Digital marketing has not historically been a part of many manufacturers’ budgets, but as technology evolves to the point where in-person sales presentations are not necessary and B2B customers shift financial resources away from the travel required for trade show attendance, manufacturing companies are finding that they must reconsider online advertising. Fifty-one percent of engineers did not attend a trade show in 2012, while 66% of engineers attended at least one webinar or online event (GlobalSpec 2013 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector).
However, digital marketers who are hired by manufacturing companies often find that the company is not as receptive to internet marketing as they expected, leading to resistance when the time comes to implement new initiatives. Whether this stems from organizational culture, objections from individual stakeholders, or both, it can be frustrating.
There are a number of ways to overcome internal concerns, gain buy-in, and go to launch on online advertising projects in a manufacturing environment. If you are a digital marketing professional who has been hired by a manufacturing company, but you’re having trouble getting approval for your projects, this article is for you.
First, if your previous marketing experience isn’t in manufacturing, be sure to familiarize yourself with the selling process at your new place of employment before jumping into your recommendations. There may be a number of differences from your experience in other industries, such as highly specialized and high-dollar products, long sales cycles, and participation in RFQs or bid packages. With this understanding, you’ll be able to speak to the organization’s needs in a way that makes it clear that you’re not just trying to overlay your past experience on manufacturing. For example, you can talk about how the right content can shorten the sales cycle by educating prospects and moving them closer to purchase decisions.
To earn buy-in on your internet marketing projects, you’ll need to apply some of the very concepts you’re trying to sell. For example, you know that a good content marketer writes and distributes content with the needs of the customer in mind; keeping your (internal) customer in mind will help you overcome their objections, calm their concerns, and sell your ideas. To do that, answer the following questions:
- What are this person’s / department’s pain points? What are the prospect’s challenges and fears? How can you position the initiatives you’re working on as the best solution to these problems? How do they fit into the organization’s overall strategy?
- Are you matching the pace of the prospect’s decision-making speed? If not, should you slow down or speed up? If the culture of the organization you’re part of is highly conservative, you might move too quickly for its comfort, particularly if you come from a start-up or an advertising agency.
- How can you show that you’re following this company’s process as you review this initiative? Perhaps the manufacturer always demos three vendors or doesn’t include members of the executive team until a formal presentation has been prepared. You need to show the team that you’re doing things their way in order to convince them to get on board with your initiatives.
- What is the expected payoff for integrating this idea or product into the marketing plan? Are the expectations best-case scenarios or are they realistic? Can you support your predictions with facts? Do the internal stakeholders understand how the digital product or service operates, and do their expectations align with yours?
- In spite of all your efforts, what objections are your prospects likely to have to your ideas? Price? An uncertain outcome? No organizational experience with similar projects? You’ll need to anticipate those and be able to respond to them without tabling them for another meeting, if at all possible. If you have to schedule an additional meeting to address objections, you’ll be giving your prospects time to become more firmly entrenched in their objections, and it will make the task of selling your plans more difficult. So try to see things from your prospect’s point of view, especially given your understanding of their pain points.
If an internal stakeholder poses a challenge to the project for which you don’t have an answer, accept it and make a commitment to resolve it. Don’t get emotional and argue a point you’re not prepared to defend.
When you’re developing your presentation, try to avoid trendy concepts and lingo. Many of your listeners won’t have been exposed to best practices in online advertising, so give them enough definitions and background information to understand how your ideas will work for the company.
Stick to the facts in terms of how manufacturing marketing is evolving and match your project to the company’s values. Many manufacturers value efficiency over innovation because there’s more revenue to be generated from perfecting an existing product than from launching a new one. If this is the case, show how your ideas help make the company more efficient rather than emphasizing, for example, their originality.
If you use a competitive analysis to support your claims, be sure the competitors are companies the organization considers competitors. Otherwise, the internal stakeholders will have an immediate objection based on ammunition you provided.
Connect digital advertising to marketing the company has already been doing, when possible. For example, if the company always plays a video on a loop at trade shows, mention that 46% of industrial professionals use YouTube or another video-sharing portal (GlobalSpec 2013 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector) and that manufacturing marketers cite video as their top content marketing tactic (Content Marketing Institute 2013 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report). Then explain your plan to use YouTube to send links to videos of products in operation, presentations, and webinars to prospects as part of your content marketing program.
Manufacturers are often slow to develop digital marketing campaigns, even when they know there’s a need. Be patient, approach your ideas from their perspective, and be prepared, and you’re sure to have success at implementing your initiatives.
About the Author: Rachaelle Lynn is Google Certified in Analytics and AdWords and has over 12 years of experience in website development and digital advertising, including e-commerce, SEO, PPC, and social media. She has helped many businesses, from small local companies to large international organizations, establish online presences and leverage them to increase revenue.