Manufacturers – your customer is online. Are you?

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Especially amidst the coronavirus pandemic, more and more people are using the internet to make their purchase decisions. And this extends to business purchases. According to research from Gartner, B2B buyers spend 27% of their time researching independently online – which is the most time spent on any buying activity. And according to Merit, Millennial B2B buyers (the largest demographic of buyers) cite internet search and vendors’ websites as their top two means of researching products and services.  

Now, more than ever, it is important for manufacturers to have a robust digital presence. This includes a mobile- and SEO-friendly website, regularly updated social media channels, virtual trade show strategy and email marketing campaignsAre you able to check these four boxes? If not, look no further: 

Help Google Help You

When done right, a manufacturers website should serve as another member of the sales team. But, if the website doesn’t prioritize customer experience, it could hamper sales. A good website will be easy to navigate, interestingengaging and visually pleasing.  

But even more important than a well-designed website is traffic – the best designed website will be meaningless if customers don’t visit it. This is where search engine optimization (SEO) comes into play. Manufacturers that optimize their website for Google and other search engines will likely have better success at driving customers to the site and leading them into the customer funnel. There are four steps to an effective SEO strategy:  

  1. Make sure your website is ready for optimization. The website should be mobile-friendly, and pages should load quickly.  
  2. Identify appropriate search terms. What are your customers searching for on Google? A quality keyword strategy will help place your website in the search results of prospective customers.
  3. Implement those keywords by creating high quality, thoughtful content. Its not enough to just understand the keywords you want to rank for; it is vital you include those keywords throughout your website’s content. 
  4. Set KPIs to measure your success. Thousands of website visitors are great, but only if they are becoming customers. KPIs help you track your performance, understand the customer journey and tweak your strategy to ensure youre attracting – and converting – the right audience. 

The Agency at Sikich worked with a national manufacturing company to implement a full-scale SEO program, which increased website traffic 49% compared to the previous year.

Get Social

Much like a website, social media channels are another tool for manufacturers to reach new potential customers. And, like website, its important that the pages are optimized to showcase a company in the best light. For social media, quality is better than quantity. Instead of trying to be on every channel, manufacturers should pick one or two and make sure they regularly share quality content on those channels. Posts should include a mix of informational, entertaining and promotional content. Manufacturers can even enable their employees to help curate and engage with content. For example, they can host a contest where employees share a picture describing the best part of their workday 

Social media is a two-way channel. Not only are you talking to your customers, but your customers can also talk to you. It is important to be responsive and helpful in communication on social media. This includes monitoring direct messages, comments and tagged posts and answering them in a timely manner (which on social media is a matter of minutes, not days). 

Manufacturers can also use social media to attract new customers with a sponsored content strategy. Most social platforms allow businesses to put money behind their content so that it shows up in the newsfeeds of a target audience – people that are relevant to the company but do not currently “follow” the company. Manufacturers can be very targeted with their strategy, identifying potential customers by job title, industry, job function, years of experience, geographic location and more. 

The Agency at Sikich helped a global manufacturing company launch its LinkedIn page, attracting more than 2,000 followers in the first year and earning an average engagement rate of more than 6% (nearly 6X higher than the B2B industry average)!

Digitize your trade show approach

Live trade shows were few and far between in 2020, with many opting to host virtual events instead. With the opportunity for trade show hosts to eliminate travel and reduce production costs, this trend will likely stick around even after the pandemic. Vendors will need to think outside the box to get people to their booth, virtual or not. Consider engaging with trade show attendees before the show even begins. This can include pointing people back to a website or having them sign-up for a networking connectFrom virtual product demonstrations to gift card giveaways and more, the options are endless, and cost is minimal compared to live booths. 

Make sure your existing audience knows what tradeshows you are attending by building out and updating an events page on your website and posting to social media accounts before, during and after the tradeshow. Once traditionally thought of as offline endeavors, trade shows and their vendors strategies are embracing the conveniences of the virtual world. 

And, this digital strategy doesn’t have to only apply to trade shows. Take your open houses and product demos online with live streaming, to offer safe and unique experiences for clients and products to interact with your company.  

At a recent virtual trade show, The Agency at Sikich implemented a survey at its client’s “booth” to gain insights on attendees, identify leads and add to the company’s mailing list. Through pre-show outreach and other digital tactics, the team drove 45% of booth visitors to complete the survey, and 10% of those visitors turned into warm leads.

Engage with the Inbox

Once a manufacturer has attracted new prospective customers from its website and social channels, email marketing is an effective tool to stay in front of the prospect and lead them through the customer funnel. The first step of an email marketing strategy is building a list. Manufacturers can solicit contact information from website visitors, social media followers, trade show lists and its sales team to create a list of prospects that are interested in hearing from the company. Manufacturers can also add current customers to the list to keep their product top of mind and build upon the current relationship.  

After the list is in place, manufacturers must create meaningful content that will interest customers and prospects. To start, a company can decide on a cadence of emails and then build a content calendar to ensure it covers relevant topics throughout the year. Manufacturers should also closely monitor results and tweak their strategy as necessary. For example, if open rates are declining, the company may need to send less emails. Or, if a specific topic receives a lot of click-throughs, the company can create more content around that topic.  

The Agency at Sikich’s email marketing open rates in the M&D space are more than 30%, which is 1.5x higher than the industry average. By refining the email list and reviewing past data, Sikich earned a 60% increase in downloads of the 2020 Manufacturing and Distribution Report, compared to 2019.

Bring it all Together

Creating a meaningful and robust digital presence can sound like a lot of work, especially if starting from scratch. But all of these strategies work in unison to help manufacturers attract new customers. And, there are plenty of efficiencies to be found. For example, the content a company creates for its newsletter can also incorporate SEO keywords and be posted to the website to improve rankings. It can also be sliced-and-diced into numerous social media posts. And if you’re still not sure where to get started, the experts at The Agency at Sikich can help. 

In the age of COVID, it feels like the entire world is online – including your current and future customers. Take advantage of digital strategies to reach these customers and grow your business.  

About the Author

Mackenzie Gorham

Mackenzie Gorham

Mackenzie is an Account Manager at The Agency at Sikich, with an emphasis on public relations solutions. She works with clients in a range of industries, from professional services to juvenile products, not-for-profit organizations to manufacturing. Mackenzie has supported many award-winning programs rooted in media relations, writing, marketing, event planning, and social media strategy.

Contributors

Pete Zimmerman

Pete Zimmerman

Pete is the Digital Marketing and Search Engine Optimization Specialist at The Agency Sikich. He specializes in maximizing the volume of inbound organic traffic from search engines to a website by analyzing, reviewing and implementing ever-evolving changes to existing and new websites.

Carissa Miller

Carissa Miller

Carissa is a Senior Marketing Specialist at The Agency at Sikich. She supports marketing initiatives for the firm's CPA and Advisory service lines via webinars, newsletters, live events, digital and traditional media campaigns, branding initiatives, and marketing collateral creation. She specializes in marketing solutions for the Manufacturing and Distribution industry.

This publication contains general information only and Sikich is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or any other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should you use it as a basis for any decision, action or omission that may affect you or your business. Before making any decision, taking any action or omitting an action that may affect you or your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. You acknowledge that Sikich shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by you or any person who relies on this publication.

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