Until recently, manufacturing has been dependent on more traditional forms of marketing to generate leads. However, while trade fairs, print advertising, and word-of-mouth remain popular avenues, increasing numbers of manufacturers are turning to digital marketing in order to achieve faster growth.
Of course, that means the competition online is fierce. It can be difficult for a new manufacturing business or an SME to do battle with larger, more established competitors. But there are smart ways to uncover your manufacturing competitors’ growth marketing strategy, and give your company a significant edge in the online arena.
In this article, I’ll take you through my top techniques for competitive analysis. I’ll show you the combination of digital tools and manual research methods you can use to understand your manufacturing competitors’ growth strategy – and learn from it.
1. A numbers game
Quantitative research is key to competitive analysis of a growth marketing strategy. You need to analyze across various digital marketing channels to identify your competitors’ marketing activities, and then you’ve got to gather the most meaningful data to measure their success. Fortunately, there are lots of online tools that can help you get stuck into the data.
Say you want to analyze a competitor’s SEO strategy. After all, key buyers such as plant managers, MRO managers, and engineers generally turn to Google when they want to research a new material or piece of equipment. Your competitor is surely aiming to be at the top of the organic search results – so how do you uncover the intricacies of their approach?
An SEO analysis tool like SEMrush or Ahrefs will allow you to pick up on the valuable keywords your competitors are targeting to improve their ranking on the SERPs, and how their site is structured to perform for those terms. Moreover, you can analyze their backlink profile in its entirety.
Other specialized tools let you dig into different aspects of your competitor’s digital marketing plan. For example, SimilarWeb enables you to measure the traffic and engagement performance of their website, and WhatRunsWhere makes it possible to measure the performance of ads on paid channels.
2. What’s on the grapevine?
The next thing is to listen to what your competitor’s audience is actually saying about them. What are people talking about on social media? Which pieces of content are reaching people and making an impact in the industry? You can use a combination of online tools and manual research for this.
For example, in order to scrape your competitor’s social following across the major social media platforms, you can use tools such as Socialbakers, Sprout Social’s Simply Measured, and/or Social Blade. Or if you want to find out what kind of presence they have in more specialized communities, like engineering.com, you can sign up to research this for yourself.
Many manufacturing companies are also keen to crack blogging and content marketing. The highly technical nature of many products means that content marketing is a great opportunity to educate customers and answer their questions – potentially speeding up what can be a laborious sales cycle.
So if you want to uncover the impact of your competitor’s content marketing, you can employ a tool like BuzzSumo, which identifies best-performing content and the users engaging with it. You might even be able to determine the level of automation in your competitor’s content marketing strategy, and what impact that’s having.
3. Old-fashioned detective work
While online tools are fantastic for quantitative competitor analysis, the insights that can be gained from qualitative analysis shouldn’t be overlooked. You’ll learn a lot from doing detective work on your competitor’s website. After all, website engagement is key to converting prospects into customers.
Think about how user-friendly the site is. Did it load quickly? Is it mobile optimized? Is it easy to navigate? For a manufacturing site, pay particular attention to the product pages and pricing display. Is all the relevant data about the product available and clear to read? Is the pricing structure obvious? Or, alternatively, is there a simple way to request a quote?
Take a look at the “About” page and see what impression you get of the company, their culture, and their team. Is it clear what their value proposition is? Look at the style of the site copy and think about how well tailored it is to their audience – formal, informal, quirky, lots of spelling mistakes...
Scan their content and find out what kind of material they publish. Consider whether they have content aimed at the different stages of the customer journey funnel: for example, informative blog posts for the top, case studies for the middle, and product videos for the bottom of the funnel.
4. Going undercover
Nothing beats putting yourself in the customer’s shoes and discovering the experience they get with your competitor. Going undercover to pose as a potential customer can be very revealing. Obviously, you can only go so far in the sales cycle – unless you have spare storage space and use for the load of gear. But you can still go through a significant amount of your competitor’s sign-up process.
One way that manufacturers often try to tie in the traditional trade show with digital marketing is through a follow-up email campaign. If you register to receive your competitor’s emails you can get a taste for how personalized their email marketing is. Are they segmenting? Are the emails appropriately timed? Are there any offers that catch your eye?
The industrial buying cycle can be lengthy and complicated, with as many as 15 distinct steps in the process. So by going undercover with your competitor, you might find a way to simplify or streamline this process for a more satisfying (for the customer) and profitable (for your business) customer journey.
These were just four of the tech-based and manual approaches that can reveal elements of your manufacturing competitors’ growth marketing strategies.
If you can uncover your rival’s tactics and techniques for driving traffic, optimizing their website, and providing the best customer experience, you can enhance your own digital marketing scheme and become confident in doing battle with the giants of the manufacturing sector.
This is a guest post. We welcome guest posts about helping manufacturers increase sales and/or advance their marketing function. Send in your idea and you too could be a guest blogger on MMG.
Guest blogger - Oren Greenberg is a growth marketer, and the founder of the Kurve consultancy in London. He helps startups and corporate innovation projects scale using digital channels. He has written for leading marketing blogs and has been featured in the international press.