The manufacturing sector has made a huge digital leap in recent years. Although it was among the sectors that were hit the hardest by the pandemic and the macro-environmental challenges that followed, it is now becoming a digital-first industry, much to the satisfaction of modern customers. After all, customer experience (CX) has been a key driver in the transformation journey and it has changed the way manufacturers approach marketing today.

Author Radiana Pit | Copperberg

Photo: Freepik

Although physical events are slowly coming back, traditional marketing is not what it used to be two years ago. The travel restrictions and limited physical interactions have forced industrial manufacturers to reinvent the way they interact with customers and how they communicate their offerings to them. As such, digital marketing became a necessity for many.

Why should digital marketing be a priority?

Last year, manufacturers were still very much under the pressure of the pandemic. For most of them, marketing had become a top priority because it gave them an opportunity to elevate their customer relationships and presence in an otherwise new online market. However, this year things seem to have changed. 

According to the Annual Marketing In Manufacturing Report by Intergage and The Manufacturer, the number of industry players who have rated marketing as a top priority has dropped from 63% in 2021 to 49% in 2022. This begs the question: what made them change priorities? 

Considering the issues created by rising inflation rates, broken supply chains, and talent scarcity, it’s not surprising that manufacturers have shifted their focus elsewhere. But neglecting marketing may be a huge mistake in the long term. Not only does marketing help nurture loyal customers or attract new ones, but it is also critical to being shortlisted, acquiring skilled talent, and achieving pricing and commercial excellence.

And yet, right now, many manufacturers don’t have enough resources and talent for creating a consistent flow of high-quality content. And without it, their positions as thought leaders in their fields are threatened. Modern B2B customers need a constant feed of reliable information, updates, presentations, and educational materials that can be easily accessed on their preferred platforms, from social media to the manufacturer’s website.  

In addition to content issues, industrial manufacturers have trouble measuring success and the return on investment (ROI). Although digital marketing is the most measurable form of marketing, the lack of skilled talent, internal resources, and adequate tech make the task challenging. But closing this knowledge gap and tracking the right metrics is critical for the long term. 

What are the top KPIs for measuring success?

The most important digital marketing metric is, of course, revenue. Depending on the industry, marketers set other key performance indicators (KPIs) around this metric even if their primary focus may be lead generation, customer lifetime value, or customer acquisition. 

Just as in recent years, the main focus of most industrial marketers in 2022 is unlocking new business. According to the report from earlier, more than half of manufacturers have developed their marketing strategies with new business lead generation in mind, while the rest are split between increasing brand awareness, sales, customer lifetime value, and more. 

The importance of measuring marketing efforts to acquire new business is reflected in the 73% of manufacturers who are indeed tracking new sales leads generated, followed by the 47% who are tracking sales revenue. This goes to show that the digital marketing campaigns of manufacturers this year have had a positive impact on sales and they will continue to do so.

And that reality is only enforced by the 63% of manufacturers who are tracking website conversions. This also tells us that the manufacturers who have upgraded their websites with e-commerce capabilities over the past two years are now committed to digital sales.

Although things look promising on the lead generation front and opportunities for new business are on the horizon, the same cannot be said about customer lifetime value. Only 24% of industrial manufacturers are measuring it, which means that the rest are missing out on a unique opportunity to extend their existing customer relationships. After all, the cost of marketing efforts designed to ensure that customers stay loyal for longer and encourage bigger spending is much lower than the cost of new customer acquisition. 

By focusing on increasing the customer lifetime value, manufacturers will be able to take a more relaxed approach to new business and start redirecting their marketing efforts from constantly chasing new leads to consolidating existing relationships. 

Notably, in 2021 and the beginning of 2022 manufacturers have been focused on evolving their business model and reaching digital maturity. This means that many have expanded their service offerings with added value and new product rollouts, so the logical course of action has been to develop marketing campaigns around new lead generation. 

What’s next for industrial marketers?

One thing is certain: digital marketing is here to stay. Industry players can no longer reach modern B2B customers without online campaigns, a constant flow of easily accessible content, and digital sales. However, many are struggling to find the right talent and tech to help them advance their digital marketing efforts. 

Considering the conundrum and taking into account that manufacturers are once again ready to meet at trade shows and events, perhaps a hybrid marketing approach is the best way to move forward.

For example, live demonstrations and face-to-face networking have always been the main reasons why industrial manufacturers gathered at trade shows, conferences, and physical events. But now, digital marketing enables them to broadcast those events and reach a larger audience, accommodate those who can’t attend in person, and build a stronger online presence.

Although hybrid marketing sounds ideal for manufacturers, it doesn’t come without its challenges. A great degree of digital marketing efforts goes into the hybrid model, especially regarding consistency. For example, the online messaging and experience must be consistent with the one offered in person. 

Manufacturers also have to ensure that if a customer sees a product at an event or trade show, they will be able to find it online too. Last but not least, hybrid manufacturing can be a source of valuable data. Collecting both online and offline information can provide unique insights into customer relationships and expectations that would otherwise remain concealed.

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