Digital Marketing Strategy for Manufacturing Companies: The Definitive Guide (2022)

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What is this guide?

An introduction to digital marketing tactics and how to put together a winning strategy that improves your bottom line.

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Who is this guide for?

Manufacturers interested in bringing traffic to their website and attracting, nurturing, and converting leads through web based activities.

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What will I learn and be able to do with this information?

You’ll learn what goes into a focused digital marketing strategy, what tactics are available, their pros and cons, and how to start putting together your own strategy.

Introduction

Which of the following statements are true of your business right now?

  • “We’re hoping to grow this year—but we aren’t sure how.”
  • “We’re struggling to generate enough leads to fill our pipeline.”
  • “Too many of our leads never become customers.”
  • “Our website is dated and isn’t bringing in business.”
  • “We’re having trouble getting discovered in our market. Savvy competitors are taking a lot of our opportunities.”
  • “The way we did marketing and sales years ago isn’t working as well today.”

An effective, well-executed digital marketing strategy can solve all of these problems.

When manufacturers don’t have a strategy for marketing themselves online, they typically end up cycling between tactics without a centralized strategy—the old “throwing things against a wall to see what sticks” routine.

They might see some one-off results now and then, but those wins are infrequent and costly. Without a strategy to inform what they should and shouldn’t do, these manufacturers often double-down on traditional outbound tactics like:

  • Cold calling
  • List buying
  • Poorly-targeted paid ads
None of these work particularly well, but definitely cost a lot in time and money. An effective, well-executed digital marketing strategy, on the other hand:
  • Ensures the effectiveness of every marketing activity can be measured so you can do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.
  • Uses actual data from customers and other sources to determine how best to reach your market, rather than relying on gut assumptions alone.
  • Understands your ideal customers’ goals, challenges, and other important attributes, and then clearly positions your products as solutions to those challenges and the best way to reach those goals.
  • Addresses the entire buying journey from the “awareness” stage to the “consideration” and “decision” stages. (Most companies focus only on the very few prospects who are actively in-market and ignore the much larger group that isn’t actively “in market,” but should absolutely buy what you sell.)
  • Acknowledges what’s currently working and what’s not working for your competitors so you can do what’s worked for them even better and potentially avoid making the same mistakes.
  • Makes marketing and sales simultaneously more effective and more efficient (more revenue with less effort).

Think about it this way: If your revenue goals are the destination, a digital marketing strategy is the map that will get you there. You still might get there without one, but likely not—at least not as fast or as cost-effectively.

This guide explains why manufacturers ought to have an effective digital marketing strategy and the basic ingredients you need to put one together.

Here at Madison Marketing Group, we’ve helped several manufacturing and industrial companies plan, develop, and execute digital marketing strategies that have directly improved their bottom line.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you do the same.

Why digital marketing for manufacturers?

Simply put, digital marketing enables manufacturers to connect with today’s buyer because today’s buyer primarily uses the internet to answer their questions, find solutions, evaluate vendors, and eventually engage them.

At this point, it shouldn’t be a surprise that 89% of B2B buyers use the internet when they need to do buying research—and that statistic is from 2015.

Since then, we’ve only become more reliant on the internet. About three in ten U.S. adults say they are now “almost constantly” online, according to Pew.

To think the internet isn’t the primary way just about everyone finds, researches, and buys from manufacturers is to stick one’s head in the sand. Before going any further, we need to acknowledge that your prospects want you to be present online because that’s often where they’re going to find solutions.

And your buyers aren’t just using the internet to find companies—they’re executing most of their buying process there, too.

  • The average B2B buyer today progresses more than 70% of the way through the decision-making process before they even engage a salesperson, according to a 2017 survey of 283 C-level executives, VPs, and Directors.

For manufacturers, this reliance on the internet may not be quite as extreme as it is in other B2B industries. Regardless, that's still a lot of time spent searching and consuming content before a prospect even asks for a consultation.

If you think about it, just about every channel manufacturing buyers use to do business—even the traditional channels like in-person trade shows—ultimately leads to a company website one way or another now.

  • Prospects land on company websites when they search for solutions on Google.
  • Prospects land on company websites when they search them out after shaking hands at a trade show booth.
  • Prospects land on company websites after hearing colleagues or peers simply mention vendors.
  • Prospects land on a company website. They scan QR codes on direct mail pieces that showed up on their desk.

