Manufacturing companies in the UK are facing a multitude of challenges at the moment; Brexit, digitisation and globalisation, to name but a few.
As a Director of a manufacturing company, you’ll be aware that in order to survive these economic and technological challenges, you need to adapt.
And that includes your marketing.
Print advertising and trade shows aren’t cutting it anymore. If you want to stay competitive and reach the next stage of growth, embracing digital marketing is a must.
But it’s easier said than done, right? Where do you start?
Digital marketing is a complete minefield; there are so many different terms bandied about. What do they mean? Where do they overlap? What gets the best results? It’s easy to get overwhelmed. Especially when there are so many consultants and agencies out there telling you their approach is the best.
You need to figure it out somehow, though; if you don’t spend your budget wisely, you run the risk of losing the buy-in of your board or management team and falling even further behind your competitors.
All this leads us to the question: “Which digital marketing strategy is the best for manufacturing companies?”.
I’ve been working with manufacturers over the last couple of years and have listened to their sales and marketing questions, concerns and experiences. It’s through these conversations and projects that I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t when it comes to digital marketing for manufacturers.
In this article, I’m going to do my best to provide an overview of the most common digital marketing strategies used by companies like yours, explain which one I think is the best and, crucially, why.
Table of contents:
- What challenges do manufacturing companies have with sales/marketing?
- What’s the best digital marketing strategy for manufacturing companies?
- Does content marketing really work for manufacturing companies?
- How can a manufacturing company get started with content marketing?
What challenges do manufacturing companies have with sales/marketing?
Before we look at the different types of digital marketing strategies, let’s dig into the problems that we’re trying to solve.
What are the major sales/marketing challenges that manufacturing companies experience?
Having an amazing product that no one knows about
You can have the best quality product on the market or an innovative solution that produces better, faster results than the alternatives. But if no one knows you exist, that’s a bit of a problem!
It’s a common issue faced by manufacturing companies, especially if they are newcomers to the market.
Having an established competitor that everyone uses
In most traditional markets, there is at least one established competitor that is the name everyone knows.
It can take a lot for a company to change supplier so it’s difficult for small-medium sized manufacturing companies to break through and build the trust required for customers to jump ship.
Having a technical specification that people don’t understand
Manufacturing companies can struggle to communicate the holistic benefits of their product, as they tend to focus on technical features in their marketing materials.
It’s understandable when you’ve spent thousands (or even millions) on product development, to think that your specification or intellectual property should speak for itself. But if your customers aren’t down with the lingo, then they may not immediately understand the value your product provides.
Relying on repeat business and word of mouth
Once your business is up and running and you have a solid customer base, many manufacturing companies begin to rely on repeat business and word of mouth.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great sign when customers come back time and time again or make referrals. The only problem is it’s not predictable and, when you want to scale up, it’s not easy to generate more of it.
Relying on traditional marketing methods
Many manufacturing companies rely on traditional marketing methods such as print advertising, direct mail and trade shows/expos. But these can be expensive, require a lot of manual follow up and don’t often generate results in isolation.
It can also be difficult to target ideal customers who are in ‘buying mode’ using these methods, as you’re reaching them when they’re in the middle of doing something else (known as “interruption marketing”). This can lead to low conversion rates and a poor return on investment.
Dealing with long, time-consuming sales cycles
When you have a high-value product and rely mostly on traditional marketing methods, sales cycles can be long and laborious.
This often means nurturing leads one by one, endless follow-up meetings and calls, answering the same questions over and over again, and dealing with tyre kickers and bargain hunters who aren’t serious about buying. Pretty darn frustrating.
It’s by no means an exhaustive list, but these are some of the most common sales and marketing challenges that I have encountered when speaking to, and working with, manufacturing companies.
What’s the best digital marketing strategy for manufacturing companies?
Types of digital marketing strategies
Digital marketing is a broad term that covers a multitude of marketing disciplines and strategies, including:
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Increasing your visibility in organic, non-paid search engine results by improving various aspects of your website and online presence.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Paid advertising placement in search engine results, e.g. Google Adwords.
Pay Per Click advertising (PPC)
Paid advertising placement on social media networks, e.g. Facebook, and other online platforms.
Publishing articles, videos and podcasts (generally long-form) to educate and build trust with prospective customers.
Social media marketing
Publishing text, image and video posts (generally short-form) on social media networks to connect and build relationships with prospective customers.
Sending automated, yet personalised, email broadcasts to a mailing list of consenting subscribers, with the aim of building trust and converting them to customers.
