Strategic Marketing for Manufacturers
Having a strategic marketing plan that reaches your customer base via all media channels, both traditional and the newer social media, can help take your business to the next level.
Marketing is an investment, not an expense.
If a line item on a budget does not have to do with physically forming, fabricating, machining, or finishing a part, many manufacturers consider it to be an expense. Many invest large portions of their budgets in research and development, as well as new equipment, and view these items as helping produce high-quality products and fostering a competitive edge. Yet they fail to see how important marketing is to business success.
Marketing is the oil that lubricates the engine of your business. It is essential to moving your business forward and keeping your name top-of-mind with current and prospective customers. No singular marketing approach suffices, because people search for information in various ways. You must strategically place your business at the intersection of the user and the information he seeks continuously.
Integrate With Various Media Platforms
The various media platforms flow into the center, your Web site (Figure 1). Your Web site is vital to a successful integrated program. All other media should work in combination, delivering one unified message to drive visitors to your Web site.
Social Media.>Use social media, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, to engage users in high-traffic areas. To be successful, you must update your content frequently.
LinkedIn allows you to create a professional profile and connect with other users. Think of it as an online resume in which you can display information about your company and its capabilities and weigh in on industry discussions.
Facebook is similar in the sense of creating a profile, but it takes a more social approach. You can post photos, videos, and updates on current projects or certifications.
The Twitter platform allows users to sign up to read items or links you post. You essentially gain “followers” who receive a notification when you post something new.
An important step in using social media is to make sure you are linking your networks back to each other. For example, if you purchase new laser cutting equipment, post a link to the OEM’s video of the laser on YouTube.
You want the content in these platforms to draw users to the next step in the flow chart. Do this by creating a link on your Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn profile to the page on your Web site where you post your press releases, or perhaps link to the site of a tradeshow at which you plan to exhibit.
Print and Online Advertisements. Paid print and electronic ads, along with collateral materials, press releases, and tradeshow participation, are important components of a successful integrated marketing plan that helps strengthen a brand. Maintaining a uniform appearance and message is essential to solidifying the brand.
To maximize the effectiveness of your print and online campaign:
- Develop a budget.
- Review all industry-specific print options (circulation statements) and Web sites (traffic ranking). Some print and online publications also offer targeted e-newsletters that can deliver your message to your audiencecost-effectively.
- Developan integrated program combining various forms of media, such as print,button and banner ads, videos, e-newsletters, and online directories.
Collateral Materials.Product and service brochures are marketing staples. Make yours more effective by using high-resolution photos. Don’t overuse text; simplify content for quick reference by model number, capacity, and so forth.
Press Releases. Press releases are great opportunities for free publicity. To make the most of this no-cost opportunity, send out releases frequently to applicable trade journals, newspapers, and online resources, such as PRWeb.com and PR Newswire.com. Certifications, training, new hires, new products, Web site launches, new facilities, promotions, relocations, equipment purchases, new capabilities, and improved processes are some of the potential release topics.
Track which releases get published and where. Remember that the various print and online media receive many releases, and not all can be published. Some also have editorial policies that preclude including promotional language in published releases. For that reason, it’s best to keep sales hyperbole out of your releases. Don’t say your product is the greatest thing since sliced bread, even if you think it is.
Tradeshows. Tradeshows are excellent venues for meeting potential customers and demonstrating your products. Doing your homework can help you make the most of tradeshow opportunities. Begin by identifying market-specific shows. Weigh the ROI of each show carefully. Will the number of attendees support the cost of participating, shipping, and labor?
Incorporate colors and pictures from the brochures into your booth design to reinforce your brand and message. Publicize your tradeshow participation in social media, print and online ads, press releases, and e-newsletters beginning two to three months before the show.
If you have in-house lists of customers/potential customers or have access to targeted lists, send direct-mail pieces and e-mails inviting recipients to stop by your booth.
In business today, more first impressions are made by looking at a company’s Web site than in person. Your Web site must be highly organized, have a clean look, and be easy to navigate.
One mistake many Web sites make is to fill the home page with flash multimedia, such as audio or video. The longer you make users wait for the page to load, the more likely you are to lose them.
Incorporate your other media elements into the Web site with an “In the News” page for your press releases.
Create a “Contact Us” page with your address, phone number, and e-mail addresses along with an invitation for users to connect with you on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
Register your Web site with relevant online directories such as GlobalSpec, ThomasNet.com, and thefabricator.com to build links from high-traffic sites.
It’s important to have tracking software to show you where users are coming from and what they click and view when they are on your site. This will help you track which media efforts are having the greatest impact. Google offers a basic version for free called Google Analytics.
In the past decade search engines, such as Google and Yahoo, have become the top tool for users researching information. The user types in keywords and phrases, and the search engine delivers thousands of links to related content.
The order in which the links are displayed is based on many factors. Simply stated, you can participate in a pay-per-click program to be at the top or invest in optimizing your Web site to rank high organically.
Historically, pay-per-click has been an expensive proposition for manufacturers because of the high cost of the keywords. Keywords are purchased at an auction, and price is based on popularity. So, if you run a job shop that offers roll forming, and you want to purchase that phrase to rank high when someone searches, you could pay over $11 per click with an estimated global search volume of 60,500 per month.*
Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving your Web site so that search engines recognize your content and refer users to your Web site for that information. You incur cost on the front end to optimize your site but don’t have to pay per user click. SEO is a complex process that requires a professional with programming experience to adjust codes within your Web site.
You can take some steps on your own to begin optimizing your Web site by focusing on keywords and building reciprocal links. Try using the keyword tool in Google Adwords to research which keywords related to your business are the most popular. If a term has a high search volume, it is considered popular. Your keywords are your capabilities, such as “punching,” “cutting,” or “bending.” Also try phrases like “cutting stainless steel” or “bending tube.”
Incorporate the most popular keywords into the text on your Web site, specifically in the first 50 characters of your home page. Search engines typically scan the first 50 characters, including punctuation and spaces, to determine what the page is about. By strategically placing keywords, you can help get their attention. Do not just list keywords across the top of every page as search engines do not look favorably upon this practice and it can be detrimental to your page rank.
Create reciprocal links to reputable Web sites. The number of links that come into and go out from your site factor into where you rank in the results. Place links on your Web site to associations you belong to or local programs you participate in.
A useful tool for assessing your site’s strength is www.alexa.com, which allows you to review your site’s traffic ranking along with your competitors’. You also can verify the work of an agency you may be considering working with on the optimization project by looking at how sites it handles rank.
The lower the traffic ranking, the better. For example, YouTube has a rank of 3, meaning it is the third most heavily trafficked Web site in the world. Alexa.com will report your worldwide rank as well as your rank within the U.S. (YouTube is 4th in the U.S.).
If Alexa reports “No data,” the search engines don’t know your Web site exists. It also reports the number of sites linking to yours, as well as demographics of your Web visitors.
The Alexa information can be invaluable in helping you to not only optimize your site, but also to evaluate industry sites with advertising opportunities.
Marketing can be a daunting task for many manufacturers. Once the initial program is set in place, maintenance can take as little as one or two hours per month. An annual, or perhaps quarterly, review is needed to analyze the success of your efforts.
Marketing is an important business investment. As management consultant Peter Drucker said, “Because its purpose is to create a customer, the business has two and only two functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results. All the rest are costs.”
* Subject to change, price per click as of 12-15-09.