B2B Marketing for Manufacturing

The biggest misconception is that marketing in a B2B environment is different from a B2C approach. It isn’t.

A brand connection is essential for your buyers, no matter if they are a large distributor, small shop, or end-user. B2B commerce is the norm in the manufacturing world, and this article looks at key ways you can successfully build these relationships.

Strategic B2B – Think Big Picture

Your customer is human, like the rest of us. First and foremost, your brand development is the key to B2B success. As a Google-sponsored study found, while only 14% of B2B buyers “see enough difference between suppliers’ ability to provide business value,” most buyers can be moved to action when marketing focuses “on moments of emotional intensity.” Be present and show emotion when you are talking about a daily partnership with people using your products. Finding that emotion should be a pretty easy reach.

Understand your customer to connect. That same Google study from 2015 showed that millennials make up nearly half of B2B influencers and decision-makers, and are growing as a group. The key takeaway is that millennials do not silo their concerns between personal and business. Millennials, and many women, want the same purposeful feeling from their business dealings and prefer to buy from groups with a strongly identified purpose.

Determine your purpose to create your business advantage. Most people want to work for a company that does something meaningful in addition to whatever they provide. This is not always an easy task, but it can change your role in whatever you do and how you approach business as a whole. Think Warby Parker or TOMS shoes. Creating a shift in your purpose is not an easy task at the corporate level and will not happen overnight. If your business feels stale, this can inject some much-needed life into something that is not just about meeting your numbers this quarter. Be sure this change is relevant to the company, otherwise, it will feel forced or fake.

Once you have taken the time to define that purpose, it is essential to spend some effort creating and showcasing the passion behind the product. Your purpose becomes a large part of your brand and then becomes memorable if handled well. Shinola Detroit showcases this very well and has seen expansion as a result. Their purpose is to create skilled jobs making high-quality handcrafted products, such as bicycles, watches, and leather goods for Detroit. 

Tactical B2B – Execute Wisely

One of the best ways to reach potential distributors is to attend professional, closed shows such as BETA that allow only resellers to attend. Aside from the obvious opportunities to network, check out the competition, and pick up some volume sales orders, many shows offer additional marketing sessions on various topics to extend your knowledge base.

Bring your A-game for your booth, including pro-level branding on everything visible, free samples, swag, and comfortable shoes. If you are a manufacturer, stage a fashion show or free drinks session at the close of the day. Don’t forget the business cards and datasheets for more technical products, and be prepared to do a lot of talking. The busier your booth, the more appealing it is for large volume distributors. If you offer an expensive high-tech product, be sure that your sales staff is fully-trained and can explain how it functions to a layperson. If your team can’t explain how or why it works, it’s going to be a long road to building trust and gaining sales.

Virtual trade shows are becoming more popular since the start of the pandemic and can also be highly useful to build brand awareness, generate leads, and solidify sales. If your budget does not allow travel this year, consider “exhibiting” virtually.,

Once you have representation, either from a for-the-trade event or picked up by your e-commerce or catalog distributor, don’t stop there. I have seen companies reach the deal conclusion and think that their work is now over. This is not a dust off your hands and walk off into the sunset moment.

Fact. Large distributors push their own house line of products more frequently than not. They also happen to sell yours. Small distributors and shops often do not have a large marketing budget and work mainly by word of mouth or by show trailer. They’ll stock your things, but not specifically push them. You need your brand to flourish, and you still need to do the promotion work to keep the momentum and growth.

As any new product brand, or product selling via distribution, you should continue to help your channels sell your offering. Using distribution gives you a much wider reach and a built-in audience, but chances are those groups are not going to run individual advertising just for you. It’s not in their budget. And, if that product doesn’t move, your shelf time will be up quickly.

And now for a quick word on co-marketing. Some companies are terrific at this. Combined budgets have more power, and it’s relatively easy to create a plan that benefits both of you. Again, talk to your reps and see what can be done by working together. Most are willing to work with you as long as there is a clear benefit on both sides. You may need to jump some through some hoops with production and securing branding approvals before anything goes out the door.

Did you forget to be visible at point-of-sale events? Again, bring your trade show A-game and talk to your customers directly. What do they like, what don’t they like? Are they excited to see you there? Which products seem to be the most popular?

Letting your buyers know about all of the convenient places to purchase your fantastic product is up to YOU. Unless you already have a gold-standard brand name in the industry or possess ninja negotiating skills, the bulk of this effort will fall on your company’s shoulders. Be professional when you walk in and let your distributors know they don’t have to do this alone.

If you feel the need for branding or B2B advice, contact us directly for a consult session.

Amanda MacDonald

Amanda MacDonald

Founder of Full Gallop Communications

Amanda is a marketing veteran that works with businesses on improving brand communication, marketing strategy, and creating content marketing. When not in the office, Amanda can be found at the barn with her horse, walking her two dogs on Lake Ontario or baking something carbtastic in the oven.

Contact her at hello@fullgallopcomm.com to inquire about how your marketing efforts can become more successful.

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