Industrial manufacturers have been surviving for years on relationship sales techniques that are becoming harder to initiate with the advent of the cyber world. Clients sales have been built by interpersonal highly trusted relationships. New customers traditionally came through several channels: referrals, trade shows, association memberships, and traditional advertising.

Today, traditional methods do not work well in comparison to companies that have used a digital strategy to drive sales. Manufacturing companies still depending on only reseller channels, traditional print advertising, trade shows and so on lack the opportunity to scale or grow quickly. To keep up with accurate customer information, marketers in the manufacturing sector need to rely on digital marketing.

Challenges of Traditional Marketing

While each traditional marketing method has different challenges. Those challenges are reaching the right customers at the right time, cost, and tracking results. While some traditional methods allow you to target people at different stages of the sales funnel, industrial manufacturers usually spend money advertising to people who don’t even know what there product/service. Radio, TV, print spots, and billboards can also be incredibly expensive. Even if someone was swayed by one of these methods, it’s nearly impossible to associate an individual customer with a specific campaign. Attribution remains difficult: 50% of industrial companies report that their greatest marketing challenge is measuring return on investment. Even if you ask, customers might not realize they’ve been swayed by a specific advertisement.

The Brutal Reality is that if You Aren’t Digital, You are Dying

Somehow, this trend has caught many industrial manufacturers by surprise. Most remain ten years or more behind where they need to be in terms of digital transformation. A clear call to action is being sounded by B2B buyers (your customers) to meet expectations for digital interaction, research, order support, and product service. B2B firms not acting now are jeopardizing their very existence.

Well, this story has played out before – in the retail landscape. In the B2C marketplace, consumers have shifted buying, product research, and customer service preferences online. As they did so, dozens of once-prominent but slow moving retailers have closed their doors forever. More than 9,000 brick and mortar retail stores have closed.  Major brands are on the ropes and continue to announce store closures. Even the mighty Walmart significantly trails Amazon in terms of Ecommerce market share (though, to their credit, they have been making up ground more recently).

In similar fashion, sales channels are changing in B2B industries. Executives ignoring the same trends in B2B marketing have already put their companies at risk. If you are not embracing digital transformation, know that your competitors and big players are, and this will all quickly pass you by and could very well put you out of business.

So What Has Changed?

Today’s B2B customers expect a broader selection, faster delivery, and more product information – all of which is accessible through multiple devices (e.g., mobile, desktop, mobile apps, marketplaces, and other channels). They also expect to be able to buy the products and services they need through multiple channels.

Digitally Enabled Sales Teams

Companies are increasingly arming their sales teams with real time information that is critical at the point of sale when they are sitting with the customer – things like instant inventory information, product specs and compatibility details, instant ordering and delivery timeframes, and other data. This isn’t about replacing sales teams – it is about empowering them to be more effective.

Collectively, these trends are a part of a digital transformation taking place across industries. The landscape of selling channels has changed – which creates opportunity, and risks, for you.Is your business accommodating these shifting preferences?

Taking Advantage of Change

After acknowledging these changes are happening, what should your company do next? Well, don’t panic. It isn’t too late – yet.

If you’re an industrial manufacturer, confront the reality that your customers are researching and buying differently – and the definition of your customer may also have changed. Resellers’ roles may be diminishing. Leveraging new distribution channels to sell directly to your customers can drive competitive advantage.

Get Digital Support for your Sales Team – Get them the leads and real time information they need to be more effective in the field. By making it easier to buy your products, you will generate more revenue by increasing your share of wallet from existing customers and gaining additional customers.

What it takes is breaking down traditional thinking.  In many cases, capture these benefits is less about recognizing the digital opportunities for your company, and more about overcoming organizational inertia. Leadership is required here (calling all CEOs).

The point is, find the areas where you can differentiate – and blend this with a digital strategic approach – and you will be in reasonably good shape to compete.

A Final Word

The Internet has changed the way B2B buyers research and obtain the products they need. Your buyers have already moved beyond using only traditional channels to research and purchase.  If your business doesn’t adapt, your competitors will, and you will be impacted. But this is also an opportunity. Move now. It’s that simple.