Industrial Marketing Blog

Inbound Marketing Alone May Not Be Enough for Industrial Companies

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Inbound marketing with content has been getting all the attention lately. Consultants and practitioners of “pull” marketing want marketers to abandon “push” marketing because they say it is old school and no longer effective.

I too have read all those studies about the how the Internet has permanently changed the industrial buyer’s behavior. They provide examples of how the target audience behaves in their personal lives where they TiVo through commercials, use caller ID to ignore telemarketing calls, direct mail pieces go straight to trash and of course, nobody ever reads a newspaper or a trade magazine anymore.

Ergo, these people are too busy at work and couldn’t be bothered with anything that is deemed as interruption marketing.

I agree that there is a lot of truth to all those findings. After all, every industrial marketer would like hordes of interested visitors swarming to his/her website, eager to sign up for free content and engage in a meaningful conversation at every stage of their buying cycle.

However, it has been my experience that the realty on the ground is very different for many manufacturers and industrial companies. Their pipeline of leads would dry up quickly and sales would come to a grinding halt if they depended entirely on inbound marketing for prospects to come to them.

There are many real-world situations in the industrial sector where things begin to unravel if you are only doing inbound marketing.

  • The bulk of new sales comes from referrals and repeat business for many manufacturers and industrial companies. An updated website serves them well as a point of reference. Credibility is built over many years of performance in the field and not by the frequency of blog posts, number of Twitter followers or Facebook likes. Their in-house experts gain authority by publishing technical articles in respected industry publications and making presentations at well-attended symposiums and tradeshows. Yes, a company blog does enhance their reputation and social media does increase their reach.
  • Engineers and industrial buyers are not unaware of existing solutions and providers. They know what they need and are looking at vendor sites for specific information. For example, a Process Design Engineer is already aware that s/he needs an eletromatic ball valve that will provide overpressure protection. The valve must meet his/her specific design parameters of Inlet Size of 2″, an Outlet Size of 3″, must meet a minimum Inlet Rating of ANSI Class 1500, an Outlet Rating of ANSI Class 300 and be capable of handling Operating Pressures up to 4000 psig and Temperatures up to 1000°F. Such a specific search will most likely be done using a parametric search application on a known vendor’s site or a vertical search engine like GlobalSpec and probably not on Google. These buyers are not looking to engage, they want complete product specifications.
  • Inbound marketing requires prospects to be actively searching for products and solutions. That is not always the case in the industrial sector. Engineers usually refer to a list of approved vendors when they need to source industrial products. These relationships are built over time and require a more personal face-to-face interaction. This where traditional outbound marketing like print ads, phone calls and direct mail can help in maintaining top-of-mind awareness even when the prospect is not actively looking to buy. A well-timed phone call or a direct mail offer can create a sense of urgency that would be difficult if not impossible for inbound marketing to duplicate.

In my opinion, completely ignoring outbound marketing can be a costly mistake. I suggest that manufacturers and industrial companies think more along the lines of an integrated marketing approach that has a good mix of both inbound and outbound tactics.

The old days of batch and blast email marketing and one-size-fits-all content are over but that does not mean outbound marketing is dead. Those marketing tactics need to be updated to make them effective in today’s context.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Add QR codes to your print ads to tie together your online and offline marketing
  • Use Variable Data Printing (VDP) and database marketing services to create highly relevant and personalized direct mail campaigns. Add Personalized URLs (PURLs) to drive people to specific landing pages
  • Use dynamic content in your email marketing. Dynamic content will automatically insert relevant content within your emails based on trigger rules and segmentation that you set up (See my post, Boost Email Relevancy With Dynamic Content)
  • Borrow some of inbound marketing’s analytical tools to provide more granular information to your sales force before they make the calls so they can engage with prospects in a more consultative manner rather than posturing and prospecting
  • Repurpose your marketing collateral in a variety of formats to satisfy various stakeholders and their individual preferences. Don’t deliberately leave out relevant information from your website in the hope of forcing the visitor to call your inside sales people

Those are some of my suggestions for outbound marketing to complement inbound marketing. It doesn’t have to be a choice of one or the other. I am interested in hearing your views. Are you using a mix of outbound and inbound tactics in your industrial marketing?

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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  1. @Achinta. Thanks for the feedback – that was a great case study. Thanks for sharing. As you said, we share a similar approach. We did almost precisely the same things for one of our industrial clients. And they achieved similar results – 3,800 leads now in the database since we switched it on back in December 2010. 3 closed deals, so far, and for larger than usual contracts as a result.

  2. Great article – thanks for posting!

    So nice to read someone’s thoughts when they totally agree with mine :).

    But seriously, I believe you are totally correct in stating that what is needed is a blended approach in which Inbound and Outbound are used to implement an integrated marketing strategy. As you said, if people are not searching for a specific solution, no amount of Search Engine Optimization or Social Media Marketing, the mainstays of Inbound’s pull approach, are going to bring people to your site.

    Caveat Emptor – we are a consulting house which specializes in Inbound Marketing and Marketing Automation. We call our approach an Inbound Marketing Automation system or IMA, and what follows is what we do on behalf of our industrial clients.

    We set up their IMA systems so that they have an extensive Resource Library covering their own industry and solutions. For example, using your example of an electronic ball valve. We would add these technical specs to the library and build a website with a search feature which allows the person to rapidly find the ball valve section, and then makes it easy for them to browse the library’s spec section and find the relevant spec sheet. And then knowing which one they picked and what people generally need to complement this choice, we can send them an email suggesting that people who looked at this article or piece, also downloaded the following bits…

    And then, for the industrial sector clients, we add a few carefully chosen outbound approaches such as direct emails or – in rare cases – trade shows or seminars.

    Hope this helps – for anyone interested in learning more about this approach, our website provides a wealth of resources including a Return On Investment calculator so you can calculate the potential impact of designing and operating your own Inbound Marketing Automation system.

    • @Eric,
      Thanks for your thoughtful comments. It’s good to hear from you again.
      We not only agree in our thinking but follow a similar strategy to help our industrial clients maximize their online marketing programs. You can read our case study on how an integrated content marketing strategy including an online parametric search application helped an electronics manufacturer generate new leads and drive sales.

  3. Great information! Thanks for the post

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