In the Most Wanted series, Chief Marketer looks at some of the top demographic segments marketers need to target in 2017. In this week’s spotlight, manufacturers.
Who: Companies that produce tangible goods, from food to the containers that hold the food, from automobiles to the nuts and bolts used in making those automobiles, fall into the manufacturing sector.
The Stats: Census data put the number of U.S. manufacturing firms at roughly 255,000. About 60% of these firms have fewer than 10 employees; as of 2014, only 3,624 had at least 500 employees, and another 11,670 had between 100 and 500, according to the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI). In total, 12 million Americans work in manufacturing.
Why You Want to Reach Them: Contrary to popular belief, manufacturing has been increasing in the U.S. during the past few years and is expected to continue to do so. In its Spring 2016 Semiannual Economic Forecast, the Institute for Supply Management projected manufacturing revenue to increase 2.8% and capital expenditure to rise 1% for the year.
Another reason manufacturers are worth pursuing: Many companies, especially large ones, can purchase only from approved vendors. While obtaining a place on this coveted list can require extra effort in the beginning, once you’re approved, you’ve shut out your nonapproved competitors.
Preferred Channels: Aside from the products that are staples of pretty much any business—from hand soap to insurance services—“your customer is not the purchasing department,” says Achinta Mitra, founder/president of Tiecas, a Houston-based industrial and B2B marketing company. If your product is one that will be incorporated into the item being manufactured, “you have to first market to the design engineer before you can get to the purchasing department.”
Which is not to say you can ignore the purchasing department altogether. “An engineer is under tremendous pressure now to do more with less at a quicker pace; the purchasing department cares about price, warranties, etc.,” Mitra notes. “You have to market to both.”
To command the attention of engineers, provide them with relevant information. Seventy-three percent of marketers surveyed by digital publisher Engineering.com said that content marketing did indeed generate sales leads.
As for where engineers are finding content, Google is the number-one source, according to a 2014 study by CFE Media and TREW Marketing, an Austin, TX-based agency specializing in reaching engineers: 60% of participants rated the search engine “very valuable.” Clearly, then, search engine marketing is key to ensuring that this audience finds your carefully prepared white papers, case studies, spec sheets and the like. Supplier and vendor websites were the second most valued source of information, with 47% rating them very valuable, followed by trade publications (36%), trade publication websites (22%) and industry association websites (21%).
Email can be a highly effective channel as well: 57% of respondents to a 2016 Engineering.com survey said they prefer to receive info via email. What’s more, 46% of respondents said they open and at least scan every email they receive.
This audience is especially hungry for concrete, nitty-gritty facts about products. Three-quarters of the engineers surveyed by CFE and TREW turn to product spec sheets, reviews and the like often or very often. Fifty-four percent regularly used white papers; 47%, case studies and application stories; and 37%, product demo videos.
Who’s Getting It Right: Uson, a Houston-based manufacturer of leak testers and leak-detection systems, offers a wealth of white papers and product literature through its “literature club”—registration is required to access the content, but Uson asks only for a minimum of information (name, email address, company)—enough to qualify potential customers but not enough to dissuade them from signing up. Its website also has an ungated blog—good for SEM—and its product pages are big on specs, stats and data. The company also submits articles to trade publications to further increase its industry profile.
West Chester, OH-based ClarkDietrich Building Systems includes on its website links to articles it’s had published in industry magazines, along with white papers, spec sheets and CAD libraries. But it also goes beyond “just the facts” to add a personal touch. A recent blog post, for instance, discussed an employee’s adoption of two Haitian children following the 2010 earthquake in that country; the site’s “Supporting the Construction Team” page states “’Stronger than Steel’ applies to more than our products. It also characterizes the relationships we forge with, and among, key players in the construction process. Who are the key players? A better question is who isn’t. It takes the highly coordinated efforts of the entire construction team to build structures that perform up to, and beyond, today’s standards….”
That human touch addresses what Mitra calls “the biggest misconception” in marketing to engineers and other manufacturing buyers: “that there’s no emotion involved. There is a great deal of emotion involved…. Decisions are made at a gut level and back-filled with knowledge.”