Digital Marketing for Manufacturing
Digital marketing for manufacturing companies is subtly, and sometimes radically, different from marketing in other sectors. One of the key differences is that manufacturing is lagging behind digital marketing strategy and implementation compared to other sectors. Digital marketing techniques pioneered in the insurance and finance sector, for example, have not been widely recognised by manufacturers.
For those manufacturers ready to adopt these new and proven marketing techniques, the future is promising. For those that don’t, to quote a leading Insurance company marketing director from 8 years ago, “There’s blood on the wall of boardrooms up and down the country. They know they’re haemorrhaging business, but they don’t know where it’s going!”
We have over 20 years of experience with digital marketing for manufacturing companies marketing products and services, covering all elements from strategy and planning to content development, online advertising, website development and on.
This article will cover topics relevant to digital marketing for manufacturing, including:
- Digital marketing techniques specific to manufacturing
- The importance of DM for manufacturers
- The difference between DM techniques
- Digital marketing content for manufacturers
- PPC integrations
- How to leverage merchants and distributors
- Manufacturing standards marketing
- Digital marketing in component product manufacturing
- Rankbrain implications for manufacturing
Some of the content below will be a little technical. If it doesn’t make sense just give us a call and we’ll translate it into English for you.
One Form of Digital Marketing for all?
We know the term ‘manufacturing companies’ is a catch-all, and the best digital marketing strategy will vary from company to company.
You may, for example, manufacture components for other companies and have a small number of vital clients. In this case, the balance of information on your website needs to be focused on the needs of this highly specific and probably technical audience.
Accreditations and standards are key information elements that must be easily accessible for your client’s procurement processes.
Non-confidential technical specifications will not only inform your clients but also target some very specific search engine optimisation terms.
Very effective can be the tactical use of SKUs, Part Numbers (MPN’s or proprietary), Serial Numbers and even Design Modification Suffixes. For a highly specific search, these identifiers can shortcut research time enormously.
Alternatively, you may produce complete products and sell them directly to the end client or through a chain of distributors or merchants.
Digital marketing for this type of manufacturing company can have some of the above elements but needs to focus more on the requirements of end-users. The reason for the product becomes a more important marketing message, and consideration needs to be given to the requirements of third parties who make your products accessible to the end-user. More of this later.
Why should manufacturers focus on digital marketing?
The truth is that in today’s world, if you’re not online and online effectively, you’re losing out. Manufacturers are no exception. Potential customers (business and consumer) almost exclusively use the web and search engines to quickly locate the information that they are looking for.
In fact, 94% of B2B customers carry out online research before purchasing a product. Yet surprisingly, the manufacturing industry tends to lag behind others when it comes to having an effective online presence. Manufacturing companies spend around 3.2% of turnover on marketing activity compared with a cross-sector average of 11.3%.
With an effective website in place, you will be able to communicate with a more expansive (and targeted) audience and increase your existing customer base through effective lead generation. It’ll put you in a good position against your competitors.
By investing in digital marketing, you can achieve a great ROI. 82% of manufacturing companies who did this reported a positive outcome in 2018.
Yes, we’re a digital marketing agency, but we will always recommend that offline marketing continues to run in parallel with any online activity. More traditional channels, such as trade magazines and trade show marketing, are still important tools in the manufacturing industry. But your focus should be increasingly online!
What is different about digital marketing for manufacturers?
Let’s start with your website
Your company’s website is probably the most fundamental part of your marketing strategy. It is the core of your digital marketing activity and, if you get it right, your website can produce great results. Digital marketing for manufacturers isn’t an optional extra unless you are confident that you have an unassailable market lead both now and in the future.
The challenge that we come across right from the outset with most websites that we are asked to review and improve is the lack of focus on the needs of the audience(s). Unless you are manufacturing one type of component it is likely that you will have multiple audiences with different requirements. This is as much a navigation issue as a content one.