The point is, you owe it to your prospects to be available to them where they’re going to look for you. And today, that place is almost always your website.

But simply having a website isn’t enough. You need to fill it with the information prospects expect to find there. You also need to make it a pleasure to use—i.e., fast, simple, and easily navigable.

Simply put, an effective website gives you an opportunity to:

  • Be found by more of your market
  • Make an excellent impression no matter how a prospect finds you or where they are in the buying journey
  • Showcase your products or services in the best light—24x7
  • Provide prospects with everything they need to move through as much of the buying process on their own as they want
  • Make it extremely easy for prospects to get in touch with you

This isn’t to say that referrals, direct mail, trade shows, and all the other channels that continue to work for you shouldn’t also be a part of your overall marketing strategy.

It’s only to say that your website is where most people from every channel will ultimately land. It’s become the natural extension of basically every existing marketing channel that exists today, both digital and physical.

An effective digital marketing strategy does two things in light of this:

  • First, it ensures that your website is equipped with all the features and information prospects need to find you, convert into leads, and become customers.
  • Second, it dictates how to extend your marketing program into the broader web to reach more of your market through online channels like search engines, social platforms, and the other digital spaces your prospects occupy and use.

The challenges of modern marketing for manufacturers

Before we explore what goes into a good strategy, let’s give some context by calling out the challenges that make good digital marketing hard for manufacturers to pull off, but can totally be addressed.

Challenge #1: Most manufacturers don’t have in-house digital marketing expertise

The first challenge has less to do with marketing and more do to with the composition of most manufacturing companies.

Simply put, while many mid-to-large manufacturers have an in-house marketing person or team of some kind, it’s harder to find digital marketing expertise in particular.

This makes sense because, until somewhat recently, manufacturers didn’t need these skill sets on their team. They needed people who could do media buys, plan and manage trade shows, and run direct mail campaigns.

All those things are still critical—but now those digital skills are needed, too. And it can still be tough to find professionals that can wear as many of the hats they’d need to to create a digital strategy and execute it well.

Not only does digital marketing demand expertise across several different areas like strategy creation, content creation, social media, digital advertising, analytics, and graphic design—it also requires a lot of bandwidth to actually get that work done.

This is why many manufacturers opt to work with an agency that can bring in those skills and competencies as an extension of the company’s team without having to needlessly hire in-house.

This is exactly how we work with companies. Contact us to learn more about that.

Challenge #2: Selling to committees rather than individuals

Manufacturers, like other B2Bs, rarely sell to just a single individual. Instead, they sell to a committee—especially when products are complex and expensive. There’s usually one decision-maker and at least one influencer who is impacted by the purchase, and the influencer campaigns the decision-maker for or against a given product or service.

If a company was looking for a specific piece of equipment to improve their packaging line, for example, the packaging line manager (the influencer) may recommend a new vendor’s packaging solution to their procurement manager (another influencer).

The procurement manager would then decide whether the company makes it onto the approved vendor list. This person may report to a CFO (the decision-maker) who would want to understand its ROI and ultimately signs on the dotted line.

We give this example to show how manufacturers that sell to “buying committees” can get much better results by pitching to each person involved in a purchase, rather than to just one of them.

In that same example, each person in the buying committee has differing goals and challenges that motivate them to support or argue against a purchase. The frontline packaging manager might care more about user-friendliness than the CFO, who cares more about ROI.

An effective digital marketing strategy will identify what each person involved in the purchase needs to know about your product to decide whether it’s going to help them, specifically.

It anticipates and proactively answers their questions, addresses objections before they’re raised, and positions your product as the solution to everyone’s problems.



💡 Exercise

For one or more of your products, write down all the roles that are typically involved in buying decisions among your customers. For each role write down:

  • Whether they’re an influencer or decision-maker
  • Their specific goals in solving a given problem
  • The challenges they face in achieving those goals
  • What questions they’ll be asking

Then, ask yourself if and where you’re providing the information they need right now.

Is it available on your website where prospects can gather it themselves, or do they have to talk to sales to get it?

The less satisfied you are with your answers, the more work there is to do. This process is often called buyer persona mapping.



Challenge #3: Longer sales cycles

Many manufacturers struggle with long, drawn-out sales cycles, especially when selling to multiple people in an organization and when products are perceived as major investments.

Usually, what makes sales cycles longer than they ought to be boils down to an inefficient exchange of information at various steps in the buying process.

