Digital Marketing for Manufacturers: Improve Leads, Sales & Retention

digital marketing manufacturersTo streamline processes and remain competitive, you’ve undoubtedly kept up with the pace of technology. But marketing may be another story. We get it.

In our digital age, your perfect customers are now in control of the information they seek to make better-informed buying decisions.

Use our guide and the information below to learn how to improve leads, sales and customer retention with digital marketing.


The Shifting Tide of Manufacturing Marketing Technology and Strategy

Just as there have been sweeping changes in how manufacturing gets done, so too have the technologies and techniques of marketing for manufacturers evolved -- big time.

Tactics that worked well for manufacturing companies in the past (direct mail, trade shows, print ads, telemarketing) do not yield the same results today.

The challenges of relying on traditional marketing include:

  • Higher costs with lower effectiveness
  • Inability to accurately measure results
  • Poor return on marketing dollar investment

The way customers prefer to engage with prospective businesses and make purchase decisions have clearly changed.

94-percent of B2B buyers report that they conduct some form of online research before purchasing a business product.

Manufacturers without digital marketing are in danger of not being found by the modern buyer. And if you’re not visible in the channels buyers choose for research, there’s little hope you can influence them or build a relationship of trust.

Write your own story.

You’ve modernized your manufacturing operations over the years. Now it’s time to transform the way you market.

Manufacturing Marketing: Reshaping Your Strategy

Historically, as compared with other industries, manufacturers spend the least on marketing at 8-percent of the overall budget. And as most manufacturing companies spend budget dollars primarily on outbound marketing (which yields little accountability and ROI), it’s little wonder they don’t invest more.

Digital marketing represents a different and new way of getting more ROI from your company’s investment.

As a new approach to business development, it’s based upon moving away from one-way interruptive messaging and towards a trusted two-way relationship.


 Outbound Marketing  Digital Marketing
 Telemarketing  Content Marketing
Direct Mail  Search Engine Optimization
 TV/Radio Advertising  YouTube/Video Marketing
 Trade Shows  Social Business/Networking
Rented/Purchased Email Blasts  Permission-Based Emails
 Print/Brand Advertising  Search Engine Marketing
 Outbound/Push  Inbound/Pull
 Interrupting  Accommodating
 The Focus is on Hyping Themselves  The Aim is on Helping Others

It’s helpful to know the critical differences between the old and new ways of marketing. But where the rubber meets the road is on understanding what digital marketing looks like followed by a roadmap and cohesive approach to get there.

What’s the difference between inbound and digital marketing?

The term inbound marketing was first introduced by HubSpot in the early 2000s to refer to an approach of generating traffic, leads and sales using online or Internet marketing techniques. The term digital marketing encompasses a broad range of strategies, activities, campaigns and channels designed to reach users of electronic devices and apps to connect, engage and share pertinent information.

Digital Marketing Strategy: 8 Markers of Success

Here are 8 markers of a digital marketing strategy manufacturers are finding success with:

1. They are Content Creators

In a 2019 research study of manufacturing companies, 67-percent rated overall content marketing success between moderately to hugely successful.

This same study found that success is likely to increase as a manufacturer's commitment to creating and publishing useful content for the market grows.

And, while 79-percent of respondents increased spending on content marketing in the last 12 months, the area of content creation saw the most significant boost in spending. Keep reading to discover the types of irresistible content we suggest.

manufacturing marketers

Source: Manufacturing Content Marketing 2019: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends, by the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs

2. They Invest in Digital Tools & Technologies

Content without the infrastructure to channel and measure effectiveness is useless. Manufacturers committed to providing content understand that while the technologies are not what makes the difference, they are essential to content transmission and visibility.

Core tools and technologies include:

  • A Content Management System (CMS) such as a dynamic vs. static website and blog, along with landing pages and calls-to-action for converting visitors into content subscribers and leads.
  • Social Media Publishing Tools for engaging with prospective buyers.
  • Audio/Visual Technologies to address how modern buyers tend to consume content and conduct research.
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a software technology used for managing all of your company’s interactions with prospects and customers.
  • Analytics Tools for measuring and improving success.
  • Email/Marketing Automation Software for nurturing leads along the lines of their interests and buyer journey.
  • Inbound/Digital Marketing Platform such as HubSpot which integrates many of the above content, sales, analytics, customer service, and CRM functions into one bundle.

An active digital marketing program uses software and systems to help keep things humming along. These may include workflow, project management, editorial calendars, and content optimization tools.

The depth and breadth of technologies can seem overwhelming. But there’s good news. Cloud-based all-in-one systems like HubSpot exist to integrate content functions without the steep cost of ownership, upgrades, and maintenance inherent in cobbling together disparate systems.

