In 2018, the manufacturing industry is plowing forward in the United States and abroad, driven by an increased demand for basic materials, supplies and equipment across industries such as automotive, housing and business development. But while this boon heralds favorable winds for the manufacturing industry, other trends show there is still room for modernization and growth.
According to the 2017 CMO Survey, manufacturers reported that 7.9% of their sales occurred online, below the average online earnings across other predominantly B2B industries. According to Forrester, Internet sales account for 11.5% of B2B earnings in 2018, and will climb to 13.1% in four years. Similarly, the marketing budget allocated by most manufacturers pales in comparison to the average: 3.2% last year against 11.3% across industries.
The disparity between manufacturing and other industries is good news for savvy business owners, as it signals room for impressive growth with simple changes. By prioritizing digital marketing spend in the coming years, manufacturing companies can benefit in the following ways:
1. Diversify and broaden their client base
Manufacturers who overwhelmingly rely on older forms of marketing such as trade publications and shows can reach a more expansive market through targeted advertising and a social presence.
2. Decrease overhead
While marketing overhead in manufacturing companies is low on average, it can be lowered further relative to results. Digital Marketing has reduced Return on Investment (ROI) for companies in many different fields.
3. Raise brand recognition & credibility
89% of B2B clients rely on the Internet to research companies in any industry, and numbers are similar for B2C prospects. An active and curated web presence goes a long way in building a manufacturer's image and gaining trust from potential customers.
In order to take advantage of these potential wins, manufacturers may have to tread waters they have never entered before. Thankfully, Digital Marketing is conceptually simple, and a lot of research has already established best practices for the industry. Here are 5 digital strategies for manufacturing companies to drive business growth:
1. Invest in Website Development
Today, a website is arguably the most crucial element of your entire marketing strategy. Even a simple site without a lead capturing process or sales page will be consulted as a digital business card before a deal is struck or a purchase is made. For this reason, overhauling outdated designs to keep up with industry standards is a no-brainer.
Check up on the websites of business partners, and you will likely notice the following elements:
- Modern designs - minimalist sites with dynamic elements such as interactive video and scrolling foregrounds are standard practice for large companies today. A good web developer can integrate the aesthetic of your brand in new and exciting ways that will capture the attention of prospects and keep them engaged.
- Ecommerce storefronts - while some manufacturing companies exclusively market through contracts with other businesses, most offer some products directly to consumers. Simple platforms like Shopify are easy to setup and optimize for capturing online leads
- Lead forms - websites can be used to capture lead information through simple forms, in exchange for incentives such as white papers, content, or even free consultations. This information can then be used to nurture future business deals.
- CTAs - a Call to Action (CTA) is any prominent section of a site which provokes the reader into taking a certain action, usually situated after an informational article. They may prompt the reader to make a purchase, sign up for an email list or read more information.
Integrating any one of these features into a website which lacks them can boost its effectiveness by a huge margin.
2. Use Digital Advertising
Traditional advertising is not completely dead yet. Manufacturers still use formal events like trade shows to good effect, and often spend on TV spots, magazines, and other traditional media forms.
But while they aren’t dead, these advertising options are quickly becoming less effective than their digital counterparts. Programmatic advertising allows a business to target customers in highly specific demographics - such as field of work, occupation, and area of interest - without knowing them in advance.
Digital advertising also takes a lot of different forms. You may be familiar with some:
- PPC Ads - Pay-per-Click (PPC) is a text-based ad popular on search engines and blogs. PPC allows you to get a link and description in front of many readers, and you will only have to pay if they click. A major provider of this service is Google Adwords, which will show your PPC ads on the Google search page and affiliate sites.
- Display Ads - display ads are a bit more flashy than their text-based counterparts. Like an Internet billboard, a display ad shows an image or animation to affiliate sites. Along with its relative banner ads, this form is a little more costly, but makes a more lasting impression.
- Social Media Ads - social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Reddit have two important things: a lot of users, and a lot of information about their users. All of these sites allow you to promote a post to a targeted group of readers.
- Video Ads - like traditional commercials, video ads are popular on streaming sites like YouTube. Unlike traditional commercials, video ads can be shown only to viewers who are likely prospects.
3. Video Production
On the subject of video advertisements, video is one of the most popular forms of content on the web. Simply producing this content and sharing it on popular sites can generate an interest in your brand and industry practices.
One advantage of the manufacturing industry is the raw potential for video producers - factories, complex machinery, large workplaces, hazardous materials and cutting-edge science. Put simply, manufacturing is an interesting field of work, and people enjoy watching it, as demonstrated by the popularity of shows like Modern Marvels, and videos of steel mills.
Online video is a good opportunity to show-off what you do, and why you’re the best at it. If building a presence on major streaming websites seems like too much trouble, consider partnering with already-popular channel to run your content.
Great Big Story is a popular YouTube channel which occasionally partners with industry professionals to intrigue casual viewers. Take for instance this recent feature from Hewlett-Packard which garnered 100 thousand views in 2 days:
4. Thought Leadership
New ideas generate discussion which brings a brand to the forefront of its industry: this is the basic idea behind thought leadership. When you see an enlightening guest-post from CEOs on Forbes, Gizmodo or your favorite Medium publication, this is thought leadership at work.
Any thriving brand has a story to tell. It has faced unique obstacles along the way, criticism, or technological challenges. The strategy you used to overcome these reflects corporate philosophy, and with a solid thought leadership strategy, that philosophy becomes a path for others to follow in.
Building thought leadership involves producing written content in the form of articles or interviews. Preferably, they will be credited to your CEO, or any executive who represents your brand to the public, which can then be pitched to large Internet publications in your area of research - Medium is a great place to find platforms with broad and high-profile readership.
Ideally, you will also publish these articles to your own website blog, or to profiles associated with your brand. LinkedIn Pulse is a popular choice for company presidents to publish content. Over time, good content will build your search engine rankings, bring traffic to your site, and accrue backlinks from other companies who find what you have written interesting or useful.
5. Lead Nurturing
As mentioned earlier, Digital Marketing is a great way to capture leads and email addresses. It is also a great central hub for staying in touch with the leads you already have, and keeping your brand at the forefront of their minds. By developing a robust sales funnel and using personalized outreach solutions, you can close more deals and bring more prospects on board.
One of the oldest and most effective lead nurturing mechanisms in digital marketing is email outreach, and for B2B companies, it remains at the very top. Dedicated nurturing campaigns can be crafted with services like MailChimp to drip information, offers and newsletters to your prospects over a period of weeks or months.
With the advent of artificial intelligence, lead nurturing has become even smarter. Automated marketing solutions can be highly personalized to track prospects, predict response, and send customized messages at the right moments. Combined with CRM software, this functionality can help your sales team to keep track of conversations so they won’t drop the ball on a good customer.
In reality, there are more than five ways to bring digital marketing practices to your manufacturing business. Some of them have been hinted at in the course of this article - but before branching out, getting the basics down will provide you with the solid foundation you need to modernize your business and stay competitive.
The digital world changes so quickly that it can be hard to keep up with sometimes. For this reason, it’s a good idea for manufacturing businesses to invest in education from industry professionals to keep their team in the know. There is no one-size-fits all solution to a good marketing strategy; but the best and most up-to-date information gives you the tools you need to craft your own.
Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.