Historically, manufacturing companies have generally been slower to embrace digital marketing in comparison to other B2B industries, but times are rapidly changing.  In the world of manufacturing, having a sound digital marketing strategy is now just as important as it is in any other industry.

Applying a focused digital marketing strategy incorporating search engine optimisation and paid search will offer manufacturers many benefits including:

  1. The opportunity to diversify and broaden their client base by generating demand/leads.
  2. The ability to educate audiences
  3. Digital marketing has been shown to increase return on Investment (ROI).
  4. Raising brand recognition, credibility and trust through an active web presence.

Research published by Smart Insights shows that up to 49% of companies do not have a clearly defined digital marketing strategy.  This figure includes manufacturers many of whom reported that digital marketing does not come naturally. Many businesses reported that they are finding it difficult to get used to the latest trends in the market. As digital marketing specialists, the team here at ExtraMile Communications  offer their thoughts on five key digital strategies for manufacturing companies to drive business growth:

  • Ensure your shop window is top notch

Perhaps the most critical element in your digital marketing strategy has to be website design. It is crucial that your website is a responsive design fully optimised to be found by Google and other search engines. It should be easy to navigate – remember that the first 10 seconds of visiting a site is when visitors decide if they wish to stay and browse. Always ensure that your website prioritises site speed, is designed using mobile-first techniques, includes dynamic elements such as interactive video and scrolling foregrounds. Equally as important is the ability of your website to capture leads through forms, directed by a call to action. For example, signing up for a white paper, an email list or more information etc.  

  • Harness the power of digital advertising

Many manufacturing businesses still use forms of traditional advertising such as trade magazines. In comparison, digital advertising is far more effective and many are now coming to value its worth. In a recent survey The Content Marketing Institute’s Report – “Manufacturing Content Marketing 2019: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends“, 66% of manufacturing content marketers stated that they use paid methods to distribute digital content primarily due to its ability to attract a new audience as it allows highly specific targeting across demographics, interests, employment.

Digital advertising takes many different forms, some of which include:

  • Pay-per-Click (PPC)  – the text ads appearing at the top of Google’s search results. With the right keywords, advert and website landing page synced to what your potential customers are looking for, you are sure to click through to your website – and you have a conversion.  
  • Remarketing text or display adverts – these are generally shown to visitors to your website to remind them why they came to your website in the first place, and bring them back again. Remarketing adverts can be segmented to show certain propositions to specific audiences so are great if you were promoting a new product or service, in which case they can also be used to generate new traffic to your website.
  • Video adverts – these are more like traditional commercials and are popular on streaming sites like YouTube. However, they differ from traditional commercials, in that they are shown only to viewers who are likely prospects.
  • Lights, camera, video action

In today’s digital world more people are watching video content than ever before. Audiences are said to be spending over a third of their time online watching video.  In addition, factor in that the costs of creating video (which have never been lower) and there has never been a better time to incorporate online video content into your digital marketing strategy. In fact, The Content Marketing Institute’s Report – “Manufacturing Content Marketing 2019: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends” showed that nearly 70% of manufacturing content marketers increased their use of audio/visual content and images compared with one year ago.

There are many ways to embrace online video content such as product or ‘talking head’ videos, basic animations, live streaming etc. For manufacturing companies, video is a superb way of showcasing products and services – this sector lends itself really well to the production of exciting content. The backdrop of state of the art factories, cutting-edge technology and hazardous substances attracts the attention of many viewers.  Whether using social media, streaming websites, or partnering with a popular specialised content channel to run your content, the strategy of video production is well worth investing your time and resources in.

  • Own your audience with creative content

A solid content marketing strategy with compelling customer focused content will, over time, increase your organic search results, generate traffic to your website and backlinks from other companies who find your content informative and interesting, and will help to yield a higher level of overall success.   The 2019 Content Marketing Institute survey revealed that 57% of manufacturing content marketers stated that they have used or developed long-form content in the last 12 months and 70% have increased their use of social media for content marketing purposes during this period.

The manufacturing sector faces some quite unique challenges in content creation. These are primarily the ability to appeal to multi-level roles within their target audience, the communication of complex content, and the fact that many manufacturing companies face long sales cycles with multiple decision makers.  

Recent research by The Content Marketing Institute showed that whilst manufacturing companies acknowledge that they need to explain how their products or services work, only 50% always/frequently prioritise their audience’s informational needs over their sales/promotional message when creating content. Therefore the audience is not always being put at the forefront, and too many manufacturing organisations are still making the mistake of talking about themselves in the content they create.  

When creating content for your manufacturing business, it is essential that you understand, focus upon, and prioritise your audience’s informational needs to be truly effective.  There is no point in committing time and money to content marketing if you are not developing content designed to provide valuable information that your audience needs. In order to do that, one of the key steps in developing a content marketing strategy is to define your audience including developing personas (a  virtual reality representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data). Conduct research to really understand the people within your “audience segments” as humans.  This will help you to better understand your customers (and prospects), making it easier for you to tailor your content and messaging to meet their specific needs, behaviours and concerns at each stage of their journey.

As discussed earlier, the manufacturing sector is subject to multiple decision makers within the buying process. Each of these will have different needs which means that their particular challenges and content needs will be different.  Additionally, the role of ‘internal gurus’ needs to be taken into account. Many of these are invisible for much of the buying journey but are still a highly influential audience that can promote or block a buying decision.

A successful strategy to deal with this issue is to bring your ‘experts’ to the foreground through thought leadership content. This type of content that speaks from one expert to another (e.g. engineer to engineer)  is a very powerful tool to build credibility, earn trust and win the mindshare of sector professionals. It will help to gain new, interested customers creating an active community of ‘brand fans’ by shaping, promoting and owning new ideas through discussion, engagement and opinion.  It will also help to shorten the time to market and create ‘champion content’ that will speak to ‘internal gurus’ i.e. the invisible influencers.  But always remember that ‘champion content’ MUST always address audience needs and NOT focus solely upon the company.

  • Email marketing – an oldie but a goodie!

Email marketing is one of the oldest (and perhaps one of the most effective) tricks in the digital marketing book.  Even today it remains a very powerful tool for many manufacturing companies to close more sales and bring on board more prospects. In fact, the Content Marketing Institute’s Report – “Manufacturing Content Marketing 2019: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends”  showed that 92% of respondents’ organisations currently use content marketing methods to nurture their audience.

Email marketing requires careful planning and audience segmentation to ensure that the right customers (and prospects) get the right emails at the right time, to encourage purchases and to keep your brand at the forefront of their minds.  The advent of AI (Artificial Intelligence) in combination with CRM software has revolutionised lead nurturing with automation enabling greater functionality such as prediction of responses, tracking prospects, sending out of scheduled customised messages.

To sum up…

In actuality, there are more than five ways to embrace digital marketing within a manufacturing company. One size never fits all with any marketing strategy, but understanding the basics will provide you with a solid starting point to enable you to remain competitive in the digital sphere.  However, remember that the digital world is very fast moving and keeping ahead and, ‘in the know’, is essential to stay at the top of your game. If you feel that your manufacturing company needs some expert support in Digital Marketing please get in touch.

Sources:

The Content Marketing Institute’s Report – “Manufacturing Content Marketing 2019: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends

Smart Insights