It's not exactly a secret that most manufacturers aren't Internet-savvy. Many seem to actively avoid online activities, and the manufacturing sites they DO have are bare-bones and old-fashioned.
In fact, according to Inprela, 79% of manufacturing websites aren't even optimized for mobile.
Now, if you're one of those not-so-Internet-savvy manufacturers, you're probably wondering why that even matters. We'll go over that and other website necessities in a minute.
If you're not familiar with some of the marketing terminology we're using, here is an Inbound Marketing Dictionary for reference.
For now, let's talk about why it's a good thing that your industry is behind the Internet times.
You Can Automatically Gain Powerful Advantages
Buyers are now turning to the Internet before making ANY purchasing decisions.
According to the 2014 State of B2B Procurement Study, 94% of B2B buyers report that they conduct some form of online research before purchasing a business product.
So, either you're there... or you're not. If you're not online, you'd better hope your competitors aren't online, either. If you ARE online, your situation looks a lot more appealing:
- You ONLINE + competitors OFFLINE: Think of your website like working out. Your website works to build your Internet "muscles" so you feel like a digital Rocky Balboa.
If your competitors aren't online, you're Rocky facing off against Napoleon Dynamite in the ring. No contest. You almost feel bad about having that advantage. Almost.
And, your buyers will be seeing you first. Your name becomes familiar faster, and you make your first impression long before your competitors make theirs.
- You ONLINE + competitors ONLINE: Rocky vs. Rocky sounds a lot fairer, right?
When your competitors are online, they're also working out those digital muscles. Now imagine that you're stuck offline while they're pumping Internet iron. You're the skinny, pasty kid with zero tricks up his sleeve.
Good luck in the ring.
You Can Look Great in Comparison with Little Effort
(Though you should always "go big or go home," as the kids say these days.)
You can't ignore the Internet, even if you're already meeting your revenue and client goals.
Since the majority of the manufacturing industry is slow on the uptake, having a strong online presence makes you modern and approachable in comparison.
First impressions are the most important. If you immediately make a good impression, your buyers are more likely to think of you later in the buying process.
You'll Get a Valuable Head Start
Along with making a great first impression, you're shooting out of the gate before the gun even fires (totally legal in web marketing).
If you can start working on your buyers before your competitors get to them, that's a huge advantage.
You can show off your expertise, your products, and your customer service at the very beginning of their purchasing process. If you do it right, you'll be able to guide them through the rest of their research and decisions.
Then, when they're ready to buy, they'll think "Hey, remember Company Y? They've been really helpful and awesome this whole time. Maybe we should look into them more closely."
The Online Manufacturing Economy Hasn't Been Diluted Yet
One of the biggest misconceptions around marketing for manufacturers is that well, they already know where to find us, and we mostly connect with customers in real life anyway. We're doing just fine without the Internet.
No matter your industry, there are ALWAYS more buyers to be found online.
Not to mention, younger (and more tech-savvy) generations are entering the upper tiers of the workforce. The people who are more comfortable with print mail and radio ads are retiring - soon, the young'uns will be running the whole show.
If you want to get the new management on board, you have to meet them on their own turf.
What does that have to do with dilution? There are very few manufacturers with strong online marketing strategies. That means the marketing efforts you make are more likely to be seen and less likely to be drowned out by millions of other manufacturers vying for business.
You're more likely to reach those younger generations - that's your first leg up on the competition - and you're going to snatch up those online buyers before they even know you have competition.
But the online manufacturing world won't stay diluted forever. As soon as your competitors realize what they're missing, they'll be on board so fast your head will spin.
What Do You Need?
If you don't have a strong web presence already, you're going to start with the very basics:
- An optimized website
- A social media profile
- A story and voice
- Email marketing
1. Optimized Website
This is going to be the biggest section of the article. Why? Because an "optimized website" is actually made up of a ton of smaller components that make the finished product.
An optimized website is also THE most important thing for beginner web marketers. So listen up, recruit!
- High Quality Content. This is where it all begins.
When creating the content for your website, keep these three things in mind: helpful, relevant, multimedia.
Content isn't just words on a webpage. Content is also images, video, audio, interactive, and more. The more types of content you make available on your website, the broader the audience you will appeal to.
If that sounds overwhelming, ask your best buyers what kind of content they prefer. Then focus on producing a majority of that type.
Above all, content should be helpful and relevant to your best buyers. Getting more business and sales isn't just a random stroke of luck - the businesses who make themselves valuable are the ones who will win the customers.
Additionally, the kind of content you create on your website will inform every other aspect of your online marketing efforts. If you start with crappy content, it'll be an uphill battle right from the start.
- Design. Design is almost as important as your content. Your website is the online face of your business, and its design is the first thing that will leave an impression on your buyers.
Functionally, your website should be easy to navigate and user friendly. Everything should be easy to read, easy to find, and as simple as possible.
Don't try to make your website "special" - there are very good reasons why websites function the way they do. If you want your visitors to stay on your site, do what the experts do.
48% of people cited a website’s design as the number one factor in deciding the credibility of a business. - IronPaper
There have been many studies done on web design theory (setting up a "path" through your site, placement of different elements, ways to make visitors take action, etc.).
Here are some words from web design experts:
The way that people see our designs strongly effects the meaning that they take away from them. - Ahmed Hussam
...As users are drawn deeper into your site, it will be harder for them to leave. They will feel somewhat committed to your website, and with every page they read, they gain trust, security and familiarity. - Tom RossRecent trends in web design focus on transmitting that meaning and building trust as quickly as possible. These trends are popular for one big reason: they work. So follow them!
- CTAs and Landing Pages. Speaking of drawing visitors deeper into your site, you need to give them reasons to go further.
