For manufacturers, digital marketing is a way to educate customers and differentiate your brand in an industry where doing so is invariably challenging.
This is especially true for customers who are new to the industry—entrepreneurs who are launching their first product or companies that are branching into new markets and looking for a new production partner.
Rather than have them partner with whatever manufacturing company they see pop up on Google first, you want them to pick your brand because of what you have to offer.
Digital marketing—above all, content marketing—is how you accomplish this. In this guide, we’ll go through the tools you need to bring customers to your manufacturing company.
Digital Marketing for Suppliers
First, get to know your customers—not who they used to be, but who they are today.
Just as manufacturing is almost unrecognizable today from what it was 20 years ago, today’s manufacturing buyers are, in many ways, completely different too.
For one thing, manufacturing and industrial buyers have undergone the same changes that other B2B buyers have:
- They’re doing most of their research online
- They’re most of the way through their buyer journey before you even know they exist
- Buying groups are larger and more multi-generational, with Millennials making up 73% of all B2B buyers and Gen Z slowly but surely expanding their footprint in the B2B buyer space.
Whereas before, manufacturers could rely on a team of salespeople to do outreach and bring in a regular stream of buyers who were close to the beginning of their sales journey, nowadays, these companies must focus much more on education and inbound leads. And that necessitates a different approach.
Manufacturing buyers today are more digitally-savvy and more likely to expect a B2C-type buying experience.
Related post: Reinventing the B2B Buyer Persona
They want self-service models and less contact with sales.
They’re consuming video and audio content along with written content during their research process.
And they’re talking to colleagues and comparing your brand with several others in dark social channels, like private messaging apps and LinkedIn groups.
If your buyer personas don’t reflect this reality, it’s time to update and overhaul.
Invest Heavily in Content
With your manufacturing buyers spending so much time researching independently, it’s clear that the best way to reach them is through content—specifically educational content.
The goal here is not only to get on your buyers’ radar once they begin researching their next purchase. It’s to get on their radar whenever they have questions about your industry.
For example, suppose you’re a car parts manufacturer. You could develop a library of content about trends in the automotive industry, what consumers are looking for, how the car sales process is changing, and more.
This is content that isn’t specifically aimed at making sales. Instead, it’s about becoming a trusted, expert resource that your buyers come across any time they’re online searching for information to help them do their job—selling car parts—better.
When developing your B2B content marketing strategy, remember you need content for every buyer journey stage and each persona. So you need that educational content for buyers who haven’t started the research process, and more technical content for those narrowing down their vendor selections.
In addition, consider the people on the plant floor using your machinery day in and day out. How are you incorporating them into your marketing plan? They’re also online, researching answers to questions they have and problems they face.
Professionals like machinists, engineers, floor supervisors—these are people who can influence a company’s purchasing decisions, too (especially if it’s a smaller business). Procurement and executive management may be the ones finalizing the purchases, but they may reasonably request input from those with the most hands-on experience with the machinery.
For these pre-buying groups, you could create FAQs, troubleshooting guides, and interactive user guides. Video demos and walkthroughs of your machinery are also helpful for this segment. And don’t forget about thought leadership and educational content that builds on the skills of these groups.
For those in the management and procurement groups, consider content that gets into the more technical specs, including pricing, efficiency, and comparisons to other brands’ offerings. Developing thought leadership content in both the manufacturing industry at large and your clients’ specific niches can also be helpful.
To get the most out of this owned content, it should ideally be created in concert with paid, earned, and shared content. That would include paid advertising (search engine marketing or SEM), earned media (PR), and shared content (social media and user-generated content).
Focus on Creating Value
When you’re marketing to your buyers, are you telling them what your brand can offer them, or are you focused on solving their problems?
Too often, manufacturers are doing the first: checking off boxes in terms of specs and pricing, highlighting delivery timelines, and rattling off industry terms. But this is an outbound technique, even if you’re housing it within an inbound tactic, like a webinar or podcast.
Why? Because you’re talking about your brand—not about your customer. And true inbound marketing is always about putting the customer at the center.
Related post: What is the Customer Buying Journey?
So try flipping that and talking to your customer about their problems. Ask yourself: what problems are your clients facing, and how can your brand solve them? What are their pain points? What do they need from a vendor, and beyond that, what do they want?
When you can start orienting your marketing around this approach, you’ll start to see a marked improvement in your content performance.
Support Content Efforts with a Strong SEO Strategy
Once you’ve got a strong bank of content, make sure you’re helping people find it with a solid B2B SEO strategy.
Related post: 12 Ways to Master Off-page SEO in 2022
- Doing keyword research to ensure you’re targeting the right keywords and search intent
- Optimizing your metadata and URL slugs
- Including internal links throughout your content
- Citing high-quality sources throughout your content and linking to reputable sites
- Updating and amplifying your best content to ensure it continues to perform
SEO is an ongoing effort, and the best practices change as Google’s algorithm does. Make sure you’re regularly coming back to your SEO strategy to update or change it as needed.
Digital marketing for manufacturing relies heavily on high-quality content that can take potential customers all the way through the industry’s long buying cycles. Need some help getting started? Get in touch!