3 Marketing and Sales Trends Affecting American Manufacturers

Manufacturers Have New Tools to Reach Customers.

To stay competitive in this fast-paced digital world, manufacturers need to stay visible and engage prospects through multiple channels to win business. This needs to happen both online and offline, making prospects and sales funnels harder to manage. So B2B marketers have the challenge of maintaining their traditional channels such as email, trade print and shows while also managing their digital presence. Manufacturers are realizing that it takes a lot of work to stay digitally relevant, because content needs to be personalized to cut through the noise.

An interesting data-point* is that more than 58% of B2B purchase decisions are made based on digital impressions. This means that potential customers have already made a purchase decision before they contact a sales rep or call a service number.

And with all these new digital demands on marketers who need to grow business, several other changes are happening alongside that are connected to your online presence.

1. The integration of all sales channels into business development processes. 

Traditionally, companies who manufacture consumer goods put their energy and budgets into selling B2B. In other words, manufacturers sell to customers, whose customers are ultimately the end-users. And now, thanks to a highly robust Internet shopping experience, the relationship has blurred between the manufacturer, the customer, and end-users.

So manufactures have to find the right balance of catering to the end-user (who can easily find them) while not jeopardizing their B2B customer relationships. One solution is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to help manage the business development process. A well-managed program can help generate leads and protect relationships with sales reps, distributors and retailers.

2. Understanding the customer journey and the many touch points. 

Just 20 years ago, a customer buying journey had half the touch points of today. Finding a new supplier in the 90s meant calling the three companies with the best ads in trade magazines. In that scenario, a company might only be compared to five to eight competitors.

Today manufacturers can be compared to hundreds of competitors in minutes. For this reason, content marketing has become critical to manufacturers as a way to generate leads. Brands must be visible with RELEVANT video, blogs, photos and articles that engage people at every point in the buying journey. Taking time to map out the way your customers discover your brand and interact with your content is helpful in assessing the effectiveness of your touch points (here’s a helpful and free Customer Journey Template that we use: here).

3. Using data to understand your market and increase market share

Our favorite outcome of this new digital age is the data left behind for manufacturers to access. Analytics from websites and marketing sources are more robust than ever. And as our team says “better data — better decisions.” Data can tell you how your customers feel, and reveal market trends, competitor performance, gaps in your marketing, and so on.

While data is important, and vast quantities are easy to find, sifting out the quality data you need can be difficult. Understanding how to turn data into big decisions is another complication.

If you don’t have access to market analysis or experience with market research methodology, we encourage you to call us for assistance or direction.

Example of social media calendar

Social Media Content Calendar Template

FREE Social Media Content Calendar and 4 Steps to Populate It

Example of a social media content calendar

To keep our social media efforts organized by month, we use this simple content calendar template. We find it greatly simplifies our social media strategies and helps us schedule posts in advance so we aren’t spending all our time online. Download the free Social Media Content Calendar Spreadsheet and give it a try. It’s very simple to use:

  1. Across the top columns, type important date-specific themes for the month. Examples might be holidays, important events, sales and specials.
  2. Fill in the rest of the days with other important themes, like customer highlights, product features, did-you-know facts, surveys, Meet an Employee, etc.
  3. Because you can’t predict an opportune moment, leave blank spaces for spontaneous events like news, announcements, new employees, new customers, customer testimonials, fun at work, etc.
  4. The rows along the left side signify the different social media platforms you use. Populate each column with themed copy to post to that platform. The file location of all associated images and supporting documents can be placed in the “resources” row. Don’t forget to include appropriate hashtags and @ signs.

A few other things to consider: Your voice for each platform might need to be adjusted for the audience. And don’t worry that you need to use all platforms. Here at MDI we tell our clients that it’s better to do a great job on one platform (the most appropriate one for your company) than try to do them all.

5 Writing Tips for Clear and Simple Copy

Our intern Tom writing social media posts.

Expressing yourself clearly can help enrich your personal life and make your business communications more effective. Here are a few easy tips to help you deliver your message clearly.

  1. Active and Passive Voice:

    When a sentence uses active voice, the subject performs the action denoted by an action verb, as in the sentence “Downtown Houghton businesses hit record holiday sales.” Active voice is more engaging and immediate, whereas passive voice can seem a bit stiff and awkward, as in “Record holiday sales were hit by Downtown Houghton businesses.”

  2. Conjunctions:

    The pros call them conjunctions. We call them connectors. Technically, conjunctions link two or more ideas smoothly by joining words, phrases and clauses together. Our favorite reason for using these connectors is to help personalize the tone of the writing.

    Here are a few examples of coordinating conjunctions:

    • But
    • Or
    • And
    • Yet
    • So
    • For
  3. Serial Commas:

    One of the most debated and confusing rules of grammar is the serial comma — the last comma in a list. If you’re an Oxford-style writer, you prefer using the last serial comma, but others want it abolished! We have comma disagreements around the office, and while both sides have agreed to disagree, we do agree on one thing — comma consistency is important!

    Here are two options:

    • The Upper Peninsula of Michigan has many great communities like Houghton, Ironwood, Marquette and St. Ignace.
    • The Upper Peninsula of Michigan has many great communities like Houghton, Ironwood, Marquette, and St. Ignace.

    The only difference is the last comma!

    One reason to use the serial comma is to separate three or more items that might be confusing without the comma. For example: “I’d like to thank my parents, Mary and John.” Without the serial comma, we might assume the parents are Mary and John. With a comma after Mary, we understand that the writer is thanking four people: her parents, plus Mary and John.

  4. Get to the point!

    When we distribute a press release to thousands of people, we know that 10% will read the headline only, 5% might read through the first sentence, and less than 1% will read the entire piece. This is true for most B2B communications. So, don’t beat around the bush! Say what you have to say in the headline and lead sentence.

    Here are a few good examples:

    • We are launching a new health product today that will change how you think about breakfast.
    • 29 million Americans suffering from diabetes now have an alternative insulin solution, expected to hit pharmacy shelves next week.
  5. Bridges:

    As we discussed in the paragraph about conjunctions, sometimes entire paragraphs need sentence connectors. Readers may have to work too hard to make connections between paragraphs that don’t transition smoothly from one to the next. We nicknamed these connectors “bridges” — short words, sentences, and sometimes paragraphs, that link ideas to create flow.

    Here are several examples:
    Again, likewise, in addition, also, as well, furthermore, moreover, conversely, nevertheless, on the other hand, on the contrary, although, even though, but, yet, while, however, except, thus, therefore, consequently, as a result, because, since, as, so, inasmuch as, admittedly, of course, naturally, for example, to illustrate, if one looks at, as shown by, previously, before, prior to, next, then, later, afterward, while, as, at the same time, during that time, first/second/third, a/b/c, lastly, next, then, finally, after that, until.