This year has certainly impacted marketing strategies for many industries. Trends are changing and businesses are being forced to shift. The manufacturing industry is no exception.

In this article we will comprehensively cover the manufacturing digital landscape and what your marketing strategy should look like as you begin to navigate these challenging times.

How 2020 Has Changed Marketing for Manufacturers

The COVID-19 pandemic hindered the ability to gather in-person, thereby delaying and canceling many trade shows and other similar types of gatherings.

The manufacturing industry is one that has traditionally relied heavily on word-of-mouth and trade shows to do business. This industry is often criticized for its lack of modernity when it comes to marketing.

COVID-19 is projected to impact the manufacturing industry the hardest, according to a recent survey.

Now that manufacturers are being forced into the digital space, many of these once digitally-absent organizations are finding themselves grasping for more information and knowledge on how to crack into the digital space.

These companies in many cases are often far behind other industries, but the good news is that those stepping into the space now will find relatively little competition (depending on the niche and product), due to the general lack of awareness in the space.

Why Manufacturers Are Behind

Manufacturers tend to be behind the times comparatively due to a general lack of need (or perceived need) to be in the digital space in the past. Often, the owners of these companies are individuals who have been involved with the company for many years and simply haven’t adapted to modern marketing strategies.

On average, manufacturers are only spending 8% of their annual budget on advertising and lead generation, and only 2.4% of their total revenue on marketing.

marketing spending manufacturing

Thankfully, if you’re reading this article you’re likely already making necessary changes or are on your way to implementing a new marketing strategy fit for the digital world.

The benefits of doing so will extend far beyond COVID, and will impact your company in a multitude of positive ways which you may not have yet realized.

Why Manufacturers Need Digital Marketing in 2020

At this moment in time, it’s simply imperative that your company develops a digital marketing strategy if you want to gain new business. The in-person opportunities aren’t there and may not be for some time.

There are several avenues of digital marketing manufacturers may want to consider, including:

  • LinkedIn lead generation
  • Google Ads
  • Blog content strategy
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Social media advertising
  • Amazon PPC

These are just some of the different platforms and methods to assess when implementing digital marketing initiatives.

In this article, we hope to educate you on how the manufacturing space is changing, where companies are investing their marketing spend, and how you can gain new business online by implementing a strong digital marketing strategy.

Why Digital Marketing is Different for Manufacturers

For many, digital marketing is perceived simply as a way to get social media likes and followers. The reality is that in 2020, it is so much more than that.

Digital marketing can work for any company or organization and has become a critical pillar of lead and revenue generation.

Even for an industry so removed from the digital space like manufacturing, digital marketing has become a top priority.

Though the approach may be different, especially when compared to a segment like retail and other B2C niches.

Manufacturing business transactions can have notoriously long sales cycles. This lengthy lead-to-sale timeline plays into how to approach your marketing strategy.

Since sales are not always immediate (depending on the product), building relationships and continually reminding leads of your presence and availability can be critical.

marketing funnel diagram

As we will outline below, tactics like producing authoritative blog content, email marketing, and remarketing ads can be a great way to achieve this.

With manufacturing marketing, it’s key to stay at the top of your lead’s mind and make your brand visible in whatever ways possible.

If a competitor is finding a way to get in front of your target audience before you do, this could become a missed opportunity for exposure and eventually a sale.

2020 Lead Acquisition Benchmarks for Manufacturing

Before looking at the trends and strategies, it’s important to understand what’s working and what’s not working for your company’s current digital efforts.

These benchmarks assembled by Thomasnet help you understand industry averages and assess your own data against the market.

digital marketing trends in manufacturing

This information can also assist in developing new, highly-effective strategies for your company, such as offering an eBook for download as an incentive to capture emails.

Where Manufacturers are Spending Their Budget in 2020

It’s helpful to understand how companies may be allocating digital budget by looking at traffic source data to their websites.

In order to get a perspective of how different types of manufacturers allocate resources, we have provided a comparison of both the top manufacturers and some of the fastest growing manufacturers.

Both are valuable to assess and the disparity paints a clear picture.

top manufacturers website traffic sources

Traffic Source Data for Top Manufacturers

On average the top manufacturers are acquiring traffic from:

  • Direct: 51.83%
  • Search Engines: 21.79%
  • Google Ads: 1.51%
  • Social Media: 1.41%
  • Referral: 14.47%

Direct Traffic

For these manufacturing behemoths, brand is king. Brand recognition has been built over decades upon decades and the competition is fierce. It makes sense then that over 50% of their website traffic comes from direct traffic (typically this is traffic coming from typing the URL directly into the browser.)

