Better B2B Marketing 45 - Making marketing work for manufacturing
Making marketing work for manufacturing
18/12/2023

According the MakeUK.org, the UK is the world’s eight biggest manufacturer, producing £272bn of goods in 2021 – £10bn more than France but £42bn less than Italy.

Up and down the British Isles, businesses produce products, parts and materials for every sector from automotive to energy, aerospace to packaging, food to health, clothing to construction.

Many manufacturers supply into complex supply chains or manufacture goods and components on behalf of other brands. For these business-to-business operators, marketing can be critical to winning and retaining clients.

As B2B specialists, we thought we’d look at some of the challenges and the mix of marketing which works most effectively for our own clients who make, produce or fabricate products:

Challenges of successful marketing for manufacturers

First, let’s take a look at some of the unique marketing challenges which manufacturers can face:

  1. Complex offerings

Many manufacturers provide complex products (such as specific components) or services (such as injection moulding) which can be challenging to communicate effectively.

Meeting the demands of a diverse customer-base can include highly specific or customised products which can require an individual marketing strategy.

  1. Long sales cycles

Manufacturing often involves long and intricate sales cycles, where supply relationships are forged over time. For example, a manufacturer of electronic components could take months or even years to develop a new relationship with an automotive brand.

Many manufacturers operate within global supply chains, making it crucial to navigate international markets, regulations and logistics. In addition, sales channels can be ever-evolving, including e-commerce, digital marketplaces and direct-to-consumer (DTC) models. 

  1. Competition

Manufacturing industries are frequently highly competitive, with numerous companies vying for the same customers and contracts.

Often producing very high volumes of the same product or component, price can be a significant customer driver and create a competitive advantage.

However, increasingly longer and more complex supply chains mean that quality and dependability are becoming more important than ever for both manufacturers and their marketing.

  1. Technological, regulatory and behavioural change

Keeping up with rapidly evolving technology can be essential for staying competitive – as can communicating your advances through effective marketing.

Manufacturers must adhere to various regulations and standards, both domestic and international, which can also influence marketing.

Sustainability is increasingly important to customers and manufacturers often need to develop their marketing messages to highlight environmentally friendly practises.

B2B is influenced by B2C trends and manufacturers (particularly close to the end-user) can need to adapt their marketing strategies to reflect changing buying behaviours.

An effective marketing mix for manufacturers

Overcoming these challenges requires a well-researched marketing strategy which is built on a deep understanding of your target audience – who are they, what do they value and how can you reach them?

However, for manufacturers who provide products, parts, components or materials to businesses (B2B), there are some marketing channels which often feature in a successful marketing mix.

Digital marketing

Though digital-marketing may not have as critical a role as it has in B2C or some other service-related areas of B2B, it is still important for most manufacturers:

    • Website – Many potential customers will visit your website when researching or considering what you deliver. It will also be the natural destination for much of your other marketing.
    • Search Engine Optimisation – SEO can help elevate your business to the first page of search engine results. However, before committing, it’s worth using tools to analyse the number of potential customers searching, as it may be low if your field is niche. SEO takes time, so Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising can also help immediately target those searching online. 

Content marketing

Content marketing, PR (public relations) – and other channels which help disseminate them, such as social media – are increasingly important in B2B marketing, including for manufacturers:

    • Content – Content such as blogs, whitepapers, guides, opinion pieces and videos can have multiple benefits, including establishing your expertise and boosting SEO. Showcasing successful projects via case studies and customer testimonials, on your website and in your marketing materials, can quickly build trust with potential clients.
    • Social media – LinkedIn in particular, can help you share industry news, product updates and engage with your audience – including targeting decision-makers and influencers in the businesses you’d ideally like to manufacture for.

Direct marketing

For many manufacturers, their target clients are relatively small in number and clearly identifiable. This makes direct marketing particularly effective.

  • Database – Data can often be sought or purchased to create a comprehensive list of businesses (and key individuals within them) to target. Industry membership organisations can be a good source.
  • Email marketing – Email campaigns can promote products or services, share updates, disseminate useful content and nurture leads.
  • Direct mail – In an online world, receiving a sales letter, mailer or physical brochure can have a greater impact than many might imagine!
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) – An effective CRM system can help manage customer and prospect data effectively. Account Based Marketing (ABM) can take this a stage further, to personalise your marketing tactics and messages to each valuable target.

Offline marketing

In the digital world, it can feel like some more traditional marketing tactics have less relevance. However, particularly when it comes to networking and relationship building, many offline marketing techniques have definately retained their effectiveness:

    • Trade shows – Participating in trade shows, exhibitions and other industry events can be a highly effective way to showcase your manufacturing and gain introductions to the clients you wish to target.
    • Referrals and word-of-mouth – Many manufacturers believe their business mostly emanates from industry connections – and they’re often correct. However, rather than being left to fate, it is something which can be encouraged through marketing channels which boost brand awareness of your capabilities and expertise.

Getting the best results from marketing for manufacturers

Manufacturers who provide services for other businesses or supply chains, can face a number of unique challenges. However, these can be particularly effectively overcome with the right mix of marketing and help grow business.

The effectiveness of marketing strategies can vary, so it’s important to continually analyse and adapt your approach based on data. However, in line with most B2B marketing, results can take time – so be consistent and persistent.

As East Anglia’s leading B2B marketing agency, we help identify and deliver the most effective marketing for a range of manufacturers.

If you are a manufacturer and need help getting the best from marketing, click here.

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