When we were asked to review the main Baxi (boiler manufacturer) website, before being appointed as their digital marketing agency, it became apparent very quickly that whilst a section was in place for installers and merchants fewer than 1% of site visitors ever clicked on a small navigation link. From a navigation point of view, the content was effectively invisible.
It’s not just about creating a website and leaving it to run itself. You need to make sure your site is well-designed, optimised for search engines, up-to-date with fresh and relevant content, has the right user journey and is mobile responsive. It is also vital to monitor the performance of your website, to assess where it’s doing well, and where it needs to work harder.
By setting conversion goals for your website, you will have more control over the performance against your digital marketing strategy. For example, you can track when people place an order on your site, fill out an enquiry form, search for a stockist etc.
Each of these conversions will give you a clear vision of where each user is in their purchase decision journey. Your website analytics will also arm you with the information you need to refine the content and user experience on your website.
Measuring conversions and goals is pretty straightforward if you are dealing directly with the public or many merchants/distributors. The volume of data brings statistical significance to the results. It can be more problematic where a single goal or conversion is of great value but occurs infrequently.
The marketing processes in each case for attribution (where the lead came from) is quite different with the need for a much more detailed and forensic approach. If a lead is worth £200k, but that sort of lead only comes in every quarter, it’s well worth spending some more time working out specifically what succeeded.
Quite often, this forensic approach relies on good old-fashioned human contact and asking the client how they found you, as much as taking a detailed look at your visitor analytics. The trick then is to act on that information in a meaningful manner and this means having a defined process that will be implemented. It’s worth taking the time!
Additionally, digital marketing isn’t just about new lead generation. It’s equally important to keep your existing customers happy. Digital marketing can increase sales from existing customers by up to 15%. Customer retention and repeat sales are key success factors for manufacturing businesses.
Keeping customers happy can be as simple as presenting them with the appropriate information, specifications, customised costs and the like. All of these things are quite simple and, with a sensible choice of web platform, can be very inexpensive.
Content is King...when it is relevant, useful and optimised for SEO!
All of the above relies on good content – relevant, useful and keyword-rich. When writing content for SEO purposes, it is important to do your research. What are the key search terms that you would like your website to show up in Google for? Optimise your copy to include these, but keep it relevant and engaging to the type of person searching using those key phrases.
The big opportunity with content is that you’ll find, in the manufacturing sector, that few of your competitors have spent a great deal of time or budget developing their content. In most other sectors, this has been a standard technique for many years and is tried and tested.
Perhaps the biggest learning from other sectors is that what you call your products and what your customers call your products can be significantly different. It is well worth the time to ensure that you are promoting your products with the same keywords that people are looking for.
It took us no more than fifteen minutes to find out that Calor should have been optimising for ‘LPG Bottles’ rather than ‘LPG Cylinders’. It made a massive difference in visitor numbers.
There is, and always has been, a first adopter advantage with good quality, relevant content. That advantage can be yours!
LSI content for manufacturers
There’s a thing with content that you’ve probably not been told about? It goes by the name of LSI content and can be a real game-changer.
LSI or Latent Semantic Index content is a method by which search engines look for terms that often go together (it’s actually called ‘co-occurrence’ but that’s a whole debate that you’ll not need to get involved in). The bottom line is that SEO isn’t about putting a single keyword in a few selected places and waiting for the visitors to flock in.
SEO for manufacturing can take advantage of LSI by ensuring that some thought is given to site content and patterns of word usage elsewhere are studied and applied to your own content. Fortunately, there are tools to help.
The key area of difference within manufacturing is that these techniques can also apply to lists of part number data, albeit not so evolved as natural language (AI systems have less to consider to build up a pattern).
Most sites that present part number data give little thought to how the data is collected, presented and the subsequent calls to action.
A page of technical specifications, parts numbers, SKU’s and anything of the same type can be optimised for search engines in the same way as any other information. It’s not sexy marketing, but it gets results.
