Effective digital marketing for manufacturers requires always being relevant and responsive to target audiences’ needs and highlighting your company’s value vs. your competitors. Prospects are increasingly deciding which manufacturing companies will make their short list based solely on online research. This means every element of a manufacturer’s marketing strategy must positively differentiate their company, educate prospects and channel partners, and drive leads.
According to research and advisory firm Forrester, 60% of B2B prospects prefer not to interact with a sales rep as their primary source of information; 68% prefer to research on their own, online; and 62% say they develop selection criteria based solely on digital content. As a result, reaching and converting prospects into buyers via marketing has become more challenging than ever for B2B manufacturers.
Seven Strategies Every B2B Manufacturer Should Include in their Digital Marketing Plan
Integrating key strategic digital marketing elements into your overall B2B manufacturing marketing plan is critical to successfully targeting and guiding prospects through the sales cycle. Follow these seven essential strategies to stay ahead of your competition.
#1. Search Engine Optimization: A successful SEO strategy boosts your manufacturing company’s website search engine rankings in Google. If you don’t have an SEO strategy, people looking for your products (right now) aren’t finding you.
There are two types of searches that happen on search engines like Google: branded and non-branded.
Branded search example: “Arnold Company case packer”
- In this example, the searcher knows the name (brand) of the company they’re looking for.
Non-branded search example: “semi-automatic case packer manufacturer”
- In this example, the searcher isn’t searching for a particular manufacturer by name (brand) and is instead is trying to find a manufacturer to help them with their specific need.
Most companies do a good job ranking for branded searches, it’s the non-branded searches that represent a massive opportunity — people actively looking for the products you sell who have an intent to buy. In these instances, manufacturers whose websites rank organically (not as a result of paid ads) at the top of the search engines will be the ones searchers find.
In order to properly rank for non-branded searches in Google, you’ll need to ensure your site’s technical architecture (sitemap, encryption, responsive design, page load times, etc.) is well thought through. In addition, you must focus on developing ongoing strategies for backlink building, for creating content that draws new business to your site, and for staying on top of ever-changing search engine algorithms.
#2. Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO): While SEO is about driving traffic to your manufacturing company’s website, CRO is about converting its traffic. CRO entails optimizing the offers on your website in order for it to help convert site visitors (who are anonymous to you) into leads (who you can identify and follow up with). This generally entails getting a website visitor to fill out a form or call your company.
Our client Rose Displays manufactures visual communications systems for the biggest retailers in the world (Best Buy, Kohl’s, Columbia, etc.). Given the custom nature of their work and the size of the deals (i.e. manufacturing signage systems for 300+ Best Buy stores), the sales process is long and intensive. To help convert more prospects who visit Rose Display’s site into customers, we wrote and are promoting an ebook on their website that helps visitors with their research:
In order to download the ebook (it’s a PDF), prospects must submit a form with their contact information, which provides Rose Displays with leads that can be nurtured. By being able to influence the purchase decision of these prospects much earlier than their competitors who do not have their contact information, Rose Displays has a distinct business advantage.
Another way to increase the conversion rate on a website is to deploy a chatbot, which is an automated live chat mechanism that asks website visitors qualifying questions based on pre-defined scripts. It does a nice job of converting new leads for clients who don’t have a person available to actually operate the live chat, with the added bonus of working 24/7. We deployed a chatbot on the website of our client Consolidated Sterilizer Systems, an autoclave manufacturer, to generate leads.
Other CRO tactics we employ for manufacturing clients in order to convert anonymous website visitors into identifiable leads include A/B testing of offers, A/B testing of landing pages, webinar offers, newsletter subscription offers, and pop-up CTA technology.
CRO is particularly crucial for manufacturers because the purchase cycle tends to be longer due to higher price points, adoption barriers, and the increasing number of people involved in the purchase decision. The earlier and faster you can convert new leads, the better.
#3. Paid Advertising:
There are three types of paid online advertising manufacturer’s need to consider:
- Search ads
- Remarketing ads
- Prospecting ads
Paid Advertising: Search Ads
First up, search ads. These are the ads you see when you type keywords into a search engine. Each has a little “Ad” icon next to it. Here are examples of paid advertising, one of which is for the biosafety cabinet product of Vital’s client Labconco, which manufactures laboratory equipment.
Paid Advertising: Remarketing Ads
Next up, remarketing ads. These are the ads that follow you around after you visit a website. They can appear on other industry websites, media websites like The New York Times, or on social networks like Facebook or LinkedIn. Here’s an example of a remarketing ad on Facebook for Labconco .
What Labconco has going on here is a one-two punch where they first get prospects to their website with a search ad and then follow them around with a remarketing ad. Remarketing ads have a high return on ad spend because they target people who have already looked at your products so have demonstrated at least some level of intent to buy.
In addition to targeting specific prospects who have visited your website, remarketing ads can also be targeted to groups of users based on demographics, interests, or other data on social media platforms. Social media remarketing ads have different formats (video and text) and may appear in prospects’ feeds or timelines. Which social media platform to advertise on depends on your product. For example, LinkedIn ads can be quite effective for B2B manufacturers since most of your target prospects’ employees have LinkedIn profiles.
Here’s another example of a remarketing ad from Hyster, a manufacturer of forklift trucks, that follows prospects around after they visit its website.
