Do you feel recognized, trustworthy, and respected in your industry? For too many manufacturers, the answer is a resounding “No.” If marketing feels like an uphill battle — one that takes constant investment in paid advertising and trial-and-error to even move the needle – you’re not alone. Marketing as a manufacturer is challenging, but it’s by no means impossible, as long as you know where to start.
With the rise of the digital age, digital marketing has taken off as an effective way to educate an audience, build trust, generate leads, and drive sales. Plus, it requires no paid advertising to pull it off, just quality content and a strong sense of direction. Sound too good to be true? Let’s walk through a handful of marketing strategies you can start using as a manufacturer, with real-world examples of how they work.
1. Run Extensive Market Research
It’s easy to think you know your market as a manufacturer, but do you? Consumer behaviors and preferences have experienced a stark shift over the past few years, and that means more manufacturers have begun opening new sales channels, like direct-to-consumer eCommerce websites where DIYers and homeowners can purchase products straight from them. This might not be ideal for your business, but it just goes to show how much an industry can change in a few short years.
If you haven’t conducted some in-depth market research within the last year or two, it’s high time to dive in and see what’s changed. Even if you don’t open up a whole new marketing channel, you can take this opportunity to further refine your target customer personas (like by leveraging the wealth of data and BI tools available today) and rethink how you’re approaching marketing at a high-level.
In addition to reviewing who you're targeting, market research will also give you the chance to think about when, where, and how. Competitor research should definitely be part of your process, and it can reveal new features you might want to incorporate, new places to market your business, and new ways to connect with your target customer base.
One thing is for certain: If you conduct market research before revising your marketing plan, you’ll be far better positioned to select and implement strategies effectively. So, let’s dive into a handful of tactics you might decide to utilize.
2. Build a Stand-Out Brand
For manufacturers aiming to stand out, a key lesson lies in creating a recognizable and memorable brand that resonates with your target audience, be it homeowners, professionals, or dealers. While visual elements like logos and colors are significant, they form just a part of the story.
Central to a successful brand is a strong value proposition that addresses the key challenges and pain points of your end-users. This involves conveying in your marketing campaigns that your products not only meet but exceed standard expectations in terms of usability, efficiency, and performance.
In branding, it's crucial to go beyond superficial features like attractive packaging or a sleek website. Establishing a powerful brand in manufacturing involves a few strategic steps:
Develop a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) for each product, focusing on solving the most significant issues faced by your target customers.
Organize your products into comprehensive solutions, catering to specific needs or applications. This approach demonstrates a deep understanding of your customer's requirements.
Build trust in your brand through strategic partnerships. Showcasing collaborations with reputable entities and sharing success stories and case studies can enhance your brand's credibility and appeal.
By focusing on these aspects, manufacturers can create a brand that not only stands out in the market but also firmly establishes its value in the minds of its customers.
3. Empower Your Representatives
Content marketing efforts can take your business a long way when it comes to driving organic traffic and attracting leads, but what happens when a potential customer picks up the phone to talk to your company? Or even a customer who’s been with your business for some time?
Consumer expectations are changing and that means any customer you work with — whether end user or middleman who has to serve the end user — needs prompt, reliable, and friendly service. The thing is, while you may have a well-staffed service center, you may not be empowering your representatives to go above and beyond in their interactions with leads and customers.
While top-tier service may be one of your values on paper, actually carrying it out in the real world is a whole lot tougher. Home Depot invests in their representatives through an array of learning and development programs to “expand skills and capabilities so associates can master their current roles and prepare for future ones.” By making sure reps are knowledgeable, supported, and satisfied, Home Depot is able to deliver consistently great service.
If you need help empowering your reps, take these pointers:
Make sure your manufacturing reps are highly knowledgeable about your products and able to answer specific questions without hesitation or reading off a script.
If you have the staff, consider a live chat option during limited hours. It’s far easier for busy customers to multitask while chatting versus talking on the phone, and some prefer it (especially if you’re opening a D2C channel).
No matter how you interact with leads and customers, remember that realizing top-tier sales and service means educating your reps and empowering them to do what’s right, whether that means escalating issues, offering discounts, or refunding customers when something goes wrong.
4. Become a Resource Hub
Your manufacturing brand simply wouldn’t be recognizable if you did not back every promise made on your product with case studies, photos, videos, and articles to explain and prove the key benefits. Create a resource hub — one that’s itching to explain every aspect of your brand’s large product line while reeling customers in with benefit-focused copy, and you will reap immediate benefits of content marketing for manufacturers at work.
