When you’re leading a company that prides itself on creating high-quality, bespoke products for a market that needs them, a marketing plan can seem like an inefficient use of your team’s time.
Stop that thinking right there. Think of marketing for your business as an intrinsic link to sales. Instead of looking at it as expensive advertising and time-consuming blog writing, think of it as an essential part of your sales process.
Without sales, marketing is window dressing. Without marketing, sales becomes directionless and leads become stale. In the engineering sector, they need each other to thrive.
How Will An Engineering Marketing Plan Help My Team?
Developing a marketing plan for an engineering firm can be a daunting prospect, especially if your firm offers a huge range of products for various markets. A plan will ensure that you continue to achieve well on the market, keeping your shareholders happy and your customers beating down your door.
Your marketing plan won’t stop there though - by using KPIs and researching target markets, you’ll keep investors abreast of your plans for expansion while you bring in more sales.
The marketing team can also use the data they collect from sales to target successful marketing campaigns, to help them better understand where certain types of marketing pay off.
In turn, this will help your sales team to target areas of development, and to understand that their hard work is paying off. In this way, your marketing plan will develop its place in your business, become integral to the efficient working of your employees.
There are many ways you can incorporate an engineering marketing plan into your company’s daily task structure. If done right, a plan will even enable your team to work more efficiently.
But first, your engineering marketing plan needs to identify its objectives.
Identifying Your Marketing Objectives
If your company has never developed a formal marketing plan before, this step might seem counter-intuitive. After all, you’re already selling your product to clients and customers, and you’re already generating more revenue.
Taking a step back can have a revitalising effect on your sales techniques, however. Where you are now might be comfortable, or even successful, but it probably isn’t your projected end goal. What do you, your investors and your shareholders want for your company? Perhaps it’s:
- Expansion into related sectors
- Driving more customer sales
- Increasing sales with existing clients
- Developing demand for a new or redesigned product
Or maybe you have totally different aims for your business. Whatever they are, it’s time to set measurable objectives to your aims, enabling you and your team to keep track of progress and celebrate when these markers are achieved.
Before you start making headway on these objectives, you might want to dissect your marketplace. That way, you know exactly who you’re approaching, who’s buying from you, who isn’t, and why that might be.
Take a look at your books from the past two years. Who’s buying from you regularly? Who’s stopped buying from you? Which products are most successful, and which aren’t getting the heat they deserve? This information is right in front of your nose - all you need to do is sift it out!
Researching Target Markets and Developing Buyer Personas
To begin with, you might find it helpful to look into the figures you already have in order to create the beginnings of an accurate buyer persona report.
To take a deep dive into who your business’s buyer are, look at the sales and solid orders made over the past 12-18 months and dissect the following:
- Types of customer - individual, business, reseller
- Demographics - the sectors they work in, the job titles of each decision-maker
- Location - where are your orders coming from?
- Re-orders - how many of your orders have been repeated by the same customers? And how often has this happened?
Use our buyer persona template to create a buyer persona for your company with your team. You might be surprised at the results!
Once you’ve collected this information, you’ll start to see patterns. Patterns are good.
In some ways, this part of the marketing plan development process is like product development. Now you’ve discovered them, you can begin to exploit and strengthen these by kicking off some valuable market research.
Market research sounds time-consuming and costly. It doesn’t have to be. These marketing research tips from The Guardian might be for small business, but you can easily take the basic principles and upscale them to suit your needs.
Start your market research off by deciding the questions you need answers to. It sounds like common sense but you might be surprised at what other members of your team would like to find out about the buying habits of your customers.
Understanding the Marketing Techniques Your Business Will Use
The days of so-called “outbound marketing” being the only option for businesses to reach their customers are over, so approach the problem differently. How can you communicate with valuable customers without contacting them directly?
When it comes to problem-solving skills, engineers are top of the pile.
“Inbound marketing” is what you need. Bring them to you, using tact, skill and a little bit of persuasion. Useful tactics in any engineering marketing plan will include:
Regular blog postsTalk to your audience about the industry you’re in. Depending on the type of customer they are, you can reach them in different ways using your company blog. Aim more general industry blog posts (like “how to” guides or industry news) at customers who don’t know about you or your products, to introduce yourself to them.
For customers at the bottom of your sales funnel, all you need to do is nudge them. Show off about the superiority of your products. Talk about your top suppliers and foster loyalty in your customers. You’ll gain sales not through pushy tactics but by gaining trust - and that’s a much better, longer-lasting impression to make.
Sending out unsolicited emails is now banned by GDPR law. You can, however, send emails to customers and clients who’ve signed up to receive information from you. Make these emails as informative and interesting as possible and include bespoke offers or valuable industry news and you’ll soon build up a network of warm leads.
Don’t overload your customers with emails. As well as making sure every email you send is full of quality content, you need to rein it back to one or two emails per week - at the very most!
No matter how niche your company is, there will be an industry magazine to suit you. Get involved in advertising within these business-to-business publications, and you’ll be seen in the right places. Also, consider sponsoring local charities, sports teams or even schools and colleges in order to spread a positive message.
Events and exhibitingGetting your product out there in the areas and sectors highlighted by your market research has never been more essential. Branch out and see where you can shift or add to your annual exhibition dates to make sure your team is promoting your products exactly where you need them to be.
Get a chatbotOr, if that’s a little advanced for your budget at the moment, invest in some chat software for your website that’ll take customers through to a real life member of your marketing or sales team.
It’s thought by 2020, 40% of all contact centre traffic will come from chat functions. People seem to prefer asking their questions over a quick, simple messenger service than picking up the phone. Make sure you aren’t missing out.
Get even more out of your chatbot or chat function by retaining the information gathered from customer questions. Knowledge is power.
For more inspiration and a deeper look at engineering marketing techniques, take a look at our guide on strategies you can use to attract and retain customers.
Creating an Engineering Marketing Plan
Now all your team needs to do is create an engineering marketing plan your company can follow and action on a daily basis.
Identify your main annual periods of growth and work backwards from there. If you sell most of your products around July and August, perhaps all you need at this time is brand awareness activity.
Then, just before that period is over, plan a short advertising campaign to help prolong the sales window. During historically quieter months, see which events your team could exhibit at. Work out what works for you.
The marketing you want to implement may not be fully supported by your in-house provision. Once you’ve developed your marketing plan, don’t be worried that it’s shooting too high.
Work out how you can manage some of the work yourselves, and look at how you can outsource some of it to companies who know exactly how to get the most out of your marketing.
Investing in expert marketing for your business is always valuable, whether you run your campaigns in-house or recruit specialists to take care of it for you. The proof? It’s in your figures.
Get together with your team to think about how you’re going to implement the steps in this post. To get started, read our blog post on what your inbound marketing plan should look like.