The shift in information from seller to buyer has been a hot topic in the sales and marketing world. Sellers, in the not too distant past, used to be the gatekeepers of information. This information asymmetry forced buyers to seek out salespeople, and this left salespeople in a position of power.
Of course the Internet shifted this balance of power. Buyers often know more about the market, competitors, and products when they reach out to salespeople than the salespeople themselves. This shift has challenged many SMBs in manufacturing industry, leaving many struggling to adapt.
In America, we are experiencing a resurgence of manufacturing growth. Manufacturers across the industries have applied the latest in management science to streamline and improve their products and operations. The result? They’re kicking ass! But the time and energy that has gone into the business management and operations, however, hasn’t been duplicated on the sales and marketing side.
New bottom line management techniques have been leveraged for amazing growth, efficiency and profits, but the approach to top line growth for many manufacturers has remained essentially unchanged for the last twenty or thirty years. Salespeople are still trying to sell by being the gatekeepers of information, and buyers just aren’t buying it, let alone the products of those that take that approach!
What Not To Do
It can be easy to look at the shift in seller/buyer interaction and think that there is a quick fix. Tweet a few links, add a bit of SEO, put out a new magazine ads; these tactics have the seductive appeal of simplicity. We would never argue that SEO and social media don’t have a place in a revenue growth strategy, they most certainly do. But success is built on a more fundamental and systemic shift in attitude, strategy, and follow through.
For example, let’s look at SEO. Search engine optimization used to be about finding target keywords and making use of them on your website. The goal was for a buyer to search for those keywords and your website to be as close to the top of the search results as possible. You would strive to rank well for words like “automation” or “welding supplies” and even attempt to rank for common misspellings.
Search engines and buyers searches have evolved, and today searches look more like “best warehouse management system for office products distribution” than “automation”. This means that to be effective, SEO efforts today need to look a lot different than they did in the past.
There is no quick and dirty solution for manufacturers. No single buzz word or formulaic step-by-step guide will work for everyone. There are, of course, certain concrete steps on which every B2B marketing plan should focus, but it’s important to understand the bigger picture rather than getting bogged down in the details.
If manufacturers want to sell as well as they produce, there are two main concepts they need to internalize:
- Stop selling: Buyers don’t need your standard information and they don’t want or appreciate your cold call or your hard sell. Buyers are capable of researching you, your competitors, and the market, and they aren’t going to want to talk to a salesperson until they’ve already done this research. If you want to attract new buyers, then you need to focus on helping them. This means that the sooner you can appear on their ‘research radar’, the better off your chances of a sale are going to be. Which leads to…
- Help buyers buy: Focusing on helping buyers buy means being solution oriented. Instead of crowding your website with spec sheets, create content that solves problems and educates. How to’s, webinars, common questions and answer articles are types of content that will be far more valuable to a buyer looking for a solution to their problem than your catalogue.
Figuring It out and Getting It Done
‘Makers’ drive this country. Their determination and self sufficiency are inspiring – and mixed with a dose of entrepreneurial fire, they’re unstoppable. But they’re also accustomed to putting their minds and attention to problems which they quickly master. And that’s a risk for many manufacturers when it comes to re-engineering their approach to revenue growth.
It’s not a DiY undertaking. Just as any hacker that can turn on a lathe can produce a part, only artists can make a CNC sing. Similarly, any company can implement a couple “tactics” and simply squander their efforts.