Content marketing can cover many different channels and formats. By utilizing a variety of content types, each intentionally targeted as a certain persona (homeowner, professional, or dealer) at a certain point in the decision-making process, you will effectively generate, nurture, and funnel leads to a purchase.
Your brand can utilize all of the same content marketing strategies:
A glossary page to explain various terms, both boosting SEO efforts and providing clarification to readers
Product selector guides that compare the company’s wide product line so users don’t get confused
Project instructions that walk users through how products are used, while emphasizing the benefits
Technical data sheets to help reel in professional users, like service or construction companies
Interactive tools to help users calculator materials for their projects
5. Invest in Video
Especially when you’re working with a new or revolutionary product that breaks the mold, you should always lean into showing instead of telling. Kebony, a manufacturer of wood cladding, sat down with Venveo in in Episode #144 to discuss how video has helped grow the brand. One of the company’s most successful endeavors so far has been its Design vs. Build series, which won several Telly awards in 2020.
In Design vs. Build, each video features a building project and interviews both the architect and builder involved. “Oftentimes, you'll hear from an architect and they are very easy to talk to about the project because they are bringing all the vision. But, it's the builders who have to make that vision a reality,” explains Ben, creator of the series. It’s an interesting take, no doubt, but what’s really powerful about the series is that Klebony explicitly avoids mentioning the brand.
While you don’t have to avoid brand mentions altogether to do content marketing the “right” way, Klebony’s choice to cut out all mentions of the company (while still featuring Klebony products on screen) takes the “show instead of tell” notion to new heights. Not only has this helped them gain publicity for the series, and the subsequent awards, but it keeps an audience truly engaged without the annoyance of built-in advertising.
Here are all the ways you can use video marketing:
Offer product tutorials and installation guides with project inspiration
Show side-by-side comparisons that succinctly explain the benefits of your product over the competition
Showcase customer projects and before-and-afters to highlight the aesthetics of your product, whether that’s unique colorways or other features
Delve deeper into the brand behind your company by introducing your team, company story, and how your products came to be
6. Be Your Distributors’ Best Friend
There are many different types of distributors that you can work with as a manufacturer, but simply signing a contract is far different from becoming a valued partner. While getting a contract with a distributor is great, taking things a step further will help you ensure that your contract is renewed year after year.
For example, you can have a page containing a hub of resources targeted at distributors of your manufacturing products, designed not only to make the life of distributors easier, but also improve the in-store shopping experience for end customers.
While it may take years to build up a resource, there are some elements you could start working on right away:
An ad builder provides distributors with all the tools necessary to create print and radio advertisements for your products. That includes 25-second radio spots, photography, and a brand usage guide. Providing dealers with resources like this makes it easier for them to market your products, aligning you on the mutual goal of driving sales.
Training modules allow distributors to easily educate employees on your line of products, along with how they work and the best applications for each item. Distributors want to be perceived as knowledgeable and helpful, and these training modules can also reduce user error and improve customer success, reflecting well on your brand and the dealer.
Point-of-sale literature on manufacturing products can be placed in the aisles surrounding the items, offering both customer inspiration and a self-serve manner for shoppers to find the right product for their needs. Additionally, you can offer in-store merchandising, like full-color signage to help their products stand out on the shelves.
A UPC guide is perhaps the simplest resource of all, but one distributor uses daily. This single-page printout can be placed near the cash registers so that no one has to worry about bringing bags or boxes of physical product up to the counter. At a glance, cashiers can scan the UPC on the page to checkout customers without lifting or flipping any heavy bags.
Social media is often overlooked by manufacturers, but it’s a highly effective tool for market players big and small. Mandy Sancic, co-owner of Olde Wood Limited, which manufacturers reclaimed wood for flooring and other products, proved this point when she sat down with Venveo to reveal how the company used Instagram to grow the brand to 12,000 followers in just a few months.
No matter who you’re targeting as a manufacturer, there is a social media network (or multiple) where your audience can be found. That in-depth market research discussed above can help you identify these networks if you aren’t sure where to look. Once you’re there, remember that social media isn’t just for regurgitating your website content.
Think about the specific audience you can reach on any given social media network and tailor your content accordingly.
Produce and edit your content so it looks and feels “native” to each platform. For instance, vertical video works great for Facebook and TikTok, but not so much for YouTube’s long-form content.
Monitor engagement and set benchmarks so you can determine what’s working and what isn’t. Run campaigns for long enough that you can fairly evaluate, then change one variable at a time to revise your strategy.