3. Everyone is a Content Contributor

ColleaguesSuccessful organizations realize it’s not just the marketing department that’s responsible for identifying and creating content. Unleash the power of content with multiple department involvement.

While it’s widely agreed (92-percent in one study) that content marketing buy-in is necessary from the highest levels of an organization, content planning, and execution is everyone’s game.

As we stated in 5 Ways Inbound Marketing will Work for Your Manufacturing Company, it’s imperative to foster collaboration between marketing and sales to generate content ideas and work collectively towards meeting the information needs of your target market personas.

That’s a good starting point. But think what more you could do if all those who interact with customers were involved in the process. What might your customer success, accounting, and product teams have to say about your customers’ content needs?

4. All Content is Created for Manufacturing Buyer Personas

Well-defined customer personas are fundamental to successful digital marketing efforts. The manufacturing research study found that 66-percent of marketing manufacturers planned to use personas by the end of 2018.

What is a buyer persona?

Buyer personas or customer avatars are a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer. These profiles are developed through quantitative and qualitative research and may include your existing as well as new customer types you want to reach. Buyer personas include customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, goals, and even a visual image of what they may look like. Businesses typically have 3-5 buyer personas identified.

Content created specifically for your buyer personas helps you better relate to the hopes, dreams, and needs of your perfect customer. It’s like speaking in their native tongue.

5. Digital Marketing is Complementary

When used in conjunction with other outreach and in-person networking tactics like strategic trade shows, PR and business events, manufacturers can deliver a one-two-punch on overall marketing effectiveness.

Online supports offline and vice versa

It can be highly productive to engage in both digital and traditional channels for generating traffic, credibility, and exposure. In some ways, digital will replace less effective outbound efforts like direct mail, telemarketing, and email blasts. On the other hand, strategically blending online and offline marketing strategies can be highly beneficial.

Exponential results through blended media

For a healthy mix of marketing executions, there are four categories of media to consider: owned, paid, shared, earned.

Media: Owned Paid Shared Earned
Description Communication on properties owned by the business Advertising bought and placed by the business Awareness derived from social media and word of mouth Traffic generated by others to your business
Examples The business website, blog, branded social media channels Facebook ads/boosted posts, sponsored content; LinkedIn ads, YouTube ads, Google AdWords Shared social media posts, retweets, blog mentions, video, hosted events, webinars Press releases, charity / community work, event networking, public speaking, link backs
Benefits Overall control of content and messaging; cost efficiency, longevity, and flexibility Highly targeted and able to reach a large audience; pay for what works. Measurable Increased credibility and exposure via the unsolicited nature from those who share Builds influence, credibility, exposure and can work well with paid efforts

Owned + Paid + Shared + Earned = Converged Media


Converged media attracts dynamic buyers.

Successful marketers also use a mix of converged media because today’s buyers are bombarded with choices. Not only that, they’re using multiple screens, applications and devices to access the information they want — when they want it.

Converged media allows marketers to gain a holistic view of their dynamic buyers and engage with them wherever they are.

6. They Realize a Higher ROI

According to HubSpot’s 2018 State of Inbound Global Report, organizations who choose an inbound vs. outbound approach realize a higher ROI.

State of Inbound

Source: HubSpot State of Inbound 2018 Global Report

7. Improved Sales and Marketing Alignment

The achievement of quality sales leads and higher marketing ROI from a digital inbound marketing approach is a joint effort. The key difference maker is when sales and marketing work together to forge a common Service Level Agreement (SLA).

With a strong SLA in place, sales and marketing become more tightly aligned and highly confident in the overall marketing strategy.

According to HubSpot's 2018 State of Inbound Report, 85-percent of sales and marketing teams say they have faith in their strategy when tightly aligned SLAs are in place. With tightly aligned SLAs, the report also found:

  • 69-percent receive higher quality leads
  • 65-percent see higher ROI for their efforts
  • 70-percent plan to increase the size of their sales team
  • 52-percent are more likely to get increased budgets

It’s not productive to go it alone. Aligning your sales and marketing teams around a digital marketing strategy can lead to big payoffs.

8. They Have a “Get Found First” Mentality

In today’s marketing environment, it’s essential that you show up on the first page of search engine rankings (i.e., Google search results). That’s because the first ten results on a search engine page get 90-percent of click-throughs, and of these, the first three organic (non-advertised) listings get the most clicks.

Now, there’s a seemingly high number of mind-numbing factors involved in getting found first.

Things like:

Yes, getting found first can be a daunting endeavor. And, quite honestly, it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s one big part of an overall digital marketing strategy and plan.

When all of these markers are present and increasing through a digital marketing approach, manufacturers stand to gain huge dividends. We’ll talk more about creating a comprehensive and cohesive plan in the following section.

