Online Industrial Marketing - You No Longer Have a Choice...
Photo by Gabriel Gurrola on Unsplash
Our last blog post, CAN'T MISS HIGHLIGHTS OF NEW MANUFACTURING MARKET RESEARCH..., highlighted the most interesting insights from 4 recent manufacturing market research reports. This post shares our marketing recommendations for industrial suppliers based on all that research.
1. Have the Basics in Place
Nearly 90% of manufacturing organizations now use content marketing and 70% can prove it has increased their sales leads. Do you need any more convincing? In our view industrial suppliers no longer have a choice... you must do digital marketing and do it well.
By 'well' we mean having the basics in place before layering on more content. See these pages for the basics of good content and good functionality for an industrial website and this blog MARKETING TO ENGINEERS IS SO DIFFERENT YOU CAN BEAT AMAZON. In summary the basics include: a responsive website, local search, effective SEO/SEM (see B-SMART), product categorization, detail pages for each part, lead capture including CAD (see clickable Grainger example above), catalog, configurators (also including 2D and 3D CAD), email marketing (including lead nurturing)...
Beware assuming you have the basic 'table stakes' in place just because you have a website. Most industrial websites are neglected and poor. For example, mobile devices have passed desktops as the most common way people access the web so your website needs to be 'responsive' (automatically adjust to different screen sizes). Non-responsive websites are even penalized by Google. The chart on the right shows how engineers of all ages are increasingly using smartphones to access engineering content.
If your website is not a customer-focused sales machine, make it one and ensure it maintains (or enhances) your company's competitive differentiation.
2. Fuel your Content Marketing Engine
Another reason you don't have a choice is that "over 90% of engineers are more likely to do business with companies that regularly produce new and current content." Providing the right online content and ensuring it is easy to find is the way to address engineers' needs and expectations today! Your content should capture and authoritatively present your engineering knowledge so customers can access and use it. For example 2D CAD drawings and 3D CAD models mentioned above and the other content types mentioned below.
What subjects should your content address? Some, like the 'part detail pages' of your catalog should offer deep technical information on the parts, how to install or use them and customer testimonials. Other content should address challenges your audience faces. The research showed that 'new product design' ranked as the greatest challenge, perhaps because today's new products often include both hardware and software? So another content type could be a 'customer case study' about development of a new product that incorporates your company's components.
The research shows industrial suppliers are increasing marketing spend on creating and distributing content. There are preferred types of content but all the content types are read to a lesser or greater extent so re-purpose content in multiple formats. Focus on short written articles, videos, case studies, longer length e-books (better named as 'Guides') and white papers.
3. Build an Audience with Push and Pull
90% of those who consider their content marketing “successful” cite building an audience as their main focus. This is a notable jump from the previous year’s 60% so the vast majority now look at each content piece as part of an holistic library of information for a target audience. For that reason your content needs to be on topics that matter to your audience rather than about your brand, products or services. When they see or read uniquely helpful content they'll see you as an authoritative resource, your business will be 'discovered' and earn their loyalty and trust.
Your website needs to be the primary platform for your content because that's where an engineering audience expects to find it. Good SEO and SEM will PULL the right audience from search engines and you should PUSH out messages about your content to customers and prospects you are nurturing. Social media (particularly LinkedIn and YouTube) are key for such content distribution and email marketing (including e-newsletters) is key for awareness.
The changing customer demographic is important too - each day in the US ~10,000 baby boomers retire and ~10,000 millenials turn 21. Millenials typically expect to do nearly everything online including B2B purchasing. The chart on the right shows how Pew Research suggests the workforce composition is changing - that's another reason you no longer have a choice...
Your content's value is its ability to attract your audience and engage them with your business on an ongoing basis — as subscribers, customers or evangelists (preferably all of these) - so build your audience!
4. Make Marketing Accountable
Once you have an addressable audience, your content efforts will help increase sales. The research shows manufacturing companies are making 'increasing revenue' an explicit goal for marketing teams.
Set SMART marketing goals that support achieving your overall business objectives and align your marketing teams remuneration with those goals. Use analytics to measure progress against the goals.
Intel cofounder, Robert Noyce, said, “Innovation is everything. When you’re at the forefront, you can see what the next innovation needs to be.” By implication, if you get left behind you can't see what needs to be achieved next! The reason 'you don't have a choice' is that staying competitive now means running your business, including your marketing, with digital technology. These recommendations will improve your digital marketing and create new value for your customers.
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