When chatter is a good thing

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by Tim Wilson

There is room for manufacturers to up their marketing game

Marketing a shop’s capabilities to the right audience can make a real difference to the bottom line, but unfortunately many manufacturing businesses either don’t know how to approach marketing, or consider it a low priority. That’s too bad because there are some low-cost approaches that can bring impressive results. These include social media, which is poorly utilized in the sector.


“Many of the people we talk to are not proactive marketers or sellers,” says Mike Hannigan of the Koch Group, which provides industrial marketing solutions for manufacturers. “They might be aware of social media, but they are not actively engaged in using the common and available tools.”

Hannigan says that it can seem a little ridiculous, even indulgent, to be using Twitter to announce how good you are at machining a high tolerance piece. However, many companies will have a Facebook presence, and there is great value in having a well-designed web page, with imbedded YouTube videos proving to be both popular and effective.

“YouTube is the social media platform that we see manufacturers using the most,” says Hannigan. “It used to require code to get a video up on your web page, but now YouTube has made it easy, and metalworking shops are leveraging it to show off the work they do.”

That said, the dominant platform for getting your marketing message out is clearly a well-designed web page. However, it can be surprising how many businesses are still unaware of the importance of having a smart presence on the Internet. This includes marketing from a business-to-business (B2B) as opposed to business-to-consumer perspective (B2C).

“There is a difference in landing page design for B2B when compared to B2C,” says Xavier Barbot, general manager at Chameleon Creative Graphic and Web Design, Campbell River, BC. “A B2C site will have shorter, catchier sentences, whereas a B2B site will try and show off technical capabilities, with PDFs and spec sheets readily available.”

For manufacturers hoping to get the most out of their web site, content is king. The challenge is often that many businesses are caught up in their own jargon, and are unaware that the technical nature of some of their language could be incomprehensible to potential customers.

“We definitely try and help our clients to phrase things,” says Barbot. “We bring a fresh eye to the conversation, and ask our clients if there is additional information that could add relevance to their message, and that would mean something to their customers.”

Barbot notes that some customers are very particular with regard to how they want their products represented. He acknowledges too that there are advantages to including niche marketing terminology. This can improve web rankings and increase the likelihood that a business will be found by a search engine.

Know your value
It is crucial for a manufacturing shop to understand its value proposition, so language accurately reflects what it is trying to accomplish for its customers.

“We interview our clients’ customers to get a better understanding of the characteristics most likely to be associated with a future customer base,” says Teresa Schell of Strategic Marketing Partners in Milwaukee, WI. “From there we look at their current customer makeup and place them in quadrants.”

Schell will put high sale, high profitability customers in quadrant one (upper right), and low sale, low profitability customers in quadrant four (lower left). This awareness provides an opportunity to discuss what customer segment should be included in a prospect list, while also highlighting customers that should be pruned from the list or dedicated to moving to a more profitable sales quadrant. From there, the entire marketing message can be synchronized.

“To simply update a website or create a new sales collateral piece is not branding,” says Schell. “If the information is not updated and embraced by internal team members who are the true ambassadors of the company, the message is not accurately addressed to the right market.”

The key is to start with the internal buy-in. That way, a business’s employees understand exactly what their company does differently, and what sets it apart. From there, an organization has to commit to an ongoing marketing strategy, something that can be difficult if they are unsure of the return on investment.

“There is pent up spend, we hear people saying that they have the money,” says Hannigan. “The problem is that although many companies are familiar with sales, they don’t know marketing, because they’ve never had it. Now many understand that to grow they have to do things differently, and that includes continually evolving in how they use the Internet to identify potential new customers.”

That means getting algorithms together to ensure your web site is found and ranked. Central to that strategy is adding in-depth, relevant information on services offered, including detailed specs on tolerance ranges and materials, because a potential buyer needs to know that a shop is up for the job, and what the benefits are of giving it their business. The keeps also them on the page, and makes a sale more likely. SMT

Tim Wilson is a contributing editor.
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