Common Misconceptions about Marketing for Manufacturing

Ed Marsh | May 24, 2023

Marketing for Manufacturing - Art, Science, Execution, Vision

Introduction to SignalsFromTheOP

Guide to Episode

  1. Misconceptions about industrial marketing can hamper results.
  2. Through awareness of common misconceptions, industrial manufacturers can improve their programs.
  3. Manufacturing marketing can be measured and executed with the same rigor as manufacturing.
  4. Problems often arise when manufacturers try to build their own marketing program.

Transcript follows:


Hi there and thanks for watching SignalsFromTheOP. I’m Ed Marsh and I created signals as a biweekly video blog that explores topics intended to give manufacturing executives pause – to question whether they really have the grip on revenue growth topics that they may assume.

Marketing for Manufacturing is Different than Many Assume

To that end, today, I want to debunk some common misconceptions about marketing for manufacturing.

The first couple are financial. Namely, there’s no way to measure the return of marketing or to specifically budget for investments that deliver a specific threshold return.

Secondly, industrial manufacturers don’t need to spend much on marketing

Then I want to unpack the role of industrial digital marketing and how it fits within the revenue growth function, and we’ll take a quick look at the “content” piece of B2B inbound marketing.

Finally, we’ll explore whether a manufacturer needs outside assistance to optimize manufacturing marketing, contrast marketing with “advertising,” explore the range of marketing functions, and dive into why SEO for manufacturers seems to be a lightning rod for so much frustration around marketing for manufacturing. Let’s dive in.

How Much and Where to Invest in Manufacturing Marketing

You’ve heard people say I know I’m wasting half my marketing spend; I just don’t know which part.

If you were putting all your money into billboards, generic direct mail and journal ads for your brand, that may have some merit. But it’s simply folly in today’s world of industrial digital marketing.

If you have a proper marketing and sales tech stack, you should know very accurately what dollars spent on which manufacturing marketing activities drive what dollars of revenue. Of course, there are some assumptions and some approximations along the way, but it’s not a black box. You can and should know, and then budget and spend in ways that optimize for revenue results.

Setting an appropriate contemporary budget for marketing for manufacturing can be contentious. Most marketing for manufacturing ends up being built around trade shows and journal ads. The former are important, although sometimes assumptions about which shows, what size booths, and what to exhibit may be stale.

Print journal ads should focus on lead generation and include tracking tools to support measurement.

But let’s talk generally. As a guideline I’d say strong manufacturing marketing programs represent 3-5% of revenue. For a $100MM company, therefore, that’s $3-5MM, and that’s likely way more than you spend. So you may be stunting your marketing results with inadequate investment.

Today's Expanded Role of Marketing for Manufacturing

Let’s talk about the role of marketing.

In the old days, there was a very linear buying journey/sales process. Marketing coordinated shows, managed brochure printing, placed journal ads, and managed the Thomas Register listings. Everything went to sales for follow-up by phone and in person.

Today, with 70% of the buying journey happening online – that means in the manufacturing marketing domain – the marketing team is also partially responsible for sales. Marketing must help sell. That requires deep coordination with sales, yet most companies still have a firewall & mutual disdain between a small marketing function and a large sales function.

Industrial Content Marketing

Content is fuel for B2B inbound marketing. I’ve seen so many manufacturers who understand the premise of B2B inbound marketing and decide they need to create content. They invest in tools, people and their own time to create the content, but then miss important details like search optimization, conversion optimization, content distribution and promotion.

They fail to write it for various important audiences (in other words for current customers, for prospects currently considering them, or for prospects they don’t yet know) and instead create it for themselves.

Sadly, often content fails. That’s not because content is a flawed strategy. It’s poor B2B inbound marketing execution.

Manufacturers Like to Build Things...Themselves

The assumption that manufacturers can either build robust manufacturing marketing programs themselves, or completely outsource their marketing for manufacturing is flawed.

This isn’t a binary choice.

Let’s consider an analog – what if a capital machinery vendor's prospect said they’d build a machine for themselves. You’d laugh. Without years of trial and error, nuance, art and science they’ll fail. And the same applies for DiY industrial marketing.

On the other hand, agencies don’t live in your world. They don’t know your buyers. They might have a couple manufacturing clients, and the principals may have some personal experience, but the 25 year olds executing the program haven’t ever carried a p&l, walked a factory floor, or made large purchasing decisions.

The solution is to build the muscle internally with appropriate external guidance.

Marketing for Manufacturing ≠ Advertising

Marketing for manufacturing should not be conflated, as often happens, with “advertising.” Lots of folks actually interchange the terms. Yet advertising (say print or online ads) are only one small part of most marketing for manufacturing.

A strong marketing program needs to include numerous disciplines including strategy, product marketing, competitive marketing, branding, content, public relations, marketing technology, data, marketing operations, sales enablement, analytics and reporting, trade shows & journals and partner marketing. It’s a much larger function.

The SEO for Manufacturers Elephant in the Room

So many execs with whom I speak are really disgusted with the SEO bill of goods they’ve been sold. They’ve hired several consultants, in most cases, each of whom promised great short-term results…and failed.

So, execs assume SEO doesn’t work for manufacturers. The reality is that SEO is a complex, nuanced and long-term play. It requires deep understanding of your buyers and prospects and how they search, detailed research into terms and trends, rigorous and precise execution of numerous variables across your site, each page, and each piece of content, and lots of technical details that are completely invisible and each of which make a difference.

And it takes time and an understanding that there's no straight line from SEO for manufacturers directly to leads. That’s a common misconception. First you must actually get clicked, then you have to convert a visitor to a lead. SEO by itself is fruitless.

Marketing for Manufacturing Isn't Easy or Simple, but It's Emminantly Feasible

There are a lot of misconceptions about marketing for manufacturing. These are a few of the common ones. I’m sharing them with one goal – I have seen the power of well executed marketing.

I love manufacturers and seeing them succeed. So, my message is that if it’s not working for you, it’s almost certainly not because it’s the wrong strategy – instead it’s likely in the details of the execution or in faulty underlying assumptions.

I’m Ed Marsh. Thank you for joining me for this episode of Signals from the OP. If you enjoyed it, please share it and subscribe – either to my YouTube channel EdMarshSpeaks.TV or at the related blog