Sales is no longer about selling anymore, but about building trust and educating your customers. When it comes to manufacturing, without a solid foundation and a certain level of trust between two parties, it’s going to be difficult to increase sales.
In this comprehensive guide, we’re going to cover a wide range of strategies and techniques to help your manufacturing company generate more sales. First, we will take a look at the traditional approach to sales and marketing in the manufacturing industry, before introducing you to a modern and streamlined digital marketing strategy designed to educate potential customers about your services and products.
So, if you have a manufacturing company but are struggling to increase sales, double your profits and gain a good reputation online, get ready to learn the tricks of the trade!
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Traditionally, sales were made in-person or over the phone. Businesses relied on taking part in tradeshows to make connections with prospects, and would print product catalogs and pay to have them distributed to reach remote buyers. Communication was more difficult, and the process was generally inconvenient. Selling to customers outside of your region was also particularly difficult.
To take this a step further, some manufacturers would also advertise on billboards, in newspapers, and on TV. Such marketing activities would require a considerable amount of money to do, not to mention the time it would take to plan, prepare, and execute effectively.
However, the way that manufacturers and other B2B business approach sales has seen a massive digital transformation over the past year. The global spread of COVID-19 in early 2020 sent the world into a frenzy. Any in-person activities had to be moved online. According to a recent McKinsey research1, with COVID-19, 75% of buyers and sellers say they now prefer digital self-serve and remote human engagement over face-to-face interactions. For many B2B companies, many businesses were still conducted in-person, so they were forced to think on their toes and quickly adapt to the new circumstances.
“The B2B world has inched its way towards digitalization until it had no choice but to fully emerge.”
For many businesses, this push towards digitalization was a blessing in disguise. The online world opens doors for endless opportunities in sales and business growth. Online selling uses a variety of tools and approaches to reach potential customers both near and far. It gives you the opportunity to open your business to customers in different countries and regions. These tools also give you resources to streamline your sales process and keep your sales cycle moving at a healthy rate.
The key to sustaining and growing your manufacturing business comes down to increasing your sales. Fortunately, there are small tweaks you can make to your sales processes and general approaches to business that will yield great results.
Let’s take a look at 9 things that you can do to take your sales game to the next level.
Automating tasks and processes gives you the power to allot time and resources in a way that makes more sense. Some tasks that can be automated include lead generation, marketing, email blasts, ordering, invoicing, recurring payments, and pipeline management.
By automating these things, your sales team can spend more time and resources on fostering relationships with prospects, current customers, and past customers.
This is not to imply that automation replaces genuine human interactions in the sales process. In fact, that is not what we’re saying at all! Simply use automation to streamline the steps of the process that don’t need manpower to be successful.
Increasing your sales in the ever-growing digital world means building an online presence. The point of this is to make your manufacturing business discoverable so that you can generate leads.
In order to effectively generate leads, you’ll need to be intentional with how you go about this step. Simply having an online presence is not enough. The platforms you use to display your brand and products must be designed with lead generation and sales in mind.
Let’s take a look at how this applies to different online channels.
A website of your manufacturing business can serve as a centralized platform that contains all relevant information about your business and products. Your website should clearly explain who you are, what you do, who you serve, and how you serve them.
Calls-to-action are very important to have on your website because they give viewers direction. Depending on your sales strategy, you can prompt viewers to contact you or you could send them to order products directly by integrating with an eCommerce system. You could also use lead magnets to collect email addresses to use for email marketing.
We recommend hiring a professional developer to build your website, so that it uses best practices to make it user-friendly, on-brand, and professional looking.
As we mentioned, eCommerce has been game-changing in the manufacturing industry over the past year. Adding your products to a custom page or “storefront” on a B2B eCommerce platform will put your products in front of the eyes of people who need them.
Alibaba.com, for example, is a platform that is built for manufacturers like you to list their products, showcase their production capabilities, and connect with millions of customers that are ready to buy. As a seller on our platform, you can upload your products to a custom-built storefront that automatically translates into over a dozen different languages depending on your viewer’s location.
The products that you upload to this storefront are automatically added to the platform’s search engine, so if a client is searching for something you have available, they will be directed to your listing where they can place an order or contact you directly. Launching a storefront on Alibaba.com is also easier and more cost-efficient than you hire a developer to build a website from scratch. No coding and design skills are required.
Every member of your sales team should have an optimized LinkedIn profile. This will help build connections with potential customers and give your team members the ability to build their professional networks in the online space.
Since these profiles will be representative of your company, it is important to set some standards to ensure that they are as professional as possible. Profile pictures should be professional headshots rather than cropped group photos or selfies. All of the text on the page should speak to people whose businesses fall into your target audience.
Additionally, you should set up a page for your business so that each of your employees can link to it in the “Experience” section of their profiles.
LinkedIn should be used as a tool to build genuine connections rather than simply finding contacts to cold pitch too.
Social media profiles are important for extending your reach. It is a good idea to have a profile with your business’s information on each of the major platforms, even if you’re not currently planning on going all-in with advertisements or content creation.
When we say “major platforms,” we’re referring to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. We will talk about which platforms to pour your resources into a little further along in this post, but it is important to be discoverable anywhere.
One major part of increasing your sales is by aligning your sales efforts with marketing. Digital marketing is becoming more and more important in the B2B space, and it is a great tool for taking your manufacturing business to the next level.
There are several approaches to digital marketing, but which ones you employ should depend entirely on your target audience. As a manufacturer, your target audience is other businesses, but in order to be successful with marketing, you have to get more specific than that.
