If you work in marketing at a manufacturing or industrial company, chances are that you are already using some form of paid digital advertising. A recent survey by IndustrialSage shows that 98% of manufacturers are using digital marketing tactics to generate sales-qualified leads. And pay-per-click (PPC) is likely part of that mix. In fact, 38% of manufacturers say they plan on increasing their paid search efforts in 2023 — and an additional 41% will be doubling down on other forms of paid digital advertising.
But are you measuring and maximizing the return on investment (ROI) of your manufacturing company’s PPC spend? If the answer is “no,” you’re not alone. Almost half (48%) of respondents to the IndustrialSage survey said they do not have a specific monthly goal for generating online leads. Furthermore, 38% of marketers don’t know how many web leads convert to customers. So, while you may be driving traffic and generating leads through PPC, you may be completely in the dark about the most important metric: Cost per customer acquisition. That, along with the lifetime value of a customer, is the only way to know whether your PPC spend is paying off.
As a results-driven digital marketing agency specializing in manufacturing, Vital helps our clients close these kinds of tracking and reporting gaps all the time. When it comes to PPC, we obsess over ROI, and we apply a proven method to ensure our clients get the most out of their paid digital advertising budgets. We’re here to walk you through it. But first, the basics.
What Is Pay-per-click (PPC) for Manufacturers?
PPC for manufacturers is a way of getting leads through online advertising. Sounds simple, but in reality, there are many different types of paid digital advertising that get lumped in with PPC — and they’re all plagued by a bad case of jargon and complexity. Let’s break it down.
PPC, short for pay-per-click, is a powerful paid digital advertising approach for manufacturers and industrial companies. Unlike traditional advertising, PPC allows you to pay a specific amount each time someone clicks on your ad. However, the term is often used more broadly to encompass various forms of paid digital advertising, even those that operate on different payment models.
When implementing paid media strategies for manufacturing and industrial companies, it’s essential to consider the various digital advertising channels available. Although these channels may not strictly operate on a pay-per-click model, they fall within the PPC category. Let’s explore the key channels you can leverage for your company’s paid digital advertising:
- Paid Search: Display your ads on search engine results pages (SERPs) across platforms like Google, Bing, and other search engines. This ensures your products and services are visible to potential customers actively searching for manufacturers or industrial solutions.
- Paid Social: Advertise your offerings on popular social media platforms, including LinkedIn, Meta (formerly known as Facebook and Instagram), and even TikTok. Leveraging these platforms allows you to engage with your target audience effectively and build brand awareness.
- Display Ads: Place your ads on websites that have partnered with display networks, such as those offered by Google and Bing. These networks provide extensive reach and can expose your company to a wider audience within the manufacturing and industrial sectors.
- Video Ads: Placing video ads across channels, particularly on YouTube. Video ads can be used for prospecting for new potential customers, building awareness, and driving traffic, or for remarketing to pull existing website visitors through your sales funnel.
In addition to the channels listed here, there are programmatic advertising opportunities, manual ad placements, and many other advertising opportunities that can be activated once other channels have been fully leveraged.
Optimized Landing Pages
In the world of paid strategies for manufacturing and industrial companies, landing pages play a critical role. A landing page is the web page a user is directed to after clicking on your ad. To achieve optimal results, it is recommended to create dedicated landing pages that align with your specific ad campaigns, rather than sending users to your company’s homepage or general product pages. Tailored landing pages can significantly improve conversion rates and provide a more personalized experience for potential customers. This, in turn, can also reduce your cost per click, and significantly improve cost per lead and return on investment.
Conversion Offers and Lead Generation
Conversion offers are incentives provided to users in exchange for filling out a form on a landing page. For manufacturing and industrial companies, these offers should be valuable and relevant to prospective customers’ needs, such as downloadable content (e.g., eBooks, guides, checklists) tailored to their industry challenges. By gating the content behind a form, you can generate leads and obtain valuable information for further marketing efforts.
In the manufacturing space, there are some very commonly used conversion tactics:
- Sample orders
- Request A Quote Submissions
- Spec sheets
- CAD Files
The key here is to make sure you understand who your target audience(s) are so that you can create an offer that will generate leads at the highest possible rates. You need to reduce friction, add value, and put yourself in the shoes of your target audience in order to maximize conversion rates.