Industrial sales are often complex and require both sides to ask and answer questions as the deal progresses, like:

  • What is your product?
  • Does it solve our specific problem?
  • How does it solve our problem?
  • How is it better than alternative options?
  • How much does it cost?
  • What’s the ROI?
  • How long does it take to procure and install?
  • What do we need prior to install?
  • What does training look like?
  • What does maintenance look like?

The list goes on—and that’s just the prospect’s side of the questioning.

Without a digital marketing strategy that proactively answers these questions, salespeople end up spending a ton of time doing marketing rather than sales.

  • They answer the same basic questions over and over again—answers that could have been addressed on the website.
  • They spend their time collecting qualifying information via email or phone when a simple digital form would be faster and more convenient for the prospect and the salesperson.
  • They manually run the same product demo over and over again when a recorded demo could have been seen by more prospects while saving the salesperson time that’s better spent elsewhere.

An effective digital marketing strategy, in addition to attracting more business, frees salespeople to actually do sales by guiding people into and through most of the buying journey that shouldn’t need a salesperson’s involvement.

It maps that sales process, circles the spots where things slow down, and enables sales by eliminating the friction of delivering information back and forth, so salespeople can work more qualified deals further down the funnel—while making those deals go faster with fewer drop-outs.

This all comes back to the fact we highlighted earlier that so many prospects now guide themselves through most of the funnel before they ever talk to sales.

While salespeople may feel like they’re losing the control they once had before the internet became the way we buy things, it’s actually a net good because they can spend less time working leads at the top of the funnel and spend more of their time catching better opportunities at the bottom. It’s a change worth embracing!

Preparing a digital marketing strategy

Before you start putting a digital marketing strategy together, there’s some important prep work to get done, first. That starts with setting clear, measurable goals.

Goals

What are your business’s specific marketing and sales goals?

The easiest way to think about this is to write down your overall revenue goal for a given period of time—and then do the math to estimate how many leads or orders you’ll need to hit that goal based on your close rate. If you haven’t written these kinds of goals down yet, the “SMART” framework makes it easy.

SMART stands for:

  • Specific: Your goal is narrow enough that you are able to create a focused plan for achieving it.
  • Measurable: You are able to track your progress and determine whether or not you achieved your goal.
  • Attainable: You can reasonably meet this goal within the time frame you have specified.
  • Relevant: It aligns with your business’s needs and objectives.
  • Time-based: You have defined a time frame for achieving this goal and have set a deadline.



💡 Exercise

Set big-picture SMART goals for your business—specifically your revenue target over a given period of time, and the leads or orders you’ll need to reach it. These will inform all your subsequent actions. Read our other guide to see how to do this.



Time

Results

How fast do you need to see results to hit those goals you just laid out?

Some marketing tactics, like search engine optimization (SEO), are long-term strategies that can take several months, or even a year, to start generating significant returns—but can continue to generate results over a long period of time.

Other tactics, like advertising on social platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn, or on search engines like Google, can start generating leads as soon as you set up and turn on a campaign—but work only for as long as you keep paying to keep those campaigns running.

In other words, some marketing tactics are slow to start working, but once they do, pay huge dividends well into the future. Other tactics can bring in leads and business right now, but require you to keep paying for them to sustain it. This is a great example of how your goals directly inform your marketing strategy at a tactical level.

It’s also one area of planning that can be hard, if not impossible, to do on your own without an extensive background in digital marketing. Balancing an available budget against specific business goals and all the other factors that can play into this question require a thoughtful calculus. Contact us to get help constructing a strategy that reflects your goals and budget.

Deadlines

Similarly, digital marketing project deadlines may be driven by time-sensitive events, such as trade shows or busy seasons that need to be planned for. Identifying which tactics can be executed properly and effectively within these sorts of time parameters is essential.

For example, if a canoe company wanted to create a video that showcased the quality craftsmanship that goes into each of their custom canoes in time for their new site to launch or to bring to an event, they would need to plan in time for scriptwriting, filming, editing, sound design, visual effects, and more.

A shorter and simpler 30-second video demonstrating how a product works, shot on an iPhone in the plant, on the other hand, might only take a couple of days.

Again, these sorts of details all need to be carefully accounted for when laying out a digital marketing strategy against a timeline.



💡 Exercise

Identify your hard deadlines based on events, seasonality, and other time-sensitive factors, and when you need to see results to meet your SMART goals.