If you haven’t already, it is a good idea to build an ideal buyer profile. Develop your marketing strategy to reach this persona. Not sure where to start? Take a look at what your competitors are doing and use those ideas to develop a strategy that makes sense for your unique brand and offer.
Here are a few general digital marketing approaches that you can use in your strategy.
Remember the on-brand website we talked about before? You can use search engine optimization (SEO) to extend the reach of that website to people who are looking up terms related to your business.
SEO works by optimizing your website for specific keywords that your target audience is searching. For example, if you’re a shoe manufacturer, you could aim to rank for terms like “best shoe manufacturer” and “how to find a shoe manufacturer.” You’ll likely have even better luck with more niche-specific keywords like “high heel manufacturer” or “running shoe manufacturer.”
For best results, you should hire specialists that are skilled in both SEO content creation and backend technical SEO development. These specialists will work with your marketing team to determine which keywords to target.
Please remember that your optimized site should not only be designed to generate traffic but to convert readers into buyers. Use appropriate calls-to-action, email captures, and contact forms to push viewers in the direction that you’d like them to take.
Social media marketing is huge in the B2C world, and it is becoming more important in the B2B world. Although you may have a presence on all of the major platforms, it is a good idea to focus on the one or two platforms where your ideal audience is “hanging out.” Manufacturers can create both organic content and paid ads on social media.
Since social media marketing has many different layers, we recommend hiring a social media specialist to give you direction in this arena.
Email marketing is a great way to connect with warm leads and customers who have bought from you in the past. These blasts can be general with tips and other valuable content, or they could be super targeted with unique offers and promotions.
Another approach would be to set up automated emails to remind your past customers to purchase more stock once you determine how quickly they go through each order.
So much can be achieved by making small tweaks to optimize your sales pipeline. Take a look at your current sales pipeline and identify any leaks or blockages. Assess what is working and not working and adjust accordingly.
Optimizing your sales pipeline takes a bit of observation and tracking trends over time.
Breaking down geographic borders on your business and going international is a great way to increase sales. This grows your pool of potential clients exponentially.
Entering the global market with your business will open many doors since it will expose your brand to new prospective clients around the world.
Thanks to innovative tools for real-time translation and automatic currency conversion on platforms like Alibaba.com, global expansion is attainable for manufacturing businesses both big and small.
Read more: Benefits of exporting for small businesses
One thing that many businesses overlook is customer service. Constantly showing your customers that you appreciate them is important for building long term working relationships.
When you provide excellent customer service, you are going to start generating positive customer reviews, which help build trust and encourage more people to place an order with you or submit an inquiry. If you receive a customer review, it’s important to maximize this good piece of PR, by posting it on your website, sharing on social media, and responding to the customer to show your appreciation.
You can encourage more clients to leave reviews and recommend you to their business connections, by giving an incentive. You could enter anyone who gives you a good review into a prize draw to win a $100 gift card for example, or you could reward customers with a 10% discount on their next order when they review you online.
To provide excellent customer service you need to make sure that your communication is on point. Be clear with customers about their orders, your price structure, the shipping and logistics details such as the use of Incoterms. When a customer has high expectations but you fail to communicate well with them, you risk disappointing them, which can cause disputes regarding payment and negative customer reviews about your services. To avoid this, be consistent with communication and accurate with timeframes. If you need to delay or postpone the delivery, be honest in your approach. Customers appreciate honesty and integrity when it comes to business.
As a manufacturer, you’re responsible for producing goods with a quality that matches the price tag. You need to set measures and processes that ensure that every item that you manufacture has the same exact quality as the rest.
Buyers will appreciate this consistency and may even ask what you do to maintain quality assurance in your production. Having materials prepared that outline how you guarantee the quality of your products is useful because you can simply send it over to inquiring prospects.
Many manufacturers also offer a money-back guarantee, which means they vow to issue refunds if there is ever an issue with the quality of one of their products. This will help keep you focused on producing at standard quality and it will help build trust with prospects.
Sales enablement is an essential aspect of operating a successful sales team. Not sure what that means? Sales enablement is providing your sales representatives with the data and insights they need to make sales. This includes details about your product, insights on your target audience, and even information on specific leads.
In most situations, sales enablement requires collaboration and cooperation between the sales and marketing teams. Access to research and data related to who your selling to will help make your sales team’s efforts more effective.
Pricing plays a huge part in the success of your sales. You’ve likely heard the term “priced to sell” in reference to a good deal. This quote insinuates that cheaper is better, but that is not always the case.
You should price your products to sell to your target market. That means if you are selling to retailers that carry luxury products, a higher price point is acceptable, and a lower price point may actually turn customers away. On the flip side, if you are selling to retailers that are branded as a budget option, a lower price point makes more sense.
Assess how much you need to charge in order to make the profit that you’re aiming for. It is a good idea to inflate your rates a little bit so that you have some wiggle room during negotiations. When you take this approach, customers will appreciate you bending to give them a better deal.
Again, if you’re stuck, take a look at what your competitors are doing.
Increasing your sales has a lot to do with prioritizing your customers’ needs. Each of the tips we’ve provided only works when you put them into practice with your customers in mind.
Many manufacturing businesses are turning to the internet and other digital tools to boost their sales. B2B eCommerce platforms like Alibaba.com are making it easier than ever for manufacturers to connect with more customers, generate more leads, boost sales, and grow your business.
Contact us now with any questions about how Alibaba.com can help you grow your manufacturing business and reach your goals.