mike Weinberg. And chapter eight of that book is about what he calls his power statement. I would highly recommend spending the $15 to pick up a copy of New Sales Simplified. Mike presents a really great way of articulating who you help and how. And what desired business outcomes do you help transform into a reality? What are the common problems you solve? And focusing on that before you focus on what you do. Everybody defaults in their positioning language to saying, “This is what we do. This is why we’re amazing. This is why our people are the best and you should buy from us. And our competitors are phonies.” But nobody cares who you are, what you do, until they believe you understand their issues and you’ve solved them before.

Joe Sullivan:
And so, we need to wrap the outward facing communication around that. So, you can also visit the, who we help and how page on the Gorilla site, and you can see that we have followed this exact structure to write our own positioning language. You’ll see a condensed version of that on our homepage as well. So it gives you a little bit of a tangible model for how that could work. Okay. So, core element, number one of seven positioning. We’ve covered that. We go to core element number two, your website foundation. So, your website will almost always be part of the online marketing conversation. It’s the home base for your company online. It’s the online face of your company. It’s your storefront, even if you’re not physically selling a product or service through it. It’s the place where the right people from the right company that we talked about in core element number one, many of them will have their first interaction with you there before they’re ever ready to pick up the phone and you control all the messaging there.

Joe Sullivan:
And so, we need to make sure that the right messaging is there, the right pieces are in place, to be able to attract the right people there, to engage them, to convert them into leads so that you can start physical sales conversations with them. So, there are some key pieces of this website foundation that we think need to be in place. And one of those is your content management system. We’re huge advocates of WordPress. Probably many of you listening are familiar and your sites run on WordPress. If you don’t, that’s okay. There are other good content management systems out there. But the point is you need your website sitting on top of a piece of software that lets you easily add pages, edit content, make modifications, add new calls to action, there’s a learning center or a blog there that you can publish new content. And so, your website is a growing and evolving beast, really? And it should never be done. It’s not a project that’s ever done. It should be growing and evolving. You should be responding to how people use it.

Joe Sullivan:
That’s why the content management system is such a central piece to that website foundation. So, other parts of this core element, number two, the website foundation, your learning center. You might call it your blog, you might call it your resource center, learning center, knowledge center. Regardless of what you call it, it’s a place to house educational content. Content that answers those common questions we were talking about, that addresses those key problems and objectives your customers are trying to achieve. So, a learning center, again, you could use Gorilla if you’re familiar with us, with our learning center, as an example of what that could be. Another one that I love is CK Powers, is one of our clients, in full transparency, but I love their learning center, ckpower.com. They’re a manufacturer and value added re-seller of engines and generators. And I love the way their learning center has been organized, where you can sort by different content types, by different topics. So, a couple of references for you.

Joe Sullivan:
Another piece of your website infrastructure is having a lead generation system in place. So, calls to action, being able to easily deploy new calls to action, forms that people can fill out to download guides. There’s been a shift in the last year or two that I’m seeing away from gating in too much content, which means, putting content behind a form where you have to submit contact information to download it. And more of a shift to just creating and publishing valuable content and maybe using a newsletter subscriber. All you’re asking for is an email address and trying to build your email list and nurture people that way. Or using a chat bot, a technology like Drift, or if you’re using HubSpot, they have a chat bot software where you can engage people in an automated way, or a live chat where you have a person behind it. But you want to have some methodology in place to convert a visitor into a tangible lead, so that your visitors aren’t just anonymous and you can proactively begin conversations with them.

Joe Sullivan:
So, lead generation infrastructure, also part of this website foundation, which its core element number two is, lead management software integration. So, there’s a CRM and there is a marketing automation software component to this, which we’ll talk a little bit about later. But you want to have a direct tie into your lead management software so that when somebody fills out a form on your site, a contact record is created for that individual in each of these software platforms. Or if that contact record already exists, it’s updated and populated with data on what this person is doing on your site and what information they’re filling out. So, that’s another thing. And then there’s other elements, on page SEO, responsive design, things that make the user experience strong, and help keep them there and move them throughout the site to the content that’s most relevant to them.

