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Digital marketing for manufacturers

The Power of Digital Marketing for Manufacturers: Strategies and Tactics

Reading Time: 6 minutes

I am often asked to explain the differences between digital marketing for manufacturers and B2B marketing. I don’t assume anything and start from the basics. You may already know some of this stuff.

As a manufacturer, you are always looking for ways to grow your business and increase your bottom line. One of the most effective ways to achieve these goals is through digital marketing. In this article, I will share some strategies and tactics that can help you leverage the power of digital marketing for your manufacturing company.

Differences between digital marketing for manufacturers and B2B marketing

When it comes to marketing, there are several differences between digital manufacturing marketing and B2B marketing.

One of the fundamental differences between digital marketing for manufacturers and B2B marketing lies in their target audience. Industrial digital marketing caters to the needs of manufacturers and suppliers of industrial products and services. It involves creating content that speaks to this specific target audience’s unique challenges and needs. In contrast, B2B marketing targets businesses in a wide array of industries, including technology, healthcare, finance, and more.

While B2B marketing focuses on selling products or services to other businesses, digital marketing for manufacturers is a more specific type of B2B targeting the industrial sector. Industrial digital marketing involves promoting products and services such as machinery, equipment, and materials used in the manufacturing industry.

Another key difference between the two is the target audience. B2B marketing often targets decision-makers, such as CEOs or managers, while digital marketing for manufacturers targets engineers, procurement personnel, and other technical professionals involved in the buying process. As such, the messaging and content used in each type of marketing may differ to appeal to each specific target audience.

In short, while digital marketing for manufacturers and B2B marketing share some similarities, they are two distinct concepts with different applications and target audiences. Understanding these differences is essential for businesses to develop effective marketing strategies catering to their needs and goals. Industrial marketing is a subset of the broader B2B marketing, but they are not the same.

The specifier vs. the functional buyer

Here’s something unique in industrial or manufacturing marketing. You may be dealing with two different types of buyers—Specifiers and Functional Buyers. Let’s say you are a manufacturer of industrial components or parts. A specifier, often a staff engineer, is tasked with gathering all the specs and making sure they meet the design requirements.

The Purchasing Department is the functional buyer that issues the RFQ or the PO. They do so only to suppliers on the Approved Vendor List (AVL) or whose parts are specified in the bill of materials (BOM).

Unless the specifier “designs in” your part, you will not likely get to the RFQ or a PO. The specifier may not have the final buying authority but ignore him/her at your peril.

Consider creating an online library of 2D/3D CAD files. This is a proven manufacturing marketing strategy for parts manufacturers. See my earlier post, Using CAD and BIM Files in Manufacturing Content Marketing, for more on this topic.

Why digital marketing is important for manufacturing companies

In today’s digital age, consumers increasingly turn to the internet to research products and make purchasing decisions. This trend is no different in the manufacturing industry. As a result, manufacturers with a strong digital presence are more likely to be found by potential industrial buyers and generate more leads. Digital marketing for manufacturers is also more cost-effective than traditional marketing methods, such as print ads and trade shows.

Understanding the manufacturing audience

Understanding your audience is essential to market your industrial products or engineering services effectively. Your target audience may include engineers, procurement managers, or other decision-makers in the manufacturing industry. Understanding their pain points, needs, and preferences can help you create targeted marketing programs that resonate with them. Each stakeholder will have different content needs as they move forward in their buying journey.

Developing a marketing strategy for manufacturing companies

Developing a marketing strategy is important before you start your digital marketing efforts. Your marketing strategy should include your business goals, target audience, marketing channels, and budget. This plan will guide your marketing efforts and help you stay on track.

Notice that a marketing strategy is not the same as a list of marketing tactics. This is a common mistake or an area of confusion. Since manufacturing content marketing is the most significant component of industrial marketing today, let’s focus on that. 88% of manufacturing marketers said they used content marketing successfully to achieve various goals – Source: 2022 Manufacturing Content Marketing, published by the Content Marketing Insitute (CMI).

