September 13, 2021
Marketing has worked wonders for countless companies for centuries, but not every industry has embraced how effective it is. Manufacturers are being singled out as an industry that is new to incorporating marketing into their budgets, as their sales models didn’t necessarily necessitate such efforts.
Manufacturers weren’t ignoring marketing, but they were so effective at making big splashes at trade shows, and recruiting stellar sales talent, that they could get by without it.
That all changed with the arrival of the internet, e-commerce and digital marketing.
Manufacturers who ignore the many channels of digital marketing are making themselves unavailable to their clients. B2B clients are headed online in increasing numbers, and manufacturers would be wise to implement a digital marketing strategy to capture their attention.
If you’re a decision maker for a manufacturing company, and you want your company to thrive when marketing your manufacturing company online, then you’ll need plenty of data, metrics and goals to make it effective.
There are several different channels to explore, you’ll need to set a budget and ultimately, expectations on how many conversions you’ll create. To attain these goals it’s best to embrace a decades old acronym and set S.M.A.R.T. Goals.
S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. When you choose which channel you’re going to spend your marketing resources on (more on that in a moment), you can use S.M.A.R.T. to set you up for success.
For example: You want potential customers to find you when they search for terms related to your product using Google. To accomplish this, you’ll want to set the following S.M.A.R.T. goals.
To boost our company’s website ranking on Google by conducting a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) audit that identifies where we need to put our efforts, then following up with a second phase that addresses the insights obtained from the SEO audit.
In this case, starting with an SEO audit will tell the company what they need to fix, and with that information, company’s can then figure out the scope of the project, set benchmarks to measure progress and goals for the final result.
For the purposes of this example, we’ll say that the SEO audit found that there was little to no content available online from your company. This is a common problem, and is a major reason why companies fall to the bottom on the page in search engines like Google.
Here’s where a company needs to establish where they are now, and then how they’ll track along the way. For the purposes of our example, let’s say the SEO audit found that if a person searches for “motion control robotics” in Google, there are 10 companies that come up before your company.
So there you go, you’re in 11th place, and anything above it will be a measurable success. If it stays the same or goes lower, then, well, that’s a failure.
Getting to number one in Google’s ranking for “motion control robotics” is the obvious ultimate goal, but is it attainable? Here’s the thing about selecting attainable goals: Yes, you want to compete with your top competitors, but you also don’t want to be overshadowed by them.
If the digital marketing agency or SEO expert who conducted your SEO audit is worth their salt, they chose “motion control robotics” because it’s what you sell for starters, it’s search volume is high, but also, it’s a set of words that your competitors are not quite taking advantage of.
So setting a goal of number one in Google rankings for “motion control robotics” is attainable if the right words are targeted.
Notice that numbers aren’t just pulled out of thin air, and this starts with a process that will deliver real measurables. But what makes them relevant?
This is where a company needs to make sure that they have their bottom line on the brain: Return On Investment (ROI).
So... get some data!
A study cited by Google found that the ROI from an organic search is over five times higher than that of a paid advertisement. That makes a strong case to use SEO to help the company’s ROI, which is exactly what they should be thinking about.
Without a calendar that maps out expectations, a company could be left spinning their wheels indefinitely. This is another case where you’ll need information and data to back up your decisions. In our example, we’ve chosen a task that takes a bit of time to achieve results.
Most of the data points to the fact that it takes six-to-twelve months to get your search term to the top of Google rankings. The reason is that Google rewards websites that create compelling content around search terms, and it takes time for you to build up page views by users, have them read it, click the links back to your website and link to it back to their websites.
Using the S.M.A.R.T method effectively will help you achieve results, but it’s just one part of your overall digital marketing strategy. Choosing which goals to pursue is based in large part on who your customers are, and where they are.
This is where the lines of marketing and digital marketing begin to blur, because at the end of the day, both are the process of delivering your products to your potential clients. Whether it’s digital, B2C, B2B or otherwise, the goal is the same:
Learn who your buyer is and how to reach them.
The difference, however, lies in how this information is obtained, and for digital marketing there are a number of data sets that can be used to figure this out. In digital marketing terms, the target audience is defined by the buyer persona.
