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Challenges of B2B industrial marketing

Top 5 Challenges of B2B Industrial Marketing and How to Overcome Them

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The challenges of B2B industrial marketing are unique and can frustrate even the most seasoned marketers. From complex sales cycles to niche audiences, understanding the hurdles facing manufacturers and industrial companies is the first step toward developing effective marketing strategies.

To get a good overview of these hurdles and challenges, check out our post, “Struggling with B2B Industrial Marketing? Your Essential Guide to Proven Strategies & Tactics.”

This post takes a deep dive into the solutions to overcome some of these B2B industrial marketing challenges.

The Long and Complex Sales Cycle in B2B Industrial Marketing

One of the most significant challenges of B2B industrial marketing is the lengthy and complex sales cycle. Unlike consumer purchases, industrial products and services often involve multiple decision-makers. Engineers might assess technical specifications, procurement teams negotiate pricing, and executives make the final call. This process can drag on for months or even years.

Strategies to Shorten the Sales Cycle

While there’s no magic wand to instantly close industrial deals, there are strategies and tactics to reduce friction throughout the sales cycle.

Lead nurturing: Stay top-of-mind with potential buyers through targeted emails, valuable content offers, and invitations to webinars or demos.

Buyer stage content: Instead of generic brochures, create content specifically addressing decision-makers’ concerns at each stage. Engineers want technical details, procurement cares about cost, and executives need ROI justification.

You may want to consider our Industrial Content Creation service if you have trouble writing technical content that will resonate with engineers and industrial professionals. It is a common problem among manufacturing content marketers, and content creation is the most outsourced industrial marketing task. The problem is finding the right partner who has the necessary industrial experience.

Marketing and sales alignment: Ensure smooth lead hand-offs and prevent potential buyers from falling through the cracks with a pre-determined quantitative lead scoring system and a clear communication plan between marketing and sales teams.

Want to explore these tactics (and more) in depth? Our pillar post offers a comprehensive guide to overcoming the long sales cycle hurdle in B2B industrial marketing. An entire section in that post is devoted to understanding lead nurturing with an example workflow.

Difficulty Finding and Targeting the Right Audience in B2B Industrial Marketing

Your target audience in B2B industrial marketing isn’t the general public. Instead, you are dealing with a specialized group of buyers with niche needs who know their specific requirements. It could be engineers designing a new manufacturing process, MRO (Maintenance, Repair, and Operations) managers looking for replacement parts, or procurement agents searching for suppliers.

Failing to identify and understand your ideal customer can make finding the right audience a significant challenge. Compounding the problem is that the pool of qualified prospects is limited, and the global competition is fierce.

The Power of Buyer Personas

Detailed buyer personas are the key to unlocking effective audience targeting. A buyer persona is a semi-fictional profile representing your ideal customer. It goes beyond basic demographics and delves into their:

  • Job responsibilities and titles
  • Pain points and challenges
  • Information sources (industry publications, websites, etc.)
  • Preferred content formats (case studies, webinars, etc.)

ThomasNet published a good post on industrial buyer personas.

Balancing Technical Detail with Relatable Expertise in B2B Industrial Marketing

B2B industrial buyers don’t want superficial marketing fluff, but neither do they want to be treated as if they don’t know their own industry. After all, you are dealing with engineers and technical professionals who know their subject matter. Striking a balance is key.

Industrial content marketing is a proven strategy to address the pain points of your buyer personas at different stages of their buying journey. This strategic approach increases the likelihood of your message resonating and attracting qualified leads.

Here’s how to cut through the noise while demonstrating your understanding of their world:

Translate features into benefits

Absolutely include product specifications—those are essential. But go a step further by explaining how those specs directly translate to benefits for the buyer, solving their pain points or optimizing their operations. This shift makes even a highly technical product relatable.

Use jargon strategically

Don’t talk down to your audience by avoiding industry terms altogether. Instead, use common acronyms and terminology judiciously. Assume a baseline of knowledge, but always provide context or explanations when introducing more niche terms.

Thought leadership content

Demonstrate your company’s expertise and innovation through formats like:

  • Case studies: Focus on real-world results with quantifiable metrics.
  • In-depth blog posts: Address complex industry challenges or explore emerging trends your audience cares about.
  • Webinars led by in-house experts: Share insights or facilitate discussions on relevant topics.

For more information, I suggest you read my earlier post, “How Manufacturers Can Use Content for Differentiation and Create a Competitive Edge.”

Lack of Engaging and Effective Content for B2B Industrial Marketing

Let’s face it—much of the B2B industrial marketing content can be dry and boring. Focussing solely on product features fails to connect with your potential buyers’ real-world needs and concerns. To truly stand out, create industrial content that addresses their specific pain points and offers valuable insights throughout their decision-making journey.

Content for every stage of the buyer’s journey

The best industrial content strategies cater to buyers at all stages of their journey:

  • Awareness: Blog posts, infographics, and videos explaining common industry challenges.
  • Consideration: Case studies, comparison guides, and webinars diving into solutions and benefits.
  • Decision: Product demos, detailed spec sheets, and personalized consultations.

Effective content formats for the industrial sector

Not every content format is a good fit for industrial buyers. Here are a few proven winners:

  • Technical whitepapers: Showcase your expertise and provide in-depth information engineers and decision-makers seek.
  • Case studies with metrics: Quantify results to illustrate the ROI of your product or service.
  • Explainer videos: Break down complex processes or product features in a visually engaging way.

Proving Marketing ROI: A Challenge in B2B Industrial Marketing

Another major hurdle in B2B industrial marketing is demonstrating a clear return on investment (ROI) for your marketing efforts. Long sales cycles, complex attribution models, and the difficulty of directly correlating marketing with revenue make ROI hard to isolate.

Let me give you two examples:

1. In the industrial sector, you often deal with two types of buyers—The Specifier (Design Engineers) and the Functional Buyer (Purchasing Personnel). They have different needs that you must address. You can’t ignore the Design Engineer because they may not have the final buying authority, but unless your industrial component is “designed in” into their BOM, you are not likely to get the email for an RFQ from Purchasing.

2. Take the case of MRO professionals. They may not have any influence over the initial purchase, but they can make or break your repeat business.

Metrics that matter in industrial marketing

Traditional marketing metrics like website traffic and leads are important but don’t tell the full story in industrial marketing. Look beyond vanity metrics and focus on indicators like:

  • Lead quality: Are you attracting the right kind of leads (engineers, procurement, etc.) that are more likely to convert?
  • Pipeline influence: How much does marketing contribute to generating and moving qualified opportunities through the sales pipeline?
  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): Analyze the long-term revenue potential of customers acquired through marketing efforts.

Tracking these metrics will help you gauge the true impact of your industrial marketing campaigns and make data-backed decisions about resource allocation.

For a deeper dive into ROI tracking strategies specifically for B2B industrial companies, check out our pillar post “Struggling with B2B Industrial Marketing? Your Essential Guide to Proven Strategies & Tactics.”

The challenges of B2B industrial marketing are significant, from navigating complex sales cycles to targeting niche audiences and proving ROI. But with the right strategies and a focus on creating valuable content that resonates with your target buyers, you can overcome these hurdles and achieve your marketing goals.

Ready to take your B2B industrial marketing to the next level?

As a Marketing Engineer with over 35 years of experience working with manufacturers, distributors, and engineering companies, I understand your unique challenges. Let’s discuss your specific goals and explore how I can help you develop a data-driven marketing strategy that attracts qualified leads, shortens your sales cycle, and ultimately delivers a strong ROI. Let’s have a friendly chat!

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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