The traditional B2B sales funnel characterizes prospective buyers by where they are in a three-step funnel:
- Awareness (top of the funnel, or TOFU): Prospects in the early stages who are exploring manufacturing or industrial solutions and have just started their research.
- Consideration (middle of the funnel, or MOFU): Prospects who are actively evaluating different options and comparing manufacturers or industrial providers.
- Decision (bottom of the funnel, or BOFU): Prospects who have made the decision to pursue a specific manufacturer or industrial solution and are taking steps toward procurement.
To keep things simple, we often talk about paid media strategies for TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU prospects. But research by Gartner suggests that the actual “buyer’s journey” for complex B2B sales is…well, complex. The Gartner buyer’s journey includes six “jobs” buyers need to complete in order to finalize a sale.
- Identifying the Challenge: “We have encountered a specific challenge that needs a solution.”
- Exploring Potential Solutions: “What available products or services can address our challenge?”
- Establishing Requirements: “What precise functionalities and capabilities should the products or services possess to effectively address the challenge?”
- Selecting the Right Supplier: “Does this product or service provide a suitable solution for our challenge?”
- Validation: “We believe we have discovered a viable solution, but we need validation.”
- Creating Consensus: “We have to get all the decision-makers on board with our solution.”
With this model, buyers don’t move from one job to the next in a tidy progression. They jump around, sometimes working on more than one job simultaneously. An effective paid strategy for manufacturers will take all six jobs into account, with the aim of creating ads, offers, and landing pages that make it as easy as possible for prospects to get the information and validation they need to make a decision to buy.
Manufacturing PPC Strategy
Implementing a paid media strategy for manufacturing can be complicated. However, the fundamental principles are relatively straightforward:
Who: Define and understand your target audience within the manufacturing industry.
Where: Select the platforms that are frequented by your target audience.
Why: Understand the motivations behind your audience’s platform usage and information search, enabling you to align your keyword strategy and ads with their intent.
What: Determine the optimal advertising formats (such as text-based ads, image displays, videos, etc.), landing page content and design, and conversion offers for maximum impact.
How: Establish budgets and bidding strategies that optimize the return on investment (ROI) of your PPC expenditure. Continuously measure, track, and report your outcomes to drive ongoing enhancement.
Is Paid Media Effective for Manufacturing and Industrial Companies?
Trick question! It’s effective when it’s done right. Here are a few of the benefits of a successful paid strategy:
Target prospects earlier in the decision-making process
By targeting relevant keywords in your paid campaigns, you can reach potential customers in the initial stages of their research, gaining a competitive advantage in persuading them to consider your manufacturing solutions.
Reduce marketing cost per customer
By effectively converting prospects and engaging prospects early in their buying journey, you can optimize costs and decrease the overall marketing expenditure per customer.
Enhance brand awareness and reputation
Even if users do not click on your ads, being prominently positioned on search engine result pages (SERPs) or other platforms relevant to manufacturing exposes your brand to a wide audience. Consistent brand impressions help potential customers recognize and recall your manufacturing company, increasing the likelihood of direct searches for your brand.
While PPC primarily focuses on clicks, impressions play a crucial role in the manufacturing and industrial sectors. Impressions measure the number of people who see your ads, regardless of whether they click on them or not. In many cases, paid campaigns can influence potential customers who don’t necessarily click on your ads but later visit your company’s website independently. This means your ads can leave a lasting impact on prospects, even beyond the initial click.
PPC for Manufacturers Playbook: 10 Steps for Success
We mentioned the basics of PPC strategy for manufacturers earlier. Now, let’s go into more detail about how to craft a paid advertising strategy that drives revenue growth (not just clicks) for manufacturing companies.
1. Choose How to Manage Your Paid Media Campaigns
While it may be tempting to try to go it alone, you should first evaluate if you have the necessary expertise in-house to handle paid campaigns. To effectively manage your paid ads, you’ll require the following:
- A paid digital advertising specialist familiar with the technical ins and outs of the platforms where you want to run ads.
- A copywriter to create compelling ad copy, landing pages, and content offers.
- A designer to develop engaging graphic assets for your ads.
- A developer to build landing pages and forms — or a user-friendly content management system (CMS) that enables easy page creation without coding knowledge.
Considering the complexity of paid digital advertising in the manufacturing industry, we recommend partnering with an agency that has a proven track record of successful paid media campaigns for manufacturers.
