We live and work in a digital age, and it permeates our daily routines. The era of a prospect waiting for a sales rep to deliver information about your product has long passed. Many manufacturing companies have begun the transition to digital marketing, but are not taking full advantage of the targeting and data analytics that is possible with digital channels.

In our standard online evaluation of effective use of digital marketing, many manufacturing companies are scoring 35% or less. A failing grade in terms of search-ability. No other area in a company would be allowed to exist for long with such a low level of performance.

Yet many of these same companies can measure their manufacturing processes in terms of six sigma and the use of powerful statistical analysis tools. They have the discipline to apply these principles online, but just need some help on where to begin. 

Here are 6 simple secrets that can help any manufacturing company launch successful online marketing campaigns

  1. Set goals for your online marketing efforts just like you would for your production line. Ask any plant manager how many finished products they produce in a week and they’ll respond immediately and with a specific number. Unfortunately, online marketing efforts in the industry are often not treated with the same precision. If a manufacturer’s website is receiving 10,000 visits per month, the marketing and sales team need to forecast their results with same accuracy. That means knowing exactly how many web forms, phone calls and qualified leads will be produced in any set timeframe.

Online Marketing Tip: Individualize the data in each online campaign by using unique URLs and phone numbers. This will track data from each campaign separately and clearly evaluate the performance of each online campaign.

  1. Build your online presence like a flexible manufacturing line. Think of it this way, a manufacturer would never produce a product that was intentionally short of consumer expectations. The same reasoning goes for online marketing. As business and personal lives become increasing intertwined, online strategies must be flexible to assure digital content can be consumed anywhere, anytime on any device.

Online Marketing Tip: Always use responsive design when developing websites, landing pages and emails. This ensures online content can be consumed on any device, whether in the office, on a field sales tablet or on your mobile phone. Complete this mobile friendly test to find out if your website scales to mobile devices.

  1. View your dealer channels like a critical sub-assembly. Suppliers are integral to your finished product. A manufacturer would never send valuable parts to a supplier for assembly without taking inventory or knowing when the assets would be returned. Yet every day, companies are sending valuable online inquiries to their distributor and dealer channels without tracking the inquiry or requesting any response on inquiry outcome; like did they buy! Recognizing this situation is the first step toward eliminating it. A company cannot evaluate the value of the inquiry or the performance of distributors or dealers without this closed loop feedback.

Online Marketing Tip:  Qualify all inquiries within five minutes of receiving the contact. Distribute qualified leads to your channels with the agreement that they close the loop with the manufacturer by providing the outcome of the contact.  For example, did inquiry buy or not. Collecting this feedback will provide the required data to evaluate the demand chain in the same fashion as your supply chain.

  1. Treat your sales reps like your most expensive machine on the shop floor. Sophisticated, semi-automated machines are expected to run at near full capacity. Think of online inbound inquiries as valuable parts. Failing to qualify those leads before sending them to your well-oiled machine is similar to sending poor quality parts through the best equipment without any advance QA.

Online Marketing Tip: Nurture online connections through the sales process with triggered, automated email and phone campaigns. These tactics are best suited for supporting top-of-the-funnel inquiries and allow the sales team to focus on sales-ready leads making the best use of their time and skills.

  1. Configure Google Analytics like plant floor monitoring software. Most manufacturers have monitoring software that collects summary data on the overall efficacy of operations on the shop floor. Manufacturers quickly rattle these numbers off and they are used as a benchmark of success. Now ask the same company for the last 12 months of online traffic reports by campaign source and they’ll give you a blank stare. When configured properly, Google Analytics or other web analytics tools can monitor, track and store vital online information and provide comprehensive reports. Collecting this data is essential to summarizing the overall effectiveness of any online marketing campaign.

Online Marketing Tip: When configuring data tracking on the website and campaigns, begin with the end goal in mind. Work backwards from the business goals, identifying critical data to collect along the way. After pinpointing data, set up automated reports that share the data with the marketing and sales team on a regular schedule.

  1. Invest in online presence the same way you would a new manufacturing line. Implementing anything in manufacturing without proper planning, testing and training is bound to fail. Yet, it’s shocking how many companies ignore those same principals when launching new websites. In some cases, website traffic will drop by 50% or more. Management would not be pleased if a new multi-million dollar manufacturing line produced 50% less parts than the old line. Think of search engines as production workers. If they are not trained how to operate the new line, they won’t deliver the expected results.

Online Marketing Tip: All websites should begin with a blueprint, similar to planning your production line. Outline foundational SEO elements in the plan, including technical and structural website design. Fix the foundation first before focusing on adding new engaging and relevant content.

The bottom-line is that manufacturers have focused on optimizing the plant floor to gain production efficiencies and competitive advantages. In making the same commitment to digital marketing programs, manufactures can achieve similar proficiencies in generating new, high converting leads for sales follow-up and revenue generation. It’s time for manufactures to start treating their online marketing efforts with the same pride and respect as they do their plant floor. Let’s face it, we live in a digital world where it’s more critical than ever for manufacturing companies to apply their plant floor expertise to online marketing. The manufacturers who make the commitment to treating digital marketing like their plant floor, will have a real competitive advantage.