Example: We applied the technique to a small Northamptonshire-based component manufacturer and distributor. Within a few months, they were found by and received a substantial order from NASA.
Did you know?
85% of marketers in the manufacturing industry now rely on content marketing as part of their marketing strategy.
82% of manufacturing marketers using content marketing have reported that it has increased sales.
Well-written digital marketing communications will help your content to become more indexable, raising your search engine rankings and thereby giving your website more authority and visitors.
Get a boost with PPC
With good SEO, potential customers will find you on Google or another search engine. But what about boosting the visibility of your content with paid advertising? Digital marketing for manufacturing isn’t just about SEO. Pay Per Click, or PPC is proven to be an effective way of driving targeted traffic to relevant content on your website. The user will then be encouraged to complete a valuable action (conversion) on the page that they have landed on.
So how can you, as a manufacturer, make the best use of PPC?
When selling directly to the public, it’s pretty much standard PPC, researched keyword phrases, appropriate negative keywords, curated landing pages and plenty of analytics.
When supplying uncommon component parts or niche products, it’s a little different with very limited data and very specific results. If you are never going to sell more than a few of each product, it’s difficult to draw any real conclusions from your results.
But remember that this is PPC we’re talking about… you only pay when someone clicks on your result. It doesn’t matter if you have many, many terms that very rarely get clicked on. Your only cost is in the setup. It’s better to judge combined results rather than individual keywords.
Tip: don’t engage a PPC agency that charges a percentage of your overall spend. They’ll not be motivated to adopt the correct approach.
Display advertising, by contrast, uses the Google Display Network to place media banners across any websites that host advertisements using Google AdSense. This network can also be used for remarketing ads, which is a method of targeting people who have already visited your website but have not yet converted. It can also be used to send adverts to people who have visited your competitor’s websites. These types of advertising are ideal for serving targeted content to prospective customers in the manufacturing sector.
Manufacturing merchants and distributor marketing
One of the most powerful SEO techniques for manufacturers who supply through third parties is the leveraging of their merchant and distributor network.
Second only to well-developed content is the establishment of a robust and relevant link network. In other words, websites that link to you and are related to your products.
Who is better than the companies that you supply?
If you have a recognisable brand name with a good reputation, it can be enough to ask/require that your merchants/distributors use your logo with some text that links back to you. It’s best to create a ‘link pack’ of information giving instructions for how to do this.
If you are a little less well-known, you can build a campaign around an appropriate topic and invite them to associate themselves with that campaign. Ideas could be; Food Packaging, Buying British Components, and Safety through Component Testing. Yes, it’s PR, but it can be great for SEO.
If you haven’t got the budget for this type of activity, either contact a few complementary companies and see if they are interested in a joint effort or run the idea past your association.
The associated benefit of this activity is to cement existing relationships with merchants/distributors and reach out to those who may not stock your products.
The same principle can be applied to companies who use your products in theirs.
Not forgetting social media and email marketing
Not everyone will reach your website through search engines or hit your website directly. Social media is a key part of any digital marketing strategy. 69% of people in the manufacturing industry follow social media channels relevant to their field.
Think of your website as your information hub. Social media should give snippets of information, driving users to your website, where they will find more information on a topic. Social media content should be visual – impactful imagery, infographics and videos work particularly well. Sharing industry news, as well as your own blog content, is also a great way to position your manufacturing business as a thought leader within the industry.
If your business is already on social media, but you’d like to know how you get more out of your platforms, just get in touch.
79% of marketers in the manufacturing industry reported that an increase in focus on email marketing has increased their ROI by 48%. Email marketing is another way to get news, informative articles and product updates to your prospective customers, serving them targeted content that encourages them to click through to a relevant page on your website. You can track your open rate, click-through rate and conversions on your landing page.
Manufacturing Standards Marketing
Manufacturing standards and accreditations are usually consigned to the footer of your website but have a real and direct marketing benefit. The procurement process for most of your clients will, most likely, involve the requirement for standards to be met and accreditations provided.
