What Is Industrial Marketing?

You've come to a fork in the road. How will you answer this fundamental business question?

Unfortunately, many of today’s industrial business leaders can’t provide a satisfactory answer to the question “What is industrial marketing?” since they suffer from a lack of understanding of what industrial marketing is and what it can do to help them be competitive and grow their businesses.

For leading industrial brands, however, marketing has become virtually synonymous with a business strategy because of the critical importance of marketing segmentation, targeting, and positioning to the competitive performance and financial success of any industrial firm.

Part of the reason for the prevalent lack of understanding within the industrial sector is that most business leaders expect a definitional answer to the question “What is industrial marketing?” while the true answer really emerges when you engage with the question on a conceptual level.

What do I mean by “conceptual?” Contrary to what many industrial leaders may think, marketing stands alongside R&D and operations as perhaps the most distinctive function of any business. In some very compelling views of business strategy, the purpose of a company is to create a satisfied customer (or as we say, client). If one affirms this mission, marketing becomes a much more fundamental business function — one that precedes nearly all other aspects of a business. Respected business consultant Peter Drucker said it best many years ago:

“[T]he purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two — and only two —basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

Let’s explore this distinction — between the definitional answer to the question “What is industrial marketing?” — and the more conceptual approach that emerges from Drucker’s fundamental insight.

The Definitional Approach to the Question “What Is Industrial Marketing?”

Many of the current marketing definitions of industrial marketing that are available today do not convey the significance of marketing as a critical precursor to the purpose of a business, which is to create a satisfied customer.

Consider industrial marketing defined as:

  • a profit-seeking or budget-constrained organization (business, institution, or government) that wants help in achieving its goals through the sales of goods and services
  • the marketing of goods and services to industrial and institutional customers
  • the contest to get people’s attention

In reviewing these definitions, what becomes evident is that they all fall short. Modern industrial marketing is more than just marketing goods and services to customers or the effort to get someone to buy products and services.

Industrial marketing is knowing customers and their problems, innovating solutions to those problems, and communicating those innovations in a way that creates real and perceived value for a carefully defined target market. Profit is a reward for manufacturing a satisfied customer. Because of this, marketing must be more than just a separate business function, or “things we do to get to the sale.”

Industrial Marketing as a Concept

The industrial marketing concept is essentially the process of viewing your entire business through the eyes of a customer.

Class-leading industrial brands know this and have reached a point where the idea of working as a customer-focused, market-driven business is a core value. In action, these companies are similar in that they have a deep-rooted concern for their long-term, strategic relationships with their customers, which enables them to outperform their competition.

Following the industrial marketing concept, the critical function for these leading industrial businesses is the creation of customer (or client) satisfaction.

Start Industrial Marketing by Expressing Your Customer Orientation

So if, in your capacity as an industrial marketing leader, you have come to believe that the modern industrial marketing concept is a core value and critical function of your business, then you should consider kicking off the process of transforming your business by publicly committing to and reinforcing your company’s focus on the customer if you are to develop your organization.

You will have reached an understanding of what industrial marketing is on a conceptual level — and what it means to your business — when:

  1. The stated purpose of your industrial business is to create a customer
  2. Customer-focused, market-driven business is a core value of your business
  3. Marketing is a distinguishing function of your business
  4. You know your customers and their problems, create innovative solutions to those problems, and communicate them to carefully defined target markets
  5. You see profit as your reward for manufacturing a satisfied customer

There are some excellent industrial brand strategy and marketing readiness frameworks out there that can help you  address what industrial marketing means to your business. You have great work to do, all in the service of your customers.


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