Manufacturing Marketing Strategy: Where To Start

Spending the last 17 years in manufacturing, with 12 of them serving the industry’s sales and marketing needs, I’ve noticed that the main challenge holding this industry back from better digital marketing practices is the culture shift. The manufacturing and industrial industry are one of the slowest industries to respond and adapt to cutting edge marketing strategy and tactical changes. The traditional marketing culture within this industry has always revolved mainly around three avenues: print advertising, trade shows, and referrals. They stay with the marketing techniques that they see as tried and true, even if the results aren’t quantifiable or as effective as years ago.

There’s plenty of digital noise regarding the best way to do marketing and which avenues to travel down for the best return, however it’s typically very fluffy and general to any business. So, these companies tend to dismiss the tactics either from lack of the convincing argument’s experience in their industry or because there’s an information overload and they don’t know where to begin.

We’ve heard for 5 years about social media being effective in B2B, but which platform and what specific tactics? We’ve heard the importance an updated website in the sales process, but what matters the most? We’ve heard about how great Google Search (organic & paid) is to get found and generate leads, but companies have tried it and the results weren’t anything to brag about.

I’m here to cut through the manufacturing marketing strategy noise and provide some insight into what we do every month for our manufacturing & industrial clients, it’s the only industries we serve.

Updating Your Website

If you overhauled your site 2 months ago or 7 years ago, the guide below will provide some insight into the best practices used right now.

Websites used to be an affirmation of what your sales reps were telling your clients. As long you had a website and it regurgitated the products, services, and capabilities that your reps were pitching, you were fine. In this current climate of digital, the website must be used as a fine-tuned tool. The 2017 buyer and beyond, is a more informed buyer than in years past. They make buying decisions based on research they have done. To accommodate the informed prospect, your website should be updated as a sales tool, bringing them into your funnel and walking them through your value proposition.

Blend the creative aspects of your site with manufacturing. It shouldn’t be strictly technical, it should have a creative aesthetic as well including more graphics, more images, larger font, full-width, no boxed content, and no shrine of photos of your products. Showing your brand in the 2017 creative environment is the key for the best manufacturing marketing strategy.

What matters the most moving forward for your website is content. It matters to Google, for how they rank you, how consumers engage with you, and how they’ll respect you as a subject matter expert. Less is more may have been true in the past as to not overload your audience with information, but we are in the era of the “informed buyer” and Google’s algorithm has adapted. With Google playing the largest part of how you are ranked, it’s key to note that Google does care about more content, which accommodating will, in turn, bring you a larger audience through increased ranking. It’s less about stuffing your keyword “x” percentage in your content and more about content relevancy with complimentary subject matter topics.

On average, we see that manufacturing companies have 150-250 words per page, which won’t gain favor from Google or convey your authority as a field expert. For any pages that you are trying to rank for a competitive keyword or phrase, you should have a minimum of 750-1500 words. In short, unless you can produce a minimum of 500 words on a page, that page should not be broken out into a page of its own.

Creative, content, and rank aside, though they play a great part in bringing traffic to your site, the website’s design should focus on UX, or user experience. Menu structures that are busy, breaking products and services out into too many categories with 20-50 different pages can make for poor UX. Instead, make sure that the information is strategically organized on the site, making it simple and intuitive for people to navigate. No lengthy menus, keep things simple, organized, and efficient while still conveying the value proposition of your product to keep your manufacturing marketing strategy focused.

Keep in mind the importance of these internal category, product, and industry pages. Too often, traffic is sent to the homepage as most companies consider that the focal point of the site. Though a good-looking, functional homepage is paramount, the value of the internal pages can’t be missed. Why? Because these are the pages where all paid advertising traffic should be sent to for the most ROI on those advertising campaigns. The best advertising hack I can provide is that your ad graphic, copy and landing page must be relevant to the specific campaign. If you’re promoting a product/service, send the campaign traffic to that specific page on your site and not your home page.

Driving Traffic To Your Site

You’ve invested the time and the money to upgrade your digital content, ensuring clean design, UX, proper copy, and keyword strategy. The next step is driving traffic and increasing your brand awareness to bring current and future prospects to your site and into your sales funnel.

There are countless manufacturing marketing strategy tactics that can be used to drive traffic to your site through referrals, backlinks, industry association, cold calls, trade shows, billboards, radio ads, print ads, and so on. Though these all have value at some level, you should audit the price you’re paying against the value returned. Too often because the value isn’t quantifiable or tracked closely and has been used for years, lack luster tactics are still getting a marketing budget that isn’t deserved.

For digital manufacturing marketing strategy, primarily focus on these two categories: organic and paid.

Organic Search

Having a robust on-page SEO and off-page SEO plan in place, is the best way to acquire organic growth and traffic in your manufacturing marketing strategy. You want to be ranking for the keywords that people will type to find your products, however, the number of people that are searching monthly for your services is not significant in the grand scheme of Google search volume. Therefore, you should be strategic and complete a significant amount of research, including competitors, before setting your keyword phrases.

For example, our quick research showed that the phrase “metalworking fluids,” is searched on average 170 times per month and the phrase “industrial lubricants” is searched an average of 320 times per month in the United States.

