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How can UK Manufacturing Companies Compete Online in 2021

Dave Reeder

by Dave Reeder , 11 June 2021

How can UK Manufacturing Companies Compete  Online in 2021
UK manufacturing companies face an ever-growing task of operating successfully within a global pandemic at an age where online transactions are higher than ever and only increasing.

A “business as usual” mindset and remaining stagnant is a risky approach to take. Research from the Annual Manufacturing Report 2020 reported that companies failing to tackle digital transformation have seen profits reduced up to 5.1%, when compared to industry peers.

Online operations should be at the forefront for UK manufacturers going forward. This article provides effective methods and guidance on how you can elevate your digital presence in order to increase business and investment.

The two main strands of focus within this article are digital marketing strategies and a strong website. In combination, these two elements can assist your manufacturing business in standing out amongst industry competitors.

Digital Marketing Strategies:

Times have changed regarding marketing practices for manufacturers. In the past it appears the general lack of need (or perceived need) to digitally market is a reason why this industry is comparatively behind others.

Gone are the days when this just meant print catalogues, conferences and trade shows. An increasing proportion of potential customers now research on the internet before making a purchase, highlighting the desire for a strong digital marketing strategy to attract new customers and increase brand awareness.

Recent data suggests that manufacturers still may be neglecting advertising and lead generation, with only 8% of their annual budget being placed towards both. Moreover, 2.4% of their total revenue is spent on marketing.

The manufacturing industry is expected to be one of the hardest hit due to the effects of Covid-19 according to a recent survey. It is important to make sure investments into any form of digital marketing are not wasted - in order to do this manufacturers need to be aware of their buyer personas.

Buyer Persona:

Buyer Personas

In order for UK manufacturers to be successful with a digital marketing strategy it is important to understand who your customers are. Creating a buyer persona is a great way to help understand your audience and how you can best place your marketing techniques to acquire future customers.

A buyer persona is a fictional profile of the ideal customer created via the utilisation of current customer data, insight and market research within your niche. There are six important factors to consider when creating your buyer persona:

  • Get to grips with your audience: Gain insight into your clients with website analytics, social media monitoring and surveys etc. Insights, for example, can be demographics, online behaviour including most-visited sites or platforms, goals, concerns, daily problems that need solving. Note: instead of just collecting data via digital tools, it will be worthwhile talking to your customers to find out as much as you can.
  • On-brand focus: Don’t sway off topic, keep everything related to your business and the products or services you sell.
  • Narrow focus to a few key personas: Need to avoid diluting focus from what should be creating your prime targets. Creating too many personas based on all customer history can add difficulty to the process and be counter-productive. A good start is one-to-three personas followed by more if necessary, at a later point in time.
  • Quotes from current customers: Helpful in creating a realistic profile of your ideal customer.
  • Be Precise: Avoid using general terms such as “worried about efficiency” or “aiming to grow sales”, but rather specific scenarios that enable insight into your persona’s motivations, challenges etc.
  • Create negative personas: Knowing who NOT to target can save your business time and money. Creating negative personas will ensure you avoid targeting people you have already identified as below-par customers.

The next step is to utilise your new, ideal customer personas and incorporate these considerations into marketing variables.

The Marketing Funnel:

Business transactions within the manufacturing industry tend to have a long sales cycle. This factors into how your marketing strategy should be tailored.

Due to sales for the most part not being an immediate transaction (product dependent), forming and maintaining relationships with leads as well as continuously reminding them of your presence can be critical.

In order to effectively navigate through the sales generation and conversion process it is important to know the different stages that will be encountered along the way:

The Marketing Funnel

There are various methods of marketing where leads can be generated and nurtured to sales.
Tackling multiple online marketing channels is often the best recipe for success.

Omnichannel Marketing:

Marketing Strategy

Omnichannel marketing focuses on the delivery of a consistent, personalised multichannel sales approach with the aim of advertising your business from several approaches, which all work in harmony to bring in a larger audience and transfer them further into the marketing funnel.

Long-term, an omnichannel approach is by far the most effective digital marketing strategy for your manufacturing company to be successful within your vertical.

There are several possible avenues (some of which will be more appropriate than others
depending on the services/products you provide):

  • LinkedIn Lead Generation
  • Google Ads
  • Social Media Advertising
  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
  • Blog Content

Only having one or two marketing streams reduces your chances of obtaining new customers, hence why a more holistic approach will provide your manufacturing business with the greatest foundations for digital success.

1. LinkedIn Lead Generation:

LinkedIn for many appears to simply be a digital resume, but it would be a grave mistake to overlook its capabilities as a lead generation tool.

