Mike Schwartz is director-marketing at Manncorp Inc., a manufacturer of high-tech electronic equipment, including robotic machines used to place surface-mounted components precisely on circuit boards. These, in turn, are used in a wide variety of computer-driven equipment, such as security systems, specialty ovens and vending machines. Willow Grove, Pa.-based Manncorp is that rare b-to-b company whose marketing outreach is driven by e-commerce, selling—entirely online—products that can range in price up to $200,000.
CMO Close-Up: Explain a bit about your market niche?
Mike Schwartz: Our equipment makes simple circuit boards, but which require supreme accuracy to within ten-thousandths of an inch. Our machines are not for OEM equipment, which could be mass-market phones, for example. They're for those products that have military applications or limited market appeal, and can run up to about 15,000 parts per hour. The major manufacturers include Sony and Panasonic, whose machines have speeds of 100,000 parts per hour and more, and can range up to $1 million.
Our main market is companies that have relied on outside contractors to build their circuit boards, paying by the completed piece. We have shown, through case studies, that if a company builds boards in-house they'll save enough to pay for the equipment within a year, with cost savings after that of up to 80%.
CMO Close-Up: How does e-commerce work in this environment?
Schwartz: Our site lists and describes more than 150 different products. To order, you just follow the navigation and fill up your “truck” instead of a cart. Then you arrange for payment and you're home free. A lot of time, however, there's intervention by our staff because there's a lot of questions that come up, and special applications that must be discussed. Our tech people will get on the phone, give advice and set things up.
We make no sales calls. It's only done by phone, email or text. But we stay on the line as much as possible. And we're not bashful about prices. We furnish a price after a simple registration. You can pay with a credit card or, if you're a rated customer, the product is sold under traditional terms.
CMO Close-Up: How do you accommodate such traditional b-to-b funnel issues as dealing with multiple decision-makers?
Schwartz: Usually when an engineer looks at one of our products, he knows there is a need. He may have told management about what he needs and they'll tell him to shop around. He'll get a detailed description from us of what they're interested in, as well as a formal quotation. It may go up the chain of command, but they'll have an absolutely ironclad agreement in front of them waiting for their signature.
CMO Close-Up: What about that typical retail situation, shopping cart abandonment? Do you ever have to do any remarketing?
Schwartz: With the lower-end items, stuff that costs a few thousand bucks or less, that may occur. But it's usually a case of a mistake. If they decide to buy, they'll buy. People who visit our site have a need in mind; and, while they may not buy right away, they can go through all the steps leading up to the sale, then go for it when they're ready.
Sales may call to see if they need any help, but they aren't pushy. People are too busy to have their hands held. If buyers can get all the information they need online, they would prefer to have the privacy and convenience to do just that.
CMO Close-Up: Given this, what is the role of a marketing director at Manncorp?
Schwartz: Everything is inbound marketing today, and you have to be sharp. We have website optimization for better search results, as well as paid search ads. And we do lots of PR with case studies in industry newsletters, along with ads. It's about getting our name known and keeping it known. The branding is extremely important. When someone is paying this amount of money, they want to be damn sure the product performs as advertised and that the company backs it to the hilt. We have technical staff that go to the customers' sites to install the equipment and train the customer to work the machines.
And we're just making inroads into social media. We've recently hired somebody to do that, to check out all the social metrics. When we had outbound marketing, these considerations weren't even a factor. We just spent money on ads.
CMO Close-Up: What thoughts do you have about other b-to-b companies considering e-commerce?
Schwartz: The mentality persists that b-to-b companies must have sales reps and an in-person process with the prospect, but that's not necessarily true. Relying on outbound marketing is no longer viable. True, not all businesses are conducive to e-commerce, but it can be a viable solution depending on your willingness to change your way of doing business.