As a manufacturer, you can skip past the “marketing best-sellers” category of your bookstore app. It’s hard to apply great marketing tactics—so often centered on B2C or even more generalized B2B—to a product or service built for a niche of a niche of a niche.
Add highly complex and customizable offerings to an exasperatingly finite pool of potential customers, and you simply can’t market in any traditional sense.
The alternative is beefing up your sales team and keeping your executives ready to visit prospects. Lead generation needs to come from sales. And that’s about it.
Okay, this would be a very short blog post if the answer was simply “yes.” But the truth is that, even when your specialization means you’re finding prospects in a small pool, smart use of data and content marketing can earn you an edge over your competitors.
Here are three considerations in building a marketing strategy that could augment your sales-heavy approach to finding new customers.
Seize on and grow your customer data
You have customers and a sales force. Are you adequately benefitting from the information these individuals provide?
Every marketer can benefit from profiling a customer. As a manufacturer operating in a specialized niche, you have to delve deeper into that data. Chances are your sales team can do most of the lifting using the information they have in their CRM or in their heads. To take the next step, you can informally interview customers, which deepens your customer relationships and gives you additional information. Alternatively, surveys are great at building knowledge about your customers.
What can emerge from this practice is the next layer of data. You likely know your customer’s subject matter, what trade shows they attend, what they read, what they see as common problems, and who their customers are. But are there connectors beyond this?
It’s hard to say what such connectors can be without knowing your niche—but here are a few things to look for:
- What concerns do your customers and their competitors share?
- Who do they collectively know?
- What technological or industrial trends are they reading about?
- What are they doing similar to one another?What are they doing differently?
- What is their biggest long-term concern about their industry?
Identifying, knowing and acting on this next layer of information can tell you where to target and what to say, which takes us to the next step.
Turn data into relevant content
Once you have data points, ideas should readily form. If you don’t have a content marketing strategy, this is the natural place to start. If you do have content marketing, this is where you can improve it. It’s also where you can assess your marketing and sales assets.
Content marketing is a manufacturer’s best friend because your customers are so discerning, they’re unlikely to be sold to. Rather, as manufacturing service provider MANTEC puts it, your customers “want to see proof of your expertise and efficiency.”
Questions to ask yourself:
- Are you generating or sharing regular content that your clients care about?
- Does your website specifically address key pain points?
- Are you using storytelling, and is your story likely to resonate with what you’ve learned about your customers?
- Are you using automation to communicate with your customers and prospects?
- Is your social media presence both consistent and aligned with the rest of your content?
- Is your sales team equipped with talking points, marketing materials and commerce tools that speak to your customers concerns?
You may find value in auditing your product line marketing materials, your website, or your brand as a whole. This takes time and careful thought. In manufacturing, marketing content often follows and adheres to the development of products and technology, rather than customer concerns.
If making customer data the center of your marketing is new for you, that’s okay. Building your marketing structure can be done while your sales team already is active and better equipped with customer information.
Collect new data on your efforts
For continual improvement, you’ll need to keep an eye on your content’s metrics and adjust accordingly.
Naturally, you’ll know your content marketing strategy is working when you gain more prospects and customers. But for a funnel-level view of how your strategy is working and how it can be improved, you may want to consider a dashboard using a collection of information from Google Analytics and SEO tools.
When you have a structure in place to monitor your metrics, you’ll be well informed to take the next steps to improve your website, your social media, your e-mails, and the content that ties them together.
Keeping your focus simply on building great and relevant content, informed by data, is a style of marketing that plays into your hands as a manufacturer. Your customers will see you as experts. Your sales team will be more informed. And your next sale will not only bring in the revenue, it will further inform your marketing strategy.
ddm works every day with manufacturers, helping them increase sales and decrease operational inefficiencies. We can help you get started today.