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The manufacturers guide to marketing

Oliver Smith

The manufacturers guide to marketing. Start manu-marketing today!


Manufacturing companies are the backbone of the country and they are an integral part of the economy, keeping it going and most importantly, growing. They are at the centre of innovation and production and have been throughout history.

However, manufacturing companies have often lacked a savvy marketing strategy to back up their incredible work because it’s not been a critical business need: enough business has come through word of mouth. In an era of increasingly stiff, global competition and rising markets like China with their cheaper prices and slick operations, it’s now crucial for you, as a manufacturer, to get your message out to your potential customers as to why they should pick you instead of one of your competitors.

A ‘savvy marketing strategy’ these days is digital, and evidence based. Companies who don’t have an online presence to back up their business are likely to be left behind and will struggle. The first thing a potential customer will do (even if you have been recommended) is to Google you. If you don’t have an online presence, or your online presence doesn’t back up the recommendation, the likelihood is your potential customer will go elsewhere. And that’s if they can even find you! If you’re ranking on page 2 or beyond of Google, they probably won’t.

Don’t worry though: with a few changes, you can make sure your hard work is backed up with a robust online presence for the world to see. Read on!

Manufacturing & Marketing: best friends or indifferent neighbours?

Marketing and manufacturing have often had a fairly non-existent relationship. In fact, an article in a 1977 Harvard Business Review[1] asks whether manufacturing and marketing can coexist? But the answer to whether or not manufacturers can and should develop a strong and effective marketing strategy is...wait for it...a resounding yes and has been since 1977!

Marketing for manufacturing

In this blog we’ll look at:

  • the evolving world of the manufacturing industry;

  • top tips on sales and marketing strategies;

  • how to target potential customers;

  • ways to make sure your messaging is highlighting your differentiators that will set you apart from competitors in the UK and further afield;

  • your free SWW Marketing Guide: 6 tactics B2B manufacturers can deploy to attract qualified website traffic, generate and nurture leads and ultimately land more sales and grow their business.

Manufacturing has changed significantly over the years and so have the connotations and perceptions, albeit slowly. As we’ve referenced, manufacturing is at the centre of innovation and production. Manufacturing adapts and evolves. Witness the change from large and previously polluting factories to now cleaner more agile companies. However, many people still think of the big polluting factory and unfortunately manufacturers are often lumped into a single stereotype.

In 2012, the McKinsey Global Institute issued a report[2] that defined manufacturing companies according to five different categories, thereby also helping to identify the buyer market.

​Whatever the manufacturing category though, it has been common practice for both buyers and sellers to rely heavily on a small circle of existing relationships and to find each other through the same familiar processes:

  • word of mouth;

  • loyalty – returning customers;

  • partnership deals;

  • marketing and sales.

Growth and stability however require more than this.

SWW Marketing Tip 1:

Based on our experience of working with manufacturers, we know that adopting a new marketing strategy can feel out-of-character for your company, e.g. a social media plan, PPC (pay per click) campaign, or even something as simple as starting a blog may well be unfamiliar. Rest assured though: adopting a new marketing strategy - and the growth that accompanies it - doesn’t mean you’ll lose your well-established personal touch. A new, up-to-date digital marketing strategy will complement your existing activity.

Summary: in this current digital age, keeping manufacturing and marketing separate is not only outdated but is likely to be dangerous for the health of your company.

Making a difference

According to McKinsey, every £1 of manufacturing output requires 19p of marketing[3].

That’s not a typo! - your promotional budget should be nearly 20% of your business budget in order for your company to market successfully and ultimately grow and thrive.

Although manufacturers are often behind other industries in terms of marketing, you can see this as an exciting opportunity. It’s a chance to get ahead and really set yourself apart. With a very small percentage of manufacturers having a marketing department, it means the door is open for you to stand out easily. Even a few small steps like updating your website, creating some content, getting on social media and regularly updating your web pages will start to generate results.

SWW Marketing Tip 2:

We do not see the lack of marketing as a negative. It’s an opportunity for you to lead the way and maximise your return. At SWW Marketing we have helped small, medium and large manufacturers by providing advice and/or managing companies’ marketing activities. Our data-driven approach means you’re involved and understand the process and rationale from start to finish.

