It’s been more than a year now since I’ve been working in the consumer creative software industry. The industry which is undoubtedly marketing and consumer driven – the main goal is to acquire and then retain as many customers as possible. In order to achieve that you should first of all build a product that users would love. Then you do kickass PR, launch it, acquire the initial userbase – and work from there. You read about all that stuff on the marketing blogs, right? And even though 90% of the marketing blogs suck – most of us still have heard about those marketing concepts and they don’t sound like a rocket science.

What if your industry is actually rocket science though? Or something close to that? Before embarking on the journey with the creative software I had a great experience working with the company called Fogger and doing growth marketing for their product – industrial internet of things software platform.

Growth Marketing “On The Edge”

Industrial IoT software. What is that even? That is software that runs on industrial machines. Fogger’s engineering team had built the edge computing software platform which helped industrial companies process data on their industrial machines on the edge – using the computational power of the machines and not sending the data to the centralized cloud for that. That saved a lot of bandwidth and was more secure. Fogger’s platform also allowed to build applications which would allow for remote control of the industrial machines, real-time monitoring, and maintenance.

Looking back now – it was a great experience that taught me a lot that was eventually useful working with B2C markets too. The most important thing however was that it taught me was that no industry is too scary. No learning curve of the product and the market is too big. Growth marketing is hard. Markets are complicated. Competitors do the things you don’t even understand. You have to learn to deal with that. In markets like IIoT no simple marketing or growth tactics are going to grow your business – you really have to know what you are doing before you run any campaigns.

At Fogger my role was focused on the outbound marketing, communications, and branding of the company. We personally approached over 1000 industrial companies across different industries. Validated and researched over 20 market verticals. Comms part was so complicated due to the product complexity that the management even decided to hire a renowned agency from the Silicon Valley to develop a messaging architecture for Fogger’s product. I’ve been using the frameworks and practices that I learned from them since then.

Fogger eventually had to shut down business side of the operations due to the misfit between the product and the market and product’s technical architecture – which in that industry meant that no large B2B would sign a contract with us even though many of them were interested.

20 months later I am much more experienced than I was back then. So I’ve decided to take a deeper fresh look at the process of growth and marketing in the companies like Fogger which are operating in the extreme B2B industries. Industries where the number of potential customers is limited. Industries where the contracts start from hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In this article, I will try to define the core growth marketing processes, techniques and success factors for such companies using the examples of the established and most successful companies in the industrial software markets.

Communications And Branding

In extreme B2B industries communication is crucial. The products you are marketing are always complex and it is not obvious in which words to tell customers about them. How to emphasize the benefits and competitive advantages? What if the product’s benefits differ depending on which industry it is going to be used at?

For example, the benefits of using Fogger’s software would be different for a renewable energy plant and a smart car manufacturer. Renewable energy plant would want to monitor and remotely control their devices, while the smart car manufacturer would be mainly interested in the real-time and timely maintenance. If you just tailor the communications on your website and materials towards one potential customer – you may eventually lose the other. If you make the communication too general though you are risking of losing both since they won’t how it’s going to work for them immediately.

The best way to approach comms is to develop a coherent communication architecture document. First of all, you should define the general communication that would be as understandable, powerful and transparent as possible and would nail the pain of most potential customers. Next, you can continue developing the messaging for particular customer profiles – which could be put on the separate landing pages or used for targeted content materials like case studies or blog posts.

Messaging architecture is basically the DNA of how your company is talking about itself. No matter if it’s the main website, blog post, sales call or informal meeting – comms architecture defines the coherent way each of the employees, customers or partners talks about your company. It is all about the repeating and sticky words, small details and conveying powerful ideas and meanings.

Therefore vision and mission statements are really important here. Make sure they are going to remain the same or very close even after 5 or 10 years from now. That is what your company is actually doing and where it is headed.

messaging communication architecture framework

Try to think of some precise and powerful promise and difference statements – you are going to use those to highlight how different you are from the alternatives or competitors. If your extreme B2B product is very fresh and innovative – very often there would be no real competitors on the market. Then you are really competing versus the possibility of doing nothing, tackling yourself the education of the core market stakeholders.

Yandex Data Factory – a spin-off startup company of Russian giant focusing on AI data analytics – has got a pretty good and simple communication strategy. Their website says in plain words: “Yandex Data Factory provides AI-based solutions that directly increase productivity, reduce costs, and improve energy efficiency”. Quite clear right? They then provide specific landing pages for oil and gas, metals, and others.

Account-Based Marketing

Account-based marketing (ABM) field has been developed specifically for industries like IIoT or any other B2B industry where the number of customers is limited. When building account-based marketing processes we focus on a number of specific customers, usually big companies, and work on specific ways to reach them.