Customers

Understanding your customers’ behaviors and preferences relevant to your buying process is critical for developing a marketing strategy that aligns with how real people find and buy things (rather than relying on a bunch of hunches).

Clearly describing who your buyers are, what motivates them, and what challenges they encounter enables you to:

  • Write content that your prospects are more likely to find compelling and useful.
  • Write ads that are more narrowly targeted to their pain points and desires.
  • Craft messaging that resonates at a deeper level, and motivates prospects to buy.
  • Avoid working off of incorrect assumptions that confuse prospects and hurt your marketing efforts.

Of course, any manufacturer worth their salt knows all about their best buyers. The point is to get this important info down on paper and into the hands of the people who write your website, content, ads, etc., so your messaging is clear and resonant with prospects.

As we mentioned earlier, it’s common for multiple people to be involved in a purchase. For each role or “buyer persona” influencing or making purchasing decisions, you should identify:

  • What they are trying to achieve
  • What's standing in their way of achieving that
  • What questions will they be asking to overcome those challenges
  • The answers to these questions
  • What features, services, products, and information you have that will solve this issue
  • Common objections you can anticipate they’ll have and how to overcome them to get them over the line



💡 Exercise

First, write down the attributes of your customers listed above for each person in a typical buying committee. Second, write down the typical sales process and circle the spots that leads and opportunities get stuck in—or drop out of—most often. In each, brainstorm ideas for unclogging the pipe by making the actions involved in that step more convenient.



Budget

Deciding how much you’ll need to invest in marketing to hit your lead generation and revenue targets is another key facet of your strategy since you’ll want to investigate which channels will be affordable for your business and yield the best ROI.

The cost of digital marketing services varies widely depending on a host of factors. Check out this post to get some rough cost estimates for common offerings and what factors in.



💡 Exercise

Come up with a range of how much you’ll need to invest in order to hit your targets over a given period of time.



Length of sales cycle

The length of your typical sales cycle is another key factor to consider. The more expensive and complex the sales, the longer one will likely take on average.

As we mentioned earlier, think about the factors that make prospects move faster or slower through the sales cycle and how and where you can attempt to speed that up.

Longer sales cycles often require careful lead nurturing at each funnel/buyer’s journey stage compared to a more transactional business. How you nurture leads means making different strategic decisions and/or using different tactics.

  • For example, giving your prospects in-depth problem-solving guides or case studies can speed up sales cycles by proactively answering questions that would otherwise wait on salespeople to cover one-on-one.
  • If your sales cycle requires prospects know particular equipment specifications—or other documentable information about your product—simply writing this information down and supplying it to prospects can accelerate their end of the buying process. Again, wherever possible, you should enable your prospects to do the initial research they want to do on their own. This makes them feel more empowered while freeing your salespeople to spend more time closing.
  • Similarly, if you find yourself answering the same questions about pricing, consider writing them down into a handy PDF that you can give them ahead of time so those answers can be circulated internally faster than waiting for questions to be asked.

Some great places to start looking for blockages in your sales process are:

  • Your sales team
  • Your customer service team
  • Surveys of existing customers



💡 Exercise

Refine and build on the previous sales cycle exercise by asking yourself:

  • What is the average length of your sales cycle?
  • What actions do your customers typically take at each stage and what information or answers do they need to take each action?
  • Think again about where most deals fall off in your sales cycle? Why does that happen?
  • What steps of the process can be sped up by documenting information and presenting it to prospects proactively?


Competitors

Your competitors’ marketing efforts and the overall level of competition in your industry can have a big impact on a digital marketing strategy.

  • For example, if you find that your competitors’ websites aren’t effective at bringing in traffic, leads, and business, this could provide a competitive advantage you’ll want to leverage in your strategy. If no one is competing for prospects going to market for solutions online, you can simply step in to take that opportunity yourself.
  • However, if competitors are investing in digital marketing, and they’re appearing instead of you for important search queries, you’ll want to counter these efforts with your own tactical plays in your strategy. You’ll need to see what’s working for them—and then try to do it better while spotting gaps that you can fill that they are not.

Analyzing a competitor’s website and marketing tactics can even be a goldmine of information if you know how to dig for it.