Summary: don’t doubt the digital revolution (remember when Kodak did?). It never ends well.

Understanding the impact of technology

The challenge these days is that technology has not only changed the industry but has also dramatically changed how the industry communicates. Marketing is no longer just a flyer, or a branded mug or a pen. It’s not enough to present gift baskets to strengthen customer relationships anymore (although who doesn’t love a good gift basket?). Communication and relationship building is being driven by technology: it’s happening online.

It may start to feel like it’s a battleground of “optimised” and slick websites and strategic messaging, but trust us. As you initiate your digital marketing – with our without the help of SWW Marketing - the little things that you do will not only maintain and build your loyal customers’ trust in you, but will also impact positively on the random Internet bystander and will ensure you’re giving your business the best shot at succeeding in this digital age.

Disruption de-mystified

All manufacturing companies across the board are experiencing disruption. Why? Redshift[4] describes four factors behind the trends of disruption:

1. How people adopt new technology

It used to be that people were adopting technology for work, and then for their personal lives. Now it’s happening simultaneously, or, more often, the other way round. This is impacting on the way people browse online differently (mobile searches now dominate the Internet) and therefore how your website will be viewed by potential customers. (Hint: make sure your website is mobile friendly! See your free SWW Marketing Guide at the end of this blog for more information.)

2. Customer’s expectations

Customers and buyers today - especially business buyers - are more educated about products than ever before. They know what they want and they can find it with a click of a button – and are confident to do so. They won’t accept you as their go-to source automatically. They have the freedom to decide and need to find that you are their best option.

3. Industries are converging rather than operating in silos

Take it from Redshift: “An architect—rather than an industrial designer—could design the inside of a car; industrial robots could be used in filmmaking (e.g., Gravity); and construction companies could build high-rises with an assembly-line, modular-construction approach, snapping building components into place like Lego blocks.”

4. The DIY maker movement is growing bigger roots

Customisation of services is just as important for your customers as are customised products. Your customer needs to recognize themselves in your communications.

This disruption – the shift from traditional to digital modes of communication and the associated speed – is reflective of the changing behaviours and attitudes of your prospective buyers and the manufacturing consumers who are either influencing or making buying decisions about the products and services your company provides. As that customer base continues to evolve, so must your marketing strategy.

Characteristics of a modern digital marketing approach

SWW Marketing will be delighted to explain these characteristics in more detail in the context of your own company. Contact us on 01223 665050 or

In the meantime, here are 4 main factors of a digital marketing approach:

Factor #1: Search engines are taking the place of in-person trust-building.

To remain competitive, a solid search-engine optimization (SEO) strategy – one that starts with Google - is crucial. Skilled SEO ensures your online presence is highly rated by search engines and has maximum visibility. That’s not to say that in-person marketing is no longer effective. But relying on traditional methods alone means you may not be reaching a large segment of new prospects, i.e. your online searchers.

Consider the stats:

  • 90% of researchers today use search for their business purchases;

  • roughly 71% of B2B researchers begin with a common online search;[5]

  • 71% in the manufacturing industry will Google before they speak to someone.

In other words, after first identifying a problem or pain point, your customers are more likely to search online for a solution rather than engage with you in person. And as the number of millennials who influence buying decisions continues to rise, these buying behaviours will become even more prominent.

Factor #2: Content is king! Today’s B2B customers do not want to be sold to, but ‘solved to’.

Your manufacturing customers are actively seeking information that will help inform a sound purchase decision. Therefore, customers don’t want to be sold to, but rather ‘solved to’. That makes content marketing more important than ever. Defined, ‘content marketing’ is solutions-based content that delivers engaging educational material that is relevant to the buyer and their journey. Content marketing comes in all different formats, from a well-optimized website, to blogs, to white papers, to case studies, to videos. Whatever format your content takes, the purpose is the same: to position yourself as a trusted, credible resource and a provider of solutions.

Factor #3: The sales process follows a different path – and your marketing should reflect this.

With so much changing in how customers are making purchase decisions, the role of sales has changed considerably too.  Previously, marketing and sales followed a somewhat linear path: prospective customers saw an ad, became interested in a product or service, then engaged with a salesperson for additional information needed to make a purchase.