ABM is almost always more effective in extreme B2B industries since it is very targeted, conscious, aims to reduce waste and allows to better track the ROI of the marketing activities. ABM is also getting more scalable thanks to a number of marketing systems and tools you could use to automate email outreaches, funnels, personalized webinar sessions etc.

Marketo offers a nice e-book read on ABM on their website. Another great software enabling account-based marketing is Drift. Drift explains in their blog post why account based marketing is different than inbound marketing – and why it works for Fortune 500 companies deals.

account based marketing

Content Marketing

Content is the most powerful marketing weapon in the B2B toolkit of any company. Content educates customers, creates SEO value and it is scalable. Creating 10 epic case studies or guidebooks is cheaper, faster and more effective than hiring a sales person to spam customers telling all that information over and over again.

The blog is the most fundamental and crucial part of the content marketing infrastructure of any company. The content on the blog is ultimately owned by you, bringing you long-term value and exposure. In some saturated B2B environments with plenty of vendors content marketing becomes the number one channel for lead generation – producing high-quality content and educating the new potential customers on the market equals signing them.

One good content marketing framework to adopt would be the Content Clusters Framework developed by HubSpot. Content clusters are pretty much semantically close clusters of the articles interlinked in between of each other, supporting each other’s rankings with internal links’ juice. Extreme B2B industries may be tough nuts to crack in terms of SEO and content marketing – be sure to do some good and thorough keywords research and figure out your content distribution strategy before you actually roll up your sleeves and start writing.

hubspot pillars framework

Case Studies And Gated Content

Case studies are an absolute necessary in any B2B industry, and in the extreme B2B sectors they become not just important but vital. The switching and adoption costs for the customer companies are normally extremely high, which makes the decision and implementation a very long and careful process. If you ever want to close the deal – you have to win over the trust and prove that your solution has been tested and proven to work.

Therefore case studies have become an integral part of the sales process. Your prospects are going to expect to see some of your previous implementations and projects – and they will want to see there some clear objectives achieved and ROI (return on investment) gained.

DocSend has created a great directory of over 150+ case studies of world’s largest B2B companies. If you look through some of those case studies you are going to notice the pattern: all of them are quite short, follow a strict format, aim to describe the objectives and then show how they were achieved. When marketing your B2B product make sure you keep it straight to the point.

Should some of the content materials or case studies be gated? Is that a good lead generation approach? Not in 2017. Gated content got popular a number of years ago, when ads and performance marketing were still on the rise and when traffic could be driven to the landing page with some piece of content serving a lead magnet. Now the marketing landscape has been increasingly dominated by organic channels – content and knowledge have been widely available for free. And if it’s not free – gated behind the sign up or email wall – there’s a high probability that prospects are going to decide it’s not worth the time and just leave.

Outbound Marketing

Outbound marketing is awesome if you nail it and super bad if you mess up. The problem with outbound marketing is that it’s very bold, intrusive and risky – you are approaching the clients that you consider potential with the message that you believe is going to resonate with them. And you better be right – otherwise you are risking to ruining your reputation and receiving some angry responses from the people you’d thought you may do business with.

The core trick with outbound marketing is that it must not seem like marketing. It must be genuine. All you are doing is being the first to contact your customers – even before they have learned about you and your business. Make sure you are doing so in a personal and respectful manner, bringing as much value and education to them as possible.

Aaron Ross wrote a famous best-selling book Predictable Revenue on building a scalable outbound marketing sales machine. Ross was the VP of Sales @ SalesForce at the moment of its expansion among FORTUNE 1000 companies and therefore is the guy to trust when it comes to signing hard and exclusive deals. Predictable Revenue describes a “Cold Calling 2.0” methodology – when the sales team is split into the prospectors and the closers with their unique responsibilities and roles, the headcount of both groups growing as the company expands and closes more deals.

Business Development

Business development must inherently support all of the sales and marketing activities of the company. Business development gets especially important in the isolated extreme B2B industries and sectors, when having some key relationships often means winning or losing.

Biz dev is the mastermind behind company’s network and strategy – what are the market trends, which markets and sectors to penetrate, which influencers and partners are going to help us to push further and grow? A dedicated business development specialists are usually hired at the time of an expansion – when scalable sales and marketing strategies such as outbound “Cold Calling 2.0” are no longer enough. What becomes increasingly important is working with a large number of market influencers and stakeholders, building up and nurturing the relationships with them – in order to leverage them at some point in the future.

Conclusion

Building advanced, innovative solutions which are aiming to disrupt huge traditional B2B industries is hard. Marketing and selling them ain’t easier. Expect it to be hard generating leads. Expect it to be hard building up the relationships. Expect it to be even harder making it through the sales process and closing deals. Therefore be prepared, validate product-market fit as soon as possible, plan ahead and make sure you get the marketing and sales strategies right as soon as possible – so you have enough time to make mistakes and pivot before the market kills you.