Manufacturing & New Media: If you build it, will they come?

[From TMA’s May 2016 News Bulletin]

“People will come, Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it.” ~ Terence Mann to Ray Kinsella in “Field of Dreams.”

Like baseball dreamers that hear that haunting voice say, “You build it, they will come,” business owners diligently work year in and out, hoping curious prospects and satisfied customers will appear out of nowhere, simply because of what they’ve built.

But every manufacturer will admit that clients rarely, if ever, just show up.

In addition to well-developed networks and personal relationships, more and more are finding profitable connections by implementing the power of the Internet.

Many large manufacturers have the resources to hire full time staffers to focus on developing their companies’ online presence. But for the vast majority of smaller businesses, it’s a major accomplishment to develop a website and a LinkedIn or Facebook page – much less grow Twitter and Pinterest followers.

But it’s possible for manufacturers of all sizes to have productive website presences and these days, it is absolutely necessary, says TMA affiliate member Mike Weber of MLW Marketing.

“In the 10- to 25-person shop range, many of those shops consist of owners that are doing some of their company’s work themselves, while managing and marketing their businesses at the same time,” Weber told TMA News Bulletin in a recent interview.

Online marketing for small businesses should focus on key aspects accessible to the busiest owners: how a website is structured and updated, what the site contains and how to manage customer and prospect outreach.

A well-crafted website is crucial

Regardless of the size of the business, an up-to-date website is crucial. A well-crafted website can effectively position and differentiate a company and showcase its core competencies, generate new business, highlight career opportunities, and much more, Weber said.

A website should educate prospects and customers about capabilities and products companies offer – which can save valuable time and resources for both interests involved.

“An effective website provides a company with the ability to uncover new opportunities for business – everything from generating inquiries, to RFQs to prequalifying prospects,” Weber said.

A mobile-friendly website is necessary

Websites should have adaptable architecture that allows them to be viewed on smartphones, tablets and the growing array of mobile devices.

Mobile accessibility affects where a company’s website is listed on Google searches – the Yellow Pages of 21st Century marketing. Not being mobile-friendly penalizes a website and a company’s placement on Google search listings.

“For a successful web presence, ideally, a company wants to be on the first page of search results,” Weber said.

Chicago Waterjet, Inc. can testify to the importance of high listings on web search engines for their small business in Elk Grove Village. A movie production company found them through Google when they were in town making the latest Transformer movie.

“We got a call from a person associated with the film’s production, needing us to cut a sword they would use CGI with,” Justin Murlowski, the shop foreman, told TMA.

To be located among the top results on a particular Google search, a website needs to be optimized for search (Search Engine Optimization or SEO). Attention to SEO helps insure that a site can be found. Analytics provide data points to determine the source of the traffic.

“There are strategies and best practices that impact search rankings,” Weber said, “and a key driver includes depth of relevant content on a website – content that it is refreshed, added to and updated continually.”

From 1989 film “Field of Dreams”

Good content attracts curious prospects

Websites can now be easily updated through content management systems that allow owners to make website content changes without enlisting professional website developers.

The more interesting and appealing a site’s content, the more viewers will visit (assuming the site is well optimized and can be found). It’s important to understand your customers in order to know what those in a particular industry segment will be interested in learning more about.

“Content marketing can achieve many goals. It can attract links, serve as an organic search landing page, move customers further along in the sales cycle (from awareness to consideration, consideration to shortlisting, etc), increase customer success and lifetime value and more,” says Matt Gratt, a customer acquisition strategist at BuzzStream.

Digital photos and videos of the company and personnel, audio recordings of conversations with company leaders and staff, graphics about the company’s work, white papers on procedures and techniques, personnel profiles and updates about the company and projects are popular means of content.

E-mail remains a viable tool

E-mail marketing is an effective tool to create frequent touch points among customers and prospects, to build and maintain awareness, and to generate traffic to a website, Weber said.

“E-mail marketing systems provide a way to track activity and evaluate the ROI. There’s a myriad of options with definitive results,” he said.

But all these efforts still point back to the foundation of what a company is, what that company has to offer, and what makes it unique.

A TMA member for 13 years, Weber says while methods and tools have evolved, the core principles of marketing remain the same.

“Platforms have greatly expanded from direct mail and trade journal advertising in the 80s, but company branding, positioning and targeting remain paramount,” Weber told TMA.

Building and growing a business goes hand in hand with a consistent marketing effort, he said.

“The company should decide who they are trying to reach, who they are as a company and what makes them unique, and then use the appropriate mix of tools – including web, print and public relations – available to achieve their marketing objectives,” Weber said.

However, it’s ultimately the companies’ job to build their businesses, their reputations and their messages.

And despite that memorable speech in “Field of Dreams,” it takes more than building a dream. It takes using every resource available to let the ones who are interested in what a company is offering to let them know it’s there.

For more information, contact Mike Weber of MLW Marketing, Inc. | 847.726.2790

From TMA News Bulletin May 2016. By Fran Eaton.