In our recent 2014 Benchmark Study on Marketing for Manufacturers, participants just like you stated Lead Generation is top priority. To tap into more opportunities for lead generation, 53% of manufacturers are using email marketing, while 45% are dipping into social media. A whopping 62% of manufacturers rely on referrals for lead generation, which makes sense; after all, your current satisfied customers are your company’s biggest asset.
Conversations about your manufacturing products and services are taking place all over social media—right now. Your current customers are already on social media sharing content they love with their friends and family, and perhaps most importantly, with likeminded business professionals. Social media is no longer considered a passing trend, so manufacturers who don’t adapt soon may risk being left in the dust.
Here are some tips to get you started generating leads and encouraging more referrals via social media. In this article, we’ll cover:
- How to Get Started on Social as a Manufacturer,
- How to Effectively Craft Your Message & Your Content,
- Which Social Media Platforms to Tackle, and
- How to Get Started & Grow on Each Social Media Platform.
It’s all part of a great content marketing strategy built on the foundational principle of Growth Cycle Marketing: the decision to buy isn’t a moment; it’s a process. When you touch your potential and current customers throughout each phase of the buy cycle, you build a brand following, cultivating brand trust and, most importantly, brand advocacy—inspiring those coveted, long-term loyal customers to send you big-time referrals. Now that’s effective lead generation.
This article is only a brief overview the practical, actionable ideas and strategies in Cultivate Communication’s latest white paper. To learn more about how your manufacturing business can generate more leads and referrals at every stage in the buy cycle, download Cultivate’s Guide to Growth Cycle Marketing.
The Importance of Generating (the Right) Leads
When it comes to long sales processes, it’s imperative you start with the right leads. I’m sure your sales team could moan and groan all day long about the number of time-wasting dead-end leads they’ve received. [Click here to read: How to Stop Marketing vs. Sales Bellyaching]
Attracting the wrong people costs your company time and money.
Let’s face it: When it comes to generating quality leads, we want to use the most effective tools possible. What if you could improve the quality of your leads and qualify each lead sooner, moving it right into the appropriate bucket in the buying process so your sales team can better tailor their offers to each lead’s needs?
Social media can help you do all of that, and more. By connecting with the right people (we’ll discuss how to do that in a minute), delivering value-rich content, and building relationships, manufacturers can attract the right leads, encourage more referrals, and close more sales.
Crafting Your Message & Your Content
Before you run off to set up your social media profiles, you’re going to want to sit down and think about the message you intend to deliver. Start here: What are your big-picture content marketing strategy goals? Keep these in mind as you develop your messaging.
The key to success on social media is to deliver valuable content to a targeted audience. What do your customers want to read, share, and click? Poll your customers to understand what they like in terms of content and tweak your updates accordingly.
Vary the content you share to generate more interest. Include:
- Links to your blog posts
- Links to other relevant manufacturing industry blog posts, white papers, and/or website content
- Questions to engage your followers
- Answers to common industry questions
- Updates and news about your company happenings
Getting your messaging and content right is essential to attracting more followers on social. You want to create valuable content that’s relatable, and above all, helpful to your target audience.
Be aware that your users want different types of content in each stage of the Growth Cycle Marketing process. For example, if your potential customer is totally new to your business, this is the Awareness phase: it’s time for snappy, quick attention-getters that reel them in, curious for more.
But if you’re addressing a loyal customer, they’ve already moved all the way through the buy cycle, so you’re going to want to reward their Advocacy to create more social media interactions to encourage continued engagement with your business (read: future, repeat sales).
Getting Started on Social Media
The key to setting your manufacturing company up for success on social media is to start by analyzing which channels your audience is using. There’s no value in having a presence on every social site out there if your target market spends most of its time on LinkedIn, for example.
Not sure where your audience hangs out? Ask your customers. You can get rich insight by having a brief conversation with those already in your network. No use barking up the wrong tree with your content.
It’s important to find out who in the company uses social media so you can best target your messaging. If your sales team typically targets the Vice President of Engineering, find out if he’s even using social media. Or, if it’s the Marketing Manager who most uses social media for business purposes, do a little research to check out which networks they use most frequently—and how they use social for their business. (For manufacturers, we most often suggest LinkedIn and Twitter as your best-bet social media channels to use to reach your audience.)
Now, start developing your following. If you know specific companies or contacts you want to connect with, look on their site for their social profiles so you can connect, or look up individuals on LinkedIn and connect there.
You can find people to follow on Twitter by clicking Discover at the top of your page, then select Who to Follow. Here, you’ll get recommendations based on who you’re already following, so if you’re following the right people, you should be referred to others who fit your demographic.
