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Top Strategies to Crush Digital Marketing for Manufacturers

Mar 2, '22 / by Rachelle Koenig

Top digital marketing strategies for manufacturers

At Clariant Creative, we love showing our customers how to use their marketing to build relationships that drive sales.

So, when we get to work with clients in industries that haven’t fully tapped into the magic of inbound marketing yet, we feel a bit like the fairy godmother getting Cinderella ready for the ball.

A perfect example is one of our favorite clients in the manufacturing space.

Meet The Label Printers

The Label Printers is a label manufacturer in the western suburbs of Chicago. And they have a great story: Founded in 1967, the company started as a one-man operation and has grown into a global industry leader in labeling and product authentication.

They Came to Us With an Interesting Problem

Many of The Label Printers’ customers are also manufacturers. And more often than not, the last step in these customers’ product development process was labeling.

The Label Printers often found themselves having to make labels out of lemons at the end of their clients’ production process – after packaging had been designed, coatings were selected and spacing was limited.

Despite decades of experience in labeling, The Label Printers was being treated like just another supplier.

And some customers were finding out too late in the process that they could have avoided snags and saved money if The Label Printers’ strategic expertise had been brought in on the process much earlier.

Beth Carter"If a company can design their product packaging in a way that is easier or cheaper to label, that's important for The Label Printers’ customers to know early on."
– Beth Carter, Clariant Creative Founder & President

The Label Printers suspected a different approach to their digital marketing could help them solve this problem. And that’s when they found our agency.

Inbound Marketing Is Perfect for Manufacturers

Inbound marketing is ideal for manufacturers because it helps tackle two enormous pain points: commoditization and complex selling channels.

Pain Point #1: Commoditization

Manufacturers want to stand out. They don’t want to be thought of as “just another widget-maker.” So, their marketing needs to work hard to differentiate their company.

The problem is that most manufacturers focus on outbound marketing – usually print ads, mailers, etc.

This type of marketing is designed to “shout loudly” – i.e., reach a lot of people, hopefully attract some attention, and (fingers crossed) land a sale. If the manufacturer doesn’t already have a super-strong brand in the marketplace, all of this comes across to the customer as just another supplier competing for their attention.

You can see how manufacturers essentially back themselves into the corner of commoditization.

Not in manufacturing? No problem! Check out our other success stories in industries ranging from health care to technology.

Inbound Marketing Success Stories

Pain Point #2: Complex Selling Channels

Another challenge in the manufacturing world has to do with how the sale is made.

While many manufacturers are leaning into direct-to-customer channels, many other manufacturers are still far removed from the actual end customer.

For example, many manufacturers sell their products through third parties, such as distributors and independent manufacturer rep agencies. This means the manufacturer’s marketing needs to do double duty – it must support both the channel partner and the end customer. Depending on the strength of the channel relationship, this can be complicated.

How Inbound Marketing Addresses Manufacturer’s Marketing Pain Points

Inbound Marketing Builds Relationships

Inbound marketing is all about relationships – and sometimes a little romance, too. Where outbound goes straight for the sale, inbound is more patient.

The inbound methodology focuses on learning about the customer, their pain points, goals and obstacles, so we can strategize content that solves these problems, establishes your credibility, and wins the customer’s trust … before asking for the sale.

Consider this: If you’ve ever gone furniture shopping, do you prefer to encounter a salesperson who comes up to you immediately and aggressively shoves sales fliers in your face?

Or do you prefer a salesperson who smiles, gives you the information you need to navigate the store, and then lets you browse in peace – but remains available if you need them?

Yeah, we prefer the second sales rep too.

And that’s the type of sales experience inbound marketing creates.

Inbound Marketing Works Across Channels

When it comes to the complexity of manufacturer-distributor-customer relationships, inbound marketing really shines.

As we mentioned above, a fundamental step in the inbound process is to make sure you truly understand the customers you want to attract. This involves creating detailed profiles of these customers, which we call buyer personas.

Knowing each of your buyer types this intimately lets you create content that’s important to them and that specifically answers the exact questions they’re asking.

With inbound, manufacturers can develop personas for both their channel partners and their end customers. This means the manufacturer can build messaging that connects with everyone involved in the sales process, rather than leaving those end-customer relationships for the distributor to manage.

Added Bonus: Inbound Marketing Supports Sales

When manufacturers take the time to build solid relationships founded on trust and deep understanding, making the sale becomes that much easier. Think about how many times your sales team needs to answer the same set of questions:

  • How are your products priced?
  • Will your product work for [XYZ] use case?
  • How long will it take me to order your product?

Answer your customers’ most frequent questions with helpful content that’s easily sharable, easily accessed on your website, and optimized to be easily found in the search engines, and now your marketing becomes a valuable resource for your sales team.

Create enough of these resources, and you’ll find yourself with a robust knowledge base that empowers all your salespeople to sell more efficiently and effectively.

Related Reading: When to Use Inbound Marketing vs Outbound Marketing

Why Some Manufacturers Don’t Use Inbound Marketing

You know that saying, “If it were easy, everyone would be doing it?” That applies here.

Inbound marketing is a bit like parenting. It requires guidance and nurturing, ongoing attention and training, and monitoring and adjusting. There’s no “set it and forget it” with inbound.

