Effective Strategies to Employ to Overcome B2B Marketing Challenges
Manufacturing companies are vital to the global economy. Their success hinges upon their ability to market their products well in a business landscape that is constantly changing. This presents various obstacles for businesses in creating and implementing successful marketing strategies.
We’re discussing the five biggest marketing challenges that manufacturing companies face, including a limited brand awareness, long sales cycles, technical complexity, price sensitivity, and limited marketing budget—and how you can overcome them as a manufacturer.
1. Limited Brand Awareness
One of the biggest challenges for manufacturing companies is limited brand awareness. Unlike consumer goods, which are sold directly to end-users, manufacturing companies often sell their products to other businesses, making it complicated to establish brand recognition in the market. Without a well-established brand, it becomes difficult for them to attract new customers and retain existing ones.
B2B manufacturers need to create a brand development strategy to address this challenge. Through this strategy, they can understand their company’s differences compared to competitors and how their positioning is viewed internally.
- Do the engineering department and the marketing department have the same understanding of the brand?
- What is the customer’s perception of the company brand?
- Is the customer service department in alignment with the sales team?
Once the discovery, research, and feedback from internal and external stakeholders is complete, new messaging and images must be created.
The company should invest in building their brand by creating a strong online presence by updating their website, engaging with their target audiences on social media platforms, and participating in industry events and trade shows.
Here a breakdown of other considerations regarding the impact limited brand awareness can have on the marketing efforts of manufacturing companies.
Reduced Customer Trust and Credibility: When customers are unfamiliar with a manufacturing company’s brand, they may hesitate to engage with the company or consider its products. Limited brand awareness can lead to a lack of trust and credibility in the marketplace, making it challenging for the company to attract new customers.
Difficulty in Differentiating from Competitors: Manufacturing companies often operate in competitive markets where multiple players offer similar products. Without a well-established brand and clear differentiation, it becomes challenging to stand out from competitors and make a compelling case for customers to choose their products over others.
Ineffective Lead Generation: Limited brand awareness can hinder lead generation efforts. Potential customers may not be aware of the company’s existence or may not perceive it as a trusted and reliable source. This lack of awareness can result in a lower quantity and quality of leads, making it harder for the company to generate new business opportunities.
Limited Customer Reach: Building brand awareness is crucial for expanding customer reach. Without a strong brand presence, a manufacturing company may struggle to reach its target audience effectively. This can limit its ability to connect with potential customers, communicate key messages, and create awareness about its products and solutions.
Difficulty in Customer Retention: Limited brand awareness can also impact customer retention. If existing customers are not aware of the brand’s value proposition or have limited exposure to its marketing efforts, they may be more likely to consider alternative options or switch to competitors. Strong brand awareness helps reinforce customer loyalty and encourages repeat business.
To mitigate the impact of limited brand awareness, manufacturing companies should focus on brand development strategies. These strategies involve understanding the company’s unique selling propositions, aligning internal departments on brand messaging, and investing in initiatives that enhance brand visibility. By creating a strong online presence, engaging with target audiences through various marketing channels, and participating in industry events, manufacturing companies can gradually increase brand awareness and improve their marketing effectiveness.
2. Long Sales Cycle
Another significant challenge that manufacturing companies face is the long sales cycle for their products. The sales process for manufacturing products can be lengthy. It can take months or even years to close a deal. This makes it difficult to forecast revenue and measure the success of marketing campaigns. Manufacturers should consider the following:
- Do we have the technical tools to create sales pipelines?
- Do we have the technical tools for sales forecasting?
- Do we have a congruent real-time reporting structure to capture all lead/sales data?
Another way to address the issue of a long sales cycle is for manufacturing companies to focus on building long-term relationships with their customers. They can do this by providing exceptional customer service, offering after-sales support, and regularly communicating with their clients to understand their needs and expectations.
- How will they communicate with the prospect/customer?
- Do they consistently ask for customer feedback?
- Do they have a CRM to manage communication until the sale is closed?
Additional considerations about how long sales cycles can impact marketing for manufacturers include:
Extended Marketing Investment: Manufacturing companies may need to invest significant time and resources into marketing campaigns to generate leads and nurture them throughout the lengthy sales cycle. The extended duration of the sales cycle means that marketing initiatives need to be sustained over an extended period, requiring careful planning and budget allocation to ensure consistent brand visibility and lead generation.
