The new sales model: Effective marketing for photonics companies

Feb. 21, 2017
Changes in customer behavior and expectations are transforming the way technical companies sell.
Michele Gleber 720 5d264c048175d

The atmosphere was all business this year at SPIE Photonics West, with industry leaders eager to explore opportunities and ways to grow their companies. Our team had the honor to teach “The New Sales Model” and speak to sales and marketing professionals about how to engage today’s high tech buyer.

Changes in customer behavior and expectations are transforming the way technical companies sell:
• 40% of your customers (baby boomers) will retire in the next 2 years
• 70% of the purchase decision is already made before contact with sales

Slowing growth (single digits in many markets) is also driving a need for change if optics companies wish to maintain their growth rate.
• 1% medical device growth expected for 2017
• 5% growth in oil & gas
• 7% growth in night vision

Maintaining double-digit growth will require companies to shift how they think about attracting customers; often this means a greater emphasis on inbound marketing. This year we were pleased to learn that many companies were thinking about marketing and sales strategy and alignment, and several were already seeing success with inbound and content marketing.

At our marketing roundtable, your peers told us they achieved the following wins:
• Promoted technical papers and increased customer engagement through blog posts, white papers, and press releases.
• Improved trade show promotion for better visitor turnout.
• Generated an RFQ for a 6-figure project through a blog post.
• Secured 40 qualified leads within four months of undertaking an inbound strategy.
• Improved lead follow-up process and achieved 3x pipeline value.

Marketing and sales strategies for optics

Some of the best learning came from attendees’ experiences and questions. The following Q&A provides insight into how you can use product positioning, content, and other strategies to your advantage.

Q: What are the primary methods of communication preferred today? How do you convert inbound marketing to human contact?

A: Automated chat, email blasts, and social media posts are all useful channels for initial contact and inbound lead generation. More meaningful conversations require a phone call, personal emails, and a direct ask to connect on social networks such as LinkedIn.

As inbound in inherently global, an inbound marketing strategy may broaden your typical customer geographic base. Face-to-face, human interaction is still important, so you may need to beef up your video conferencing skills. Global sales growth also shifts the intent of your trade show calendar, so make sure that 1:1 prospect and customer meetings is a priority for any planned travel.

Q: What CRM / ERP are you seeing work best?

A: This depends on your company size and the sophistication of your sales process. For smaller companies or those just getting started with a consistent sales process, we like the HubSpot CRM. It’s free, sets up in minutes, and is easily customizable. We actually started on SalesForce but found it to be more than we needed. We wanted a starting point based on best practice sales processes, and HubSpot was a great fit.

As for ERP, most of the companies we work with use EPICORE. This isn’t our area of expertise. We do see companies who want to use their ERP’s CRM module but a couple years later have made no process. It’s important to think through where exactly the handoff from CRM to ERP happens, and how to ensure that contacts are synced.

No tool is perfect—consistency in usage is the largest success factor.

Q: How do you get customers when one large competitor already owns most of the market?

A: Go where they can’t. Figure out your sweet spot—your core capabilities, what your customers value, and what your competitor can’t touch. Market positioning or product positioning is the process of identifying your unique value proposition, within a specific market, to a specific type of customer. It’s your “because.”

As a small company entering the market, you can move faster, deliver more personal service, and be cooler, funnier, or more edgy. Social media is a great equalizer. Use case studies to prove your viability in serving large companies.

Q: What works beyond the website?

A: With creative content distribution, a prospect doesn’t necessarily have to visit your website to find your content:
• Promote blog posts and technical content on your social media profiles
• Create a video for YouTube (the 2nd most-used search engine among engineers), and also embed it on a web page
• Publish your latest technical presentation on SlideShare
• Submit original articles to trade publications such as Laser Focus World.

Q: Any warnings for participating in social media?

A: There sure are:
Don’t just talk about yourself. If you did it at a cocktail party, sooner or later, people would stop listening. Add curated content to the mix to build thought leadership.
• Monitor for comments or mentions and respond very quickly.
• Frequency matters. Strive for daily.
• Stay on message. We like to pick three themes.
• Tag others in order to expand reach.
• Establish a straightforward policy for employee participation, and add it to your handbook.

Q: If I can only spend money on one marketing project next year, what should it be?

A: Content. Focus on developing quality educational pieces—editorial articles, white papers, blog posts, etc.—that are targeted to serve your customers’ interests and needs. Leverage it across channels, from trade publications to YouTube and social media.

Q: Do you have any sample reports of how marketing activities are measured?
A: We like using HubSpot’s traffic calculator to set goals for inbound marketing efforts and Google Analytics to measure progress. We also created our own KPI worksheet to help those just getting started with marketing metrics.

We regularly look at year-to-date comparisons of:
• Traffic
• Quality of traffic
• Total leads
• Click-through rate
• Conversion rate
• Marketing qualified leads and Sales qualified leads
• Close win rate

Q: What’s your favorite prospecting tool for independent sales reps?

A: LinkedIn is the best tool for optics and other B2B companies. If you know your targeted industries, job titles, geographies, etc., this can be really powerful tool.

Q: Do more trade shows mean more leads?

A: Only if they’re paired with the right activities, like:
• Selecting trade shows with the right audience. Always walk it first.
• Pre-show emails.
• Lead follow-up, including nurture campaigns using marketing automation.
• Measuring results, like leads year-over-year and total ROI.
• Compare lead gen to your fellow exhibitors (check out our 2016 Photonics West survey for benchmark data).

Q: Does sending engineers to market products work?

A: Not if their personalities are not suited to relationship development and management. Successful selling today demands:
• Systematic behavior—following the process, using the CRM, doing the work consistently.
• Asking great questions, exploring for fit.
• Willingness to say no.

That said, I’d choose a credible expert in optics who can do these things over someone with a “golden rolodex” who isn’t committed to exploring, following up, or bringing the customer value with real expertise.

Download the presentation slides to learn more about inbound marketing and how to bring customers to you, or contact Launch Team.

About the Author

Michele Nichols | President, Launch Team Inc.

Sponsored Recommendations

Request a quote: Micro 3D Printed Part or microArch micro-precision 3D printers

April 11, 2024
See the results for yourself! We'll print a benchmark part so that you can assess our quality. Just send us your file and we'll get to work.

Request a Micro 3D Printed Benchmark Part: Send us your file.

April 11, 2024
See the results for yourself! We'll print a benchmark part so that you can assess our quality. Just send us your file and we'll get to work.

Request a free Micro 3D Printed sample part

April 11, 2024
The best way to understand the part quality we can achieve is by seeing it first-hand. Request a free 3D printed high-precision sample part.

How to Tune Servo Systems: The Basics

April 10, 2024
Learn how to tune a servo system using frequency-based tools to meet system specifications by watching our webinar!

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Laser Focus World, create an account today!