When you’re talking “innovative manufacturing companies,” it’s only natural to think in terms of improving supply chain management, filling skills gaps and other opportunities that position your business for success in an increasingly competitive environment. No less a source than Forbes magazine recently outlined six innovative ideas for manufacturing, and all of them leaned toward talent, technology and trend-watching.
That Forbes didn’t mention innovation in manufacturing marketing is no surprise – if only because it’s kind of accepted that this industry is lagging behind in terms of the kind of marketing demanded by today’s B2B consumers: inbound, also known as content marketing. According to Castleford’s March 2014 article, only 21 percent of B2B manufacturers have a documented strategy for content marketing, versus 44 percent of other B2B businesses.
Ok, so manufacturing in general is about half as active as other industries in getting with the digital program, and they’re dragging their feet at the risk of losing prospective and even current customers. If your company is still tied to yesterday’s “outbound,” or interruption, marketing tactics – think cold calls, radio, direct mail, outdoor boards and Yellow Pages (all of which are media in decline) – then you cannot truly position yourself as innovative...yet.
So what does it take to make your small- or medium-size manufacturing business innovative in attracting new prospects?
Think of it as the “four P’s”:
You already have a marketing plan and goals in place; now the challenge is to update that plan to suit the way consumers turn to Google first (and make no mistake: even your manufacturing customers turn to the Internet for information).
Sometimes the way inbound marketing is positioned makes it easy to misunderstand the aims of your plan. For instance, if a marketing company claims they can get your website “10,000 hits per month,” turn and run away! A good inbound plan isn’t about getting more hits than your competitor – it’s about identifying the right people from the countless zillions online at any moment, getting their attention and encouraging them to learn more about your company.
A Point of View
In inbound marketing, you’re sharing the playing field with the big boys, so you’d better have something of value to say. Just because you’re a small business, you can still demonstrate your innovation and customer focus. The way to do that is through your content – the blogs, articles, whitepapers, eBooks, case studies, videos and other media that serve to educate, engage and even entertain your target audience.
All your content is based on the point of view of the customer – it’s never about “you.” Know their concerns, answer their questions, give them some amazing information they never knew about your industry … and you position your company as credible and trustworthy. That point of view extends to every facet of your marketing, from your social media pages (yes, people expect you to be on Facebook) to your website, where strategically placed landing pages help convert visitors into qualified leads.
Few SMBs (or great big companies, for that matter) have the time, resources and expertise to launch a compelling inbound marketing campaign while taking care of everyday business. For many small businesses, the cost of getting staffed up with a full-time content marketing manager and associates/IT experts is simply prohibitive.
Fortunately, the digital revolution has brought in its wake the opportunity to join forces with inbound marketing specialty companies that make it their business to learn your business. Ideally, the partner you choose can demonstrate proven success in content marketing for manufacturing; help you create an editorial calendar for your content publishing; be able to talk to you in plain English about how the technology and analytics work; and act as a consultant when piecing together innovative tactics like customer personas.
A coupon promotion? It can draw in business within days. But an inbound marketing campaign does is not designed for overnight success. Just as you wouldn’t tap a stranger on the shoulder and ask him to give you money, neither does inbound marketing lead off with the sales pitch.
On the contrary, inbound takes advantage of the B2B environment’s slower sales cycle to get your company found, build credibility, convert visitors into leads and nurture those leads into paying clients.
Inbound marketing takes time – you should allow for six months at start-up – but inbound marketing done right does produce results.
Feeling More Innovative?
The four P’s simply skim the surface of what marketing innovation is all about for manufacturing. Just as your industry is constantly evolving, so is the way you communicate to your customers, colleagues and the media.
And no matter how effective yesterday’s marketing seemed, a too-conservative approach today can leave you in the dust.
Talk to your inbound marketing partner about how you can bring your manufacturing message to the people who matter, and find them where they live: online.