Manufacturing Companies & The Challenges Created by Marketing & Sales
In all honesty some manufacturers have been marketing really well to downline businesses in the supply chain and the general public for decades.
The companies that design and make your favourite clothing, cars, and leisure enjoyments e.g. Lifestyle and Fashion manufactured brands. These businesses have incorporated marketing strategy into business practices for years to develop cultural brands that drive sales. For those who don’t think branding is important try selling a New Holland Tractor to a farmer who is a die hard John Deere user
But outside of certain niches, manufacturer marketing historically doesn’t enter the public domain. For B2B manufacturers lead generation was predominantly the task of the sales department.
Manufacturers designed and manufactured products and services, trained inside and outside sales staff. The classic scenario being that you were a great welder so you were promoted to foreman (with no / little management training). These engineers were then sent o connect directly with potential customers at trade shows, in offices etc. If they were very lucky there might also have been tightly controlled advertising campaigns in industry specific publications.
Even ten years ago, this type of sales-only relationship with potential customers worked. Unfortunately in today’s highly competitive landscape, manufacturers are no longer off the hook for marketing.
From content marketing to paid online advertising, manufacturers of all types and sizes are learning to connect with consumers and business customers in meaningful new ways
In the past “Manufacturers, both buying and selling, tended to stay within small circles of existing relationships.” Not surprising when so many manufacturers almost barracade themselves in their factories.
Historically, trust was the predominant factor and it was about who you knew and who would refer you to someone else. To some extent, this can still be true today. Now there are a variety of other inbound marketing efforts e.g. content marketing, social media, SEO, that change that landscape. This makes it possible to rise above just having referrals and grow your business in new ways.
Let’s look at manufacturer marketing strategies and how to create your own
Differences in Consumer and Manufacturer Marketing
Before you start creating a marketing plan, you need to understand the customer. Are you marketing to businesses or consumers?
Or, like Refinishing Touch, are you marketing to both? If so, you need a plan that covers both channels. Refinishing Touch makes it pretty clear in its menu where consumers should start (Residential) and where business partners should click (Commercial).
If you’re selling both business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C), it is essential to consider the differences between your audiences as you’re crafting your overall marketing strategy.
1. Manufacturing marketing.
Manufacturing marketing is B2B marketing. It can be more complex, and the sales cycle is often significantly longer than with B2C ( you can impulsively choose to buy a chocolate bar, you don’t buy a conveyor system impulsively)
- Target audience: Other businesses, including downline supply chain manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, or business end-users, like restaurants or construction firms. You should know which industry you’re targeting, the size and type of companies that need or want your products, and who within those organizations can make purchasing decisions.
- Customer needs: Business customers need quality products that fit within their processes and budgets. They need to be able to supply and serve their clients with peace of mind while also making a profit.
- Drivers: Whether or not a business chooses your products depends on many factors that include price and quality. Importantly there are many other factors that come into play, credit, and terms; what consumers think of your brand. Through to how much support you provide via technical, marketing, and other resources. Plus whether you can get buy-in from all the right decision-makers. We cover in other articles the issue of emotion which plays a big part of the B2B buying process
- Purchase process: Business procurement is typically complicated. The process includes research, discovery and pricing comparisons, quotes, presentations, demonstrations, and final purchase decisions. You may have to prove your worth to more than one level of decision-makers; typically, the bigger the purchase is, the more levels you have to impress. The challenges of the Decision Making Unit (DMU) and needing to get approval from finance, technical, operations etc
- People involved with the purchase: Managers, purchasing agents, executive decision-makers, accounting or finance teams, and other subject matter experts. All have their own personal thoughts and ideas on a B2B purchase selection
2. Consumer marketing.
B2C marketing is when you market and sell directly to the consumer or end-user.
- Target audience: The demographics of your target audience depend on the product in question. You should know factors like age range, income bracket, interests, geographic location, profession / career, and family status of your target consumers, to appropriately target marketing efforts.