Paid Advertising: Prospecting Ads
Last up is prospecting ads. The only difference between a remarketing ad and a prospecting ad is the targeting. While remarketing ads target prospects who have previously visited your website, prospecting ads target those who have not yet done so. With prospecting ads you select target demographics you want to see your ad. The format and design of the ad types are very similar to remarketing ads.
By incorporating all three paid advertising approaches into your manufacturing company’s marketing plan, you’ll ultimately help increase sales, but only if your advertising strategy is data-driven. Data-driven ads use customer data to tailor messaging and campaigns to target audiences based on a variety of factors including interests, geolocation, buyer journey stage, and more. This personalization improves target audience engagement.
#4. Email Marketing: For manufacturing companies, there are several key email types required for a strategic email engagement plan.
Segmented Blast Emails
Segmented blast emails are those that are segmented by buyer personas. So, instead of sending the same email to your list of 10,000 people, you break the list up into five 2,000-person lists based on buyer personas and then customize the email copy to each persona.
Here’s an example of a segmented blast email to announce a new product from our client Parterre Flooring Systems, a commercial flooring manufacturer:
Here’s another from equipment manufacturer Bobcat:
Lead Nurture/Drip Campaigns
Lead nurture email campaigns (aka drip campaigns) are a great way to send extremely tailored and relevant emails to prospects in order to warm them up for sales and even prompt them to book a meeting with your sales team. They are typically triggered by a specific action on your website such as filling out a form to download an ebook. What happens, in the case of an ebook download, is that the prospect is enrolled into an email workflow of several follow-up emails based on the topic of the ebook.
This strategic mixture of personalized and relevant emails keeps your manufacturing company top of mind with prospects while building a relationship with them. In addition, the impact of the entire series of emails can be measured to see which are the strongest performers. The Definitive Guide to B2B Email Marketing is a great resource for additional insight.
#5. Content Strategy: Your content strategy is the content you feature on your site that is intended to resonate with prospects.
Bobcat uses a content strategy that often focuses on telling customer stories in order to show prospects how business owners just like them solved their problems with Bobcat equipment.
Examples of Bobcat’s posts are:
- Contractor Lands Major Grading Jobs with 3D Grading System
- Equipment Comfort Features Let Contractor Continue Work Despite Chronic Pain
- Concrete Contractor Builds a $5 Million Company with the Right Equipment
- 5 Ways to Boost Snow Crew Morale During Winter Storms
For our client, Consolidated Sterilizer Systems, we write about all aspects of autoclave ownership, including common maintenance questions. This type of content strategy helps position Consolidated Sterilizer Systems as a helpful resource to all autoclave buyers and significantly increases awareness of their brand.
Your content strategy, like that of Vital’s clients, should highlight your manufacturing company’s value to potential customers (how it addresses their needs and challenges – provides a high ROI), anticipate and overcome their objections, and build an overall sense of trust. In addition, it must help with SEO by incorporating keywords and phrases.
#6. Buyer Personas: Who are the key customers you are targeting with your B2B marketing efforts? Developing buyer personas — fictional representations of your ideal customers based on actual data about their pain points, motivations, demographics, key challenges and more — enables you to create customized campaigns they’re likely to respond to. The data for your buyer personas can be gleaned from customer interviews, surveys, competitive analyses, sales team input, and anything else that provides valuable insight you can use to connect with and ultimately convert customers.
#7. Competitive Analysis: You obviously want prospects to select your company over your competitors. To help ensure that they do, it’s important to analyze how your competitors are positioning themselves in the marketplace and what strategies they are using. A competitive analysis enables you to out-compete competitors by equipping you with information about their strengths and weaknesses.
From a digital marketing standpoint, you’ll want to analyze your competitors’ SEO performance, as well as their paid advertising performance.
Here’s a screenshot analyzing the paid advertising budgets of laboratory fume hood manufacturers and resellers:
(Screenshot from SpyFu)
This type of competitive analysis lets you view paid advertising budgets, as well the actual keywords and ad copy that your competitors are using. Using this data, you can make better decisions about how to deploy your digital marketing strategy. We also recommend using Moz and SEMrush to further analyze organic ranking strategies, as well as what links competitors have earned to their websites.
Once you’ve conducted a competitive analysis, it’s a good idea to keep tabs on competitors in order to know when they change their positioning and to keep an eye out for new ones, so you can respond accordingly. To do this you can set up monitors that will alert you (via email) when they make changes to their websites, as well as Google Alerts for the brand names.
Marketing for Manufacturers: The Future
A nimble and strategic digital marketing strategy is crucial for all B2B manufacturing companies seeking to maintain a competitive advantage and win market share. It requires an open-minded, forward-thinking internal team and marketing partners with the proven ability to ensure that your company is meeting the ever-changing expectations of its well-informed target audiences.
There is no doubt that B2B manufacturing companies who successfully deliver the right message to the right customer at the right time will dominate the marketplace. Working with an experienced digital marketing partner creates nearly unlimited opportunities to leverage the strategies detailed above to drive business growth. At Vital we know this to be true because of two things. Our data analytics and the fact that our customers stay with us year after year. If you want to gain market share with a highly effective digital marketing strategy, give us a shout.
Stay ahead of your competition. Fill out the form below to download Vital’s Marketing Plan Template, which features lead-driving strategies we implement for our clients.