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Struggling with B2B Industrial Marketing? Your Essential Guide to Proven Strategies & Tactics

Reading Time: 10 minutes

B2B industrial marketing presents unique challenges compared to other forms of B2B marketing. Longer sales cycles, complex technical products, and a highly analytical buyer persona are just a few factors that set it apart. If you’re a marketer at a manufacturer, distributor, or engineering company, you know this firsthand.

So, what can this post offer that you couldn’t find with a simple Google search?

Answer: My personal thoughts and experiences as an industrial marketer and consultant. 

As the Founder and President of Tiecas, a B2B industrial marketing agency in Houston, TX, I’ve spent the past 35+ years immersed in industrial and manufacturing marketing. I’ve witnessed countless industrial companies’ challenges and frustrations firsthand.

Probably the most common complaint that I hear from Sales is that “Marketing just doesn’t understand engineering problems, and they generate ‘crappy’ leads that are not ready to buy.”

But I’m not just another marketing consultant. As a Marketing Engineer (a Mechanical Engineer with an MBA in Marketing), I understand the engineer’s mindset and the complexities of the industrial buying journey. This isn’t just marketing theory – it’s wisdom born from decades of hands-on experience.

Need proof? My team and I helped a mid-sized valve manufacturer increase leads by 31% by rewriting and revamping their product-centric content to address engineers’ real-world challenges.

Ready to dive into a perspective you won’t find anywhere else? Let’s go!

B2B Industrial Marketing—Overcoming Common Challenges Faced by Manufacturers

B2B industrial marketing solutions

In the industrial sector, the days of relying solely on your ace sales team to generate leads and close deals are dwindling. Engineers and technical buyers are empowered by ready access to information and prefer to do their own extensive research before engaging with suppliers. Industrial buyers rely heavily on supplier/vendor websites for in-depth product and service information.

Gartner’s prediction that 80% of B2B sales interactions will occur digitally by 2025 underscores this shift. [Source]

So, what does this mean for B2B industrial marketers?

  • Sales & Marketing Alignment: As mentioned earlier about my conversations with manufacturers, the “more leads” cry is often a misdiagnosis. Building an integrated sales and marketing machine is essential. Neither department can succeed in isolation within this new environment.
  • Engineers are Skeptical: Don’t mistake their thirst for information as a love for more marketing fluff. Trust is earned slowly. Your content needs to be technically sound, solution-oriented, and backed by data or proof points.
  • The ‘Seller Beware’ Era: Buyers hold the power, dictating the pace and terms of engagement. Your marketing must enable buyers to self-educate, building confidence in your solutions long before a sales conversation happens.

How to Succeed: A Mindset Shift

Here are three key focus areas for B2B industrial marketers that recognize this transformed buyer behavior:

  1. Become an Information Hub: Produce content that answers potential buyers’ questions, from technical specs to implementation case studies and post-sale support examples.
  2. Emphasize Problem-Solving: Frame your product/service as the solution to the buyer’s pain points, not just a list of features.
  3. Build Trust with Proof: Testimonials, case studies, and even unfiltered, engineering-focused FAQs demonstrate your expertise and track record.

Important: This isn’t about overwhelming visitors with endless content. It’s about offering a clear, structured path guiding them through their buying journey.

How can you reach engineers where they seek information and what content do they consume? I once collaborated with the Director of Applications Engineering with a manufacturer of leak testing systems. Our goal? Find and secure guest blogging opportunities in industry portals with a captive audience of design and production engineers from the automotive and medical device industries.

Let’s get specific—in the next section, we’ll dive into the strategies and tactics that translate this understanding into results.

Proven Industrial Marketing Strategies & Tactics Learned From the Trenches

The order of the words “strategy” and “tactics” isn’t accidental! While I understand the urge for quick results, I strongly believe in developing a strategic roadmap before launching any marketing initiatives.

For a quick overview of industrial marketing strategy, read the post, Industrial Marketing Strategy Must Be Documented for the Best Results.

Your roadmap is your compass for reaching your destination, and at my agency, we take a strategy-first approach. B2B industrial marketing is a long game – consistent effort with a clear plan leads to sustainable results.

Quick fixes like Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads can be effective for standard industrial products, consumables, and parts. However, those who manufacture custom-engineered systems sometimes struggle to see the same effectiveness from PPC.

Tip #1: Bring your SMEs to the Forefront

Engineers relate to other engineers! It’s a powerful way to establish credibility. Your marketing team can do the heavy lifting but publish posts and articles under the byline of your Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). For more on this, see my previous post: Industrial Blogging Lessons Learned from Working with Technical SMEs. (By the way, I published that post in 2013, and it is still pulling in traffic. It proves the longevity of blogging.)

Don’t expect your engineers to hand you polished content. Your job as an industrial marketer is to interview them with well-thought-out questions to extract valuable insights and turn them into cohesive content.

Tip #2: The Right Content for Industrial Buyers

According to a recent survey [Source], the top three content formats engineers value most are:

  1. Datasheets (40%)
  2. Technical publication articles (29%)
  3. Product reviews/testimonials (26%)

It’s important to note that testimonials can be tricky in industrial settings due to NDAs or competitive concerns.

