Bringing sexy to the industrial marketing table
Marketing an industrial service can be like climbing Mount Everest. The purchase cycles are generally long. Decision making processes can be complex. Buyers are rational, systematic and more often than not have a specific and technical set of needs. Markets tend to be geographically concentrated offering fewer buyers compared to consumer markets. Competition is inclined to be fierce. Doesn’t sound very sexy does it?
To up your game, you’ll need more than a customer-centric marketing approach and a benefits driven strategy.
Understand your customer
At the foundation of industrial marketing is listening to your customers and helping them solve their problems.
Once you understand your customer, it’s a good idea to profile desirable customers to help you define who your marketing efforts should target and to wean out undesirable prospects – an ideal customer profile, or persona, would include characteristics such as your customers’ pain points and challenges, what value means to them, a holistic view of their internal processes and roles of the people involved in the buying cycle.
It’s personal! Your strategic marketing efforts should start and end with the customer. The emphasis is on personal selling, not advertising, and how your solutions benefit and add value to your customer.
Research indicates that around 68% of customers stop using your service because you don’t care about them. In order to care, you first have to understand. It is that personal!
Find the sweet spot
Market-specific industrial services can be mostly undifferentiated. There is a presumption that it’s an exceptionally price sensitive market – that business is gained or lost on price. This is not necessarily gospel. All products and services are differentiable – the conversation in the purchase process can be moved away from price. You want to leverage your unique expertise to add value and make the decision to buy your service easy.
Once you know your customer and have developed a value proposition based on solving customer problems, you can set about deciding which aspects of your brand to elevate, or create, to place your brand in an uncontested space in the competitor landscape. Your positioning should strengthen your marketing efforts and positively influence the buyer process.
With a clear positioning and distinctive value proposition in hand, deeper value can be gained from market segmentation and prospect profiling which allow you to focus your sales and marketing efforts.
If you build it, they will come
We’ve established that industrial services is all about personalisation and solving customer problems and to stand out and engage with customers you’ll need a strong brand identity. Building and ‘owning’ a strong strategically relevant brand that resonates with your customer is more important than ever today – it is the sum of your business’s awareness and reputation in the market, as well as a customer’s experience.
Brand identity is one of the primary means that distinguishes your product or service offerings in the eyes and minds of consumers. A brand communicates your ‘promise’ to the customer and the first rule of creating a brand identity is that is must be believable – the brand ‘promise’ should mean something early on in the customer journey to start building believability.
While the brand relationship with customers is in-person, buyers are still researching their decisions and engaging with industrial brands online. Your brand should help shape consumer’s online lived experience and identification with (and of) your brand. Considering the fierce competitive climate and plethora of choice available to consumers, a distinctive identity has become crucial for building brand equity – both offline and online.
Did someone mention databases? There’s been a big shift from outbound to inbound marketing and email nurturing of prospects and customers should be a core activity in your marketing calendar. You can take a ‘hit and miss’ approach but why invite customers whose needs are not aligned to your service offering to engage with your brand? Personalisation applies to your databases too – they are a powerful resource to understand your customer and generate qualified inbound leads.
Industrial services aren’t like consumer products and it takes time to establish customer rapport and trust. It stands to reason that your content strategy is key to successfully executing your customer-centric marketing efforts. Content should be meaningful, relevant and useful and go the distance right through the purchase cycle.
Bullet proof your brand
Given the relational nature of the industrial services market, focusing on your customer experience has perhaps become the single most important dynamic to achieve sustained success – often becoming a key differentiating factor and competitive advantage.
Customer experience is the sum of interactions customers have with your brand touchpoints. It includes everything from initial awareness to purchase and use – encompassing the quality of your customer care, service features, product, packaging, marketing, reputation management and delivery of consistent quality, reliability, trustworthiness, to name a few.
Globally, thousands of companies believe their competitor advantage is customer service and the majority reckon that they offer a superior customer experience. According to research, fewer than 10% of customers agree.
Customer service (when employees provide direct service to customers) is one of the key elements of your customer experience. It can be the difference between having a customer for a day versus having a customer for life. Consistently providing exceptional service and treating it as an asset rather than an expense more than delivers ROI on the short-term effort and cost – think wax on – wax off.
To paraphrase Walt Disney: “Do what you do so well, that they will want to see it again and again.”
We have the privilege of working with an established industrial laundry in Cape Town whose business had plateaued and the business founder was spending her time and energy working in the business with no time to work on it.
The business is now landing previously inaccessible premium clients, has experienced a 150% increase in qualified inbound leads and whose growth recently attracted the attention of SA’s premier publication for the entrepreneurial spirited: Entrepreneur Mag –in the space of four months since implementation of strategy.
Compiled by: Carolyn Dobbie – Marketing Director: The Marketing Centre SA
Image courtesy of Washtub Industrial Laundry Service
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