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What does digital transformation mean for your manufacturing marketing strategy?

Author's avatar By Dave Chaffey 12 Mar, 2021
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Manufacturers are rapidly adapting their marketing strategies in the age of digital disruption. How do your digital marketing capabilities compare?

In this article, I will be reviewing the state of digital transformation in the manufacturing sector. I will give practical digital marketing recommendations for manufacturing companies at different stages of digital maturity. Plus, I'll be revisiting our popular 2021 digital marketing maturity benchmarking report to help you assess the effectiveness of your manufacturing marketing.

The manufacturing industry, including the marketing of manufacturing products, has typically been slow in its approach to digital transformation over the last 20 years. There are many reasons for this. McKinsey highlights 'external market factors, combined with fragmented and complex industry dynamics and an overall aversion to risk' in construction as barriers to change in this vital area.

Constuction industry manufacturing marketing example

However, the digital disruption caused by the pandemic and recession has caused rapid development in a number of sectors - manufacturing industry and manufacturing marketing included. Another McKinsey report states that, in particular, advances in data sharing and collaboration have enabled manufacturing to develop in digital maturity.

"A big part of the difference is simply in what the technology can do to bridge gaps that previously looked insurmountable.

Historically, information technology (IT) (which underlies business systems and finance departments) and operational technology (OT) (which powers manufacturing) were mostly separate.

Now there are IT–OT convergence technologies that unify business systems and operational systems."

So, what does this mean for manufacturing marketing leaders?

Digital transformation brings so many opportunities for manufacturing marketers and others. However, in order to achieve your digital marketing goals, manufacturing marketing and comms strategists must develop new approaches to digital marketing by integrating digital channels and experiences within their wider marketing strategies.

In fact, our 2021 digital marketing maturity benchmarking report found that nearly half of respondents are undertaking digital marketing activities but have no defined digital marketing strategy. Clearly, these respondents are missing out on the opportunities of an integrated approach to reaching and converting customers online.

Digital marketing maturity

Successful omnichannel marketing requires a lot of 'moving parts' to work together seamlessly. Our popular marketing strategy report, now updated to include 2020 data, focuses on benchmarking omnichannel marketing skills across each stage of the RACE Framework - plan, reach, act, convert and engage.

Our RACE Framework summarizes the range of omnichannel communications activities that you'll need to orchestrate in a typical business-to-business industry sector.

We recommend reviewing the gap between the digital marketing opportunities you could deploy and optimize against those you actually use.

Omnichannel customer lifecycle

Need a plan to create a winning marketing strategy for your manufacturing company? Our expert-driven marketing training and resources are packed with actionable insights - perfect for helping you reach your marketing goals. Our marketing resources are all structured using the RACE Framework, so combining your knowledge from one resource to another is simple. This also makes it easy to apply what you've learned when integrating your channels and platforms across your customer journey.

Can your Manufacturing business compete online?

With so much competition, you need to stand out. Use the RACE Growth Process to win more customers

Get Started Today

Convert more manufacturing customers

Our report found that, of the five separate elements of RACE (plan, reach, act, convert, engage), convert is where marketers are rating their efforts as the least mature.

You can see below the criteria we defined at each stage of conversion marketing maturity. Marketers at the 'initial' phase have no paid retargeting, no email sequences, and funnel and sales processes are not integrated or optimized. Optimized marketing has a fully developed approach to those criteria, plus personalization and testing.

Conversion digital marketing for manutacturing

  • 41% of respondents ranked themselves as 'developing capabilities' in this area, and 27% had an 'initial' unplanned approach.
  • Only 32% of respondents ranked their conversion strategy as defined, quantified, or optimized.

Conversion manufacturing marketing maturity ratings

Conversion is obviously such an important step of the customer lifecycle for manufacturing marketing. That's why we offer members a whole range of conversion-boosting marketing tools and templates, to help your manufacturing business optimize your marketing strategy and convert more customers. Keep reading to find out how to win more customers...

Email marketing and automation for manufacturing marketing

Our module on setting up email nurture and retargeting in the Email Marketing and Automation Learning Path demonstrates the options for email marketers marketing to consumers and businesses.

The example consumer journey begins with the prospect signing up with the offer of 10% off their first purchase. A number of welcome emails encourage the user to click, which can then enable product recommendations based on their browse behaviour. As the relationship develops, nurturing and retargeting can become more and more personal, increasing the likelihood of conversion.

Consumer email targeting

The example B2B journey begins with the prospect downloading a free guide. Welcome emails entice the prospect with content such as a webinar or blog, all the while collecting more information on the user's behaviour on the site. Trigger emails are automated to capitalize on intent when the prospect views product information.

B2B email targeting

Clearly, applying a digitally mature approach to nurture email sequences has its benefits. If you haven't integrated your CRM with your CMS, all the behaviour data that's so important for retargeting simply won't be captured. Especially in the B2B journey, we see that content marketing is key for both data capture and keeping your prospect's attention after the initial sign-up.

After all, if you've done all the hard work of reaching and interacting with your prospects, which is a lengthy and sometimes costly process, surely you want to nurture the relationship as best you can?

Our dedicated email marketing training, integrated across the customer lifecycle using the RACE Framework, supports you through the process of applying a data-driven approach to digital marketing. Our popular Learning Paths take you through the step-by-step process of planning, managing and optimizing your email channels, plus social media, SEO, content marketing and more.

Managers can also benefit from RACE training, campaign planning, and digital transformation. Plus, as a manufacturing company joining Smart Insights, you'll benefit from sector-specific research, case studies, and best practice advice. Find out more today.

