Let me be frank, I just gave up on finding useful information to reference after reading 5 different articles on the first page of search results about recession proofing your manufacturing business. I bet you had the same reaction if you've been reading on the subject. Here’s what I’m seeing: Lots of chimerical strategies like “diversify” and “cut costs”, but not a lot of real, actionable activities you can start doing to make a difference when the real sh*t show starts. I’m a professional marketer, and have been for 15 years. I’ve worked almost exclusively with manufacturers for the past 6, and here’s what I learned: quit thinking that "now" is a permanent situation, and quit being a cheap SOB, trying to save your way to success. Please don’t make me say it, please. Ok I have to. You have to spend money to make money - and I don't mean buying more equipment. What we need to talk about today is where you are going to spend that money to make money, because if you’re anything like me, you think it’s a lot more fun to out-earn your spending, than to under-spend your earning.
Before I get any further into this article, if you're one of the many manufacturers who have been wildly busy and successful over the past couple of years, things are going to get a whole lot tougher. There will come a time where you are thinking about who to lay off instead of where you'll find more employees. THAT'S why this should still matter to you.
To alleviate all the fear mongering, another thing I learned is that it is easy to market manufacturers and make them a ridiculous amount of money as long as they are willing to spend.
If I owned your business and did a reasonably good job at what I manufactured (I don’t care if you’re making electronics, or machining parts), I would start by picking my best target market, determining what my best value add to that market is, and then get it in front of as many of these individuals as I could. It's as easy as it sounds, and we can knock out the first two steps in a half hour. The last step involves marketing, and fortunately we've already distilled the highest ROI techniques available. Here’s a perfect strategy for success, which if your company makes revenue of $1 million or more, you can afford. You could adjust portions of this budget if your revenue is less (budgets to follow).
- SEO – Getting High Placement in Google Search Results for Terms Like “Cable Harness Manufacturers” (if you are in the electronics space)
SEO for manufacturers and machine shops is a non-negotiable if you want stability and future success. SEO is the process of getting ranked higher in Google search results for the terms that will bring you business. For example: “injection mold tool shops near me”.
Retargeting allows you to “re-engage” people after they perform an action that we can specify. Examples of these actions would be: Entering a physical location; Displaying certain buying behaviors or search behaviors online; Visiting your website.
- Your Website
Your website should demonstrate your credibility and the quality of your work to potential customers and employees.
- Engaging your past clients frequently with short email or social media messages
If you did a lot of things wrong, and you did those items listed above, your company would likely stay successful in a recession. I’ve seen it repeatedly, how simple marketing actions can generate vast numbers of leads and keep your business flush.
So why do so manufacturing companies die in a recession if it’s that easy to survive? In the 2008 Recession we lost 2.3 million manufacturing jobs and by all accounts, the one we’re facing now could be worse. The comprehensive list of reasons is as follows:
- They don’t have a good marketer who can successfully implement the steps above.
- They won’t spend the money even if they did have the marketer.
“HOLD UP! THERE’S NO WAY THAT’S IT”.
I have seen dozens of manufacturers that were so screwed up they couldn’t answer the phone, deliver product on time, keep staff, or clean their facility in 15 years, but they still made money! Lot’s of it. Why? Because they were getting lots of leads and it allowed them to outrun their deficiencies.
Lead generation should be your number one focus for recession proofing
There’s plenty of folks out there who will disagree with me on this, in fact I’ve met plenty of consultants who would spend months creating business plans and doing brand positioning exercises, or pushing lean processes, and anyone can find hundreds of articles that talk about the need for automation or liquidity. The reason I’m right about this (and that I’m writing about this), is that you could do all of those things and still not make a dime, but if you are generating lots of leads, closing deals, and making a margin, you could ignore the rest of it and still make money. Before I offend anyone I like, many of whom run manufacturing support service organizations, those activities, processes, and procedures like Six Sigma, positioning, succession plans, culture development, and more are important, and they will make your business much more successful. The issue is, that they don’t matter if you aren’t making money.
Back to the recession proof success plan
If I owned a manufacturing facility that generated 1 million in revenue and I wanted to get it to 2 million in 2 years (I know most of you are much larger than this, so just think scale), I would spend these exact dollars because I’ve seen it work over and over.
- SEO - $30k
- Membership based marketing/SEO related Investments $5,000
- Retargeting $6,000
- Social media/email list building and marketing $6,000
That’s a $47,000/yr investment that makes you a million and continues to build over time. This could be a slightly optimistic ROI calculation for all cases, but if everything lines up, it will probably happen. Even if it was half of that, or a quarter, or an eighth, wouldn’t it still be worth doing? Another amazing aspect to this, is that a larger company won't have to scale these numbers up 1 to 1, although you could. For example, if you are a $50 million company, you wouldn't need to spend 300k in SEO.
This chart is real example of an OEM company that is spending the budgets outlined above and shows traffic to their website from from organic Google search. It covers a 16 month span.
So this chart represents only the organic SEO portion of the marketing strategy, with clicks more than doubling from organic search results (not the ads, just the natural listings). These clicks represent individuals looking for what this company is offering.
The chart below shows overall traffic to their site which is more representative of all of the efforts (but not completely because emails and social don’t necessarily lead to the website prior to outreach). Note that this chart has a little gap because some misfired tracking but it gets the point across:
This chart shows all site traffic going from about 200 visits to 600 visits in 12 months.
If inbound leads are a percentage of inbound traffic – which they are – and inbound leads are directly correlated to revenue – which they are – then it follows that this type of investment works and can double or triple your revenue in two years and keep you stable during a recession, because SEO works in a recession, just like in an expansion.
Do you want to learn more about this process and how it can help your company? We’re just an email or phone call away
Need more data? Here’s an example of a very low budget project that only included basic SEO and a basic website redesign.
This company in Fairhaven, CT is a small machine shop who had a poorly constructed website and had performed almost no marketing in the past. We were able to spin up a low cost template (which is still very nice looking) and perform some very basic link building and content generation. We started tracking after we built the new website and instantly began receiving traffic which steadily increased over the following months. This company received their first profitable lead within 3 months of the new website launch and have closed several deals since then. Their total investment over 12 months was only $9,000 (for a website and basic SEO!) and the jobs they closed were all in the tens of thousands. The best part about this is that the work we did with SEO and building their Google rank for keywords is going to stick with them and continue to provide results over the coming years.
I included this example to show that even with minimal SEO and a decent website, it’s possible to generate significant results and provide stability. The deals this machine shop closed in the first year will be more than sufficient to recuperate their investment but the real profits come into play when the prove themselves to their new customers and continue to add new ones.
Our Small Manufacturer Marketing Program
The example above showed results we generated for a customer in our small manufacturer marketing program. We created the program because we realized that many small manufacturers don’t have the budgets they should really be spending on marketing. Once again, if I was a small manufacturer and wanted to become a big one, I would spend the original recommended budgets no matter what it took or what costs I needed to cut in other areas. I realize that this would take a lot of trust, so that’s why the Small Manufacturer Marketing Plan exists, to allow you to try it out for 12 months, see some demonstrable results, and hopefully get more aggressive with what’s working. I would still recommend aggressively pursuing digital marketing efforts, especially if your company has an established marketing budget. weCreate can easily prove that the investment will work beforehand, and prove that it’s working throughout the engagement, so it’s better to do a full-scale push that will accelerate your results and get you generating leads faster.