Marketing isn't a new practice (actually it has been around for centuries) but for some companies in the industrial space, there is still an opportunity to completely embrace its effectiveness.
For industry, marketing isn't just about flashy imagery and cute one-liners, it's a crucial part of the business that touches prices, product, and sales. So it’s important to understand how to use marketing for your business’ success if you:
- Want to learn how to generate the most leads
- Are interested in increasing revenue
- Are looking to expand your business into new markets.
In this blog, we’ll break down everything you need to know about beginning an inbound marketing campaign of your own and we'll even offer additional marketing resources for deeper dives along the way.
The industrial buying cycle
It all starts with the buying cycle. The industrial buying cycle, particularly, can be a long and complex process. Your potential buyers could fall anywhere along the course of a six step journey — and it’s your job to meet them where they are, with the information they need to guide them toward a decision.
The six overarching steps of the industrial buying process include:
The buyer identifies their need for a product or service.
The buyer researches different solutions to collect more information.
If creating a new design, the buyer researches product data.
The buyer evaluates potential suppliers for their desired solution.
The buyer makes a shortlist of the best suppliers.
The buyer purchases from the supplier they deem the best fit.
Our research shows that there are at least 15 additional distinct steps within the industrial buying process. The good news is at each of these steps, you have an opportunity to prove why you’re the best fit and potential partner to help your buyers accomplish their goals.
Some of the factors buyers take into consideration when researching and evaluating suppliers are:
Brand strength and reputation
Case studies of past work
Learn how to meet the needs your of buyers, tackle the industrial buying cycle, and position yourself as a trusted partner.
Build your audience personas
It’s time to get specific: Who exactly are your buyers? What are their habits, goals, and challenges? What are they responsible for in their roles?
Thoroughly understanding your buyer and their motivations is critical to making content that will be relevant to them and keep you top-of-mind throughout their journey. You can do this by creating target personas.
A persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. (Don't forget to check out our Essential Dictionary of Industrial Marketing Terms!)
Manufacturers likely have more than one type of persona they're trying to reach. The three most common personas we see in industrial manufacturing are:
You'll likely discover more insight as you define and develop your buyer personas. To learn more about each of these personas and how they influence the industrial buying process, download our eBook, Persona Targeting for Manufacturing Companies.
Before beginning any marketing activity, you need to set goals to ensure you’re maximizing your effectiveness. But don’t just set goals, set SMART goals.
Specific: Define your desired outcome in clear, specific terms. You should be able answer the five W questions: Who, what, when, where, and why?
Measurable: Your goal should be easily quantifiable with target metrics to track your progress.
Attainable: Your goal can be ambitious, while still being achievable. Consider the time and resources you have available and set high, realistic standards within scope.
Relevant: Your goal should make sense for your specific needs and also align with other, big-picture goals.
Time-Bound: All goals should have clear dates of completion attached to hold yourself accountable. Setting a firm deadline will help keep everyday tasks from taking priority over your goal.
Setting SMART goals for all of your marketing efforts will help you double down on what’s working, and know when to pivot away from what’s not.
Learn about the difference between marketing goals and marketing strategy here.
Use technology and automate
Automate your marketing efforts as much as possible — so you can spend most of your time focusing on the bigger picture. There are tons of tools out there to help you organize contact lists, create content, schedule email campaigns, and publish to your website. Use them!
Here are some of our favorites:
G Suite: Google’s office products are similar to Microsoft’s, and becoming just as ubiquitous — but with an added bonus: everything is in the cloud, so you can access your work from any device and collaborate with teammates in real time.
Trello: In a nutshell, Trello is a digital to-do list. It lets you create “cards” of tasks filled with detailed information including comments, attachments, and assignments. You can organize the cards on your “board” by client, stage of completion, or due date to ensure you never miss a step.
A Sales and Marketing CRM: Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, like HubSpot CRM, gives you a clear, real-time view of your marketing funnel and sales pipeline. Not only does it enable transparency across teams, but it will give you hours back in the day by triggering different events and marketing flows automatically.
Review and update your website
When it comes to inbound marketing, your website is the center of the universe. It’s where all of your marketing channels should drive to — and it should be loaded with great content for your prospective buyers. After all, that’s how you’re going to start raking in leads.