Can your Manufacturing business compete online?

With so much competition, you need to stand out. Use the RACE Growth Process to win more customers

Get Started Today

Web personalization for manufacturing marketing

When it comes to website personalization for manufacturing companies, the opportunities are endless for the modern-day digital marketer.

This diagram, from the 'web personalization' module in our Digital Experience Learning Path, demonstrates different types of pages on your site, and your options for personalizing headlines, banners, and recommendations.

Web personalization

Web personalization can be applied manually (an individual decides which behaviours should lead to which personalization result), or using AI. We recommend applying AI for this process. Struggling to get buy-in? Here are 7 reasons why personalizing your web content will strengthen your conversion rate.

  1. Improved customer engagement: Personalized offers, content, and calls-to-action create a more compelling experience for website visitors, mobile app users, and social media fans and followers.
  2. Better visitor understanding: The AI behind personalization can improve the accuracy of visitor data and persona-building. By more accurately understanding visitor needs, marketers increase content and offer relevancy.
  3. Stronger brand loyalty: A personalized experience can strengthen how visitors feel about the brand – both online and offline.
  4. Creation of brand evangelists and advocates: With digital personalization, marketers can more effectively identify loyal, returning customers and attempt to turn them into brand advocates by speaking to them differently to new customers.
  5. Account-Based Marketing (ABM) support: For B2B marketers, web personalization can identify known accounts from anonymous visitors and offer those visitors a more targeted experience based on what is known about the account and its decision-makers.
  6. Higher conversion rates: Personalized recommendations can increase conversion – whether a purchase, appointment or form-fill – nearly four-fold, according to data from Echidna Inc.
  7. Increased customer lifetime value: Using historical and behavioural data can help to personalize offers, messages, and content in cross-selling and upselling efforts across the customer lifecycle.

Digital Experience is a huge part of manufacturing marketing, as you will need to reassure customers from the point of first contact through to purchase and retention. Smart Insights members are using our marketing training to keep the customer right at the heart of their omnichannel marketing strategies. Join today and start winning more customers.

Can your Manufacturing business compete online?

With so much competition, you need to stand out. Use the RACE Growth Process to win more customers

Get Started Today

Keep your manufacturing customers engaged

Finally, we can't talk about conversion without addressing the final stage in the RACE Framework - engagement! Engagement is where digital marketing for manufacturing really comes into its own. Since, once you've converted your customers, it's now your job to keep them engaged to continue to add to your profits.

You can see our digital maturity criteria for customer engagement below. 'Initial' engagement marketing has no online customer experience research or onboarding, with support and social media marketing only done on an ad-hoc basis. Market-leading engagement sees all these processes fully optimized, plus upsell, cross-sell, and agile digital experience updates.

Digital marketing maturity engagement benchmarking


  • 42% of respondents ranked themselves as 'developing capabilities' in this area, and 25% had an 'initial' unplanned approach.
  • Only 32% of respondents ranked their conversion strategy as defined, quantified, or optimized.

Digital marketing maturity customer engagement

We often see organizations focussing too heavily on acquiring new customers and neglecting communications to encourage repeat business. Customers should be valued after they've converted once since the possibility of more conversions and the positive effects of brand loyalty and advocacy are many.

There's a wide range of options for customer experience optimization, and we recommend prioritizing the areas which support your overall business vision. If you're looking for a quick win to get your customers onboard, one area which we've seen continue to grow is live chat. Live chat is cheaper and more efficient than traditional phone or face-to-face routes. If your live chat services aren't meeting customer expectations you may lose customers to competitors.

The Livechat Inc Customer Service report 2020 gives benchmarks based on data from 25k companies representing 30 industries using live chat and tickets for customer service and online sales. How does your customer service compare?

  • Businesses are available for online chat for an average of 9 hrs 48 minutes per day.
  • The average first-time response for live chat is 51 seconds. Live chat recommends using canned responses and having the right amount of agents available to chat to help keep these times as short as possible.
  • The average customer satisfaction rating per chat is 82.2%.

We cover all these benchmarks, plus what it means for your customer satisfaction strategy, in the 'customer service and success' module in our RACE Practical Digital Strategy Learning Path. The module also includes email, call-back and social media marketing training.

Keeping your customers engaged and encouraging upsell and cross-sell is proven to accelerate your ROI. Follow our step-by-step customer engagement training to ensure you are delivering an efficient and effective marketing strategy. Plus, keep up to date with the latest manufacturing marketing innovations to delight all your customers and stay ahead of the competition. Get started today.

Can your Manufacturing business compete online?

With so much competition, you need to stand out. Use the RACE Growth Process to win more customers

Get Started Today

Author's avatar

By Dave Chaffey

Digital strategist Dr Dave Chaffey is co-founder and Content Director of online marketing training platform and publisher Smart Insights. Dave is editor of the 100+ templates, ebooks and courses in the digital marketing resource library created by our team of 25+ digital marketing experts. Our resources are used by our Premium members in more than 100 countries to Plan, Manage and Optimize their digital marketing. Free members can access our free sample templates here. Dave is a keynote speaker, trainer and consultant who is author of 5 bestselling books on digital marketing including Digital Marketing Excellence and Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice. My personal site, DaveChaffey.com, lists my latest Digital marketing and E-commerce books and support materials including a digital marketing glossary. In 2004 he was recognised by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of 50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have helped shape the future of marketing. Please connect on LinkedIn to receive updates or ask me a question.

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