Most B2B manufacturers are struggling to build the digital marketing strategies and purchase guidance needed to help buyers make the most informed decisions, according to Gartner. In a ranking of digital performance among B2B manufacturing brands, 62 percent of these brands fell below average.
The Gartner L2 Digital IQ Index: B2B Manufacturing U.S. 2019 quantifies the digital competence of 87 B2B manufacturing brands headquartered in the U.S. across four key sectors, including energy, healthcare, industrials and materials. Of the 87 companies analyzed, only two brands reached “Genius” status, while the majority fell into the “Challenged” and “Feeble” categories.
“Marketing leaders at B2B manufacturing companies must make a commitment to building effective digital marketing strategies. As more of their buyers allocate an increasingly large portion of their time learning how to buy online, brands must follow the money and follow suit,” said Kyle Rees, director at Gartner. “If B2B marketers can’t get digital marketing right, they could seriously jeopardize the success of their company’s future digital business strategies, or worse, fail to protect themselves against looming competitive threats.”
B2B manufacturing brands were measured across hundreds of data points against four critical dimensions of B2B digital marketing, including search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM), site functionality, guided selling and content marketing, and social media. From this analysis, four key findings emerged that B2B manufacturing brands must keep in mind moving forward:
Seismic Shifts Underfoot
Shifting customer buying behavior and looming threats to existing distribution and business models point to digital’s increasingly central role in B2B marketing operations. Unfortunately, more than half of B2B marketers (51 percent) rank their current digital experience as average at best.
Customer, Not Company, Focused
Forty-one percent of B2B buyers describe an effective buying experience as one that progresses quickly to completion, but B2B brands struggle to meet this expectation. In fact, more than one third of the B2B manufacturing brands feature no guided selling tools or content on their brand site. On the other hand, the best B2B brands deploy digital marketing strategies based on a deep understanding of their customers’ digital journey to drive engagement and conversion.
Going Beyond the Minimum
There is a wide gap between brand sites with tools that work as intended and those with tools that fall short of expectations. For example, only 34 percent of B2B manufacturing brands with site search tools allow site users to filter site search queries. Only 26 percent of site search tools leverage auto-fill technology, while even less (24 percent) provide corrections to search queries. Leading B2B brands ace the basics and leverage best-in-class functionality to create a differentiated experience for B2B buyers.
A Symphony, Not a Solo
Best-in-class B2B brands develop synergies by embracing the unique value proposition offered by different marketing platforms. Leader brands reject homogeneity across their marketing strategy to create a nuanced and well-rounded brand experience.
“Instead of just using digital marketing as a means to create demand and fill the top of the funnel, B2B manufacturers should leverage digital to advance and support new and existing business opportunities — an undertaking that has thus far proven difficult,” added Rees.
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