Adopting a Digital Marketing Template Approach

digital marketing templateWhen you consider what it takes to be successful at digital marketing and all of the piece parts involved, it’s no wonder that many manufacturers fail in their attempt at going digital.

Three main reasons a manufacturer, being convinced of digital marketing, may fail to make significant headway:

  1. They take the shiny object approach: they jump from tactic to tactic to see what works.

  2. They throw the baby (tried and true offline methods) out with the bathwater (expensive and non-profitable lead generation strategies).

  3. They fail to take a template approach to their digital marketing efforts.

Of these three, the failure to implement digital marketing in a process-driven, template approach is the most significant cause for lack-luster results.

The truth is, it’s not about any one thing, but the thoughtful organization of strategies and tactics that get the job done. It’s no different than what you do in the manufacturing process. To produce the products your market wants, you perform a systematic approach involving research, design, technology, production, and delivery.

The same principle holds true for operating in the realm of digital marketing. There’s a cadence to it — a methodology, a plan, a template, a life cycle — that goes along with the research, the technologies, the production, the networks, and the delivery systems.

Companies like HubSpot, involved in the digital marketing space, build technologies and software intentionally around a market-driven lifecycle approach.

What’s involved with a digital marketing template?






Strangers to Visitors

Visitors to Leads

Leads to Customers

Customers to Promoters

Goal Setting, Persona Profiles, SEO, Blog, Website, Trade Shows/ Targeted Industry Events; Lead Gen Campaigns with Owned, Paid, Shared Media

Lead Magnets, Calls-To-Action, Landing Pages, Thank You Pages, Content Updates

Lead Nurturing Emails/Workflows, CRM, Success Stories, Pricing Strategies

Customer Satisfaction Surveys, Net Promoter Score (NPS) Survey, Social Monitoring, Customer Success and Loyalty Practices, Affiliate Programs


Tools & Technologies:

Content Management System (Website), Social Media Networks, Research Software/Systems, Analytics Software, Marketing Software, Video Technologies/Tools, Podcasting Tools, Sales Software (CRM), Pipeline Management Tools, Email Automation/ Workflows Software, Customer Service Software


It’s helpful to think of each of these as a stage in the marketing and sales process. Each phase in the cycle has its own set of strategies and tactics to move or convert the prospect to the next level in the buyer’s journey.

Taken together in a comprehensive and cohesive manner, they form a template from which action plans and campaigns may be built using the tools and technologies that will enable your success.

So far, we’ve identified the essential characteristics of a successful digital marketing strategy. And we’ve looked at a template for adopting a process-oriented methodology. Now it’s time to consider the steps involved with implementing it.

6 Key Steps to Building and Operating Your Digital Marketing Plan

At this point, you may feel ready to launch a digital marketing plan to replace or complement the traditional marketing efforts of your company.

But before you do, check out what we’ve found to be the digital marketing best practices for retooling marketing down the path to more leads, more new business, and a higher ROI from your marketing budget.

1. Determine Your Role and Resource Requirements

Digital Marketing PlanWill you go it alone or outsource parts of your digital marketing plan? That’s a big question. But an important one to tackle right out of the gate.

If you have in-house digital marketing expertise or can hire it, it may make sense for you to build and operate the majority of your program.

But you may want some help from industry experts.

There are many benefits of partnering with a digital marketing agency to create your template and action plan including:

  • Developing your ideal digital marketing template
  • Selecting and operating the tools and technologies
  • Conducting keyword research
  • Building and implementing on- and off-page SEO strategy
  • Optimize your approach for industry trends and Google
  • Creating buyer personas and suitable branding
  • Provide expertise with video and audio publishing
  • Organize editorial calendars for content production
  • Create regular content for the blog, lead magnets, emails, web copy, etc.

Look for an agency well-versed in both the methodologies and the technologies of digital marketing for manufacturers.

Own your strategy

All of the above and more makes sense for you to do with an agency. But, according to Joe Pulizzi, CEO, and founder of the Content Marketing Institute, “Brands should own their strategy in-house.”

The agency can help shape your strategy, but it’s up to your marketing leadership to be the company’s champion for budgeting, communication, overall execution and alignment within the entire organization.

Which leads to ...

2. Get Everyone Onboard

Business owners, marketers, the sales team and other key stakeholders should all be on the same page and involved with digital marketing. Getting those creative juices flowing starts with understanding the approaches and tools in your digital arsenal.

Continue to involve your teams and keep the entire organization in the loop throughout the planning and execution process.

