Marketing Tactics in Manufacturing Often Lag Behind Other Industries
I often remark that manufacturers, especially industrial manufacturers, are marketing like it’s 1995 – Trade Shows, Print Ads, and Product Cut Sheets are the extent of their marketing efforts.
They have a website that hasn’t been updated in 10 years. They likely have a LinkedIn page that no one posts to. Occasionally, they put out press releases or write articles for trade groups.
But for the most part, they have sales reps pounding the pavement, dropping in on clients, and making phone calls. It was barely effective before a global pandemic shut down travel and changed how we work.
The winds were already changing. People communicate more digitally than they do face-to-face or even by voice. Clients do their own research before even reaching out to talk to a company. When they do reach out, they usually send emails or use chatbots to communicate before they pick up the phone.
I can hear manufacturers audibly sigh as they think, “But our industry is different.” I hear you. Manufacturer’s marketing needs have always lagged behind consumer goods and services. But just because it’s moving more slowly doesn’t mean it’s not still moving in that direction.
Time and time again, we see companies that embrace modern forms of marketing and sales winning in the marketplace. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to catch up.
How Marketing in Manufacturing is Different
So, why does manufacturing lag behind other industries regarding marketing? It comes back to two factors.
1. Higher Cost of Goods
Industrial products tend to have a higher price tag than consumer goods. This doesn’t necessarily mean each unit is expensive, but when an order is placed, the total on the invoice will be high.
This increased cost commitment requires a great deal of trust. If a purchasing agent is going to commit to half a million dollars to buy your products, they must trust you and the product you’re selling them. In most cases, this trust is built through relationships.
This has, in turn, led to a sales-driven go-to-market strategy for most manufacturers. Companies focus on hiring salespeople who can build and nurture relationships that turn into sales.
2. Complicated Sales Approval Processes
If someone wants to buy a pair of shoes, they, at most, have to go through one other person to purchase them. Usually, that’s a partner or parent. When someone buys $1 Million in equipment, there are going to be a few more people involved.
Again, in these situations, relationships matter.
The problem with the solely sales-focused approach is this. A person can only manage so many relationships. And in a mature market, salespeople will always focus on the lowest-hanging fruit. In other words, they’ll spend more time harvesting than hunting. They’ll close deals that are immediate or easy instead of building new markets and opening new doors.
I’m not knocking them. People, just like water, will find the path of least resistance. It’s much easier to lean on existing relationships instead of building new ones. Especially when newer and younger customers want to do business differently.
I’m clearly generalizing here, and plenty of salespeople work hard to build new markets and push new products. But on the whole, it’s getting harder and harder to cold call on a prospect and generate a sale. It’s much easier when the leads are coming to you.
And that’s where marketing comes in.
How Marketing for Manufacturers Is Not Different
Manufacturers have always used marketing to generate leads. Trade shows created opportunities for awareness and new relationships. Print ads generated awareness and guided customers toward a conversation.
And no matter the tactic used, marketing has always been a critical part of the sales process, helping you:
- Understand the Customer Better: The fundamental goal of marketing is to communicate what your product does and why a customer should buy it, but it can also help us better understand customer needs and interests. This is true in both manufacturing and non-manufacturing industries. Marketing paths like lead generators will help you gauge interest. Automation allows you to track engagement. You’ll learn more about your customer the more you market your business.
- Build Brand Awareness: Both manufacturing and non-manufacturing industries use marketing to build brand awareness and reach potential customers. With brand awareness comes authority and reputation, which helps teams generate more sales.
- Generate Leads: All industries use marketing to generate leads, attract potential customers, and drive sales. You can’t overlook the importance of lead generation, despite manufacturing being different. In some ways, lead generation is more important to manufacturers as the audiences are so targeted that mass marketing won’t move the needle.
- Product Positioning: Marketing in both manufacturing and non-manufacturing industries involves positioning products in a way that differentiates them from competitors and appeals to customers. You need to stand out to avoid getting lost in the crowd.
