By Jody Scheldt, 1/28/2016
Back in 2007 Forrester Research published a study that stated over 90% of buyers beginning a search for a product start on the web. If that was true then, it’s even truer now- just with more mobile devices in the mix.
Manufacturers have historically relied heavily on the reseller channel and traditional marketing strategies to reach the right audience. With the massive growth of buyers doing their research online however, it’s critical manufacturers have a two-pronged approach to their marketing plan to get in front of their buyer.
Strategy #1- Web Presence
“57% of the purchase decision is complete before a customer even calls a supplier.” CEB
Manufacturing has been an industry slow to adopt new marketing tactics and technologies, favoring tried and true methods (print, advertising, industry events). However, the change in buyer behavior now demands that a significant amount of company and product information be available for online consumption.
- Optimize your website with clear navigation paths, in-depth product information, and a solid SEO framework and you’ll deliver the visitor a rich online experience with your brand. Prospects can do research at will and the website will provide contact information and calls-to-action to move them through the buying cycle when they’re ready. Provide both end-user and reseller partner pages with sections dedicated to the benefits for each of those audiences.
- Use your social channels to expand brand awareness and grow your database of followers. It’s optimal to focus on the channels that reach your target audience whether you’re more consumer oriented (Facebook, Pinterest) or business (LinkedIn, YouTube). See how one manufacturing company decided to use their Facebook account to target the end-user which in turn supported their reseller channel.
- As an expert in your field, you’re in a unique position to publish content that engages your target audience and establishes your company as a knowledge source. Producing how-to articles, thought-leadership articles, un-boxing videos, and industry education pieces on your website gives your visitors valuable information to read and means they’re spending more time on your owned channels. According to CMI, YouTube scored the highest in social platform effectiveness ratings amongst manufacturers at 66%.
Strategy #2- Reseller Channel Support
Manufacturers have a symbiotic relationship with their distributors and resellers. The latter two rely on the awareness and demand generated by the manufacturer- as well as the marketing support- and manufacturers need their distributors and resellers to sell through product.
- Resellers and distributors often operate at a regional level and therefore understand their markets well. Providing customizable marketing and sales materials allows them to target their audience with personalized assets of their choice. Hundreds of distributor and reseller partners all executing their own marketing programs can also present a branding challenge. Marketing asset management tools provide access to properly branded materials that can be edited locally as needed, which enables your partners to deliver customized marketing materials to their customers and gives them the power to grow their business and yours. See “How to Boost the Performance of Channel Marketing”
- Develop sales incentives and contests to build loyalty and boost retention amongst your channel partners. In a Maritz Channel Market Study “More thantwo-thirds (of participants) say rewards and incentives are extremely important to their job satisfaction.” Channel Management Blog
Incentive programs should focus on individual rewards and be refreshed at a regular cadence, for instance quarterly. The best programs engage, support, and build an individual’s business and in turn, promote the advocacy of your products.
Buyers’ tactics will continue to shift as technology advances and manufacturers who are willing to adapt their marketing strategies to that shift will benefit from their efforts. Focusing your marketing where your customer is searching and supporting their journey whether online or in the channel, not only increases sales but develops the brand overall.