People are different. Engineers are different and purchasing agents are different. They each have distinct ways of doing things and they prefer to conduct research and make buying decisions in their own unique ways. Yet many sales and marketing strategies fail to consider that in order to reach prospective customers, you need to be where your prospects prefer to consume information.
In our marketing and sales alignment guide, The Ultimate Guide to ROI-Based Marketing & Sales Alignment for Manufacturers, I outline the top five most important components for companies looking for ROI and overall success. This article dives deeper into the second step: A Multi-Channel Plan.
Communicate on Channels Your Potential Customers Use Daily
Your marketing strategy must encompass every communication channel that your buyer prefers to communicate in and do research on. Some will prefer email, while others would rather use social media or peer-to-peer communication. If you are not present where your buyers are doing their research, you are essentially invisible.
When building out a successful sales and marketing strategy, it is vital to consider your buyers' needs first. Buyers move through a six-stage process when making buying decisions: Research > Engagement > Consideration > Evaluation > Confirmation > Commitment (See section 4 of the guide). During any of these stages, buyers typically prefer different channels of communication. Provided below are some examples for reference but, it is best practice to map out your buyer personas in great detail and then define what you believe to be their unique preferences and needs in each stage. Usually your sales team will have the answers, but to get the best feedback, be sure to ask your customers.
Focus on stages 1-4 as marketing has the strongest impact here:
During this stage buyers are typically looking online. Social media, content marketing, and search are dominant. However, trade shows and peer to peer referrals can also be important.
NOTE: not all social media is created equal. Some prospects prefer Twitter and others choose LinkedIn. Do some research and create an action plan for each viable social media channel.
This is when a prospect reaches out to you. Most often this is via your website, email, or direct phone call. You can also solicit engagement from traditional marketing such as advertising, sponsorship, direct mail, or cold calling.
3/4. Consideration & Evaluation:
As prospects are considering their best options they typically resort back to your website, internet search, peer to peer communications, and marketing / sales collateral.
NOTE: Traditional marketing can also be highly effective at generating interest in your business. Direct mail, cold calling, and advertising often times complement a digital marketing approach.
As you build out your multi-channel plan, it is critical to make sure that you do not engage in just one channel. All too often I hear "we tried social media and it failed" or "we tried search engine optimization and it failed". By themselves, each channel is an island that will fail to yield strong results. However, when your strategy encompasses a greater ecosystem (see section 3 of the guide), each channel helps build and improve the results of the others.
In summary, multi-channel communications are the wave of the future. Manufacturers that fail to embrace today's buyers' needs will fall to the side and be overshadowed by more progressive competitors. Consider your buyers' needs in each stage of their buying process and build out a plan that aligns with their consumption habits and preferences.
Today buyers expect high quality, low prices, and on-time delivery. Manufacturers need to differentiate themselves by building out and communicating their value proposition beyond quality, pricing, and delivery all while engaging buyers where buyers want to be reached.