Joe Sullivan:
So, these are all elements of core element, number two. Your website foundation. So, let’s move on to core element number three out of seven, which is your technology stack. And there’s so much marketing and sales technology out there these days. There are a ton of things you can and probably should be using, but if we had to break it down into the most essential starting places, they would be one, your CRM, two, your marketing automation software, and three, your website analytics software. Som CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. And in short, this is a piece of software that exists to keep your sales efforts organized and make your team as efficient as possible on the biz dev front. At the heart of your CRM are contact records for individual leads and customers.

Joe Sullivan:
Inside any individual’s contact record, you can log calls and meeting notes. You can record data points like customer preferences and birthdays and favorite sports teams and all that basic stuff. But a really high quality advanced CRM software will also let you sync your email to it. So, every time you send an email, you can log it directly into your CRM without having to make a manual note. You can assign accounts and individuals to specific sales professionals on your team. You can build task lists with automated reminders to follow up with leads. You can track the life cycle stage of your deals and your opportunities. You can assign values, timelines, and probabilities that deals will close to give you a real time forecast of your sales pipeline. So, these are all things a CRM will let you do. Some examples of CRMs would include HubSpot, which is by far our favorite.

Joe Sullivan:
There’s Salesforce, which is the most popular. But it’s also more advanced and I think is more valuable for really large sales teams as opposed to smaller ones like most of our midsize manufacturers have. And there’s Pipedrive, Microsoft Dynamics, NetSuite, Infusionsoft. These are all other examples of CRMs. Okay. The second piece of your technology stack is your marketing automation software. So, whereas a CRM is a place for managing your company’s interactions with current and prospective customers. The marketing automation software is there to let you streamline and automate and measure marketing tasks and workflows. In short, your CRM is a sales tool. Your marketing automation software is a marketing tool. There’s some overlapping features, but when you deploy both of these side by side, you can build a really effective marketing sales joint strategy and software foundation, I guess. So, some things that your marketing automation software will let you do. Easily deploying onsite lead generation devices, like templates for lead capture pages and forms and call to action buttons, collecting lead intelligence.

Joe Sullivan:
What are specific website visitors? What are specific people doing on your site? Who’s showing buying intent? Who’s coming back regularly? These are all things that will influence your sales process and that marketing can use to feed the sales team and help them make decisions about what to do. So, a lot of marketing automation software is out there at this point. Again, we are partial to HubSpot, but others include Marquetto, Pardot, Act-On. You’ll see all of these out there. And a lot of them have similar features. We just think HubSpot is best in class for what you pay. It gives you really the most bang for your buck. So, the third piece of your technology stack is your web analytics platform. This will probably come from a few places, the no brainer you want to get up and running if it’s not already, is Google Analytics. Probably a majority of you listening are already familiar with analytics to some extent.

Joe Sullivan:
That’ll help you measure things, like how much traffic is your website’s generating? Where that traffic’s coming from? What pages and types of content are engaging and attracting your visitors to you and pulling them in out of search engines? How visitors are moving through your site to points of conversion. So there’s so much there inside of Google Analytics. Other bits of analytics on individual people you’ll pull from your automation software like HubSpot. Okay, let’s go to core element number four of seven, which is your content strategy. I’m going to start here with a definition of content marketing by Joe Pulizzi, who is an author and the co-founder of the Content Marketing Institute. He’s the guy who coined the term content marketing probably 15 years ago or so. But he calls content marketing, “A strategic marketing approach, focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience and ultimately to drive profitable customer action.”

Joe Sullivan:
And I think the key word there is valuable. And we’re talking about, not about us content or brochure type of content, all that stuff has a place in your marketing strategy, but we’re talking about addressing those problems with objective answers and in depth content that answers the common questions and helps your prospects and customers achieve what they’re trying to achieve. A stat that we lean on often, well, there’s a study that GlobalSpec puts out every year for engineers. And it shows that somewhere around 60, 65% of technical professionals wait until the comparison and evaluation stages of the bi-cycle to make contact with a vendor. And what that tells us is, your buyers are gathering information online. They’re doing it on their own. And they’re doing it all throughout the buying process.

