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13 min read

Email Marketing for Manufacturers: Why It’s Important & How to Get Started

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If you’ve ever tried to get to “inbox zero,” you know firsthand just how crowded the email marketing space is these days. In fact, according to Statista, 347.3 billion emails were sent per day in 2023. It might seem daunting to even try to get your manufacturing audience’s attention with marketing emails — yet the Sopro State of Prospecting 2023 whitepaper found that 77% of B2B buyers say they prefer to be contacted by suppliers via email. That’s more than double any other channel!

So what’s a B2B manufacturer to do? If you want to remain competitive, you can’t opt out of email marketing altogether. The good news is, if you follow a few simple rules of thumb and tighten up your email marketing strategy, you can greatly increase your chances of realizing a positive return on investment (ROI) with email.

Why Email Marketing Is Important for Manufacturers

We already mentioned one big reason why it’s important to send marketing emails for your manufacturing business: your prospective customers want them! Here are a few more reasons your manufacturing business should be using email marketing to generate and nurture leads:

  • Your competitors are doing it. According to OptinMonster, 79% of B2B marketers say that email is the best way to distribute their marketing content.
  • It’s easy to get started. Email marketing has one of the lowest barriers to entry of any marketing channel. All you really need is a list (we’ll get to that later), an email marketing tool, and some content (more on that to come, as well).
  • It’s easy to track. Unlike some marketing tactics, email is pretty simple when it comes to tracking success.
  • It pays off. A recent survey by Litmus showed that email marketing generates an average of $36 for every dollar spent — that’s a higher ROI than any other marketing channel.

Benefits of Email Marketing for Manufacturers

If the prospect of a 3,500% ROI isn’t enough to motivate you, consider these additional benefits of email marketing for manufacturers:

  • Targeted Communication: Email marketing allows manufacturers to send tailored messages to specific segments of their audience, ensuring that recipients receive relevant information about products, promotions, or updates.
  • Building Customer Relationships: Email marketing helps manufacturers nurture and maintain relationships with customers. Regular communication can foster brand loyalty and trust.
  • Analytics and Tracking: Email marketing platforms provide valuable data and analytics, allowing manufacturers to track open rates, click-through rates, and other key metrics. This data can inform future marketing strategies.
  • Automation: Manufacturers can set up automated email campaigns, such as welcome emails, abandoned cart reminders, and follow-up sequences, to streamline their marketing efforts and save time.
  • Cross-promotion: Manufacturers can use email marketing to cross-promote products and services, increasing the likelihood of upselling or cross-selling to existing customers.
  • Competitive Advantage: Embracing email marketing can give manufacturers a competitive edge by allowing them to stay in touch with customers and prospects in a digital world where communication is essential.
  • Global Reach: Email marketing enables manufacturers to reach a global audience without the geographical limitations of traditional marketing methods.
  • Mobile-friendly: With the majority of emails now being opened on mobile devices, manufacturers can ensure their messages are accessible to customers on smartphones and tablets, enhancing reach and engagement.
  • Long-term Value: Building a robust email subscriber list and nurturing customer relationships can lead to long-term value and repeat business for manufacturers.

Getting Started with Email Marketing for Manufacturers

So you’re convinced you should be doing email marketing — but how do you get started, especially if you don’t have a list of prospects’ email addresses? It may seem obvious, but that’s exactly where you should start. Here’s how:

1. Build your list

Unless your manufacturing company is brand new, you probably already have the beginnings of an email marketing list. Pull from your CRM, starting with former and current customers and existing leads (even cold ones).

To further build out your list with prospects, develop a manufacturing content marketing strategy. By requiring prospects to fill out a lead-generation form in exchange for valuable content, you not only collect email addresses, you also get useful information about what topics your prospects are interested in. You can use this information to inspire new content ideas.