But before we get to that part, you’ll need to do a basic audit to make sure your site is up to snuff with today’s consumers’ expectations. Not sure if your website needs a refresh? Check out our five signs your website may be outdated blog. Your website is often the first point of interaction a buyer will have with your company, and if they don’t have a good experience, they’ll never even bother to read further.
Here are a few critical web design features you should have:
A clean look: Keep it simple and embrace white space. Too many colors, visuals, and other bells and whistles will make it hard for customers to find the information they’re searching for — or, worse, your contact info. We know it may sound like a confusing formula, so we've compiled 9 of the best manufacturing websites to inspire yours and help you get started.
Mobile responsive design: Cell phones and tablets have officially overtaken desktop computers. Creating a mobile responsive design will ensure your site looks great on any screen size so that you’re meeting your customers on their preferred device.
HTTPS encryption: With massive data breaches becoming somewhat commonplace, your buyers will be more concerned with security and privacy than ever. Moving your site from HTTP to HTTPS will safeguard their information — and keep you from getting dinged in Google search rankings.
Make sure you check out our other elements of a responsive, effective website design to ensure all your bases are covered!
Review and create content
Content is the backbone of all your inbound marketing efforts. It’s how you’re going to attract visitors to your business and convert them into leads.
Remember the buyer journey? Think of those stages as a funnel that suppliers move through as they research and evaluate potential solutions. To market yourself effectively, you’ll want to provide them with relevant content at every stage.
For example, don't think of a blog as a sales tool. Your priority is to inform. This will keep you top of mind throughout your entire industrial buyers journey and — hopefully — win them over in the end. All content should be high quality and click-worthy. This means that your industrial content has to be interesting enough that site visitors will read all the way through. (Check out how Corrugated Metals increased their leads by 285%.)
Here are some top of funnel content ideas:
Educational blog posts
General industry news and insights
Some middle of funnel content ideas:
And some bottom of funnel content ideas:
Spec sheets and brochures
Remember, a successful inbound marketing program includes content that reaches your industrial leads at all stages of the funnel. Check out this blog for more details on the inbound marketing funnel. And to learn all about content creation for inbound marketing in our eBook, Content Marketing for Industrial Companies.
If you’re an OEM, add product data
Today’s B2B buyers are independent. They don’t need to be handheld throughout the entire process — they want to discover, research, and spec products on their own before committing to a project.
That’s why it’s crucial to present them with easy-to-find, up-to-date product information — or risk getting crossed off their list.
To bring your product data and your website together:
Centralize your data: Consolidate all the different spreadsheets, CAD drawings, and loose papers you have lying around into one dynamic online catalog, like this one.
Enrich your data: Once you have all the information in one place, make sure your products are filled out with as much detail as possible.
Optimize your website: Your site should not only look good, but also be intuitive and easy to navigate so customers have no problem finding and buying your products. And don’t forget to be mobile-friendly, as more and more buyers are working from their phones.
Building out as robust and optimized an e-commerce experience as online giants like McMaster-Carr, Grainger, and Amazon, can feel like a daunting task. That’s where we can help.
Thomas Connect is our powerful proprietary product information syndication service that delivers current, accurate product data to your distributors, your website, and your Thomasnet profile — helping you compete and win against top legacy players.
Promote content to drive to your website
The work doesn’t stop after you’ve created your first piece of content — in fact, just publishing it once is practically a death sentence for lead generation. Instead, you should be promoting your content across channels as much as possible to drive more buyers to your website.
Here are some of the most popular ways to promote content:
Email marketing: Email is the single most important channel for industrial marketers in terms of ROI — but you can’t just start firing off messages. Your email strategy should be measured and targeted. There are a few common mistakes new industrial marketers make with their email marketing. If your industrial emails aren't generating quality engagement rates, it may be time to reevaluate your email tactics. Begin with our Step-by-Step Guide to Create a Winning Email Campaign. 5 Ways To Increase Your Email Open Rates.
Social media: Just like how the industrial buying cycle has changed significantly within the last few years, so has social media. Set yourself up for success with some of our social media best practices tips here. Publishing content on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram not only lets you share it with your followers, but also makes it possible for them to share with their followers through the network effect. Check out our eBook, Boosting Your Business with a Strong Social Community to learn how to build your social network and your reputation as a thought leader.