For example:

  • If your competitors are publishing a lot of content that’s getting seen, read, and shared, you can try to cover some of the same topics on your own blog—even better or from a different perspective. Software tools like Ahrefs can analyze a competitor’s website to see which search queries are bringing them the most traffic. You can use this information to prioritize your own publishing to try and steal those positions and take that traffic yourself.
  • If your competitors are advertising on Google, you can see which keywords they’re buying and what kinds of pages they’re dropping that traffic on. This is often a huge opportunity to make even better landing pages and hone in on keywords that are most likely to result in a conversion.
  • If your competitors are showing up for important keywords in Google search, it’s likely the case that they’re not ranking for everything they ought to be. The same tools we mention above can spot keyword gaps, which you can then target.



💡 Exercise

Do some competitor research to figure out what you’re up against and what you can learn from their approach. This is tough to do on your own. Talk to us if you want to bring the best tools and best practices to bear.



Existing digital marketing resources

Finally, you’ll want to take stock of the resources you already have in place, and what accounts, pages, websites, and other things that would need to be set up in order to market on certain channels.

Do you have, for example:

If you want to invest money in Google Ads, for example, once a potential customer clicks on your ad, they’ll be more likely to convert into a lead if you send them to a specific landing page that matches the intent signaled by the keyword rather than sending them to your homepage.

By the same token, if you want to publish blog posts or case studies to attract and convert leads searching for certain topics that signal they need what you sell, you’ll want to make sure your website has a content management system like HubSpot or WordPress that makes it easy to add new pages and update existing ones.

If you want more qualified visitors to convert into leads on your website, you’ll want to provide forms they can fill out to make conversion easier and more convenient.



💡 Exercise

Take an inventory of what digital marketing assets you have now, such as tools, software, websites, social media profiles, and website content.

As you explore different digital marketing tactics, assess whether you already have all the resources you need, or if additional setup, purchases, and expertise are required to be successful.



What has (and hasn’t) worked before

If you’ve engaged in any marketing activities before, it can be useful to go to school on those experiences—analyzing why certain efforts were successful, and why others failed to help you repeat and iterate on what worked and avoid what’s proven ineffective.



💡 Exercise

Reflect on your prior marketing tactics. What has and hasn’t worked before? It seems obvious, but many companies endlessly chase brand-new ideas while ignoring what’s already working and building on that success in creative ways. The idea is to identify what hasn’t worked to understand why and identify what has worked so you can do more of it—or apply lessons from those successes to new opportunities.



How you’re different from your competitors

A key element of how you present your company to the world is what makes you different from your competitors and why those differences matter to customers.

You might differentiate on customer service. You might differentiate on features. You likely talk about these differences all the time to prospects already. You just need to put it down on paper in a way that’s clear and well-articulated so those messages can reach more people via your marketing.

Once you have your differentiators documented, you can pull them into marketing communications and also use them to identify the part of your market that’s most important to engage specifically because your differentiators mean the most to them.

For example, if you make a different kind of packaging equipment that wraps orbitally around a container or package, you can then identify which kinds of companies need that unique packaging capability the most and prioritize your strategy accordingly.

Simply put, what makes you different is most meaningful to some segments of your market. Figure out which kinds of companies would be crazy not to work with you because of what unique things you bring to your product or service. These are your most qualified prospects.



💡 Exercise

Answer these questions for yourself:

  • Why do customers actually pick you over competitors?
  • What problems do you solve that others don’t?
  • Is your price range more or less affordable than your competitors—and how can you frame that difference in terms of the value you deliver?
  • How fast do you deliver your offerings, and how does this compare to competitors?
  • What unique features does your product or service offer and how does that translate into unique value for customers?
  • What other ways do you do things differently than competitors?
  • How else do you meet your customers’ specific needs and expectations?
  • Within your total addressable market, who values these distinctions the most?


Summary

We covered quite a bit, so let’s recap. Here are the initial steps you need to take to develop an informed digital marketing strategy:

How to get started with a digital marketing strategy

  1. Set SMART goals.
  2. Establish a flexible deadline.
  3. Define your target audience.
  4. Set a budget.
  5. Identify the length of your sales cycle and customer concerns at each stage.
  6. Research competitor strategies.
  7. Audit existing digital marketing resources.
  8. Reflect on past marketing initiatives.
  9. Consider and articulate what unique value your business provides.

Creating a digital marketing strategy—website and tactics

Everything we’ve covered so far helps us prepare to create a digital marketing strategy. Now it’s time to actually bring one to life. Since there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy we can prescribe in detail, we can’t lay out a fully-formed playbook here that you can simply pick up and run with.

But while we can’t give you the full recipe for a digital marketing strategy, we can give you the ingredients.