However, these companies are investing in other sources of traffic generation as well.

Search Engine Traffic

Search engine traffic comes in at a modest 21% though, and for sites that get millions of visitors per month, this is quite significant. These companies have put significant effort into their SEO but also receive a very, very large number of brand-specific searches.

Google Ads and Social Media Traffic

Google Ads and social media traffic comprise less than 2% of total traffic each. This figure makes sense, as companies of this size are investing advertising dollars wherever possible, so significant traffic from either of these sources wouldn’t be expected. In real numbers, 2% of all traffic for heavily-visited sites is still very significant.

Referral Traffic

Referral traffic, on average, makes up about 16% of total site traffic, thanks to backlinks located in every corner of the web linking straight to these domains.

If you’re reading this, you’re likely not one of these gigantic organizations, but rather, a much smaller (and growing) manufacturer. Let’s see how these types of companies are gaining website traffic.

Traffic Source Data for Fast-Growing Manufacturers

fast growing manufacturers website traffic sources

On average the fast-growing manufacturers are acquiring traffic from:

  • Direct: 19.82%
  • Search Engines: 75.35%
  • Google Ads: 0.00%
  • Social Media: 0.38%
  • Referral: 4.41%

Direct Traffic

For smaller manufacturers, brand recognition is still extremely relevant, however, it can be challenging to stand out among the sea of other competitors.

In this case, direct traffic can often be from word-of-mouth recommendations, or a result of traditional marketing.

Direct traffic is great and important but as a smaller company, you’ll have to do much more to be found.

Search Engine Traffic

Search engine traffic accounts for a massive 75% of website traffic for these domains. These companies are relying heavily on their search presence to gain users.

Since being on Google doesn’t require ad spend and only requires having an indexed website, it often stands out as a large percentage for many manufacturers.

That being said, this percentage is often deceiving. We have seen in many cases where most of the manufacturer’s traffic is from brand queries. This means the heavy search traffic is not a result of excellent SEO, but rather, the result of expanded brand awareness.

search engine traffic

The problem with only acquiring brand traffic is that at some point, to gain new customers you need to acquire new traffic. People who haven’t already heard of your brand.

This is where developing an SEO strategy as part of your digital marketing plan is critical.

There is a segment of users searching on Google for your product – users who don’t yet know your brand, but aren’t yet considering other brands. Putting yourself in a position to capture these users is only possible through a planned SEO strategy.

In 2020 and beyond, we are highly encouraging manufacturers to explore SEO and create a strategic plan for gaining market share and non-brand-aware traffic.

Google Ads and Social Media Traffic

For Google Ads and social media traffic, the percentage is near 0. These manufacturers are simply not investing resources into these avenues.

That doesn’t mean you should write off these digital marketing tactics, however. In fact, we highly encourage manufacturers in 2020 to use these avenues of engagement with at least some portion of your budget.

Both Google Ads and social media have the potential to be highly-targeted in reaching your core audience.

Longterm, an omnichannel approach is the most effective digital marketing strategy for your manufacturing company.

Only utilizing one or two digital marketing channels will simply leave you behind and leave potential business out of your hands.

Referral Traffic

Finally, referral traffic for these businesses makes up 4% of their website traffic. Referral traffic comes from links to your site from other websites.

It’s no surprise that this number is so low, as backlinks can take time to build – especially high traffic-driving links. This takes a steady effort in building your brand name and authoritative content that other domains will want to link to.

Referral traffic can be extremely valuable, as it typically drives highly relevant and engaged users to your site.

Implementing a backlink building strategy may be the first step in helping you begin to boost this traffic source.

Use an Omnichannel Marketing Approach

The above sources of website traffic are broad avenues of entry. When looking at digital marketing as a whole, it can be broken down much more specifically.

What is Omnichannel Marketing?

Omnichannel marketing is the approach of advertising your company from several different angles, which all work together to reach your audience and move them further into the funnel.

This is how omnichannel marketing differs from multichannel marketing:

Omnichannel marketing is when all channels are integrated and working together with each other to market to your customer. Multichannel marketing reaches the customer from multiple touchpoints, but the platforms are not integrated together via a single holistic digital marketing strategy approach.

omnichannel marketing infographic

In digital marketing, some channels are more challenging and resource-intensive to implement, so we advise rolling out your strategy in Phases. The time in-between phases, and the decision when to (or not) progress forward is highly dependent on your budget, resources, success with prior phases, and more.

Keep in mind this is a generalized approach and your own step-by-step process may look different depending on your industry, product, pre-existing digital channels and assets, and clientele.