Today, that path is anything but linear. As we learned above, potential buyers are more inclined to empower themselves, with self-education propelling them through the buyer’s journey. Their online research can be multi-dimensional, often happening over time, at irregular intervals, and through multiple touchpoints. Useful tools such as Google Analytics and other platforms allow you to see your customers’ search journey. Using these tools enables you to understand your customers’ search habits and so to target them effectively - and to sell to them!

According to Advance Ohio[6], manufacturing buyers review an average of 10 sources before making a purchasing decision. Costly or complex solutions (for example, large capital purchases) require even more time and education.

So, with many of your prospects first getting to know you on their own, they are likely to be convinced of your company’s value well before they engage with your sales team. It is essential then for sales and marketing to work together to deliver the content that’s best-suited for buyers in this mindset – and that means content that is data-driven, personal, highly relevant and evidence based.

Factor #4: The effectiveness of content marketing hinges on how well content is targeted.

Data-driven marketing leverages customer information (collected through online consumer interactions and engagements) with the goal of creating highly targeted messaging that informs buying decisions. When done right, data-driven marketing can ensure you are smashing it, with an average ROI of 224%![7]

Knowing your audience is key. This requires research so you can properly segment your marketing to ensure it’s being seen by the right people: influencers and your potential customers.

There is no one-size-fits-all messaging strategy. Just as engineers may not be concerned about per-unit pricing, manufacturing buyers may not be familiar with the differences in specs from one product supplier to another.  Additionally, your content should not only address your buyers’ unique interests and pain points but also strike the right note with all influencers.

SWW Marketing Tip 3:

The following considerations will help you shape your content marketing strategy.

Marketing to Manufacturing Engineers

Messaging Considerations:

When appealing to engineers, clarity is key. Take a no-frills and no-fluff approach. Also, avoid overstating or overselling the value of your services. Most engineers prefer to draw such conclusions on their own. Engineers like efficiency and are typically problem-solvers who prefer to get to the point without distraction.

Purchasing Considerations:

  • Technical guidance

  • Innovative solutions

  • Product specifications

  • Updates on industry trends

Decision Criteria:

  • Instant information access

  • Accessible design help

  • Specific application solutions

Marketing to Product Managers

Messaging Considerations:

How do you appeal to readers who are not direct buyers but decision influencers? When creating content for this group, it’s wise to focus on building a business case for your solution. In turn, this will help managers present the information to their boss. For example, how exactly will a manufacturing solution improve operations?  Why is it a worthy investment? Hard proof (numbers and statistics) and past cases are best. This messaging can be especially important for large capital expenditure (take, for example, a large tool customised to reduce cycle time for a specific manufacturing application) that may not show immediate value.

Purchasing Considerations:

  • Ability to keep manufacturing lines optimized

  • Tight shipping deadlines

  • Connection with a live person for answers to a problem

Decision Criteria:

  • Service from a trusted source

  • Quality products

  • Fast delivery

Marketing to Direct Buyers

Messaging Considerations:

Similar to writing for engineers, your content should be concise and to the point. When writing for a direct buyer, avoid spending too much time discussing the problem. You’ll want to skip long and rambling lead-ins that highlight the ‘pain points’ that a buyer may be facing. If something truly is a problem, your reader will not need convincing.

Blunt honesty can be effective in your messaging. While most marketers are uncomfortable surfacing imperfections – for example, a potential caveat with a manufacturing solution - a direct and honest writing approach can actually help create an environment of trust with your direct buyers.

Purchasing Considerations:

  • Consensus between purchasing and engineering

  • Superior pricing

  • Strong relationships

Decision Criteria:

  • Competitive value

  • Superior service

  • Solid vendor partnership

As already mentioned, it’s important for organisations across all industries to recognize that the modern buyer wants to be “solved to” rather than sold to. We’ve discussed how there is no one-size-fits-all solution, especially when you consider the broad spectrum of industrial manufacturing businesses and the different types of customers they serve. However, there are a number of distinct qualities that set industrial marketing apart from the approach one might take when selling, for example, professional services or software.