8. Use Gated Content for Lead Generation
If there’s one thing many manufacturers are not doing, it’s offering gated content. While putting resources up on your website is great, ask yourself: Is there a single video, resource, or download that requires users to enter an email address (or any other info) in order to access it? If not, you’re leaving leads on the table.
There are pros and cons to gated content, and it’s not always the top priority for big recognizable brands that have such a far reach and lock on the market, but what about for your brand? Gated content just means taking some of the valuable resources you’ll be working on for your website and asking users to provide their email address in exchange for access.
By gating content, you can create a sense of exclusivity around your best tools and information while also building out your list of leads. Venveo uses this exact method for some super high-value resources, like our Marketing to Builders Research & Trends Report. Some other examples of content that can be effectively gated for lead generation include:
White papers, industry reports, and any sort of long-form guide or in-depth paper that industry experts will want to get their hands on.
Interactive tools that can’t be found elsewhere, like pricing calculators and visualization tools. You can ask users to provide their email so you can send a copy of the results to their inbox.
Timely content, like a monthly newsletter or eMagazine that your company publishes offering lots of project inspiration, product information, and industry news all in one place.
9. Leverage Email Marketing
Email marketing costs pennies on the dollar to execute and can be highly automated, creating an extremely low-cost but high-potential means of communicating with leads and customers. Innovate Building Solutions has been leveraging email marketing for years and company president Mike Foti told Venveo they’ve organically generated a list of more than 23,000 emails — and counting.
Of course, effective email marketing means avoiding the spam folder and making your content compelling enough that subscribers actually want to open it, time after time. One key to achieving this reality is to use segmentation to your advantage, and send at a regular cadence without overwhelming people.
Innovate Building Solutions leaves no room for guessing. There are multiple paths to signing up for the company’s newsletter, whether you outright click the “subscribe” button or opt-in through one of the various forms, like the “Free Estimate” option. The path you take and information you share in those forms helps the company automatically segment you to the right list, so you get the exact info you want and nothing else (like information on a bathtub to shower conversion or advice on building an ADA compliant restroom). ‘
Here are some ways you can make the most of your email list:
Focus on offering high-value content in your emails. Don’t simply link out to blog posts and videos that you’ve shared elsewhere. While this can be valuable, your emails should offer something not found anywhere else (or why else would someone join?).
Segment your audience and track engagement rates to make sure you’re delivering the content people actually want to see. Don’t keep sending the same type of emails if they aren’t getting opened or, worse, leading to unsubscribe requests.
Follow the best practices of designing engaging email campaigns and timing them accordingly. Invest in a/b testing tools so that you can continuously build on your successful campaigns.
10. Automate Key Marketing Tasks
Marketing will never run itself, but today’s powerful automation capabilities do allow you to get one step closer. With marketing automation, your business can stretch its budget that much further while taking a big weight off the shoulders of your team.
Schöck, a global manufacturer of structural building components based in Germany, says they use Salesforce to build automation around events, trade shows, and conventions, which play a big part in the brand’s global strategy. Big companies like Schöck simply couldn’t keep up without automation, and the tools they’re using are becoming more accessible to smaller players by the day.
If you aren’t sure what to automate or how, just look to all the moving parts in the strategies we’ve already discussed here:
Use social listening tools to get notified when your brand is mentioned anywhere, and join the conversation. This allows you to meet customers where they are, solidify your values, and educate on your products.
Tap into creative tools (including those powered by AI) to ideate content and repurpose it across formats, so nothing goes to waste.
Build a knowledge base and use it to inform your representatives and power a chatbot that can answer inquiries when your team isn’t online, improving engagement and response rates.
Take advantage of CRM automations to keep distributors and customers interested in your company, and get notified if there are signs of disengagement.
Try new tools to plan, create, edit, and share video content faster across platforms. Automated editing and captioning tools can help you resize and prepare a video in minutes and post it to various social media networks as native content.
Set up drip campaigns and transactional email automations to keep your leads and customers engaged, and help nurture them toward a purchase. By tracking the right metrics, you can keep your finger on the pulse of your audience and reach their inbox just when they need you.
Achieve Your Marketing Goals In 2024
These companies are inspiring examples of manufacturer marketing at work and these marketing strategies should get your brand off to a strong start, whether you’re getting online for the first time or trying to revamp your image.
By mixing, matching, and resizing to fit your company’s needs, you can get going with your new marketing plan in no time.
Need help? Venveo proudly stands in the gap between manufacturing companies and digital sales success. Our proven digital growth processes guide your business in finding and connecting with your audience online while compelling them to take action. Contact us to learn more about how Venveo can help your manufacturing company’s online presence.