For manufacturers marketing to other manufacturers, “Made in the USA” is often a key message seen in print ads, websites and trade show signage.
Having recently attended EASTEC, the manufacturing trade show hosted by SME (Society of Manufacturing Engineers), I was struck by how many companies had this message on their booth signage and on products themselves — such as this industrial band saw manufactured by HE&M Saw in Oklahoma.
In Part One and Part Two of this series, I covered how companies marketing products to consumers can capture “Made in the USA” searches. In this last installment, I wanted to see if industrial buyers were also specifically looking for machines, component parts and more that are made in the US.
The anecdotal evidence points to “yes” — but not in the direct, online way consumers do. This is because marketing within the manufacturing niche is still based on relationships and because the buy cycle includes a great deal more offline research. While “Made in the USA” is an important consideration, buyers have other requirements to factor in as well, including lead times, material and customization requirements, shipping costs and, of course, price.
The manufacturing buy cycle is still very much relational
By relational, I mean buyers or buyer teams within companies will often turn to the people they know first for referrals: their dealers, reps and vendors.
According to Alex Hawthorne, executive vice president of Mathews Brothers, a fourth-generation window manufacturer in Belfast, Maine, his team will first contact their reps for referrals.
“We have relationships with reps who work with multiple vendors,” states Hawthorne. “We throw out a net to find as many companies as possible that supply what we’re looking for — be it window hardware or plastic corners.”
Although anecdotal, how Mathews Brothers finds vendors is on par with the data from Gardner Business Media’s 2015 Media in Manufacturing Report. On a scale of 1 to 5 (with 5 being the most influential), survey respondents gave “colleagues” a 4 in terms of how they form perceptions of a vendor — a score greater than industry events, advertising and search rank (Figure 1).
Marketing tip: Keep this audience in the loop with an e-newsletter specifically for them
Creating an e-newsletter to a dealer/rep/vendor audience lets you provide information you wouldn’t include in a newsletter for customers. One of my clients, for example, sends out a monthly dealer newsletter that includes:
- updates about products and services.
- case studies and application notes.
- updates on new marketing literature available.
- product tech tips.
- company news, e.g., trade shows, new hires, PR updates and so on.
Search is part of the manufacturing buyer research process — but probably not the beginning of it
According to Hawthorne, once his team has talked to reps, they then do an online search for any vendors their reps or dealers may have missed. They may also read trade publications for articles featuring new technologies or applications.
Once an online search is started, Gardner’s research shows that 93 percent of buyers will click on company names they recognize in the search results — driving home the point that PR, content marketing, trade shows, e-newsletters and more are all important in driving brand awareness before a search is started (Figure 2).
As I discussed in Part Two, PR and content marketing plays a similar role for building awareness and sales for “Made in the USA” consumer products.
When asked, Hawthorne stated his team doesn’t specifically search for “Made in the USA,” as they don’t want to narrow their search results. The fact that a supplier is a domestic manufacturer, however, is factored heavily into the consideration process, along with quality, functionality and safety.
“Our company reputation is important,” says Hawthorne, “which is why we need to find the best possible sources for parts, materials, etc. Anytime we can source USA-made items, we do.”
Brandon Acker, president of Titan Abrasive (disclosure: client) in Ivyland, Pennsylvania, does use “Made in the US” when searching for components and materials. A second-generation manufacturer of industrial blasting equipment, Titan is committed to providing products that incorporate as many domestically manufactured materials and parts as possible.
“It’s very important to us that the components that go into our systems are manufactured by companies here in the US,” says Acker. “We want customers to feel confident and to take pride in the fact they’re supporting American manufacturing.”
Like Hawthorne, Acker and his team will turn to their network first when sourcing parts or materials. According to him, approximately 90 percent of all components Titan uses are US-made, with many of them locally sourced.
Says Acker, “We often look at the companies in the industrial park where we’re located to see if one provides what we need before moving to a search engine.” Once he and his team begin a search, they will often add “American made” to whatever they’re searching for.
In Figure 2 noted above, 29 percent of survey respondents indicated they click on ads in the search results. I wanted to see if this data had changed since Google has removed ads from the search engine right rail and reached out to Gardner for comment. Their 2016 report is in its final stages, however, and thus the data isn’t yet available.
Still, I’m guessing that with Google blurring the lines between PPC and SEO, manufacturers’ buyers may not be aware of their own changing search habits, so survey data may not accurately reflect these changes.
At a recent meeting I had with a client team, for example, we were doing online research together, and a person on the team stated, “Our competitor is showing at number two for that phrase. How come we’re not?” I replied, “Because that’s an ad.” It took them a few seconds to note the almost invisible “Ad” box next to the listing.
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this happen.
Acker agrees. “I used to not click ads,” he says. “But now I do, and I’ll especially click them if the supplier uses ‘Made in US’ or ‘US made’ in the ad copy.”
Marketing tip: Consider running text ads to test ‘Made in the USA’ wording
You can use “Made in USA” in the headline, body copy and site links. Also consider using your state versus “USA.” With one small campaign my company ran for a client, we learned that adding “Made in [state]” in the headline increased clicks over the ad that didn’t have this wording. See what resonates with your buyers.
‘Made in USA’ messaging can help drive website inquiries
Although I couldn’t find data on the trends regarding B2B “Made in USA” searches, what I did learn from talking to manufacturers is that once they land on a vendor website, that’s where they start looking for the “Made in USA” messaging.
Acker, for example, will look for a US flag and “Made in USA.” Hawthorne’s team looks for the company’s location because of lead and ship times, including whether the company is a US-based manufacturer.
As an aside, Hawthorne and Acker stated they wanted to see full contact information for the vendor, including a phone number, versus having to fill out a form.
“We often need to obtain an answer fast,” says Hawthorne, “especially if we have a specific question. It’s much easier to pick up the phone and talk to someone versus sending email back and forth.”
Ditto for Acker, who often calls companies to determine if products are manufactured in the US, as well as how long it will take to get an RFQ.
This feedback lines up with the data from the 2015 B2B Website Usability Report conducted by my company (Huff Industrial Marketing) and KoMarketing, a B2B online marketing agency.
Close to two-thirds (64 percent) of respondents indicated they wanted to see contact information on the home page of vendor websites (Figure 3), with 51 percent indicating that thorough contact information was the one piece of content most lacking on vendor websites (Figure 4).
Marketing tip: Tell your ‘Made in USA’ story
“Made in the USA” can be an important selling point for manufactures marketing to manufacturers. To take advantage of it, suppliers may want to take a few cues from companies marketing to consumers — and that is, make more of an effort to tell their “Made in US” story through the strategies outlined in Part Two of this series, including robust “About” pages, video and PR.
For manufacturers marketing to other manufacturers, relationships are still very important to the sales process, even as technology changes how we communicate with one another.
To build brand awareness, it’s important that your marketing strategy incorporates the more time-consuming face-to-face tactics such as trade shows and industry events, as well as integrated offline and online tactics that include PR, search, advertising and content marketing.
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