B2B marketing is booming right now and even though industrial manufacturers belong in this category, in many instances they are trailing way behind.
It’s not uncommon to come across very outdated (some of them still using Flash!?) manufacturer websites.
Regardless of the size of the company, it’s a pattern we still see in 2018. Website design, in our opinion, clearly reflects the marketing efforts of the company, as it's the heart of marketing strategy execution.
Industrial manufacturers have a reputation of being slow adopters due to the “we have always been doing it this way” mindset. Although we have nothing against legacy standards, a little open mindedness, when in comes to marketing, goes a very long way.
Why is that?
You’re competing against other manufacturers that might also be experiencing stagnation in their marketing approach. It sounds funny to say that, but you can still be a pioneer in your industry when it comes to marketing. OK, maybe “pioneer” is too strong a word, but you clearly know who is doing a great job in your industry - you know a few companies that are killing it and raking up all the benefits of a stronger presence in their online marketing. It’s definitely not too late to join them and get your piece of the pie.
Where do we start?
A well-executed marketing plan will:
- Increase brand awareness
- Generate leads
- Grow your market share
The bottom line is that a well-executed marketing plan will help you generate more revenue, and ideally those funds should be reinvested into product innovation and online marketing upscaling that leads to industry domination.
5 steps to creating an online marketing plan for manufacturers
The first step of a successful marketing campaign is, of course, your marketing plan. There are many different examples of marketing plans (for example: 4 P’s of marketing mix) but in this article, we’ll focus only on online marketing strategies for driving traffic, generating leads and building brand awareness.
How to come up with an online marketing strategy:
#1 Determine your desired future state
When setting up goals, it’s highly recommended to be honest with yourself and figure out what you ultimately want to achieve. Some good examples would be:
- We want to grow market share from 8% to 25% in five years.
- We want to increase revenue from 12M to 16.5M this year.
- We want to introduce our products and generate 1M in new sales in Asian markets.
You get the idea - these are ultimate desirable goals. We recommend you set both short-term goals as well as long-term goals. When you know where you really wanna be, you can start to reverse engineer the road map of how to get there.
There are different ways to achieve goals - especially budgetary ones - and perhaps optimizing the manufacturing process is the first step before you dive into new business development, but I know for a fact that a full pipeline of new leads helps you solve the other problems more quickly.
#2 Research market from an online standpoint
In-depth online market research will reveal how much potential your current campaign has, and will paint a clearer picture of how much you should rely on marketing to reach your ultimate goals.
- Target audience research will reveal who your customers are, how they behave, and what platforms they live on. This will help you determine the most effective channels to reach them. When it comes to channels, for manufacturers, the same “usual suspects” will apply. These include email, search engine optimization, paid media, etc., but you’ll also discover some niche channels and that might be that secret sauce you’re looking for.
- Key competitors - you might say that your product is different and it’s better and all that, but unfortunately you don’t control brand perception - it’s totally up to the audience to decide. So when you look at your competitors online, they might not necessarily line up with “real life” competitors. And that’s OK because online you are fighting for THE spot, for the audience attention - and it’s a zero sum game.
- Main keywords - when picking the right keywords, it’s important to have the same mindset as setting goals. What does that mean? It means having different tiers of keywords, as the competition varies a lot from keyword to keyword and you’ll find that the most desired keywords have some fierce competition. It’s good to have desired keywords as long-term targets, but you’ve also gotta stay in business until you get to that point - so find some highly targeted, long tail key phrases that will likely generate some business in short term.
#3 Decide traffic sources
Traffic is bloodstream of every website. There are multiple ways to drive traffic to your manufacturing website. Each has its own benefits and downfalls, and from our experience it’s best to combine them. Main sources would be:
- Search traffic - is the practice driving traffic to your website through organic search engine results by optimizing (making relevant) your website for targeted keyphrases. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is an ongoing process that requires patience and consistent efforts.
- Paid search - in other words: “bought traffic.” Platforms like Google AdWords, Bing Ads or Facebook Ads allow you to buy highly targeted traffic in an auction-type of fashion. It’s typically based on “per click” pricing, where each visit costs you x amount of dollars. It’s a great way to drive traffic to new promotional pages.
- Email marketing - is the modern equivalent of “old school” direct mail. Even if one more email in our inbox is the last thing we want or need, email is still one of the best performing marketing tools. Acquiring email address should be a minimum conversion target. For manufacturers, unlike B2C, the sales cycle is typically longer and email address can turn into sales within a few months.
- Content marketing - is an effective way to establish an expert position in the market. Content marketing for manufacturing companies is unique because in most instances the target audience are engineers. So the content needs to be in-depth, factual and without the unnecessary marketing “fluff.”
