6/10/2019 | 5 MINUTE READ

Everything You Wanted to Know About Industrial Marketing Today but Were Afraid to Ask

The end game in B2B marketing isn’t changing . . . but the playbook is.

By Mark Semmelmayer
Chief Idea Officer
Pen & Inc. Marketing Communications

In 2018, Gardner Business Media released its 2017 Survey of Media Usage in Manufacturing ( Since 2015, I’ve worked with Gardner’s Marketing Blog to distill directional and actionable nuggets for our marketing brethren. They asked again. Who am I to say no?

As a B2B marketer, used to marketing industrial products, I’m a student of the game. Gardner’s surveys are touchstones in keeping up with the Joneses. Being ahead of trends, so that you’re already there when the buyer’s needle moves.

Survey results show trends in industrial media consumption, and the impact on buyer behavior, are not just trends. They’re a tide. A tsunami warning industrial marketers should heed. Buyers are changing. An older generation is yielding the floor to younger voices, who process information differently.

So, what’s changing in B2B?

An analogy. B2B marketing today is like the NFL of the 1930s. Forward passes had been legal since 1906, but pros still played a brutal, big body on big body ground game. But, watching the success of John Heisman and “Pop” Warner teams at the collegiate level, passing entered the NFL’s playbook.

Teams that integrated a passing attack flourished. Those who didn’t . . . or failed to defensively account for the pass . . . failed. Football evolved into the pass-first contests we watch today.

Similarly, digital has changed the industrial marketing game. Like 6-point touchdowns, there are constants. Brand, quality and service remain the holy trinity of buying determinants. But, persuading buyers you meet their requirements now goes beyond the basic blocking and tackling of trade shows and advertising. You need to spread your offense.

Buyer demographics are shifting . . . and quickly. They want information and confirmation

Surveyed buyers equate advertising usefulness with learning and discovery. Top survey raters are push media that deliver to the buyer directly, and provide opportunities to learn or discover. Print magazines represent the smallest usefulness gap between consumption and credibility, as buyers find similar use in both content and advertising.

Score one for tradition, but don’t rest on those laurels. A buyer’s big picture is more a 3600 panorama than a singular focus. So, let’s get down to big picture takeaways.

TAKEAWAY 1: When do I meet the new boss?

Nearly 70% of purchasing decisions are influenced by teams of 3 or more. Managers, engineers and purchasing / production are the most likely departments represented. Demographics of the buyers: 56% over 50; 44% under 50. It’s highly likely one or more of your buying influencers is now under 50.

TAKEAWAY 2 – How do they define me?

Brand is the prerequisite for industrial marketing. 93% of buyers say they’re most likely to select search results from companies they recognize. The most powerful ways to build brand: print advertising and event display. But, in building or sustaining brands today, websites and content marketing channels are essential. Build brand through push; build business through pull.

TAKEAWAY 3 – What are they looking for?

Your brand is built on benefits. Focus on them . . . and understand what’s important to influencers.

  • Service is a differentiator. It’s a primary buying consideration.
  • Service matters most to owners and managers.
  • Technology and solutions are also key considerations.
  • Technology matters most to engineers.

TAKEAWAY 4: So, what’s up with the Next-Gen buyer?

Senior professionals still drive purchasing decisions. That said, marketers should be laying foundations for next gen decision-makers. The next generation is conditioned by push media and captured by pull media. Specific areas to evolve lie in video and website development.

Next-Gen buyers trust validated sources, like events and industry outlets. They:

  • Gravitate more towards industry websites, industry conferences, industry shows
  • Show a significant credibility gap between search advertising vs. content usefulness
  • Invest time in solution-rich, search and social friendly tools, like video and website content

TAKEAWAY 5: What do I do in digital?

Content is Number 1

Digital adoption continues to increase. Content-based channels move the digital needle

Content is also Number 2

Invest in your website and video content. Invest in solutions that push to your website and amplify content. Mix in social, but as a complement to, not a replacement for, traditional tactics. Next-Gens may be mobile and digital, but they’re not altogether social (at least not for business).

Takeaway 6: What do I do with all that information digital provides?

Do you like unsolicited robocalls? Neither do buyers. While no customer expects digital anonymity, marketing and analytics tools empower seller remarketing. Using marginal data to solicit is annoying to older buyers and invasive to younger ones. They’ll react defensively and draw negative conclusions.

Here’s how survey respondents detailed activities they expect to be contacted after.

Green zone:

  • Scanned trade show badge: 63%
  • Registration for trade show: 42%
  • Registration for webinar: 35%

Red zone:

  • Website visit: 23%
  • Whitepaper download: 19%
  • Open email: 16%
  • Click banner: 13%
  • Watch video: 10%

We all know “caveat emptor”: let the buyer beware. This is “venditor emptor”: let the seller beware.


Times and buyers are changing. You need to change with them:

  • Build your brand
  • Develop content
  • Focus on solutions

The importance of touching influencers throughout the buying cycle can’t be understated. The availability of data is increasing. The outlets available to reach buyers are becoming more diverse.

My best advice? Catch the crest of this wave or expect to be left behind.

Many of you own or manage small to medium industrial companies. You may be steeped in traditional marketing disciplines. If you do marketing in-house, hire some folks who understand this new dynamic. If you’re in a traditional ad agency relationship, make sure their digital/social skills are up to snuff, or they’re willing to bring a specialized digital marketing firm into the mix.

It’s time for a new pass play. One that gives you the best chance to score.

Need more information?
Mark Semmelmayer
Chief Idea Officer
Pen & Inc. Marketing Communications
Marietta, GA

About the Author

Mark Semmelmayer

Mark is a past chairman of the Business Marketing Association (BMA), the 2015 recipient of BMA’s prestigious G. D. Crain Award and an Inductee into the Business Marketing Hall of Fame. He is a former national Chairman of BMA and an officer of BMA’s Atlanta Chapter. A 40-year B2B marketing pro, including 32-years with Kimberly-Clark, he’s the founder and Chief Idea Officer of Pen & Inc. Marketing Communications, a consultancy in Atlanta, GA.


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