There are a lot of organizations that rely on face to face relationships to increase revenue. In manufacturing, especially if you are regional or specialized – the value of your network is particularly important. But often, as organizations that focus only on relationships start seeking growth, the role different roles marketing and sales play in the pipeline unfolds. Sales (the relationship)is a short-term player. The hunter, sometimes gatherer, who finds revenue now.
Manufacturing marketing, on the other hand, is out sowing opportunity for tomorrow and next month and next quarter. As digital media advances and demographics change, marketing takes an even more active role in building pipeline and businesses that rely on relationships, like manufacturing, need to shift their focus on building a modern marketing strategy to attract and engage a modern buyer.
Today’s B2B buyer, especially in considered purchase decisions like manufacturing, contracting or construction, takes a more active role then they have in the past. Gartner research found that when B2B buyers are considering a purchase, they spend less than 20% of their time actually meeting with suppliers. The rest of their time is spent researching: online, offline, with peers and others.
One of the most ubiquitous reasons the buyer’s journey is changing is the accessibility of information. As of 2018 more than 75% of Americans now own a smartphone up from 35% in 2011. Buyers have access to all the information they need as they research their problems, creating huge marketing opportunities.
What may be less noticeable as a cause for the changing buyer journey is a shift in who the buyer is. In 2012 Millennials made up just 27% of B2B purchase decisions. Two years later, that number spiked to 46%. Nearly half of all those in market for a B2B purchase are digital natives.
So what does this shiny modern journey look like? First, we need to review the old way of thinking about the journey.
Sales would introduce people to a product or idea. Move to convincing of a need or we’re better than the competitor then move for the close. Alternatively, sales and or marketing was largely an awareness machine in the hopes of stirring up RFPs.
Unlike the old sales process, the modern buying journey is problem and buyer-driven, not product and sales driven, putting your ideal buyer in the driver’s seat. The modern journey focuses on the buyers need at three different stages. Here’s how it breaks down.
A prospect seeks resources to solve a problem finding information from videos and blogs to articles on news sites and resources created by subject matter experts.
Buyers are starting to define a solution to the problem. Salespeople start to advise and curate a custom plan of action.
Buyers are evaluating the marketplace. Comparing solutions. Salespeople educate on specifics of their offering and help determine if it’s the right fit.
The entire journey is prospect/customer centric and by the time a prospect gets to sales they’ve had multiple touches with your brand, are informed and really need a partner to find the best solution, not be pushed.
So how does one go about mapping out a marketing program that puts the customer at the center of this?
We start by getting to know our ideal customers. Then we identify the pains and questions they have at each stage of the journey. From there, we map out marketing content to answer those questions. Next, we plan tools and tactics to attract, convert and nurture them until they are ready to have a sales discussion. Finally, we deploy campaigns to begin building our marketing machine, adjusting as we go based on the results we get. We’ll take this in two parts. First planning and second deploying.
Buyer personas are fictional representations of your ideal customers. They are based on real insights about customer demographics and online behavior, along with educated speculation about their personal histories, motivations, and concerns. Why do we care? Because in marketing, we use these insights as cornerstones of all we do. They give the vision for content, emails, ads, where to go find watering holes and places to earn media opportunities, how to write nurture sequences and more. In sales, when engaging with a prospect, sales can more quickly relate to potential pains a prospect may be having and connect more quickly to close the sale.
At Lake One we have a persona development process we take clients through. There are tools out there like Hubspot’s Make My Persona that can walk you and your team through the process but broadly, the main points you want to hit on are:
- How do they define success
- How are they measured
- What challenges do they face
- What questions do they have throughout their journey
- Terms they search at each stage
Once you have your personas mapped out, we want to spend some time coming up with content that will attract and engage your ideal buyers. We’re thinking about content in a few different ways
Content to attract
Here we’re thinking about blogs, social media posts, ads and guest posts we can write for other sites to attract our target buyer based on their awareness stage needs.
Content to convert
Once we’ve brought them to the site, we want to offer them something of high value. Especially for the majority of traffic that isn’t ready yet to talk to sales. Here we’re talking about premium offers, ebooks, checklists, resource guides etc. that can be downloaded in exchange for an email.
Content to nurture
Now our job is to continue being relevant during their search. We need content like email follow ups and remarketing campaigns that address the rest of their questions until they are at a stage to talk to sales.
We generally map this content out in a matrix as we think about our personas and do keyword research. Personas down one side, buyer’s journey across the other. For manufacturing you might start seeing something like;
Attract: Blog Post – Five considerations in choosing a site for a manufacturing project
Convert: Ebook – Managing your new manufacturing project from start to finish
Nurture: Email series over 30 days – top questions working with manufacturers
Once you have the personas mapped and content planned out, you need to start thinking about the tools and tactics. What technology do you need to use to make the system work?
It’s really easy to get overwhelmed in marketing technology land. AS of 2017 there are over 5,000 pieces of technology available to help you and that’s only going to grow. For the sake of this post. Let’s focus on the essentials. Tools to attract, convert and close.
At a minimum, you’re going to need a blogging platform. Most modern website platforms like WordPress and Squarespace have blogging capabilities built-in.
