As the novel coronavirus pandemic pushed the world economy into a recession in 2020, the chemical industry was expected to face an astronomical 18.5% decline in revenue. Though revenues are slowly healing and trade associations estimate that companies will actually see a 12.3% increase in production in 2021, it’s clear that the industry is changing.
Let’s be honest: chemicals have always been a big business. In the United States, it’s a $33 billion industry, but modern technology and marketing methods have heightened competition. It’s not hard for major players to be left behind. As McKinsey reported in 2017, almost half of the chemical companies that earned the most between 2000 to 2004 no longer did in the 2010 to 2014 timeframe—but there’s still a way to keep up with revenue.
McKinsey predicts that adopting digital sales and marketing strategies can set chemical companies apart, earning them a collective $200 billion dollars more than they’d otherwise make. While some technologies are more difficult to implement then others, marketing is a cost-effective place to start. In fact, most chemical companies spend just 8% of their revenue on marketing, and the right strategy will make that 8% go a really long way.
The B2B chemical industry is unique because the sales cycle is much longer than consumer markets. It can take six months to five years to develop and test a product before marketing even comes into the picture. With this in mind, the best marketing strategies in this space still focus on the old-school idea of building relationships, but with a digital twist. Here are some marketing tactics that work.
Launch an SEO-tailored blog
SEO isn’t just for B2C companies anymore. As we previously reported, Chembid—which has become somewhat of a digital disruptor in the chemical space—was the first company to adopt an all-in-one e-commerce sales solution in the world of B2B chemical sales. This included the development of a meta-search engine that bundled price quotes and technical information about chemicals to create a faster sales process.
Today, the reality is that there are entire search engines dedicated to helping chemical suppliers connect with buyers. Even beyond that, research has shown that B2B buyers do about 70% of their research before they ever reach out to a company. In other words, SEO matters. Not only do the landing pages of your website need to be optimized with keywords and a link-building strategy, but creating an SEO-optimized blog is a great way to boost your search engine ranking and establish yourself as a thought leader in the industry while showcasing your brand voice.
Don’t know what kind of content to make? Take a look at how Dow focuses on a mix of industry news, technological innovation and company events on their corporate blog.
Personalize Your Emails & Newsletters
Email marketing—for single-subject emails and emailed newsletters/e-zines—is a low-cost method that drives major results. One study by eMarketer found that it has a whopping 122% ROI, which is four times more than most other digital marketing channels. It makes sense when you think about it: Email is one of the most direct ways to reach consumers, but you have to give them content they want to read or your open rates will suffer.
For this reason, personalized emails and newsletters shine. At the very least, they can be segmented to different subscribers so you can focus on building a rapport with those who are most interested without causing anyone less enthusiastic to unsubscribe. You can even take it further to help build your brand’s image, which breeds brand loyalty.
For example, in an effort to promote an environmentally friendly reputation, the multinational oil company Eni created the digital magazine, Eniday, to discuss environmental issues within the energy sector. The magazine was also used to showcase their work, like the popular story “Drilling on Mars,” which explored how they’re helping the ExoMars space mission. The regular content schedule of an e-zine keeps the brand in clients’ minds while positioning Eni as a leader in the energy space.
Focus on omni-channel digitalization
The beauty of digitalization is that it allows you to reach new pools of consumers who wouldn’t otherwise interact with your brand. For this reason, an omni-channel strategy is important, and marketing automation tools have made this a feasible prospect in the chemical industry. While it’s novel within the world of chemical sales and manufacturing, we’ve seen a lot of success in other B2B industries.
As we previously reported, the Chinese steel manufacturer, BASF, opened an e-store on the popular wholesale website Alibaba that allowed them to take their traditionally B2B business B2C and reach SMEs that were already using the platform (right now, more than 785 million people use Alibaba, which is a huge potential audience). After merging their store with additional platforms and partnering competitors, they’re now garnering $800 million a year from online sales.
This model can be used by chemical companies. In this regard, analytics are particularly important to help chemical companies learn what people are searching and which channels deserve a sharper focus.
Use social media to build your brand identity
Since chemical companies generally have a long B2B sales cycle, it’s important to build a strong brand identity and always work toward brand recognition. In some sense, this is a form of relationship building, but rather than working on an individual account, you’re setting your focus on the entire market.
Think of it this way: social media serves as the face of your company, showing clients your voice and your mission. When done right, you’re no longer a faceless corporation or SMB. You’re an entity that people can relate to. This might seem hard when you’re dealing with technical concepts, but there’s always room to find common ground. Dow, again, is an excellent example. Rather than focusing on their technical work, they use their Facebook page to showcase their efforts within the community (think: their partnership with Habitat for Humanity or their sustainability initiative).
The bottom line
All in all, marketing for a chemical company in 2021 is nothing like it was in the past. Modern analytics help maximize ROI by allowing you to fine-tune your strategy, while digital strategies allow even the most massive corporations to build a personal rapport with potential clients. This wasn’t always easy on such a large scale, but now it’s possible to seamlessly reach a larger consumer base, allowing smaller companies to give the titans a run for their money.