Over the last several years, the sales funnel has transformed. Customers are gathering more information than ever before, and by the time they contact a salesperson, they’re already evaluating several purchase options. This is upending how companies sell, how they market their value, and especially what kind of information they’re sharing with customers online. Social media is playing an integral role in this rapid change, so in August 2012 we surveyed chief marketing officers from leading B2B manufacturers to find out how they’re adjusting their approaches toward social media. Here’s a look at how some of our members are transforming their use of digital marketing, followed by an infographic with key takeaways from the survey.
Twitter Best Practices at DuPont
The use of social media by B2B manufacturers has exploded. According to our 2012 Social Media Survey, the share of industrial manufacturers with a Facebook page has doubled in the last three years, and the number with Twitter feeds has more than tripled. When it comes to Twitter best practices, DuPont stands out above the crowd. Instead of just pushing out investor information (as many companies do), DuPont mixes it up, engaging its followers around anything from the company’s historical innovations to car color trends to their point of view on global issues such as food security. Most importantly, the company gets that above all, social media needs to be social.
But they didn’t reach this level of sophistication overnight. According to Kirsten Mucha, DuPont’s digital communications leader, “Early on, we used Twitter to complement traditional corporate communications. In other words, what we wanted to say, when we wanted to say it.” As the company’s approach evolved, however, it focused more on what its followers wanted to learn. Along the way, DuPont found its voice, which Mucha relates to “finding a compass” that guides decisions around what to post and how to engage followers. Although this has meant giving up some control over the message, it has also made it easier for followers to interact with DuPont. According to Mucha, “When you don’t control the conversation but become a part of it, then anyone can feel comfortable connecting with your company.”
YouTube Best Practices at Flow International
YouTube is a useful resource for manufacturers to create buzz, educate customers, and have fun. It’s used by nearly 90% of MAPI survey respondents, and is universally praised as being the most effective site available for branding and awareness. There are a lot of best practices examples out there. For example, Lincoln Electric does a great job engaging users through training videos, and Bayer Corporation’s Making Science Make Sense video series has won awards for increasing science literacy. But what about having a little fun? Waterjet manufacturer Flow International has generated huge buzz from its irreverent (and addictive) Can Water Cut It video series. Have you ever wondered if a stream of water can cut through a laptop, lawn mower, bowling ball, or even a safe? Click here to watch their waterjet in action.
According to Flow International Vice President of Global Marketing Chip Burnham, “The Can Water Cut It video series has been very successful in raising awareness among young people about waterjet’s cutting capabilities.” To date, the company has received more than one million hits. Burnham echoes what many of his fellow MAPI members have told us, however, saying that social media is primarily about building awareness and visibility rather than generating sales leads. “We have other techniques in place, such as email campaigns, to connect with prospects and customers. For us, social media has been instrumental in showing the power and versatility of waterjet technology, and for building our brand as a thought leader and pioneer in the space.”
Demand Generation Best Practices at Caterpillar
But how can you monetize social media, let alone your own website? Progressive B2Bs such as Caterpillar are using sophisticated demand generation programs to convert interest into sales. It all starts with understanding the customer through data. Caterpillar uses web analytics to understand individual user behavior on www.cat.com, including which pages customers visit, what content they download, and the product comparisons they make. The company uses marketing automation software to nurture leads into sales-ready opportunities. Caterpillar is ahead of the curve here—according to an April 2012 MAPI survey, only 14% of our membership has marketing automation tools such as Eloqua, Silverpop, or HubSpot in place. That number is growing, however; 41% of members are evaluating vendors.
Marketing automation allows Caterpillar to deliver marketing messages that are tailored to each visitor’s unique needs. According to Dave Lucas, Caterpillar’s demand generation manager, “This gives us a 360-degree view of what the customer is interested in, and allows us to deliver the right information to the customer at the right time.” For example, a quarry owner visits Caterpillar’s website, fills out a form, and then views several pages about renting a wheel loader. That triggers a series of email offers for wheel loader rentals, designed to convert interest into purchase intent. The Caterpillar dealer network steps in to assist the customer with finding the solution that best fits their needs. This approach has helped the company improve conversion rates, reduce marketing costs, and streamline sales operations. It’s also given them a clear window into the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, leading to smarter spend decisions. Most important, though, is the benefit to the customer. Lucas says, “Ultimately, marketing automation makes Caterpillar easier to do business with because it arms our customers with the information they need to make the right decision for them.”
Technology is transforming how we live our lives online. Whether we’re looking to buy a front-end loader or find that perfect pair of shoes, the best companies are responding with innovative tools to make that decision as easy as possible. For the full-sized infographic that includes some of the key findings from our research, please log in and click on the “View Infographic” link at the bottom of the page. For a copy of the full survey, click here (members only, login required).