A website forms the foundation and various tactics like SEO, content marketing, and digital advertising can be combined to form the strategy.

Putting these ingredients together based on all the information gathered during the preparation stage usually requires the help of a marketing expert who does this every day. Contact us to put these ingredients together into the recipe that fits your business and its goals.

In the meantime, let’s walk through the ingredient list that’s most relevant for a manufacturer.

A modern, functional website

HubSpot Video


Your company website is the platform on which you execute most of the marketing strategy. Your site should be easy to use, fast to load, and filled with relevant information your prospects are looking for—organized logically.

Your website should function as both a digital storefront and a 24x7 marketing and salesperson. It should provide a wealth of information about what you do and how that translates into value for your customers.

It should answer questions before they’re asked, generate leads through form submissions day or night, and showcase your products and services no matter what device your prospect is using.

Why build an effective website?

  • It provides an online platform for lead generation
  • It helps you scale your sales process itself. (More people are able to execute a buying process on their own before contacting sales at the appropriate time.)
  • It provides a platform for publishing content that can help attract, nurture, and convert leads
  • It provides a place to publish unique landing pages for ad campaigns
  • It provides an online storefront for the segment of your market who uses the internet to find solutions to their problems
  • It’s the resource potential and current customers will use to learn about and communicate with your business

Considerations

  • Requires technical expertise in planning, writing, designing, and development
  • Can be expensive and time-consuming if not thoughtfully planned
  • Requires ongoing maintenance
  • Difficult to create professional-looking results yourself

Example: Dake Corp

HubSpot Video

 

Dake's site checks a lot of best practice boxes while displaying a clear understanding of their audience. 

The design is clean yet unpretentious. From the moment you land on the homepage, it cleverly showcases over a century of photos of workers using its products, accompanied by a simple but persuasive heading: "Quality & Dependability Since 1887."

This emphasizes what is likely a big part of why customers choose their brand before they even scroll down the page.

Dake top site navigation

The main site navigation is clearly labeled, well organized, making it easy to get around and find what you need.

It also contains a phone number that you can dial into your landline if you're on the job or simply tap if you're browsing on a smartphone.

Dake contact form

If you're on a computer, the contact page has a form that lets you get in touch without interrupting what you're doing.

SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a set of techniques that maximize your chances of getting seen in search engine results.

It’s a long-term strategy that often requires an upfront investment that can pay huge dividends in the long run, usually after several months and continuing for years given proper maintenance and upkeep.

There are a few relevant ways to think about SEO in this context:

Local SEO techniques help your business show up to local customers in Google’s local search results.

Examples: claiming and optimizing your Google Business Profile; making sure mentions of your business information (name, address, and phone number) on directory sites, social media profiles, and more are accurate; creating unique pages for each business location on websites.

SEO content are pages on your website that provide the information your prospects are looking for (like blog posts, videos, and case studies). These pages draw qualified traffic to your site by being the best source of information on the web for a particular question or topic area.

Technical SEO involves making sure the mechanics of your site are built to be fast and easy to access for users.

When we build a website, there is a certain amount of SEO baked in, simply by virtue of following design, development, and copywriting best practices.

Why do it?

  • Critical if you know some prospects search for services, products, or solutions like yours online
  • Potential for long-term, sustainable lead generation for months or even years after implementation
  • Don’t have to pay for each potential lead
  • Have the opportunity to show up in search results every time (unlike paid search ads)
  • Don’t have to pay extra for a higher position (unlike search ads)
  • Doesn’t cost extra to pursue particular keywords (unlike search ads)
  • If your competitors have poor websites and content, this presents a potential strategic opportunity

Considerations

  • Potentially slower results relative to PPC
  • Can represent a higher upfront cost
  • Technically and strategically challenging
  • Success varies according to skill of SEO provider and the strength of strategy
  • Success is dependent on factors beyond your control, like search engine algorithms
  • Takes a long time to set up properly
  • Requires regular maintenance
  • Can be complicated by competition
  • Have to compete with paid search ads

Doing SEO right can be hard to pull off, but if it’s done well and is a good fit for your business, it can pay off in a big way.

For example, One of our B2B clients generated 195% more leads per quarter in 2016 after we put a new digital marketing strategy in place that included website improvements and quality content intended to rank well in search results for queries relevant to our clients’ business. By 2020, they had generated 3,226% more leads per quarter.