Source: GIPHY


Krista Elliott"A poorly written blog does your business no good. It’s like spitting into the wind — not worth the effort."
– Krista Elliott, Clariant Creative Director of Content

An effective inbound marketing strategy is time-intensive and requires specific expertise that can be hard to find in today’s competitive labor market. (We know this from personal experience – it takes us a long time to find the best inbound marketing specialists for Clariant Creative.)

Most manufacturers would prefer to spend their FTE dollars on sales staff, which means they don’t have the time or resources to implement their own inbound marketing strategy.

That’s what brought The Label Printers to Clariant Creative. They knew they wanted to get started with inbound marketing, but they also knew their best bet was to outsource to an agency.

Now, that doesn’t mean they aren’t heavily involved in their marketing process – it’s most certainly a team effort.


Related Reading: Hiring a Marketing Agency? Ask These 12 Questions

How We Work With The Label Printers

When we first engaged with The Label Printers, we needed to understand their business. We wanted to get to the heart of their issues, so we could truly solve them.

Refine and develop SMART goals

1. Develop and Refine SMART Goals

The very first thing we did with The Label Printers was to decide what their marketing needed to accomplish.

Their website already did a reasonably good job of describing the different types of labels they produce. But as we’ve said, their customers tended to come to them very late in the purchasing process, often not until after certain key product packaging decisions had already been made. The Label Printers wanted their customers to get them involved much sooner, so that labeling could be part of the packaging design process.

This meant we needed to produce content that attracted product marketers while they were still designing their packaging. We also needed content that clearly explained how to think about different aspects of labels, such as the different types of inks, materials and use case scenarios.

Once we knew what we needed to achieve, we created measurable goals the whole team could align around.

Helpful Tool: SMART Goal Template


Develop buyer personas and map the journey

2. Develop Buyer Personas and Map the Buyer’s Journey

Next, we needed to understand the mindset of the people who buy from The Label Printers. After interviewing the sales and customer service teams, we realized there were a few different types of buyers, and so we built personas for each one.

We also mapped out how each persona moves through the buying journey – from the moment they first realize they need a label, to the moment they decide The Label Printers is the right partner for their project.

Helpful Tool: Buyer Persona Template

Helpful Tool: Buying Journey Template

Create a content strategy

3. Create and Execute a Targeted Content Strategy

Here is where the rubber hits the road – we were finally ready to start thinking about content.

But before we could start writing anything, we needed to think carefully about what to write. At Clariant Creative, we typically build our content plans in 90-day increments (usually this aligns with calendar quarters). Our content plan identifies every blog post and content offer we will produce that quarter. For every piece of content, we identify the persona we are targeting, and we specify any target keyword(s), the main call-to-action (CTA), and key takeaways we want the persona to understand.

If you’re wondering how that’s been going, in the four years since our initial engagement with The Label Printers, we’ve worked through 16 content plans, added 135 targeted blog posts to their website, created multiple e-books and guides, launched several lead nurture drip email campaigns, and overhauled their website to create a better user experience.

Helpful Tool: Content Calendar Template

Track and measure success

4. Measure the Results

Many in-house marketers struggle to report on their efforts. They create and execute these fantastic, elaborate plans … and then they move right on to the next plan, without ever stopping to see if their plan accomplished its goals.

Without a reporting strategy in place, you’ll never know what’s working, what needs to be fixed, what you should do more of, and what you should stop doing altogether.

With The Label Printers (and all our inbound marketing clients), we build data analysis into every step of our process. We meet on a regular, predetermined cadence with our clients to review our results, and we decide together how our results should shape our future initiatives.

This ensures our clients’ business goals are always priority number one, and it also ensures our clients can easily see the value they’re getting from our services.

Beth Carter"It’s not enough to create a bunch of content and just assume it works. You also need to have a mechanism in place for measuring and determining if it’s working."
– Beth Carter, Clariant Creative Founder & President

Helpful Tool: Marketing Report Template

And Now, the Results!

We knew inbound marketing was going to work for The Label Printers, but check out these results!

More Organic Website Traffic

Within the first seven months of working with The Label Printers, we doubled their monthly website. In the four years since, monthly website traffic has grown by nearly 450%.

Even more exciting is that over three quarters of their website traffic is now driven by organic search.

More Marketing Qualified Leads

Qualified leads are the holy grail of marketing. If a client isn’t generating more leads from their website after they implement an inbound marketing strategy, something isn’t connecting.

Things definitely connected for The Label Printers: Their website now generates three times as many marketing qualified leads – every single month.

And we’re thrilled to say that many of these leads now come to The Label Printers earlier in the production process – big progress toward a big goal for the company.

Thinking About Inbound Marketing for Manufacturers

Working with The Label Printers has provided us with powerful proof of how effective inbound marketing can be for manufacturers.

Inbound marketing offers a powerful antidote to commoditization, helps manufacturers provide marketing support for channel partners and in-house sales teams, and opens the door to new markets and opportunities.

If you work for a manufacturer and you’re thinking about how you can use inbound marketing to increase your website traffic, attract more leads and generate more sales, we’re here to help. Contact Clariant Creative and one of our inbound specialists will be happy to talk with you about how to take your marketing and sales to the next level.


How does your marketing stack up?

Topics: Content Marketing, Lead Management

Rachelle Koenig
Written by Rachelle Koenig

Unapologetic word nerd here, with a full career in both the corporate world and as a freelance content writer and business/communications consultant. My specialty is people—empathizing with them and understanding what motivates them. I’ve spent decades arranging words to connect people with products, services and companies.

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