SEO: Search engine optimization, or SEO, is adhering to best practices set out by Google and Bing to appear towards the top of search results, thereby earning your website more organic traffic. There are many easy steps you can take to start optimizing your content to rank in search.
PPC: Pay-per-click or PPC advertising is a different form of search optimization that allows you to show ads in keyword search results to earn paid traffic to your site. As you learn more about PPC, you'll also come across other commonly used PPC acronyms including 'SEM' for search engine marketing and 'CPA' for Cost-Per-Acquisition, also known as Cost-Per-Action. If you don't know the basics, PPC marketing can be difficult to understand — especially with so many acronyms. We've rounded up a few industrial PPC and SEO best practices to get started on both.
Video: Buyers consume millions of hours of video every day, and this type of content is proven to increase engagement, clicks, and organic reach. Try including it in email, blogs, or social posts — or even promoting one as an ad on YouTube. Check out our blog for best practices on video promotion.
Most importantly, when promoting content, don’t think of each channel as acting independently. Think of them all working together as an ecosystem — with the ultimate goal of driving as many people as possible to your website.
Be where your buyers are
Even though you’re doing all you can to try to bring buyers to your website, it’s important to also put yourself where they are elsewhere online.
Some of the best places to find industrial buyers are:
Reddit: Not only is Reddit the third-most popular site in the US, but millions of its users are engineers, making it a great forum to ask questions, offer advice, and chime in on conversations.
Engineering.com: Self-described as “the place to share stories and solve problems, big and small,” Engineering.com offers a publishing platform to submit articles that engineers might find helpful, “ProjectBoard” to collaborate and develop ideas, and an “Eng-Tips” messaging forum to share trends and strategies.
Thomas Network: With 800,000 active registered users and more than 10,600 new buyers registering every month, Thomasnet.com is the best place for you to connect with customers. In fact, according to our 2018 Sourcing Activity Snapshot, every two seconds, a buyer or engineer visited Thomasnet.com to source products and look for new suppliers.
And don't forget the underutilized opportunity of social media marketing!
Close the loop with reporting
At the end of the day, the reason you’re spending all this time, effort, and resources on marketing is to grow your business. So it’s important to regularly check back and see if it’s working.
Here are a few keys to implementing a metrics-driven marketing program:
An ROI measuring toolkit: Similar to how you made quantifiable SMART goals, you’ll want to select KPIs to measure ROI. Some common ones include cost per lead, cost per sale, cost of overall marketing program, overall length of customer relationship. You can also set baselines for channel performance with campaign-specific KPIs such as email open rate or social media impressions.
Google Analytics: This is a free tool that helps you monitor the health of your website by tracking site metrics such as unique page views, session duration, and bounce rates. With GA you can easily set up customized reports to monitor specific metrics of interest for your campaigns.
Thomas WebTrax: All the website traffic in the world means nothing if your site visitors aren’t qualified buyers. Thomas WebTrax is a lead generation tool that tracks exactly who is in-market for your services, how they’re interacting with your online presence, and where they are in their buying journey.
Learn more about how Thomas WebTrax provides actionable data to engage in-market buyers — at no cost!
Congratulations! You made it through our Ultimate Guide to Marketing for Manufacturers!
- Plan! Do some research first. Know your industrial customers and about your company has tried in the past (analyze what worked, what didn't work, and why).
- Create! Use the information from your homework above as the backbone to create a stellar marketing plan. Be patient, and do one project at a time.
- Optimize! There’s always something that can be improved, and if you’re testing correctly – no project in your industrial marketing strategy should ever really be final.
So where do you go from here? Download this guide here in an easier format to reference back to later. We hope this Ultimate Guide to Marketing has provided you the framework to start running your own inbound marketing campaigns.
Remember, Thomas has tons of free resources for manufacturers available, designed specifically for industrial companies like you. Partnering with digital marketing experts like Thomas will help take your marketing campaigns to the next level by connecting with suppliers on the things they care about the most. Ready to take your marketing campaign to the next level? Contact us today!
Did you find this useful?