Difficulty in Measuring ROI: With a long sales cycle, it becomes challenging to directly attribute marketing efforts to specific sales outcomes. Manufacturing companies may face difficulty in measuring the return on investment (ROI) for their marketing activities since it may take months or even years for leads to convert into actual sales. This lack of immediate feedback on marketing performance can make it harder to evaluate the effectiveness of different marketing strategies and optimize campaigns accordingly.
Need for Relationship Building: The longer sales cycle in the manufacturing industry often requires a focus on relationship building with potential customers. This means that marketing efforts need to emphasize building trust, providing valuable content and resources, and maintaining consistent communication to nurture leads over an extended period. Relationship-focused marketing tactics, such as personalized email campaigns, targeted content marketing, and account-based marketing, become essential for maintaining engagement throughout the sales cycle.
Forecasting and Planning Challenges: The extended duration of the sales cycle makes forecasting and planning more complex for manufacturing companies. Marketing teams need to take into account the extended timeline when setting goals, projecting revenue, and allocating resources. Accurate forecasting becomes crucial to ensure that marketing activities align with the expected sales timeline and support the overall business objectives.
Increased Sales Enablement Needs: In a long sales cycle, marketing teams must provide sales teams with the necessary tools and resources to engage and educate potential customers throughout their decision-making process. This may include creating detailed product documentation, case studies, customer testimonials, and other sales enablement materials. Marketing and sales alignment become crucial to provide the sales team with the right content and support to address the specific needs and challenges faced by prospects during the extended buying journey.
Customer Education and Information Needs: Due to the technical nature of manufacturing products, potential customers often require in-depth information and education to make informed buying decisions. Marketing teams must create content and resources that address the specific pain points, technical specifications, and benefits of their products. This may involve producing technical whitepapers, conducting webinars, or offering product demonstrations to ensure that customers have the information they need throughout the sales cycle.
To navigate the challenges of a long sales cycle, manufacturing companies should align their marketing and sales teams closely. By focusing on relationship building, providing valuable content throughout the buyer’s journey, and leveraging targeted marketing tactics, they can maintain engagement, nurture leads effectively, and increase the chances of closing sales in the extended timeline. Additionally, implementing robust marketing analytics and CRM systems can help track and measure the impact of marketing efforts on lead progression and sales outcomes.
3. Technical Complexity
Manufacturing products can be highly technical, making it difficult for marketing teams to communicate their features and benefits to potential customers. Unlike consumer goods, manufacturing products are not purchased based on aesthetics or emotions, but on functionality and technical specifications.
Manufacturing companies should create marketing materials that are easy to understand, speak directly to the customers, and focus on the benefits of their products rather than the technical specifications. Businesses can also provide product demonstrations and training to their customers to help them understand how to use their products effectively. This may involve creating a team to do so. Considerations include:
- Do they have the internal resources to create compelling sales content?
- Do they need to hire an outside marketing company experienced in creating content for manufacturing companies?
There are a host of variables to consider regarding technical complexity and marketing efforts of manufacturing companies. Here are some ways in which technical complexity can affect marketing:
Communication Challenges: Manufacturing products often have intricate technical specifications and features that may be difficult for potential customers to understand. This poses a challenge for marketing teams to effectively communicate the value and benefits of these complex products. It requires clear and concise messaging that simplifies the technical aspects and highlights the practical advantages for customers.
Content Creation: Marketing teams must create content that educates potential customers about the technical aspects of the products while emphasizing how these features solve their specific problems or meet their needs. This may involve producing technical documentation, product datasheets, user guides, and other resources that provide in-depth information in a digestible format. The content should focus on addressing the pain points and concerns of the target audience, helping them navigate the technical complexity and make informed purchase decisions.
Training and Product Demonstrations: Due to the technical nature of manufacturing products, marketing teams may need to invest in training and product demonstrations to showcase how the products work and their benefits. This could involve conducting workshops, organizing live demonstrations, or providing online training materials to educate customers on product usage, installation, troubleshooting, and maintenance. The aim is to build confidence in potential customers by helping them understand how the technical aspects of the product translate into practical advantages for their operations.