The first question, prior to engaging in any digital marketing campaign, should be:
Are my potential customers online, and using online resources to inform their buying
Last year, LinkedIn found that 70% of B2B decision makers conduct research online prior to buying a product, and a separate study for B2C customers found that the number is over 80%.
So the answer is: Yes! They are online!
But where are they online? What resources and channels are they using to conduct their research?
Do not take a scattergun approach and try to hit every channel you can think of. It doesn’t make sense to create content on channels like Tik Tok for industrial buyers with advanced engineering degrees. If you figure out that your buyers use LinkedIn and Google searches, then those are the channels where you should place your company’s marketing resources.
The buying cycle is where a company asks themselves, what does the process of a customer buying our product look like?
The first step is identifying how the need will arise, so if you’re selling solar panels, for example, you might identify that saving money on energy bills is a need your customers have. Then, the buyer will conduct research to see if the solar panels will save them money, and hopefully, you’ve identified which channels they’ll use.
Next, a customer will evaluate your product against your competitors. Then, they’ll narrow it down to as few choices as possible, and in the end, they’ll make their purchase.
Your website, your content and the buying cycle you set up need to all be catered to your potential customer’s pain points and desires. This means creating carefully crafted messaging that provides solutions to customer’s problems, and validation for their desires.
The right messaging should be delivered at each stage of the buying cycle.
Remember that methodology plays a big part in executing your goals. A good marketing strategy will also include the tactics that are used to achieve the end result.
So if you choose the above strategy of “creating carefully crafted messaging that provides solutions to customer’s problems,” you’ll need to solve for, “how?”
In this instance, a tactic could be to come up with a Case Study of a client who experienced the same problem, and used your product to solve that problem. Get enough of these tactics right, and your digital marketing strategy is highly likely to succeed.
Now it’s time to leave planet earth, and look down, as we take a 50,000 foot view of marketing. The two differing strategies are rooted in the new age of marketing, where outbound marketing is supportive of traditional methods, while inbound marketing has been cultivated for digital purposes.
Outbound marketing, or traditional marketing as it’s also known, is a more broad approach to marketing. The best way to think about it is that it’s marketing that appeals to a lot of people, and the idea is to throw a big net to catch a lot of customers.
This doesn’t mean outbound marketing efforts are using the scattergun to find their customers, as there are several benefits from conducting this type of campaign.
The main advantage of outbound marketing is that it enables you to connect with people who may not otherwise be customers. We’ll get to targeting advertising in a moment, but the reality is, that if you only market to a specific type of buyer persona, you could be alienating entire markets. There are plenty of markets out there that respond to paid advertisements, such as trade magazines, newsletters and newspapers, which are hallmarks of outbound marketing.
Potential customers who use digital resources to research or buy their products do not respond to digital ads. In fact, most users don’t click on Google Ads, which is a digital answer to outbound marketing. B2B sellers who embrace only forms of outbound marketing are missing opportunities, as their customers move increasingly online.
Inbound marketing is a strategy that’s meant to meet your customers where they are and bring them to you. Inbound marketing was built out of the understanding that buyers conduct research prior to purchasing their product. This has always been a known quantity, but today, the ability of a customer to conduct research has grown exponentially, and marketing tactics have been forced to evolve.
Inbound marketing has a slightly different approach, mainly dictated by the algorithms developed by Google and other search engines. These engines reward content that is highly viewed and easily digestible, which typically means that the content is helpful and quality.
It also means that the content is non-invasive, as prospects can read or view your content as a source of truth, rather than a targeted advertisement. This creates a wonderful opportunity to not only educate your potential customers, but also position yourself as a thought leader in your industry.
A good inbound marketing strategy will have content for every part of the sales process, and each should be quantifiable. This is achieved through deciding on certain metrics to monitor, and optimizing content to continue drawing in leads over time.
Inbound marketing is not without its challenges, as it takes a commitment of time and resources to make it successful. This means that company’s shouldn’t create some quality content, and then rely on it to rise to the top of Google rankings. It takes a great deal of monitoring in order to optimize content according to the changing needs of your potential customers.
