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The Digital Transformation Of Industrial Marketing And Sales


Something strange is happening in the manufacturing industry, causing the potential of these companies to go unfulfilled. That’s unfortunate, particularly since the average pay-back period has become shorter due to a huge decrease in the product life cycle over the past 30 years.

The Product Lifecycle Model

Optimisation of primary processes

As the time to develop, produce and market a product has decreased, many industries have put enormous effort into making these processes more effective and efficient – especially development and production processes. Significant investment has been made in new technologies such as the use of new materials, smarter production machines, new and intelligent components, but definitely also automation and digital transformation through ERP systems. 

In short: both hardware and software are being overhauled within the primary processes, in order to gain and maintain competitive advantage. This is great, obviously, but it does foster an internal focus. You’re so preoccupied with your product leadership and operational excellence that you almost forget the customer. And the customer is what it’s all about, right?

Implications of the shorter PLC on the commercial process

Since your pay-back period has become much shorter, you could make a few changes to the commercial process to get the same or even higher returns. You could make your product more expensive, you could sell more around it and you could sell your product more frequently. The first is often not possible but the second and third are real options. We’ll put the second option to one side for now – selling more around your product – because that’s the story of servitisation (see blog ….) No, selling more frequently is by far the most interesting. 

In most boardrooms, the reflex response is to search for new marketing channels, i.e. new countries with new sales teams, agencies, more trade fairs and better-looking brochures, not to forget the website and other obvious matters. It’s all about pressing the same tried-and-tested buttons. Yet this is where things often start to go wrong. Because it’s not sufficiently clear to people that digital transformation is not just an internally oriented matter – in fact it must be oriented towards the outside world. If you’re wondering what I mean by this, please do read on.

Innovation in the commercial process through technology

It’s still a surprise how few people at board level within the manufacturing industry truly grasp the implications of the digital revolution in the commercial process. Perhaps not that strange, since in the commercial domain the board role is held by commercial managers, who are 80% occupied with sales and their associated revenues. The role of the Chief Commercial Officer or ‘CCO’ is very different nowadays – or at least it should be – compared to 10 years ago.

Without question, a CCO should have a perspective from the outside in, so much more focused on customer intimacy and getting the market (link to article explaining ‘getting the market’). To do this well, these days one can use fantastic technology that enables more to be achieved with the same amount of resource.

The rise of marketing, sales and customer service technologies

People don’t like change – that’s the general belief. But if we observe how quickly people have embraced new technologies in their private lives, this statement becomes less convincing. How rapidly have we adopted the internet, mobile phones, electric cars and social media in our private lives? Extremely rapidly, that much is clear. 

When it comes to organisations, though, adoption is slower – and slowest in traditional markets such as industry. Which is odd really, because however quickly engineers embrace new technologies, business people at the same company will lag behind. Yet new technologies offer hundreds of ways to innovate and grab a competitive advantage. Scott Brinker has been logging the addition of new systems and tools in the commercial field since 2011. Inconceivably, there has been a growth rate of over 5,000%. The so-called Martec landscape now incorporates over 8,000 innovative commercial SaaS solutions.

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Rapid growth in technology landscape; slow adoption within commerce

Nowhere are we seeing such a slow adoption of new Martec technologies as in the manufacturing industry. The so-called Martec’s Law applies perfectly to this sector. According to this law, the gap between technological change and the extent to which an organisation embraces this change becomes greater over time. As the gap becomes greater, the more potential goes unfulfilled. 

Which describes precisely what’s happening in industry. Now that Covid-19 has painfully illustrated that the old processes are no longer fit for purpose and better alternatives exist, adoption is accelerating out of necessity. Imagine the profit to be gained if you could deal with this more consciously and integrate it into your commercial strategy. #Unlockyourgrowthpotential.