Here are a few more tactics for building a solid email marketing list for your manufacturing company:

  • Create gated assets. Create relevant and helpful assets for your target audience that can be offered in exchange for email addresses. For manufacturers, this often includes webinars, whitepapers, eBooks, data sheets, and other types of assets that can be offered in exchange for an email. This allows the website to generate email leads from highly relevant audiences that may not be ready to purchase immediately but likely will be ready in the future.
  • Add a newsletter signup form to your website. You can include the form on high-traffic pages and blog posts. For even more engagement, consider an exit overlay that encourages users to sign up for your newsletter before they leave your site.
  • Partner with an industry publication to send a sponsored email blast to their list. For example, if you manufacture building materials, you can partner with an online publication aimed at contractors. Send a sponsored email that includes a content offer in exchange for joining your email list.
  • Run a paid lead-generation campaign. To do this, you’ll use paid media, including pay-per-click (PPC), to promote gated content, a discount, a giveaway, or any other offer that your prospects can get in exchange for sharing their email address.

As a secondary strategy, many manufacturers purchase email lists and start with cold email techniques.

2. Segment your list

To support an effective email marketing strategy, manufacturers should segment their email list based on a number of factors, including:

  • Buyer personas. If you regularly market and sell to different types of buyers (such as OEMs, engineers, facilities managers, etc.), put each of these personas into separate lists so you can tailor your email content to their interests and needs.
  • Buyer’s journey stage. Traditionally, the B2B buyer’s journey is separated into three stages: awareness (top-of-funnel, or TOFU), consideration (middle-of-funnel, or MOFU), and decision (bottom-of-funnel, or BOFU). Prospects at different stages of this journey will require different types of email content in order to move them closer to a purchase.

Pro-tip: This three-stage buyer’s journey can absolutely support a successful email marketing strategy. However, for maximum impact, it can be helpful to take a more nuanced view of the manufacturing buyer’s journey. Research by Gartner suggests that B2B buyers need to navigate six “jobs”:

  1. Identifying the challenge
  2. Exploring potential solutions
  3. Establishing requirements
  4. Selecting the right supplier
  5. Validation
  6. Creating consensus

While you may not need to segment your email list quite so granularly, keep these “jobs” in mind when you create your email content.

3. Create workflows

Your manufacturing email marketing strategy will ultimately include two main categories of emails — with plenty of variation within each category:

  • Lead nurture campaigns are designed for prospects at a particular stage of the buyer’s journey. These automated campaigns send a set number of emails to prospects who “trigger” the workflow based on a predefined action (e.g. downloading a resource or filling out a contact form online). The goal of these campaigns is to move the prospect further down the sales funnel and prepare them for a sales conversation.
  • Ongoing email campaigns are emails you send to your entire list or segments of your list based on interest. As part of your strategy, you should determine a cadence that works well for your audience. For example, you might send an email newsletter monthly, along with weekly emails promoting specific content.

Creating the right workflows with the right triggers to deliver the right content to the right audience at the right time is both an art and a science. Don’t be afraid to start small. If you’re just beginning to implement an email marketing strategy for your manufacturing business, focus on one lead nurture workflow tied to one downloadable content offer, along with a regular monthly or bi-monthly email cadence for your larger list. You can expand the number of active workflows gradually, based on your content marketing calendar.

5 Types of Emails to Send

Once you have a list of prospects’ email addresses and some degree of segmentation in place, it’s time to start creating your emails! Here are five types of emails manufacturers should consider sending as part of a solid email marketing strategy.

1. Introductory Emails

What: Emails that introduce your manufacturing brand, your products, and your competitive difference

Who: All new prospects

When: Automatically, as soon as a new prospect gets added to your list

How: Start with one high-level introductory email that goes to everyone who joins your list. Depending on the diversity of your brand’s offerings and audience, you may eventually want to create different versions of your introductory email to send to people with specific interests or audience characteristics. To do this, you’ll need to capture that information in your lead-generation forms (usually via drop-downs asking people to identify their job roles and/or product interests). Weigh the pros and cons of personalizing your introduction vs. adding friction to your forms that may decrease your lead quantity.

In addition, introductory emails can be extended into lead-nurture campaigns that offer additional helpful content over a period of time to establish trust, add value to potential customers, and educate them more about your brand/organization.

2. Industry News

What: Emails covering topics in your industry that your audience cares about, such as new technology, market factors, etc.

Who: Full list, or segment by interest

When: Manually, on a regular cadence

How: Determine how often you can reasonably send industry news based on your internal and external email marketing resources. Deploy internal subject-matter experts to keep a list of newsworthy topics for a copywriter to cover.

3. Company News

What: Emails that highlight new products or technologies, changes in production processes, case studies, testimonials, etc.