Read more case studies >>

Example: Finnleo

HubSpot Video

 

According to data from Ahrefs (a popular SEO software company) in May 2022, the page above got an estimated 11,800 visits per month, and these visits were worth about $11.3K.

In 2012, this leading sauna manufacturer partnered with HubSpot to revamp its website.

At the time, they had not seriously invested in SEO before and were having issues getting found online.

The solution involved auditing the site for SEO problems, optimizing for lead generation, tracking their performance in a centralized location, and investing in quality content intended to rank in search results.

By the fall of 2013, site traffic had increased by 93% year over year. Since February 2013, they have experienced a 113% increase in web traffic and a 41% increase in leads.

Paid search (PPC) ads

PPC stands for “pay per click.” This is a form of advertising where you can pay for your ad to appear on the first page of search engine results pages when someone searches for a certain keyword, such as “commercial soap manufacturer, WI.”

PPC is also known as “search engine marketing (SEM),” and “paid search” because every time someone clicks on your ad, you pay the search engine (like Google) a certain amount of money.

Why do it?

  • Useful if you know that many potential customers search for services, products, or solutions like yours online
  • Can pay to capture existing demand
  • Potential to yield high ROI for many manufacturers
  • Relatively quick to set up
  • Can potentially start generating leads immediately
  • Can tweak campaigns quickly and easily
  • Relatively quick for a specialist to maintain
  • Can pay for visibility in search results, rather than having to earn it over time.
  • Can target a very specific audience

Considerations

  • Can be expensive to appear for certain search terms
  • Have to pay for every click
  • Have to keep paying to sustain
  • May have to pay more for a better position.
  • The more competition there is, the more you have to pay.
  • Must invest in a quality, custom landing page to be successful.
  • Requires strategic keyword research.

We often advise clients who want to do ads to start with a small, targeted investment to test the waters and gather some data before dropping a large chunk of money.

While finding the right balance of ad spend and returns can be tricky, one of our local clients cleaned up with paid search advertising, generating an estimated ROI of 5X.

Example: GE Healthcare

ahrefs GE Healthcare ad

Source: Ahrefs

This major medical imaging equipment manufacturer appears to invest heavily in PPC, raking in an estimated 1.9K monthly visitors from the ad above alone.

Content marketing

Content marketing uses helpful content (like blog posts, whitepapers, videos, social media posts, tools, and more) to help answer your audience’s questions to make them more aware of your business and nudge them closer to becoming your customer.

One popular method is to publish free, public content, like blog posts, on your website around topics that interest your customers, or other helpful resources.

For example, creating well-researched case studies of work you’ve done for customers helps potential clients already on your site vet you as a potential vendor, ideally making them more comfortable giving you a call.

Some of the best content marketing manufacturers do is essentially turn their website into a 24x7 trade show booth—filling it with video demos, photos, and other media that take the “a-ha” moments of an offline event and make it available on demand to a much larger audience.

Why do it?

  • Potential for long-term, sustainable lead generation for months or even years after implementation
  • Satisfies buyers’ need for information if they tend to do intensive research before purchasing
  • Has the potential to boost your sites’ overall search visibility. Can be used to build awareness of your brand and help gain user’s trust.

Considerations

  • Time-consuming to plan and produce
  • Success is dependent on factors beyond your control, like search engine algorithms
  • Demands strategic precision
  • High-quality content can be expensive
  • Requires high-level writing skills
  • Requires regular maintenance
  • If competitors are investing in this strategy, suggests both challenge and opportunity

Example: Madison Banders

For manufacturers, video can be a particularly compelling content medium, especially if you want to show off your state-of-the-art machines.

With our help, a client of ours produced videos of his commercial banding equipment, which we published on YouTube and incorporated strategically into his site in order to showcase how his machines work in different applications.

 

As of this writing, the video above has gotten over 19,000 views.

Email

HubSpot defines email marketing this way:

“Email marketing is the process of targeting your audience and customers through email. It helps you boost conversions and revenue by providing subscribers and customers with valuable information to help achieve their goals.”

Some common methods include creating helpful content like newsletters, “lead nurturing” emails that seek to engage prospects and bring them closer to contacting you, and promotional emails that let people on your list know about upcoming events, webinars, and more.

Why do it?

