The rapid expansion of IoT and Industry 4.0 Solutions has created exciting opportunities for B2B companies to develop nontraditional business models that address new and previously untouched markets. Although this paradigm shift presents many great opportunities for growth, sales and marketing leaders are experiencing significant challenges in implementing strategies to effectively drive the sale of IoT-based solutions.
In this 3 part blog series, I will focus on 6 keys to success for creating winning sales and marketing strategies that will empower your business for success in the digital industrial revolution.
Concept #1 - Sales and Marketing Alignment
Sales and marketing. Hatfield and McCoy. In the B2B world, they are essentially the same thing. However, the age-old conflict between these two heavily siloed organizations is slowly coming to a peaceful end, and in order for companies to successful commercialize IoT solutions, there is no other choice. It is imperative in terms of successfully maximizing the effectiveness of your IoT commercial strategy. Modern buyers are now far ahead of the majority of sales teams when it comes to research and targeted marketing is imperative to ensure that your company appears on their radar, long before a sales call is ever made.
Recent research reports that most B2B buyers view five or more pieces of content before making a purchase decision. They are also performing more self-guided research online than ever before. Research from Forbes shows that buyers are as much as 70% of the way through the buying process before they engage with a sales rep (Forbes). Additionally, companies with properly aligned sales and marketing teams generate 208% more revenue from marketing activities (Impact).
Online resources, engaging content, and targeted digital communications are now at the forefront of the buying cycle. Sales is now managing only the end of the process when most buyers have already developed their own perceptions about an organization’s products and solutions. None of these are new concepts to marketing leaders, yet for industrial B2B firms who are struggling to understand how to incorporate these marketing practices into their sales process, the concept is still conceptually akin to quantum theory, black holes, and “to be or not to be”.
So, how do organizations begin to address these dynamics and what does it mean for their strategy? First and foremost, there is increased importance on marketing being in the driver seat of demand generation, and being viewed as a revenue generator within the organization. This concept has perhaps been the most difficult for industrial firms to embrace as historically the marketing function was simply the “coloring in department” tasked with tactical objectives like making flyers, planning trade show events, and creating brochures.
The primary areas of focus for marketing to support IoT and Industry 4.0 sales success are:
- Creating high-quality, engaging content that effectively tells the story of how the organization and it’s connected solutions bring value by solving complex problems within their customer’s organization.
- Managing demand generation activities to fill the top of the funnel. This includes all digital strategies to drive website traffic, social media engagements, etc.
- Providing tools such as marketing automation, CRM, and sales enablement systems to help nurture customers through the sales funnel and empower the sales team with data and actionable insights to help close more business.
I will cover each of these topics in further detail later in the blog series and dive deeper into the principles, applications, and best practices that you can implement within your own organization.
However, at a macro level, successful B2B organizations ensure that their marketing and sales teams are aligned, and actively work to remove any barriers for collaboration.
One part of the solution is to ensure that marketing leaders have a seat at the executive table. A recent study conducted by the Marketing Science Institute (MSI), found that just 2.6% of board members had active marketing experience. The average tenure of CMOs is also continuing to fall, with the role now averaging only 43 months. This is fueled by a trend to spread the traditional role of the CMO into other executive functions such as a Chief Brand Officer, Chief Experience Officer and also the Chief Digital Officer (PR Week). The danger for B2B companies not having marketing positioned at the executive table is that many of the core functions of marketing, most specifically creating engaging content that’s directly aligned to the target market, are overlooked.
It’s also important to highlight that digital marketing is no longer a subset of traditional marketing. Marketing, in the modern sense, is digital. However, this changing dynamic is frequently misunderstood by organizations who are aligning marketing, and it’s digital tool kit, underneath executive leaders in non-marketing or non-commercial centric roles. Executives who have ascended into roles such as the newly expanding Chief Digital Officer position, by way of traditional IT-based career paths, may deeply understand the technology aspect of customer engagement but may lack the commercial experience that is foundational for navigating the new landscape of marketing.
Concept #2 - Content and Communication Strategy
Content is king. That’s a concept that marketers have held true for some time now, historically driven by consumer marketing and B2C channels. However, as B2B marketing continues to evolve, we are seeing more and more consumer concepts creeping into the realm of manufacturing and distribution. That is definitely true when you consider the new challenge of marketing and selling complex systems to clients who are interested in more than just product, specs, and price.
Great marketing is great storytelling. When it comes to IoT, the story is much more complex, emotive, and conceptual than anything the B2B industry has ever addressed.
Organizations that are successful in directing the narrative of this new, immersive story are focusing time and resources on something that is somewhat out of the norm for most B2B industrial firms – investing time into creating and maintaining formalized and inclusive messaging guides. A good guide should include a clear and concise definition of what your solution is, what does it do, your key messages, supporting proof points, and the specific customer problems that it addresses.
Proper messaging guides should convey the narrative and value that complex solutions bring to clients. Good messaging is the essential building block of all great content and will ensure that communications are simple, effective, on-brand, and perhaps most importantly, consistent. This becomes even more essential when considering an outsourcing strategy for content creation. Outsourced content strategies are quickly becoming a significant part of the B2B marketing framework. There are many factors that influence this, primarily the fact that for most B2B marketing organizations multimedia content creation is simply not a strength, further exacerbated by the challenge of finding, hiring, and retaining employees with the skills to perform these functions. B2B firms are not always the most “on trend” organizations or cultures that high-performing content marketers want to align themselves with, so hiring for those positions can be difficult and expensive.
As with most digital marketing roles, the highest performing individuals in the area of content creation typically have a significant about of specialty expertise that doesn’t necessarily transcend across other marketing functions. A great web designer and an astute videographer are rarely one and the same, so seeking specialization in these functions is critical to success. Hence the value of outsourcing to an established firm, that specializes in a particular field, is often the easiest way for B2B firms to achieve their objectives in a timely and cost-effective manner. It also provides a variable cost model that is more easily modulated based on ever-changing marketing needs and yearly budgets.
The final challenge is deciding on a communication strategy that you will use to distribute your content. This is where many B2B organizations meet a dead end. According to Forbes, more than 60% of all content created in B2B firms goes un-utilized by their sales team when engaging customers (Forbes). Additionally, B2B firms are lagging behind B2C in terms of utilizing the proper tools (such as marketing automation, social media tools, Google AdWords, etc.) to effectively reach their customers and measure the level of engagement. In next week's blog, I will outline specific systems, processes, and tools that you can use to ensure that the content your organization is investing in generates a measurable return.
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