The state of marketing in the manufacturing industry


One of the most common concerns we hear from manufacturers in relation to marketing is about relevancy. How effective and relevant are modern digital marketing tactics to the manufacturing industry – one that still heavily relies on in-person meetings, tradeshows, and long term negotiations to facilitate new deals?

It’s a good question, because while modern digital marketing tactics can be very effective for manufacturers, their integration is often handled more carefully and customized to the specific needs of the audience in this field.

To better understand what this means and how it should apply to your own business, let’s look at the state of marketing for the manufacturing industry.

A Rapidly Modernizing Approach to Marketing

If you’d asked this question five years ago, the answer would have been very different. Manufacturers were still largely dependent on the tactics that had worked for them for decades. Tradeshow investment 2-3 times per year, a large “feet on the ground” sales force, and a sparse digital presence, often concentrated heavily into a small number of very targeted directories and ads.

That started to change rather quickly as the cost of web development lowered and the ubiquity of content related to manufacturing grew online. The readiness with which purchasing managers and engineers alike now research their new projects online is pervasive – meaning it makes more sense than ever for small and medium sized manufacturers to have a strong web presence.

And then there’s the actual return on investment for digital marketing efforts. What once drove skepticism has increasingly shown itself to be a highly efficient, and cost-effective way to generate new leads.

  • Forrester published a recent study showing that lead nurturing online generates 50% more sales as a cost 65% less than those who don’t nurture.
  • More than 90% of B2B buyers use Google first in the research process.
  • Despite this, only 30% of manufacturers believe they are effectively using digital and inbound marketing tactics correctly to engage with those buyers.

The bottom line is that buyers started looking online for information to drive the vendor selection process and manufacturers took notice.

How Manufacturers Market Today

There are several things that manufacturers are doing more now than ever before. Because the average industrial site is only converting 2-3% of their traffic through contact forms and RFQ forms, they are turning to a more inbound digital-marketing approach.

This is a perfect fit for the industrial market, largely because of the heavy information focus of the searches by purchasing managers. When researching who to contact and onboard as a potential vendor, information is vital – cost data, available capabilities, and insights into the speccing and manufacturing process.

By providing a clear outlet for content that provides context and data to the people who need it most, even small manufacturers can enter conversations they wouldn’t have been able to in the past.

At the same time, many manufacturers are still looking at broader goals to measure their marketing success.

According to Content Marketing Institute’s most recent study of Manufacturing Marketing Efforts:

  • 89% of manufacturers cited brand awareness as a goal, compared to 85% for sales and 80% for lead generation.
  • More than two thirds of manufacturers cited website traffic as a primary metric for measuring success in their marketing, compared to just 48% citing sales and 46% citing lead quality.
  • The number of manufacturers citing the effectiveness of digital tactics has grown, with 65% saying videos and webinars have a positive impact and more than 60% citing written content downloads.

For the clear majority of manufacturers who use content marketing, video is at the top of the list, right ahead of email outreach and articles published directly to their websites. This direct, visual content is an important component of any digital strategy, especially for those in such a technical space.

What is most interesting here, however, is that the number one cited tactic for effectiveness remains in-person events. There’s a reason why tradeshows remain such a popular and well attended event in the industrial space – they work, but more people than ever are integrating their in-person event attendance with digital efforts, nurturing leads generated at shows via email, and sending people to their websites for follow-up information.

The Future of Manufacturing Marketing

Despite a growing investment in digital marketing including content and social media, manufacturers still rely heavily on in-person events and print advertising (with 85% saying they advertise in print publications). Despite this, the effectiveness of both has decreased over time, and the ROI of digital efforts has only grown.

Finding a way to integrate the two, building a strong marketing funnel to generate new leads and nurture them with online components, and capture some of the booming traffic from purchasing and engineering prospects researching projects you can help with is a big part of this.

The future of manufacturer marketing will look very much like what it does now, but with an increased focus on the things that require less time and investment and provide greater return, especially online.

Persona Targeting for Industrial Companies

Learn how personas work and how to define yours in order to attract potential leads and improve your marketing ROI.

Download your free copy


Persona Targeting for Industrial Companies

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

How SEO Works for Industrial Companies

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

How to Measure ROI from Industrial Marketing Efforts​

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Download PDF

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.