The manufacturing industry is facing increasing competition, rapid technological changes and shifting customer expectations. As a marketer working in manufacturing, it is essential that you can hit the ground running with a marketing strategy that generates new customers.
This won’t be the first time you’ve heard the words ‘Digital Transformation’, a term the McKinsey Global Institute used in 2015 to refer to the digital evolution of business models, processes, domain and organisation. But do you have a B2B digital marketing strategy that will work as manufacturing evolves?
We’ll cover how you can unlock success using examples and best practise that have been proven specifically for manufacturers in the UK.
Use the contents section below to head straight to the areas where you have the most to learn. We will also link to articles throughout that cover each topic in more detail.
Table of Contents
What do you do when you need a quick answer, a solution to a problem or to learn about a subject? You Google it. Likewise, your future customers will be doing the same thing to solve problems with supply, engineering and production. But how do you get to the first page on search engines?
Having a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) strategy is crucial if you are a manufacturer trying to drive organic traffic to your website and improve visibility on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Without getting too technical, search engines just want you to look after the users they send to your website.
In theory, anything that is good for user experience will be good for your rankings. In reality there are much faster ways to reach the first page, which can be broken down into three main areas; keyword research, on-page SEO and off-page SEO.
Related Article: From Keywords to Conversions: SEO Strategies for B2B Manufacturers
What keywords are your target audience using to find answers to the problems you help with? Getting the answer for this is a good team exercise. It can help to include business development or the customer service support teams that are close to the end-user of your products. When you have a list of keywords, segment these keywords by your audience’s intent to either buy or just learn more about your business solutions.
How many people search those keywords? Use Google’s keyword research tool and find out how many monthly searches those terms get per month. Now you know which topics your manufacturing content needs to explore and which technical and product questions need answering.
On site SEO includes the technical elements that help search engines determine whether your website is relevant to the specific search queries and whether it can be trusted in terms of how the information is structured. There is a lot of debate about the impact of things like meta-tags and meta-descriptions as they used to be far more powerful in their influence on your search engine results. However there is more to it than this. Search engine algorithms update on average twice a day and utilise over 200 metrics. From an agency that has been ranking B2B websites on the first page for over 20 years, on page SEO is part of a winning strategy for manufacturers.
Search engines need to be able to sort out the established manufacturers and trusted choices from the new organisations. One way you can manage this is to build high-quality backlinks from reputable sources. These could be relevant industry sources from websites that have a high domain authority. Additionally, links from news outlets and Government organisations will help you rank higher.
Implementing an SEO strategy as a manufacturer will help you build your website’s authority and visibility online, which ultimately generates traffic and potential sales. The key is in achieving a balance in terms of what you can invest and how quickly you need results.
There is a short-term strategy to get your target B2B audience to visit the website and become a lead. An effective Pay Per Click strategy is a proven antidote for quick success in manufacturing and can help relieve the pressure on marketing teams at crucial times in the calendar. Just ensure you use these in combination with other channels as they can be costly, unsustainable and unreliable sources of customers as new competitors join the market or the season changes.
First you need to choose which channel(s) you target for PPC:
Related Article: Driving Success: PPC Advertising Strategies For Manufacturers
Google and Bing advertising operate in very similar ways albeit Google offers a much larger traffic base. This type of PPC advertising can be broken down simply into:
- Search PPC: Uses the search terms that people input in these moments of action, and triggers your ad to appear based on that keyword.
- Display and other programmatic advertising: Display ads work similarly, but instead of showing in search results, they can appear as banner ads on other websites, or as videos on YouTube.
How much money do you need to spend on Google Ads for success?
This really depends on your average lifetime customer value, which you can work out by multiplying the average number of times your customers will purchase by the average sales price. We advise investing at least 10% of the revenue you’re hoping to achieve as part of your marketing budget and the ad spend will form part of that.
As a minimum on Google/Bing Advertising we advise our manufacturing clients to invest at least £1500 in Google Ad spend per month. This isn’t the technical minimum you can start a campaign with, but accounts for the typically higher cost per click (CPC) that keywords associated with B2B themes have. A budget higher than this amount provides the minimum necessary data needed to make statistically reasonable decisions and for the algorithm to learn from. This aids data-driven best practise and will help you manage the campaign on a daily/weekly basis.
Networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok have monetised the attention and audience they’ve generated (which is exactly all that you’re trying to achieve on a smaller scale). Social media companies sell space on their websites in exchange for advertising spend. This provides opportunities for manufacturers to get promotional information, brand awareness or targeted messages to the right people at the right time.
Social media PPC advertising relies on audience targeting instead of keywords. As a result, the intent is much lower with this type of marketing as you are pushing the message into the faces of people who are otherwise busy. Compare this with ads placed on Google and Bing who have already done some of the journey and typed in relevant keywords to research a solution. The most successful manufacturing companies achieve a balance of push and pull marketing in line with their objectives.
Which PPC channels are the cheapest?
In short, the least established channels with reduced ability to target are the cheapest. Here they are in order from cheapest to most expensive cost per click at the time of writing (this also depends largely on the ad quality, the click through rate of the ads and the industry you target):
- TikTok might have a lower average age but is a fantastic way of getting widespread attention for the smallest budget. There are still question marks on how it can be leveraged for B2B brands and manufacturers as there is no targeting currently available for these sectors.
- Twitter promotions are often used more for brand awareness or to promote products, app installations or services that have topical relevance. B2B organisations might use Twitter to promote their brand to people discussing certain topics online. The targeting options are limited largely to focus on those who tweet or engage publicly on Twitter.
- Facebook/Instagram (Meta) is a channel we’ve seen B2B businesses and manufacturers unlock success with however since Cambridge Analytica the targeting accuracy has declined and the CPC has increased.
- LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to target by job title, industry and time spent in role. As a result it’s the most expensive social channel available for PPC. It would be our pick in terms of effectiveness however for manufacturers looking to run a targeted campaign that generates leads.
So you’ve already started making progress on your Organic Search strategy and you have plans or an implemented approach to bringing users to the website through PPC advertising. Is that where the role of marketing within manufacturing ends? Not quite.
Your industry is particularly difficult to market within because it is common to have long and complex sales cycles that require a number of key decision makers to agree on your business as the solution to their problem. Luckily, there is a strategy tailored for this problem, which is common in B2B industries. That strategy is inbound marketing for manufacturers.
Inbound marketing can be broken down into 4 stages of the user journey, sometimes described as a marketing funnel or pipeline:
This is often misinterpreted to be the entirety of the role of marketing, particularly within B2B industries that have a small marketing team. Getting the right people’s attention and attracting people to your website or business is just the first stage. Tactics to achieve this include SEO advertising, PPC advertising, Social Media Marketing, Press Releases, Outbound sales and marketing, Offline and print marketing.
What does your website have ready in terms of messaging and information once you’ve attracted people to your business? This includes the work you do to convert visitors into leads and qualify leads for the sales team. Focus on your landing pages, call to actions and ways that you incentivise the reader to engage with your content more meaningfully and exchange their information for content (to become a Marketing-Qualified Lead or MQL).
We go into more detail about the available ways manufacturers can convert visitors into leads in this blog.
This is where your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system comes into play. Whether you’re using a marketing leading software like HubSpot or a spreadsheet, part of marketing is documenting the user journey from visitor, to Marketing-Qualified Lead, to Sales-Qualified Lead, to Customer. How many people drop out at each stage and is there any communication or messaging you can provide to reduce that attrition. Manufacturers often have assets prepared for each stage of the user journey by their marketing teams. Revise your conversion numbers and speak to your business development teams.
The Delight stage is commonly overlooked by marketers, but master it for a successful manufacturing inbound marketing strategy. Use a Net Promoter Score (NPS) Survey to ask your customers to rate out of 10; “how likely are they to recommend your services to a friend or family member?”. Understanding this will help you identify your detractors (6 or below), passive customers (6-8) and promoters (9-10).
Promoters can be a great source of referrals, testimonials and case study content. Detractors give you the opportunity to learn as a business with regards to your service levels. You can even learn from passive customers, with a follow up question “What would have helped us receive a 10?”.
Marketing in manufacturing can feel like spinning plates and everything seems to be your job. Thinking of your role in terms of Inbound Marketing helps you balance your resources to make the biggest impact on the business.
