The Truth About Marketing to OEMs

shutterstock_272054030Many aerospace companies tell us they want to sell their products and services to Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMS), but have little success and lots of frustration.

The good news is that there are tools and tactics to help you meet your goal.

The bad news is that it will not be fast or easy. In our experience, people want a shortcut or a magic bullet — but the real solution takes us back to Marketing 101.

1. Branding

Start with a firm foundation. Your brand supports and defines every aspect of your marketing, so it has to come first and it has to be right. Someone once told us that, unlike marketing, a brand does not say, “buy me.” A brand is a spoken and unspoken way of telling people who you are and why you exist. It shapes the way your business is perceived and sets the stage for a successful marketing and sales effort. Audiences make judgments and decisions based on brand. Think about your own experience with a particular product, service, or organization. One company may be perceived as being “difficult to work with” or “expensive,” while another is viewed as “reliable” or “easy to work with.”

From the design of your website to the way you answer the phone, make sure your brand is saying the right things to every member of your target audience, including the OEMs. Your tactical choices also impact your brand. Consider the perception created by a small digital ad, crowded on a website with lots of other ads, and a more exclusive and distinctive high-level sponsorship at a flagship convention — which is more likely to catch the eye of an OEM target?

Tip: Hire a professional. This is not a job for your friend who does websites in her spare time or for an engineer who knows Photoshop. To assess the value of your brand, consider engaging a brand valuation professional.

2. Know Your Audience

In order to say and do the right things you need to know your audience. Who, exactly, are you targeting? Document the OEMs and the categories of people within the OEM (engineering, procurement, CEO, etc.) who will influence or make the buying decision. Find out what they care about, what they need, and what they look for in a supplier. Are they primarily driven by cost? Certified performance? Don’t settle for assumptions. Dig deep and find out what makes them tick. Then tailor your marketing messages and tactics accordingly.

Tip: Use surveys and interviews, and learn about personas:

3. Know your competition

Make sure you know who you are competing with, and what they are saying, doing and offering. Find out their strengths and their weaknesses, and keep them in mind as you determine your own positioning. This can help you stand out from the crowd.

Tip: See what your opposition is saying and doing on social media and mine their website. Find former customers and employees for unique and relevant insights. Consider employing online tools like Compete, Technorati  and Radian6.

4. Distinguish Yourself

If you have multiple competitors it’s essential that you distinguish yourself with a compelling value proposition that is relevant and meaningful to the customer, specifically credible, and uniquely differentiating.

One way to get noticed is by showcasing your expertise and leadership. Iron suggests creating content that directly communicates how your products and service offerings can help OEMs reduce costs, streamline operations, and improve efficiencies.

They wisely suggest case studies; product specs and definitions; webinars; FAQ content; white papers; data sheets; and blog content. Build your content around OEM pain points, goals, interests, and needs, which you will have already defined (refer to step 2), and make sure the OEM prospects know the content was specifically designed for them. Using a strong headline like this: “How Outsourcing Saves this OEM “$400M a Year” is important.

Tip: Before going public test your draft value proposition against this checklist.

5. Keep an Open Mind

While building relationships at events and participating in organizations where OEMs have a presence is essential (see No. 6), your website and social media are important, too. The dynamics of B2B sales is changing. According to McKinsey & Company, B2B buyers are starting to act more like consumers, meaning they access more sources of information and touch points as they independently research, evaluate and select providers. A closer look at your sales process and organization may also be important to ensure relevance and effectiveness.

Tip: B2B companies across industries are moving toward journey-based sales strategies. Read this McKinsey article on OEM marketing, “Do You Really Understand How Your Business Customers Buy?” for even more in-depth information.

6. Don’t Forget

Aerospace is an industry of relationships, and the right referral can change the game for your business. Do everything you possibly can to build your network and relationships on a personal (meaning beyond LinkedIn) level. Never underestimate the importance of networking and face-to-face communications. Meet, greet, and repeat!

Are You Ready?

Before you get started, make sure your marketing effort has adequate budget and staff, and set realistic, measurable goals to monitor success.

A dedicated focus on marketing to OEMs will bear fruit if it is based in strategy and supported by appropriate messaging, tactics, and resources. But it’s going to require change. Are you ready?

You may also be interested in: Best Practices in Aerospace Marketing