If you own a small business, chances are you cater to everyday consumers—whether you target specific genders, age groups, income levels, or other demographics. You operate in the business-to-consumer (B2C) space, which means you cater to consumer demands and sell products or services that make sense to sell to individuals or small groups.
But did you know there’s a whole other space to explore? In many cases, you can target businesses (i.e., B2B) in addition to consumers. This opens the door to a new revenue stream for your company—one that can often flow even faster.
How so? Here’s an example: You own a cleaning service. Your employees go to people’s homes to do laundry, wash dishes, take out the trash, vacuum floors, and so on. Customers are likely referred to you by their friends, family, and neighbors—or they find you online. Most customers only request your services from time to time, though some may use your services on a regular basis. In any case, your business depends on a large quantity of these consumers to bring in enough revenue to remain profitable.
Now consider a B2B perspective. Instead of numerous consumers requesting your services on an ad-hoc basis, the owner of a local office building proposes a commercial contract where you would provide cleaning services for all seven floors twice per week. It’s a lucrative opportunity that represents more revenue than 20 of your regular customers would generate.
This situation is not uncommon in the B2B space. Of course, there are other businesses out there that could offer similar commercial contracts. But how do you reach them? Your traditional marketing efforts are unlikely to bear fruit because a B2B audience requires a different approach. Enter industrial marketing.
What Is Industrial Marketing?
Industrial marketing—more commonly referred to as business-to-business marketing or B2B marketing—is the promotion of products and services from one business to another. In other words, when you use industrial marketing, your target audience consists of companies rather than individual consumers.
There are several benefits to using industrial marketing:
- Increased revenue. As mentioned previously, targeting businesses provides an entirely new revenue stream. You can also expect higher sales per customer.
- Greater stability. Many small businesses operate on thin margins, and the slightest disruption can make them unprofitable. If your business is among these, taking advantage of industrial marketing can give you a stronger foundation by helping you attract long-term contracts with business customers.
- Expanded revenue diversification. Opening the door to business customers means your revenue is coming from two distinct spaces. For example, market changes may inspire shifts in consumer demand but have no impact on your business customers’ needs. This separation can help your business be more financially and operationally flexible.
So why isn’t every business taking advantage of industrial marketing? Well, there’s a key distinction between the B2B and B2C perspectives: Businesses often make much larger purchases than consumers, and there are often multiple decision-makers involved with those purchases. The result is a longer, more complex sales process, which requires the unique approach of industrial marketing. We walk through this approach below.
The Industrial Marketing Process: 5 Steps
1. Understand the difference between business and consumer clients.
We’ll reiterate this point because it’s so important to understand—business clients are different than your everyday consumer. Understanding the distinctions go a long way in informing your industrial marketing strategy. Here are a few considerations:
- Decision-making. Individual consumers typically make decisions themselves, so you only deal with one decision-maker. Business clients often have multiple decision-makers that weigh in on the final purchase.
- Purchase timeline. Same-day purchases are quite common for individual consumers—they may make a purchase immediately after finding your products. Business clients may require weeks or even months to research and review other options before buying.
- Quantity. Your everyday customers are typically only buying enough of your products to address their own needs or the needs of their immediate family. Business clients are likely purchasing your products for the entire company, which may include hundreds of employees.
These distinctions are important, not only because business clients have different needs you must address in your industrial marketing efforts, but also because your operations will need to support commercial demands. (But that’s a topic for another post!)
2. Identify and target business clients.
You know what your ideal consumer client looks like, but you’ll need to also identify your ideal business client. Doing so can help you craft an effective industrial marketing plan.
In determining your ideal business client, consider a few questions:
- Why would the business client want to buy your products or engage your services?
- Why are your products and services essential for their business and/or employees?
- What are their pain points?
- How much commercial demand can your business realistically handle?
Recall the cleaning service example. Agreeing to clean a seven-floor office building twice per week may be feasible for your small business, but anything more may be out of the question at your current size. You’d need to consider such limitations when formulating the characteristics of your ideal business client so that you can target prospects accordingly.
3. Create relevant marketing materials.
You should already have various marketing assets aimed at consumers:
- Business website
Chances are that you can simply tailor these assets to fit your ideal business client. However, don’t shy away from creating new assets if doing so would increase your chances of attracting commercial attention. For example, you may not use e-books currently, but using them as part of your industrial marketing plan may help move business prospects closer to the sale. Whatever the case, ensure your assets answer questions business prospects have about what you offer.
4. Generate leads.
In some cases, you may look to your local market and practice offline marketing tactics to reach business prospects. Recalling the cleaning service example, you may choose to visit local office buildings with flyers in hand to advertise your services. But if your business isn’t so localized, you’d be better off taking a digital approach to lead generation—especially when you consider that 74% of business buyers conduct the majority of their research online.
Try a few of these digital marketing tactics to build your lead list:
- Content marketing. Over half (52%) of B2B buyers say they’re “definitely” more likely to buy from a company after reading its content. You can create content to answer questions potential business clients have and post that content on your website. When these prospects seek answers to their questions on Google, you can show up in search. Once they click through to your website, you can capture their interest.
- Search engine optimization (SEO). A long-term approach to lead generation is using SEO to rank your website higher in Google searches. This may take some time, but it can net you leads for months and years to come when successful.
- Social media marketing. Being active and engaging on social media can help spread awareness of your brand. You can also take a paid approach (i.e., digital ads) if you want faster results.
- Email marketing. Staying in touch with prospects you’ve captured through other means (such as the preceding tactics) is a great way to build trust. It can help you stay top of mind when prospects are ready to buy.
5. Analyze your results.
As you execute your industrial marketing strategy, you must analyze your efforts to ensure they’re hitting the mark. Come up with appropriate key performance indicators (KPIs) to help gauge effectiveness. For example, you may set a specific click-through rate (CTR) on your digital ads or an open rate on your emails. Similarly, you may set a number for organic visits to your website. Whatever KPIs you come up with, just keep track of them and adjust accordingly to maximize your customer acquisition efforts.