Joe Sullivan:
They don’t care about you until they’re confident you’ve understood their problems and you’ve solved these problems before. And so, your website becomes their first stop and the first interaction they have with your company. The sales process starts there, in your content. It’s your job to publish content that will earn enough attention and trust from them so that they will be willing to start a real sales conversation with you. So, content can come in all kinds of shapes and forms and sizes, there’s articles, there’s blog posts, white papers, buyers guides, case studies, videos, webinars, podcasts, ROI calculators. There’s a ton of ways you can create value through the content you publish online. It’s a matter of thinking about what content your audience is most likely to consume, and developing content that will help them all throughout the buying process to help you generate awareness before they know who you are. And maybe they’re just Google searching a problem they have or a question they have. Answering their common questions once they find you. Establishing credibility for your organization, converting visitors into leads, building trust and nurturing them.

Joe Sullivan:
There are so many polite ways that content will help throughout that whole buying process. And it’s such a critical piece of your inbound and your outbound marketing strategies. Core element number five of seven is your lead generation strategies. So, as you look back through these core elements we’ve talked about, positioning, identifying the right people, and putting the right pieces of the pie in place on your website. We’ve talked about getting the right technology stack in place, developing all this content that speaks to the pains of those most important people and helps them achieve what they’re trying to achieve. Once we’ve got all those foundational pieces in place, now it’s time to start driving the right people to your website, getting the right message in front of them.

Joe Sullivan:
You don’t want to do too much of that until some of that foundation’s in place. And so, this is where your lead generation strategy begins. And there are three ways to do lead generation. And all of these probably have a role for you. It’s just a matter of finding the right balance. So, there’s inbound marketing, there’s outbound marketing, and there’s paid media. With inbound, we are talking about developing thought leadership content and content that, like we talked about in the last core element, establishes credibility for you, teaches the search engines like Google, that you are the best source of information on these topics or one of the best sources. This is what will help give you visibility in the appropriate Google searches which results in traffic, which will eventually result in leads. It’s not that simple of course, there are tactical components to it, strategic components.

Joe Sullivan:
But inbound marketing in short is about establishing authority for your website, gaining visibility that way, and sort of casting a wide net and some of the right fish will swim into it. Some of the wrong ones will. But as the volume of the fish that swim into that net increase, so will the volume of those that are qualified, especially as your content becomes more and more targeted at the right people. So, that’s inbound. Also in your lead generation strategy you have outbound and paid media. So, inbound is kind of the long game. It’s going to take a while for you to gain traction if you’re just starting, you’ll get some quick wins, look at the low hanging fruit. But you don’t win the inbound game overnight. It takes time.

Joe Sullivan:
So in the short term, we’re advocates of having a really strong outbound and paid media strategy where you can say, “All right. Let’s target the 200 most important companies that fit the description of our ideal customer. Let’s develop an outbound strategy where we find the right people from those companies with this great educational content we’re using, we deliver it directly to them.” And then we tell paid media platforms like, say LinkedIn, “Hey, LinkedIn, show this content, whether that’s video or written or whatever it might be. Show this content to people with these job titles, from these types of companies, in these geographical regions, with these commonalities.” And what you can then do is, amplify the distribution of all this great content to make sure as many people as possible that fit your ideal customer profile in your total addressable market see it. So, again, it’s not a super simple thing, but conceptually it is, and that’s the strategy you want to be able to deploy.

Joe Sullivan:
So, inbound for the longterm, paid media and outbound in the short term to supplement that. Okay, two core elements remaining. Number six of seven is your pipeline management strategy. So, this is about what happens after the lead is generated. And so, we’ve talked about attracting the right people to you through inbound or outbound. When you start to generate leads or start with your, say, outbound leads to develop a two way conversation with them, the next thing is how do we help move those people through the buying process? They’re going to buy on their schedule, not on yours. So, how do we nurture them? How do we enable your sales team to nurture them and to develop those leads? So, I would break the sixth core element of pipeline management into two buckets. There’s sales enablement, and there’s lead nurturing.

