The last couple of years have been challenging for global and U.S. markets in terms of an extreme event: the pandemic.
The COVID-19 outbreak has resulted in significant changes in consumer behavior worldwide, including upending marketing plan as many manufacturers know it with the postponement or cancellation of events, conferences, meetings, etc., that were scheduled for March 2020.
This situation has also affected the market demand for goods and services, which affected the supply chain.
The sudden onslaught of the “new normal” forced manufacturing companies to adapt quickly to this new environment.
Thus, many companies have been forced to rethink their strategies and processes.
Some of these changes include shifting production lines, implementing new and safety measures, and adapting new communication methods.
With the pandemic behind us, now is a perfect time to reassess the way we market our businesses.
This blog post highlights the key marketing takeaways that many manufacturing companies tried during the pandemic and are continuing to do, even after the fact to thrive in this new environment. Why? Because they see it work for them!
Please note that unless otherwise stated, some data are from a marketing survey that the Content Marketing Institute did among U.S. manufacturers 2021.1
Marketing in the post-pandemic era for manufacturers
The annual Marketing in Manufacturing survey reveals that a whopping 68% of industrial businesses describe marketing as a ‘high priority’.themanufacturer.com
In the pandemic’s wake, many manufacturing companies realized they need to change their approach to marketing, especially with online marketing and sales.
Like the production process and supply network, certain strategies, business solutions and models, and digital marketing efforts were adopted, and some were restructured for manufacturers to keep their business relevant and connected to their target market.
We’ve seen unprecedented acceleration of digital transformations in the manufacturing industry. Companies are investing in new technology, developing better ways for their employees to interact with customers, creating online stores where they sell products directly to consumers, and using social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to reach out to potential buyers.
Manufacturers who haven’t yet shifted their marketing strategy will find themselves at a disadvantage compared to those who have already done so.
Refine digital marketing strategy
As mentioned earlier, the pandemic has caused a shift in consumer behaviors and how people consume information and content.
To stay competitive, manufacturers adjusted their marketing strategies accordingly.
So, some manufacturers took a more holistic approach to digital marketing. They made sure existing digital marketing strategy included all aspects of their marketing efforts.
Others focused on specific digital channels of their marketing mix.
For example, some manufacturers implemented a paid search campaign in order to drive traffic to their website. Others invested in SEO. Still others opted for PPC, while others invested in influencer marketing.
While other manufacturing companies ventured to social media marketing. As a result, there was a surge in the number of manufacturers using social media to promote their products and service during the pandemic.
Social media marketing platforms, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, became essential tools for manufacturers to communicate with their customers and prospects.
Of the manufacturers that used these social media platforms, 57% of them reported they created content that would help educate their customers.
There is no one-size-fits-all performance marketing approach, but this shift in digital marketing strategy has become more clear.
On top of this, there are other manufacturing companies that started selling directly through their own websites, which I am going to tackle first.
The rise of Direct to Consumer (D2C) marketing
There’s a lot of attention paid to direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands right now, and for good reason: in addition to the pandemic-fueled 45.5% growth from 2019 to 2020, US digital D2C sales are expected to grow another 15.9% in 2021, reaching $175 billion by 2023, according to our estimates.emarketer.com
While we’re all focused on how to capitalize on the shift toward D2C, there is still a great deal of confusion about what exactly D2C means.
It can mean different things to different people; that is, depending on whether you’re talking about ecommerce, retail, or B2B.
To make matters even more confusing, some marketers use the term “direct to consumer” interchangeably with “online shopping” or “eCommerce.”
The term “direct to consumer” refers to buying a product without going through a third-party retailer like Amazon, Walmart, and Target.
Manufacturers who take advantage of this opportunity can connect with their target audience on a more personal level.
The D2C model allows them to create a direct relationship with their customers, which means they can build trust and loyalty among them.
Also, it gives manufacturers access to real-time data about their customers’ buying habits, preferences, and needs.
How manufacturers implement D2C marketing depends on their specific business goals. Some manufacturers choose to do so by selling directly to consumers via ecommerce websites. Others prefer to partner with third parties to handle the logistics and fulfill orders. Still others opt for a hybrid strategy that combines both approaches.
Regardless of the method, manufacturers should ensure that their D2C marketing efforts align with their overall business objectives.
Turn to virtual events and workshops
The percentage of manufacturing marketers surveyed who use virtual events/webinars/online courses increased to 55% from 39% one year ago.
As we all know, the pandemic canceled many in-person manufacturing events, including expos, conferences, and trade shows.
Because of that, we have seen many manufacturers turned to online virtual events using digital technologies like GoToWebinar, WebEx and to host meetings and webinars.
Virtual events are great ways for manufacturers to connect with their audience to share knowledge and expertise. They’re also great ways to build brand recognition and generate leads.
Citing the same CMI survey cited here, “68% of manufacturers say that virtual events are effective at educating their target audiences during the pandemic and 71% of manufacturers say that they plan to continue hosting virtual events after the pandemic.”
To take advantage of these opportunities:
- Manufacturers need to invest in technology platforms that allow them to host webinars and other types of events easily. If you don’t already have a platform, consider purchasing a hosted solution.