For example, you could certainly develop and roll out a podcast before you implement a social media advertising campaign, though through experience, we’ve found that in general your marketing dollars and resources are likely better allocated in the opposite order.

Similarly, a local SEO campaign may be irrelevant to your business if you are e-commerce only and do not operate locally.

Types of Omnichannel Digital Marketing & implementation phases:

Phase 1

  • Update & Optimize Website
  • Google My Business
  • Social Media Account Set-up

Phase 2

  • Organic Social Media Strategy
  • Email Marketing Funnels
  • Authoritative Blog Content
  • Press Releases

Phase 3

  • On-Page SEO
  • Local SEO
  • Social Media Advertising & Remarketing
  • Google Ads
  • Amazon PPC
  • LinkedIn Sales Navigator

Phase 4

  • Video Marketing
  • Off-Page SEO
  • Podcast
  • White Papers and eBooks
  • IMM (Instant Message Marketing)

Phase 5

  • Technical SEO
  • Influencer Marketing
  • Mobile Application
  • Webinars
  • Chatbot

As you can see, there are many, many different ways to reach your potential customers through digital marketing.

In manufacturing specifically, we see very few of these channels being utilized.

Do you Need to be on Every Channel?

The short answer is no – but being in more places means more exposure to potential customers. Studies have shown that buyers may need 6-8 interactions with your brand before deciding to buy.

So if your only sources of interaction with your client are your website and monthly newsletter, you’re likely missing additional impressions that will be necessary to capture consistent leads.

How many channels you need to be on is dependent on several different factors. Some areas you may want to assess in order to make this decision are:

  • Monthly marketing budget
  • Channel relevance and potential efficacy
  • Competitor marketing efforts and level of competition
  • Personnel resources and ability to manage multiple channels
  • Company age, size, and current market presence
  • Product type and sales cycle duration

How Should Manufacturers Scale and Grow Their Omnichannel Approach?

This is heavily dependent on the above factors, however, there are some general guidelines you can follow.

Start with the lowest hanging fruit and items that will need to be taken care of before others are set in place.

For example if your website is due for a redesign, you’ll want to take care of this before you launch a PPC campaign.

Directing traffic to your site before it’s ready to capture leads could result in a waste of advertising dollars.

Low-Hanging Fruit & Website Optimization (Phase 1)

Some low-hanging fruit opportunities including ensuring your social media channels are set up and complete, as well as your Google My Business profile if you operate locally.

These are basic items that should be in place to get your digital strategy going.

Ensure that your website is prepared to receive high volumes of traffic, and all information and forms are up to date. Before embarking on your digital strategy, you’ll want to consider whether or not a complete redesign is needed.

Next Steps (Phase 2)

Email marketing, organic social media, and a blog are the next steps in building your omnichannel marketing system.

These will take some additional resources and you may have to hire additional personnel or a marketing agency to develop and implement a targeted strategy.

Email marketing and social media are a great way to start telling your audience and potential customers about your product and what you have to offer. It also shows that you’re active and ready for business.

Blog content is also a method of showing you are active and engaged. But the strongest purpose of your blog is for SEO and positioning yourself as an authority.

Blog content is no longer a place for your newsletter or 500-word updates about new products and the company. These are outdated tactics that are not effective.

Blog content in 2020 is about answering user search queries and being the go-to resource for information on a given topic. This is essentially the foundation of blog SEO.

For example, if you are a manufacturer of barbells and gym equipment, the approach is to produce content on everything from which type of barbell to use for dead lifting, to which protein powder supplements to use.

This approach pulls in relevant users, and positions your brand as the go-to authority on information in your niche.

Your blog is a major tool for growing your site traffic beyond brand-aware users consistently over time. Get started on your blog once your foundation is in place and the resources to manage it are available.

Solidifying Your Presence (Phase 3)

Phase 3 is where things begin to get more involved and you’re ready to start really putting your brand out there. Again, remember not to skip ahead if you have not completed the necessary prior tasks.

Your main focus in this phase will be implementing a paid advertising strategy. The platforms you use are highly dependent on your company, product, and niche landscape. We highly suggest consulting a professional before investing in these platforms.

Next, you’ll begin to further tackle your SEO presence by optimizing your website and local SEO strategies, including distributing local listings and further optimizing your Google My Business listing.

One strategy from this stage that we think is often overlooked is the use of LinkedIn Sales Navigator to isolate potential prospects based on targeted attributes.

LinkedIn is often seen simply as a digital resume, but there are many more uses for the platform, including prospecting for new leads.

Here at Nomadic, we specialize in this tactic and have seen impressive results. We have productized and now also offer this service to clients.