Affiliate / influencer marketing
Having third parties (individuals or companies) promote your product to their own audience in exchange for a commission on sales.
Each of these digital marketing strategies has its merits and, often, companies will employ a mix of methods that is appropriate for their business type (ie. B2B or B2C), industry/sector, target customer and strategic objectives.
But the question here is which is the best digital marketing strategy for a manufacturing company.
In other words, if you had to pursue just one, which would it be?
For me, the answer is content marketing. Here’s why.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is the process of educating customers to help them make their buying decision.
It’s about sharing knowledge with customers, not to promote a particular product, but to empower them with information about the market as a whole.
It means answering their questions and talking about things they care about, so that when they have a need for the product you offer, they can find you.
And doing it with such transparency and authenticity that not only do they find you, but they trust you as a company and choose to buy from you.
How does content marketing work?
Think about the last time you bought something significant, whether for your business or in your personal life. What was the first thing you did, when you began that process?
I’m willing to bet that you went to Google.
What did you type in the search box?
Initially, you probably wanted to make sure you were doing the right thing, or that the purchase was feasible. Perhaps you Googled “do I really need a X?”, ”how much does X cost?” or “things to consider before you buy a X”.
Once you confirmed you were definitely in the market to buy, you likely moved on to searches like “best X 2019”, or “best X providers in Aberdeen”, to get a feel for what your options were.
Then, you started looking for comparisons between one product and another, or one brand and another, to suss out what the key differences were. Once you narrowed it down, you almost definitely looked for reviews on the top products and companies.
And along the way, you probably had specific questions about how the product works, what the pros and cons were, and whether there were any common problems to look out for.
Am I right?
Pretty sure I am.
How do I know? Because we all do it; it’s how we buy things in the digital era.
Yes, even in the B2B sector.
The question is, when your customers type their questions into Google, who comes up top? Which companies are providing them with the information they need?
Is it you? Or your competitors?
When someone searches for something, Google aims to serve up the best and most relevant answer to their question.
The objective of a content marketing strategy is to make your website the top result that Google supplies in answer to your prospective customers’ questions (after paid ads), and for your company to become their go-to source of information as they research your product and industry.
If you can write articles or produce videos that target the right questions, and provide detailed, honest answers that genuinely help customers make the right buying decision for them, not only will you build trust and reputation, but Google will naturally make you number one.
Why is content marketing the best digital marketing strategy for manufacturing companies?
There are two main reasons why I believe content marketing is the best digital marketing strategy for manufacturing companies.
Firstly, it addresses all of the sales and marketing challenges I listed above.
Secondly, it underpins all of the other digital marketing strategies.
Reason 1: It addresses the major sales and marketing challenges experienced by manufacturing companies
Let’s take a look at them again…
Having an amazing product that no one knows about:
Content marketing raises awareness of your product in the marketplace
Your product needs to be easily discovered by people who have a direct need for it and are actively researching their options online.
By making your product and company more discoverable on Google by publishing specific and targeted content, you will raise awareness of your product in the marketplace.
Over time, the effects of your strategy will compound, improving your search engine results, feeding your other marketing activities and stimulating word of mouth.
Having an established competitor that everyone uses:
Content marketing helps you build your reputation as a market leader
In order to stand out from the competition and build trust with prospective customers, you need to showcase your knowledge not only for your own product but for the market as a whole.
A content marketing strategy will help to position your company as a market leader, and your staff as industry experts.
If you have an established competitor that dominates the market, you can capitalise on this by creating content that piggybacks on their visibility. For example, writing a comparison of their product versus the alternatives, or an unbiased review article of their solution.
This way, even when customers are searching for your competitors, your website will appear in the results. And by writing about competing products, you will become known as an industry authority.
Having a technical specification that no one understands:
Content marketing educates customers about what they’re buying
Your marketing should help your customer understand what they’re buying, by explaining any technical information in layman’s terms, regardless of whether you believe it’s a technical person who is buying your product or not.
Creating content about your product provides you with the opportunity to explain your specification in more depth; not with industry jargon, but in your customers’ language. It allows you to put your product in context, by sharing the stories behind it and the benefits your customers have experienced from it.
Through content, you can communicate the overall value your product provides, beyond the features and the price. You’ll stop people trying to compare like for like because they’ll be much more informed about what they’re buying.
Relying on repeat business and word of mouth:
Content marketing helps generate a steady and predictable flow of leads
Like all businesses, manufacturers need a regular flow of quality leads, so they can make reliable forecasts and plan their business growth.
