The digital era has left no industry untouched. Marketing automation tools offer firms powerful data insights, improved reach, better scalability, accelerated response times, and more control in the online-first, buyer’s world we now live in. Even in manufacturing — a traditionally sales-dominated space — marketing automation can no longer be ignored.
Manufacturer marketing campaigns have often flown under the radar in the public mindset. After all, it’s the business-to-consumer manufacturers — think fashion or lifestyle brands like automakers and sneaker companies — that tend to get the most marketing attention (and to see marketing as most critical to their growth).
B2B-focused manufacturing firms traditionally view lead generation as a core role of the sales department. The inside and outside sales professionals are the ones performing direct, account-based outreach with potential customers on the phone, at trade shows, and in the office, supplemented by tightly targeted advertising in niche, industry publications.
Yes, Manufacturers Need Marketing Automation
Why would a manufacturer in a historically sales-dominated B2B space benefit from a robust marketing automation platform? The truth is there’s just less time for labor-intensive strategies (trade shows, direct mail, physical collateral, or catalogs) that hold less sway over buyers than they used to. We live in an increasingly digital, buyer-centric world. Most of the buyer’s journey now consists of independent (often internet-based) research on the part of the buyer themselves, without any input from a salesperson. This is where effective marketing does its best work.
Thomasnet laid out this excellent breakdown of the long and complex modern buying cycle for B2B manufacturers:
- The buyer identifies their need for a product or service.
- The buyer researches different solutions to collect more information.
- If creating a new design, the buyer researches product data.
- The buyer evaluates potential suppliers for their desired solution.
- The buyer makes a shortlist of the best suppliers.
- The buyer purchases from the supplier they deem the best fit.
It’s been widely reported that 67% of that journey is now done digitally. Furthermore, your buyers will have access to more quality information (without your help) than ever before, and the now-mid-30s Millennials are highly skeptical of sales reps, to begin with. These trends make effective and strategic digital marketing for manufacturers even more critical.
Against this backdrop, marketing managers for many B2B manufacturers work solo or with small teams to handle the enormous task of engaging with Big Data and reaching your high-value target audience on the internet. Manufacturer marketing automation empowers a small team to achieve big results in every way.
Research from Aberdeen found that firms using marketing automation improved their performance across a wide range of metrics:
- +107% lead conversion rate
- +40% average deal size
- +20% higher attainment quotas
- +17% forecast accuracy
Today’s competitive environment demands not only that manufacturers invest more effort in the marketing side of things but in sophisticated marketing automation processes that streamline tasks, enhance insights, drastically improve the capacity of a small team, and accelerate real results.
Let’s take a deeper look at several key advantages of manufacturer marketing automation.
4 Benefits of Marketing Automation for Manufacturers
1. Improved Resource Efficiency
A sales and marketing CRM, such as the completely-free-forever CRM offered by HubSpot, is the core of any marketing automation suite. When you trade manually-maintained spreadsheets for Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, your resources suddenly stretch a lot further. The CRM will:
- Free up time for your team to focus on higher-value activities than organizing direct mail and other mindless lists.
- Simplify frustrating runarounds in search of accurate, current info.
- Eliminate any redundant data entry “busy work.”
- Offer full visibility into your marketing funnel and sales pipeline in real time.
- Enable cross-team transparency (sales, service, marketing, leadership) in a shared, fully synced database of prospect and customer information.
- Integrate automatically with marketing campaigns and streamline manual processes.
It’s hard to overstate how many hours your team can save by using a robust CRM software to trigger events and marketing flows automatically while maintaining consistent, updated information on all of your contacts.
2. Smooth Supply Chain Relationships
The supply chain will operate more smoothly with the benefit of an automated tool that helps you manage complex channel partner relationships with minimal effort and maximum clarity. Manufacturer marketing automation supports communication from multiple angles:
- Track (and segment) many conversations easily, based on priority.
- Improve responsiveness and prevent oversights with automated reminders or alerts that trigger on predefined conditions.
- Automatically maintain profiles with current info on every partner.
It’s also easier to coordinate marketing efforts with upstream and downstream partners with the help of an automated marketing platform that leverages relevant information and resources from up and down the supply chain, all in one place.
3. Stay Top of Mind in a Long Buying Cycle
Email marketing, in particular, is a critical component of manufacturer marketing. The buying cycle can be long and include many layers of decision-makers. Customers are juggling their options, conducting internal discussions around priorities, managing their daily operations, and more. You must stay fresh in your audience’s mind.
Marketing automation for manufacturing will prevent slow-developing leads from falling through the cracks simply because one side lost track in the long series of touchpoints. Some of the tools you’ll have available include:
- Email marketing newsletters that show up periodically in the inboxes of your captured leads to get them thinking about your product again.
- Automated drip campaigns! Keep new leads warm after they’ve downloaded a whitepaper or provided their email address at a trade show with a carefully planned sequence of nurturing emails over several weeks or months.
- Custom workflows and triggers based on predefined actions. For example, when a lead submits a contact form, downloads a spec sheet, or opens an RFQ response but fails to get back to you in a given period.
- Automated email surveys to solicit customer feedback, follow up on a relationship or purchase, and reveal trends in customer needs.
Email automation is all about getting the right message to the right people at the right time, all while simplifying the process of tracking every touchpoint. It’s a time-saver that improves consistency, accuracy, conversions, and even your response time for inbound leads. Check out some of these best practices for industrial emails from Thomasnet.
4. Powerful Data Insights
This may be the most impactful upgrade of switching traditional, small-scale, manual marketing processes over to AI-enhanced manufacturer marketing automation. An automation platform not only collects vast amounts of data from your contacts (and their digital behaviors) but empowers you to turn that data into something useful.
Use your marketing automation to:
- Access real-time analytics with live, up-to-date figures (rather than waiting for quarterly reports).
- Create custom reports that show you precisely what you want to know and nothing you don’t.
- Prove ROI from trade show contacts lists, automated direct mail campaigns, digital search ads, email marketing, and more.
- Score leads based upon custom criteria that will automatically highlight time-sensitive opportunities and the most likely leads to convert.
- Track prospects throughout the funnel to reveal gaps and exit patterns (so you can address them).
- Identify the verticals and job roles that are producing the best leads so that you can create more nuanced and targeted buyer personas.
These insights will help you tweak your strategy, improve your bottom line, optimize the customer experience, and improve customer satisfaction — especially through digital channels.
Don’t Hesitate to Upgrade Your Manufacturer Marketing Strategy
Digital marketing has been taking off for years, but especially for manufacturers, and especially recently — even since the outbreak of COVID-19. The 2020 Thomas Industrial Survey revealed a 12% increase in manufacturer and industrial website usage in just the months since the onset of the pandemic.
The limitations on in-person sales interaction have only further accelerated digital marketing and the value of digital automation for manufacturing firms. Automation will help your sales department, too, by streamlining lead capture at trade shows, post-event follow-up, quote and bid communication, e-commerce actions, the baton pass of leads to the right direct sellers or channel partners, and more.
There are automation technologies out there that cater specifically to the needs of the manufacturing space, too. As a HubSpot partner (and huge fans of their comprehensive and unified product line), we recommend taking a few minutes to explore the features that HubSpot uses to help manufacturers while you’re evaluating your options.