Done well, inbound marketing can be the most effective tactic manufacturing businesses can use to capture more leads, convert those leads into customers and retain current customers. That said, effective inbound marketing requires a strategic approach. Read on to learn how you can begin implementing a solid inbound marketing strategy for your manufacturing business this year.
The Marketing-Buying Link
Manufacturing companies usually either market to end-user customers or commercial customers, but sometimes they have products intended for both. That said, if your company markets to both, you need to understand what makes your end-user customer different than your commercial customer. Their needs are going to be different and so will the information they want before they decide to make a purchase from you.
Some customers make what are known as short-cycle buying decisions. These buyers might be making a decision quickly because they’ve bought from you before, know precisely what they need, or because they are in the market to buy a simple, low-cost manufactured product for a specific purpose (e.g.: a new muffler, or a replacement part).
Some customers–often commercial customers–make long-cycle buying decisions. These buyers may be preparing to make a high-ticket or high-volume purchase, or one that will have a massive impact in some way, and so they take their time to ensure they’re making the right decision before they buy. These buyers may also represent those potential customers that are still “kicking tires,” comparing options and seem to need more assurance before they make their move.
Both Buyers are Valuable:
And manufacturing companies make inbound marketing really work by first identifying how their potential and existing customers buy: short-cycle, long-cycle or both. Both buyer types follow a similar process, but one is more detailed, demands more information, more options, more hand-holding and takes longer.
By understanding their buyers’ purchasing behaviours, manufacturers can maximize the impact of their inbound marketing. Inbound marketing works for both cycles, but especially for long-cycle decision-making.
Here we will discuss the purchase decision-making cycle, and then look at how manufacturing companies can make inbound marketing really work.
The Buyers’ Six Step Decision Making Path
Buyers tend to follow a six-step decision-making path, beginning with “nothing happening,” and ending with “buy.” When manufacturing companies align their inbound marketing with their customers buying cycles, it really works.
- Exist in a state of business and functional satisfaction; everything is going well. Their current product works and delivers the expected results.
- Migrate from there to a state where they recognize they have a new and unsatisfied need. Their user-needs are changing, or their market is changing, or their current product is no longer performing as expected.
- Move on from recognizing they have a need, to clearly seeing that need as unacceptable. It may be that their current supplier is failing in some way, their market demands improved results from the products or from their suppliers. They foresee higher costs and lower gross profits if they are a commercial customer. If they are an end-user, they may see poor performance, increased maintenance costs, potential product failure, etc. Whatever the reason may be, they are in the uncomfortable state of dissatisfaction.
- Reach a point where they want to solve those problems, and they look for a solution.
- Analyze the changes that brought them to this point, investigate, do research, interview potential suppliers (including their current supplier), compare their options and then:
- Make a decision based on their research that will deliver the best product and service solution.
Buyers may speed through these steps or dwell on each. Effective inbound marketing aligns with these steps.
Inbound Marketing’s Contribution
You want your current customers to remain loyal, and new customers to decide to buy. Most buyers want their problems solved or to avoid them altogether. Solving a problem quickly demands making the right decision quickly. Avoiding a problem demands forward planning. Both require knowledge. That is where inbound marketing comes in.
How Inbound Marketing Works
As a Successful Manufacturer You Want To:
- Establish and maintain your position as the go-to supplier for all current and future customer needs.
- Deliver a level of product value and customer service which builds loyalty.
- Have your existing customer base think of you–first and foremost–instead of considering your competition.
- Encourage potential customers to seek you out, rather than you seeking them out.
Traditional outbound marketing assumes you will find new customers by pushing your brand and special offer in front of them via interruptive advertising. Inbound marketing encourages new customers to find you by attracting them to your storefront or website. Both marketing tactics are valuable and effective (when done properly).
But Inbound Marketing Can Actually Deliver on Both By:
- Showing up in your customers’ web search results.
- Reaching customers via email with special offers and product news designed to appeal to them.
- Earning new customers’ confidence and guiding them towards making a purchase by offering relevant and useful information along the way as needed.
- Following up with customers after the purchase with additional product information and suggestions.
- Inbound marketing methods let you use today’s technology to establish your company and its products in the minds of your chosen “buyer personas” as being the expert choice and absolute best option to fulfill their current and future needs.
Inbound Marketing in Action
These Eleven Ideas Show How Inbound Marketing Delivers Results:
- Begin a business page on Facebook: Provide useful information on how your company understands your buyers’ needs, goals, and challenges. Encourage existing and potential customers to “follow” you. Encourage dialog so you know what matters to them, and can use that knowledge in your company’s future campaigns and product and service evolution.
- Manage forums on LinkedIn and other professional sites: to establish your company’s expertise with industry opinion-leaders and with senior personnel in major corporations in your market sectors.
- Answer forum visitor questions: that arise from the articles you post and the discussions you lead.
- Offer free reports and white papers: on how to best deal with common problems which your products and services solve.
- Encourage your Facebook and LinkedIn followers to visit your website: to download those reports and white papers plus other valuable information to help establish your company and products as the primary choice in the minds of your target customers.
- Make sure the free whitepaper or informative guides you offer are conspicuously displayed: on your website, where new visitors will immediately see them.
- When someone visits your website to download your free guide or whitepaper: capture their contact details and permission for future direct email correspondence.
- Add their contact information: to your company’s CRM and email list.
- Lead webinars: on problems aimed at each customer type in your chosen market sectors – how to avoid them, and how to solve them.
- Create eCommerce and user manual pages on your website: so customers can learn about each product, compare them, match them with their needs, learn about product guarantees, maintenance processes, how to order, install, and make the best use of each product, etc.
- Publish written and video testimonials and interviews with satisfied customers: so potential customers see loyalty in action and develop trust in your company and its products.
These eleven examples show how inbound marketing is a perfect driver of new business because it establishes your manufacturing company and your products as the obvious and best choice, well before your target buyers realize they have a need. Even if most of the emails you send remain unopened, just seeing your company name in their inbox helps build familiarity with your target buyers so that when a need arises, they’ll think of your company and products first.
We’re Here to Help You
Done right, inbound marketing helps your manufacturing company appeal to new and existing customers by building their confidence and trust in your company’s expertise and products. All of which works to attract, convert and retain customers.
But to Do It Well Requires Some Upfront Work That Includes:
- Building solid buyer personas
- Understanding the online buyer’s journey
- Creating lead capture features for your website
- Designing landing pages to improve conversions
- Dividing your email lists according to customer interests and purchasing behaviours
- Planning and preparing the content you will actually send them
- Testing and tweaking your tactics as needed
Rest assured, you don’t have to do this yourself; we can help! To learn more, and to discuss your inbound marketing thoughts in more detail, contact our team at McAllister Marketing for a no-obligation discussion to explore your options. We’re super easy to work with and serve as your full-service, on-call marketing department.