Of all the industries transformed by inbound marketing, manufacturing may have changed most.
That’s because, more than any other industry today, manufacturing still relied on ideas of the past – the distant past – in its marketing efforts.
Many established manufacturing firms did very little brand building throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Instead, they assumed that their customers knew them and they knew their customers. They could ink agreements for an entire year at just a handful of industry events.
It may have worked for a while, but the world changes fast.
Two massive shifts made brand building absolutely indispensable to manufacturers:
- Thanks to new equipment and ideas, traditional barriers to entering manufacturing fell.
- At the same time, digital technology made it easy for brands to serve clients year round.
Even in the most rarified realms of manufacturing, it’s no longer necessary for most clients to just get by with whatever vendor dominates the market. Sure, there are still big firms and some hold a massive lead on their competitors – but maintaining it takes more work than ever.
Brand building is a big part of that work.
Your brand isn’t just what you make of it: It’s also what people say and think about you when you’re not in the room. So, brand building needs to communicate your value and emphasize the attributes that differentiate you. It’s not just how much better you are, but why.
Inbound marketing equips manufacturing firms with all the tools to achieve better brand building. It’s the commitment to use them that helps you shine in an increasingly crowded world.
How can manufacturing firms build their brand in a way that stands out from the pack?
Let’s take a closer look:
Make Helpful, Informative Content Part of Your Brand Identity
First and foremost, you need content. Arguably, it’s even more important for manufacturers.
How can that be true?
Simple: In most industries, businesses see thought leader status as “nice to have.” Manufacturers, though, compete in a world where thought leadership is a requirement. Because of the mission critical processes their solutions facilitate, nothing less than the best will do.
When a manufacturer doesn’t meet the highest standard of quality, it often reflects poorly on their clients down the line. After all, whichever link in the value chain is public-facing often gets the worst press when any mistake hits. You’ve got to be seen as an industry leader.
To get there, you need consistent, compelling content in a multi-pronged strategy.
For manufacturers, that includes (at least!):
- Keyword- and topic-optimized blog posts on your main brand site on a regular basis.
- Video content that highlights your solutions, your people, and your top brand values.
- Independent research – conventional “thought leadership” content like white papers.
Blogging serves as the foundation of any content strategy. After building a library of blog content, prioritize video: More B2B executives are using it in their decision-making process, since it’s convenient and tends to cover a lot of ground quickly.
From there, thought leadership content based on in-house research will give your industry as a whole reasons to covet your brand’s expertise. It’s okay if this type of report comes out as rarely as once a year: For the value it offers, releasing it can be a major event.
Create a Self-Reinforcing Cycle of Virtual and Live Events
No one would argue that manufacturing industry events have lost their sway in brand building or business development. In addition to those live events, however, the most prestigious brands in manufacturing have pushed an aggressive slate of virtual get-togethers.
What can your virtual events be used for?
- Live training focused on topics of general interest to those in your industry.
- Demonstrations of new solutions and time-limited offers for your customers.
- Commentary on breaking industry news and trends or major announcements.
The webinar is the gold standard when it comes to “one to many” virtual events. However, don ‘t be tempted to cut corners. While some small entrepreneurs see success through recorded events, the best brand building comes when you can host a live Q&A at the end.
And what about those live events your teams are still going to? You can incorporate them into your brand building strategy, too. On top of your usual networking activities, consider boosting your brand building with the following:
- Live-tweet or stream your presence at the event, especially if you are a sponsor.
- Let team members do blog posts summarizing their topical takeaways each day.
- Update your subscriber base with a digest of live event info on your email list.
- Have each team member attend different sessions so you can trade notes later.
Take the Best From an Account-Based Marketing Mindset
Account-based marketing is an approach that delivers a high-touch, ultra-customized approach. Marketers using ABM have a narrower audience than those with a general inbound strategy: Targeting, for example, five specific firms instead of a whole market segment.
While most enterprises enjoy much more success with a broader take, you can still learn a lot from ABM in terms of brand building. Personalization goes a long way in manufacturing, where it’s often still thought of as “above and beyond.”
Use Personalized Follow-Up to Drive Retention
Making a major manufacturing purchase is often a long-term decision with a long sales cycle. When the ink is finally dry, why not celebrate? Manufacturing brands can have personality, too!
Consider sending your contact a brief video “thank you” when you pop the champagne. Most of your competitors will never even consider it, so you will get remembered.
Develop Social Communities for Your Audience
Your brand is a going concern, so find ways to connect with your audience long-term.
Yes, a mailing list will provide some momentum, but a social community does you one better for brand building. It gives you a way to answer questions, address concerns, and add value for customers – whether they’re newcomers or experienced.
What’s your top method for brand building in manufacturing? Leave us a comment!