Who: Full list, or segment by interest

When: Manually, on a regular cadence or as needed

How: Keep your email marketing team in the loop regarding any company news of interest to prospective or existing customers. Use email as one channel for distributing this information. Link out to blog posts or other supporting content on your site.

4. Lead Nurture Emails

What: Emails that provide useful information and compelling calls to action designed to help move prospects further down the sales funnel

Who: Anyone who downloads an online content resource

When: Automatically, immediately after the download and then at regular intervals (usually a few days to a week apart)

How: Ask yourself what information a prospect who downloads a specific resource will be interested in next. Consider sending links to related blog posts, case studies, etc. As part of your lead-nurture sequence, include a secondary conversion offer such as a live demo or a conversation with sales. When a prospect converts on that offer, it should trigger a new lead-nurture sequence with bottom-of-the-funnel content aimed at closing the deal.

5. Product Demonstrations & Tutorials

What: Video tutorials or guides that show how to install, use, and/or maintain your products effectively.

Who: Middle- and bottom-of-the-funnel prospects

When: Manually or automatically depending on the trigger.

How: Video content is highly engaging and provides a powerful conversion tool in email marketing. Create product guides and tutorials and send them via email when a prospect takes an action that indicates interest in a particular product.

3 Tips for More Effective Email Marketing for Manufacturers

Vital has been helping our manufacturing clients generate and nurture leads and ultimately increase sales and revenue through email marketing for over a decade. Here are a few strategies that drive results:

1. Know Your Audience

This is rule number one for all kinds of marketing, and it’s no different for manufacturers looking to reach prospects via email. Who are your end customers? Who are your influencers? Your decision-makers? Your check writers? Whether you operate on a business-to-business (B2B) model, or you sell to distributors, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), or end customers — or a mix — make sure you capture that information in your lead-generation forms. Then you can be sure you’re sending the right kind of content to the right audience.

2. Don’t Neglect the Top of the Funnel

While you’re building out content for your different audience groups, don’t make the common mistake of focusing mainly on those prospects that are closest to making a purchasing decision. Sure, this “in-market” audience is important to manufacturers, but it represents a tiny fraction of your company’s potential customers over the long term.

Instead, consider the full range of problems or challenges your audience might be facing that may eventually lead them to purchase from your company. Create helpful content (blog posts, videos, etc.) to address those top- or middle-of-funnel challenges, and promote it via your email list. By staying in regular contact with this larger pool of prospects, you have a better shot at being top of mind when the moment comes to make a purchase.

3. Make It Easy to Engage

There’s nothing more perplexing than a marketing email with a high open rate and a very low click rate or click-through rate. Your subject line was on point, your preview text was compelling, and your email service provider (ESP) may even tell you that most of the people who opened your email read the whole thing, rather than glancing or skimming. What gives?

Usually, one of two things. Either you didn’t provide a clear, convincing call to action (CTA), or you made it difficult to respond — or both. To fix the former problem, make sure to begin each email with a very easy-to-understand, one- to two-sentence “pitch” telling your audience why they should take action. (“To find out how to maximize the lifespan of your widget, check out our video on Widget Maintenance Best Practices.”) Follow this up with a clickable CTA. (“Watch the Video.”) We find that designing a button for that CTA improves our clients’ email conversion rates.

The second issue is an easy fix. Don’t send your marketing emails from a no-reply address. End the email with an invitation to “simply hit reply” in order to get in touch with questions or concerns. Then set up replies to go to a marketing email inbox that you regularly monitor. In our experience, some of the best leads come from direct replies to marketing emails.

How to Measure the Success of Your Manufacturing Email Marketing Strategies

With the right tools and processes, email marketing provides you with a ton of data and insights you can use to both improve your email strategy and inform other marketing disciplines, like content marketing and paid media. Here are some of the metrics we measure and report on for our manufacturing email marketing clients:

1. List Health

In addition to measuring the effectiveness of individual emails and lead-nurture campaigns, we like to keep an eye on overall list health with these metrics:

  • List size
  • Rate of growth
  • Churn rate

2. Non-automated Emails

When you send emails with industry news, product updates, content promotions, or other single-send, non-automated blasts, your dashboards and reports should tell you:

  • Total number of sends
  • Total number of opened emails
  • Open rate
  • Click rate
  • Click-through rate
  • Website conversions (how many email recipients ultimately converted on your website via either a premium content offer, product demo, sales appointment, etc.)
  • Number of high-quality leads generated
  • Length of time from early-stage lead to quote
  • Length of time from quote to close

2. Automated Lead-nurture Emails

For email sequences triggered by a content download or other conversion point, we capture the same data as above for each email in the sequence. Then, we establish a timeline (say, monthly) for reviewing the data and making changes to try to improve the metrics.