Expertise and Technical Support: Marketing efforts for complex manufacturing products should also focus on establishing the company as an expert and a trusted resource in the industry. This can be achieved by providing comprehensive technical support and offering expertise through channels such as customer service, online forums, webinars, and blog articles. By positioning themselves as a knowledgeable partner, manufacturing companies can alleviate concerns related to the technical complexity and build trust with potential customers.
Targeted Marketing Approach: Technical complexity often means that the target audience for manufacturing products is niche and specific. Marketing teams must tailor their strategies to reach this specialized audience effectively. This may involve utilizing industry-specific publications, participating in trade shows and conferences, partnering with industry influencers, and leveraging digital marketing tactics such as search engine optimization (SEO) and targeted online advertising to ensure the message reaches the right audience.
Collaboration with Product Development and Engineering Teams: Marketing teams must work closely with product development and engineering teams to understand the technical nuances of the products and effectively translate them into marketing messages. Collaboration between these departments is essential to ensure accurate representation of the product’s capabilities and to address any discrepancies between marketing claims and the actual performance of the product.
Technical complexity requires manufacturing companies to invest in clear and effective communication, targeted content creation, training and product demonstrations, technical support, and collaboration across departments. By focusing on these areas, marketing teams can navigate the challenges posed by technical complexity and position their products as valuable solutions in the market.
4. Price Sensitivity
Manufacturing products are often purchased in large quantities, making price a significant factor in the decision-making process. As a result, manufacturing companies face intense price competition from both domestic and international competitors.
To overcome this challenge, manufacturing companies need to focus on creating value for their customers rather than competing on price alone. They can achieve this by offering superior quality products, exceptional customer service, and customized solutions to meet their customers’ specific needs.
A closer look at price sensitivity reveals these additional considerations when B2B marketing for manufacturing companies.
Value Proposition: To overcome price sensitivity, manufacturing companies must focus on creating and communicating their unique value proposition. This involves highlighting the distinct features, quality, reliability, and long-term cost-saving benefits of their products. By emphasizing the value and benefits that their products offer, companies can differentiate themselves from competitors and justify higher prices based on the added value they provide.
Product Differentiation: Marketing efforts should focus on demonstrating how a manufacturing company’s products differ from competitors in terms of performance, durability, efficiency, or innovation. By highlighting these unique selling points, companies can create perceived value that justifies higher prices. This often requires conducting market research to understand customer needs and preferences, and then aligning the product offerings and marketing messages accordingly.
Customized Solutions: Manufacturing companies can address price sensitivity by offering customized solutions tailored to the specific needs of their customers. By understanding the requirements of individual customers and providing personalized products or services, companies can justify higher prices based on the added value of customization. This approach requires effective customer segmentation and targeted marketing to communicate the benefits of customization.
Customer Education: Educating potential customers about the long-term benefits and cost savings associated with higher-priced, high-quality products is crucial. Marketing efforts should include content that highlights the total cost of ownership, return on investment (ROI), and the durability and reliability of the products. By demonstrating the value over the product’s lifecycle, manufacturing companies can help customers understand that the initial higher cost is offset by long-term benefits and savings.
Bundling and Upselling: Offering bundled packages or additional services can help manufacturing companies create value and justify higher prices. By combining products or including value-added services, companies can differentiate themselves from competitors and provide customers with comprehensive solutions. Upselling strategies can also be employed to offer higher-priced options with added features or benefits.
Customer Relationships: Building strong relationships with customers can help overcome price sensitivity. By providing exceptional customer service, after-sales support, and personalized attention, manufacturing companies can create loyalty and establish long-term partnerships. These relationships can shift the focus away from price as the sole determinant and emphasize the value of the overall customer experience.
Cost Optimization: While it is essential to address price sensitivity, manufacturing companies should also focus on optimizing their internal costs to maintain competitive pricing. By streamlining production processes, improving operational efficiency, and managing the supply chain effectively, companies can achieve cost savings that can be passed on to customers while maintaining profitability.
Price sensitivity requires manufacturing companies to emphasize their unique value proposition, differentiate their products, offer customized solutions, educate customers about long-term benefits, and build strong customer relationships. By implementing these strategies, marketing teams can effectively navigate price competition and position their products as valuable solutions in the market.
