By Ellen McKewen, Marketing Manager, California Manufacturing Technology Consulting® (CMTC)
Technology has changed the way we make purchasing decisions. Between the computers at our offices, laptops at our homes and cell phones in our pockets, the Internet is always just one click away. Whether a businessman is searching for new suppliers or someone is looking to buy a gift for a friend, the web has become everyone’s go-to partner for obtaining information.
Furthermore, the Internet has fundamentally changed the way we communicate in both our professional and personal lives. Look no further than the social media explosion to confirm this shift in how we connect. Facebook has more users than the populations of Russia, Japan, Nigeria and Turkey combined. A new person joins LinkedIn every second.
Yes, technology and consumer behavior have changed, and manufacturers need to change their marketing approach along with them. The goal of marketing is to connect with customers to increase sales. We don’t get sales from organizations – we get sales from people. Manufacturers need to go where the people are to communicate with them. This means that manufacturers must build a stronger online presence through social media.
A study by Pew Research estimates that there are more than 164 million adult Internet users, or more than three-fourths of all U.S. adults. The time spent from adult Internet users is dominated by search engine utilization (going on Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.), social networking, and product researching and purchasing:
Validating this point are conversations I am having with a lot of the manufacturing-related professionals I encounter in my role at CMTC. More and more manufacturers are expressing interest in social media marketing and are experiencing how it increases brand awareness and generates leads. At NIST MEP’s Manufacturing Innovation Conference 2012 in Orlando, Florida, there were numerous discussions about social media’s growing importance to marketing. Many of the manufacturers and members of the MEP community in the workshops I attended agreed that social networking has impacted how we market in today’s digital economy. Based on the information exchange and lessons shared at the Manufacturing Innovation Conference, I have a number of ideas on how to help CMTC clients explore the benefits of social media.
Understanding the benefits of social networking is the first step. Here are four ways manufacturers can use social media:
1) Get found by / connect with new customers: If you discovered that your potential customers were all at an event up the street, wouldn’t you attend? The same thing goes for social media. Prospects are out there online – it would be a mistake to ignore them. Manufacturers can compare joining social media sites like Facebook to joining local networking groups, except virtually.
2) Showcase products: People tend to be visual, especially when it comes to purchasing products. Using social media to highlight products helps manufacturers make a visual connection with their targets. For example, manufacturers can upload shots of their numerous products on Facebook. They could also make videos of their products in action and upload them to YouTube.
3) Nurture lead by establishing credibility: People purchase supplies and products from organizations they trust. Social media sites allow organizations the opportunity to share valuable content with their prospects. Valuable content includes solutions to problems, case studies, white papers, quick tips and industry articles, as opposed to sales pitches. By continuously providing content, manufacturers can establish themselves as subject matter experts, thereby nurturing their leads.
4) Drive website traffic: A manufacturer’s website should serve as its digital salesperson. Manufacturers should always strive to attract more visitors. Social media posts give manufacturers the opportunity to send readers to their web pages for more information about their products or services.
Because CMTC sees the value of social media for manufacturers, we have partnered with Grass Roots Marketing, Inc. and are offering a free webinar called Demystifying Social Media for Manufacturers. The webinar will specifically address how social media can generate and nurture leads and introduce manufacturers to prominent social media outlets such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube. The webinar will be held on Wednesday, August 8th at 8am PST and Thursday, August 9th at 1pm PST. Participants can click here to register.
Social media will continue to play an integral role in a comprehensive marketing strategy. The manufacturing community should leverage its benefits to generate leads and drive sales. CMTC and the broader NIST MEP network are showing them how.