B2B Beat: Why the Internet of Things Is Crucial for B2B Marketers

How IOT can bring companies closer to their customers

April 26, 2015

Are you sick of the Internet of Things yet? You better not be, because the IOT is only getting started, and it will be of crucial importance for B2B marketers.

The Internet of Things, for the uninitiated, is the web of machines and other smart devices that communicate with each other and with people to deliver valuable data and insights. Intel estimates the Internet of Things currently comprises 15 billion devices; the company projects the IOT will reach 200 billion machines by 2020, or 26 connected objects for each person on the planet.

For now, most stories touting the possibilities the Internet of Things focus on consumer products: Your car dashboard will connect to the Internet. Your wearable technology will track your fitness goals and calorie intake. And your refrigerator will tell you when to order milk.

But the real transformational potential of the Internet of Things lies in B2B marketing. In fact, B2B is already leading the way. As Intel puts it in this infographic, “Most IOT smart devices aren’t in your home or phone – they are in factories, businesses, and health care.” More than 40 percent of connected devices are in business or manufacturing, where the use cases include supply chain analytics and robotic machinery.

For B2B marketers, wading into the Internet of Things will be essential, because the IOT is all about having a clearer window on customers and how they’re using products. Read on for a deep dive into how the IOT can bring companies closer to their customers by helping identify when a product needs maintenance, how it can be improved, and how it can be used more efficiently. As a bonus, I will also feature a couple of cool consumer IOT products that may inspire some ideas on how you can leverage IOT for your B2B marketing efforts.

Maintenance Alerts

General Electric is already using the Internet of Things in a variety of ways. For instance, sensors on GE’s jet engines enable airlines (and GE) to monitor engine performance and when maintenance is necessary. “By using sensors to collect engine data, GE is able to perform short bursts of maintenance much earlier on, meaning that over an entire lifecycle the engine spends less time in repairs,” according to this story in Computing magazine.

Insight into Product Usage

The IOT presents huge opportunities for B2B marketers to gain a deeper understanding of how their customers are using their products. As Indranil Mukherjee, an executive at SapientNitro, wrote in an opinion piece for an India Times blog, “The voice of the customer still rules but that voice is no longer enabled exclusively through surveys and call-centers. The IOT can tell the marketer about the customer’s sentiments and needs (How does he like the product? When will he need a replacement?). This is fundamentally changing how products are going to be created, marketed, sold and serviced.”

Using data generated by the products themselves, marketers and product designers can gain invaluable insight into how their products can be improved in the next iteration. In this blog post for Arc Advisory Group, Ralph Rio showed how Cummins uses the Internet of Things in the engines it manufactures. “The Cummins engines already have intelligence in the form of the engine control module (ECM) which has access to all the engine data,” Rio wrote in an Arc Advisory Group newsletter. “By adding communications, it transfers data to IBM CloudOne with analytics.  Now, product development has access to performance data that it uses to improve the engine's design. Configuration changes are sent to an engine to improve its operating performance and reliability.”

Boosting Efficiency

Additionally, the Internet of Things can improve the efficiency of products. “By equipping street lights with sensors and connecting them to the network, cities can dim lights to save energy, only bringing them to full capacity when the sensors detect motion. This can reduce energy costs by 70 to 80 percent,” John Chambers, chairman-CEO of Cisco, wrote in this blog post.

There’s no ignoring the Internet of Things. It’s already here, and it’s only going to become more essential, particularly for B2B marketers who crave insight into their customers. By embracing the IOT and its potential, B2B marketers gain better insight into customers, provide customers with better products, and help deliver more efficient performance. And if that’s the Internet of Things, it sounds like something you should never get sick of.

IOT Favorites

Here are some cool consumer Internet of Things products that show the possibilities of connected devices and that may inspire some ideas on how B2B marketers can leverage the IOT:

Smart diapers

Pixie Scientific has created disposable diapers that allows pediatricians and parents to analyze a child’s health using sensors. Additionally, Kimberly-Clark has experimented with Huggies TweetPee, a diaper that would alert parents via Twitter that it was time for a change.

Smart Scale

The Withings’ Smart Body Analyzer is a scale that sends information about your weight, body mass index, and heart rate to iOS and Android phones. The scale recognizes users and can be shared by a number of users.

Tennis Racquet Sensor

The description of this product is in Japanese, so I can’t tell exactly what it does – but it appears to analyze swing speed, ball speed, and ball spin. I do know what I’d like in a tennis racquet sensor: a device that can analyze the power of a stroke and calculate how often the ball is hitting the racquet’s sweet spot.

B2B Move of the Week

Tracx, a maker of unified social media management technology for enterprises, named Amy Inlow as its CMO. Formerly a marketing executive at Experian, Inlow will oversee global branding, marketing, and communications at Tracx. “Amy's sheer breadth of technology marketing and analytics expertise, coupled with her passion for our industry, made her the ideal choice to serve as our CMO,” said Eran Gilad, Tracx CEO.

B2B Resource of the Week

Embracing the Internet of Things can give B2B marketers deeper insight into their customers. Embracing full funnel marketing can help B2B marketers reach prospects and customers at every stage of the buying process. For a quick introduction to the power of full funnel marketing, download The Sophisticated Marketer’s Crash Course in Full Funnel Marketing.

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