Inbound Marketing for Manufacturers – From the Front Lines

When Andy Nolan’s phone rang in his office, he naturally picked it up. No “let it go to voice mail” for him, he knows that even in a world of nonstop emails, instant messages, and social media interactions, good business can still happen over the phone.

He was surprised, in a good way, by who it was. Someone who had just received an email from his company was calling in response and wanted to request a quote for his services.

“It was the perfect example of how my target audience is likely to respond to our inbound marketing efforts, in a more traditional way,” Andy said. “And that’s okay – as long as they keep responding!” 

A family-owned manufacturing company based in Rochester, NY, Steiner Technologies has traditionally approached marketing in an “old school” way, with lots of face-to-face meetings, trade shows and phone calls.

Andy Nolan, Steiner’s CEO, recalls, “We relied on our distributor network almost exclusively to help sell our solutions. We had a generic catalog we handed out, and our distributors and independent reps would give them to end users. Our website looked homemade, and we never paid attention to it. I was traveling a lot to build these relationships, and I still could only reach a small percentage of them – maybe only 10% of the 250 distributors. It was time consuming, ineffective, and expensive.”

Fast forward to 2014. Andy and his team realized that to achieve their company goals, they needed to do something different to bring in business. They bought HubSpot, the inbound marketing and sales platform, and tried to use it on their own. The team quickly realized that to leverage the platform, they would need to have a dedicated person driving its implementation consistently.

Steiner hired an in-house marketing manager to lay the foundation and get some inbound marketing processes in place. When the company was ready to take it further, they explored partnering with an agency that could bring in a variety of skill sets and expertise. Precision Marketing Group has been working with Steiner since June 2016.

Lessons Learned:

From our perspective here at PMG, Steiner is a great client for several reasons:

  • Andy and his sons, Ryan Nolan and Tyler Nolan, view our engagement as a partnership.
  • They are open to new ideas.
  • They are committed to the process from both a time and budgetary standpoint.
  • They are excellent subject matter experts who participate fully in content development and review.

And when I asked them about the lessons they’ve learned from employing inbound marketing in the marketing industry, their answers revealed even more reasons why we love working with them.

Put yourself in your client’s shoes.

It is critical to create buyer personas to understand how your target prospects do research and make decisions. It’s also important to then use that information to create and execute marketing that makes sense for your unique buyers. In Steiner’s case, buyer persona research showed that many of the end user engineers they seek do not spend a significant amount of time on social media, so their marketing may need to include some more traditional outbound efforts to supplement the inbound.

The distributor audience, however, is frequently googling solutions to problems and Steiner needs to show up in searches. Creating and promoting optimized content must be part of the marketing program.

Assign a point person to lead the effort and maintain clear communications.

It became clear to the Steiner team early in the process of working with us that it would not be a “dump and run” engagement, and that to be successful would require not just a financial investment but also a time commitment. They also decided to assign Ryan as the point of contact with PMG so that all communications would run through him, and he would connect and collaborate on the Steiner side before giving us feedback on content or programs. This arrangement helps maintain efficiencies and prevent the “too many cooks” dilemma that can plague many agency relationships.

Content should be created consistent with buyer personas and what they will respond to.

With a clear understanding of their buyer personas, we have all concluded that any content created for engineers should be produced in a format and design that will be well received. These buyers are used to print manuals and snail mail flyers that are full of facts, no fluff, so their content marketing should be more direct and no-nonsense in its presentation – checklists, quick guides, etc. and blog articles like this that offer straightforward education. (We actually did a webinar on content marketing for manufacturers that covered this very topic.)

Manufacturers can still gain a competitive edge by embracing inbound.

By embracing inbound marketing in the manufacturing space, Steiner is finding itself ahead of the curve among its competitors. While a growing number of manufacturers are exploring the world of inbound, many more are lagging behind. In the Manufacturing Content Marketing: 2017 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America, for example, we see that manufacturing content marketers still fall behind other B2B content marketers in several areas:

Inbound Marketing for Manufacturers: CMI Content Marketing StatsSource: Manufacturing Content Marketing: 2017 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America

Old school messages and tactics and be incorporated successfully into an inbound program.

Committing to an inbound marketing program does not mean that a manufacturing company needs to reject their more traditional messages – Steiner has used the “made in America” and “family owned” messages successfully over the years. Nor does it mean that outbound tactics need to be abandoned. A compelling 3D direct mail campaign can be integrated into the overall program and be supported with inbound efforts, as well.

It is a process. Practice patience.

Steiner understands that to achieve the results they're seeking, they need to lay a strong foundation with an optimized website site and social channels, a clean database, and a clear strategy of who they are going after and how they’ll do it. Taking the time to do this work will pay off as campaigns are launched and get refined in tandem with the consistent monitoring of results.

Thanks to Andy and Ryan for taking the time to talk with us about their inbound marketing experience. We look forward to doing great things together!

Free Download: Content Marketing 101 for Industrial Manufacturers

Maureen Condon | PMG Principal
About the Author
Maureen Condon, PMG Principal

Before Maureen Condon became one of the Principals of PMG in 2006, she was a writer and a business owner – which explains why she specializes in content marketing and strategy. Covering topics that will help businesses get real, measured results from marketing – success you can see in numbers – Maureen likes to back companies in their efforts to create a strategy, a compelling message, and programs that connect with prospects, clients and influencers in ways that drive sales. And she does so, with panache!