Digital marketing has become imperative to businesses across all industries. However, many manufacturers are not comfortable with the process. It can be challenging to know which channels to use, require specialist skills to operate modern marketing technologies effectively, and selling online is very different from just attending the occasional trade show. At worst, you end up spending thousands of dollars on something that simply doesn’t work.
We understand the implications of this, which is why in this post I outline 4 essential digital marketing tactics for organisations in the manufacturing industry. Once you review these tactics, you’ll be better prepared to implement a solid digital marketing campaign for your own business.
The old approach to marketing for manufacturers
To understand the path forward, we need to take note of where we’ve been. For manufacturing companies in a marketing and sales context, this means in-person events and sales meetings.
The manufacturing industry has long relied upon in-person marketing tactics. Trade shows, cold calling and general networking have all played a role in generating leads, increasing revenue and making sales. However, 2020 marked a definite shift in the industry. Manufacturers could no longer use their old fashioned approach to making sales. Trade shows were cancelled, cold calls found empty desks and unanswered phones, and general networking was replaced in favour of social distancing.
The consequences for the industry were two-fold. First, old approaches that had historically built customer bases for manufacturers were no longer practical. The second of these consequences is not as readily apparent because it changed an external but critical factor - the customers.
Customers who had previously attended trade shows and sales meetings have now become accustomed to new approaches to doing business, both inside the manufacturing industry and other parts of their business and life. Other companies and industries had rapidly begun to digitally evolve, enabling their customers to use digital means to interact with them. This created a more efficient, effective and convenient way to do business, and in so doing, the unique advantage of digital interaction has now become an expectation. Today, your customers desire a digital experience with any company they interact with. It has become a competitive requirement for any industry rather than a competitive advantage for a few.
Do you need a digital marketing strategy?
In today’s world, the short answer is yes - if you want to continue engaging with buyers.
Simply put, a digital marketing strategy is essential to engaging with potential customers. It will determine how effectively you will connect with modern buyers and how reliably that connection will turn into a sale.
Here are a few reasons why you need to implement a digital sales and marketing strategy as a manufacturer.
Privacy, data protection and consent
You thought that your customer list spreadsheets and disconnected email platforms would be enough to run your business. Think again. With the new data protection laws that are coming into place around the world, you need to ensure that all your sales and marketing data is stored and managed correctly, or you could be at risk of large personal fines.
Customer access to information
Over 71% of B2B searchers begin with an internet search, and 89% of B2B buyers use the internet to research alternatives. Every buyer uses the internet to understand their options, view alternatives and answer their questions. As a result, they are now more likely to switch suppliers now than ever before.
Tradeshows are dying out
Tradeshows are never going to be what they were before 2020. Social distancing and regulations limited large public gatherings. And whilst they will no doubt come back to a certain extent, buyers and businesses alike have become aware of more effective and convenient ways to accomplish the same objectives that events set out to achieve.
Companies that are not digitally transforming in any sector are losing customers to those who do. 70% of companies either have a digital transformation strategy in place or are working on one. Executives say the top benefits of digital transformation are improved operational efficiency (40%), faster time to market (36%) and the ability to meet new customer expectations (35%).
With this in mind, how does a manufacturing company with years of experience in tradeshows and in-person events digitally transform their marketing and sales to stay relevant and competitive?
Let’s explore a few options below.
1 - Optimise your website
Almost every manufacturer has a website in some form or another, but precious few have a website that works for them rather than against them. Many manufacturers that have a website use it as an interactive catalogue of their products rather than what it should be - the most important digital asset in their sales and marketing process.
To optimise your website for marketing purposes, you have to understand that potential customers visit your website for different reasons. Some may be visiting to find out about your products, but many visitors have often just come across a challenge for their company that they are still learning about. These kinds of visitors view your products as a potential solution to this challenge. They need to understand business values and more educational support before even looking at product specifications.
Engaging customers with different needs at the right time is the essence of a good buyer’s journey (more on that later), and your website is the perfect place to start. Instead of using your website as a place to provide technical information, you should be actively using it as a tool to generate and capture leads. To do this, you have to move away from technical specifications, and product outlines and more towards value-based messaging that is focused on the customer and their challenges.
Here are a few great ways to do just that:
- Use your website to answer questions, concerns, fears and hopes your ideal customer usually has.
- Put more detailed and technical content behind online forms to capture more leads, but don’t forget to keep the forms as short as possible.
- Tone down any technical or complex language on your website and focus on what your products do rather than what they are - value, not features.
- Ensure your website is optimised for mobile viewing and always link back to your website from your other marketing channels.
2 - Create a customer journey
Creating a customer journey is a fundamental aspect of digital marketing. It is critical to understand the journey your potential customers make before reaching a decision to buy your product or service.
Each element of the customer journey demands different information with varying degrees of detail and focus. Thus, every piece of content you provide will use different language and focus on achieving specific goals depending on where it is used in the customer journey.
The basic customer journey consists of a five-stage process that helps guide leads down the sales funnel to a point where they turn into customers. It’s important to note that content acts as the base on which these stages operate but changes exponentially based on each individual company. While the content is the base of the buyer’s journey, tools such as marketing automation are the wheels that keep the journey moving toward a purchase.
Simply put, the five main stages of The Basic Buyer’s Journey are:
- Awareness - when your lead becomes aware of their challenges
- Education - when your lead is researching solutions to their challenges
- Consideration - when your lead is considering the different solutions on the market that could solve their challenges
- Decision - when your lead is ready to go ahead with your solution and become a customer
- Implementation - when your customer begins using your solution.