- Customer needs: The consumer wants to buy something that can help them solve a problem or make their life easier or more enjoyable. The simplest way to consider this is the customer looking to solve a problem “pain” or find something enjoyable “pleasure”. In some cases, they want a product for the message it sends or status it communicates, like with certain brands or luxury items.
- Drivers: Factors that drive consumer purchasing decisions include price, quality, brand reputation, how likely they can see themselves using the item, customer experience, and referrals or reviews of others.
- Purchase process: All consumer purchases follow a basic process that involves awareness, consideration, and decision making. This is often referred to as the AIDA process: Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action. The speed at which a consumer moves through the purchasing process depends in part on the complexity. The buying process for purchasing a “chocolate bar” takes seconds or minutes. When shopping for a larger ticket item like a television or furniture, consumers could take days or weeks.
- People involved with the purchase: In most cases, the DMU is just the consumer and a significant other or close family member. In larger purchases, finance providers may also be involved.
Challenges in B2B Manufacturer Marketing
B2B marketers often face unique challenges that many B2C marketers don’t. Relationships within your business, with sales, manufacturing, operations, technical for instance are complex. That’s before we consider relationships outside of the manufacturing firm, like with vendors, supply chains, and clients, adds further complexity.
According to data sourced by Hubspot, only around fifty percent of B2B marketers feel like they’re able to collaborate effectively with sales teams.
Additional challenges manufacturers might face in marketing.
1. Very specific needs.
Manufacturing marketers have particular needs, especially when compared with general consumer marketers.
For example, one of the biggest KPIs for consumer marketing is traffic (visitors) to your website. If you can drive enough of the right people to a consumer ecommerce site, the thought is that you’ll make your sales numbers. i.e. if 1 in a 100 will purchase, if you can generate 10,000 visitors you will make 100 sales.
But manufacturers can’t just drive vast amounts of traffic to a well-built site and cross their fingers. This is VERY important and often something manufacturers don’t realise. If you are a niche manufacturer e.g. manufacturing thermal interface materials there may only be ~10 searches per month.
You might not have huge amounts of traffic to leverage, depending on your business’ niche or vertical. If you would like to know the volume of search traffic for your manufacturing business click here
You also have to balance how much information you want to share on your public-facing website with how you want to manage relationships with your clients. We have noticed over the years that many manufacturers would love to showcase examples of who they supply to. Unfortunately NDA’s and commercial sensitivity preclude this. If you are a machine shop who is supplying “Boeing” that would be great to shout about. Equally if you are a food equipment manufacturer supplying “Cadburys” that would carry lots of Kudos In some cases, you might need to limit access to information about your goods to best support your business partners.
2. Long sales cycles.
Manufacturing often involves long sales cycles. A PPC ad campaign isn’t going to drive the same results in B2B marketing as it does in B2C marketing, where many who use this technique see almost immediate conversion results.
As a manufacturer your marketing tactics could be more about lead generations and brand awareness. Qualified leads are then passed to the sales department for nurturing and relationship building over weeks, months, or even years before deals close.
3. Complex products.
Manufacturing businesses that sell complex products aren’t likely to see great success in marketing direct online sales to B2B buyers. If your product costs £10,000 and has a variety of customisable / configurable features, someone’s unlikely to click on a “buy now” button and enter business credit card data, for example. Note: Covid has showcased to us that buyers are prepared to specify and customise products online without seeing the product. As is illustrated by the rise in online sales of new cars.
Determine how buyers interact with your products and what they need from you in the early stages of the buying journey. BA Caulkett meets this need by using a customized quoting tool , allowing potential clients to request a custom quote based on their unique needs.
4. More people to convince.
There are some tried-and-true tactics B2C marketing can utilise, like leveraging micro-moments, to connect with consumers at just the right time to promote a purchase. Creating a sense of urgency to spark an impulse buy or sending cart abandonment emails are proven B2C marketing methods. Unfortunately these often fall short in manufacturer marketing.