And figuring out these constantly evolving needs requires a bit of trial and error from marketers, as they test different approaches, and see what works.
At the end of the day, both inbound and outbound marketing are meant to generate leads that can turn into potential sales. And since sales campaigns and marketing campaigns have the same ultimate objective, aligning both is a logical step to take to achieve better results.
Most manufacturers have a robust sales team, and just like most other companies, their marketing and sales teams operate in different silos. It’s not unique to manufacturers, but the fact is, most of a company's marketing material is never used by a sales team. This is mainly as a result of company’s viewing their functions as different, and separate from each other.
Sales teams have the unique pulse of the customer as a result of spending time with them. This means they can provide real-world solutions to their problems. It also means they can provide insight on the efficiency of processes, validate the strength and truth of marketing content and deliver market dynamics.
Marketing teams utilize information about their customers, industry and competitors to educate buyers prior to them being converted into a sale. Marketers try to reach potential customers at every level of the sales funnel, and meet them with content or advertisements that are delivered from the collection of competitive intel.
Did you ever have sales assets that the marketing team has never seen? Have you ever had content created that your sales team knew nothing about? These are common problems, as 65% of marketing content goes unused by sales teams.
This is a huge waste of time and resources!
By bringing your marketing and sales teams together, you can communicate to develop a cohesive strategy, share your goals and agree on a process. And to make sure that all of your marketing and sales assets are shared with each team, you can implement a sales enablement process where the sales team is educated about new marketing assets.
To make this successful, C-suite executives need to lead by example -- open the lines of communication, set up meetings for collaboration and create accountability.
For manufacturers, this can be especially valuable as sales teams start to feel the pinch of their roles shrinking in the face of digital marketing. If these two teams are aligned, your sales teams will continue to function, and do it better, as they embrace another channel for prospects.
If manufacturers want to embrace digital marketing, and use it to generate new leads, where do they start? Well, there’s a lot of different channels to put your energy and resources, and below it’s broken down to show how each serves a vital function.
As mentioned above, B2B content is meant to educate potential customers about your company and/or products in order to become a thought leader in your industry. The measurable objective, aside from generating more leads, is taking your website and content to the top of Google rankings.
SEO is used to great effect in making decisions about what content to create. Your content team will invest time in creating topical blog posts, and informative videos or infographics that are based on what your customers are searching for.
But that’s not all, as you can repurpose the same content, or just use a fraction of it, to promote the same ideas and concepts on social media. We’ll have more on social media in a moment, but it is a great way to not only generate leads, but it’s a fantastic way to promote your brand.
Email marketing is being widely embraced by B2B companies, and is another way to create meaningful content that helps customers connect with your brand. In fact, over 80% of marketers say their most used form of content marketing is an email newsletter, and over 30% say that email newsletters are the best way to nurture leads.
Paid search involves placing ads for your company or products within search engines such as Google and Bing. As mentioned previously, most Google users don’t click on the advertisements, however, most search engines have a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) policy that ensures you don’t have to pay until a user actually clicks on your advertisement.
Paid search and paid social media ads are a great means to reach an audience that otherwise may have never known about you and what you do. Most social media platforms have targeting options as well, that enable companies to focus on demographics that give them the best chance to make a sale.
Organic posts on social media cost less, and are a means to better connect with your customers. Users trust organic posts more, and it’s a fantastic way to build a following, so customers keep coming back.
Though digital marketing is considered one channel of marketing, you’ve probably noticed that there are many channels within it. Don’t worry, any digital marketing agency worth their salt knows how to manage digital marketing campaigns, and the reason is they probably use marketing automation software.
Marketing automation software not only manages each channel, but it also does a fantastic job of removing repetitive tasks. That means marketing teams can focus on driving campaigns forward toward conversions.
Manufacturers, for the most part, didn’t ask for a new channel to do business, nor did they anticipate that their sales process would ever change. But the fact of the matter is that B2B customers are behaving more like B2C customers increasing volume, and the manufacturers that are quickest to adapt to these tried and true methods of marketing will be ahead of the pact for a long time to come.