When he joined Brennan back in 2015, they were much like many other industrial manufacturers…which meant that the majority of their marketing was more or less a decade behind that of B2C. But adapting to digital methods wasn’t their only challenge. Brennan had to [re]learn what it meant to create content that meets buyer needs.
1. DOUBLE YOUR DIGITAL: HALVE YOUR PRINT.
“When I came in there, they were spending a lot on magazine ads, trade publication ads, and that kind of thing,” John told us. “Which I knew from other experience just wasn’t the best way to spend money and get a return.”
Traditional methods have little to no traceability, so you can’t actually gauge whether or not they’re being effective at all.
“It’s just like you’re throwing ads out there into the ecosystem and hoping something happens.”
Fortunately, the team at Brennan already suspected they needed to make a change. So they started at square one: a blog. They knew it would be content that meets buyer needs because they would ask their sales teams what a lot of customers were asking on a regular basis.
After Brennan started content marketing regularly, the blogs started building web traffic. It was slow-going at first…but the power of digital content is that it all just keeps stacking.
Print ads in old magazines may get tossed aside when the newest edition comes out, but blogs stay online and keep helping people. John compared it to the start of a snowball starting to roll downhill and accumulate layers upon layers.
“It took a good year and a half before we really got any kind of momentum or traction off of our content marketing program,” John admitted. However, it does grow. “Like rolling a snowball down a hill. You start with just the tiny little bit, and you just keep adding layers and layers and layers, and that first tiny bit doesn’t go away. It’s still those first things that are still bringing people in, and still converting leads.”
The results have grown so outstanding that John has actually been able to cut the print budget in half every single year.
They haven’t stopped using older methods completely – traditional ads still have their place– but the majority of the budget has started pouring into digital, where the results are clearly measurable.
2. REMEMBER HOW INDUSTRIAL MARKETING DIFFERS FROM CONSUMER MARKETING.
Blogs and other digital content are immensely valuable not only because they improve SEO, but because they’re a foundational element of the inbound marketing model.
As we’ve discussed on this show before with Judson Voss, marketing’s previous outbound model is growing obsolete as buyer habits change.
“Instead of trying to go out to where the customer is and interrupt what they’re doing and get their attention, you try to be a source of knowledge,” John explained. “A place they go to when they’re looking for information about your products, or things related to your market.”
Today’s buyers prefer to know whether or not they’re likely to buy at all before they reach out to a representative– as opposed to in the days of outbound marketing, when sales reps were the main sources of product information. Now, due to the free flow of information on the internet, buyers prefer to self-educate.
Manufacturers need to provide information about their products in order to be trusted by potential clients…especially because, in B2B, there’s almost no such thing as an impulse buy.
“One of the things that’s unique about industrial marketing is, it’s not just an impulse buy. For instance, in consumer marketing… ‘This tennis shoe makes me feel special. I’ll buy it.’ With manufactured components that go into someone else’s manufactured component, you have a whole company that you’re trying to sell this product to.”
That’s one of the reasons that buyer personas are so important if you want to generate content that meets buyer needs. You need content that caters to engineers; to CFOs; to CEOs; and beyond. Your content needs to make life easy for everyone with a say in the purchase.
3. MEDIUMS DON’T WIN FANS– MEETING NEEDS DOES.
In a bit of an ironic twist, however, print tactics can actually go further than digital in a few select ways– as John and the rest of his team at Brennan have discovered.
Over time, the company built its library of online content richer and richer. They’ve un-gated older materials that have been highly popular for a long time, since they have new gated content to replace it. Then…they had an idea.
Brennan’s marketing team decided to create a thread identification guide, because there was a need in the market for education on the line of identifying threads. However…it would not be available as a digital document.
“We said ‘Okay, we’re going to make this guide, but…we’re not going to make it a PDF. Everything else in the world is a PDF. We’re going to print this guide, we’re going to make a 28-page booklet, and print it in full color on glossy stock…and we’re only going to make it available in a physical form. But, we’ll give it away.’ ”
The content offer was somewhat of an experiment– but it has certainly paid off so far.
When physical letters used to be the norm, getting one felt cheap. Now getting a handwritten letter feels far more personal– and digital experiences feel conversely cheapened.
The booklet is one of Brennan’s most popular offers. After someone fills out an online form to request a copy, the booklet is printed and packaged and shipped to them. At two dollars per lead, John pointed out that’s a fantastically affordable option.
Sometimes people even request 100 copies because they’ve decided to use the guide as training material for their own engineers or staff. It’s a powerful example of how Brennan’s marketing team is providing value and filling a void in the market with content that meets buyer needs.
4. BUILD RAPPORT; BUILD RELATIONSHIPS.
The fact of the matter is, neither print nor digital mediums are necessarily better at making an impact if there is no relationship behind them.
Brennan’s effective content offers are moving mountains not because they’re sleek or speedy– but because they meet client and prospect needs. Whether they employ digital delivery or color-printed glossy, its all to meet a need in the market and provide value.
The thread identification booklet isn’t spam– because people specifically asked for it. Brennan’s materials help to answer common questions that potential buyers have – which means that prospects come to Brennan to get educated on the market. That reliable value has established the company as a thought leader in their industry.
Sometimes we don’t know people personally– we’ve never invited our bank teller or our morning barista over for dinner – but we’ve come to a place where we recognize one another and have built rapport together.
That’s what it means to establish a relationships with buyers through educational content.
The more of a rapport you’ve built with different personas, the faster you’re likely to get approvals when it’s time for a purchase– because, as John pointed out, there are several people involved with an industrial sale.
“Their procurement guy’s like ‘Yeah, Brennan!’ And the engineering guy’s like, “Yeah, Brennan!’ Then when it goes to the buyer or whatever, he’s like ‘Oh, Brennan, yeah!’ And you just get a string of green lights,” because they’re already familiar with you.
5. PREPARE FOR YOUR MARKETING DEPARTMENT TO TRANSFORM DRASTICALLY.
As we heard from John and as we’ve discussed many times before: successful content marketing does not spring up overnight. The progress was exponential, but it still took well over a year to truly begin snowballing.
“If you’re going to make the move – and you ought to make the move to a more digital and content-based inbound strategy…make the commitment to do it. Don’t do it half-heartedly. It takes actually a lot of effort. It’s a major change from traditional.”
In fact, John said, your marketing department will actually find itself, “basically slowly turning into a media production company.” Designers, video equipment, writers, web designers, and more are going to get involved.
“So over time, the transition to the marketing department is actually kind of profound,” John admitted. “So it’s going to take an investment, and it’s going to take some commitment, and it doesn’t happen quickly.”
Those three things are a bit of a triple-threat to most CFOs. However, in time, the results really do speak for themselves.
“I can tell you though (and the publishers won’t want to hear this, but) you can cut that publishing budget. I really doubt you will see a change. We’ve noticed no change in four years of cutting the advertising budget down, half each year. We haven’t noticed a loss in the amazing leads that those ads were pulling in…it went the exact opposite.”
Who knows what future mediums may grow in popularity with future audiences? But as long as you use those mediums to create content that meets buyer needs, then you’ll always have an eager audience.
“The way business happens is changing, even in these stalwart industrial sectors, so don’t be afraid to push the envelope in your marketplace. Honestly, there’s a really good chance you might rush straight to the front if no one else’s doing it. If everybody’s lagging behind, then go for it. And I think you’d be surprised with the kind of results you see.”
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