What does it take to create a strong manufacturing marketing strategy?
One that goes beyond just “Have a blog,” or “Have a newsletter,” (no kidding, this is real advice we’ve seen)…
…and actually tackles the many challenges that manufacturing brands have with their marketing?
We’ll try to answer this question today — by giving you 10 best practices for marketing your manufacturing business.
To come up with this list, we’ve looked at the most common marketing advice for the manufacturing industry and saw… quite a few gaps, to put it mildly.
Or “enormous holes you could fly a dragon through,” if we’re being honest. (We’ll miss you, Game of Thrones.)
Anyway, we did our best to come up with some actionable best practices that address those gaps — check them out!
1. Consider all stakeholders
So you’ve refined your manufacturing marketing strategy to target the key decision-maker. After all, they’re the person with all the power — it makes sense to focus on them!
But the thing is, even if it looks like one person is calling the shots, many people can influence that buying decision. You’ve got:
- The subordinates who research potential manufacturing brands and come up with a list of options…
- The outside advisors and consultants with strong opinions on how to pick the right manufacturer…
- The project managers who have to weigh the pros and cons of using your product versus your competitors…
- The teams who will actually work with your product or collaborate with your company during production…
See: it’s always more complicated than one decision-maker’s yes or no. Make sure that your marketing message and assets reflect this. Use them to tell those different stakeholders what they need to hear to make up their minds!
2. Mind the long tail
You generate leads. You take them through your funnel. Some of them buy (yippee!).
But what do you do with the majority who don’t?
Maybe those leads weren’t a good fit for your brand… or maybe they just weren’t ready to buy from you yet. Bottom line is, they still have the potential to become your customers in the future.
That’s why a strong manufacturing marketing strategy can’t focus only on lead generation — you want to prioritize nurturing, too. There are two good ways to do this:
- Use your email list and social media to keep your manufacturing brand fresh in their minds. This is great for leads who slipped through the cracks before they saw your offer for the first time.
- Have your sales team follow up with those prospects who got the offer but decided not to buy. Best-case scenario, they will be ready for your product in the future. Worst-case scenario, you might not convert them into customers, but you’ll still gain valuable insights as to why they decided not to buy. Either way, you win!
Don’t forget: manufacturing sales cycles can be looong — and most leads don’t convert right away. Make sure that your strategy allows for that.
3. Reduce “bad” friction
Sometimes leads slip through the cracks for the tiniest reasons.
Maybe your contact form was a few steps too long, so they thought, “I have a meeting in 10 minutes, I’ll fill this out later”… and they never did. Or maybe your sales rep didn’t call them back immediately and couldn’t reach them later.
These stumbling blocks seem small — and they are! But they can still create friction and prevent you from reaching your ideal customers. So the next time you’re wondering where have all the good leads gone, take a closer look at your funnel.
Ask yourself: are there any steps in the process that make it unnecessarily hard for potential customers to reach you? Those could be:
- Extra fields in your opt-in form that don’t tell you anything critical but make the conversion process longer.
- Confusing website layout that frustrates your visitors — from the overall design to unclear calls to action.
- Sticking points in the sales process when your prospects are waiting on info from your sales reps — or the other way around.
- Too much or too little information on your website. You don’t want people to end up confused, or to go off googling for answers on their own.
- Slow loading times, which can cause even the most interested customers to say, “Nope,” and leave.
And so on.
It’s important to remember: not all friction is bad. You need some of it — for qualifying leads, for example. After all, you don’t want every Dick and Jane clogging up your sales pipeline and wasting your time!
But if something doesn’t help you qualify leads and just makes the process harder for everyone, you can and should ditch it.
4. Differentiate your offer — and your brand
Why should your customers choose to do business with you?
It’s extremely important to know the answer to this question. If you don’t, you’ll be forced to compete on price or quality alone — and that’s a race nobody can win.
Now, let’s be clear: this is not about being superior to all competition in every way. That’s impossible. Rather, it’s about being the superior option for your target market specifically.
Think of it like this: nobody buys Apple products because the technology is super-impressive. In fact, it hasn’t been impressive for a long time! Apple’s “secret sauce” is the way it differentiates itself from all the competition and appeals to its dedicated consumer base. That’s how they’ve been able to generate hundreds of billions in profit from less than 20% market share.
Now, we don’t suggest you wear a black turtleneck, film an expensive TV ad, or put on a big-budget tech presentation. That was just an example.
But what you can do is look for ways that make your company and your products uniquely appealing to your ideal customers:
- Maybe you know their industry like the back of your hand, and it helps you manufacture products to their exact needs…
- Maybe you can offer a compelling guarantee that none of your competitors do…
- Maybe you have in-house consultants who can help your customers make the most of your products…
- Or maybe you offer the most comprehensive process, from design to delivery and installation…
Whatever your unique advantages are, there’s one catch: they have to be relevant to your customers. Find that intersection between “stuff you can do” and “stuff your customers care about” — and you’re golden!
5. Build your authority and credibility
When you tell your potential customers how awesome your manufacturing brand is, they… might not take your word for it.
Don’t hold it against them: they’re probably comparing a few different buying options — and your competitors are telling them the same thing. “We’re professional, our quality’s amazing, our technology is best-in-class, buy from us!” If you were them, who would you believe?
So how do you convey your awesomeness in a way that inspires trust?
Use external signs of authority and credibility! Those could be:
- Case studies about those times your team totally stepped up — and knocked a customer’s socks off so hard they still can’t find them.
- Shorter testimonials that confirm your own marketing message — that you’re trustworthy, professional, and make amazing products.