5. Limited Marketing Budget
Many manufacturing companies operate on tight budgets, making it difficult to allocate adequate resources to marketing efforts. This can limit their ability to invest in advertising, create high-quality marketing materials, and attend industry events and trade shows.
When creating a marketing strategy to overcome this challenge, it’s essential for manufacturing companies to prioritize their marketing efforts based on their business objectives and target audience.
By exploring marketing strategies such as social media marketing, email marketing, and content marketing, businesses can reduce their costs. This approach can enable them to reach their target audience without overspending.
B2B manufacturing companies face several issues when it comes to marketing their products effectively. To reach their goals of sales or revenue growth, either from existing customers or new customers, companies should:
- Focus on building their brand
- Establish long-term relationships with customers
- Create easy-to-understand marketing materials
- Offer value to customers
- Prioritize marketing efforts
As stated, prioritization is the key element when marketing with a limited budget. The following areas can be impacted by limited funds.
Restricted Advertising Reach: With limited funds, manufacturing companies may find it difficult to invest in extensive advertising campaigns across various media channels. This can limit their reach and make it challenging to effectively promote their products to a wider audience. As a result, marketing teams need to carefully choose cost-effective advertising channels that provide the most impact within their budget constraints.
Reduced Marketing Collateral: A limited marketing budget may restrict the ability to produce high-quality marketing collateral such as brochures, catalogs, and product samples. These materials are essential for showcasing products and making a strong impression on potential customers. Companies may need to prioritize and carefully allocate their resources to create impactful marketing collateral that aligns with their target audience and marketing objectives.
Constrained Digital Marketing Efforts: Digital marketing plays a crucial role in today’s marketing landscape, but implementing comprehensive digital marketing strategies, such as search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing, social media advertising, and email marketing, can require significant investments. With a limited marketing budget, manufacturing companies may need to prioritize specific digital marketing channels that provide the highest return on investment (ROI) and focus on targeted campaigns to reach their desired audience effectively.
Limited Participation in Industry Events: Trade shows, industry conferences, and events offer valuable opportunities for networking, brand exposure, and lead generation. However, participation in these events often involves substantial costs for booth rentals, travel, and promotional materials. With a limited marketing budget, manufacturing companies may need to carefully select the most relevant and impactful events to attend and explore cost-saving measures such as sharing booth space with partners or leveraging digital platforms for virtual events.
Resource Constraints for Marketing Talent: Hiring and retaining skilled marketing professionals can be challenging for manufacturing companies with limited resources. Investing in experienced marketing talent can significantly impact the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. Budget constraints may also require companies to explore alternative options, such as outsourcing specific marketing activities or leveraging the skills of existing internal resources to manage marketing efforts effectively.
Limited Research and Market Analysis: Market research and analysis provide valuable insights into customer needs, competitor strategies, and market trends. As we know, conducting comprehensive market research can be costly. With a limited marketing budget, manufacturing companies may need to rely on more affordable market research methods, such as leveraging publicly available data, industry reports, and customer feedback, to inform their marketing strategies and make informed decisions.
Challenges in Scaling Marketing Efforts: As manufacturing companies grow, scaling marketing efforts can be a significant challenge with a limited budget. Expanding into new markets, launching new product lines, or reaching a broader audience requires additional investments in marketing activities. It becomes crucial for companies to carefully allocate resources, prioritize growth initiatives, and explore cost-effective marketing strategies to ensure continued growth within budgetary constraints.
Despite these challenges, manufacturing companies can still achieve effective marketing outcomes with a limited budget. By adopting a strategic and targeted approach, leveraging cost-effective digital marketing channels, optimizing marketing processes, and focusing on building strong customer relationships, manufacturing companies can maximize their marketing impact within their available resources.
What to Do!
As a manufacturer, you need to regularly evaluate and reassess your marketing strategies to ensure that all these challenges can be overcome to optimize the most effective marketing activities that align with your business goals and provide the highest return on investment. That’s a given. We know, though, that you are busy doing what you do well—making products. The good news is that, as professional marketers, we can help you navigate through them all successfully. We’d love to talk with you about your B2B marketing concerns. We are here to help you get the word out on how excellent those products are and how they will help your target audience. Contact us now to begin the discussion. We’d love to help you grow your business.