As anyone in the industry will tell you – manufacturing can be a cut-throat, high-risk business.
Many manufacturers work in industries that require the highest tolerances. Perfection and minimal deviation is the norm. Meanwhile, customers are demanding lower costs, shorter turnaround times, and smaller orders with more customization (especially in discrete manufacturing). Add in the tight margins, where a little waste and a single mistake can turn a profitable order into a loss, and it’s easy to see why manufacturers are under pressure to constantly deliver.
With so much focus on production, few manufacturers have time to overhaul their sales and marketing. For these companies, the key to profit lies in increasing production efficiency or reduced costs.
But there are other tools a manufacturer can turn to for increasing sales. With a little planning, a smart manufacturer can utilize one of the latest marketing techniques – inbound marketing – to delight existing customers, identify and attract new, sales-ready prospects, and help their company reset their relationship with customers and provide additional value.
What is Inbound Marketing
In the past, marketing was disruptive. Traditional marketing was in your face, demanding attention and creating a need that would sell more product and services. Traditional marketing is product-centric, with value tied to the product rather than the business or customer relationship. For years, manufacturers have relied on disruptive marketing. Sales people are constantly on the phone with prospects asking if they need more product. Bids and spec sheets are then used by the customer to pick the lowest price product.
In the traditional, disruptive marketing environment, the manufacturer is seen as a single option among many. Value falls to the lowest-cost because there is typically no variation in product. The strategy offers minimal opportunity for the manufacturer to provide any additional value – the focus is only on product and price.
Inbound marketing works differently. It’s a customer-centric marketing strategy designed to identify the needs and questions a customer has, and then provide answers and solutions for the customer. It expands the buying process beyond product and cost so the manufacturer can shine light on the additional value they can bring.
With a strong inbound marketing strategy, you can present your team as the best possible solution to a customer before other companies even submit a bid. With inbound, the product is only one part of what the customer is purchasing, they can experience and understand the additional value the individual manufacturer brings.
Launching an Inbound Marketing Campaign for Manufacturing
There is a lot that goes into inbound marketing. SEO, content creation, social media marketing… It’s easy to get bogged down on the details. If you want to learn more, make sure to check out our blog introducing inbound marketing for business. For even more information, make sure to check out our ebook on Digital Marketing which covers inbound marketing in depth.
For now, let’s just cover the first steps you need to take as a manufacturing getting started with inbound marketing. There are a few questions you need to answer first. Once you have the answers, you’ll have a good idea how an inbound marketing will work for you, and the steps you need to take to launch a program. The first thing you need to determine is what you want to accomplish:
What are your business goals?
Are you looking for new customers? Maybe you want to provide better service and increase your business with existing customers. Perhaps you want to open up a new market, or launch a new product or service?
You need to set goals for your business and your marketing. With solid goals, you can empower your marketing effort and fuel business growth. Goals help coordinate your work and determine your return. They provide critical guidance as you lay out your inbound strategy.
Who is your inbound marketing audience?
Once you have goals, it’s time to gather information on your target buyer – your ideal customer and the prospects you are planning to reach and influence with your inbound marketing. Think of them as your audience.
The best way to do this is by creating a buyer persona – a fictional representation of your ideal customer. These are the people whose problems you are hoping to solve with your product or service.
The persona should be based on real data and information, and not guesswork and supposition. It should also be targeted. The more focused your buyer persona, the stronger your inbound marketing will be. If you try to sell to everyone, you are likely to reach no one. Be honest as you build the persona, and consider what makes them such a good customer.
What do your customers need?
To create a powerful and useful persona, you need to dig deep and ask, “why?” Consider this… as a manufacturer, what is a tier 1 company looking for in a supplier? Why do they need shorter turnaround time? Why are they requesting smaller orders, or complete traceability? Or consider why the products you make are so useful to the end buyers. What problem or challenge are you really solving for them?
The insight you can pull from this deep dive into the buyer persona should shape the story and message you present to your customers and prospects. It looks beyond cost as the key driver of value.
Where are they going as they investigate your product or service?
The next step in planning your inbound marketing is looking at the steps and path a prospect will take in selecting your company to do business with – the buyer’s journey.
Consider why a buyer will reach out to you, and what steps they will take as they look for a manufacturer partner. What reasons will they have for reaching out and finding a new supplier? What information will they need from a potential supplier? What questions will they have, and who else will be involved in the process?
This information will shape your inbound marketing strategy. If you know what problem the buyer is looking to solve, and what information they need to solve the problem, then make sure they find you in their research. If complete traceability is what they need, then provide answers to the traceability questions they are researching. If a new buyer needs information on a product, then give them that information.
Remember, inbound is a customer-centric strategy, so your goal should be to make your company the easiest to work with. Provide the answers the prospect is looking for. Make it easy for them to get the information they need. If you know where they are going for information, then put information in those places.
Design your offering around delivering the prospect’s priorities, not your product. Use the buyer’s journey to map out your sales process so you are always a step ahead, ready to help.
How can you best help the customer?
Now that you have a better understanding of your customer, it’s time to use that information to craft your inbound marketing plan.
Look at answering the prospect’s questions as they move through their buyer’s journey. How can you help them along the way? For example, how does your ISO Certification reduce quality escapes and what else are you doing to ship the highest quality products? What training do your employees have and what does this mean to the reader?
Map out your sales process to the Buyer’s Journey, so you are always ready to provide the buyer the best help possible at every phase of the journey. Your goal should be a customer-centric buying process, rather than a product-centric sales pitch.
The Importance of Inbound Marketing for Manufacturing
More and more manufacturers are reworking their offerings and message. These businesses understand that to succeed they need to offer more than the lowest-price possible. They need to map out the value they offer customers. They need to deliver a product and service that is more than a commodity to their customers, but rather a partnership between companies.
More than just driving new leads, or offering a better sales process, inbound marketing can help manufacturers carve out this new position in the market. The inbound sales process provides manufacturers the opportunity to illustrate this value and partnership to the prospect. Rather than just talking about how the company is different, the manufacturer is showing how the partnership and added value works.
Taking the Next Inbound Marketing Steps for Manufacturing
Getting started with inbound marketing can seem intimidating at first.
After all, most manufacturers aren’t in the business of producing content. Connecting with customers through social media isn’t second nature and not many plant managers are ready or willing to crank out a blog or two. But, changing the perception of manufacturing and resetting the customer relationships takes time. Every small step toward implementing an inbound marketing strategy will make the next step easier.
Start with the questions we’ve discussed above, and begin mapping out your strategy. Work with other stakeholders in your business, including management and the operations team. Their insight and support will be critical for the project.
As always, you can talk to the digital marketing team at GO2 Partners about inbound marketing. Not only can they provide expertise for the project, they also have the resources on hand that can streamline and accelerate the project.
GO2 has worked with industry-leading manufacturers on inbound marketing, designing custom project plans focused on business goals. Their 20/20 Marketing program can help jumpstart your own marketing campaigns, delivering benefits and services at a much lower cost. If you have questions, or would like to discuss how inbound marketing can help your business, then contact GO2 Partners today.