Core principles hold true

Of course, from a digital marketing perspective, some things are NOT so different. We’ve covered how marketing differs in the manufacturing world, but there are core principles that hold true in this industry just like in any other:

  • Manufacturers must attract the right prospects.

  • They must convert prospects into actual leads.

  • They must nurture these leads – and build relationships with them in order to close deals.

  • They must offer a variety of sales conversion points.

  • They must provide a great experience all the way through the sale and onwards as the partnership continues to develop.

The thing is, nowadays, all of this must be done online.

Of course, when it comes to creating an impression and conducting business, your phone conversations, trade show appearances and in-person, on-site meetings matter just as much now as they did with traditional approaches to marketing. But it’s important to recognize that your website and digital marketing presence is not a supplement to everything else; it needs to be at the heart of everything you’re doing, pumping perceived value into every extremity of your business.

Recognize that your buyers are online at work, researching companies like yours.

More stats:

  • 61% of industrial professionals visit six or more work-related websites each week;

  • 50% spending six or more hours on these sites every single week;

  • 52% are using the internet to directly request price quotes;

  • more than 70% of the B2B buyer’s journey occurs pre-sales, the majority of which takes place in the digital space.[8].

If your business isn’t investing in digital marketing, you’re missing out on so many opportunities to generate leads, sales and revenue. And the reality is your prospects are finding your competitors instead. And they instinctively turn to digital sources for information and education well in advance of the decision-making process.

Yet more stats!

According to the IEEE GlobalSpec’s 2017 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector report[9]:

  • 83% of industrial professionals are using search engines to source information for work;

  • 68% are specifically using the Internet to find components, equipment and services;

  • 66% consult supplier websites for this type of information and well over half are actively comparing products across supplier sites.

Compelling stuff, huh?

Does this make you cringe with concern? Are you panicking about your current website? There’s no need: get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to address your concerns and put you at ease.

Here at SWW Marketing, as manufacturing companies are our core clients, we understand well that this change from the referral-based and traditional advertising strategies of the past to a reliance on digital savviness for bringing in new business is intimidating, to say the least.

Moving forward

At the risk of repeating ourselves, marketing is not a fluffy, nice-looking website peppered with flowery copy. Marketing today requires a highly data-driven approach to getting found online, cultivating interest, engagement with your target prospects, building trust and differentiating your business from that of your competitors’ - all the while giving those prospects a meaningful experience that hits the mark as they navigate the buyer’s journey.

It’s time to think twice about cold calling and sending unsolicited emails. It’s likely you can cut the amount you’re spending on print ads and other traditional forms of advertising. They’re simply not giving you the ROI you can generate from a modern, digital marketing approach.

Even industry trade shows and events should only be an additive to your overall marketing strategy, not the central focus of your entire year. IEEE GlobalSpec reports that when searching for products and services to specify, recommend or purchase, 53% of technical professionals rarely use trade shows and conferences, and only 13% frequently do so.

Summary and free guide

To summarise this discussion about digital marketing for manufacturing companies, we’ve put together for you a 6 point guide to help you update and upgrade your company’s marketing plan. If you need any advice or help to implement it, call 01223 665050 and we’ll be pleased to help.

Your free SWW Marketing Guide:

6 tactics B2B manufacturers can deploy in order to attract qualified website traffic, generate and nurture leads, and ultimately land more sales and grow their business.

#1. Provide Educational Content on a Blog

Blogging is one of those tactics that has been stigmatized in the past as superfluous marketing jargon but, in reality, it’s one of the basic building blocks for a strong marketing foundation. Think your business is better off without putting time into a blog? Think again. 35% of engineers use blogs as sources of information[10] for research and needs analysis in the early stages of the buyer’s journey. That’s over a third! And more than half of industrial professionals do not contact a vendor until they’ve compared and evaluated several vendors based on their website content.

It’s best to think of a blog as a complementary resource for your website visitors. But it’s not just a means of writing to your audience about your company. In fact, a blog shouldn’t be promoting your products or services that much (that’s what the rest of your site is for). Its uses range from announcing company news and introducing staff members to discussing important industry topics and publishing educational content that helps your audience solve problems.

