Every year, thousands of manufacturers around the country shut down their plants and facilities for a few weeks in the summer. They do so for a variety of reasons — to allow for vacation time, to take care of deferred maintenance, or to retool for the second half of the year.
While these activities are certainly important, too many manufacturing companies let the summer slowdown distract them from one of the most important activities of all — generating new business.
Buyers Don't Slow Down In The Summer
Manufacturers have long believed that buyers also ramp down during the summer. Though that was certainly true in the past, in today's digital-driven, ultra-competitive global supply chain, procurement teams can't afford to take any time off. There is no offseason; they source 24/7, every day of the year.
We took a look at buying activity on the Thomas Network at Thomasnet.com since 2013 and found that activity not only held steady during the summer months, but that it actually increased relative to activity for the rest of the year.
- In 2013, the volume of buying activity during the summer (which we defined as July and August) was 2.72% above the average for the rest of the year
- In 2014, it was .22% above the annual average
- In 2015, it was .30% above the annual average
- In 2016, it was 4.62% higher than the annual average
- And in 2017, it was 2.81% higher than the annual average
While many (but not all) manufacturing websites do experience a decline in traffic over the summer, sourcing on Thomasnet.com actually remains plentiful. This indicates that buying activity doesn’t slow down for the summer at all — it just shifts to the Thomasnet.com platform.
What Should Manufacturers Do During The Summer Slowdown
When production on the floor halts this season and all your machinist colleagues are off-the-grid, you can do so much more than kick back while your MRO manager cleans and evaluates the shop floor. Though the summer may be an opportune time to shut down your operations, it may not be a good idea to shut down your marketing strategy. The prospects you want to do business with remain active and engaged in sourcing new products and suppliers. If you want to connect with them, you need to remain an active and engaged industrial marketer.
This is a great time to get introspective about what you've accomplished this year, how you can continue growing as a marketer and re-evaluate what's left to meet Q3 and Q4 goals. Let's take a look at your opportunities:
Invest in digital marketing applications
Each company has its own set of pain points — trying to collaborate between marketing and sales, keeping customers happy while diversifying their offerings, expanding into new industries, etc. While valid, the solutions should be a part of your larger marketing plan.
So let's talk about quick ways to solve two common problems: optimizing for leads and qualifying them once they convert. When leads come to your website, some drop off immediately, some stick around for a while and others fill out RFQs. Do you currently have any insight into this?
This is crucial for continuing the transparency between marketing and sales, and we recommend using online tools or applications to make it happen. By automatically assigning value or readiness to a lead with a software program like Hubspot, it can help your marketers craft better campaigns and sales folks prioritize their pipelines.
Master a new skill or tool
Regardless of your career stage, there's always room to learn — especially with how fast-paced digital marketing is. There are low-cost opportunities you can take a look at while sitting at your desk, in addition to tools and training to invest in, but it can be difficult to figure out where to allocate your time.
A great starting point is to make sure you're brushed up on the basics. HubSpot offers free sales, inbound marketing and email marketing training worth looking into — plus, once you take the certifications, you can add badges of completion to your LinkedIn profile.
If you're all set on the marketing and sales side, there are a number of SEO and website analytics tools to check out, which give you a much deeper look at what's happening than what Google Analytics shows.
Prepare for upcoming trade shows
The spring trade show busy season has passed, but there are still a few big manufacturing trade shows coming up this fall and winter. Obviously, your packing list will be a bit different if you're exhibiting rather than walking the floor, but you can still make sure you're getting the most out of the event.
Even if you don't have the budget to attend these industry events, there's no rule against interacting with prospects on social media who are there or using the event hashtag. Also be sure to check out Thomas' webinars scheduled throughout the year — free to attend at the comfort of your own desk or home.
Set your content up for success for the rest of the year
Not sure what emails or blog posts you'll be sending out for the rest of this year? Map out your content marketing calendar. Write some backup content while you have the breathing room or conduct some outside interviews. Reach out to relevant news organizations about partnerships or work to get one of your customers some additional exposure.
There are endless opportunities for content marketing. Your buyers are basing their decisions off of your content — so make sure you take the time to create valuable, relevant content.
Read more: Where to turn for content marketing inspiration.
Test and strengthen your social media
A/B testing is everything when it comes to digital marketing. You want to try out subject lines, messaging style, time for deployment, engagement windows and pretty much everything else you're working on.
On social media in particular, you need to cater to your audiences accordingly. (And trust us, they like different engagement style and frequency on each network.) So when it comes down to figuring out the best days, content and times to post, take a look at the data in your social media monitoring tool and see what caused the most positive reactions.
Let's use Twitter as an example of great way to test: Take a recent blog post you've written, write up a batch of tweets and send them out in the course of one week. Then the following week, mix up the same exact posts and shoot out at a different time. This is as simple as it gets with an A/B test — same message, different time. You could also do a similar test with just upping the number of posts. Look for the most likes, favorites or replies and analyze everything.
Be where your prospects are
Buyers continue to source on Thomasnet.com during the summer. Make sure they can find you by listing your business on the platform. It's free to sign up! Buyers on Thomasnet.com are typically in the late stages of the buying cycle — ready to shortlist and, ultimately, make a purchase. This makes them extremely valuable, sales-ready prospects for manufacturers.
While you and your employees certainly deserve a break, industrial buyers do not take a break from sourcing during the summer months. By staying focused on your marketing and advertising efforts at this time of year, you can give your company a competitive advantage and connect with more new customers. For more ideas, check out our list on 30 Industrial Lead Generation Tips And Tricks. But if you're still stumped — or need help because your team is going on summer vacation — send us a message.
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