You Can’t Assume Today’s Customer Will Be Tomorrow’s Customer
This is a market conceit and blind spot that we hear in various forms. It is the mindset that buyer behavior has not changed and that digital disruption isn’t impacting your inbound industrial marketing the way it is all of the other markets because:
- No one would trust search to help make these decisions about our products
- Buyers would not make a decision until they see the product
- Buyers need to talk to a salesperson or engineer to understand the technology
- No one I know uses search for these decisions
- The information online is all self-serving inbound industrial marketing stuff and no one trusts it
- Our customers know us, so they just call our channel/sales/support people
- Our brand is strong enough that we attract buyers through our reputation
Pull out the mobile device in your pocket, consider the power it represents, think about the access to information and people it allows, and then think about the above assumptions.
When buyers want to learn about a product today, their first instinctive reaction is ‘Let me search online for it’. Buyers pull out a phone and start talking or they open a browser window, begin a search, and then they go on a journey of discovery about their problem. This is the case even in industries where the assumption might be that a buyer needs to talk with a salesperson or engineer to make a decision.
Peter Drucker once said that “the purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer”.
Creating and keeping a customer is different now.
- 97% of consumers now use online media when researching products and services in their local market
- 93% of all B2B purchases start with an Internet search
- 84% of buyers engage in online information consumption and education
- By a factor of 3 to 1, B2B buyers say that gathering information online on their own is superior to interacting with a sales representative
- 59% of B2B buyers explicitly indicate that they do not want to interact with a sales representative as their primary source of research
- 74% of sales go to the first company that was helpful
So what should manufacturing, distribution, and other B2B industrial companies do about it?
Change Your Strategy
Typical strategy formulations would include things like developing a mission statement, outlining your values, determining your core competencies, your key messages, what resources you may have, market research, SWOT analysis, accountabilities, and so on.
And these all may be interesting on some level, but typical strategy development misses the changes in buyer behavior. It becomes too inwardly focused and does not account for the fact that buyers don’t care about your strategy binder on a shelf or mission statement on the wall. They only care about how much you help them and if their experience of your team, products, and company were extraordinary.
Typical strategy development is more planning activities and tactics than it is the actual high-level strategy. This is the case because you control your tactics. What you do every day is your choice. So, that is what companies and managers gravitate towards.
Not so your customers. Your customers are the ones in charge of your revenue, no matter how much the sales department thinks it is.
Remember this statistic, 74% of sales go to the first company that was helpful.
So what is your help strategy?
How helpful are you?
Because that is what your customers want and they will reward the company that gives it to them.
I am not talking about tactics. Help strategy is about how you fundamentally improve your customer’s world, solve their problems, and deliver them the change they need. Can you help them in such a way that you create an experience that the customer just has to come back and have again?
To engage anyone, to start and build a relationship, based on trust, that ends up with them buying from you requires you to help first. If you do not develop a help strategy that enables your relationships any other business strategy will be sub-optimal. You may win at first or even for a while, but someone in your competitive space will figure out how to deliver a superior customer experience by being much more helpful than you and destroy your strategy, positioning, mission statement, and planning.
Change Your Inbound Industrial Marketing, Sales, and Service
There is a statistic out there that says that the buying process is 70% over before buyers want to talk to a salesperson. Here is a story that illustrates the truth of that stat.
One of our clients is a company in the midwest that manufactures and distributes capital equipment for the tube fabrication industry. I recently visited their open house with customers from all over the country. They had just launched a new laser cutting line and were showing it off to existing customers.
A gentleman, who happened to be the President of a large existing customer of my client, walked up to the owner and said, “We’ve looked at a bunch of laser manufacturers and have narrowed it down to two companies, you and another. We eliminated 3 others based on features, price, and reputation. Can we talk about a specific proposal?”
This EXISTING CUSTOMER did not talk to a sales person of my client for this $500k+ purchase.
They ELIMINATED three other vendors using online searches and other available digital information.
They only reached out to my client when they were ready to get into the details and specify a machine.
So was this sales process 70% over? In this case, I say yes it was.
- Is it always 70% over before they call a sales person? No.
- Does the 70% number represent an average or ballpark? Yes, and imagine what this number will be in 5 years.
- Does this 70% number go down if a company is proactively reaching out to target prospects? Maybe, but you better be the one being the most helpful in your inbound industrial marketing or your outbound, promotional efforts just may not work.
Are you using content to engage prospects BEFORE they reach out to you? Inbound Industrial Marketing is a well-established methodology and framework for creating, optimizing, sharing, and using content to engage with a market before they pick up the phone and call. The core principle of Inbound is to be attractive instead of interruptive. Be where your best prospects are looking for information as they educate themselves about their situations and possible paths to improvement.
Marketing, sales, and even service should be focused on implementing a help strategy using Inbound Industrial Marketing ideas and methodologies.
Put yourself in your prospect’s and customer’s shoes and deliver great content and a great experience that helps them improve. That is what customers require today.