Six Ways Manufacturers Can Build A Profitable Digital Presence

Recently a company approached me with a thorny problem: They decided to establish a digital presence. After a high five figure investment and six months of work and debate they had a beautiful website with all the bells and whistles. Unfortunately, they had no visitors, revenue or profit.

Recently a company approached me with a thorny problem: They decided to establish a digital presence. After a high five figure investment and six months of work and debate they had a beautiful website with all the bells and whistles. Unfortunately, they had no visitors, revenue or profit.

Whether you’re a smaller manufacturer who wants to get online profitably or a larger manufacturer looking to improve what you’re already doing online there are principles you should follow to help you meet your goal (and avoid the situation this company found themselves in). Here are six critical ones.

1) Strategy First, Technology Second

In the movie Field of Dreams, the voice told Kevin Costner “if you build it he will come”. That makes for a great movie — but that’s not the way the internet works. I see too many businesses build beautiful, technologically-packed websites that no one visits because they let technology trump strategy.

Technology Trap: Avoid flashy “intro” pages. Numerous studies have shown that internet users (including business executives and buyers) have a short attention span. You site should get to the point and load in a couple of seconds. Intro pages frustrate visitors, add little value and are a prime example of technology trumping strategy.

2) Put Social Media in Its Place

When it comes to B2B, social media is probably the most over-hyped, time dump “marketing” method around. You would be well-served to tread very lightly with putting too many resources towards its use.

And, yes, there is a time and place for social media (see the section below on becoming an object of interest). But it should likely be a small arrow in your marketing quiver.

Survey Says: In an Advertising Age and Citigroup study 37.6 percent of consumer-based companies said their ROI for Facebook campaigns was inferior to other digital tools like Google. Just 17.9 percent felt Facebook was superior. In my own experience, the difference is even greater in B2B.

3) Capture Contact Information

This is the most expensive mistake I see companies make online. Why? When a visitor comes to your website it’s much more likely that they won’t take your desired action. Often times, they’re simply window shopping. That visitor then leaves, forgets about you and never returns. Most businesses have this huge “hole in their online bucket” and it’s costing them a lot of money.

Action Step: Start gathering contact information. At the very least, shoot for a first name and email address. You can do this in a number of different ways. I’ve had excellent results with properly constructed white paper campaigns. Digital newsletters can work — but sign-up rates are usually much lower (try testing different names).

4) Build Relationships

In 2008 Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, made internet waves when he proclaimed that their search engine results had become a “cesspool.” What was overlooked was a comment he made at the end of his talk where he said that the companies who would do well online in the future would be those who focused on building their brand.

Now, let me point out that we’re not talking about wasteful, Madison Avenue-type brand and image building here. You don’t need a talking gecko or Chihuahuas.

Strong online brands of the future will be focused on positioning and relationships. I think manufacturing companies are ideally suited to take advantage of this online change.

Your Action Step: I talked about gathering contact information above. And part of the reason doing so is mission-critical for you is because it then allows you to stay in touch, provide value and continue to build stronger relationships as time goes along. Make sure that you institute an e-mail follow-up campaign for all prospects.

Customers Prefer Email: When it comes to how business prospects prefer to receive information online a Channel Target survey found that e-mail is the preferred method of communication for 76 percent of users (Facebook came in at 4 percent).

5) White Paper Campaigns

A well-done and strategically executed white paper campaign can be a huge boost to your digital marketing efforts and bottom line. Unfortunately, few white papers are well done or strategic. Yours can be different.

Here’s some guidelines from successful campaigns:

1. Headline Does Heavy Lifting: I see a lot of white papers that focus on the company’s particular product, e.g., “Introducing ACME’s New AntiVirus Software.” Nobody cares about the software, but they do care about how the software can benefit them: “5 Tips Hackers Know That You Don’t.”

2. Make It Interesting, Fun to Read and Short: We’re all asked to read dreadfully dull documents each day. Don’t torture your readers. If it’s short and enjoyable to read your white paper will get acted on. Finally, no more than three to five pages. If it is longer break it up into multiple white papers.

3. Strategy: How will you get eyeballs to your white paper? Pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns work. The same with trade publication articles that lead the reader to the white paper via your bio. Like I said above, your strategy for driving traffic to your white paper is of paramount importance.

6) Object of Interest Strategy

Earlier I talked about how important building a brand and relationships will be for future success online. So now the question becomes HOW?

Object of Interest Strategy (OIS). Regardless of what kind of manufacturer you are the internet gives you the technological and strategic ability that businesses have never seen before. You now have the power to disseminate your information (read: value) in as many different formats in as many different places as possible.

In short, your OIS should be about “Being Everywhere.”

Did you write a good white paper? Great. Now you can drive traffic to it through PPC. You can write articles in related publications on the same general theme and push prospects to the document. You can be interviewed online and featured in articles, webinars and podcasts. You can speak. Test using a Google+ account to improve search engine results and produce more content (this will be big in the future). The options are almost limitless.

Don’t Make It Complicated

Establishing a profitable digital presence isn’t about bells and whistles or hot trends. It’s about being strategic, principled and proactive.

About the author: Curtis M. Alexander is a Business Growth Strategist who helps industrial and manufacturing companies increase profits and strengthen market position. To learn more ways to grow your business request your free copy of Curtis’ newest Executive Briefing: “7 Tested Strategies to Increase Profits and Lower Marketing Costs for Industrial and Manufacturing Websites” at