CTAs are your bait, and landing pages are your hook (but instead of giving them a new cheek piercing, you're converting them into leads).
CTAs use action words and enticing content offers to make visitors want to click farther into your website.
When they do click through, they end up on a landing page that fulfills the CTA's promises and captures their contact information (not automatically - they have to fill out a form).
Why do you need CTAs and landing pages? Because websites with no clear direction make people think "that's nice" and click away. No sales for you.
- SEO. SEO is the first thing most people think about when you say "web marketing." It stands for search engine optimization, and it's been around since we started using the Internet to sell stuff.
The goal of SEO is to make your website show up higher in search engine results. Best case scenario, you'll rank #1 in organic search for your chosen keywords.
Why do we do this? Because 90% of B2B researchers who are online use search specifically to research business purchases.
Not only that, but 53% of organic search clicks go to the top result.
If you're not even on the first page of results, you're not getting any traffic from search. A sample of over 8 million clicks shows that over 94% of users click on a first-page result, with less than 6% actually clicking to the second page.
SEO might not be the king of online marketing anymore, but it's still a huge player in your quest for more traffic and sales.
- Mobile Friendliness. Your website needs to be optimized for mobile devices. Period.
There's been a recent shift in how people access the Internet - the number of mobile users has now surpassed desktop users.
That, combined with Google's mobile algorithm change, means you need to be mobile friendly to be seen.
- Blog. A Blog can do nothing but good for you. It gives you a platform to show off your expertise, a way to build archived pages on your website (great for SEO!), and plenty of places to insert CTAs for maximum conversions.
Studies show that 57% of businesses who blog once a month acquire a customer from their blog. That number jumps to 82% if they blog daily.
A business blog is a NECESSITY today - don't blow it off for any reason! Even B2B companies will benefit from blogging!
So what do you need for a successful blog? To be a fantastic business blogger, you have to have...
2. A Story and Voice
Why do you need these? Kinda sounds like we're trying to bring a Disney fairytale to life, right?
You need to find your business's story and voice. This is different from your personal story and voice. The voice of your business should resonate with your buyer persona(s) and appeal to your best buyers.
This story and voice will guide all of your content creation. If your buyer personas like a bit of humor, you can throw in some one liners on your website, in your blog, and everywhere!
If your buyer personas appreciate hunting and fishing, try using fishing metaphors to explain difficult concepts.
People like people who are just like them, and they are more likely to buy from companies with shared values.
If you're having trouble defining a story and voice, remember that you want to sell by not selling. Promotional content is fine every now and then, but buyers don't like being bombarded with ads.
Start with educating your visitors. Write about your business's values, product how-to guides, and industry standards/statistics. The more you write, the easier it will be to pinpoint your most successful content, your story, and your voice.
3. Social Media
This is your mission for one month, should you choose to accept it:
- Create ONE social media profile for your business. The platform is your choice. We recommend starting with Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.
- Post unique content once per day. Share other people's valuable and relevant content once per day. Make sure you share your blog posts whenever you write them.
- Utilize your chosen platform's sponsored ad services to promote your page.
Carefully choose your audience (bigger is NOT better! Target your audience as precisely as possible to reach people who are more likely to click) and set your lifetime budget.
- Place social sharing buttons in your blog posts and around your website.
- Make sure to use tags, hashtags, mentions, and other networking tools to expand your following.
- Create incentives for your followers to share your posts ("Anyone who shares our posts gets a free bumper sticker!")
- Try to respond to any comments within one hour.
- Don't forget to be entertaining! It's no fun to follow a company that's all business all the time.
The most successful businesses on social media are those that share fun, silly, and interesting things - all of which can be relevant to you and your buyers.
This one-month social media guide will build the foundation for your future social networking efforts. In this first month, you're trying to build the habit of checking and maintaining your profile.
After you're in the habit and familiar with your chosen site, you can move on to other social media sites.
Ultimately, all of your social media profiles will be used side-by-side with your website, blog, and other marketing tools.
4. Email Marketing
We just couldn't leave out our good old friend, email marketing.
Younger people seem to be moving away from email communication (instead opting for social media and other forms of instant messaging), but email is still huge in the professional realm.
Up above, we talked about using CTAs and landing pages to capture your prospective buyers' contact info. The most important information they will give you is their email address.
That's your in. Once you have the email address, you can enter it into your CRM (customer relationship management) system and send out personalized lead-nurturing emails.
Those lead-nurturing emails will nudge them (gently) towards becoming your customer.
Most of the other things we've listed here are focused on attracting and hooking your buyers. Email marketing becomes especially important if you want them to move beyond potential customer status and into paying customer territory.
(We call that movement from potential customer to current customer the buyer's journey, which is a great thing to look into once you've conquered the basics!)
Look at all these things you can accomplish with the Internet!
This is what you miss out on when you only market offline. Just because manufacturers have traditionally grown their businesses with offline marketing doesn't mean it will continue to work.
Offline marketing has been on the decline for years, and we guarantee it won't be making a comeback. We rely too heavily on technology to slide backwards (barring some freakish techno-apocalypse that destroys our incredible progress as a species).
Let's recap the benefits of getting your business online:
- Powerful advantages against the competition
- You'll look great compared to your competitors who are offline
- You get a head start on influencing buyers
- No industry dilution - since there are few manufacturers online, your message won't be drowned out by a crowd.
Remember: Rocky or the skinny weak dude. Wouldn't you prefer to be Rocky when you face off against your competitors?
The sooner you start marketing your business online, the sooner you'll start bulking up those valuable Internet muscles. It's never too late to start... but you're going to miss out on customers the longer you wait.
So, GET GOING and GET GROWING!