As 2020’s smokey summer fades into fall, I hear different reports among the industrial sector. Some companies can’t keep up with demand and others are battening down the hatches and preparing for a scarce 2021. Even when I talk with the colleagues who are going gangbusters, there still is a sense of urgency to keep the project pipeline going after the election and onward into this “new normal” we are facing.
The good news is business development in the B-to-B space is more effective than ever, if your team is willing to forgo traditional face-to-face networking or hunting for RFP’s in favor of dipping your toes into modern marketing tactics.
Stacy Conner and the team of Equipment Experts in Lakewood, Washington is an example of an industrial company who have built a smart marketing strategy and are seeing success as a result.
“The industrial market is all brand new as far as digital marketing goes,” says Stacy. “Our audience is not as tech savvy as retail, and most business owners stay away from it because they don’t know what will be effective. The opportunity to stand out is exciting.”
Stacy and her husband Greg started Equipment Experts in their garage 15 years ago, providing outsourced mechanical services for companies with large fleets of vehicles who didn’t want a full time mechanic. Greg was himself a talented mechanic and Stacy came from a marketing background. Although their business plan was solid, they knew they had to learn how to market themselves to first survive, and then ultimately scale and grow.
They first created a hit list of target companies, from businesses with large vehicle fleets to “one-man-band” delivery services. They conducted market research to determine who their ultimate target audience would be, narrowing it down to fleet managers wanting to keep their vehicles on the road, owners looking to keep their costs down, as well as their assistants tasked to find solutions.
Later, as they became more sophisticated, they developed personas, making up a verbal sketch of hypothetical audience members, including facts like age, educational background, hobbies, interests, fears, needs, and motivators, both short term and long term, to name a few. This exercise helped them step back and take their own perceptions out of the equation, and build messaging they felt would connect with their audience’s preferences.
Armed with this knowledge, they built a positioning platform, identifying how they could solve each person’s problems better than anyone else. They knew their key audience would be interested in a one-stop shop of fleet maintenance experts, especially those who knew how to take care of vehicles proactively to minimize crises.
They decided the most effective tool in their business development process was promoting the value of a “Daily Vehicle Inspection Report”, even offering clients free inspection training as an add-on to be remembered as the mechanics who took proactive steps to prevent trouble from happening.
“People aren’t going to remember the quality of the brake job,” Stacy notes. “But they are going to remember how they were taken care of.”
Once their platform was established, instead of randomly throwing darts for leads, they have created a yearly digital marketing plan to hit all stages of the purchase funnel.
You’ve probably heard about a purchase funnel but perhaps dismissed it as a concept for retail sales only, and not for industrial B-to-B companies. Equipment Experts is a good example of the contrary.
At the top, widest part of the funnel, Equipment Experts creates awareness by sending out newsletters to their target audience with relevant tips, trends, and an introductory paragraph. They also post articles and videos on social media on a regular basis, reinforcing their niche expertise and painting a picture of what it would be like to work with them.
As the funnel narrows and people begin to consider them, they offer helpful advice on their website like a downloadable ebook on fleet vehicle maintenance. They don’t expect phone calls at this point, they are just building their prospect’s trust and setting the hook. Patience pays off through this systematic process because on average, people don’t remember your advertising until the 7th touch point.
The funnel is at its narrowest once a viewer “converts” from being a casual browser to an engaged prospect by completing a predetermined action like clicking “submit” on a contact form. At this point Stacy knows it’s time to reach out and close the sale with a welcome chat box response or direct call to a now warmed up customer.
Through consistency and providing their clients with actionable advice without overselling too early, Equipment Experts is scaling and growing their operation, even adding their son Riley and daughter Arielle to the team roster. Their only dilemma is typical of the industry: the scarcity of good mechanics in the field.
“We see a huge lack of qualified technicians coming in the next five to ten years,” Reports Stacy. “We took a serious look on what we could do to preempt that as much as possible.”
They solved their dilemma by partnering with experts and creating a hands-on academy, www.DieselTrainingNW.com, for aspiring mechanics, or seasoned pros looking to sharpen their skills. This serves two purposes: to appeal to those at the beginning of their careers to consider them above other companies, but also to galvanize their reputation as subject matter experts in their field, which becomes the ultimate selling tool.
While we at Rusty George don’t take any credit for these specific marketing initiatives, I found it refreshing to see someone in the industrial sector doing a good job of modern marketing, and staying consistent with their plan. We always encourage our clients to reconsider their traditional perceptions and start embracing new business tactics that work in today’s digital environment. No matter where you are on the “busy” spectrum today, a strategic digital marketing plan could make the difference between an empty or full project pipeline tomorrow.
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