How can social media be integrated into a marketing plan for a manufacturing company that sells to other manufacturing companies? This post has been on my to-do list for a long time. When you bear in mind that I’m a social media enthusiast and a marketing manager for a manufacturing company, you’d think it would be easy. I should be the perfect person to use social media to market to my clients, most of whom are manufacturers themselves. Just write about what I do during the day and the post should be finished right?
Needless to say, it isn’t that simple so consequently this post has lived in draft form for way too long, waiting inspiration.
Wow, this morning that inspiration might just have arrived. It was delivered to my Google Reader by that Guru of Corporate blogging, Mack Collier. Strangely, the story isn’t even new, it has been there for the best part of a month. It is called Your Boss Doesn’t Care About “The Conversation” and you can read it at Mack’s site here.
The story is about how a well intentioned, social media aware marketing dude is trying to get the boss to agree to get into social media and blogging in particular. To quote Mack, when the naive pimply faced marketing kid is asked what is in it for the company to start a blog, he replies “Blogging is a conversation, and right now we aren’t a part of it. We need to start a blog so we can join the conversation.”
Needless to say, the boss of Mr. Pimple Face isn’t too impressed with this reasoning. Her mission is to grow the business, get more qualified leads, build market share, awareness and all the other things a marketing group is supposed to do. Having a “conversation” usually isn’t included in the business plan.
Mack goes on to point out, that if Marketing Guy has any chance of selling his social media ideas to his boss, he needs to clearly show how the business will benefit. How building a blog, Facebook page, Twitter presence etc., will result in more leads, more sales, happier clients.
Right, so back to my post and my problem. How can social media become part of the marketing plan when there really isn’t much in the way of conversation in the first place? Is it a lost cause?
First of all, why no conversation? There are obviously various reasons for this. I wrote about one of the big ones in my post Social Media and the IT Guy A lot of businesses control where the employees can go on-line and social media sites are often blocked.
In addition, most of the people who represent my potential customer base are pretty busy and are not hanging around on Twitter or Facebook at work. Those that did have time for this sort of thing have probably been downsized already.
So that was our dilemma when we decided we wanted to add an inbound component to our largely outbound marketing program. We did all the traditional things; mailings, telemarketing, tradeshows, a quarterly newsletter etc. We also had a decent website and played around with Adwords a bit to drive traffic there.
Looking around and talking to people in the business, it seemed that our competitors and other people in our business were in much the same situation. Sure a few companies had blogs and some even had people using Twitter (most of the Twitter users were just Tweeting company stuff so not very interesting). The only exception I found was Carl Brown from SimplyRFID. Carl is active & entertaining on Twitter and has an interesting company blog focusing on his RFID business.
So when we wanted to balance our marketing to bring more inbound ideas, there was not an existing model we could use to get started.
One thing I had learned from my photography business was that Google likes blogs. For UniqueDay Events, our blog outperforms our static website every month in terms of Google search results.
So a blog seemed to be a good idea and I happened to have one kicking around. RFIDNews.net was an old project of mine that wasn’t even on-line any longer. No problem, I registered the domain LabelingNews.com, invested in a new template from great WordPress guy Brian Gardner and the Winco ID quarterly newsletter was now on-line.
We thought we had some pretty good stories to tell on Labeling News, but of course good content does nothing of no-one reads it. We therefore focused on getting our stories to rank well with Google, indeed the posts on the site are often written with Google in mind.
Why is this important? Well for us, we know that we are not going to be driving people to Labeling News via Twitter or Facebook (we do have a presence on these as well as other social media networks, but as already mentioned our customers are generally not active there) so we needed something else.
The something else was that we know our clients have problems and they have questions. When I come across a problem, my first reaction is to type the question into Google and look for possible solutions. I don’t look at the sponsored ads (on all my personal PCs I use Adblock so never see any Google ads anyway), just the organic ones. My strategy depends on me not being the only person who works this way.
So my tactic here is to try and write stories that address specific problems our clients might have. I also try to get inside their heads as to how they would search for information. By keeping an eye on Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools I can see how this is working. On the whole I’m reasonably pleased, I’d rate the results about B- (Not bad but room for improvement).
The other key metric is how often we get a direct contact from Labeling News or how often the phone rings. We make a point of asking new contacts how they found us and Labeling News is high on the list.
One thing I would like to see is more interaction in the post comments. I’m not sure this will happen though – as I mentioned already, our potential clients are not usually that engaged with social media. Instead they find us if they have a problem, get the answer (which often involves making a purchase from us) and move on.
So our Labeling News site is the centerpiece of our social media marketing. We support this with our presence in Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, send monthly targeted outbound emails (with links to specific landing pages), hold regular technology seminars, attend tradeshows. We have not allowed the economic situation to slow down our programs – indeed we see doing a better marketing job as being the solution to getting through the tough times and being in good shape as things recover.
It is still early days for social media in our industry, but I believe it’s important to start building a presence now.
If you are involved in a manufacturing company, does social media play a part in your job? Where do you turn to find reliable solutions to problems?