- Invest in your content. It’s important to remember that the success of any digital marketing campaign depends on the quality of the content being shared. Also, ensure that all your content can be repurposed across multiple channels.
- Create a schedule for future events and make sure you have enough time to prepare for each session.
- Make sure that the webinar content you create is engaging enough to attract attendees.
- Use social media to promote your upcoming events.
Outsource digital content marketing
61% of manufacturing marketers said that their organization outsources at least one content marketing activity.Content marketing institue
Here are the digital content marketing tasks that manufacturers outsource:
- Content creation – 81%
- Content distribution – 41%
- Editorial planning – 29%
- Content technology – 24%
- Content strategy – 18%
- Content measurement – 18%
It’s clear on the survey that outsourcing has become an integral part of manufacturers’ digital marketing efforts.
Outsourcing allows manufacturers to focus more on core business functions, like:
- product development,
- new products,
- improved services,
- timely customer support,
- sales promotion,
- and other digital marketing initiatives
This frees up time so that they can spend more of on developing new products and improving existing ones.
It also provides them with a competitive advantage over those who are stuck doing all the content creation themselves.
Since outsourcing content creation is becoming increasingly popular among manufacturers, expect to see more manufacturing companies using this strategy.
Outsourcing, however, comes with its own set of challenges. Yes, it does.
The top-most challenge for manufacturers? That content marketing and social media companies are not be fluent in the “language” of the industry.
In short, topic expertise is a problem.
Personal note on overcoming outsourcing issues:
No one learns any “language” overnight. It takes practice.
The same thing is true when you hire someone to work for you internally, or externally through an agency – like ours, Social Success Marketing.
That person will not be fluent right away in your “industry language.” Newsflash: Fluency takes time.
That said, outsourcing requires manufacturers to work closely with third-party content agencies to ensure that content they produce meets the standards. Also, there needs to be clear communication between the manufacturer and the agency about what kind of content will be created so that expectations of both parties are clear and aligned.
Social media advertising spending
Smart manufacturers increased their advertising spending on social media campaigns because they know it works.
This is good news since social media ads are proven to generate leads and drive traffic to websites.
Aggressive marketing campaigns like this get your company noticed, increasing brand awareness.
It’s not enough to just throw marketing dollars into social media digital advertising.
Do your homework first.
- Make sure that you understand what type of audience you’re trying to reach on these digital marketing channels.
- Create high-quality content.
- And measure your success so you understand which platform is going to deliver the best ROI.
Relevance is key
The art and science of delivering relevant content relies partly on the creative direction of marketers, and largely on data-driven insights—understanding your customer, keeping track of what’s trending, and having the real-time delivery capability to craft relevant customer messaging.deloitte insights, 2021 global marketing trends
Deloitte’s study about global marketing trends in 2021 said that relevance plays a major role in drawing the attention of your target audience and keeping invested in what your brand has to say.
Why should you pay attention to this?
More and more of your competitors are online. That means many choices for an array of content to consume, I dare say, are too many!
If your content does not connect with your audience, they just scroll on.
Manufacturers who created relevant content generated higher levels of interest from consumers during the COVID-19 crisis.
Therefore, it is important for manufacturing companies to understand the customer base and tailor the content accordingly.
Being intentional in your messaging requires a deeper understanding of your audience.
Relevance is about your audience.
By creating relevant content, you can increase engagement with your customers and prospects.
What does relevance mean?
It could mean different things to different people.
For some, it could mean making sure that your content is timely.
Others may think it means focusing on the right keywords.
Still, others might consider it to mean speaking directly to your audience.
For example, if you sell medical equipment, then make sure that you gear your content towards healthcare professionals. If you sell industrial products, then you can focus on the needs of industrial workers.
Regardless of how you define relevance, the bottom line is that it is critical to your overall marketing strategy.
You cannot afford to miss out on any opportunity to engage with your audience if you want a successful digital marketing effort.
What’s next for manufacturers
The key takeaway here is that even though the pandemic has made us rethink our approach to marketing, we still need to make sure that we’re using the right tools and channel to get our message across to our audiences.
Faced with the reality of an uncertain future, none of us really expected that a pandemic would happen in 2020.
We learned this one important lesson, especially for companies in the manufacturing industry.
The ability to bounce back is critical to a business’ survival.
For sure, the availability of digital platforms and gaining digital skills play a major role in making things work.
However, internal motivation and the capacity of a company to absorb disturbance while retaining its basic function and core structure are critical.
This is not only about enduring; rather, it is about thriving and continuous improvement.
This is the time where one must embrace change if one wishes to move forward. There’s no point looking back.
And based on the numbers we’ve seen, the US manufacturing industry is keeping up well as it continuously embraces digital transformations, one step at a time.
In summary, these are some key takeaways:
- Manufacturers must use every available channel to communicate with their customers.
- They must ensure that the content they create resonates with their target audiences.
- They must be prepared to adapt quickly to changing market conditions.
- They must be willing to experiment with different formats and channels.
- They must be able to think creatively about new business models and revenue streams.