How to market your B2B industrial or manufacturing business ahead of a possible recession
Economic forecasting for manufacturing and industrial sectors are beginning to see market contractions that may signal the start of another recession. Whether it is a repeat of the 2012 “downturn” or a deeper situation such as 2008 remains to be seen. One thing is for certain, the hey-day of the recent manufacturing boom may be done.
If you are in manufacturing or industrial sectors, you should consider how to prepare your marketing efforts now.
Know Your Target Market and Connect NOW to Create the Minimal Viable Audience
Is it more cost effective to attempt to reach an unqualified broad market or a qualified niche? Seth Godin calls it the minimal viable audience and connecting with it may be the difference between harvesting and hunting.
When financial resources are tight, harvesting new work from a known small community will yield a far better return than hunting for new business from people who don’t know you.
In short, investing in “top of funnel” marketing efforts now will deliver a return when your competitors are busy tightening their belts.
What can you do to add more to your funnel?
- Get out to industry networking events by participating or sponsoring
- Host an open house to invite customers as well as prospects
- Experiment with different forms of marketing such as promoted LinkedIn content, YouTube pre-roll ads, and/or geofencing a trade show
Position Yourself as an Expert
There is a reason your business has been a success. Regardless of your product or process, being recognized by your peers and your customers turns cold contacts into warm leads.
Don’t be scared to share the “secret sauce” to your prospective customers. By leveraging your industry expertise and long experience, you demonstrate why your business deserves their business.
Some tips on demonstrating your expertise:
Customer Industry Trade Shows
It’s time to get over the fear of public speaking. Find your customers’ top trade shows and apply to be a breakout session speaker, demonstrator, or instructor. Discuss their pain points and strategies to overcome them. Don’t pitch your products or services. Demonstrate your knowledge of them.
Use Podcasts. Go to Your Customers Rather Than Getting The Customer to Come to You.
Search Listen Notes for podcasts about your industry or (even better) your customers’ industry. Spend the time to listen to the top podcasts, identify and learn who the leaders are, and become a guest. Again, discuss their pain points and strategies to overcome them. Don’t pitch your products or services. Demonstrate your knowledge of their needs.
Turn Your Top 20 Customer-Asked Questions Into an eBook
Ask any commercial sales person and they’ll tell you the most common customer questions they get asked. Logically, if prospects are asking a sales person a question, how many more prospects are asking Google that question?
Start gathering those questions from your sales team, your reps, and even your customers. Once you’ve got a list of twenty, get started.
- Create a Word file for each question
- Write a three to four paragraph answer using industry terms or jargon
- Answer one question per week
- Have someone else proofread them
Once you have about ten of them done, start adding them to your business website as blog posts. Use the questions as the titles for each blog post—even if they’re 10-15 word questions. This also creates an incredible start to an organic search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.
After all 20 are complete, compile them into a single document. You now have a customer-focused e-book to share. Put the download behind a form to collect email addresses, and you’ve got the start of a lead funnel.
Double Down on Marketing to Existing Customers
As the economy becomes unstable or declines, engaging new customers may be an expensive prospect. The alternative? Focus on the customers you have. Growing business from the customers you have means you have a relationship to build on.
How often do you hear, “I didn’t know you did that” from customers? Build on your customer relationship by taking an educational approach:
- Use social media channels to form stronger connections with your customers.
- Make your customers feel exclusive. Host small dinners as “listening sessions” to hear what customers want (not just what you offer). Group people at these events that may benefit from meeting each other.
- When you meet formally, share what you see as “the next thing” for them. Demonstrate how much you value the relationship.
Connections with existing customers will strengthen bonds that will hold when the economy gets rocky. Sharing “insider” information or your “secret sauce” with existing customers demonstrates your expertise and the advantage of working together.
Maintain, Don’t Replace, Your Marketing Tools.
From your business website to your email marketing platform, you have a lot of tools that can be expensive to replace. Building a new website may not be the best use of marketing dollars.
Websites are critical to your marketing efforts. Not building a new site doesn’t mean you stop updating your existing one. Some ideas for smaller website fixes:
- Make sure your website is mobile responsive (mobile optimized) because there is more mobile traffic than desktop traffic these days
- Optimize your content for search engines and conduct a technical SEO audit to make sure functionality is up to date
- Adjust navigation or layout to ensure the user experience creates the least amount of friction
- Refresh images with professional photography — a video would be even better
Websites aren’t the only tools you should maintain or update.
- Seasonally update the profile images on your social media
- Put a fresh design on your email newsletter
- Create environmental graphics for your entryway that can pull double duty at a trade show
Don’t wait for the next recession to hit before making a plan. Start now while the economy rolls along. The efforts made now can deliver huge savings when budgets start getting tight and marketing efforts start showing up on the “not critical” list.
The One Recession Marketing Mistake to Avoid at All Costs
We’ve discussed focusing on a narrow target market, positioning yourself as an expert, heaping love on existing customers, and saving money by maintaining your marketing toolbox; but what about things to avoid?
Don’t. Stop. Marketing.
It’s easy to say marketing is an “extra” expense that may not play a critical operational role. Slashing a marketing budget might sound like easy picking to “reduce overhead.” Don’t overlook marketing’s primary mission. From lead generation and new customer acquisition to staying visible in your industry, marketing is the cornerstone to your sales process.
For existing customers (remember the ones you’re supposed to be treasuring?), keeping up the marketing will project stability and trust. Additionally, marketing to existing customers will be cost effective and successful.
Marketing during a recession will convey strength and reliability to prospects. Tough times will mean there is far less “noise” in the market space and a perfect opportunity to be a light in the darkness.
Getting Started Means Choosing the Right Marketing Partner
Today’s preparation is an investment that will deliver a return whether a recession comes or not. Selecting the right marketing partner who understands your business means being able to leverage a team of experts to make your investment go further. While the economy is good, take the time to experiment and push into new areas.
Signalfire is a team of creative marketing Guides and Outfitters. Let our team help develop engaging content, effective tactics across multiple platforms, and long term strategies that will help develop leads and positively impact your bottom line. To get started, speak with one of our Guides today.