The benefits of a regularly updated company blog are numerous:

  • provides website visitors with content that addresses their pain points;

  • demonstrates your firm’s industry expertise;

  • establishes trust and credibility early on in the sales cycle;

  • answers common questions received by your sales personnel;

  • keeps your website fresh for Google and other search engines;

  • helps you get found when prospects conduct searches online;

  • helps drive the right traffic to your site!

Blogging is also your opportunity to provide myth-busting education for your readers. Long-term, it’s important that you publish content on a consistent basis but it’s okay to start small! You can begin by publishing one post per month, and then work from there. Once you get going and producing more content (perhaps weekly), it’s a good idea to create a quarterly blogging calendar that incorporates the topic, writer, keyword and goal of each post.

Results may not be immediate: in fact, results from blogging may take time. But as you continue to publish informative articles, you will improve your company’s rankings in search engine results pages (sometimes immediately!) and the organic traffic you generate for your website compounds as your ‘authority’ and ‘relevance’ (as deemed by the search engines) increases.

27% of respondents in the IEEE’s 2017 GlobalSpec survey[11] stated that increased competition was making their marketing job harder than ever.

Blogging is the answer!

#2. Open Your Online Flood Gates and Capture Your Leads!

When was the last time you attended a trade exhibition to generate new leads? How much did it cost? Would you like to generate more leads for less cost? The digital answer is to position educational content behind ‘lead generation forms’.

While it’s important to offer ‘ungated’ educational website content to your audience (a blog, for instance), it’s just as important to position some of that content behind lead generation forms. A lead generation form lives on a website landing page that promotes a content offer—an eBook, a white paper, a webinar recording, etc. The form acts as a ‘gate’: once a visitor submits their contact information, they receive the content in exchange. In the process, they’ve become a lead - from your fresh new content! We recommend that your gated content should be reserved for highly lucrative content as it won’t be noted by Google and therefore it won’t help with your ranking.

The value of creating gated content is to facilitate visitor-to-lead conversions. If a prospect isn’t ready to buy, you’re still offering them something of value that they can use in the awareness and consideration stages of the buyer’s journey and you’re successfully building trust. Plus, you now have their contact information providing a natural opportunity for you to follow up with the lead, present them with related material, gauge their interest in your business, and more.

Lead generation forms will also help you segment your potentially messy contact database too, enabling you to sort contacts by their answers to specific form field questions.

With trade shows becoming more and more expensive, using lead generation landing pages to promote gated content is a productive way to produce a similar amount, or even greater amount, of qualified leads at a much lower cost. The more landing pages you have, the more leads you can generate.

What are you waiting for?

#3. Promote your environmental and sustainability credentials

In today’s business world, transparency can be your best friend – and a lack thereof can sometimes spell disaster. The manufacturing industry is no exception. If your company is among the growing number of businesses that consider environmental issues and sustainability to be key business drivers, it’s a great idea to promote your company’s agendas and the practices you’ve implemented. Remember the public’s perception of manufacturing companies being big, polluting factories? It’s time to prove them wrong!

In a recent study conducted by the United Nations Global Compact[12], 93% of international CEO respondents reported they believe sustainability is essential to their business strategy.

If your business has put a lot of effort into sustainability and responsible supply chain sourcing, let your prospects, followers and customers know. The impact on your business can be profoundly rewarding. A study by Sustainable Brands[13] reported some revealing statistics regarding companies which have demonstrated their social and/or environmental concern:

  • 93% of global citizens will have a more positive image of that company;

  • 90% will be more likely to trust that company;

  • 88% will be more loyal;

  • more than 80% consider these factors when deciding what to buy or where to shop, which products and services to recommend to others, which companies they want to see doing business in their communities, and where to work.

#4. Provide Social Proof

Social proof can take many forms—case studies, testimonials, customer reviews, certifications, you name it—but they all have one thing in common: they are powerful marketing and sales tools.

Not only does social proof validate the benefits of your products and services, it can help answer prospect questions about a niche product that would otherwise be difficult to understand. Not to mention, a well-executed customer success story can serve as a tipping point for prospects who need that extra bit of insight to fully grasp how your product is the right solution to their problem.

