Marketers in manufacturing and industrial businesses have their work cut out for them. For quite a few reasons. With the right approach though, marketing is a crucial cog in driving tangible, genuine business growth.
As a marketer in an industrial business, you’ve got it tough. Why? Largely because you’re charged with supporting a lengthy and sophisticated sales cycle.
There are many reasons why this is the case. And equally, many reasons it presents a challenge.
One: the products you promote are technically complex, sometimes prohibitively so. There’s a high barrier to entry that needs to be overcome on expertise and product literacy.
Two: you typically communicate with a huge range of prospective customers. Each one can—and likely needs to—use your product in multiple capacities, and needs different information at different times. You market to procurement teams, specifiers, redistributors, engineers, local councils, owner operators, and more.
Three: projects occur at scale. Projects are sizeable, typically involve large budgets, and, as a result, larger amounts of perceived risk. Purchases can be highly involved, high value transactions that occur infrequently.
Four: stringent requirements for standards and compliance. The devil is in the detail for manufacturers, engineers, and industrially minded organisations. A seemingly small accreditation or detail can prove the critical difference between winning and losing a contract worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s up to you to stay on top of these developments and project your alignment with relevant standards to market.
So, yes. It seems tough. As with so many things though, this is a matter of perspective. These challenges also present distinct opportunities. The unique sales cycle you navigate presents some clear chances for differentiation, exceptional customer experience, and high-impact marketing activity, in both the short- and long-term.
Here are some tried and true techniques to help manufacturing and industrial businesses generate tangible impact from marketing.
1. Commit to education and build an ‘always-on’, self-sustaining business development pipeline.
The products and solutions offered by manufacturing and industrial businesses are complex. Products like irrigation double chamber solenoid control valves. HVAC magflow meters. Zinalium galvanic pipeline protection systems.
To compound this complexity, many products have variable applications with differing levels of performance depending on their usage or configuration. Even further, while there are formalised accreditations for engineering and other disciplines, there is no such equivalent for certain aspects of an engineer’s daily role: configuring a valve or other complex product for example.
Educating your market—whether by producing written or video instructional content, or by including detailed, easily accessible product documentation—provides value in many different ways.
Firstly, it contributes to the long game. By creating and distributing highly valuable training materials, you’ll help junior engineers or specifiers build capability and become infinitely better within their own role.
Bermad Water Technologies provides a library of high quality training and after-sales support materials on their hugely popular YouTube channel.
Bermad Water Technologies has a commitment to publishing high quality, free training materials to educate the broader water sector. It’s proven highly effective for support, but also customer acquisition.
As junior engineers progress through their careers, they are unlikely to stray from a supplier who provides such comprehensive support. Plus, they’ve now built a skillset and familiarity with products that are exclusive to your inventory. Why would you go to another product or provider where you have to relearn everything?
The importance of brand familiarity is formally proven by the concept of brand salience. Developed by Professor Jenni Romaniuk and Professor Byron Sharp, of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute of Marketing Science, brand salience refers to ‘the propensity of a brand to be thought of in a buying situation, reflected in the quantity and quality of the network of brand information in a person’s memory, or the brand’s share of mind’. The greater share of mind you can occupy, the more likely a chance that a customer will buy from you when the need arises.
Secondly, if your content connects with your audience and is configured appropriately, you’ll experience a huge boost in awareness. With the right approach, a high percentage of the people who Google the generic query ‘how to set an altitude valve’ will discover your branded content outlining how to set your altitude valve, and enter the first stages of becoming a potential customer.
While it may seem like a long-term strategy, growth can occur quickly.
In three years, the number of views on Bermad’s video channel grew from 16,000 to 147,000. In the same time period, website visitation skyrocketed from 34,620 to 91,379.
Rest assured. ‘Educating the industry’ can sound like a heavy investment of time, attention, and resource. In reality, with the right pieces in place, Bermad was able to achieve these results through a relatively small amount of semi-frequent effort. A little, often, for valuable business impact.
2. Understand how your audience thinks about their role, and how they’ll seek your products.
It’s tempting, and understandable, to think about your customers in the way you think about them. In order to meaningfully connect, it’s far more important to consider the way they think about themselves.
Let’s say you serve multiple industries: mining, irrigation, and commercial construction. As a result, you segment your website in the same way. This works for people who land on your homepage. They might see a section for irrigation, click that, and expect all the content they need will be available and pre-filtered in that area of the site.
This approach presumes that every customer arrives through the same, single front door of your website homepage. In reality, that’s simply not the case.
In my experience working with manufacturing and industrial businesses, customers typically have a more qualified understanding of products and services than simply the industry they occupy. As a result, there’s more specificity in their search intent.
Instead of ‘irrigation valves’, someone is far more likely to search for ‘hydraulic control valve’, ‘actuated valve’ or ‘pressure sustaining valve’.