Also, while datasheets are essential, they don’t create differentiation if your value proposition is similar to competitors’. For deeper insights on this, check out this article: How Manufacturers Can Use Content for Differentiation and Create a Competitive Edge.

Engineers get bombarded with product-focused marketing. They crave solutions! I worked with a manufacturer of pre-engineered metal buildings to create their content. Instead of highlighting their latest robotics, we focused on the technology-enabled outcome: pinpoint accurate framing systems for hassle-free installation. This resonated with their customers, who cared far more about saving time and money than the tech itself.

Understanding Industrial Lead Generation, Nurturing & Marketing Automation

Balancing information with lead capture is key. It is a balancing act because you may be tempted to ask for every piece of information you think you need to qualify a lead. The resistance increases exponentially the more fields you force people to fill out. 

Tools like progressive profiling and marketing automation help you collect valuable buyer data gradually. This is where understanding the difference between Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) and Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) is essential.

Example Workflow:

  • Blog Post: Offer a downloadable guide as a call-to-action
  • Webinar: Invite guide downloaders to a technical webinar with your SME
  • Drip Campaign: Email webinar recording + a case study download + invitation to ask SME additional questions
  • Result: Qualified RFQs with an estimated 17% conversion rate

This is a simplified example–adjust it based on your sales cycle length and specific offerings.

Lead nurturing in industrial lead generation

Organic SEO for Manufacturers

Organic traffic is the lifeblood of sustainable B2B industrial marketing, but achieving top rankings requires strategic keyword research that goes beyond generic keyword research tools.

  • The Niche Keyword Challenge: Traditional keyword tools might suggest broad terms like “conveyor belt” for a conveyor belt manufacturer, missing out on valuable, targeted searches.
  • Generative AI Advantage: Using a generative AI tool can reveal long-tail keywords like “heat-resistant conveyor belt,” “food-grade conveyor systems,” or “conveyor belt replacement parts.” These terms signal higher purchase intent.

To learn more, read “Could Generative AI Revolutionize Your Industrial SEO Strategy?”

Trade Show Marketing: It’s Not Just About Showing Up

The Content Marketing Institute’s recent study highlights a resurgence of in-person events. 60% of manufacturing marketers reported they used in-person events to get in front of their audiences versus only 28% in the previous year (Understandably due to the pandemic). More than half (55%) expected their budgets for trade shows and in-person events to increase.

Investing strategically in trade shows can pay off for B2B industrial marketers, but only if you go beyond just ‘showing up.’

Here’s a quick pre-show, during-show, and post-show checklist:

  • Pre-Show:
    • Develop an enticing offer targeted to your show’s audience (demo, consultation, etc.)
    • Promote your booth presence and offer across social media, email, and even targeted ads.
  • During-Show:
    • Capture leads with interactive elements, not just brochures.
    • Have a quick follow-up plan in place for hot leads.
  • Post-Show
    • Nurture all leads, not just those deemed “sales-ready.”
    • Analyze data: Which show activities yielded the best ROI?

We did a trade show campaign for an international manufacturer of bandsaws used in the metal casting industry. They wanted to make a big splash at a tradeshow to showcase their products to the North American market. Here’s a direct quote from the client:

“We had another very successful day yesterday also. At least 50 groups came to have a demonstration of the saw and I would put 30% of those as interested to know more. I am just sending emails to some of the red-hot leads. Fair to say the metal casting industry knows about us now!!” (See testimonials).

Measuring Success in B2B Industrial Marketing

Let’s be honest, C-suite executives care about more than just traffic and TOFU lead counts. They want bottom-line results. I once set up an online store for a manufacturer of safety equipment serving the refinery, marine, and cheese processing industries. This generated a new revenue stream and made the buying process frictionless for their customers.

Proving the ROI of your industrial and manufacturing marketing efforts can be a major headache. Here’s why:

  • Long Sales Cycles: The journey from awareness to purchase can stretch over months or even years. Attributing wins solely to recent marketing activities is inaccurate.
  • Multiple Touchpoints & Stakeholders: Today’s industrial buyers interact with your brand across various channels and engage with multiple decision-makers. Pinpointing which marketing actions had the most influence is challenging.
  • Disconnect Between Metrics: While marketers track website traffic and leads, C-suite executives want to see revenue impact. Bridging this gap is essential.
  • The ‘Last Click’ Trap: Too often, credit is assigned based on the final touchpoint before a sale, undervaluing the marketing efforts for nurturing that happened earlier in the buyer’s journey.

The Data Dilemma

This problem isn’t just anecdotal. According to a Content Marketing Institute study, 48% of manufacturing marketers struggle to connect their content, data, and measurement across platforms. It’s clear that traditional analytics fall short in the complex B2B industrial landscape.

What Can You Do?

  1. Embrace Attribution Models: Go beyond ‘last click’ by using multi-touch attribution models that assign value across the entire buyer journey.
  2. Align KPIs with Business Goals: Don’t just report on vanity metrics. Develop KPIs that demonstrate marketing’s direct impact on revenue and customer acquisition cost.
  3. Implement Closed-Loop Reporting: Robust marketing automation platforms can track leads from source to closed sale, giving you a much clearer ROI picture.