Digital marketing on LinkedIn intends to provide quality leads from a quality audience. Research has shown LinkedIn’s audience to possess twice the buying power of the average web audience.

  • Produce ads that capture attention: This can be either; in the news feed via Sponsored Content to promote your business’ content, in messages utilising Message Ads to deliver tailored messages to individuals to drive more conversions, on desktop via pay-per-click Text Ads to market with a simplistic but engaging image, headline and description.
  • LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms: These forms allow for seamless conversion due to the LinkedIn profile users data automatically populating onto the form that can be sent offwith one click. This avoids the usual hassle of potential customers having to fill out forms manually through platforms different to LinkedIn.

2. Google Ads:

Google AdWords function as a platform that delivers text ads to users on the organic search engine results pages. They appear mainly at the top of the results page, also sometimes towards the bottom, and as an advertiser you only pay when a user clicks on them.

Creating a profitable AdWords campaign for your company involves:

  1. Understanding your target audience (**buyer persona**)
  2. Developing a clear strategic plan involving campaigns, ad groups and ads.
  3. Making engaging ads based around the requirements of your target audience.
  4. Creating custom landing pages for each ad group (and ad).
  5. Tracking and continuous analysis of results.
  6. Using these results to tweak and optimise your campaign in order for optimum success.

If your manufacturing company is new to Google Ads then read this article for 7 extra tips for when you conduct your AdWords campaign.

3. Social Media Advertising:

Billboards and newspapers used to be the means of advertising in the past, but the internet and smartphone revolution has transformed how aspects of marketing take place.

2020 UK statistics show that 66% of the population actively use social media, translating to 45 million users. This highlights the potential scope for advertising your manufacturing product/services to grow leads and sales.

Here are 5 different social media platforms and how your manufacturing business can make the most out them for advertising perks:

Promote Your Business on Facebook: Thousands of B2Bs on the platform. Aim to target as many users as possible through Facebook Ads targeted at locations, job titles and competitors’ fans. Additionally, ensure you include a link to your website, so any leads are not wasted. The bulk of your posts should centre around product photos, statistics and videos.

Product Demos, Overviews and How-To Training Videos on YouTube/Facebook: B2B companies rank YouTube as the second-best social media platform after LinkedIn, according to a recent Brightcove study. Manufacturing companies can post videos of their brand stories and provide industry content, as well as, informative product overviews and training tutorials.
The same content can be posted on Facebook due to its video consumption network.

LinkedIn for Collaborations with Industry Professionals: LinkedIn is the most formal of these platforms which provides opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals within your niche and a chance to share knowledge and ideas through contribution to discussion. It will only be a matter of time before you connect with individuals that possess high-quality sales
contacts.

Twitter to Break Industry and Company News: Twitter is the perfect platform to act as a news channel with the built-in trending functions. Use your company account to announce new products/services or the latest industry news, as well as, linking to the news on your website.

Instagram to Share Visuals: Instagram is a fantastic way to communicate quickly through pictures or videos, that can be up to 60-seconds in duration. You can share images or videos of consumers using your products. These content types share more efficiently than others, a great way to enhance your brand awareness.

4. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO):

An SEO campaign aims to increase the quality and quantity of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.

There are a number of different aspects involved in an SEO campaign, but they can be essentially grouped into 3 categories:

  • Technical:
    You want to ensure your website has a strong site health score. There are many errors and warnings that can exist when creating and developing a website, such as a broken external link or missing page header, which go unknown to the user. However, search engines will crawl and index each webpage and websites with more errors and warnings are less likely to rank for searches compared to stronger competitors.
  • On-page:
    Optimising content that is tailored towards relevant target keywords within your niche. For instance, a website selling yoga mats will want to rank on page one of Google for “yoga mats”. Popular on-page changes include URLs/site tags/page headers and the body of content itself.
  • Off-page:
    Mainly concerns obtaining backlinks from other websites to yours - this signals to the search engines that others vouch for your content and is then more likely to be prioritised for ranking.

Results from an SEO campaign tend to be a long-term process. For more information visit SEO services.

5. Blog Content:

Often incorporated into an SEO campaign, publishing a blog on your website and producing regular content is a great way of gaining exposure to a new audience.

Search engines want their users to be reading the newest, most informative content so writing articles on trending topics within your niche is a great way of achieving this.

Regularly updating your blog is also a good way to keep your existing audience engaged, as well as nurturing potential customers along the buyer journey with content that shows off the importance of your manufacturing services.

Web Design

Web Design

Your website needs to reflect the quality of service you offer as a company. Some aspects of digital marketing can be flawed if the website is not in a good place itself. The following points will help shed the light on how a manufacturing website can best suit user experience (ux).

