Pipeline matters. Pipeline matters a lot. For many types of organizations it is imperative to keep filling the pipe as though there is a whole on the other side of the boat that needs to continually be filled before we sink. For many in the B2B manufacturing space the pipeline is limited. If I showed you a new new funnel report for a billion dollar manufacturing company you may be surprised by how few are in it and few dollars are in the wings waiting to be harvested.
No wonder that marketing automation does not resonate as much with B2B manufacturing and distribution companies. CMI’s B2B 2020 survey shows the top three goals of are to create awareness, educate customers and build trust. It isn’t that manufacturers are too “old school” for marketing automation, in my opinion. Instead they are “too smart” to put resources where ROI is lower. Many earn much more profit by harvesting the field already planted than seeking crops in new pastures.
Great news! Marketing automation can help in ways you may have never thought of beyond the funnel. Let’s visit a few of those.
Upsell and Cross Sell Existing Customers
We’ve all heard of the 80/20 rule. The precept you will generate 80% of your revenue from 20% of your customers and most likely profit too. Nowhere is this more true than in manufacturing and distribution. B2B manufacturers often sell to the same organizations over and over again. In my experience I’d say this number can be even higher, like 90/10 or more.
Marketing automation can assist in a few ways.
- Brand awareness – keeping your brand top of mind. Not just to the direct purchasers of your product but also to others in the organization. Not to go down an ABM rabbit hole but while one person pulls the trigger on purchases in large organization there are many other influencers, advocates and approvers it is essential you keep top of mind with. Providing account reps with air coverage via constant streams of content reminding of your value and differentiators can prove to be quite profitable.
- Easily launch new products – If you have a regular schedule of new products being launched that are sold into the same market and customers you currently sell too marketing automation is key. By providing a regular cadence of communications you can educate customers at the same time as warming them for future discussions with account reps when they reach out to introduce a new product.
- Smart cross-selling – We are in the age of data analysis. But anyone with a spreadsheet and sales numbers can quickly discern patterns. You currently sell many products to a few customers and most likely they all have similar buying patterns. If they purchase Product A, within 180 days they purchase Product B or Accessory C 75% of the time. Market armed with that knowledge to warm the Product A buyers and educate them about Product B to either shorten the buying cycle from 180 days or increase the purchasing or correlation, or both!
- Bonus – Products replace products and new versions come out. If you purchased version A 2 months ago you may not be excited to know a newer, better mouse trap has arrived on the scene. But if your version A is near the end of its life your customer is probably in the market and educating them on version B’s added benefits is key. Marketing automation lets you segment your customers in a fashion that the right person gets the right message for their buying cycle.
Onboarding New Customers
B2B products can often be technical in nature and take education and training, not only to use them but to realize the return on investment value your customers were seeking when they made the decision to purchase your product. Onboarding to ensure success is essential.
Marketing automation provides a communications channel to send out regularly scheduled emails in a sequence post purchase. It will keep your product top of mind and educate on best practices for the products use. Step by step emails when the customer needs them in their inbox will reduce frustration and increase product adoption.
Pro tip: Customers are people too. Knowing they made the right purchase is important. Letting their bosses know they made the right choice is essential. Create a post purchase communication plan that not only educates customers but also is peppered with testimonials and tips from current clients. Gather these not just from the frontline users but every level of the organization. Segment your communications to put the right message in the right persons inbox. A message to a CEO about how well the product technically performs may not resonate. But one with a gleaming testimonial from an industry CEO they respect gets a lot of mileage towards brand equity.
Customer Satisfaction and Advocacy
How do you get those testimonials for onboarding? You ask and most likely you ask regularly. Your account team is crucial in this step as they follow up with purchasers but marketing automation can also assist in soliciting response.
Long drawn out surveys don’t get filled out very often and when they do it is usually by someone that is less than satisfied with their experience.
I have found that short and simple NPS (Net Promoter Score) surveys get the most results. Marketing automation was built for this. Sending a very short email with a graphic scale of 1-10 does the trick. When a customer clicks on their score they are routed automatically to a page with 1 or 2 questions specific to the range they scored their satisfaction.
Let your marketing automation program gather feedback easily. If a customer rates you as a 10 immediately ask for them to fill in a form with a testimonial. Also include on the form a way for them to opt-in to a referral program. On the back-end of automation include the clients in a campaign that sends regular emails asking them to promote you via social media and other venues.
Not everyone loves you and that is important too. Low scoring customers need to automatically and quickly be routed to an account rep or customer care team that can be alerted with the specific issues and reach out to them. Let your marketing automation platform begin an engagement campaign in the cases where the account team doesn’t immediately make contact.
As you can imagine there are far more than three ways manufacturing and distribution companies can leverage marketing automation beyond the funnel. We would love to chat more about your specific needs or if you would like a hand in implementing some of these strategies.