For Deeper Insights: Check out these resources:

Measuring success isn’t about finding the one magic metric. It’s about a continuous process of tracking, analyzing, and refining your marketing efforts.

In the next section, we’ll explore emerging trends shaping the future of  B2B industrial marketing. Understanding these shifts will become critical for making data-driven decisions and demonstrating your value to leadership.

The Future of B2B Industrial Marketing

“Manufacturers should continue embracing digital transformation to contribute to a competitive and resilient future and to help tackle ongoing manufacturing challenges.” That’s a quote from the 2024 manufacturing industry outlook published by Deloitte. Manufacturing and the industrial sectors are in a state of exciting changes. 

Here are a few key trends that will shape the strategies of tomorrow’s successful industrial and manufacturing marketers:

Trend 1: Personalization Gets Smarter

B2B industrial buyers demand relevant, tailored experiences. Generic marketing blasts just won’t cut it anymore. Marketing automation tools enable dynamic content delivery based on a buyer’s behavior, industry, or decision-making stage.

Account-Based Marketing (ABM) takes this even further. ABM is a strategic approach focusing resources on a set of high-value target accounts. Campaigns are meticulously designed with personalized content and outreach designed to engage key decision-makers within those specific companies.

Tools Matter: Platforms like HubSpot, Act-On, and others are essential for sophisticated personalization and ABM strategies. These tools let you track behavior and deliver the right content at the right time to the right people.

You could also consider a simpler and less expensive tool such as MailerLite. It has robust capabilities for automation and drip campaigns. 

Trend 2: Video’s Dominance

Video is no longer optional for industrial marketers. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 90% of manufacturing marketers used video in 2022, and 80% plan to invest further in this format. It’s easy to see why, considering how engineers consume information.

  • Show, Don’t Tell: Videos demonstrate complex industrial equipment in action, providing far more clarity than lengthy descriptions.
  • How-Tos for MRO (Maintenance, Repair, and Operation): Short videos are invaluable for maintenance professionals, saving time and potential frustration.
  • Mix of Formats: Offer short, engaging clips, in-depth demos, and webinars to cater to buyers at all stages of their journey.

B2B industrial videos don’t always need to be dry and technical. When appropriate, injecting a bit of humor can make them far more memorable. Need an example? Check out Fluke’s hilarious video for their clamp meter: ‘Fluke 376 FC True RMS AC/DC Clamp Meter with IFlex Review’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KH8ewYS6Te4).

Need to explain a complex technical concept in an informative and relatable way? Take a cue from B&D Industrial. Their “Tea with B&D” series tackles topics like mechanical seals in a surprisingly engaging format. This creative approach transforms a potentially dry subject into something memorable. Check out their video: ‘Tea with B&D-Episode 5: Mechanical Seals.’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=taU-bug5b1w). 

Trend 3: The Rise of Generative AI

Generative AI is poised to transform industrial and manufacturing marketing. Its impact goes beyond automating content creation:

  • Intelligent Keyword Research: AI tools can uncover long-tail, niche keywords traditional tools often miss. (See Could Generative AI Revolutionize Your Industrial SEO Strategy?)
  • Predictive Analytics: AI can analyze vast datasets to identify emerging trends and predict buying patterns.
  • Streamlined Workflows: AI can automate routine tasks, freeing up marketers for higher-level strategy.

The Engineer + Marketer Advantage

Human expertise + Generative AI –the Marketing Engineer

While AI offers exciting possibilities for B2B industrial marketing, understanding the nuances of engineering needs and industry challenges requires human experience and expertise. This is where the Engineer + Marketer (moi) combination becomes a true competitive advantage.

My team and I can combine technical knowledge with marketing savvy to create strategies and targeted industrial content that resonates with your audience. I ensure that these AI tools are used wisely to craft authentic messages that truly resonate with engineers and industrial buyers.

The B2B industrial marketing is evolving rapidly. With my unique mix of engineering knowledge and marketing expertise, I help my clients by:

  • Cut Through the Noise: Implement strategic and proven marketing tactics without sacrificing the technical accuracy and trust-building that engineers demand.
  • Data-Driven Yet Relatable: Use analytics while crafting compelling content that speaks to engineers’ analytical minds and the need for problem-solving solutions.

Stay tuned for more posts where I’ll delve deeper into these B2B industrial marketing strategies and tactics. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter, Marketing Matters (See form in the footer), to get the latest insights delivered straight to your inbox.

Ready to future-proof your industrial marketing strategy? Explore our approach:

Let’s Talk when you are ready to start a conversation.

Some of the links mentioned in tools may be affiliate links.

Achinta Mitra

Achinta Mitra calls himself a “marketing engineer” because he combines his engineering education and an MBA with 35+ years of practical manufacturing and industrial marketing experience. You want an expert with an insider’s knowledge and an outsider’s objectivity who can point you in the right direction immediately. That's Achinta. He is the Founder of Tiecas, Inc., a manufacturing marketing agency in Houston, Texas. Read Achinta's story here.
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