When you’re marketing to other businesses, with so many more stakeholders to convince, this is a reason many of these B2C tactics don’t work as well, or at all. Business buying decisions in medium and large companies might include:
- A person in middle management becomes aware of the need.
- That person then has to convince others that there is a genuine need.
- The original person may do some preliminary investigation to demonstrate that there are products to meet the need.
- Executive decision-makers may appoint someone (or a committee of people) to continue with research.
- Options are presented to leadership and the likely products are narrowed down.
- Management asks questions to dig into more details, and the field is further narrowed down via demos, quotes, and discussions.
- Hopefully, a decision is made.
The challenge is that your marketing efforts have to continue to support your chance at making the sale throughout that entire process. Marketing with sales play an important role to proactively support businesses throughout the buying journey. The use of business and educational resources can help convince and convert stakeholders throughout the purchasing journey.
Advantages to Using Marketing with Manufacturers
B2B marketers often have trouble getting prospects to engage or finding high-quality leads. That’s where a strong marketing strategy comes in.
1. More lead conversions.
The lack of commitment to marketing is clearly shown by the Content Marketing Institute’s 2020 B2B Content Marketing Benchmark report. Almost 70% of the most successful B2B marketers have a documented content marketing strategy. Only 16% of the least successful firms can report the same
Other traits of successful B2B companies — they use KPIs to measure marketing success, nurture prospects, and prioritize educating the target audience over selling to them.
2. Brand awareness.
Online marketing is a proven approach to building brand awareness, which improves customer loyalty. It also importantly helps you convince multiple stakeholders that you’re the right company to work with.
When you invest in a great website, EAT website content (expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness) , PPC advertising, SEO efforts, and potentially social media you invest in building your brand. Here are just a few returns you might get on that investment:
- When someone realises their company has a need, you’re the first manufacturer who comes to mind. Brand awareness puts you ahead of the competition right out of the gate.
- As the need and relevant purchasing decisions are being discussed, business stakeholders throughout the organisation recognise your company name. Again, this puts you ahead of competitors, because buyers (even business ones) are more likely to purchase from the brand they know.
- Your client’s consumers might be aware of your brand and ask for your products. Or, your client can use your name in their marketing message because you have a good brand reputation, and that adds value to working with you.
3. Position your business as a thought leader.
Thought leadership positions you as a resource of whom the client can turn to for expert advice, helpful information, or training and education. It’s a requirement if you’re selling high-end or sophisticated goods, but content marketing that includes thought leadership is a good idea for any manufacturing company.
Case studies and white papers are two common digital marketing formats that lend well to thought leadership, especially since you can use them to create leads. In order for someone to access the prospect is required to enter their name and email address (as a minimum) to get an informational technical document. You now have leads sufficiently interested enough in what you have to offer that they traded their contact information just to find out more.
But not all thought leadership needs to be behind a log in area. News articles and social media are a great place to demonstrate your position in the industry by sharing your content or sharing someone else’s content and adding value with your own comments.
BA Caulkett, a loading shovel attachment manufacturer does a great job creating authority on its website. That lets potential buyers see that BA Caulkett, and its products, really is the expert in the loading shovel space that it claims to be.
4. Enhance customer loyalty.
The right type of marketing can enhance customer loyalty.
All of the above benefits work toward creating a culture of trust with your brand. If consumers trust your name, so can businesses. If middle management can trust your company, executives are more likely too. Brand awareness helps drive that trust.
Its quoted time after time and I don’t know who to attribute to but “No one got sacked for buying IBM
Once you capture and even convert a lead, though, the marketing job isn’t done. Engaging with the consumers on LinkedIn / Instagram, sending well-planned and timed email newsletters, and offering promotions via online marketing are all ways you can increase the chances that clients will return for a future purchase.
7 Manufacturing Marketing Strategies
Now that you know why manufacturing marketing is important, how do you go about it? Start with these seven marketing strategies for manufacturing companies.
