What works for one company might not work for another. Is social media a good idea or a waste of time? How do I get started with email marketing? Is a five-year-old web site too old?
We connected with local marketing experts Andrew Stanten of Altitude Marketing in Emmaus and Lori Blatt of Blatt Communications in Allentown to get their takes on how to figure out which digital marketing tactics you should consider.
Both marketing pros agree on one thing: don’t just jump right in and start firing off marketing tactics. Take a step back to do some evaluation, data collection, and assessment:
- Evaluate your target audience first to determine if it is correct. Is your customer really the end user or might it be a distributor that you need to target instead?
- Know your customers – get inside the head of a prospective customer to know what they really want and need. Know their goals, challenges and pain points and how you can solve their problems with your product.”
- Know the strengths of your company, product and employees.
- Know what your competition is doing for their marketing and how their approaches might or might not work for your company and product. Your goal is to outflank them, not outspend them.
“Consider doing a SWOT analysis of your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats,” said Stanten. “Depending on what you manufacture, some items have a longer sales cycle than others, usually those with a higher price tag. So, know if you sell a product that a customer will be ready to buy after only a few interactions, or one that will take more engagement to make the sale.”
Blatt also encourages her manufacturing clients to analyze the products that they offer to determine which ones are the most profitable. “Some companies hold onto old products because they have always had them. But that’s the wrong mindset,” she explained.
Since most customers go online for answers today, it’s vital that manufacturers have a well-designed web site that serves as a resource. “Buyers will look online for you, so you need a presence,” reminded Blatt. “That starts with a good web site that is kept up-to-date and is search engine optimized for all of the keywords related to your product/service. Remember that often a buying decision has happened before they contact you. They have already formed an opinion about your company before the call is made or the email is sent, and your web presence is a key part of that. It’s also important to have a current web site for hiring purposes so it can communicate company culture for new hire recruitment.”
It’s a mismatch for a customer when a company’s web site design and functionality don’t match the quality of its product. If your site hasn’t been redesigned or at least updated in a few years, there’s no time like the present. Hire a professional web site designer or agency to create an optimized web site with built-in SEO that is mobile friendly.
When it comes to social media, both experts also agree that it’s worthwhile for B2B manufacturers to start with a LinkedIn business profile for building awareness and to drive traffic to their web site, but not necessarily to make a sale.
Have a plan of action in place for providing content updates on a regular basis and assigning a person on the marketing or sales team to oversee it. Some manufacturers have also found benefit from Facebook and Twitter presences but it’s better to start small with just LinkedIn initially.
“You don’t need to get into all the social media platforms,” said Blatt. “Don’t start an account just because a competitor is doing it, or someone tells you that you should do it because it’s free. If you don’t have a plan to maintain the account, it will look worse for it go dormant after only a few posts. You don’t have to post daily but you do have to post regularly.” To help with the planning of content she recommends using free social media marketing tools like HootSuite to schedule out updates for a week or more at a time.
“Be prepared to engage with your audience. People want to have a conversation, not to be sold. Ask yourself how you can best serve the customer. What information of value can you share? Give some thought to the type of content you want to share with followers,” said Blatt.
More digital marketing
In addition to having a good web site, companies should also consider email marketing, a blog, and online videos:
- Email marketing – good for communicating company updates such as new hires/promotions, new products/services/programs, important reminders, upcoming trade shows or events, and more. Experiment with A/B testing to determine what information and designs your customers respond to best. Use retargeting features built into most email marketing programs for brand reinforcement over a longer sales cycle.
- Blog – good for positioning your expertise in the industry as a thought leader. Write “how to” posts and articles with steps that readers can follow or share helpful tips or advice. Based on your web site, a blog can also help with SEO.
- Videos – good for showcasing new products/services while also positioning your company as a thought leader in your industry. Can post to a company YouTube channel and embed videos on your web site.
Blatt offered this final piece of advice: “Marketing is a marathon. Figure out a plan. Be patient. Give it time to work. But always look for what’s next on the horizon too.”