This should be displayed on your site on at least one page clearly ‘infused’ with the relevant keywords based on linking your products with the standards or accreditations. Typically the key themes of quality and safety (when relevant) throughout your site should link back to this page with appropriate anchor text (the text in and around the link).
This process not only speaks to actual visitors of your website but also demonstrates to search engines that your site is relevant for searches linking products to standards.
In a nutshell, you’ll be ranking well on search engines for the terms that make procurement choices simple.
Conversion Rate Optimisation in Component Product manufacturing
The reality of digital marketing in component product manufacturing is that most searches will be highly specific and return a small number of results. There will still be a clear advantage from being number one on the search engine results page but it is likely that searchers will also visit the sites in the next few positions.
Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is a set of techniques using your analytics data to determine what is working well on your site and what is not. Details such as how long visitors stay on your pages, how many pages they visit, what they click on and the like, build a picture of how effective your pages are.
Using this data it is possible to make and record the impact of changes thereby building site effectiveness and improving the chances of turning a visitor into a customer.
CRO for component product manufacturing actually starts before visitors get to your site. It is possible, and advisable, to control the text Google displays in its search results. This helps you maximise the number of clicks you get and is a key SEO signal.
Final product manufacturing is very similar. There will be much more competition for generic terms for example ‘’boiler’ and even ‘worcester bosch boiler’ given the presence of merchant and installer websites.
Ranking in this scenario is actually more important and you are not attempting to be the first of 5 but the first of 500. Having said this, CRO is still vital as there’s no point in getting visitors if they simply leave and buy from a competitor.
Rankbrain for Manufacturers
Google is known to favour websites via its machine learning (AI) system that match positive user behaviour signals.
For example, dwell time is a key signal. The longer someone spends on your page/site, the better. The question therefore is, how can you make your content more engaging for a product buyer?
For component manufacturers, this could be adding:
- Additional and relevant content
- Rich content (videos, infographics, component diagrams)
- Product selector tools
- Specification checker tools
These are all similar to techniques used across sectors but need to be tailored to the requirements of manufacturing SEO and digital marketing. How? You need to identify what sort of content will engage and inform. What problem will you be solving for your page visitor with the content on that page?
Leave your competitors in the dust
Stay ahead of the competition by creating a digital marketing strategy for your manufacturing business. If you operate within channels that your competitors aren’t active in, you have the advantage of gaining a bigger share of the potential customers that are also using those online channels. Why not set the standard for the manufacturing sector by implementing some of the digital marketing techniques that we have discussed?
Not sure if your competitors are doing well online, give us a call and we’ll tell you. We will assess how well your competitors are ranking in Google and compare this to your own performance. That’s just the start!
How can AlphaQuad help?
You know by now, that digital marketing for manufacturing is here to stay and that it has become the most important marketing channel. We’ve worked with companies of many sizes and within varying industries and we always produce excellent results.
We have, for example, acted as the sole digital marketing agency for companies such as Vattenfall, Troax, Atritor, Calor, Baxi along with a wide variety of SME manufacturers from startups to established family businesses. Digital marketing for manufacturing companies is one of our key areas of focus. Are you up-to-speed with servitisation in the manufacturing industry, for example?
“We have a well-established relationship with AlphaQuad, which is reinforced by each successful project undertaken. The level of support we receive is beyond expectation.
AlphaQuad’s experience shows in the wealth of knowledge and advice they are able to offer for any new ideas or approaches to online activities. AlphaQuad have focused heavily on optimising the website and the improvement of our web site’s rankings has proven their success in this. Their approach to website design is creative and equally balanced with the consideration required for optimisation, improved customer experience and increasing conversions. Again, this is a direct reflection of their experience within the digital industry.
In summary, AlphaQuad offer a complete digital consultancy service that challenges our in house approach to online activities to ensure we never stop learning.”