Capturing the invisible buyer

manufacturing-the-invisible-buyer

It used to be that if someone wanted details of your product, they would give you a call – or at least send you an email asking for more information.

Industrial buyers go through an initial period of research and evaluation, talking to a number of suppliers and gathering the information and product specifications they need to help them make a decision.  When they could only get that information through directly contacting you, your sales team had the opportunity to engage the buyer and develop a relationship. As long as you could deliver, the sale was yours to lose.

Then the Internet happened.  The buyer’s research process remained the same apart from one crucial change: because of the amount of information freely available online, a buyer no longer has to engage with a supplier to gather information.  We call this the invisible buyer syndrome: your sales people only get to engage with a customer once they have made their buying decision.

We call this the invisible buyer syndrome: because of the amount of information freely available online, a buyer no longer has to engage with a supplier to gather information.

Many manufactures responded to this phenomenon by removing technical information from their website, and instead asking a visitor to get in contact for full specifications. Forcing the buyer to declare themselves to get the information they need may work in some markets – for example if you are the only company who can make the product or you offer a specific technical service.  In others however, all you are doing is encouraging the buyer to click the back button on their browser and download your competitor’s information instead, ruling yourself out of the race right from the off.

So how, in the digital world, do you get buyers to declare their interest, but still make sure that whoever wants your information has free access to it?  In the same way that computer-aided design revolutionised engineering, computer-aided sales and marketing is doing the same for lead generation.  A buyer may not be willing to break cover and directly contact you in their research phase, but they are willing to make a small exchange for the information they need.

This is why websites ask for an email address (and just an email address) in return for downloading information.  People think they can hide behind their email address as long as they don’t have to give any more information.  In reality, someone just looking for initial information is probably too early on in their research phase to be receptive to a sales call – what they are receptive to though, is more information.

As soon as you are sending someone relevant information about something they are interested in, it’s no longer seen as ‘spam’.

As soon as you are sending someone relevant information about something they are interested in, it’s no longer seen as ‘spam’. You know what the prospect is interested in by what they downloaded from your website, so you can use email marketing to continue to ‘nurture’ the buyer in a passive way about your products and your capability, or to offer more direct interaction like a demo or site visit.

If you use a smart email marketing system that also monitors how people interact with the information you send them, you can identify which ones are most receptive and follow them up when they seem most likely to buy. From experience, a determined salesperson can identify a contact from their email address alone about 80% of the time (LinkedIn is great for this!), and then it’s a simple step to find a phone number from their company website.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, we’ve found that such smart digital marketing works better in industrial markets, where buying decisions are longer and more involved – especially as such a high percentage of engineers rely on the Internet for finding new suppliers.

Dropping your current contact base in to a smart email marketing system that you can monitor (such as MailChimp) also gives surprising results. Contacts who you considered long-dead start interacting with the emails you send them and showing interest in a specific service, perhaps that they didn’t even know you offered.

The reality is that if a manufacturing company is not embracing modern marketing methods, it will be losing market share every single quarter to the competitor who is. The industry is buying in a whole new way – so why are you still looking for orders like you did in the 90s?