Unfortunately, but realistically, there are not 10,000 people searching for your services every month. If you combine those 2 numbers, totaling 490, a significant amount of those people isn’t seeking your products at all. When looking at monthly search volume of a keyword phrase, the one thing that can’t be known is what we call the “intent of search”. Out of those numbers, some could be competitors, researchers, accidental searches, and the last percentage are people looking for what you offer. It’s important to take the numbers you see and filter them through an intent of search mindset. On-page and off-page SEO are important for your organic traffic and provide a significant value once it matures, but cannot be the only tactic that you’re using in your manufacturing marketing strategy.

Paid Search

Paid search is a way to quickly get to the first page of Google by using Google AdWords. It’s crucial to acknowledge the lack of insight into the intent of search, as a percentage of your funds are going to be wasted on those invalid searches. Because of this, Google AdWords campaigns must be extremely strict and narrowly focused by using keyword ‘phrase match’ and keyword ‘exact match,’ shying away from using the ‘broad match’ setting.

Using “metalworking fluids” as an example phrase that you want to rank for in a ‘broad campaign,’ words from that phrase or similar terms or phrases can be searched in combination to serve your ad. Using ‘phrase match,’ some combination of your designated search phrase must be searched to serve your ad which narrows it down further while allowing some serving flexibility, and for ‘exact match,’ the exact phrase “metalworking fluids” must be searched to serve your ad, ensuring that it makes it only to your intended audience.

In my experience, our new clients were traditionally losing an average of 42% of their monthly budget to non-relevant search phrases prior to our agency optimizing their campaigns. Is there value in PPC AdWords campaigns? Yes, however, you need to be strategic with your ad copy, click destination, and your phrase match type to see a respectable return on investment in your manufacturing marketing strategy.

Social Media Marketing For Manufacturing

Everyone, has heard the importance of social preached and the trends associated with it over the last 10 years, as it continues to grow in significance in the buying process. But how much of a role should it play in your manufacturing marketing strategy? The key aspect of social marketing is making sure that you are active on the social platform where your potential prospects are active. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are the big three in terms of social platforms that present these opportunities. Your prospects may be on all three, but it’s critical to look at where it’s easiest to get the most attention from them. Experience has proven LinkedIn to be the primary social outlet that provides the most ROI to manufacturing and industrial companies.

Organic Social

To reach the most prospects and clients organically using LinkedIn, it’s imperative to have an updated, accurate company and personal profile. From a sales/marketing standpoint, this means a compelling professional story in your summary that will resonate with your potential clients along with buttoning up everything from headline, headshot, profile content and engagement with your network. Your active sales/marketing team must be dedicated to time spent daily producing/sharing content that will add value to your network and engage with connections for sales/opportunities to follow.

Continue to build your personal network daily by using the 80/20 rule. Keep 80% of your connections relevant to your industry and the goals looking to be achieved in terms of prospects and industry professionals. The other 20% should consist of influencers with 10k or more connections that can assist in pushing your content to a broader audience, gaining you notoriety as a knowledge source in the industry.

Aside from your own marketing tool, use LinkedIn to provide value to your network. This tends to get missed as, in marketing, everything is done to push content featuring the company doing the marketing. You’ll find an abundant return if your company shares information to help the community without self-promoting and provide industry relevant information 75% of the time. There is a time to push company content, but focus on providing value first in your manufacturing marketing strategy.

Paid Social

Though LinkedIn’s paid ads will have you reaching for your wallet, the returns will justify the cost. LinkedIn provides “self-managed ads” which afford you the benefit of managing the budget (daily and per click/impression), whether the post is on or off, demographic, and creative. Over the past two years, my industrial marketing agency has managed a significant spend for our clients on LinkedIn ads and seen the highest ROI and brand awareness return vs any other paid advertising platform.

What’s the magic? The ability to create micro targeted campaigns to specific people; title, location, job function, school, industry, company size, group member, etc. has allowed the creative ad to match the demographic at the most strategic level. You can strategically target your demographic and provide content that is relevant to them. Matching that with an appropriate click destination or lead form significantly increases the click through rate and leads generated.

The top two performing advertising tactics are sponsored posts, delivered in the native news feed, and sponsored InMail which is LinkedIn’s version of email marketing. If you’re going at it yourself, your monthly budget could be as little as $1K if you have the team to do the creative or you can hire an agency like mine to create and manage everything for you on your manufacturing marketing strategy.

Manufacturing Marketing Strategy Summary

In any facet of marketing, the worth completely relies on the cost of your strategy versus the value it provides. The comfortable marketing methods that the manufacturing industry has utilized for years may still work for your company, and they may not. Regardless, digital is a road you can’t afford not to go down in the era of informed buyers and the importance of your company’s digital reputation, making it in a manufacturing company’s best interest to trust their digital persona to a manufacturing-specific marking agency. The takeaway is a strategic combination of organic and paid traffic and social in harmony with a clean, functional, tactful, user-friendly website as your backbone to your manufacturing marketing strategy.

This article was originally posted on the November Issue of Compoundings Magazine which is a publication by the Independent Lubricants Manufacturers Association, here is their November Issue