As a rule of thumb, optimising your search presence and website structure for a combination of product and problem together, in addition to industry, is a far more effective approach.
3. Create website pages that clearly deliver on customer expectation—*this will save you huge amounts of misspent advertising budget.
Directly related to the point above, there is nothing that unnecessarily drives up cost on paid search marketing—or any type of paid advertising—more than a landing page that does not explicitly and immediately relate to your customer’s search.
Imagine you bid on the search term ‘hydraulic control valve’; this would mean your advertisement is shown as a priority listing when people search that term in Google or other search engines.
Every person who clicks that ad incurs a cost for you.
Now, imagine they’re directed to a landing page with information all about agriculture and irrigation after searching for a very specific product. This is a disconnect from the intent of the search term, and puts the effort back on the customer. They have to work to find the information they need. They’re likely to leave before taking on this work, creating a ‘bounce’: a visit that creates very little value or engagement on your site. To make matters worse, in this hypothetical, you’re paying for that bounce.
Instead, the ideal experience is to send this customer to a page with all the content that immediately matches their search intent. So, in the case of a search for hydraulic control valve, that would include:
- A full list of all the hydraulic control valves you offer.
- Information about all the product certifications, accreditations, standards and benchmarks that your valves meet.
- Technical documentation about the products.
- Articles or videos about installing and maintaining hydraulic control valves.
There has to be an explicit, cohesive connection between the search intent and the content that is served to the customer when they click through.
Magister hydraulics provides a comprehensive landing page for hydraulic control valves, with instructional information, links to different types of hydraulic valves, and a list of popular products.
4. Make the purchase process as easy as possible, for all possible customers.
Removing barriers to purchase is always a worthwhile strategy. In the manufacturing and industrial sector though, this can mean something very specific due to the requirement for product accreditations and approvals.
Depending on your product or service, you likely serve a wide range of customers. Creating a smooth, simple purchase process means providing different product information for each prospective customer base on their likely requirements.
Clover, as a pipeline infrastructure business, likely deals with procurement officers or specifiers: a smaller number of intermediaries responsible for assessing the suitability of Clover as a vendor, before disseminating that information to a broader team. These types of customers are likely interested to:
- Establish that Clover has the right grade and size of products for any pipeline network being proposed.
- Assess the technical viability of every product that exists within that solution, so they can pass relevant documentation through to project managers or installers when the time comes.
- Validate any necessary product approvals that pertain to the solution (like WSAA or AS/NZS standards).
As a result, this type of technical documentation is made readily available on every product page throughout Clover’s website.
Clover provides a dedicated section on every product page with technical documents highlighting specifications, relevant issuer approvals, and more.
Ensuring readily available and relevant certification information or approvals documentation—appraisals, Australian Standards, and technical data sheets—provides a clear signal that the product is fit for specific purposes.
If it’s easy and efficient to count Clover in as a prospective supplier, that’s one less barrier to a potential sales lead. This approach has proven incredibly effective, driving a 462% increase in product views on the website (+79,909) in a six year period.
Bermad takes a similar but slightly different approach. In their website, you can search for all approvals, by issuer or by market, to generate a list of products that meet a specific accreditation.
On Bermad’s website, you can filter by accreditation issuer, or by accreditations that are relevant to specific markets like building services or fire protection.
5. Find ways to provide highly accessible customer support through digital channels.
Educating the market is valuable in the long term. But let’s say—after a sale—your customer is staring down the barrel of misfiring product on site. Or servicing a broken trunk main or reticulation system. That’s a whole different ballgame.
They likely need immediate support, especially if the situation halts the operation of a work site or compromises profitability targets.
If they’re in an industry like mining, agriculture, irrigation, or water management, there’s every chance the site is in a highly remote location, which makes in person assistance impossible. The highly visual and technical nature of the products makes it difficult to troubleshoot via phone call only.
So how can you provide support?
Product troubleshooting videos are a good option. They also create all of the benefits outline in point one, around educating the market. However, Bermad Water Technologies took this a step further. They provide a live support video calling tool, which connects you directly with a product specialist to help troubleshoot any product issues on the spot.
Again, with a relatively light investment, Bermad finds a way to strengthen relationships, credibility, and provide the crucial support each customer needs to get the most out of their product.
With the right approach—and a commitment to experiment, learn and optimise over time—marketing teams in manufacturing and industrial business can see enormous growth.
For two particularly compelling examples, take a look at:
- Clover Pipelines: driving connection, acquisition and long-term expansion through performance marketing.
- Bermad Water Technologies: unearth new customers and build mutually beneficial relationships by using the above techniques.
Get in contact for more detail on any of the techniques outlined in this article, or to see how you can achieve similar results to Clover or Bermad.