- Sheer numbers that demonstrate how in-demand your manufacturing brand is. This may be a type of cognitive bias, but people trust big, specific numbers!
- Industry awards that speak to your credibility. They aren’t as useful as brands think, but they do help to strengthen your image.
- Names and logos of prominent brands you’ve worked with. When potential customers see that a big business trusts you with their money, it helps to win them over.
You can use any combination of these social proof signals to persuade new customers to do business with you. Don’t neglect them!
6. Show off your unique process
Sometimes all you need to build credibility with potential customers is to show them how the proverbial “sausage” is made.
Do you have a unique process that you share in your manufacturing marketing strategy? Then show it! Let your target customers have a peek behind the scenes and see how you create your products first-hand.
This can take many forms, from marketing videos to live broadcasts of your manufacturing facilities, to Virtual Reality or real-life tours (those are best reserved for serious prospects and not new leads). Experiment and find a way that works best for you.
Actually, you don’t even need a particularly unique process to make use of this best practice. Even if your competitors are doing the exact same thing — but don’t explicitly show it — you can still do it. Hey, it’s not your fault they didn’t think of this and you did (you’re welcome)!
This “show, don’t (just) tell” strategy sends a powerful message to potential customers: that your company is honest enough to show its inner workings — and pretty great at what it does!
Plus, you can take this basic principle of showing your work and being transparent and apply it to every aspect of your marketing: from content creation to customer support.
7. Focus on existing customers
Fact: it’s 5 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to sell your product to someone who’s already doing business with you. Especially in an industry with thin margins, long sales cycles, and fierce competition like yours.
That’s why a strong manufacturing marketing strategy needs to focus on serving existing customers just as much as on attracting new ones.
Basically, you want your strategy to work on three levels:
- Creating a fantastic customer experience. Communicate with new customers to validate their buying decision as a great choice, set expectations, and manage any issues that might arise. Let your marketing team work in tandem with other departments (especially customer support) to make this happen.
- Designing and selling new offers. In most customer relationships, there’s a lot of room for growth. Create new products or services they would want, suggest bigger order volume when appropriate, and help your customers succeed — so they have more demand for your offers in the future!
- Increasing retention. Turning one-off buyers into long-term customers isn’t easy… but it’s oh so worth it. Just a 5% boost in retention can increase your revenue by 25 to 95%! The good news is, your customers already want to stick with you. Do you think they enjoy shopping for manufacturers? Of course not! So make this choice a no-brainer for them and invest in a good retention strategy.
8. Target all stages of awareness
Marketing is all about meeting your customers where they are.
Some of them will be looking to solve a problem, with zero prior knowledge of your company. Others might be comparing different products from you and your competitors, unsure of what to choose. Still others might be ready to buy — and you just need to point them in the right direction…
You want to create different messages for these different stages of awareness and use them for marketing your manufacturing brand. For example:
- For cold leads who want to solve a problem, create branded content that will help them — blog posts, white papers, podcasts, videos, presentations, whatever they would prefer.
- For warm leads comparing different options, create explainer videos that highlight your process. You can also design landing pages or downloadable cheat sheets that show how you stack up against the competition.
- For flaming hot prospects who want to get on with it, make it easy for them to request a callback or even submit an order from your website.
Always think about customers at different stages of their journey and ask yourself: what do they need to hear right now? What will help them take the next step? And use this to inform your content and your big-picture marketing message.
9. Find room for emotions
When someone buys your product, they only do it after careful and logical consideration…
Ha, psych! We’re just messing with you — in reality, your buyers are just as emotional as everybody else. Sure, they put some thought into considering why your offer is a good fit, but emotions are still a factor.
‘Cause when all is said and done, your customers aren’t buying a product or service from you. They’re buying a promise:
- That buying your high-quality product will give them peace of mind…
- That they will look good to their colleagues, superiors or shareholders…
- That they’ll be more successful thanks to you…
- That they’ll have more freedom to focus on more important or enjoyable things…
Strip away those rational arguments and discussions about the pros and cons, and you’ll find the same thing you always do — regular people trying to improve their lives.
Your marketing should acknowledge those emotions and take them into account. If your message can resonate with customers on this deep level, you’ll have a ridiculous advantage over your competition.
10. Please please please talk to your customers
Assumptions are the death of effective marketing. In any industry.
If you market your brand and your offers based on what you think your target market wants, you’ll always be way off base. You won’t sell as much as you could have, fall short of your business goals, and fail to attract your ideal customers.
Luckily, there’s an easy way to avoid this: talk to your customers. The potential ones, the ones that didn’t buy, the existing ones, and the ones that got away.
The most valuable feedback about your products and your marketing will come from your current customers. So you want to talk to them on the phone or face-to-face, because that’s how you’ll get the best insights. And do it on the regular, not just as a one-off! For everyone else, you can use customer development surveys with open-ended questions.
It’s not a “sexy” tactic. It doesn’t scale. But it pays off in several major ways:
- It will help you refine your overall marketing message.
- You’ll be able to promote your products and services better.
- You’ll get new ideas for offers your target market wants.
So please do it. Pick up the phone, send that email, create that quick survey… Talk to your customers, they have a lot to teach you.
Enhance your manufacturing marketing strategy with video
Video marketing is one of the best ways to grow your manufacturing business — right up there with content marketing and SEO.
If you’re already using video in your marketing, or even just thinking about it, we want to help you make the most of it!
Interested? Then we invite you to book a free video marketing strategy audit with our experts here at The Draw Shop: