By Mark Semmelmayer
Chief Idea Officer
Pen & Inc. Marketing Communications
This is part 3 of a 6 part series, discussing Gardner Business Media’s research study, Media Usage in Manufacturing 2014. This series endeavors to break down the findings of the study, and their implications for the B2B marketer, into bite-sized chunks. Download the report here.
This post explores traditional “Push” media influences in the buying process. We need to understand how a traditional media approach still impacts customer perceptions and use that to influence buying behavior.
Who are you?
The B2B customer is not altogether unlike a B2C customer. As a rule, buyers go with a known commodity first. The difference? If mom buys a new brand of cereal this week and the kids hate it, she goes back to the brand she knows next week. But, in the B2B space, a wrong decision can mean lost productivity, reduced profitability or, worse, injury to workers and damage to your brand in the marketplace.
In other words, B2B buyers are as accountable for their buying decisions as you are for the result of your marketing campaign.
Make no mistake, in this emerging digital/social/mobile marketplace, brand counts … and will continue to. Building and maintaining a brand is critical, as is positioning. Simply stated, positioning is creating a perception in the buyer’s mind that, among all the brands/products that meet their needs, yours is the one that meets them best.
According to Gardner’s 2014 Media Usage Study, “Brand is the most important factor impacting the industrial buying cycle.” I think they put it elegantly: “Industrial buyers rely heavily on brand recognition when using media, conducting research, selecting vendors and making purchasing decisions … buyers view brand as much more than a logo, but a composite of a company’s technology, service, quality, cost and reputation.”
So, how does one establish a brand among these discerning buyers? A few observations from the study:
• Awareness: the market actively consumes push media to learn about things they did not know.
• Research: the market segment has an interest in topics and technologies to act upon in the future, and actively seeks to find needed information
In the study, trade magazines were the top returning push media. Trade publication recipients prefer their process-related magazines delivered in print. A close second in push media influence was trade shows. Mobile, digital and social media were not very high on buyer’s radar.
Marketing Implications: I’ll take a bit of an interpretive leap here. The manufacturing buyers’ predilection for printed communication and trade shows would indicate a 40-year-old+ demographic for buyers and influencers. From the last post in this series, we know the key buying players are probably senior managers, further indication that this older demographic assumption is likely true. While that’s not necessarily the case in all B2B selling spheres, it’s probably more the rule than the exception.
These buyers either represent a very traditional approach to obtaining information to make buying decisions (50+), or a hybrid group (40+) that uses the web to augment information they glean from other channels deemed reliable. Print still matters in their world. So does arm wrestling them into your booth at a show.
As marketers, we still need to think “old school” first, to communicate with B2B buyers in today’s environment. But we need to remain sensitive, monitoring for changes to that environment.
At some future point, the push media paradigm … print ads and trade shows … may change, but that’s not a given. Certainly, trade pubs will become more digital, as will the “printed” ads they contain. But the “hand to hand combat” nature of trade shows will change more slowly.
Seeing, touching and “feeling” a potential purchase at a trade exposition is an experience buyers find difficult to replace. Similarly, printed magazines may never completely fade away. What becomes the mainstay reading material in the break room? Do you really want to haul your tablet to the restroom?
In any case, the lesson is simple. The buyer isn’t going to come knocking on your door. As a peddler, it’s your job to go knocking on his.
Oh, yeah . . . I know you!
As the study puts it, succinctly, “Understanding and leveraging the relationship between push/pull marketing is vital in effectively reaching and influencing industrial buyers. Push marketing builds brand and drives traffic. Pull marketing (trade/industry websites) delivers deeper information and converts prospects to leads.”
Branding counts. Period. If it didn’t, Pepsi and Coke, Verizon and Sprint, and all the car companies in the world wouldn’t spend millions of dollars, beating each others’ brains out, to achieve a dominant position in the customer’s mind. The point is, unless your potential customer sees your name (brand) on a short list of potential suppliers and recognizes it as a serious contender for his business; your marketing and sales efforts are lost in the mist.
Brand is how you get to the front of the line. Customers have needs to fill. Many products can fill those needs. In a buyer’s perception, a brand is the product that fills them best.
Marketing Implications: Some basics in marketing don’t change. Never will. Branding is one thing that won’t change, regardless of changing buyer’s media habits or preferences. Neither will the need to be seen as a preeminent source of information and innovation.
Today, push/pull marketing is a balance and, at least according to this study, push marketing still demands considerable attention. But, as covered here and in the last “chapter,” buyers increasingly turn to industry and company websites to get new information or confirm assumptions they may have had going into the buying process. Ignore pull media at your own peril.
A consolidated take-away
For those of you old enough to remember 33 RPM LPs, I’m going to sound like a broken record. In an increasingly diverse information universe, you need to put your marketing eggs into an Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) process. I’ve written on it in previous issues of this newsletter. Simply put, there are a lot of ways to deliver your message, sometimes with nuanced content, depending on the delivery vehicle. You need to find the vehicles that are meaningful to your customers and, nuanced or not, deliver a consistent brand message. That’s the path to success in a changing push/pull world.
MARK SEMMELMAYER is a former Chairman of the Business Marketing Association (BMA) and the current President of the BMA’s Atlanta Chapter. He’s a 40-year B2B marketing veteran, including 32 years with Kimberly-Clark in its B2B sectors. He is the founder and Chief Idea Officer of Pen & Inc. Marketing Communications, a consultancy in Atlanta, GA