  • Great for moving people through the buying process
  • Easy to set up
  • Easy to target individuals and personalize your message
  • Scaleable
  • Can be partially automated

Considerations

  • If poorly done, can turn off prospects
  • Requires technical understanding of deliverability in order to deliver message
  • Have to be careful to comply with regulations
  • Requires careful maintenance of contact lists

Example: hypothetical equipment manufacturer

Finding great examples of manufacturing emails is a challenge without getting on 30 mailing lists.

Instead, let’s consider how a hypothetical equipment manufacturer that builds robots to retrieve items from shelves in a distribution center might find email useful.

The challenge for this company is that these machines are expensive, and require distributors to rethink their processes. Naturally, the sales cycle is quite long.

With such a long sales cycle, lead nurturing, (encouraging leads to move through the sales cycle faster by answering their questions at each step of the way) is a no-brainer.

Since email is a major channel for lead nurturing and this manufacturer knows their clients are on their email all day, lead nurturing emails are a good fit.

In this context, the manufacturer would probably set up an automated lead nurturing workflow that does some of the sales team’s job for them. It might look something like this:

  1. The potential client signs up for the manufacturer’s email list at a trade show.
  2. This triggers a “welcome” email that thanks him for getting on the list and introduces the company and its solutions.
  3. He then receives a series of emails that, knowing who he is and therefore what problems he may be looking to solve, helps him better understand his challenge, what options are available to him, and why your solution may be best compared to alternative options. These emails help guide him into—and through—your funnel.
  4. Finally, if he hasn’t engaged on one of the prior emails, he gets one more email that politely acknowledges that he doesn’t seem to be ready to talk now, and provides links to resources that can help him decide whether the manufacturer’s machines are a good fit for his needs, like case studies and videos of the products.

final email in nurturing sequence

Email four, from the list above


Social media

Social media marketing uses tactics to market to your audience on platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Common uses for social media include building a positive brand image, interacting with prospective customers and employees, and promoting and distributing content on social media from content marketing campaigns.

Check out OEM Magazine’s article to learn more about how manufacturers are handling social media marketing.

Why do it?

  • Free to use
  • Easy to get started
  • Low effort
  • Possible to leverage your network of contacts

Considerations

  • Requires regular maintenance
  • Have to understand how each platform works (e.g. algorithmic preferences)
  • Each platform had different content requirements
  • Not worth it if your audience doesn’t spend time there


Social advertising

Similar to paid search ads, powerful audience targeting features on platforms like LinkedIn or Facebook, for example, can put you in front of a highly qualified audience as they scroll through their feed.

This can make it an excellent choice for lead generation ads if you know your audience spends a lot of time on a given platform.

Why do it?

  • Can target specific types of people
  • Minimally disruptive ads
  • If you are finding success with content marketing, social ads can be helpful for promoting highly valuable content to people who likely need it but haven’t found it already.
  • Only makes sense if audience is on the platform

Considerations

  • Can be expensive
  • Technically difficult to set up
  • Requires careful strategy

Example: Kimberly-Clark

Kimberly-Clark LinkedIn post

Kimberly-Clark has an active social media presence, posting on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube. A single LinkedIn post like the one above often garners hundreds of reactions.

These platforms offer a way for the company to project a positive brand image and communicate with their customers and prospective employees, posting about good deeds like scholarships granted and volunteering, celebrating successes such as awards won, and featuring happy employee testimonials to attract talent.

Next Steps

After you’ve considered key factors that will shape your strategy and common digital marketing approaches, you can start to sketch out a strategy for your manufacturing company.

How to create a digital marketing strategy for your manufacturing company

  1. Select marketing tactics (e.g. SEO, video) that fit with your SMART goals, timelines, customers, budget, sales cycle, competitor activity, and available resources.
  2. Conduct any additional research needed into your web performance, customer preferences, competitor strategies, and search terms customers use to find businesses like yours (if relevant).
  3. Create subgoals for each tactic. Attach one key performance indicator to each one.
  4. Ensure you have the appropriate software set up to track performance. Google Analytics is the free industry standard for tracking website metrics. Google paid search advertising has built-in reporting capabilities, as do social media platforms like LinkedIn and YouTube. You can use tools like HubSpot to track email performance.
  5. Execute your strategy.
  6. Track your performance. You can also run split tests to run experiments to improve web page performance.

If you don’t have the internal resources or time to take this on, give us a call. We can work with you to come up with a strategy tailored to your budget and the unique needs of your business.

To see how we work with our clients, read our case studies, like how we helped a B2B Achieve 38x Marketing ROI.

 

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