"Visual marketing is only for consumer brands" is probably the most ridiculous statement I keep hearing over and over again, usually followed by "we focus on sales". Manufacturers do not seem to realize that the age of distributors and cold calls is over, and everyone, from the biggest consumer brands to the smallest OEM manufacturer, must embrace other forms of engaging with customers.
Here are some useful tips for typical manufacturers on how to get started with creative marketing.
Let's talk visual
According to Content Marketing Institute, Facebook, LinkedIn and Youtube are the top three sites for manufacturers to market their products and services. What do all of these have in common? They allow you show videos, which is the fastest growing segment in marketing. Ever since the Facebook APP swapped the video button for the Messenger button, video consumption is rising rapidly. Therefore, number 1 on our list of things to do as a manufacturer is video.
The average user in developed countries now spends 3.5 hours online watching videos every single day. Video content is your way to grab some serious eyeballs. From simple explainer videos showing your production facilities to cool time-lapse videos of how stuff is made (or destroyed). Sometimes this can be wacky. And I mean wacky; just look at the millions of followers this Youtube channel has - and all they do is cut up stuff. This is brilliant content marketing for the digital age. On a more serious note, here are some cool KUKA robots in action.
Almost every manufacturer I can think of has some cool machinery that can be used to create appealing content, even those whose factories are closed to the public.
It's also good for SEO
Video isn't just great to watch, it's also great for SEO. Search engines don't yet index videos for SEO, but instead rely on the description of the video. Mentioning everything your company does in the description is a great way to get good SEO results, not least because Google - the most popular search engine - owns Youtube and prioritizes the platform.
There is another advantage to video as a marketing tool: users love to share video, more than any other content. You can pack as many facts into your product spec sheet and add a thousand cool pictures, but nothing beats video in terms of virality and willingness to share.
Animation is cool
It doesn't have to be a boring video about your machines in action. You can also create animations, explaining how things work, how processes can be optimized, systems configured, new components installed. Technical video marketing is great to get the attention of engineers and geeks -- who will likely be working for one of your potential clients. You can use the same videos in ads, preferably placed in those geeks' favorite video games.
Of course, the next wave won't be plain video, but VR and AR concepts. While VR and AR have a lot of applications in gaming and entertainment, they are also an excellent way to showcase machines and manufacturing processes. Forget about shipping that monster machine across the pond, instead use VR to create an immersive experience for potential consumers. FFG did this brilliantly.
Now let's put it on Instagram
It also makes sense to combine video and images for manufacturers. There is actually a lot of interesting content to share if you make stuff. Platforms like Instagram aren't just popular with teenagers, they are used by serious B2B brands to increase engagement. Check out Siemens for example, or GE's beautiful feed. 300k followers for an industrial brand is nothing to scoff at. This kind of marketing doesn't cost an arm and a leg while creating excellent opportunities to lead to more in-depth long-form content, especially if your visual message is focused on solutions, innovation, cost-saving and other advantages for the customer, rather than just plain image of your latest products. Use visuals to add that personal touch and connect emotionally.
In general, manufacturers must embrace social media albeit for different reasons than consumer brands. Social media is an excellent content distribution engine and must be used in conjunction with SEO. Intel has grasped that concept some time ago, as this interview explains. Important is the way in which manufacturers balance SEO and SMM.
Anything is better than ads
The digital ad industry is currently facing enormous problems as we discussed in this article. Those problems are even worse for B2B brands and manufacturers, where targeting is even more complicated than for consumer products. While Google ads make sense for manufacturers, Google algorithms are increasingly favoring local, long-form original content, so if you are a manufacturer in a far-away land it is unlikely Google will show your page even if - and that's a big if - you have invested in that sort of content. Much easier to spread the good news with cool images and videos.
There are lots of other options how machinery companies and manufacturers can embrace content marketing, but video and imagery, like none other, is convincing, quickly conveys key technology advantages, and generates more leads than any other content. It also allows brands to establish a last and more approachable image and break free from the shackles of search engines.
Author Martin Hiesboeck is an international branding, corporate strategy and technology consultant with a focus on Asia. He works mainly with companies developing international brands, developing new technologies, and guides multinational companies on their journey in the Asian marketplace. A sought-after keynote speaker in both Chinese and English, he also teaches university courses in branding, digital marketing, and technology management. Follow him on Twitter.