Key tactics for successful manufacturing marketing

Several strategic tactics can help you succeed with digital marketing for your manufacturing company. These include:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO): Optimizing your website for search engines can help you rank higher in search results and drive more traffic to your site. (Keep in mind, a visit to conversion is not automatic).
  • Industrial content marketing: This is by far the most effective marketing strategy for manufacturers in the current environment where industrial buyers are in self-select and self-serve mode (It is difficult to reach invisible and anonymous buyers with cold calling and email blasts).
  • Email marketing: Email marketing is very much alive despite all the buzz about social media. It continues to be the most effective way to reach engineers and industrial professionals. Targeted email marketing is very different from “batch and blast” emails of the past. (51 percent of engineers prefer their initial salesperson interaction to be by email. Eighty-nine percent of engineers subscribe to at least one newsletter, while 54 percent subscribe to at least three newsletters. Source: 2023 State of Marketing To Engineers).
  • Video marketing: Video marketing is very popular with the industrial audience. Videos were the top content type produced and the top area of content marketing investment in 2022. The top three types of content created in the last 12 months were videos (86%), short articles/posts (83%), and virtual events/webinars/online courses (70%). Videos also were the content type manufacturing marketers said produced the best results. (Source: The CMI report cited earlier).
  • Social media: You must be realistic about social media and manufacturing marketing. Most engineers and technical professionals tend to be passive participants in social media. I’m not suggesting you ignore it, but use it judiciously to promote new content, be it blog posts, how-to videos, events, or announcements. LinkedIn is the organic social media platform that manufacturing content marketers used the most for distributing content (93%), followed by Facebook (86%) and YouTube (80%). (Source: CMI report).
  • Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising: This tactic is contentious. I’ve heard some of my clients complain loudly that it is a “money pit” that produces minimal results. 51 percent of engineers avoid paid search ads at all costs (Source: 2023 State of Marketing To Engineers). In my experience working with industrial companies, PPC can work if you manufacture and sell standard industrial products and consumables. However, if you make custom-engineered systems, PPC is an expensive tactic for driving traffic.

Measuring the success of your industrial digital marketing efforts

Measuring the success of your digital marketing efforts is critical to understanding what’s working and what’s not. Unfortunately, it is often ignored other than a cursory look at Google Analytics to measure website traffic, email open and click rates, and other top-of-the-funnel statistics. You won’t know if your marketing strategy and tactics are working or not if you don’t measure. So take the guesswork out of the equation when it comes time to refine your strategy and/or abandon certain tactics that fail to produce results.

This chart from the CMI report illustrates the problem of lack of measuring for proving marketing’s ROI.

Benefits of working with a manufacturing marketing company

Digital marketing is an ever-evolving field, and staying up-to-date on the latest trends and technologies can be challenging. Working with a specialized manufacturing marketing agency can help you stay ahead of the curve and ensure your digital marketing efforts are effective. In addition, an experienced manufacturing marketing expert can provide valuable insights into the latest strategies, tactics, and tools to help you reach your goals.

You can maximize your digital marketing ROI by leveraging the agency’s specialized expertise, resources, and technology. With the right industrial marketing agency, you can create a robust digital presence that drives results for your business.

To summarize this long post, digital marketing is a powerful tool for manufacturers to connect with their target audience of engineers and technical professionals and grow their businesses. Following the strategies and tactics I’ve provided in this post, you can develop an effective digital marketing strategy and use proven tactics that drive results for your manufacturing company.

Let’s talk if you have questions about getting started or need to improve your digital marketing for manufacturers.

Achinta Mitra

Achinta Mitra calls himself a “marketing engineer” because he combines his engineering education and an MBA with 35+ years of practical manufacturing and industrial marketing experience. You want an expert with an insider’s knowledge and an outsider’s objectivity who can point you in the right direction immediately. That's Achinta. He is the Founder of Tiecas, Inc., a manufacturing marketing agency in Houston, Texas. Read Achinta's story here.
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