2. Know Your Audience
Manufacturers often have multiple target audiences, such as consumers, distributors, and retailers, each requiring tailored marketing approaches and conversion offers. Your first task is to understand each of these audiences and how they search online at every step of their journey. It can be helpful to define specific personas for each audience type. At Vital, we conduct audience interviews for our manufacturing PPC customers, resulting in buyer personas that inform our overall digital marketing strategy, including paid advertising.
3. Perform Keyword Research
Keyword research is crucial for your PPC campaigns. But where to start? When working with our manufacturing PPC clients, we often walk them through a thought exercise to begin building keyword lists. Imagine you’re at a trade show interacting with potential customers. What questions do they ask first? Make a list of some common themes, phrases, and vocabulary. From there, you can use keyword research and planning tools such as Google Ads’ Keyword Planner and Semrush to build out lists — including “negative keywords” that you don’t want to run ads for.
Pay attention to search volume, keyword competitiveness, and intent when creating your keyword lists. Consider using Semrush’s categorization of intent types (navigational, informational, commercial, and transactional) while also leveraging audience insights and common sense to ensure your ad copy, landing pages, and offers align with searchers’ expectations.
Here’s an example of the Semrush keyword magic tool at work for the phrase “modular home manufacturer.”
We typically use keyword tools like this to help us create lists that hit a variety of searcher intents, volume and competitiveness scores, and estimated cost per click (CPC).
4. Establish Your Budget
Determine the portion of your marketing budget to be allocated to paid digital advertising. From there, decide how to divide this budget among individual campaigns on different channels. Your manufacturing PPC agency should provide regular reports to enable your team to re-evaluate and adjust your budgets based on campaign performance.
Pro-tip: When making budgeting decisions — both initially and as you refine your strategy — keep return on investment (ROI) and the lifetime value of your customers top of mind. In order to help you make the right call about how to allocate your PPC spend, your agency will need to report on full-funnel attribution. That means tracking which clicks from which campaigns led to actual deals — and, of those deals, which have the highest profit margin and the highest lifetime customer value. Without these data-driven insights, you’ll be tempted to double down on the campaigns that drive the most traffic at the lowest CPC, even if that traffic doesn’t lead to any new business for your company.
5. Define Goals and Objectives
In addition to the campaign budget, set specific goals for key performance indicators such as cost per lead, cost per acquisition, or cost per sale. Benchmark your campaign’s performance against these goals to measure success.
Identify the specific objectives you want to achieve with your campaigns. Are you focused on generating leads for specific manufacturing products or services? Do you want to increase requests for product demos, calls to sales, or eCommerce cart checkouts? Are you targeting a specific audience segment within the manufacturing industry, such as B2B or B2C customers? Set goals that align with your objectives, such as increasing website conversions, quote requests, or inbound calls.
6. Determine Advertising Channels and Strategies
Based on your audience research, identify the most effective channels and strategies to reach your target audience within the manufacturing industry. Determine which platforms, such as paid search, display, YouTube, or LinkedIn, are likely to generate marketing-qualified leads right away. Start with these channels and gradually expand your campaigns based on initial success.
Pro-tip: YouTube is a manufacturing digital marketer’s dream. Product demos and how-to videos on installation, operation, or maintenance are just some of the possibilities for engaging both in-market and out-of-market audiences who are at stages in the buyer’s journey often neglected by advertisers — and are therefore ripe for the picking.
7. Develop Campaigns, Creative Assets, Offers, and Landing Pages
Utilize the insights gained from audience research, keyword analysis, and goal setting to create compelling campaigns tailored to the manufacturing audience. Craft engaging ad copy, landing pages, and other creative assets.
Keeping the manufacturing buyer’s journey in mind, work to create offers that will help your potential customers successfully complete one or more “jobs.” Think informational eBooks and white papers for customers higher in the sales funnel; checklists and comparisons for those somewhere in the middle; and demos and usage guides for those who are almost ready to buy.
Once you have compelling offers that match different searchers’ intent, craft ad copy that connects the dots between the search query and the offer so that your audience knows why and what to expect when they click on your ads.
