This post was written by a guest contributor. Chelsea Lamb has spent the last eight years honing her tech skills and is the resident tech specialist at Business Pop. Her goal is to demystify some of the technical aspects of business ownership.
Improve Your Manufacturing Digital Strategy and Strengthen Customer Loyalty
Staying competitive through the COVID-19 pandemic has demanded that B2B manufacturers undergo a rapid digital transformation. This accelerated shift to eCommerce represented a shock to the system in an industry built on sales reps and in-person trust-building. However, as the pandemic wears on and businesses grow accustomed to new ways of working, business owners are realizing the value of a robust digital presence. And if they already have one, finding ways to bolster it and enhance responsiveness and the user experience (UX).
COVID-19 Effects on B2B eCommerce
As Grant Marketing reported, 94% of B2B customers use online research to inform purchasing decisions. However, in 2019, B2B eCommerce still only accounted for 7.1% of U.S. manufacturing sales. Yet by mid-2020, B2B customers purchasing primarily through digital self-serve channels increased 40%, according to a survey from PROS and Hanover Research.
Unfortunately, many business customers found vendors ill-prepared to handle the surge in eCommerce, with only 37% of respondents reporting that most of their vendors were well-prepared with digital purchasing channels in place. Meanwhile, other B2B customers struggled with poor digital purchasing experiences that left them searching for new vendors.
Manufacturers Need a Digital Strategy
It’s clear that manufacturers need more than a digital presence—they need a comprehensive digital strategy in order to attract and retain B2B buyers. While outreach-based methods such as cold calling, print ads, and trade shows are not obsolete, a strong digital strategy relies on inbound marketing. Inbound marketing seeks to:
- Attract leads and build brand awareness through ads, social media, and video and blog content
- Engage prospects with relevant content and personalized communications
- Delight customers and nurture loyalty with an outstanding customer experience and continued online engagement
Eliminating Digital Bottlenecks
Whether or not you decide to adopt eCommerce pathways for customers—which simply will not work for some manufacturing models—creating a smooth digital buyer’s journey for the customer remains paramount. This process is too labor-intensive for traditional sales and service teams. To efficiently deliver the level of personalization and service digital B2B buyers expect, manufacturers need a customer relationship management (CRM) platform that integrates with marketing tools so that reps can track leads from the first moment a customer interacts with their website.
Marketing automation is the natural complement to a CRM platform. Automation streamlines lead nurturing so more leads get converted to sales. B2B companies should look for marketing software with personalized dashboards, allowing each salesperson to track relevant metrics. HubSpot’s marketing automation is a natural choice to integrate with HubSpot CRM, but ActiveCampaign, Keap, InfusionSoft, and Drip are other popular platforms.
New processes and new tools call for updated policies and procedures for employees. The first order of business is to attain complete buy-in throughout your organization—from C-Suite to production—all stakeholder who will be involved in implementation and execution of your new procedures, especially those who are active touch points for customers. Don’t disregard those who are not in direct contact with customers, either; this is where important details can fall through the cracks if all pieces of the process are not adhered to. Thorough training and explicit policies and procedures prevent hiccups during digital transformation and ensure a consistent customer experience. As manufacturers rethink the way they do business, it’s also worth revisiting discussions regarding personnel policies, organizational structure, technology, and confidentiality.
If you don’t have these policies in place, do it now. This is also the time to update foundational documents like the LLC operating agreement. This can be done simply and without attorney fees with the help of online templates.
Providing a secure online environment
With the digital experience growing increasingly personalized through lead tracking, self-service functionality, and custom pricing, a secure online environment is more important than ever. This is true even for small businesses, the target of 28% of all data breaches. In fact, research suggests that cybercriminals target small businesses because they’re known to have weak cybersecurity controls for protecting sensitive data.
As manufacturers increase eCommerce sales, it’s imperative to expand cybersecurity measures as well. This includes completing a full risk analysis, implementing cybersecurity controls including vendor risk management, and continuous monitoring to detect and respond to cybersecurity threats before they lead to a breach.
Companies should also assess cloud security practices as they move to cloud-based solutions for file storage and remote collaboration. Enhance cloud security by choosing a cloud provider known for stringent cybersecurity, prohibiting personal devices on company networks, and using endpoint protection.
Get Help Redefining Your Digital Strategy
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses scrambled to get online and adapt to the changing economy. But while B2B customers may have been forgiving of early missteps in manufacturers’ digital transformations, that loyalty won’t last without a clear digital strategy. The manufacturers that survive the digital transformation will be the ones that put the customer experience first with an engaging online experience, robust automation tools, and a dedication to security.
Are you ready to refine your company’s digital strategy? With more than 30 years of experience marketing for manufacturing companies, Grant Marketing understands the needs and challenges of B2B manufacturers. Contact Grant Marketing today to learn how you can create a digital strategy that sells.