What are the 5 main challenges for b2b industrial marketing?

Paul Crabtree 7th January 2022 Brand Comms, Industrial, Integrated Marketing

Industrial manufacturing still forms a dominant part of most national economies. Including food, drink, transport, and pharmaceuticals, it can be as high as 70% in GDP terms and is responsible for millions of jobs. 

Although markets are currently buoyant in terms of demand, many are facing unrivalled challenges in terms of raw materials shortages, price inflation, supply chain delays, logistic disruptions and staff shortages.

There is no escaping the challenges most sectors are facing in supply chain. Whether it’s semiconductors, bauxite used for aluminium, resins used in the coatings and chemicals production, or timber and chipboard used in construction, we’re short of many materials right now. 

And organisations of all sizes have found it frustrating marketing in a time when product isn’t as accessible as it was pre-pandemic and pre-Brexit. It is difficult making promises about product quality, efficiency and effectiveness when raw materials and supply chain issues blight an ability to serve. 

In this article, we dissect the pressing challenges facing industrial businesses and the marketing opportunities for navigating them a little easier. 

This is critical as we know from history, businesses that continue to market through tough times, universally recover faster and stronger than those that don’t.

 

The five main challenges facing b2b industrial marketers

 

Challenge 1. Supply chain distribution. 

Getting raw materials to the factory floor and finished products to customers is proving more problematic than normal. These issues have demonstrated how precarious a “just in time” model can be. Manufacturers have been left exposed, trying to find alternative options, having to raise their prices and are still letting some customers down.

Where a USP can be leveraged is in process and a commitment to investment. Businesses that can make the most of professional procurement and technology to improve their buying and materials management will see an improvement. UK-based companies are even able to access R&D tax credits which subsidise investment and return money spent on R&D in areas like product innovation, machinery, process and technology. It’s a very useful incentive that few companies are accessing.

It’s also the perfect time to adopt a reshoring policy and buy domestically – where you can. 

Both approaches will improve your offer, enhance goodwill with customers, and offer countless positive story-telling opportunities for marketing. 

 

Challenge 2. Revenue maximisation.

All manufacturers are looking to maximise their margin and have to deftly tread a challenging tightrope at different stages of their business evolution. 

Manufacturers initially look to distributors and resellers to build market awareness and access, negotiating margin in exchange for volume. Once the brand is suitably embedded and there is a significant user base, manufacturers often start to shift more towards a direct-to-customer model where they can create relationships, manage the overall experience, and retain more of the spend. 

Depending on the sector, this can happen fairly rapidly inside a few years or can take decades. It also depends on the contractual agreements in place. 

Moving from one model to another and putting the right processes and skills in place to manage all aspects of marketing, sales, operations, and experience in a “direct to customer” model is something most manufacturers have very little experience of. 

But getting this right, even with external support, could be game changing in your sector and for your business.

 

Challenge 3. Skills gaps and labour shortages. 

Manufacturing, despite being a dominant employer, has a real recruitment problem. Just as loyal careerists leave the workforce, taking their expertise with them, there is a worrying lack of new entrants. And whilst automation and robotics can help cover some areas, production lines still need problem-solving production line managers.

If yours is a company in need of new blood, you may want to invest much more in your “recruitment brand”. Taking the time and effort to think about how you present as an employer can pay real dividends in attracting the right calibre of mouldable people into your business.

The larger manufacturers have created their own apprenticeships and internships that lead to full-time employment. But companies of all sizes can and should do this, particularly in the local area, aligning with local schools, colleges, and universities. 

If you’re really smart, you’ll do it through social media – talk about workplace culture and opportunities to develop, and have your current employees front it to give it even more credibility and authenticity. 

 

Challenge 4. Leveraging new technologies. 

Technology is pushing change in industrial manufacturing like never before and most of your competitors are probably struggling to keep up or make the most of it. 

Whether it’s IoT, robotics, cloud computing, or using SaaS and ERP systems, it can take an IT department so long to research, approve, purchase, and install new technology that by the time it’s complete, something better and easier has already come along.

With 46 billion connected devices used globally (and rising), a global rollout of integrated sensor technology, and 5G connectivity, smart manufacturing will see opportunities to drive growth, boost productivity, enhance product quality, reduce costs, and streamline project management.

Sales and marketing professionals are often the most comfortable with “change”, so testing new technologies in these areas makes perfect sense for manufacturers looking to see significant returns on technology strategy. 

Start small with dashboards and scorecards for sales and marketing, CRM technology to manage customer communications and relationships and day-to-day sales and marketing tasks before implementing wider across the business.

 

Challenge 5. Attracting qualified leads.

In an increasingly online world, trade shows, advertising, and cold calling are less effective in creating engagement. 

Industrial B2B marketers need to be more structured in their thinking, developing content and communications that arouse, attract, engage, and inform prospects so they take action. 

This means being in the right place at the right time when they are asking questions and conducting research. 

Carefully created marketing strategies that talk to the needs of your prospective customer involves providing some information, help, or guidance – free or in exchange for their contact details – so as to start a more meaningful and “sales-qualified” conversation. 

It’s about building trust, assuring them of competence and capability before starting a messy and disjointed sales conversation. 

Manufacturing companies are often looking to win a contract or become a preferred supplier so creating the right content that targets the right people and the right problem becomes critical.

But when you meet the specification and land the contract, it is work that pays back many times over. Creating content (like this post) is an example of writing for your customer – and writing something that resonates with them.

 

Summary

Not all manufacturing problems can be fixed or mitigated by sales and marketing. But many of them can be improved by having a marketing mindset and putting customer experience at the heart of your operation. 

 

What are your industrial marketing challenges? Do you have the in-house capability and skills to be able to resolve them?

 

If you’d like to see how we can help, take a look at our industrial work here: https://www.velo-b2b.com/our-work/industrial-sector/

Check out the Velo formula here.   

Or, to start a no-obligation conversation – click here.

Paul Crabtree

Paul Crabtree

Managing Director