8. Implement Tracking and Reporting Analytics
Before launching your first campaign, ensure you have the appropriate tracking and reporting tools in place. For effective PPC measurement, set up GA4 and Google Tag Manager (GTM) and connect them to your manufacturing company’s Google Ads account. Verify that the code is correctly installed on your website.
Identify the most important conversion actions for your manufacturing business, such as form submissions, video views, content downloads, or phone calls, that contribute to your sales and revenue objectives. Set up these conversions using GA4 or GTM and test them to ensure they function correctly before your campaigns go live. By implementing conversion tracking, you can attribute conversions to individual campaigns and evaluate their effectiveness.
9. Test and Optimize Ad Creative, Landing Pages, and Conversion Offers
Once you have the tracking and reporting infrastructure in place, initiate a structured process of optimizing your ads for better results. Develop a disciplined reporting, testing, and tweaking cadence to continually improve your PPC campaigns. Regularly review and analyze campaign performance on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis to refine your strategies based on the insights gained. Remember to focus on ROI, revenue, profit margin, and lifetime value of a customer acquisition rather than just clicks and conversions.
10. Apply Data-driven Intelligence to Your Holistic Digital Marketing Strategy
One of the most common mistakes we see manufacturing companies make is treating PPC as a stand-alone digital marketing tactic, limiting the value of the data you get from PPC to just improving your PPC campaigns. You can drive a higher ROI for your entire digital marketing spend by using data and insights from PPC to inform your SEO and content marketing strategies — and vice versa.
A true full-service digital marketing agency will work across disciplines to create search-optimized content to rank organically for high-performing keywords from your PPC campaigns. This works best with long-tail keywords — those with more words and lower search volumes, usually informational in intent — because the competition for these terms is lower, and you can realistically expect to drive small amounts of traffic reliably over time. “Stack” your long-tail keyword SEO content by continuously creating new posts and pages and you might be surprised by how much traffic and space on the search engine results page (SERP) you can gain in the long term.
This strategy works the other way, as well. Using Google Analytics or other traffic analysis tools, you can determine what content generates the most valuable types of traffic, and spin that up into enriched content offers to anchor new PPC campaigns.
Bonus: 3 Tips for Maximizing PPC Success for Manufacturers
The playbook for launching, managing, and optimizing paid campaigns is fundamentally similar across industries. Here are some tips and best practices gained from our 20 years of experience specializing in PPC for manufacturers that will give your campaigns a serious competitive advantage.
1. Go Low (in the Sales Funnel)
One of the big questions facing any company looking to run paid digital ads is whether to focus on searchers who are earlier in their buying process or those who are closer to completing all the necessary buying “jobs.” The answer is usually a mix of both. But many manufacturers are lucky enough to have existing demand for their products — and in our experience, many of them are not effectively reaching potential customers who are actively searching for solutions to their problems.
That’s a great opportunity for your company to beat out the competition with low-funnel advertising. Focus on search terms targeted toward potential customers who are looking for pricing and quotes, then drive ad traffic to a seamless process to request and receive quotes.
2. Tighten Up Your Sales Process
It’s not uncommon for our manufacturing PPC clients to run into internal roadblocks as a side effect of their success. Once the online leads start coming in, you may experience a dip in your closing rate. Why does this happen? To find out, we’ve done extensive secret shopping of our clients’ competitors. Through this process, we’ve determined that the speed at which manufacturers respond to online inquiries and provide quotes plays a significant role in customer decision-making.
Quick response times give manufacturers a competitive advantage and increase the likelihood of closing a deal. Manufacturers should aim to reduce friction in the sales process, making it as seamless as possible for potential customers. Streamlining the sales process leads to higher conversion rates and improved lead-to-close rates.
3. Use Paid Strategies for Account-Based Marketing (ABM)
Along with broader strategies aimed at your ideal customers’ different buying jobs, manufacturers can effectively market directly to distributors or retailers using ABM strategies. To do this, focus on job titles and specific companies in your paid search campaigns. The volume will obviously be much lower than your general audience campaigns — but the potential payoff in terms of the value of a big account can make the effort and expense more than worthwhile.
Ready to Optimize Your Manufacturing Company’s PPC Strategy?
Our team of manufacturing PPC experts has been driving increased ROI for our clients for 20 years. Have questions about how our data-driven, ROI-obsessed approach can work for your company? Fill out this form, and we’ll be in touch to talk about your unique challenges and opportunities.