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Manufacturing Growth Amidst A Global Pandemic: Actionable Insight

Pandemic blog header

We're not even through Q1 2020 and life has already thrown us a major curveball. Now, we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of a global pandemic, and it’s impacting our health, mental state, and economy. Even worse, we don't know what next month holds… or heck, even later today.

It sucks...I get it.

The bottom line: we have to keep moving forward. It’s vital US manufacturing remains strong and comes out even stronger on the other side. Manufacturers that sit idle until things get back to normal are going to have a much harder time digging themselves out than those that focus on growth and take action. 

If you're ready to push through this and be proactive, here are a few considerations you can start with:

Trade Show Cancellation or Postponement

Many manufacturers rely on trade shows as a major lead driver or a way to engage with current customers. Some of these shows are canceled altogether, while others are postponed. Either way, the loss of leads and conversations is a major detriment to your pipeline in the short term.

It's time to start moving on ways to re-engage your clients and generate new leads outside of these in-person events. While it's disappointing the events aren't happening, you now have an opportunity to repurpose those funds towards alternative tactics. A few questions to ask:

  • If the event is canceled:
    • Are they offering a full/partial refund?
    • If they haven't asked, what are you going to request? If you have a great relationship with the event organizers, you may consider requesting a partial refund vs. full. Remember: This is a bad situation for them as well.
    • What expenses are you saving on travel, lodging, meals, and entertainment? 
  • If the event is postponed:
    • Will the new dates work for you and your sales team?  If the show is rescheduled for summer, remember that's vacation season and the team may need time off more than ever.
    • Will the new dates even happen? At this point, no one really knows when these will actually be able to take place.

After determining if -- and when -- you'll take part in these shows, you can look at how to best use the funds you would have spent on the event. The obvious choice in a situation where your audience is stuck behind a computer screen is online marketing. Your approach to online marketing, however, may be different depending on your current efforts, visibility, traffic, domain authority with the search engines, etc. 

Not sure where you stand? Let's separate these into 3 buckets:

Bucket 1: No Significant Online Marketing Presence

  • Website traffic is below 2,000 visitors/mo
  • New leads coming from your website are uncommon
  • Email database is non-existent, old, or only contains current customers
  • Your website is outdated from a design or content perspective
  • You aren't blogging, releasing whitepapers, or eBooks
  • There's little to no activity on social media platforms, except for some on LinkedIn

Bucket 2: Some Online Marketing Presence

  • Website traffic is between 2,000 - 5,000 visitors/mo
  • New leads come through the website, but they're inconsistent
  • You have an email marketing database but it's small
  • Your website is up-to-date but could use improvements
  • You're new to blogging and content marketing or you're unable to produce roughly 1 new piece of owned content per week
  • You have social media accounts, but activity is somewhat limited

Bucket 3: Strong Online Marketing

  • Website traffic is 5,000+ visitors/mo
  • You get consistent, qualified leads from your website
  • You have a healthy email database with regular email campaigns being sent
  • Your website is in tip-top shape
  • New, owned content is published at least once per week (blogs, eBooks, whitepapers)
  • You're active on social media

I could go into great detail as to what you should do depending on where you fall, but for the purposes of grasping where you should start, I'll keep it simple:

If you fall into bucket 1, you'll want to start with a comprehensive strategy before jumping in. Without a solid strategy, you’re not likely to see wins anytime in the near future, and you're not going to be set up for long term success. The tactics you should consider as part of the strategy are:

  • Building a foundation
    • Google Ads - because you have no traffic and SEO takes time
    • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - because you want to set yourself up for long-term growth
    • Website improvements  - this is self-explanatory
    • Inbound marketing with a strong focus on content - think about content as the fuel for inbound marketing, the same as gas is for your vehicle
  • Building on the foundation
    • Conversion-focused content and conversion optimization  - you'll want to be sure you're getting traffic before you put a significant focus on this
    • Email marketing - this will be important for client re-engagement

If you fall into bucket 2, you're starting out in slightly better shape. Here are the differences:

  • You should still consider Google Ads, especially if your pipeline banked on leads from trade shows
  • Inbound marketing with a focus on content should still be a priority, but you already have a start … you'll want to increase production while maintaining or improving quality
  • Use the above content to re-engage your email marketing list
  • Don't wait to focus on content geared towards driving leads - produce an ebook, checklist, whitepaper, etc...something of value to your prospects

If you fall into bucket 3, kudos to getting to this point. Before jumping into anything, evaluate where your needs are. Determine where some of your activities are falling short or where there are opportunities for even greater improvements.

If you aren't sure which bucket you fit into, we'd be happy to help you benchmark and audit your current situation.

Less In-person Meetings for your Sales Teams

It's likely that your sales team won’t be having as many face-to-face meetings ... if any. To be fair, most of the world has already experienced this shift. In the world of manufacturing, in-person meetings are still fairly common. The solution to this is a bit more straightforward than trying to make up for lost trade show leads.

Provide Your Team Modern Sales Tools

With the right tools, your sales team can be just as effective as ever. You'll likely see that they can be even more efficient. Don't set them up for failure. 

  • A Proper Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform - We're biased towards HubSpot, but there are others out there that can do the job
  • Sales Enablement Software - Spending on sales enablement software is already on the rise because it provides a ton of value for salespeople. Now that they will be forced into prospecting, quoting, and closing from behind their screens, it's time you make the investment as well
    • HubSpot Sales Starter (for 1-2 person teams) or HubSpot Sales Pro
    • SalesLoft
    • Pipedrive
    • The list goes on...
  • Video outreach -  If the sales team is not meeting with prospects in-person to build rapport, help them do it through video. Check out Soapbox or Vidyard -- the best part about these tools? They’re FREE!
  • Zoom or an alternative video conferencing platform - this is as face-to-face as you get without being face-to-face
    • There are free and paid versions; you'll want to evaluate which will best suit your needs
  • Training! - this may be the most important one. Train your team until they are just as comfortable as they are driving a car. If they have to stumble their way through this new normal (short or long term), they'll be frustrated, unhappy, inefficient and ineffective.

Breaking Through the Digital Noise

Both marketing and sales teams are going to struggle with this for a variety of reasons. 

First, as described above, more of your competitors will be entering the online space, which immediately leads to more digital noise. 

Second, not only are your competitors going to be pursuing online avenues for their marketing, event organizers and producers will be there, too. Remember, their revenue streams are taking a hit as well and are looking for alternative ways to recoup losses. 

Finally, it's hard to go 5 minutes without seeing a news popup, email, or social notification mentioning COVID-19. We don't know when it's going to end, but you can ensure that your customers and prospects are seeing it as well, and it's causing a lack of focus on their end, too.

What can you do to break through the noise?

  • Be strategic - don't just make noise for the sake of making noise; say something when you actually have something to say
  • Think long term - you can't give up after 2 weeks if you don't see immediate results
  • Make sure your sales and marketing messages resonate with the quickly changing needs of your prospects and customers - they are going through the same stuff as you
  • Don't settle for mediocrity - your messaging will get lost quickly
  • Move quickly - don't wait for your competitors to start. Do something now


Weathering this storm 

These are uncertain times, and a return to normalcy is some time away. When things get back to the way they were, you don't want to be digging yourself out of a hole. 

Be as opportunistic as you can and don't lose sight of the end goal. If you can't do it yourself because of lack of time or expertise, there are a ton of agencies out there like ours that are ready to get you moving in the right direction, support implementation where you don't have the resources, and do the heavy lifting in building a strategy to full implementation.

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