Each stage of the customer journey will use different content. As customers begin their journey, they need top-level content that focuses on their challenges and the potential opportunities that are available. Further down the line, customers have to be educated on the value your solution brings to their lives. Only beyond (and not before) that point customers will want to have technical specifics on the solutions available to them.
Implementing the customer’s journey in a different way causes leads to abandoning the path towards becoming a customer, as they will feel disconnected or uninformed before making a decision to purchase.
As a company using digital marketing, you will want to account for each stage of the customer journey by providing the right content at the right time. Tools such as marketing automation and approaches such as content marketing will be your best bet at achieving this task.
3 - Search Engine Optimisation and content marketing
Getting recognised online comes down to getting found through search engines like Google and Bing. This means that you have to invest in developing a content plan that accounts for search engine optimisation (SEO).
To do this, you need to identify topics, phrases and keywords that your ideal customers would use to find products such as yours and write about them through content on your website. However, this is not enough for long-term results.
A note on writing for people and machines
Whenever you write copy, you have to ensure that you’re not only writing for Google using keywords but also your potential customers. This means that you have to spend time honing your message so that your customers understand the value of what you offer. Consider their challenges, hopes and fears and address them in your marketing content in a helpful way. This way, you can ensure that your sales and marketing add value to your interactions, bringing your customers to you rather than inserting your company abruptly into their lives.
Companies in all industries, including manufacturing, should publish at least one to two blog posts on their website featuring these keywords and phrases every month. Besides, blog posts serve as a great way to push content marketing material to your leads that could help them make a purchase.
According to Content Marketing Institute's Report - Manufacturing Content Marketing 2020: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends-North America, 82% of manufacturer marketers say their content marketing is at least moderately successful, including 13% saying it's very or extremely successful.
Here are some of the proven content marketing materials that work for the manufacturing industry:
- Case studies
- White papers, e-books and guides
- Videos and tutorials
- Professionally shot product and equipment e-brochures and downloadables
- Detailed product spec-sheet downloads
4 - Email marketing, CRM and marketing automation for manufacturers
Email is still one of the most effective ways to reach and nurture your audience. It is also the most convenient way for companies in the manufacturing industry to get foreign and local customers alike under current conditions.
Interaction through email marketing and marketing automation also supports the contacts you may have met through past trade shows, as well as the new leads you gather through your content marketing and website. It enables you to follow up with your customers and leads on an ongoing basis to keep top of mind and provide the care and attention your customers are used to.
To get the most out of these contacts, you will need a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. This is a digital tool that you can use to consolidate your customers' information and generate insights based on their interactions with your sales team and marketing efforts.
CRM systems also provide other benefits for your organisation. They enable you to keep all the information you need in one place, such as data, metrics, contacts, records and documents. This gives you the ability to make better business decisions based on data and market trends.
Some of the content you can include for your email communications are short surveys for feedback, updated products, developments within your company, promotions and industry insights.
Financing digital marketing transformation
Digital transformation can be expensive for any industry. Manufacturers have traditionally used very few digital tools and assets in their daily environment. The infrastructure and systems that are usually taken for granted in other businesses often still have to be adopted by manufacturers.
Having said that, there are a few approaches manufacturers can take towards financing their digital transformation. In general, the faster you want to see results, the more you’ll have to spend on your digital sales and marketing tools, but with the right guidance and strategy, you can boost the success of any campaign.
Let’s look at a few options of financing digital transformation below.
Budget marketing: 1 - 2 % of top-line revenue
Taking a modest approach, budget marketing is for companies looking to begin their journey into digital marketing or for those seeking to simply maintain their market position. The budget allows for simple yet effective tools and strategies to retain and engage current customers. However, if an organisation wants to grow their customer base and market share, it will need to invest in either an average approach to go for the full bells and whistles approach.
Average approach: 3-4% of top-line revenue
The average company is seeking to grow their market share while retaining its current customers. Approximately 3 - 4% of top-line revenue invested towards this goal should be enough to achieve 10 - 15% annual growth. Thus, the average approach is for companies willing to engage with more advanced tools and strategies while retaining their customers and attracting new audiences.
Bells and whistles: Over 5% of top-line revenue
For companies who want to grow and expand quickly, a full-on approach focused on driving leads, conversion and sales is required. You will need complex marketing strategies and the latest tools applied in interesting and effective ways to achieve this. While 5% of top-line revenue can be a steep investment for most businesses, the benefits include sharp growth, quick traction and an approximate market share expansion of over 20% annually.
A new approach for a new world
The primary reason to have a digital marketing strategy as a manufacturer is simply because your prospects and customers want you to have one. When you have a digital marketing strategy, your customers will feel engaged, wanting to support your business and increase your profits. On the other hand, if you don’t, your customers will go to your competitors and make your business irrelevant.
The first step towards a successful digital marketing strategy is finding the right partner to your success. We understand that digital transformation in any sector and for any department is complicated and challenging. You may not have the knowledge, tools or resources to do it properly. That’s why Demodia can act as your guide through the trials and tribulations of digital transformation. With decades of experience in assisting companies just like yours to make the leap towards online services and marketing, we are the best option to provide you with the insights you need to take your company to the next level.
Contact us today, and we’ll kick-start your digital marketing journey with a free consultation showing you what to do next.