Joe Sullivan:
Sales enablement is marketing’s responsibility to help your sales team develop the right processes, to enable them with the right data, and to give them the right content to help develop these leads. So, when I talk about processes, I’m talking about, who manages inbound leads? When a new inbound lead comes in or a lead from a paid ad comes in, who’s responsible to reaching out to that person? What messaging and points need to be communicated to them? What’s the follow-up cadence? And then, what data points can marketing supply them? So, if let’s just say you have an outbound campaign running to 300 people, which 20 of those 300 people clicked through to your website, and of those 20, which five seem super engaged and they’re coming back and they’re looking at pages that might indicate some level of buying intent? This is all information you want your marketing team to be able to help sales, process, and understand so they know where to spend their time.

Joe Sullivan:
So, the other part of this pipeline management strategy is the nurturing strategy, lead nurturing, which is largely a marketing responsibility. And here we’re talking about, being in the inbox of your existing contacts and all these new leads are generating probably at least every other week or so. It just depends on your business. For some of you, it might be weekly. For some of you, it might be monthly. But you want to consistently be delivering value to them, not sales messages, but sending the new, helpful video or written content that you’re creating that addresses issues that they care about. So, when you can consistently be in front of them in creating value, you’re naturally going to drive more and more valuable conversations over the course of time. Some people are ready for that conversation now, some will be ready in a month, some will be ready in two years.

Joe Sullivan:
But I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had conversations with people that have said, “Hey, we’ve been reading your content for the last two or three years and the time’s right now. And we already know you’re the first company we need to talk to because you’ve been teaching us all along the way.” That’s what you want to be able to replicate inside of your business. The seventh and final core element is data analysis. So, there was a time when measuring marketing results was all about tracking impressions and reach and how many people are getting their eyes on us. And that absolutely still has a role, but there’s also a lot of tangible data that we can now harness. And so, we need to have the software in place and the systems in place to be able to track leads all throughout the buying process. How many individuals are we reaching? What percentage of those individuals are actually converting into leads? What percentage of those leads are sales qualified? How many of those are turning into tangible opportunities that we’re quoting business for? And then, how many of those are actually turning into revenue?

Joe Sullivan:
So, these are all metrics that we need to be looking at throughout the buying process. I do like to put the caveat on this that, especially if you’re a company with a long sales cycle that plays out over a year or more, which I’ve seen plenty of that, especially when you’re selling, say, expensive million dollar equipment, and you might sell 20 pieces of equipment a year. The sales cycle is long and you can’t look at a six month marketing effort and expect there to be revenue there. Right? But we need to look at these leading metrics like traffic, and sales qualified leads generated, and then pipeline revenue. How much work are we quoting? Is it with the right people? And that’s the type of data you want to be gathering. So, those are your seven core elements.

Joe Sullivan:
Recapping them very quickly. Core element number one is your positioning. Core element number two, your website foundation. Three, your technology stack. Four, content strategy. Five, lead generation strategy. Six, pipeline management strategy. And then seven, is your data analysis processes. So, the last thing we’ll do here is, I’m going to leave you with two resources as I mentioned. If you go to Gorilla76.com/7 elements, you’re going to find two things there. There’s a downloadable PDF version of everything I just talked through. It’s a really long in depth designed PDF guide that can serve as your guide. And then there’s a downloadable spreadsheet that we call the industrial marketing audit scorecard. You’ll score yourself on 35 points, five for each of these seven core elements. And it’ll show you where you’re strong, where you’re weak, and maybe help you figure out where you need to invest some time and energy into optimizing your strategy. So, that pretty much covers it. I hope this was helpful. And we hope to see you on the next episode of the Manufacturing Executive Podcast.

Speaker 2:
You’ve been listening to the Manufacturing Executive Podcast. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you’d like to learn more about industrial marketing and sales strategy, you’ll find an ever expanding collection of articles, videos, guides, and tools specifically for B2B manufacturers at gorilla76.com/learn. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

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