3. Set Your Digital Marketing Business Objectives

This step involves establishing specific and measurable goals for each stage within your digital marketing template:

  • Generating traffic to attract targeted visitors
  • Converting visitors to active leads
  • Nurturing leads to become customers
  • Delighting customers for retention and promotion

These goals should not only include the sheer number of people entering and passing through your marketing and sales funnel but the associated dollars you’ll budget for the tools, technologies and specific tactics designed to achieve success.

Think ahead about a framework of setting campaign goals. So when you begin operating your digital marketing template to attract, convert, close and delight, you’ll have something to shoot for. Develop also, KPIs centered around substantial revenue and ROI goals.

4. Create Your Digital Marketing Infrastructure

Assess what you have in place (website, blog, social media, etc.) and determine what tools, software, and technology you’ll need to have to operate your digital marketing program.

Another piece of your infrastructure has to do with developing your buyer persona profiles and brand positioning. These will become the basis from which everything else in your digital marketing template pivots:

  • Primary keywords to target
  • Visual design and key messaging points
  • Types and styles of blog posts
  • Video/Audio marketing
  • Digital advertising and social media channel selections
  • Lead magnet topics, CTAs and landing page content
  • SEO elements: URLs, page titles, meta descriptions
  • Top, middle and bottom of funnel content
  • Customer retention and loyalty programs

5. Initial Content Onboarding

Your next step is to take all of your planning and research, together with the tools and technologies you’ve selected and begin the process of creating, publishing and marketing your content.

What content should you create first?

  • Do a content audit of your previously published static content
  • Repurpose this content as educational and helpful content
  • Publish it on your web pages and blog posts
  • Create a one-page downloadable lead magnet or content offer
  • Publish CTAs for your lead magnet on your web pages, blog posts, videos, social media accounts (owned media), and on your selected paid media channels such as Google AdWords, Facebook and LinkedIn
  • Create a landing page with a form so visitors can opt-in to receive your lead magnet
  • Develop workflow content for email nurturing

Tap into your customer-facing teams for content ideas. Find out the questions and problems customers face as they interact with your sales, customer service, and accounting teams. Then create and publish content in as many owned, paid and shared media channels as possible that address customer needs.

In his book, Launch: How to Quickly Propel Your Business Beyond the Competition, Michael Stelzner identified six types of content that will provide the primary fuel you need to generate traffic and leads with your digital marketing platform.

These will give you a good jump-start in creating blog and other content:

  1. How-To-Articles - Practical articles of useful information that helps people solve important problems or reach new levels.

  2. Reviews - Reviews with a summary and objective opinions covering books, products, services, surveys, industry studies, etc. your readers care about.

  3. Expert Interviews - Written, audio (podcasts) or video interviews with people who have expert industry or topical knowledge.

  4. Case Studies - Used to examine the challenges and successes businesses and people in your industry have experienced our buyer personas can relate to. These are great content tools to convert leads into buyers and lifelong customers.

  5. News Stories - Publish stories about the latest manufacturing industry developments, trends or happenings in your niche.

  6. Contrarian or Insightful Articles - Occasional articles that dispel conventional thought or that take an opposing view of commonly held beliefs and practices in your industry.



6. Optimize - Measure - Improve - Succeed

Now that you have the tools to get started with digital marketing, we’ll wrap things up with a brief discussion on operating for your long-term success.

Seth Godin, a highly-recognized digital marketing strategist, thought leader and blogger once said, “It took me seven years to become an overnight success.”

What’s the secret to digital marketing success?

When asked what made for his success, Godin replied that he’d fallen into a habitual process of observing people to see what worked or didn’t work for them and then write about it.

The secret revealed...

Succeed with a repeatable process. We create, publish, optimize, measure results and then tweak for improved outcomes.

Fortunately, the tools, technologies, and analytics involved in today’s digital marketing systems make it possible to thrive at optimizing, measuring, improving, and creating sustainable success.

Marketing agencies adept at operating the systems and methodologies involved will help you optimize and get the most out of your investment in digital marketing.

In Conclusion: The Digital Tidal Wave

digital marketingAs discussed at the beginning, marketing and business development at manufacturing companies are on the edge of transformation. Clearly, that transformation is taking the form of a movement away from spending on traditional marketing activities toward digital marketing using strategic forms of media, tools, and technologies to reach the modern buyer.

There’s no time like the present to catch the digital tidal wave. Whether you’re just sticking your toes in the water or are ready to get fully immersed, what’s your next move?

Are you ready to invest in digital technologies? Or work on sales and marketing alignment? How will you incorporate the digital marketing success factors and critical steps to generate more traffic, leads, and sales?

Maybe you could use a trusted partner to assess your situation and help you determine how best to proceed?

Reach out to us even if you have questions or would like some clarification on anything we’ve covered. We’ve helped other manufacturing companies get on top of the wave. We want to help you, too.