By regularly creating targeted content that is easily discovered by prospective customers who are ready to buy, business will start to come to you. No longer will you rely on unpredictable referrals, or suffer the feast and famine cycle.
Want to increase sales of a particular product? Create content about it. Want to target a particular sector or customer type? Create content just for them. It’s that simple.
Relying on traditional marketing methods:
Content marketing helps reach ideal customers in an effective and sustainable way
When you’re paying for advertising or a space at an expo, it’s a one-off opportunity. You’re paying someone (the advertiser or the event organiser) for access to the audience that they have accumulated. You’re relying on that access to communicate with your target customers, and you have a limited window to make the sale.
Content marketing allows you to develop your own audience of ideal customers so that you can communicate with them directly and without restriction.
Where advertising fees are a sunk cost, every piece of content you create is an asset that continues to pay for itself over time. As you grow your content library, results compound and return on investment increases.
Dealing with long, time-consuming sales cycles:
Content marketing makes the sales process quicker and easier
Content marketing enables customers to educate and qualify themselves before they contact you, thereby reducing the time you spend on individual lead nurturing, shortening the sales cycle and increasing conversion rates.
Rather than answering questions over and over again through emails, calls and meetings, customers reach out to you knowing exactly what they need, why the need it and how much it costs, meaning all you have to do is take their order.
This is why content marketing is an ideal digital marketing strategy for manufacturing companies.
But in case you’re not quite convinced…
Reason 2: It underpins all of the other digital marketing strategies
As you may have already gathered, content marketing doesn’t stand alone; it ties in closely with all of the other major digital marketing strategies.
Content marketing is a major factor in search engine optimisation (SEO). There are various technical aspects to SEO, including:
- your site speed,
- page titles and descriptions, and
- your ‘backlink profile’ (ie. how many links back to your site exist on other reputable sources on the web).
However, beyond these technical things, publishing relevant, high-quality content regularly on your website is the best thing you can do to improve your search engine rankings.
By focusing on content marketing, you kill two birds with one stone.
It also relates closely to social media marketing, as the content you create for blogs and videos becomes the jumping-off point for your social media content. For example, one blog article can be broken down and delivered to your social media followers in bite-size chunks, in the form of text, image and video posts.
Alongside Google, your social media platforms, therefore, become a valuable source of traffic, particularly as your followers have “opted in” to receive information from you. They already know who you are, making them a slightly warmer prospect than cold traffic from search engines.
Similarly, email marketing is closely integrated with content marketing. Every email is an opportunity to introduce your contacts to a question or topic, and deliver a link to an accompanying blog post that goes into more detail.
You can then thread these emails into a sequence that leads prospective customers on a journey, gradually building the trust and rapport required for them to purchase from you.
And as for the paid digital marketing methods, like SEM, PPC, affiliate and influencer marketing, these are great for generating traffic, but once you’ve acquired that traffic you still need content to guide visitors on to the next step of their buying journey.
Does content marketing really work for manufacturing companies?
By this point, you might be thinking “this sounds great, Yva, but am I supposed to just take your word for it?”.
No, you’re not.
Cara’s content marketing story
When she took over the running of the company in 2016, she decided she wanted to do things a little bit differently.
In the past, they had relied on word of mouth and traditional marketing methods to get customers, which was fine. But she saw her dad and her uncle working really, really hard and recognised that they weren’t getting any younger. Eventually, she wanted to be able to provide them with a retirement from the company that they deserve, meaning she had to find a more predictable and sustainable way to go to market.
One day, she was dragged along to a seminar by her friend Col, where she was introduced to the concept of content marketing by a guy called Chris Marr.
She’d never heard of content marketing before and was completely bowled over by what he taught them that night. He explained that customers are searching for answers to their questions online, as a means to educate themselves, and that the best way that you can capitalise on that as a company is to write content on your website that provides the information they’re looking for.
She was absolutely sold. She immediately saw how this could be a sustainable way to grow the company and start generating a steady pipeline of sales, meaning her dad and her uncle could step back from the business in the future.
So she started to do exactly what Chris had told her. She started to answer her customers’ questions about everything to do with timber buildings. Because they don’t just sell sheds, they sell summer houses, garden rooms and garages too, all to a really high specification that Gillies and Mackay have developed over the 30 years that they’ve been in business.
Cara really knows her stuff when it comes to timber buildings, and she wanted to share that knowledge with her audience so that they could make an informed buying decision.
What were the results?
