The Coming Impact of IIoT on Industrial Sales and Marketing

Industrial Internet of Things

How the IIoT will Impact Your Sales and Marketing

Change is a constant. IOT based 'smart factories' (defined as entirely automated and managed via common communication protocols that deliver real-time data) may be this years biggest disruptor for industrial suppliers. According to McKinsey, the impact of IoT, could reach nearly $4 trillion by 2025 in the combined effects of operation efficiencies, cost savings, new products (such as subscriptions and monitoring activities) and sales via new revenue channels. That's the point - smart factories aren't the only thing IIoT is going to change. Industrial manufacturers and distributors also need to think about IIoT as a marketing and sales tool throughout the customer journey.

You already know how the Internet dramatically impacted your sales and marketing activities and is probably still changing them? But have you thought about how the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will too? If not, we have some ideas tabulated and detailed below.

Evolution of Industrial Marketing and Sales related activities
Activity Pre-Internet Internet IIoT and AI
Brand Marketing Mass advertising Online marketing via website, SEO, SEM, Blogs, content marketing Customized and personalized to each customer
Sales Predominately field sales Predominately inside sales Predominately eCommerce
Targeted Marketing Comms. List and database marketing with mailers and email Marketing automation SEO, SEM, email, social media Right custom message at the right time
Product Usage Customer surveys and rep. reports Online surveys, usage logs for software products Exact usage tracking, predictive maintenance and timely spares, consumable needs
Buyer Journey Tracking Anecdotal via reps, focus groups, surveys Measured with analytics, attribution but often not close looped Measured in closed loops then predictive and proactive ‘next product’ needed sales
Customer Relationship Tracking Field sales rep. interactions sometimes recorded in CRM All interactions manually or automatically recorded in CRM Real time engagement as needed plus predictive interventions
Customer/User eXperience (CX/UX) Feedback and complaints Online feedback and complaints Real time tracking and interventions before issues become complaints
Customer Support Predominately reactive call centers Predominately reactive call and social media centers Predominately pro-active call centers and AI tools

You probably already know about the answers in the 'Pre-Internet' and 'Internet' columns above so let's focus on the highlighted 'IIoT and AI' column to explain our thinking.

Brand Marketing

IOT and IIOT will transform the relationships between B2B suppliers and products, between B2B customers and products and hence between those suppliers and customers. Business processes and transparency will improve, efficiencies and effectiveness will increase as data is shared and used. Products will monitor their condition, performance, environment, usage and communicate back to the supplier. Of course marketing for brand awareness and trustworthiness will continue as today but analysis will provide insights into individual customer behavior and product usage leading to customized and personalized recommendations as brand marketing to each customer. IIoT will also enable new business models such as selling industrial machines as a service (see examples like jet engines provided by the hour in this blog post).

Sales

Sales will still occur in multiple channels - the customers' preference will rule on a case by case basis but, more and more, sales will predominately be by eCommerce (including industrial vending machines on customer premises). Already suppliers like Grainger and MSC have more than half their revenue by eCommerce! Corporate procurement systems will work seamlessly with eCommerce systems (Amazon is already doing that - see video). Sales and marketing will track customers' entire purchase history, from a prospect's first website visit (and perhaps CAD model download) to their purchase of the product and post-purchase service or consumables buying.

Targeted Marketing Communications

As products become part of the marketing chain so marketers will no longer have to rely on field sales, call centers, email or advertising to reach customers. Their messages will appear right on the control panel of the product. The right custom message at exactly the right time. The message might be something like "X consumable is down to the 20% level set as your reorder level, shall I place the re-order?" or "Bearing Y is running above safe operating temperature, shall I schedule a maintenance call?" or "You are using this motor 50% more than anticipated, we recommend an upgrade to the next size up motor in the next month to ensure no downtime".

Product Usage

As products provide feedback so marketers will no longer have to rely on field sales or call centers or customer surveys for feedback insights. Product marketing will know exactly how, when and how often their products are used from usage tracking. That data can easily be used for predictive maintenance, spare and consumable stock replenishment but also for constantly improving products, services and UX as customer preferences are better met.

Buyer Journey Tracking

You'll be able to track the buyer journey from their first website visit to your website, know their interests from their searches and what they download as well as what they buy. For example even Amazon has set itself apart in the online B2B experience. They are sucking in and presenting huge amounts of product data, even adding viewable and downloadable product CAD models where relevant for B2B industrial products. Tracking the buyer journey to purchase (and beyond) closes the loop and lets you improve, even shorten, that journey. But the IIoT benefits don't end there - predictive and proactive marketing of the ‘next product’ customers typically need can initiate the next buying journey and so increase or hasten sales. From a marketing point of view IIoT enables delivery of the right message and collateral at the right time!

Customer Relationships Tracking

As they say, 'timing is everything'. Engaging with the customer at the right time has always been difficult for sales and marketing teams. There are innumerable real time engagement opportunities. For example, engaging with them when they are on your website, accessing an exploded parts CAD model looking for spare parts. Or when they are using your product but not operating it successfully (predictive interventions). With real time interactions providing feedback and better relationships, the 'old' ways like focus groups and surveys along with waiting for results will fade away.

Customer/User eXperience (CX/UX)

Amazon has proven that meeting face to face isn't necessary to build a trusting business relationship. Through what they know about customers and the way they use that information to present a personalized UX and send us useful marketing emails, customers already feel Amazon 'knows' them. Imagine how that feeling will deepen when suppliers know how you use products and exactly how well, or not, products are performing for you. Real time tracking and proactive helpful interventions will improve UX and address issues before they become complaints.

Customer Support

In the same way support issues (and escalation to complaints) will be reduced by self-help guided by the product itself or pro-actively by call centers responding to IIoT feedback. The point is today's mainly reactive call centers will provide more and more proactive customer support - in many ways 'customer service will be the new marketing!' and employees and the software tools they use will learn to avoid problems before they manifest. AI tools including AI-as-a-service solutions, such as Chatbots, will contribute greatly and reduce reactive support costs. According to Gartner, "by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the enterprise without interacting with a human.

Conclusion

Augmented and virtual realityRobert Iger, Disney's CEO, in recently purchasing most of 21st Century Fox because TV audience viewing habits have shifted, said “The pace of disruption has only hastened!"

Our conclusion is that IIoT is going to hasten disruption for industrial suppliers as the next step of the Internet along with the integration of multiple other technologies including AI, Big Data, Augmented Reality, Automation, 3D Printing, Robotics and many more. IIoT is going to impact industrial marketing and sales activities significantly, in many ways making for more advanced marketing!

WRT the product side impacts of IIoT, in this recent blog post we made several product related recommendations for industrial suppliers.

Whether you agree or disagree with us, or a bit of both, please join the discussion and let us know your thoughts as comments below. Happy New Year and we hope the above material helps you prepare for IIoT. As always, if you'd like our opinion on your 2018 plans, call us or click either button below:

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