INBOUND 2018 is upon us!
This annual event hosted by sales and marketing software powerhouse, HubSpot (HUBS), draws 25,000+ agency, sales, and marketing professionals from all over the world to learn, connect, and leave inspired.
HubSpot is a software company. The TAKEOVER and my own marketing firm, Spinstak, are both dedicated to the world of industrial supply. What, if anything, can industrial manufacturers learn from the way HUBS does business with their partners?
I've been to this event two out of the last three years. It would have been three for three had the 2017 National Safety Congress not overlapped with last year's event. I'm excited about going back, joined by my leadership team and a couple of clients. Why do I look forward to this event every year? As a tiered HubSpot Agency Partner, we are treated to a world-class experience of inspiration, education, and networking opportunities.
My family's manufacturing business, Accuform, has a mission statement, "...to be our customer's favorite supplier". That's interesting... and not just because I was on the leadership team that helped first articulate that vision. It's different from other manufacturer's mission statements because it's not focused on the product, people, or profits. It's focused on experience. They're saying, "Sure, there are other companies that make signs and facility safety equipment, but nobody is more passionate about the customer experience than we are".
That's a game-changer.
And that is what HubSpot does by providing vastly more educational and customer support resources than their competitors. They do this by valuing and supporting the partner sales channel. Finally, they go above and beyond to bring their customer's into a movement bigger than themselves. They create community. Here are three things manufacturers can learn from HubSpot.
Become thought leaders through continuous education of the industry.
HubSpot has literally changed the way we think about marketing. The phrase "inbound" has become synonymous with their brand and their products, and that didn't happen by accident. It took years of intentional thought-leadership to change the way an entire industry considered sales and marketing. They empathized with marketers and business development leaders about the difficulty of traditional sales and advertising tactics, they called out the dated methods, they offered a better solution, and they called us to action.
Is it unreasonable to think that you could do the same in your manufacturing business?
Think about the problems in the world associated with your product category(s), and imagine a better way. Chances are your best salespeople already know what to say and how to guide your customers into trusting your brand. The problem is they can't be everywhere, they aren't always on call, and they will eventually retire. The internet, on the other hand, is just entering it's prime.
As an industrial manufacturer, it is critically important to capture the thought-leadership of your team before it's too late. Once you have a regular stream of content, you must work hard to build an audience and publish new ideas across the major channels (social, email, and web). When your customer has a question about the category and personas you specialize in, they should ultimately wind-up at your website.
Support the partner sales channel with dedicated resources.
I've consulted dozens of manufacturers over the years and a common question always comes up - "should I create content and resources for my end-users or my distributors". The answer is unequivocally BOTH. They are not mutually exclusive.
Unfortunately, so many manufacturers have not defined their resource strategy for both customer groups. Some over-emphasize their distribution channel and do practically nothing to drive brand awareness at the end-user / consumer level, leaving the entire demand generation of their products in the very busy, very distracted hands of their distributors. Others have gone the way of all but taking the order for their distributor partners by creating and marketing directly to their end-users.
HubSpot does both, and so should you. Did you know that they have an entire partner training program with both online and offline classes? Did you know that they offer customized, personal training? Did you know that they have hundreds of co-branded and personalizable marketing assets that partners can use to sell their products? On top of that, they have multiple in-person partner events that bring together partner executives, sales, and marketers to learn from each other and work on ways to grow together.
They clearly value their distribution channel, but they do not put all their demand-generation eggs into one basket... and neither should you.
Build a community of lifelong fans and advocates.
There are no marketing "secrets" in this idea. No amount of thought-leadership, fancy events, or slick advertising will make up for a bad customer experience. Instead of thinking about customer relationships like a funnel where you "attract, convert, close, and poop out a customer", you should be thinking about a flywheel of growth with three unbreakable spokes: marketing, sales, and service.
This is how HubSpot operates. They built a fantastically simple and effective website, surrounded it with hundreds and thousands of online blogs, resources, and conversion points, then they empowered their agency partners to help them sell their product, and once they acquired a customer, they worked tirelessly to retain them by investing in customer satisfaction reps, resources, knowledge-base, educational videos, and more. I do not think it would be a stretch to say that they have invested at least as much money into post-sale resources as they have in customer acquisition.
In your business, the barrier to entry is lower than it ever has been. New competitors are popping up every few months, and sadly many great brands simply trade market share with their competitors year after year. What would it look like to attract the ideal customer, close that customer, and retain that customer for life? It may not be as glamorous, but it's a hell of a lot more profitable.
Take action today!
Okay, so you may be thinking, "Matt, that's a software company. I deal in hard goods. I don't have the kind of profit margin to afford to invest in these resources and customer experience".
You can't afford to not invest.
Schedule a consultation with my team over at Spinstak Growth Agency. We've worked with others in the same industry and we can help you develop a roadmap for your customer experience. We can interview your thought-leaders, capturing their expertise so you can start publishing the content you know your customers need. Then we'll help you publish and advertise online and grow your community.