#4 Redesign your website
Your website’s role in your marketing strategy is above anything else. We at Angle180 believe a website is an integral part of any marketing strategy. All of the efforts that you’ll make promoting your products will lead back to your website.
Plan your website redesign only when you have your online marketing strategy in place. A well designed website is more than what meets the eye. Lots of times we see “facelifted” websites that look up-to-date design wise, but it’s a mere mirage of a good website. A fresh look doesn't support any other purpose than to prove your visitors that you are still in business. That’s NOT good enough. That’s why the web design process starts with your goals in mind and each page must support those goals.
- Content planning and creation. Based on key phrases found in the discovery phase, you must plan your content. Websites should be designed around the content and not other way around. We see companies trying to fill the layouts of their selected WordPress themes. Don’t get trapped. A website’s purpose is to present your content in the clearest and cleanest fashion possible.
- Sitemap development. When you know what content will be placed on the website, it’s important to design the sitemap. A sitemap is essentially a “navigation tree”. The levels and structure are important for many reasons such as: user experience, search engine friendliness and also future expansion.
- Design. There is no “best” way to design a website, but there are best practices. Implement best practices everywhere and don’t try to be different for the sake of being different. In many cases companies are chasing uniqueness in this phase and it benefits no one. It’s imperative that you find uniqueness in your offerings - not the website design! At the end of the day your visitors will have to deal with your website, and they will appreciate best practices over its “creativity” any time.
- Development. Two identical looking websites might have an astronomical difference in performance, and businesses may not be aware of that because it’s industry (web design and development) specific. There are many tools that can help you recognize different website aspects, such as code quality, site speed and on-site SEO optimization. Just as with design, web development also has best practices.
#5 Track, analyze and optimize (ongoing)
So you have your marketing plan implemented. Phew, you’re finally done, right? Not at all. That was phase one, and now you move into phase two. In this phase, you’ll track your key performance metrics and analyze them. It will either confirm or reject assumptions you made while putting together your strategy. Needless to say that you’ll have to make adjustments to the pages or campaigns that show poor results. This is an ongoing process.
The beauty of online marketing is that it never leaves you in the dark. In web analytics everything is expressed in numbers – and numbers don't lie. Once you have your KPI's identified, it's not rocket science to track the progress – and it's a lot of fun when things go your way.
Here are some website performance indicators to consider:
- Traffic KPI's - Targeted keyword ranking positions, customer retention (new vs. returning), and referral or paid traffic. Figure out your strongest traffic sources and start improving from there. Content marketing should play a big role in your traffic strategy, as it provides great long-term value for both visitors and yourself. Informative blogs, podcasts and newsletters also help with customer retention.
- Conversion KPI's - Email sign-ups, phone calls, and web form inquiries are primary indicators. Other signals such as bounce rates, exit pages, and time spent on the site can tell you a story too. Across many industries, the average conversion rate ranges from 2 to 5 percent. The numbers are pretty low so it makes optimization even more important. That's where design, content and structure come into play. There is no such thing as "best" or "final" when it comes to conversion rate optimization - only “the best so far." Ideally, companies should be running A/B testing on a regular basis, especially when getting higher traffic numbers.
How to design an online product catalog (a unique component of manufacturing websites)
Manufacturing websites typically have one unique component - an online catalog. It represents your products and it should be designed the same way ecommerce product pages are. The only difference is that in most cases manufacturers must replace an “Add To Cart” button with a “Request A Quote” button. But really, up to that point, the goal of the catalog is exactly the same as an eCommerce site.
Actually, in some instances the inquiry doesn’t happen on the spot, because the potential customer needs to present it to the higher ups within the company to get approval. In those cases, it’s even more important that your catalog provides very well thought out information and how it can be downloaded and shared.
Essential elements of a product page for manufacturers:
- Detailed product description. Include features and benefits along with supportive technical information.
- High quality images and product video.
- Reviews/ratings - it’s not typical for manufacturers, but it’s a huge factor in building trust.
- Schema.org integration for search engine optimization.
- Special offers and deals if possible.
- Downloadable version of the product, but asking an email address for it.
- Call to action (CTA) button.
- Including pricing goes a long way, if possible. It’s good conversion trigger if you can promise to show some pricing if they create an account.
- Product comparison data/case studies. It's a great way to get your visitors up to speed, especially if the product is new to the market.
- Live chat can be great tool if it’s supported by staff with technical knowledge.
The best example would be to look at Amazon’s product layout and elements if you want to get an idea of what works well.
We encourage industrial manufactures to take a leap of faith and dive into online marketing. (You’ll be surprised how you survived without it).
"Attract, convert and repeat" is the name of the game, and it's worth your time to play it like ecommerce websites do. With all that being said, the most important thing is that you continue to provide the best value to your current customers, as there is no better KPI that leads to success and a better bottom line.