Manufacturing is getting a lot of attention in this political season. One of the few things both sides of the aisle can agree on is that everyone wants to see the number of manufacturing jobs increase, either new jobs or returning jobs from overseas. But with all of this focus on manufacturing, very few people seem to be talking about inbound marketing for manufacturing.
This baffles me. Inbound marketing offers a new way to think about publicizing new technologies and engaging potential beneficiaries of those technologies in productive conversations.
Inbound marketing can be used to market emerging technologies and increase awareness and adoption of those new technologies. Most of our clients are in the manufacturing industry and we've noticed a few key areas we consistently address to start these companies on the road to successful inbound marketing campaigns.
Thinking like a marketer and not just a manufacturer
Thinking like a marketer puts you in the shoes of your ideal customer. The mindset is much like an engineer designing a feature in a product that solves a particular problem. The key is in translating that technical, product, problem-solving thinking into content for your marketing efforts. The benefits the customer receives are the fuel for your marketing. Manufacturers tend to think in terms of features and specifications and not in terms of the results the customer receives from the benefits.
For example, producing a top notch product may be what you think seals the deal on sales, but it isn't usually enough in and of itself. You need to be able to attract leads first before you can dazzle them with an amazing product. If your competition is offering a lesser product but are highly visible in the market, they are going to keep getting sales that your superior product could have landed. When you market the benefits of your product using stories, case studies, testimonials, and industry information you give your company and sales team a much better chance of being heard.
Website – not a catalog but a community
When a manufacturer has built a "catalog website", it usually means they are thinking like a manufacturer and not a marketer. Listing products and descriptions, maybe throwing in a picture or two, speaks to the manufacturing side of the business but leaves the marketing side lacking. If you want your website to attract leads you need to have more on it than your catalog.
Your website should help you start the sales process by attracting prospects and showing them that your product or service is targeted to them, helps them solve their problems, and delivers the proof that you should be taken seriously.
A good website is a community with forums for interaction between you and your prospects and customers, and offers interesting and relevant information they want to download. Manufacturing is full of highly intelligent people with specialized knowledge and your goal should be to build a website that showcases that knowledge.
Social Media – create interest and ongoing engagement
Social media might not seem like it's designed for manufacturing, but there is a place for it in your marketing mix. Manufacturers should not expect millions of followers, but for those people who are interested in manufacturing and technology, social media outlets provide fertile ground for researching new companies, products, and processes. Social media is a great way to easily share industry news and articles and to open up a dialogue with potential leads.
Cool stuff like the 3D printing in this video are ripe for sharing and driving traffic to your site and in generating interest in your company.
Reaching just a few influential prospects or industry experts will make your social media efforts worth the effort.
Email – outreach and information
Email is another great marketing tool for keeping interest and engagement up. With all of the tools that are available now, it's very easy to create multiple versions of an email specifically targeted at different segments of your email list. This gives companies a great opportunity for introducing new products, technologies, and offers in the best way possible to the people that want to consume information targeted to their stated needs.
Manufacturing companies tend to have long buying cycles so using timed and automated lead nurturing campaigns to stay in touch with prospects throughout the buying cycle helps keep your company top of mind and gives the prospect a chance to stay engaged when they may have tuned your sales people and overt sales pitches out. Many manufacturing sales have a dead space in the buying process between initial and option research and final specification determination. Lead nurturing using email can keep you in front of prospects when they will not take your salespeople’s calls.
Inbound marketing isn't going to magically fix the economy, but the more sales manufacturers can land the more people they can hire and that's good news for everyone.
About the Author: Todd Hockenberry is the founder of Top Line Results, an inbound marketing agency that specializes in leading top line revenue growth at small and medium-sized companies with a focus on manufacturing, technology and capital equipment.