Times have changed for manufacturers and distributors. Over the past few years, digital marketing has gone from something that only the most progressive organizations mastered to an absolute necessity for every manufacturer and distributor.
However, there’s a lot of negativity from analysts regarding your industry’s effectiveness with digital marketing. According to a director at Gartner, “If B2B marketers can’t get digital marketing right, they could seriously jeopardize the success of their company’s future digital business strategies, or worse, fail to protect themselves against looming competitive threats.”
The B2B buyer has evolved and the Gartner study says that 62% of manufacturers and distributors are below average at reaching them digitally. But the outlook doesn’t have to be so bleak.
Taking the right approach to digital marketing strategy can help you get out ahead of your increasingly global competition.
Digital Marketing Challenges for Manufacturers and Distributors
There’s plenty of generic digital marketing advice available to get you started with a strategy. The problem is that you face digital marketing challenges that organizations in industries like retail and other B2C sectors don’t have to worry about or have overcome in the past.
Too many manufacturers and distributors dive into digital marketing without knowing how to account for these challenges. Before you start, it’s important to understand what you’re up against.
A few of your key roadblocks to digital marketing success will include:
- Supporting Self Service: Self-service research is a hallmark of new B2B buyer behavior. You need to support your customers with content that helps them get further down the funnel before contacting your sales team. But complex technical specifications make that difficult. Creating digital forms and content that are bogged down by hundreds of different lines of specifications won’t effectively engage buyers.
- Establishing Digital Lead Gen: Because digital marketing is so new to the manufacturing and distribution world, online lead generation can be a challenge. When digital content isn’t geared toward the specific needs of customers, marketing efforts will fall short. But personalizing content in the manufacturing industry can be easier said than done.
- Maximizing Content Quality: Manufacturers and distributors have never had to focus on customer-facing content creation. As a result, creating high quality content and promoting it effectively can seem daunting. Building out an SEO and content creation function requires a whole new set of expertise within your business.
- Leveraging New Channels: Many B2C brands benefit from momentum built on existing channels to capitalize on new ones. But when you’re starting from scratch, you have to identify both where your customers are spending time and how best to reach them there. Even though B2B buyers have evolved, cracking the digital marketing code isn’t easy.
- Targeting Customers Accurately: Compared to the one-to-one, high-touch sales cycles that you’re used to, digital marketing can seem like a free for all. Positioning your brand online so that you’re reaching the right customers at the right times takes more advanced digital capabilities.
You need a digital marketing strategy designed specifically to overcome these challenges. Especially for manufacturers and distributors that are behind on digital marketing capabilities, it won’t be enough to simply have a presence online
Building a foothold across digital channels and platforms has become an expectation for your B2B buyers. Now, your strategy has to go the extra mile to set your brand apart from growing competition.
6 Keys to Effective Digital Marketing Strategy for Manufacturers and Distributors
Digital marketing is such an all-encompassing term. It covers everything from content marketing to social media marketing, pay-per-click advertising, email marketing, influencer marketing, search engine optimization, and so much more.
Looking at a generic list of digital marketing tasks makes starting from square one seem impossible. But when you focus on these 6 key components, you can develop an effective digital marketing strategy in manufacturing and distribution.
1. Establish Full-Funnel Content Marketing
When used properly, content marketing has been successful for 82% of manufacturers. This means building a documented strategy for full-funnel content creation that will effectively guide B2B buyers toward a purchase decision.
You know that there are multiple people involved in B2B buying decisions. That means content creation has to be geared toward the many stakeholders involved in the purchases your customers make—and not just in a sales-oriented, bottom of the funnel way. Coming up with a plan to engage your varied audience with white papers, blog posts, videos, case studies, and other forms of content is crucial.
2. Build a Lean MarTech stack
When faced with demands to master digital marketing, it can be tempting to dive into the deep pool of available martech tools. There are thousands of different marketing automation solutions on the market across a wide variety of categories and specializations.
But you don’t want to back yourself into a corner by investing in too many tools. Having a complicated martech stack can result in significant inefficiencies internally while creating a major uphill battle to achieve ROI. At least in the beginning, limit yourself to only the most essential martech tools like a comprehensive marketing automation platform and focus more on streamlining operations.
3. Make Social Media Work for You
As younger generations become B2B decision makers, social media will continue to become a more influential aspect of your digital marketing strategy. However, each social media platform requires dedicated time and resources to drive results. You can’t just make a profile on the latest channel and expect customers to flock to your brand.
This is why you need to focus on the social media platforms that are most important to your target customers. In B2B, this might mean focusing more on LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter instead of Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest. But the right mix of channels will be different for each manufacturer and distributor. Focus your efforts to master a few channels rather than spreading yourself thin across them all.
4. Design a Responsive, SEO-Focused Website
Studies show that 94% of your B2B buyers will conduct online research before making a purchase decision. This is why content is so essential to your overall digital marketing strategy. But even before that you need to make sure your website is set up to meet the expectations of modern buyers.
First and foremost, you need a responsive web design that delivers consistent user experiences no matter what device a customer uses. Customers will abandon outdated B2B websites almost immediately, pushing them toward your competitors that have gotten ahead of web design trends. Solving this problem may require a complete redesign before you can expect real digital marketing results.
But it’s not just about UX. Your website’s usability plays a critical role in SEO. If you want to rank for essential keywords, you need a website that delivers engaging experiences.
5. Optimize Email Marketing
Email marketing may not be the flashiest aspect of your digital strategy. However, getting customers to opt into your email campaigns is a significant indictor of purchase intent. When you design email campaigns that effectively nurture that purchase intent, you can see results that far outpace more top-of-funnel tactics.
Personalization is critical to success. Sending out email blasts to your entire list of contacts won’t generate the kind of engagement that drives sales. Taking your digital marketing strategy to the next level requires deep segmentation of your lists to ensure emails are tailored to the specific needs and buying statuses of your contacts.
6. Personalize Web Content
One way you can improve your digital marketing strategy is to build a website that personalizes product and sales pages. The most basic approach would be to separate product pages into different categories according to different segments of your customer base. Going a step further might mean leveraging a modular website design, using tracking data to automatically present the right content to the right customers.
This is a key component of building a guided selling strategy. Because self-service is so important to today’s B2B buyers, using digital content to support a guided selling strategy will make your website more engaging and increase sales.
Get Ahead of the Latest Digital Marketing Trends
There’s no template for creating an effective digital marketing strategy. When it comes to execution, every manufacturer’s and distributor’s strategy will look different. But if there’s one thing to understand, it’s that simply following trends won’t help move the needle as much as executives will expect.
To drive results with your digital marketing strategy, you need to create a foundation based on the tips discussed here—and then continuously adjust based on the latest trends that emerge.
If you want to get out ahead of the latest tech trends that will impact digital marketing and customer experience, reach out and learn how our experts can help you craft a digital marketing strategy that will work for your business.