Convey a Clear Brand Image:

Needs to quickly communicate the health and wealth of the company. An outdated website may transmit your services to be outdated themselves to users landing on the site. Below is an example of work carried out by Made Simple Media on a clients website (before and after):

Old:

Horace Fuller Old

New:

Horace Fuller New

The difference is clear to see. A newer, brighter design shows this garden machinery supplier in better light compared to beforehand. Customers are now far more likely to purchase from this website due to the strong conveyment of brand quality on the homepage in particular.

Looks, content and function are three important factors for portraying a good first impression. The attention span of internet users tends to be very short so it is no use hoping they read a long introductory paragraph that will convince them of your services. Emphasis should be placed on visual content and clear, engaging slogans.

Here are the five key points to producing a strong manufacturing brand:

  1. Captivating imagery
  2. Relevant messaging regarding services offered
  3. Professional, bold logo
  4. Modern structure of content that reflects the brand
  5. Logos for partners, awards, certificates etc.

And here are our top tips on what to avoid when creating a manufacturing website:

  • Cluttered content
  • Difficult site navigation (unclear which pages should be targeted on the buyer journey)
  • Block after block of plain text

Easy Site Navigation:

As mentioned briefly above, every website should be easy to navigate. Users should not be scanning the page over and over for what they are trying to find - they will become impatient and visit a competitor's website instead.

A simplistic, streamlined navigation will keep new users engaged and exploring what your company has to offer. Manufacturers are likely to offer a wide range of products, therefore the layout of the website must be tailored towards maximum exposure. Browsing capabilities can be optimised with a service tab on the navigation bar with a dropdown menu that expands into the
services/categories of products available with subcategories where necessary. See the examplebelow:

Navigation

For manufacturing websites with a vast number of products it is crucial to have a fully functioning search function so users can quickly find the product they are searching for.

Each product category should have its own separate webpage and products in order (usually alphabetical) with filter options such as price high-low/low-high, Z-A, A-Z. The product pages themselves should contain the necessary information and materials (spec sheets, brochures, installation instructions, ordering guidelines).

Clear Call to Action:

Marlin

The final and most important part of the buyer journey involves turning leads into conversions, whether that is filling out a form, signing up to a subscription model or purchasing a product. To do this, your website must have clear calls to action throughout the site so any new leads are not lost.

Here are a few tips to help ensure your manufacturing website has the required call to actions:

  • Call button: mobile searches are most popular, more so than desktop searches, so your website must be optimised for mobile users with the call button on every page. You can check to see if your website is sufficient for mobile users using this Google tool.
  • Phone number in header and footer: some desktop users browsing your website will prefer to talk things through over the phone. Therefore, having your contact details in the header and footer of your site means they will be available to see at all times no matter which page they are browsing. You may want to make one of these banners a certain  colour throughout the website so users quickly associate this colour with your call to action (phone number).
  • Action words: Your homepage, service pages and contact page are most likely to convert leads. Bold, standout call to action words such as “Submit a Request”, “Request a Quote”, “Order Replacement Part” will help increase your conversions.
  • Optimise Contact/RFQ (request for quotation) forms: these forms need to be tailored towards optimal usability. You may need standard information from the customer in order to generate the quote but do not make it *compulsory* in case the user is unsure what to write. Usually, shorter forms are more likely to be completed. Include a thank you page and a thank you email once the forms have been filled out - this will aid marketing tracking.

Showcase Case Studies

A recent study showed that 93% of consumers read reviews before making a purchase.
Therefore, reviews on your website and third party sites are a very important factor for attracting new customers.

There are many ways you can showcase case studies/reviews on your website including:

  • Case studies tab on navigation bar of website with examples of how your manufacturing services have solved a clients issue.
  • Customer testimonials either in written form or video. Mixing up the variety of media on your site not only makes it more engaging for users but can be recognised by search engines.
  • Photos/videos of your products/services in action.
  • Customer reviews both on your website and third-party platforms.

Conclusion

The expanding digital age is resulting in a rise in competition online. The days of marketing through only tradeshows and conferences are gone, with a greater push to now transition online and capitalise on various aspects of digital marketing. In order to thrive at the top of your manufacturing niche you will need to effectively digitally market your company in different areas mentioned in this article, from SEO, LinkedIn Lead Generation and Google Adwords for instance.

Increasing your brand awareness through digital marketing will undoubtedly lead to increased traffic to your website. This is when it is important to have a strong website in place that will not only help portray your brand image in good light, but have the correct content in place to increase your numbers of customers and audience.

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