B2B manufacturing companies face a unique set of issues when it comes to marketing their products and services. The most unique issue is that most companies are so niche that there's no one-size-fits-all plan for effectively reaching their ideal customers and convincing them to buy.
At SIX, we've worked with a lot of manufacturers, many of them in B2B industries. In this blog, we'll be taking a look at the best marketing tactics for manufacturers and how to tailor them to fit your market and needs.
Why marketing research & strategic plans are essential for manufacturers
Tactics that work for many B2C companies don't apply well to the B2B manufacturing world. Would promoting your products or services on Facebook or Instagram help drive sales? Probably not.
When we start working with a new manufacturing client, we usually set aside the first month or two to conduct market research and develop a comprehensive plan based on the data we uncover. We take the time to understand each client's industry, who their ideal customers are, who their competitors are, and the current market trends.
Without a data-driven plan in place, it can be very hard to market in a strategic, efficient, and effective way. If you cater to niche needs, it's important to fully understand your market — and what works in that market — before diving in.
Understanding your buyer personas & ICP
When we do a comprehensive marketing research and plan project for a new client, we usually conduct ideal customer profile (ICP) and buyer persona research. Your ICP describes the companies you want to work with, and your buyer personas are the people at those companies who play a role in the decision to buy from you.
Analyzing ICPs and personas helps us understand who your audience is, how they conduct research for new suppliers, what sources of information they trust the most, what kind of information they need to make a decision, and more.
It depends on your target companies, but you'll likely need to sell a buying committee on your products or services. Buying committees involve multiple stakeholders who might have very different personalities and priorities.
For example, if your buyer personas include both engineers and supply chain managers, it's important to realize that it might take different strategies to reach them. Engineers tend to be highly skeptical buyers and need plenty of detailed information and specifications in order to make an informed decision. Supply chain managers will likely be less concerned with the specs and more concerned with your ability to delivery products on time and on budget. It's important to have marketing materials that speak to each of their needs as buyers.
Inbound marketing for manufacturers
Inbound marketing is all about attracting potential customers to your business and meeting their needs as they go through their buyer's journey: identifying the problem, researching a solution, and deciding between alternatives.
B2B manufacturing has a fairly complex buyer's journey that involves multiple people, requires a lot of research, and can have a long sales cycle. The good news is that if you can educate your audience and persuade them to source from you (and then provide great customer service), you'll likely have long-term customers.
Since B2B manufacturing is often a complex topic, and your potential buyers will likely be detail-oriented decision makers, it's important to provide them with content to answer any questions they may have. Content marketing takes many forms: website content, blogs, eBooks, guides, brochures, case studies, spec sheets, videos, and more. Great content also helps establish you as a thought leader in your industry.
Different types of content can play roles in different parts of the buyer's journey (blogs addressing questions in the awareness or consideration phase, case studies to act as trust elements during the decision phase, etc.). You should have information available to help your potential buyers through any stage of their journey.
It's important to have a strong library of informational and educational content, and not just for inbound marketing. Your sales team can use content to answer questions or provide additional information.
Search engine optimization (SEO)
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a long-term strategy that helps your website appear in relevant Google search results. As a best practice, each page of your website or blog article should be optimized for one keyword or one family of closely related keywords.
SEO can be a tough play for B2B manufacturers, especially if your industry is particularly niche. In order to decide whether it's worth investing in SEO, you'll need to understand your audience and how they conduct research. If your audience is looking for a new supplier or searching for a solution to a problem, they might not be using Google search.
To learn more about your audience, we usually recommend surveying some of your current customers about their research and buying process during the research and planning phase. We'll also research keywords o figure out how much search demand they have. If most of the relevant keywords have only 10-20 people searching for them a month, we would still optimize your website to help you appear for those searches, but creating content specifically for SEO might not be the best play.
Account-based marketing (ABM) for manufacturers
Account-based marketing (ABM) is the opposite approach to inbound marketing. ABM delivers targeted and personalized marketing to your ideal customers. This can be in the form of ads, emails, LinkedIn messages, or other tactics. The important part is that you're reaching out to the exact companies that fit your ICP and speaking directly to their needs and pain points.
ABM outreach approaches include one-to-one, one-to-few, and one-to-many. One-to-few outreach is a happy medium and usually the best way to target the companies you want to work with the most.
Digital advertising takes many forms, and only some of them are right for B2B manufacturers. Platforms where you have greater control over targeting are the best ones to use for an ABM approach.
Google Search Ads (for the same reasons as SEO above) aren't necessarily the best play if you're in a niche industry. Unless your competition is bidding or outranking you on relevant high-traffic keywords, you likely won't see much return on investment (ROI) from search marketing.
If your audience is on LinkedIn, you can target ads to them based on their industry, job title, and location. You can also use programmatic display advertising to target a highly specific audience segment or to target lists of contacts.
Traditional marketing & trade shows for manufacturers
Traditional marketing tactics (print, TV, and radio) are still important aspects of a comprehensive marketing strategy, but for B2B manufacturers, print is probably the only one worth exploring.
If your ideal customers subscribe to industry publications, it might be worthwhile to look into advertising in them. It likely won't be cheap, but if your audience trusts industry publications and look to them for reliable information, it might be worth trying. Once again, it's important to study your audience's buying journey to understand where they do their research.
If your industry hosts trade shows and conferences, having a presence at them can help you gain more trust. You'll need a professional trade show booth and need to use these events to network and build relationships within the industry, and then market to attendees after the show.
Need help reaching your ideal customers?
Here's the thing: it's hard to make generalizations about marketing in B2B manufacturing industries. Effectively marketing to your ideal customers means understanding them and the market, which is why we usually recommend starting with a research and planning phase.
Looking to become the manufacturer of choice in your industry? Schedule a short call with one of our experts to discuss your unique needs or visit our website to learn more about our wide range of manufacturing marketing services.