In an increasingly crowded and competitive marketplace, testimonials and reviews can also make or break your chances of closing a deal, particularly if a testimonial comes from a respected industry professional, publication or organization. The public affirmation that your solution is tried and tested will speak volumes on your behalf. Who doesn’t want to work with the best in the business?

#5. Get Visual with Video

The 2018 B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing Report from the Content Marketing Institute reveals that 70% of manufacturers rate video marketing as an effective marketing tactic. It’s also noteworthy that the use of video in this industry has quantifiably increased year-on-year.

The evidence is clear: video is not just a passing trend but quite possibly the most versatile tool in the manufacturer’s marketing tool box. And it can applied to any stage in the typical industrial buyer’s journey:

  • to attract traffic to your website;

  • to support visit-to-lead conversion efforts;

  • to feature how-to guides and tutorials;

  • to share your company story – or better yet the success stories of your customers;

  • to showcase your company culture in an industry that may not always be perceived as “exciting”, etc.

The list goes on.

Video has been proven to raise the average amount of time visitors spend on your pages and dramatically lower website bounce rates, signalling to Google that your video is well worth watching - and in turn, that your site is well worth visiting. A video link in an email has been seen to lead to a 200-300% increase in click-through rates! Simply including the word “video” in your subject line will send open rates through the roof.

67% of engineers are using YouTube or another video sharing website for work-related purposes; on average, engineers attended three webinars in 2018, as opposed to one in-person trade show; 31% attended 4-6 webinars or more. The top three uses of industrial online forums are to 1) find technical support, 2) search for product information, and you guessed it, 3) watch videos.

If you haven’t joined the video revolution yet, it’s time to do so. You don’t need to spend a lot of time or money to produce effective video content. Short videos of a company event, your production line or interactions with customers taken on team members’ phones can make for great material. The key is to position it and optimise it correctly, especially on social media.

#6. Ensure Your Website Is Mobile-Friendly

Did you know that over half of searches today are being conducted via mobile devices? Because of this Google penalises any site that isn’t mobile friendly! If your manufacturing business doesn’t have a mobile responsive site, you will be penalised in search results, i.e. your ranking will suffer, even if your audience is largely comprised of desktop users.

A mobile friendly and responsive website design is therefore critical. To optimise the user’s experience, it will adjust the style of content that’s displayed, e.g. web page elements like contact information or directions render more prominently for ease of access by mobile visitors, whichever mobile device they’re using (smartphone, tablet, Surface, iPad, etc.).

By deploying the SWW Marketing 6 tactics, we can guarantee increased traffic to your website, new high quality leads you can track, added-value trust and respect for your services, products and company culture and a new approach to customer relations for the future. We wish you much success!

Interested in learning more about where manufacturers are falling behind? Want to discover more ways to keep up? Or if you would like us to help you with any of the subjects covered in this blog why not get in touch with one of our friendly experts to have a chat? Contact us on or 01223 665050.


[1] Can Manufacturing and Marketing Coexist by Ben Shapiro, Harvard Business Review September issue 1977:

[2] Manufacturing the future: The next era of global growth and innovation, McKinsay Global Institute, Nov 2012:

[3] Manufacturing the future: The next era of global growth and innovation, McKinsay Global Institute, Nov 2012:

[4] Changes in the Manufacturing Industry: What Product Companies Must Do To Survive by Samir Hanna, Redshift, Jul 2015:

[5] Digital Doughnut

[6] Advance Ohio

[7] Data-driven marketing brings an amazing 224 percent return, but will you get there? by Yves de Montcheuil, InfoWorld from IDG, May 2015:

[8] Study conducted by BysinessOnline and MAPI

[9] 2017 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector, Industry Trends & Research, GlobalSpec:

[10] 2017 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector, Industry Trends & Research, GlobalSpec:

[11] 2017 Digital Media Use in the Industrial Sector, Industry Trends & Research, GlobalSpec:

[12] United Nations Global Compact

[13] Study: 81% of Consumers Say They Will Make Personal Sacrifices to Address Social, Environmental Issues, SB – The Bridge to Better Brands, Stakehold Trends and Insights, 2015

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The manufacturers guide to marketing

The manufacturers guide to marketing
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