Where you really will want to think through your tools is in the conversion and close categories. The cornerstones of launching a modern marketing program are easily creating and launching call to actions (buttons and images to drive people to your premium offers), landing pages and forms (to capture their contact info) and automation systems to follow up with relevant user behavior-driven email sequences.
Lake One is a Hubspot Partner agency, we can help review and implement the Hubspot platform as an option. We’ve also implemented a myriad of other technology solutions so if you need some help wading through the sea of tech, we’re here to help. Start with understanding your existing needs and how you’d like leads to flow from marketing to sales in the future. That will help narrow down your choices.
Need help planning your strategy? Request a consultation to learn how the Lake One FieldGuide can help map out a modern marketing strategy for your manufacturing company.
Now that you have a plan mapped out: who your ideal buyers are, what questions they have, the content we’ll create to reach them, the tools we need to facilitate. It’s time to put the plan in action.
Think in terms of campaigns, not one-offs
You launched an ebook, all done. Right? Not quite. A modern marketing program is always evolving. We call them sprints at Lake One, but really it’s just a fancy way of saying campaigns.
Every 90 days (at a minimum) you want to launch a new campaign. Pick a persona and a stage in the buyer journey and launch your campaign. The offer, the blogs, the supporting ads and any other activity you planned to support it.
The core of a campaign is that you build a conversion path. A way for your ideal buyer to find their way through your content to the point of conversion. The core components of a conversion path include:
- Call to action: this is the button or image used in your blogs, on your website in your social posts and elsewhere that captures your persona’s interest in your premium content and brings them to a landing page where they can download it.
- Landing page: The place where your prospect can submit a form to download your offer.
- Thank you page: the delivery page for your offer.
- Email follow up: a thank you follow up and secondary conversion point, which often kicks of the nurturing sequence.
Remember building content is half the struggle. Just because we build it doesn’t mean they will come. We still need to promote the content. Amanda Sibley has a great list of promotion tactics on the Hubspot Blog to check out. Of particular interest from the list for your manufacturing business should be to consider LinkedIn groups.
Rebecca Babicz points out our absolute favorite strategy in her post on Seo.Com. She writes, “Blog posts ironically are a great way to promote other blog posts. Linking to older blog posts in your newer blog posts will give your posts a new life, plus it’s great for SEO. As a rule of thumb all internal blog posts your write should link to at least one other blog post.” She goes (and here’s the secret weapon) “If you’re writing guest posts, it’s a good strategy to link to blog posts because they are the deeper links on your page that show Google and other search engines that you’re website is more than just a homepage.”
An overwhelming majority of website visitors aren’t ready to buy. This is a core tenant of why modern marketing has a place in today’s manufacturing business. To fill a funnel and pipeline for tomorrow.
So, if these visitors aren’t ready to buy yet? How do we get them ready? We nurture. We’re relevant. We answer the questions they have that we identified in our planning stage and persona development.
Nurturing at its core is educating. Through a series of emails and you can also add in remarketing campaigns triggered based on behaviors, we provide additional content that answers questions and helps leads educate themselves until they meet sales qualifications.
Remember, we want to be running campaigns on an ongoing basis. Just because we launched an offer, a few blogs and drove some traffic doesn’t mean we’re done. Review data, gather insights and get ready to launch another one. Modern marketing builds on itself, exponentially over time. For example, data from Hubspot points to the compound impact blogging has on lead generation.
Ensure your manufacturing company gets found online
You need to make sure people can find you online which includes making sure your site is registered with any relevant online directories in your region or specialty. Here are a few to consider. Within the directories, ensure your logo is uploaded, along with your phone number, website, and physical address. That way people can learn more about your business or contact you directly. It’s another way to advertise your business.
To find directories you can do a quick Google Search with phrases that are relevant to any niche or region of interest to your company.
Make sure your site is modern and easy to use
Your website plays one of the most pivotal roles in business-to-business marketing for manufacturers. In fact, Forrester Research found 74% of B2B buyers conduct more than half of their research online before making a purchase offline, which makes it that much more important that your B2B website is up-to-date, represents your brand well, is focused on your buyers, and easy for them to navigate. Your B2B website has some heavy lifting to do.
What good is marketing if we don’t measure anything? Better yet, what good is it if we don’t have goals and know if we’re close, measuring up or shattering them? Goal setting is critical to a setting up modern marketing for your manufacturing company. So how do you get started setting marketing goals? Make them SMART. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. We have a whole separate post to help you set smart marketing goals. The key here is that you do it.
If you follow whats outlined in this post, you’re well on your way to getting a modern marketing program in place for your manufacturing company.
Establishing a healthy pipeline for your manufacturing company has great benefits for your bottom line. You can survive downturns when referrals or RFPs dry up.
But presenting a modern, digital-savvy organization can have other benefits too. Remember that digital natives and millennials are an increasing factor in the B2B purchase process. They are also an increasing factor in the workforce.
Recruiting in manufacturing can get competitive and an organization’s ability to attract talent is critical. Often, the first impression a candidate will have of your firm is going to be the website, social media and marketing activities you present to the world.
What other benefits can you see from upgrading your marketing efforts? Leave us a comment below.