The pandemic has created challenges such as persistent supply chain issues and new ways of working virtually that are testing manufacturing operations. Manufacturers, like other industries, have been strained and had to change the way they work in a digital world. Staying engaged with partners and the distributor ecosystem has never been harder.
Manufacturing has traditionally depended on in-person engagement, but companies are bridging the gap between the physical and digital worlds to meet the ever-changing needs of today’s buyers, partners, resellers and distributors.
This movement, Industry 4.0 – the fourth manufacturing revolution – refers to the digitization of manufacturing operations. For nearly 95% of manufacturers, Industry 4.0 technology has helped them stay afloat during the COVID crisis, and more than half say the technologies were critical to crisis responses.
As manufacturers adapt to Industry 4.0, digitalization offers marketing opportunities – especially around partner enablement – that have never existed. Digital will continue to play a vital role in three key areas to further accelerate Industry 4.0 initiatives: enabling retailers; educate partners and customers on products and services; and scaling up demand generation.
Training in the manufacturing industry has historically been done in person. However, the pandemic has made that impossible, forcing manufacturers to move education and training online.
Over the past two years, digital has made remote training, as well as brand and product information, more accessible to make retailers successful. Thanks to digital solutions, manufacturers can now use reproducible training modules that can be easily saved and shared. These solutions can also be customized with thought leadership, product launch information, data sheets, case studies, and follow-on content to boost your distributors’ business.
Valeo, a global automotive parts supplier, wanted to limit travel time spent on in-person sessions and focus more on actual training time. With online training, people can return to digital materials to view information when it is convenient for them. Valeo knew this was the right decision for the business and built a library of hardware that would be available 24/7.
The organization started with basic webinars and quickly moved on to more advanced ideas, using video to replicate the face-to-face training workshop environment, which is interactive and allows participants to closer to parts of the car. The webinars use real auto parts and examples. By rethinking its content and the way it distributes it to its audience, Valeo was able to generate a 339% increase in content views.
Another example is Jackson Systems, an HVAC wholesaler in the Midwest, who wanted to expand their audience beyond the region. He created an engagement system that provided an immersive experience for contractors, which caught the attention of NATE, a national HVAC certification program. Jackson Systems has created permanent CE certified classes for NATE customers, expanding Jackson Systems’ reach to the entire NATE contractor network.
By investing in digital for its distributors and partners, these manufacturers have filled the void left by in-person events and made them more successful.
Digital transformation in manufacturing has long focused on changes on the manufacturing floor. Innovations such as QR codes, predictive maintenance and machine learning have helped streamline production. But companies are now turning to digital sales and marketing as a way to reach new audiences and nurture existing ones.
However, what really sets these portals apart is the ability for marketers to customize them based on the data they collect. Valeo, for example, uses data to tailor the right content to its viewers. In doing so, he saw a 45% increase in unique viewers with global training sessions and materials and a 158% increase in page views.
Protolabs, an on-demand rapid and digital prototyping manufacturer that produces custom materials, used an aggressive webinar strategy to engage partners and customers in an effort to simplify complex advancements. The webinar strategy helped Protolabs increase its lead count by over 60% and sales conversions by 10%. Partner referral codes allow the company to track and analyze which sources, such as email or social media, drive the most event registrations. This allows them to focus their efforts on tactics that work and make changes in areas that don’t.
Adopting new digital tools such as sales force automation technology, customer relationship management software, and marketing automation platforms can help sales and marketing teams collect important audience information. With this information, marketing can create collateral that connects, and the sales team can know how interested a prospect is and understand the prospect’s pain points. Ultimately, these digital tools help automate mundane data collection and analysis so teams can focus on streamlining processes and driving results.
As marketing moves online, digital experiences can offer businesses the opportunity to learn more about prospects and “warm up” them to the brand. Through experiences, companies can engage with interested prospects, familiarize them with company offerings, and qualify them for sales, rather than spending time on “cold” contacts and hoping for the best. .
The field marketing team at Shell Catalysts & Technologies, a technology provider to refiners, gas processing facilities and chemical plants around the world, used digital to drive demand. COVID impacted field marketers more than any other marketing role, as the discipline relied heavily on trade shows, conferences, and one-on-one meetings to drive demand generation. By directing communications through a digital engagement hub, the company reached its partners and customers in new ways – and, by analyzing the data they collected, they now see what content resonates and create more of it.
In a highly digital world, being able to get qualified leads is more important than ever – and luckily, there are several ways to collect them. For example, by using keywords and optimizing content, search engines are able to identify and index your website for easier discovery and bring the right people to your content.
Manufacturers should conduct keyword research on target audiences to ensure that all of their content – not just written content – is what your audience is looking for. Jackson Systems has boosted its SEO with a steady stream of content, including hosting weekly broadcast events, a major step up from the seven a year it offered just four years ago. Its audience has been multiplied by 20!
Manufacturing companies are slowly adapting their thinking when it comes to how they use digital channels to communicate and reach their customers and other members of their ecosystem – and in the process are achieving tremendous results and growth that are in line with other industries that have gone digital. transformation. Manufacturers can reach more people, transcend global borders through digital engagement. This helps create consistency with repeatable training programs that ultimately better educate and train their partners to be more skilled – and better informed – to ultimately accelerate sales cycles that help accelerate growth. revenues.
Byline written by Shalini MithaVice President of Product Marketing at ON24.