Within the first year of producing videos and blogs regularly and publishing them on her website, she was able to increase revenue by 26%. She knew that it was entirely attributable to her content marketing activity because they did no other form of traditional advertising or marketing.
In one particular month, she surpassed her sales target by £37,500.
The following year, she saw another 30% increase in revenue and a continuing trend of smashing sales targets by 25% month on month.
But achieving those amazing results wasn’t without its challenges. She’d just had a baby, and it was becoming harder and harder to find the time to blog.
So, after a while, she decided to enlist some help to keep that momentum going, because the ultimate goal of having a retirement in place for her dad and her uncle was still some way off. That’s when she decided to work with Content Boost to help her deliver these blogs.
With that support in place, she was able to really get stuck into creation mode. In the first three months of working with us, she focused on a very particular campaign where she reviewed the top shed manufacturers in every single geographic region of Scotland.
In each article, she looked at the information that was available on the company’s website and on their social media profiles and, using her extensive knowledge, she took an unbiased stance and reviewed the specifications and the information that was available to customers from a customer point of view. She did so transparently and without comparing them directly to her own company.
The results were phenomenal.
She wrote one article per region and now ranks on page one of Google for every single one. In some cases, she’s in the top five. And in the case of Aberdeen and Dundee, she is number one.
So in other words, whenever someone searches for “garden sheds [region of Scotland]”, up she pops.
Pretty amazing, right? But it doesn’t stop there.
With that campaign complete, she turned her attention to garden rooms. These are buildings that you might use as a garden office, a ‘man cave’, a ‘she shed’ or a kid’s playroom.
She’s been answering every conceivable question that a customer could have about purchasing, installing, and maintaining a garden room. Things like:
- What is the best construction for a Garden Room?
- Do I need Planning Permission and/or Building Control?
- What kind of base do I need for a Garden Room?
And what’s the outcome? They’re selling like hotcakes.
In January 2019, she saw a 300% increase in sales compared to the year before, and that’s during what has historically been their quietest period of the year. Their order book for garden rooms is now full for the next six months.
And when Cara sat down to do the accounts for the financial year end, she saw something really interesting…
Operating profit for Gillies and Mackay has increased by 80% in the last 12 months.
But revenue has only increased by 10% – now how could that be?
She believes it’s purely down to the education of her customers.
By dedicating her time and energy to answering their questions, she has allowed them to feel more confident to make a more expensive buying decision. They feel informed, so they are upgrading and adding onto their purchases because they understand the return on investment. And that means she’s making more money on every building she sells.
So let me repeat that for you again…
80% increase in operating profit in the space of 12 months.
Pretty incredible isn’t it? But I don’t want you to think that this can be achieved in a short space of time. Cara has been putting in the work with her content over a four year period.
But what this shows is that with dedication and commitment to content marketing, you can completely transform your business and that blogging really does drive sales for companies.
Cara recognises that every blog article that she writes is an asset for her business and will continue to pay dividends well into the future. And that, ultimately, it will enable her to achieve her goal of providing a retirement for her dad and her uncle.
How can a manufacturing company get started with content marketing?
So, now that you know why I believe content marketing is the best digital marketing strategy for manufacturing companies, and you’ve heard Cara’s story on the results that can be achieved in the real world, what next?
Learn about what it takes to develop a content marketing strategy
Firstly, I would suggest digging a bit deeper and reading more about the process of developing a content marketing strategy, so you know what you’re getting yourself into.
Here are some of the top articles from our Learning Centre to get you started:
- 6 problems with content marketing strategy (and how to overcome them)
- How much does a content marketing strategy cost? (Cost/Price)
- Pros and cons of hiring a content marketing consultant/agency
Are you ready to embark on a content marketing strategy?
Then, you need to figure out whether your company is actually ready to embark on a content marketing strategy. There are five main questions you’ll need to answer:
- Do you have clarity on your product/service offering?
- Do you know who your target customer is?
- Is your website fit for purpose?
- Do you have some established promotional channels?
- Are you willing and able to commit the time, budget and resources?
Find out how to answer them by reading this article:
Then, if you want to know how we help clients with their content strategy here at Content Boost, these blogs will help you decide if we are the right fit for you:
- What is a Content Strategy Session and what does it cover?
- Why are our Content Strategy Sessions so expensive?
- 12 reasons why our Content Strategy Sessions may NOT be the right fit for you
Book a free consultation with me
After all that, if you’ve decided that a content marketing strategy is right for your manufacturing company and you’d like to discuss working with us, book a free consultation using the button below!