Digital Marketing for the Manufacturing Industry: Best Practices, Tips & Trends

The manufacturing industry can be very competitive, and even if you are in a specific niche where you are the front runner, it’s likely there are competitors hot on your tail.

The marketing landscape is always changing, with algorithm changes and new tools and techniques meaning you may be left behind if you don’t keep up with the game.

So how do you say ahead of competitors, or catch up to your industry leaders? Digital marketing is an obvious choice, as many manufacturing firms fail to make the most of the online channels available.

Digital Marketing Best Practices for Manufacturing Companies

Even if you are the best in the business, with the best quality products or the best prices, there are going to be others out there with a different USP or offer.

Industry 4.0 offers many opportunities for manufacturers, but often forget to include digital marketing in their digital transformations. You can read up more on our post on how digital marketing fits in with Industry 4.0 for the manufacturing industry.

Leading manufacturing firms still need to market their products or services online, or someone else is going to come and fill that gap. Whichever side you are on, digital marketing can help you achieve your business goals. Word of mouth may a significant impact on your business, but other businesses may have digital marketing as their strongest source of leads or sales.

This means your online presence has to be as good as possible to convince your audience that you are the obvious choice.

In terms of why you should consider digital marketing, Google found that 46% of all B2B researchers and buyers are millennials. And you can be sure they are researching thoroughly online – so it is essential your brand is found. 50% of B2B search queries are made on smartphones, which is set to grow to 70% by 2020. Is your website easy to use on mobile devices?

Google also found that 67% of purchases for multiple industrial manufacturing and pack-and-ship industries had been influenced in some way by digital means. 58% of B2B industrial manufacturer purchasers begin online research with a particular product, and then follow up with a brand. If they are searching for particular products, you need to ensure yours is coming up.

Whether you are B2B or B2C, you will need to think about how digital marketing can make an impact on your business. You will need a responsive web design that is mobile-friendly, and content on the site that speaks to your customer base.

But how are you expecting people to find your website, or find out about your brand or products? Will you reach out and find them, or wait for them to come to you? Why not both?

With digital marketing, you can go out and find potential customers where they hang out, or alternatively, ensure your website pages are up to scratch so they can find you. But how do you go about doing this?

Whatever category you find yourself in, Google found the majority of shoppers who research online considers at least 2+ brands. By category, this comes down to 73% for industrial manufacturers, 82% for industrial suppliers, and 78% for pack & ship suppliers.

Create a digital marketing strategy

Many businesses go head-first into digital marketing without thinking through a strategy.

The reality is you need a strategy in order to outline what you want to achieve, and how you want to go about doing it.

By taking the time to outline a strategy, you can determine what specific actions you can take to help you get the business growth you are looking for.

This will outline your mission, objectives, a SWOT, competitor research, your USP, your target market, your marketing messaging, positioning, and how you plan to generate leads and ultimately sales. This could be through certain digital marketing campaigns, SEO, content, social media, email, paid ads, marketing automation, improvements to your site or otherwise.

Then you will need to create a plan to outline the more specific weekly or monthly actions you need to take to achieve what your strategy lays out. How will you get a return on your investment? How many leads or sales can you expect from each channel? What are your aims for each channel or campaign that you will put into action?

Define your audience

As part of your strategy, you need to define your audience.

You may think you know your audience, but it’s better if you can create personas and think about what digital marketing strategies and tactics work best for these specific personas.

It’s likely your audience aren’t all the same. And this means they will hang out in different places online, will respond to different forms of marketing and will have a different purchasing path or road to conversion. If you are largely B2B, then LinkedIn is going to be a safe bet in terms of social media. But then you have to think about the campaigns you will run on the platform, and how you can engage with potential customers.

By creating personas, you can outline how you will appeal to each one of them, and work out how to get the best results.

Keyword research

Do your keyword research. What is your target audience searching for online? Is your website optimised for these terms?

Your website will likely have key pages you want your audience to land on and make an action. Are these optimised for certain terms?

And what kind of content is your audience looking for? Can you provide answers to queries they are searching for? And how can you turn this traffic into sales? This might be by capturing leads, or offering something in return for their information. Or maybe it goes straight to a sale. But this will depend on your business.

Monitor your SEO performance

If you rank top on Google for a key term that generates you business, that is great. But what if a competitor comes along and takes that top spot? How much of an impact would that have on your business?

And if you aren’t ranking on the first page of Google for obvious keywords, think about how much difference it would make if your business was the one that came up when people search for what you have to offer.

It’s important to know what you rank for and what you don’t, in order for you to stay ahead of the competition.

You may think your website is SEO-optimised and everything is great. But if you aren’t continually monitoring the SEO performance of your site, noticing new keyword trends and what your competitors are up to, you could be missing out on decent business. Key decision makers are likely searching for terms and heading to your competitors instead of you. But with time and patience, you could be the recommended result by Google.

For many manufacturers, a few orders can make a huge difference if you have high ticket items. If your brand is not synonymous with your product, then people searching for products or services that you offer will not recognise your brand. They will go for whoever is ranking highest, and compare a few.

Plan your content and stick to a schedule

Recognise what content your audience responds to, and put the effort in to generat this content.

Do they like visual content, such as videos? You can set up a YouTube channel and showcase your products. Do they like long-form content such as whitepapers? Or are blog posts enough information? You can create a blog and write content to host on there – and then offer downloads in exchange for email addresses and other information.

Create a schedule and stick to generating content. And ensure you are optimising them for the key queries your audience is searching for. Traffic is not the key here – but instead looking to get targeted traffic. The intent behind the search is key, whether there is an abundance in volume or not.

In-house or outsource?

If you’re already researching how to make the most of the opportunities digital marketing offers, then you’re likely thinking whether to keep it internal or outsource your marketing.

If you already have dedicated marketing staff, then that is great, and you’re likely ahead of the curve. However, if you burden employees with taking on additional marketing on top of what they were hired to do, then your competitors will likely be taking bigger strides than you online, and you will fall behind.

It’s best to keep your current staff doing what they do best, and either build a team or outsource your marketing requirements. With more manufacturers hiring marketers or digital marketing agencies, you will need to keep up with them. Outsourcing and in-house is another ball-game (which we have covered in a previous post on outsourcing digital marketing vs in-house marketing) and is worth considering. Each one has benefits, but outsourcing your marketing is usually a great way to ensure you don’t spread your own team thin, and ensures you have access to seasoned experts who know how to grow your business, without the risk of hiring a whole new team with expertise in each area of digital marketing.