1. Publish written content.
You might have heard that content is king. It’s a saying that’s been around for years, and it still rings true for online marketers today. Your content — the information you publish on your site — is the main contributor to all of the following efforts:
- Search engine optimization, which ensures you show up when potential clients search online.
- Positions you as a manufacturer that can be trusted. Close to 50% of people read three to five pieces of content from a business before reaching out for more information or a quote.
- It helps push people further down the funnel. A business contact in the awareness state may find something in your content to help convert them to the consideration state, for example.
Sites that use multiple forms of content can better increase sales. That’s because people engage with different types of content to varying degrees, and one person might want to read about your product while another wishes to view a video.
Sometimes, you need to supply both to help educate the potential client, especially in the case of complex manufacturing products.
Consider including video content, whitepapers, case studies, blogs, infographics, and slide presentations on your site. Remember that you’re not the only one trying to convince someone to make a purchase; your contact at a business might be trying to convince stakeholders, and your content can be leveraged to create presentations that do the trick.
2. Email marketing.
As noted above, manufacturing marketing is often a long game. It’s easy for your message to get lost in the shuffle that occurs when potential clients review options, re-evaluate priorities, and get caught up in managing daily operations.
Email marketing newsletters let you capture interested leads so you can show up in their email inboxes periodically. It keeps you fresh in their minds.
Email is also a great tool for marketing automation. You can create drip campaigns to send a series of messages to prospective clients whenever they take a specific action. For example:
- Someone downloads a whitepaper on a piece of agricultural equipment. They enter their email to do so.
- You send them emails over a few weeks or months. Those emails might cover information, like how much the product can save them over time, how the equipment improves quality, and the potential for scaling farming operations.
- Every email offers another touchpoint and another CTA letting the potential client know you’re available to provide a quote or additional information.
3. Employ SEO.
The mighty Google admits that the path to purchase can be long and varied. But a common factor is that many people start with an online search. Close to 90% of purchases start online, and most marketers believe SEO is one of the top five traffic drivers.
In short: If you’re not showing up in the search engines, you’re missing out on many potential leads.
4. Effective Google ads and PPC.
But SEO isn’t guaranteed. You can’t buy your way into the top organic page results in Google, and getting there takes “Time” a commitment to content, “Time” patience, a little bit of luck and “Time”. This is why some businesses also invest in Google and PPC ads.
Marketing campaigns that include paid efforts can get your manufacturing company on search results pages in minutes, but your ads have to be effective. That means doing the research to understand which keywords to target and understand how your buyer personas might search online.
Once you do have content and other functional elements on your site, test it. It doesn’t matter how awesome your content is if the site provides a poor user experience. If you can’t offer a seamless, easy-to-use site experience, people may doubt your ability to provide quality products and customer experience.
It is vital that your website is technically proficient
- All links, buttons, and other functionality on your site work as planned. Check them on multiple devices and in different browsers.
- The pages load quickly. If your pages take just one second more to load than they have to, you could lose 7% of conversions. And 40% of people will simply leave a site if it takes more than three seconds to load.
- Ensure your site is mobile-friendly first because Google cares. Sites that don’t function on mobile might be buried or even delisted from SERPs. Second, because your potential clients might start their engagement on mobile. Whether someone is browsing from their own phone or doing research while traveling with a company mobile device, if your site isn’t ready, you’re not ready to make the sale.
6. Trade shows.
Manufacturers may want to be present at trade shows and other industry events. Doing so increases brand awareness and demonstrates that you care about others in the industry. As a B2B business you should ensure all marketing efforts should also be online.
Meeting prospects at a trade show is also good for the bottom line. Because you’re meeting a number of potential clients while also engaging in networking and education events, the cost per meeting can be lower than when meeting prospects individually in their offices.
7. Integrate social media.
Social media is another place where you can increase brand awareness and customer loyalty. It also lets you connect with potential clients in an organic way. often where the prospect is already located online. B2B marketing, manufacturers may want to start with LinkedIn and maintain a strong presence there (though LinkedIn does seem to becoming more like Facebook on a daily basis)
Thing to Consider: Manufacturer Marketing
Not every tip and strategy above is going to work for your business. Ask yourself the following questions to understand what options might be right for you.
1. Are you offering a commodity product, a configurable product or a customised product or service?
Simpler commodity products can be sold online via ecommerce platforms. You can market them with efforts such as product descriptions, PPC ads, and blog posts to support SEO.
Customised products and services may require more hands-on efforts. Consider creating lead generation tools such as white papers, videos, and E books. Once prospects share their contact information, sales can reach out to ask how they can help.
2. Is your buyer an individual person or a DMU committee of buying process influencers?
PPC ads, strong Call To Actions (CTAs), well-written product pages, and engaging social media marketing are all good ways to connect with a single person.
To sell to a committee, you’ll need in-depth marketing collateral and a way to manage the lead nurturing process.
3. How competitive is the competition in your industrial sector niche?
How hard you have to work on SEO and other brand awareness efforts depends on how much noise there is in the industry.
- If only a few manufacturers make this type of equipment, you have a better chance at dominating search with great online content.
- If hundreds of businesses are competing with you, paid ad efforts might be required to show up on top of the competition when someone searches online.
Steps for Adopting Manufacturing Marketing Strategies
Marketing is sophisticated, and the more complex your business or products are, the harder it can be to know where to get started. Start with the following series of steps to adopt strong marketing practices in the manufacturing industry.
1. Set your goals – Visioning
Know what you’re trying to achieve. Marketing is full of metrics, including page traffic, click-throughs, and time spent on the page. If you haven’t decided on specific business goals, it can be easy to get caught up in working toward these marketing goals. And while click-through rates are important, they’re only necessary because they support your conversions and sales.
2. Marketing Accountability.
You need someone to keep track of all these efforts. If you don’t have an inhouse person, an agency experienced in manufacturing marketing can provide this service. Within the company it’s still a good idea to have someone in-house who is responsible and accountable for marketing ( and sales) and holds freelancers or agencies accountable to your business goals.
3. Define your buyer persona.
Take time to define your target audience. Who is most likely to be interested in your products? What are their needs? Can they make decisions, or do they have to get decision-making approval from others? The more you know about the buyer persona, the better you can target your marketing efforts, which saves you time and money.
4. Select strategies that support the needs of the customer.
From social media to website content to shopping cart options, make sure all your marketing and customer service strategies support the audience you’ve defined.
5. Launch and test.
Never assume that your content marketing strategy or other efforts are all you can do. Marketing is about continuous improvement. Engage in A/B testing to check various elements in your marketing.
For example, do you get more responses on emails you send Tuesday mornings or Wednesday afternoons? If the answer is Wednesday, then run another test. Do you get more traction from a subject line that’s long or one that’s less than 30 characters?
By constantly testing, you can improve the ROI generated by your marketing.
As a manufacturer would you like a marketing agency that has a heritage in Great British Manufacturing
With many years’ experience, our team of strategic marketing, online and offline marketing and design experts will take you on a straightforward, cost effective and practical route to growing sales, increasing profit and reaching more customers. With a successful track record in marketing and sales for manufacturing, gained as both employees and marketing consultants, means that we fully understand your business sector.
1: Do you want an agency that specialises in working with manufacturing and engineering companies?
2: Would you like an agency who offer a straightforward, jargon free approach to generating increased sales?
3: Would you like a marketing agency to work with you as a virtual marketing department?
4: Would you like an agency who measure the results and outcomes on the work completed ?
If you have answered yes to any of the questions above then having a conversation with Andrew Goode would be the first step to more effective marketing and increased sales, call 01733 361729
Marketing for Manufacturing, Marketing Metrics and Analytics
If you would like to know more about marketing for manufacturing metrics and analysis contact Andrew Goode MBA, MSc, FCIM Click here to arrange a call
Other articles linked with marketing metrics that may provide additional insight. Marketing metrics and analytics, marketing ROI Planning , marketing revenue analytics and Marketing Measurement Metrics