By Ryan Yedersberger.
In the immortal words of Bob Dylan, “The times they are a-changin’.”
Dylan’s 1964 counterculture hit, ranked 59th on Rolling Stone’s list of the top 500 songs of all time, was about many issues of the day — social injustice, government inaction, and inequality, to name a few. It was, in no way, about marketing. Although it very well could’ve been. Few industries have undergone the complete transformation that marketing has over the past five decades.
Prairie manufacturers have not been immune to these changes. Yet, many still prefer to focus on ‘classic’ methods to generate sales leads, such as word-of-mouth, trade shows, print catalogues, and cold calling. While these are still important in the manufacturing world, they alone are not enough.
According to a B2B research paper published by ThomasNet, 90 per cent of industrial buyers now do some form of online research before choosing a supplier or placing an order. Having a strong digital presence is no longer optional for ‘when sales pick up’ — it is a precursor to sales.
Online marketing, however, requires a plan. Don’t just blindly spend money because some millennial told you to. Instead, follow these three, simple steps to maximize effectiveness and get the most out of your hard-earned dollars:
Offer what your customers want
The first rule of business success applies to web design and digital marketing as well.
There is a massive amount of industrial activity happening on the web. Some of it is cutting-edge; most of it is downright awful. Your website should make it beyond simple to buy from you, regardless of whether you’re selling custom widgets or large products, direct or through a distribution network. Include detailed product information, specifications, part numbers, plenty of multimedia, service manuals, and whatever else you may want as a customer. Offering too little information is probably the most common mistake on manufacturing websites. Downloadable CAD drawings a great way to streamline the sales process, but make sure to put a form in front of the file to capture lead information first.
Another easy trick is to showcase your facility and processes. When a buyer first comes to the website, you need to quickly show who you are and how you’re different from your competitors. Your product is only one influencer. You have less than five seconds to make this first impression, so you’ll need to be concise, strategic, and direct. This is where outside marketing support can prove highly valuable.
Pay attention to search engines and conversion
Your website will do little for you if no one can find it. Even potential customers who know you may forget your web address. That’s why it is imperative to optimize your site for search engines. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a key tool for securing your newly developed website at the top of organic (unpaid) search results. This is a second area where qualified marketing agencies are worth the investment — if you aren’t putting an emphasis on search, believe me, your competitors are.
The other area they’re stressing is conversion. Having a great website may help raise your profile, but if it isn’t converting prospects into leads, it’s being largely underutilized. High-impact calls to action (CTAs) should be strategically setup throughout the site. These tell users where to click to take them to the next step of the sales or information gathering process. Keep CTAs simple, incentivize interaction (giveaways are always a hit), and make them stand out.
Invest in measurable online marketing mediums
You’ve done it: Created the perfect website, with excellent search engine ranking and solid conversion strategies. Now it’s time to drive more traffic.
Today, there are many alternatives to the traditional marketing channels like billboards and radio. Some of the most cost-sensitive and beneficial are YouTube, Facebook, and remarketing.
Let’s start with YouTube. There are several different types of advertising on YouTube, but TrueView in-stream ads are one of the best to develop top-of-mind branding. These are paid ads that appear just prior to videos playing, requiring the viewer to watch at least five seconds of the ad clip.
Why are they so great? Well, you only pay when people watch the entire ad — not when they click the skip button. They also allow you to zero in on your customer by targeting key demographics (who they are, where they’re located, and what they’re interested in).
Now, let’s move to Facebook. Facebook ads are amongst the lowest cost-per-impression advertising channels in the marketplace. They average roughly 25 cents per 1,000 impressions, which is about one per cent the cost of television advertising.
Facebook ads, too, can be targeted to very specific demographics; and — as with YouTube — and can be tracked using built-in analytical tools.
Finally, let’s touch on remarketing. Remarketing is a powerful new type of online advertising that shows ads to your past website visitors as they browse other sites, YouTube videos, and mobile apps, meaning you can connect directly with people most likely to buy. This method provides time-sensitive touchpoints to drive leads back to your website when they’re most engaged.
The bottom line
If you aren’t investing in proper online marketing, you’re missing out on business.
You wouldn’t generally hire an accountant as a welder, and you wouldn’t likely expect a millwright to manage your books. Bring in the specialized skill, training, and experience to deliver results.
Follow these three, simple steps, and watch your marketing outcomes soar to new heights.
Ryan Yedersberger is the founder and marketing director of STEALTH Media, and was a recent Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist at the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce ABEX Awards. STEALTH Media has offices in Saskatoon, Regina, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Toronto, and New York.