Traditionally for many manufacturers, most marketing is focused on business-to-business (b2b). Though strictly B2B marketing has been effective in the past, the lines between B2B and business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing strategies have begun to blur. Some argue that even the idea of strictly B2B has become obsolete. In today’s marketing space of constant interconnectivity and transparency for end users, manufacturers need to embrace and employ certain B2C digital marketing tactics to beat the competition.
Here are 5 tactics that you can use to bring your marketing plan into the digital age:
Don’t let the competition own the online space: There’s a common misconception among some manufacturers that their buying process takes place less in the online space than for B2C companies. Thus, it’s also often assumed that digital visibility is not important. But the truth is that even businesses that were introduced to your company or product at a trade show or were referred to you by a trusted partner will use Google to vet your product or company. Further, even if yours may be a less search-heavy market, you are potentially missing huge opportunities to spread brand awareness and increase sales if you do not get ranked for discovery keywords. You’re basically giving it away to the competition because there are only 10 spots on Google’s page one (7 if you’re in a highly competitive market). If your business is not on the top of that list, someone else’s is. Every time someone Googles your target keyword, if your brand name doesn’t come up, your business is at a loss.
Another often heard refrain from manufacturers is that their specific product has very little competition because no one else uses the same materials, or only a handful of manufacturers make a similar product. In these cases, there may be an opportunity to convert new customers by educating them on the benefits of your specific product over another, possibly more traditional product, by targeting your content to meet the needs of their queries in their online buying process, which leads me to tip #2.
Education potential customers and end users: For manufacturers, the focus is on industrial buyers, dealers, etc. So it is imperative to speak to that audience. However, complementing that by reaching out to and connecting with the end user can not only increase brand awareness, it can also create demand. Take, for instance, the case of a high end product manufacturer that relies on a dealer network to close the gap. Creating a digital presence that speaks to the sentimental appeal of the product, which can include things like mood-evoking images and emotional branding messages, can create brand loyalty and demand for your products, thereby increasing sales for your dealers.
Consider also the industrial manufacturers who target people like engineers and architects. By speaking to the end user, you can help users actually get your product spec’d out for their project.
In either case, be the ‘thought leader’ about your product and make sure that you include as much information as you can about your product on your website. When the buyer or end user gets to the research part of their digital consumer decision journey, make your website the hub for all the information they need. Not including information like pricing or granular product specs, can frustrate people and annoy users and results in lost visibility, traffic, and sales. Manufacturers should also include things like product reviews, ratings and plenty of photos.
Provide ample selection support on your website and save on sales dollars: Reviews, ratings and product information are all considered selection support. Selection support is any information, functionality, or tools that your website needs to help the user essentially make their selection. By providing this information, your website becomes an extremely effective sales tool. There are lots of ways to create an even more interactive and educational experience:
- Create videos showing the installation process, or your product in use. This is great way to show the consumer the real-time look, feel and functionality of your product. Video is great way to showcase your product’s quality while making an emotional connection to your audience.
Feature a free demo of your product. There are lots of creative ways to engage the end user by creating tools that allow you to do things like build a virtual product by selecting from all the available features, or letting the user overlay your product over their own photos. Once the prospect makes their way down the sales pipeline, they already have a good idea of the potential of your product and may even be excited about how it may add value to their project or end product. Also, you could use these types of tools to gather data and more qualified leads, which makes the job of your sales team that much easier and more efficient.
Simplify buying process and go digital: Another B2C tactic often overlooked by manufacturers that can boost your bottom line is to simplify and automate your buying process. By including pricing, all terms and conditions, and payment utilities on your website (PayPal, Authorize.net, etc.), you can remove the hurdle for buyers and get commitment earlier in the buying process. This may not be feasible for some businesses due to the nature of the product or buyer, but it may be a significant factor for your consumer.
Leverage equity content: An area largely overlooked by manufacturing marketers is blogging. While once thought of as a platform exclusively for straight-to-consumer, a blog is a great way to increase digital visibility and brand authority within your industry with what we at FourFront call ‘equity content.’ And no, we don’t mean the breakdown of your stocks. Equity content is content that lands for keywords that are related to your product. Essentially, equity content can bring in large numbers of non-convertible traffic to your site. For instance, an epoxy flooring manufacturer could write content around DIY floor installation and how to install epoxy flooring without bubbles.
Though this traffic is clearly not in the buying process and not your target buying audience, getting this informational content in front of them with your name on it has multiple benefits:
- It can increase brand/website authority with Google, thereby helping to increase your overall website rankings and traffic; and
- It can help to establish brand authority, awareness, and trust with both industry buyers, and end users.
As competition increases and markets evolve to appease an ever more digital world, it is crucial that manufacturers begin to utilize some of these successful B2C marketing strategies. In an industry that is often ruled by streamlining efficiencies, increasing productivity, and keeping transaction costs down, it’s easy to not prioritize marketing tactics that keep the end consumer in mind. Done as a part of wider strategy, these B2C tactics can make a significant impact to the success of your brand and your bottom line.