In a cluttered, noisy, skeptical, evolving market, what is the B2B marketing professional to do? The short answer is: what you’ve always done.
- Embrace your domain. Being able to clearly position your role to customers will make it easier for them to see how you might fit in their digital environment. In a gross over-simplification, you might break down the IIoT space into four categories of players:
- The major players: They design the platforms and software and deliver solutions on a holistic scale. Think IBM, GE Digital, Siemens, HPE and Honeywell for starters.
- The major influencers: They convince industrial giants to move in this direction, tell them how to get there, and help implement the solution (with the help of the aforementioned major players). Think Accenture, KPMG, Deloitte and other big players in the consulting space.
- The niche players: These smaller or more specific businesses have developed IoT solutions for their particular product or market niche: service providers to vertical market segments and manufacturers of certain product types.
- The component providers: The players who make the sensors, switches, communication devices, electronics, etc. which make it all possible.
Niche players with specific manufacturing and vertical market expertise have a great opportunity. No matter what IBM and GE say, they simply won’t bring the intellectual capital and know-how a niche player can for specific types of systems, processes and equipment. OWN THIS. You don’t have to operate on a cosmic scale. If your IIoT solves something specific that only a company with your knowledge can solve, make sure that connection is clear. Don’t talk about making “assets” more efficient and monitoring critical “assets.” Charles Schwab does “assets” too. If you have an IIoT or analytics offering that unlocks a new opportunity for a specific machine tool, compressor or material handling system, then tell your audience that in no uncertain terms. Don’t get seduced by the language and immense scale of IIoT. Embrace what you’re great at and talk straight.
- Know your audience. Your typical industrial decision-making dynamic is about to blow up if you’re entering the IIoT space. Engineers, maintenance personnel and other plant staff aren’t your target audiences any longer. The operations-driven buying process now gives way to an IT-driven process with a new set of players. Take the time to reframe your messaging for this vastly different audience set. I really like this SlideShare from Godfrey which explains this shift in more detail. (It goes without saying your sales approach needs to change as well.)
- Be specific. While phrases like “driving unconventional growth” and “achieving breakthrough results” look nice when you first write them down, they’re meaningless unless you can back them up. Take some time to understand what your IIoT offering can do for customers in very real terms. It might be worth being three to six months late to the IIoT party to have worked with some customers on what your true value really is. Go to market with numbers, not platitudes, and you’ll be able to garner some great attention. Consider the difference between:
“Make operations more efficient.”
and “See how a chemical processor saved $3,000,000 annually when they abandoned ‘fix when fail’ for ‘predict and prevent.’”