“Manufacturer” is a very broad term - everything is manufactured. From cereal to rocket ships. So clearly there are different ways you can go about marketing your different types of goods.
When it comes to industrial manufacturers, there are 3 distinguished types of offerings they provide.
#1 Manufacturers who offer commoditized products or services.
#2 Manufacturers who provide customized products or services.
#3 Manufacturers who offer new products to the market - aka: pioneers.
What are the key differences? There are many.
This includes different buyers, different sales cycles, different sales triggers and different marketing.
#1 How to market a commodity product?
Commodity manufacturers typically provide elements needed for other manufacturing companies to produce final products (for example: metals, coal, gas, chemicals, fabrics, etc.).
The challenge in this market is that there is no way to find a unique positioning statement from the product standpoint. And without positioning, you are bound to fight pricing wars.
Price is the most important factor in commodity markets, but there are some strategies you can apply to gain some competitive advantage.
Focus on better customer service
This one is classic, but classics never go out of style. Although this can’t be your positioning statement, it’s a reflection of the way you operate. Great customer service will help you win repeat business and establish long-term relationships. Take Amazon for example.
Provide online platforms
These are digital design tools that make your customer’s life easier. For example: a portal that allows for quick orders, provides tracking capabilities, and customer support. If your competitors are still using faxes, these online platform innovations are sure to provide a competitive advantage.
Offer risk-minimization options
Some clients are more prone to risk than others, and having solutions to minimize that risk is a great way to charge a premium for your commodity products. It could be a guarantee that you’ll store a certain amount of material for them, or you will provide expedited shipping - something along those lines.
Offer different pricing options
Offer product bundles, different payment methods or financing. Offer an extended warranty or money back guarantee. Or, maybe no risk demo samples? The commodity sector is the most price sensitive so any pricing incentives you offer can go a long way.
Establish thought leadership
People do business with people they trust. Thought leadership allows you to create some level of trust with people that don’t know you personally. Share your knowledge about the industry, about its problems and trends. You can also share knowledge outside your industry if it somehow benefits your target audience.
This one trumps all the rest. Your positioning statement, and value proposition don’t matter if they don’t know you exist, right? Visibility is the key and you want to stay in the forefront of their minds until they are ready to review their current contract.
Have a better website
This one is simple, but it’s largely underrated. When people are looking for a new vendor, they seek assurance and efficiency. A well designed website provides just that. You gotta remember that these are the same people that are watching Netflix, browsing Facebook and shopping at Amazon. A good website might not be THE factor for winning their business, but let me assure you, a bad website is THE factor for never getting that business.
#2 How to market customized manufacturing products or services? (marketing to engineers)
Highly customized industrial manufacturers produce machinery, factory equipment, project specific materials for construction, etc. Sales cycles are typically long, and the process starts with people looking for better solutions and doing their research. These people are often engineers, architects and technicians. The thing is that big ticket industrial purchases aren’t made by engineers, but they are the ones who present your solution to the board or colleagues who make the buying decisions. So technically the sale is out of your hands at this stage and that’s why it’s so important to equip that engineer with all the information they need to push through towards the sale.
So what are the best marketing strategies for highly customized products? Or in other words, how do we market to engineers?
Invest in content marketing
It’s important to remember that engineers who endorse your product assume a lot of risk and responsibility for that decision. They question every claim and prefer facts and in-depth specifications over the “marketing fluff.” If your company demonstrates a high level of expertise, it makes their decision much easier and that’s the most important factor. There’s no room for error, mistakes or incompetence when it comes to appeasing engineers.
Content marketing helps establish an expert position in your industry. It’s a time consuming and ongoing effort, but will surely give your company a competitive advantage. It’s all about providing valuable, education and trust-building information. This can take the form of thought leadership blogs, white papers, case or original research studies.
Research studies show that over 60% of the buyer's journey is completed before they submit an official inquiry. This absolutely reinforces the importance of what’s on your website. How does your content marketing stack up?
Try remarketing (aka retargeting)
This is a form of online advertising that's effective in capturing leads that bounced off your website initially. Google AdWords and Facebook ads are the biggest players in remarketing and are the most effective.
- Benefits of remarketing:
- Lower pay-per-click costs compared to PPC
- Higher conversion rates compared to PPC conversions due to better targeting and no competition.
- Higher number of impressions, hence better for brand awareness development.
Utilize Email marketing
This is the only conversion you can hope for on their first visit. The manufacturing industry sales cycle can take years, and if you have their email, you have a good opportunity to remind them about your company. Use this approach wisely though, and send only in-depth, technical content that engineers might be interested and see value in.
Online visibility is the key. Have your website content optimized for various technical terms along with generic key-phrases so engineers can easily find you.
Have a better website
Everyone appreciates a well thought out website that delivers. To cater to engineers, provide multiple formats for them to take your offerings offline so they can easily show them to decision makers. For instance: downloadable pdfs, PowerPoint presentations, articles, customer success stories, etc.
#3 How to market a new (innovative) product?
This is a tough one, especially for the manufacturers that have no other established product lines to showcase something unique. Lots of start-ups face this problem - and it’s an awareness problem. Nobody is looking for their product because nobody knows it exists.
Pioneers rarely benefit from their marketing efforts because they fight an uphill, costly battle preventing them from taking their innovative products to the next level. That’s why innovation is highly ignored in B2B industry even by established companies. Companies and especially engineers try to minimize risk factors and unique products reflect the “unknown.”
If a manufacturer is offering an innovative mass-consumer product and they have unlimited funds, they could do over-the-top marketing through something like a Super Bowl ad. But that’s not reality. When it comes to innovative product marketing, you gotta be willing to go “guerilla”.
Go Guerrilla marketing
It sounds combative, right? Well, maybe because it is. Guerilla helps you gain new, never discovered grounds with your innovation. Guerilla is a budget friendly, very creative marketing form that accepts higher risk unconventional methods for exposure.
Google “guerrilla marketing examples” and you will find some amazingly creative and shocking campaigns, but they are mostly for consumer based products or social movements. The goal is to go viral, but of course this battlefield has a different terrain for industrial manufacturers.
You can’t really expect to go viral. So what can you do?
- Bid on competitors branded keywords in PPC. This is one of the budget friendly ways to start educating your prospects. Buy “branded” phrases of competitive products. Send them to a well designed landing page where you provide an in-depth comparison with those competitive products. Even if your product is unique, you still have some indirect competitors. It’s basically a different solution to the same problem and iis your best place to start. Depending on the product, you might find that your competition is not bidding on those keywords which will make them even cheaper to obtain.
- Work on Influencer marketing. Simply put, it’s getting an endorsement from authoritative people in your industry.
- Run highly targeted advertising campaigns. Run laser focused campaigns on different platforms. Focused to the point where you single out particular companies that are an ideal fit for your innovative product and get creative about it.
- Get good at outbound marketing. You must get comfortable doing the outreach yourself, and that includes cold calls and cold emails. Use social media to interact with your audience. Do it wisely and relentlessly - but don’t spam!
Any well executed marketing strategy is better than no marketing at all.
The main problem with most industrial manufacturers is not choosing the wrong marketing strategy, but having no strategy at all. Choosing a marketing format that feels genuine and comfortable makes it easy to set goals and remain consistent with your branding efforts. That’s always a sound start.