Dominate Your Competition (Phase 4)

Phase 4 is where you begin to step on the gas and leave your competition in the dust. Once your PPC and SEO are solidly performing and you have a consistent pipeline of leads flowing in from digital, you can begin implementing items from this category.

Video marketing, podcasts, and IMM are some of the more modern and cutting edge vehicles of digital marketing, and are extremely popular in 2020. Very few manufacturers are taking advantage of these channels, which could really help businesses differentiate.

Off-page SEO is SEO that doesn’t happen directly on your website. Typically it refers to backlink building, which is critical to scaling your domain authority.

Building your overall domain authority will improve your overall visibility and potential to rank on search engines.

Go the Extra Mile (Phase 5)

Think of this as icing on the cake – it’s not the bulk of the final product, but it’s important.

By now you’ve really solidified your digital presence and you are looking for those final ways you can really make sure everything is tied together and you have the best of the best.

Creating a mobile application or hosting webinars could be the right move for your company to really make a name for yourself in the industry.

Now that all of the components are in place, you officially have a well-oiled omnichannel digital marketing strategy in action.

Position Your Brand as the Authority

One of the underlying themes of this approach to digital marketing strategy is to position your brand as an authority.

What does that mean? It means being the go-to source for information in your niche.

One of the best ways to do this (as previously discussed) is to create comprehensive authoritative blog content that answers user queries.

user search queries

Ultimately, positioning your manufacturing brand as an authority is going to be the result of pursuing many different facets of marketing, and ties directly into the omnichannel marketing approach outlined above.

Being an authority in your space doesn’t have to mean you are the biggest brand, or even a global brand. It could mean being the local authority. Whomever your target client is, you want to be seen as the top provider of knowledge and information in that sphere.

Deliver Value Before You Sell

Traditionally, marketing and advertising has been about telling others what you do and what you offer.

But simply getting your name and product in front of prospects is a method that is weakening in effectiveness.

The strongest approach you can take in your marketing efforts today is to provide value before you sell.

What this looks like in action is giving away an ebook, a free webinar, a free consultation or something else of value.

Value-based blog content is important for this reason as well.

If all of your blog content is about you and your company, almost no one will be interested in reading it. But the minute you start producing content that benefits them, you will begin to see an uptick in traffic.

This method of marketing works because you are showing potential clients your value and ability to perform before you ask them to buy your product.

It essentially gives them a taste of what you’re about and opens the door to potential further conversations and eventually a closed sale.

It’s Time to Revamp Your Website & (Maybe) Your Brand

We’ve found in our years of building new client websites that some of the oldest and most outdated websites are in the manufacturing industry.

If your website looks anything like this (or remotely close to it), it’s time to upgrade.

old apple website

Even if it’s been only a handful of years and the aesthetics seem okay, it’s still worth exploring a re-design. Reality is, the digital world moves extremely fast – if you think your website might be behind, it likely is.

Aside from aesthetics, website speed and conversion rate are extremely important. If your site isn’t built for positive user behavior, you’re already behind in your marketing potential.

Your website is the foundation of your entire digital marketing strategy. This is the place where all users will end up, and the place where they will convert from a prospect to a lead or client. It’s critical that it’s up to par.

While you’re updating your website is also a great time to assess your brand and revamp it if needed.

Think about how your brand is being perceived, since you are about to embark on a massive digital marketing strategy that will put your company in front of the eyes of many thousands of users.

Market Online Like You Would In-Person

Industries with long sales cycles are often dependent on building relationships with prospects. Without in-person marketing tactics like trade shows it can feel daunting to tackle this process online, especially to individuals who are not familiar with the landscape.

Digital marketing for manufacturing doesn’t have to be far from marketing in-person. The approach is to let the prospect get to know you and continually have ‘conversations’ (touch points) with them over time.

Not all marketing has to or should be in-your-face sales pitches. Remember to provide value up front and nurture your leads as they flow through the sales funnel.

Break the Mold to Stand Out

As discussed, the manufacturing industry is often very traditional. This means in many cases, branding, websites, and advertising can look quite similar and frankly, dated.

In 2020, we want to challenge you to break out of the mold and break away from the standard industry look and feel. Rebranding and reworking your assets to be more modern and different from the herd could be a huge leg up for your business now and in the future.

Conclusion

Manufacturers may be behind the curve when it comes to the digital world but that doesn’t mean it’s too late.

In fact, right now is the best time to revamp your digital strategy and begin getting ahead of the competition who don’t yet know about these methods. We hope you found this strategy helpful!

If you need assistance with your digital marketing efforts and need a team of professionals to step in, contact us today for a free consultation.


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