Content Marketing for manufacturers often exists in the form of downloadable whitepapers, brochures and guides that live behind a hard-gated wall that require the reader’s details to access. But it’s much wider than just that. Content marketing encapsulates all the information and assets that your business shares that help interest, engage and seek action from your target audience; a future customer.
As the digital age continues to evolve, manufacturers are under increasing pressure to create content. Here are some of the key examples that have worked well in our experience working with manufacturers:
- Research and shared results
- Checklist on how to prepare for exhibitions and trade shows
- Guide on sustainability within the industry
- Whitepaper on industry research findings
- Guide to selling as a small or medium B2B business
Marketing automation is a fantastic way to find efficiencies and ensure best practice is followed during the sales and marketing process. It can also help balance your time and improve your working relationship with the sales team. In short, you need to invest in the right marketing automation.
Here are some of the most effective, tried and tested types of marketing automation for small marketing teams within manufacturing businesses:
- Email marketing automation for nurturing new leads
- Internal emails for your sales teams alerting them to key contact activity
- Social media marketing scheduling tool
- Reporting and analytics automation
- Custom software to connect systems e.g. your stock system and your CRM
The objective here is to build and repeat best practices as part of an automated process. This is so that your business’s ability to hit your objectives isn’t affected by a person’s ability or motivation to manually complete their tasks every workday.
A strong Customer Relationship Management system will allow you to set up all of the marketing automation listed above, but make sure you do your research on the pricing to understand whether it includes all the features you need. HubSpot is a market-leading CRM that has different licences that cater to a number of use cases and requirements. A better place to start than expensive software purchase, is to understand where you can make the most difference to your overall inbound marketing.
We cover this process and the popular marketing automations for manufacturers in more detail in this article.
Proving the value of social media for a manufacturing company can be extremely challenging. By implementing the correct techniques on the right channels for your business you can display the power of social media to everyone in your business.
Here are some of the things you will need to focus on to transform your social media into a lead-generation machine:
- Know your audience
- Create engaging content
- Showcase your team
- Actively engage with your audience
- Create contests and giveaways
- Analyse and adapt your strategy
The objective of social media is to create a strong brand identity, drive traffic to your website, create an opportunity for open communication and convert viewers to leads. Taking the time to invest in your social media strategy will give you access to a whole new audience who are engaged with your content and eager to get involved with your business.
Learn more about how you can optimise your social media strategy as a manufacturing business in this article.
In addition to the different channels already mentioned, here are other effective lead generation strategies:
One of the benefits of B2B marketing is the lower competitive barriers to being seen by the right people using other people’s channels. If you don’t have a strong following through your own branding and channels yet, use existing channels that are more established. This will require some work on your end to find the right channels that your target audience pays attention to. Your role here is to organise and persuade the channel to allow a senior member of your business to speak or guest post, providing them content in exchange for your brand’s exposure. Make sure you agree ahead of the arrangement for a link back to your website and a biography as part of the partnership.
Webinars and online events became the de facto lead generation strategy during the 2019 pandemic. The popularity of these has created a general virtual fatigue amongst many people but, when done correctly, they are still a valuable lead generation strategy. Multinational manufacturing companies might consider a webinar or online event to test popularity amongst a number of industry topics. They are relatively low cost, generate great digital interest (and therefore marketing-qualified leads) and can supplement your content strategy by comparing topic popularity.
As you’ll know, a large part of manufacturing is based on contracts that are supported by professional relationships. In addition, many suppliers will provide manufacturers or their customers a small budget to generate new business and raise brand awareness. Navigating these relationships and working with your senior team to look for collaboration opportunities is a lead generation strategy in itself.
By cross-promoting each other’s offerings, your business and the collaborative organisation can expand your reach and generate leads. From the beginning, be clear about what they can get from the collaboration and what you’re hoping to achieve and whether payment is included or not.
Did you get to the end?
We’ve consolidated the learnings from years of successful inbound marketing for manufacturers into a tailored Marketing Plan Template, which you can have for free. As any marketer worth our salt – we will ask for your details in return but only so we can send you more personalised marketing tips for manufacturing. Sound like a fair deal? Click here or on the jazzy image below.