Inbound marketing is a strategy where brands attempt to attract consumers to them — like through social media and blog posts — rather than reaching out to individuals directly.
Blogging and search engine optimization (SEO) are two popular inbound marketing techniques for manufacturers. Both allow you to reach a wide audience, hopefully getting their attention and convincing them to make contact with your company.
In contrast, outbound marketing is a more active process. Outbound marketing refers to any strategy where your company initiates a conversation with potential customers by sending a message out, whether via email or direct mail.
Both inbound and outbound are valuable for manufacturing companies, and it’s important to learn where you can weave inbound techniques into your strategy.
Why Inbound Marketing is Important for Manufacturers
Inbound marketing has immense potential for both organic reach (i.e., non-paid traffic, like from ranking your content in search engines) and also evergreen-ness (which means an article you publish this month could still be pulling in traffic years down the road).
Some of the other key benefits of inbound marketing for manufacturers include:
Enhancing brand visibility
Building trust and credibility
Nurturing leads and converting prospects
Establishing your company as a thought leader
Think about your target customers and the questions they have about your products along with the unique use cases they could apply them in.
For example, for a building materials manufacturer, starting up a DIY series showing how to measure, prep, customize and install their various products is an excellent example of inbound marketing at work. The series will pique interest in their products and drive sales amongst DIYers, handymen and homeowners.
How to Get Started With Inbound Marketing
Getting your inbound marketing campaign off to a great start means beginning with clear goals and objectives. You also need to have a clear understanding of your industry, audience and competition, which is why it’s wise to conduct a competitive analysis before kicking things off.
Here are the steps to follow:
Research the buyer’s journey
Create a buyer persona
Identify the types of content you want to use
Develop an SEO-focused content strategy
Implement time-saving tools
Track the results of your efforts and adjust accordingly
Below is some more information on how to execute these key steps.
Understanding the Buyer's Journey
Understanding the buyer's journey is critical for assembling an effective inbound marketing strategy. Because you aren’t targeting individuals directly like with outbound marketing, the success of inbound marketing relies on your ability to effectively capture potential customers and meet them where they are.
Especially when planning for SEO keywords and blog content, understanding the buyer’s journey will help you engage and nurture leads to the point where they want to schedule a consultation, make a purchase or get a quote.
There are three stages in the buyer’s journey, but they may look different depending on your industry. For a building materials manufacturer selling products to general contractors, this is what the stages might look like:
Potential customers are experiencing a pain point or problem. For instance, a general contractor may be searching for a new fencing product that’s easier to install with a wider variety of colors and lower maintenance requirements for homeowners.
In this phase, they aren’t aware of your company. It’s your job to target the right keywords and find ways to get your content in front of them so that you pique their interest and get them to learn about your product.
Potential customers have identified the potential solutions, but now they need to compare them. Which fencing is most cost-effective? Which company stands behind their products with fast shipping, great service and a good warranty? In this stage, people want to see comparisons, reviews and pricing information.
While they’ll be aware of your company in this phase, they’re also aware of any competitors or potential alternatives. Also, they may not be aware of specific product variations or incentive programs that you offer, and it’s important to educate them about this when they’re in this phase.
Armed with all the knowledge they’ve collected in the previous stage, potential customers decide whether they’re going to buy from you or a competitor — or not take action at all for the time being.
Even if you can’t close the deal with a sale at this point, you should have ways to capture a lead’s information (such as their email address) during the consideration and decision phases so that you can keep marketing to them. Offering lead magnets, such as industry reports that require them to provide their email in order to receive the file, is a great way to do this.
Creating a Buyer Persona
A buyer persona is a profile of your ideal customer. Typically, companies give this persona a name, like “Handyman Hank” and personify it with specific details to highlight the most important identifying characteristics of the customers they’re targeting.
The process of creating a buyer persona is time-consuming but entirely worth it. The good news is that you can tap into your current customer base to learn much of what you need to know. However, it’s important that you segment your current customers based on their use cases.
For building materials manufacturers, they may have separate personas for DIYers, general contractors, home builders, architects and interior designers. If they target the B2B sector, they may also have a buyer persona describing the types of hardware stores they want to get into, whether it’s based on area demographics or store revenue.
The best buyer personas include factual, research-based information that is actionable for your marketing team. We go in-depth into the process of building a buyer persona in this guide on marketing to contractors and installers.
Developing Content for Each Stage of the Buyer's Journey
Once you have a buyer persona and you understand the phases of the buyer’s journey, you can start creating content that appeals to your potential customers no matter where they are in the decision-making process.
In this phase, people want a solution, and they need to know their options. You can offer them:
Engaging social media content that makes it clear that you understand their problem or pain point, such as demonstrations showing how your product is superior to traditional/competitor solutions
Blog posts targeting long-tail keywords about your industry or product. For instance, a fencing manufacturer might target keywords like, “what type of fence lasts the longest?” or “what type of fence is best for dogs?”