On LinkedIn, you can search by industry or job title. So, if you target the health industry and want to connect with the VP of IT Services, you can filter your search through LinkedIn to find the right people.
The Serious Social Scoop: In everything you do with social media, keep your overall strategy in mind. This is the “why” of your efforts. Content marketing is nothing without a solid marketing strategy! Why are you on social? What are you hoping to achieve? When connecting with others, remember your objective to connect with a particular audience, and don’t stray from that goal.
Questions You May Have…
How frequently should I post updates? There’s a careful balance between too many updates and too few. If you don’t post often enough, fewer people will see your updates. Post too frequently and you risk annoying your followers, and a number of them may unfollow you.
Should I be formal or informal in my updates? This is part of your messaging strategy. Do you want your brand to be seen as stiff and formal or casual and friendly? How about a healthy mixture of both? Whichever you choose, be consistent across all social channels.
No one is responding to my updates. What am I doing wrong? Nothing. It takes a while (sometimes months) to get traction with your social efforts. Be patient and it will pay off big time, long term. Just keep building your network and sharing great content.
Should I follow everyone who follows me? No. Often you’ll get people following you that simply want to boost their own follower numbers. If they’re not your core audience, they deliver no value for you, so don’t waste your time following. But do follow back anyone that fits what you’re looking for in a customer or a fellow player in your industry.
My competitor is following me. What should I do? Likely, they’re looking to see what strategies you’re using on social media. There’s nothing wrong with that! In fact, employ that same strategy and follow them back.
How many people or businesses should I follow? That number is up to you, but realize: the more you follow, the more people will see your updates and links, and the better results you will have. Plan to follow a set number of people each week to slowly and steadily increase your network.
How to Use Each Social Platform to Generate Leads
Every social media site has its own best practices. Here’s how you, as a manufacturer, can leverage each one.
LinkedIn is truly the B2B social platform. Ensure that your personal profile includes keywords related to your industry. People are out there right now, searching for those keywords, and you want them to find you. Once you connect with your customers, ask them for recommendations you can post to your wall.
Also create a page for your company and include a detailed description of your products and services. Update it regularly with news and articles.
Finally, utilize the best tool LinkedIn offers for manufacturers: Groups. There are thousands of groups spanning every niche and industry. Join groups that interest your target market and start participating in conversations, sharing articles, and creating value. Just be sure not to join too many groups filled with your peers. The National Association of Manufacturers, for example, might be a good place to find partnerships, but unless your customers are other manufacturers, it might not be a good lead-generation spot. Looking for additional information about LinkedIn? Check out these additional resources.
Facebook is ideal for longer text updates, as well as pictures and videos. Let’s focus on the latter. You may not think your laser marking machinery is fascinating, but your audience might. Take pictures and videos of your machines in action, projects in various stages of completion, and the end products too, so people get a sense of what your company does.
Facebook is also a good place to share company news and posts from your company blog.
Twitter only allows 140 characters in an update, so it’s important to be short and sweet. Write an update to entice followers to click the link to your blog post, ask a question, or share your own insight. You can also share images.
YouTube is by far the most popular social site for manufacturers. (In fact, 81% of manufacturers are using YouTube right now.) Sometimes there’s simply no easier way to demonstrate what your company does than by video. By creating a channel on YouTube, you can house all your videos in one place. Aim for a mix of a few types, such as how-to, demonstrations, and product showcases.
But you’re not done there. Once you upload a video to YouTube, be sure to share it across all your social channels.
Social Success Stories
We’ve seen and experienced many success stories about manufacturers who jumped on the social scene and were able to increase the effectiveness of their brand reach, as well as gain new customers through effective social lead generation.
One manufacturing business noticed a particular problem in a competitor’s manufacturing methods, resulting in an inferior product. By going social, they were able to research, track, and generate social media conversations around the topic. Not only were the competitor’s customers impressed with their helpful solutions, those unhappy customers became a lot happier when they made the switch from the competitor’s inferior product to the social-savvy manufacturer with the excellent customer service and superior product.
Effectively using social media to reach potential and current customers in ALL phases of the Growth Cycle Marketing process is just one component of an awesome content marketing strategy. You’ll increase your brand reach, inspire customer loyalty and trust, and really engage with a whole new segment of your target audience. Be consistent and focus on delivering value to the right audience and the right time in the buy cycle, and you’ll see your sales pipeline and list of happy customers GROW.
Learn how your manufacturing business can start generating more leads and nabbing more referrals by creating an effective content strategy.
Download our FREE Growth Cycle Marketing white paper from Cultivate Communications.