- Measurement and Analysis: All industries use metrics and data analysis to measure the success of marketing efforts and make informed decisions. You may not have used this tactic before, but you can double down on successes when you know where you’re generating the best return.
Despite some differences in the specifics of the products or services being marketed, the general marketing principles remain consistent across industries. Marketing aims to understand and meet customer needs, build brand awareness, generate leads, and drive sales, regardless of the type of industry.
Shifting Buying Tendencies
When you’re used to being the first, or maybe even only source of truth for a customer, you can get away with knowing your product and only your product. But that’s not the way of the world anymore. Researching a purchase is easier than ever, and it’s generally considered a terrible financial decision to make a significant purchase before you’ve looked into it.
When customers can educate themselves and make informed decisions, it gives them ownership of their purchases. The increasing use of social media and online reviews means buyers can see what others have experienced with a particular product or service. As a result, buyers are taking more control of the process and becoming more empowered in their purchasing decisions.
How, then, can you guide your clients through your manufacturing sales funnel without them feeling like you’re trying to rob their power?
It isn’t a secret, of course. But once you start leaning on digital marketing, you may feel like you’ve broken some code to unlock more conversions.
The right marketing can attract and nurture more clients at the top of the funnel, allowing sales staff to focus on those closer to a purchase decision.
Here are some modern methods for marketing your manufacturing business:
- Develop a Sales Funnel:
A sales funnel often starts with a guide, quiz, or video that someone is willing to give their contact information for. Then an email sequence follows that answers key questions and nurtures a prospect toward a purchase. The goal of a sales funnel is to increase the likelihood of a sale and shorten the sales cycle by guiding the customer through the decision-making process.
- Content Marketing:
Develop and distribute valuable content, such as blog posts, ebooks, webinars, and infographics, to educate and engage potential buyers. Anticipate your audience’s questions and provide the answers for them. If you provide the answers they’re looking for, you can establish your brand as the authority.
- Digital Advertising:
Use targeted advertising to reach potential buyers and drive traffic to your website, where they can access your content and learn more about your offerings. This path may be the one you’re most familiar with, but it isn’t the be-all, end-all tactic for every business.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO):
Optimize your website and content to rank higher in search engine results, making it easier for potential buyers to find your company and offerings. There are several tips and tricks to help you increase your site’s SEO authority, and this is one of those instances where experience helps.
- Social Media:
Use social media platforms to engage with potential buyers, share your content, and build your brand. Social media will connect you with your audience and allow you to maintain a finger on the pulse of your business and industry. Of course, your audience likely won’t be on TikTok, but if you create an active LinkedIn profile and provide helpful content, you can build key relationships that might turn into leads.
Using marketing to fill the top of the funnel, you can attract and educate potential buyers, nurturing them along their purchasing journey. Salespeople will then be allowed to focus on closing, as they will be engaging with more qualified and informed leads.
How Goal Alignment Delivers Success
Align marketing strategies with your business goals by defining the differences between a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) and a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL).
MQLs can be vetted based on engagement with marketing content, behavior on the website, and fit with the target customer profile. Identifying MQLs allows a business to prioritize its sales efforts and focus on the most promising leads, improving the chances of closing a deal. Because of this, you want to ensure you’re providing opportunities for your clients to engage.
If you build brand awareness and answer questions before they’re even asked, you’re more likely to create authority, instill trust, and convince someone your product is the best solution.
Your marketing strategy should be designed to go after quality MQLs and include a plan for getting the lead into the hands of a salesperson. When adequately primed for sales, leads become a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) that your salesperson can guide through the final stages of the sales process.
Is it time to outsource your marketing? Weigh the pros and cons of in-house vs. outsourcing your marketing efforts.
Spartan’s Take on Marketing for Manufacturers
A strong marketing plan helps reach new customers, drive sales, and increase revenue. With a well-developed strategy, you’ll gather insights into customer needs and preferences, allowing you, the manufacturer, to refine your offerings and improve customer satisfaction.
Spartan Marketing can help differentiate you from other manufacturers and showcase your unique offerings. Reach out if you want an agency perspective on how marketing can improve your business.