By Heather Bennett, VP Strategy and Marketing, Woven Metal Products
My career journey didn’t start out at Woven Metal Products, a company focused on manufacturing and fabrication for the refining, petrochemical, chemical and energy sectors, but I’m glad I ended up here. My path alternated between global public relations agencies and corporations, where I specialized in B2B (business-to-business) marketing, sales and related work. Over a decade ago, I ended up making the switch to a very niche industry within the energy sector, one of the largest sectors in the world. Through this, I feel I’ve found my calling and carved out a role for myself, pulling from past experiences, as well as on-the-job learning.
After 10 years of working with some of the best and brightest engineers, entrepreneurs and craftspeople in the business, I’ve learned a lot about marketing in a highly specialized area.
Here are five tips for other marketing communicators considering a career in a highly specialized B2B industry:
- Have a little experience in a specialized industry? That’s great. There’s room to grow. Having an outsider’s perspective is actually advantageous at times. While you may have never worked on a manufacturing shop floor or designed a reactor internal replacement part, you are the expert in the craft of communications and can offer a perspective that others may never have considered. When you’re learning a new industry from square one, you may question processes you’re seeing — and open the door to a new way of thinking. It’s important to observe and listen, yet not be afraid to share your thoughts on potential new approaches.
- Communicating with B2B audiences isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Speaking of observing and listening, it’s key to dive in and learn everything you can about your new industry. Marketing communications in a niche industry means providing support in a deeper, more meaningful way than “traditional consumer-focused” industries. With B2B audiences, there are no broad strokes marketing approaches to reach a large consumer audience. You have to tightly tailor messages to reach the intended audiences at the right time and places. Results are measured in sales and solutions — not just impressions and awareness.
- Old school tactics aren’t necessarily out of style. I’ve found that while there’s room for creativity in this industry, you have to keep traditional ways of doing business at the heart of your approach. The importance of transparency and sharing your company’s news on the right channels is never going away. For Woven Metal Products, word of mouth and relationship building is extremely important and the primary way we interact, as we get referrals from current customers all the time. That’s why it’s essential to keep traditional tactics like a tradeshow presence and local charity event sponsorships in our marketing mix. But we have to ensure we’re also reaching the next generation of company leaders as well. That includes creating and maintaining a social media presence, where we can share industry thought leadership and content with these users in mind.
- Don’t shy away from digging in. As we continue to live with a pandemic, much of the global workforce is working remotely — some indefinitely. While this makes sense on many levels, I’d encourage anyone starting out in a new industry or company to take the opportunity to get some hands-on experience (or at least in-person observation time). Ask if you can shadow various team members to understand their craft and role better, especially if they’re on the manufacturing and fabrication side of the business. It’s hard to describe and “sell” something you haven’t seen. Try not to get too frustrated; stepping into a new industry can be daunting. Instead remember, you have a unique perspective from past experiences that you bring to the table that no one else has.
- There is so much opportunity for marketing with B2B companies. When I came to Woven Metal Products, I started the marketing program from the ground up — launching the company’s first formal advertising strategy, putting us on the tradeshow circuit, creating updated brochures, and launching a sales-focused website to name a few. All of this contributed to our establishment as a formal player in our industry — gaining the company more recognition and adding to our credibility. These wins came about because I brought a new perspective to the company, as I was the first team member with a formal background in public relations, sales and marketing. Since joining, I’ve helped build our teams and expand these capabilities for the company.
I encourage other marketing communicators to test out the B2B waters. If you’re looking for a creative professional challenge where you can stretch and grow, consider roles within B2B companies. These positions may not be with names and brands everyone knows, but the challenges and excitement are all still there with companies in an industry that make up the backbone of America.