Videos demonstrating your product at work and showing its unique features in order to pique interest
In this phase, potential customers are aware of your solutions at a high level but need to know more. You can offer them:
Side-by-side comparisons of the different variations of your products and your competitors
Infographics breaking down cost, environmental impact, installation methods and other important details
eBooks and white papers explaining your products in depth, such as spec sheets for roofing, siding, etc.
Webinars (live or pre-recorded) where you present your products with demonstrations and provide answers to common questions
Lead magnets, such as industry reports or buying guides
In this phase, potential customers have thoroughly researched all of their options and are ready to make a decision. You can help them choose you by offering:
User testimonials, photos and video reviews
Case studies telling the stories of happy customers and how they accomplished a goal using your products
An email newsletter to continue marketing to them while they make their final decision
Utilizing Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Strategies
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of creating content around specific keywords with the goal of getting your blog post or web page to rank at the top of the search engine results pages when people look up that term.
For instance, a fencing company that creates an in-depth guide answering the question of “What’s the best fencing for dogs?” could get thousands of visitors per month if they manage to rank in the top spot.
While it’s straightforward on paper, there are a few complexities associated with SEO, like:
Short-tail (very broad) keywords have the highest traffic potential but are often difficult to rank for.
Long-tail (more specific) keywords have lower traffic potential but become easier to rank for the longer they are.
Just because a keyword has a lot of search traffic, that doesn’t mean all the traffic it brings to your site represents potential customers.
Understanding the search intent behind keywords is critical for choosing the right ones. For instance, “where to buy dog-proof fencing” has purchase intent, which makes it high-value because the searcher is likely in the decision phase.
Aside from planning content around keywords, SEO also requires a variety of foundational tasks in order for your strategy to be effective. For instance, you’ll need to take the time to ensure that your website is user-friendly, accessible and fast — this is known as on-page optimization.
There’s also another element of SEO known as local SEO. This is when you target keywords specific to a geographic area. Local SEO can make it easier to rank for certain keywords while narrowing in on your target audience. Integrating local SEO into your larger strategy is a very wise thing to do.
Leveraging Technology in Inbound Marketing
There’s been a surge in the availability and use of artificial intelligence (AI) powered tools for content creation and marketing. These tools hold great potential, but you need to make sure you’re choosing the right ones. AI-generated content, for instance, can cause you to lose your brand voice or accidentally publish misleading or plagiarized information.
If you want to supercharge your marketing efforts with AI, look for tools that incorporate it that can break up bottlenecks in your current marketing workflow, such as:
Marketing automation tools that can help you plan, schedule and monitor your content, especially on social media where your company may be getting mentioned and you’re entirely unaware.
Email marketing tools that can help you decide when to send out a newsletter or follow up with a lead that’s gone cold, amplifying your open and response rates.
Customer relationship management (CRM) tools that incorporate AI to help you anticipate your customer’s next move and needs so that you can meet them where they are with a discount, quote or resource.
These are just a few of the ways you can implement AI into your marketing strategy, and there are also some important considerations before you do. Check out our guide on AI for building materials manufacturers to learn more.
Overcoming Common Challenges in Implementing Inbound Marketing for Manufacturers
Implementing an inbound marketing strategy is no easy feat. If you don’t already have a solid marketing plan in place, you’ll need to start from square one by conducting in-depth competitor and audience research and taking the time to learn the ins and outs of SEO.
Some other challenges you may face along the way include:
Slow ROI: Inbound marketing takes longer to see results compared to outbound marketing because you’re waiting on potential customers to take action first. However, the long-term return is far greater as the traffic continues to grow with each new piece of content you put out. Avoid the common mistake of giving up before you give it a chance to work.
Not aligning your teams: Marketing and sales should very much be integrated. If you aren’t having your teams talk to each other, you will find missed opportunities to answer common questions and refine your buyer persona based on what the sales team knows. Likewise, the sales team needs to talk to your customer service teams to make sure everyone’s on the same page.
Using the wrong tools: There are countless tools out there for marketing, especially with startups trying to jump on the AI bandwagon. It’s critical that you invest your time and money into the right ones so that your team is not bogged down by slow software or held back by platforms that are still in their infancy. Do your research before investing, and remember that the most expensive tools are often the free ones.
Measuring and Analyzing Inbound Marketing Success
Inbound marketing results are seen over time, and they compound with each new piece of content you publish. That’s great for business, but it might make it more difficult to track the ROI if you don’t have the right metrics and benchmarks in place.
Website traffic, lead generation and conversion rates are all important to track once you start implementing an inbound marketing strategy for your manufacturing brand. On-site analytics tools such as Google Analytics 4 can provide deep insights, not only into how your content is performing but into how you can improve your strategy for your target audience.
Inbound marketing is an essential part of a balanced strategy for any manufacturer. While it might seem daunting to get started, following the steps outlined above will get you on track to slowly but surely roll out your own inbound marketing campaigns.
In time, you’ll notice real results from your efforts, and that means a measurable impact on your company’s bottom line. If you need help establishing your inbound marketing strategy, reach out to the experts at Venveo for more information.