3 Manufacturing Email Marketing Success Stories

The term “manufacturing” covers an extremely diverse range of companies working in different industries and selling vastly different products to different types of customers. For example, some of our manufacturing clients sell to distributors, some direct to consumers, some to online and in store retailers, some to a mix, and some to all. Some manufacture in bulk, some in small order quantities, and still others custom-manufacture each order. Some have lead times in the days, while others can be several months or longer.

Depending on all those factors and more, manufacturing email strategies can vary widely from company to company. Regardless of the nuances, though, implementing solid email marketing tactics as part of a holistic marketing strategy has led to huge opportunities for our clients. Let’s take a look at a few examples of how this applies to three different types of manufacturing clients.

1. Industrial Valve Manufacturer

A combination of content marketing, SEO, and email marketing led to a $100K+ opportunity. Here’s how:

  1. Content Marketing: We created a search-optimized blog post on valve selection for a particular audience, along with several related eBooks which we added to the client’s website resource center as gated resources. A contact found the blog post via a Google search, and then filled out a lead-generation form to download one of the related eBooks.
  2. Lead-nurture Email Campaign: We sent the contact a series of three lead-nurture emails over the course of the next month. Each email was related to the eBook the contact downloaded. This allowed us to add more value and establish trust.
  3. SEO: This same contact came back to the website when searching on Google for another related topic and found more content we created.
  4. Email Newsletter: Over the course of the next three months, this contact opened and read the client’s weekly email newsletters covering tons of valuable information about valves.
  5. SEO Part Two: A full year after downloading the original eBook, this contact was doing a Google search for a specific type of valve and found our client once again.
  6. Conversion Rate Optimization: This contact requested a quote online via an optimized form, and is now in the pipeline for a $100k+ opportunity with substantially larger lifetime value potential.

In this case, the added trust developed over the course of the last 12 months will likely yield a lasting and high-value lifetime client.

2. A Manufacturer of a Furniture Product

This manufacturer sells direct to consumers, as well as to retailers. A major audience is the end consumer who purchases online — most often after speaking to a professional, given the high average order value. Here’s how email marketing has worked for this client:

  1. Content Marketing: We created an eBook that highlights the key considerations before purchasing a product in this space.
  2. Email Lead Nurture Campaign: Once the consumer downloads the eBook, they get a scheduled series of emails filled with non-salesy, extremely helpful information before making a purchasing decision. This information would be helpful whether they were purchasing from our client, or from a competitor.

This eBook and subsequent lead nurture sequence converts 7.8% of all downloaders into customers. This sequence takes prospects from lead to customer in an average of 39 days. This highlights the power of email marketing and the importance of creating trust, especially in competitive spaces.

3. Building Materials Manufacturer

This client sells B2B for larger orders, as well as selling to distributors and other retailers. In addition, they sell directly to end consumers. Their marketing approach is therefore multi-faceted. We’ve helped them craft successful email marketing campaigns and holistic digital marketing strategies designed for all their different audience segments.

Here’s how it works for end consumers, architects, and interior designers:

  1. Product Samples for Lead Generation: We have developed a sample order process that allows potential customers to get sample products delivered directly to them in exchange for their contact information.
  2. Email Lead Nurture: Prospects who order samples are automatically added to an email sequence focused on helpful, educational content that appeals to all of the target audiences. On average, end consumers in residential applications turn into customers 31-40 days after ordering their samples. It is within this timeframe that our email nurture sequences establish trust, help the prospect understand the installation process, and provide high-quality examples and testimonials from other happy customers. This email nurture sequence plays a crucial role in nurturing leads into sales.

In addition to samples and automated lead-nurture emails, we have developed a bi-weekly newsletter for this client. For the newsletter, we produce content that is appealing to each of the target audiences. For some emails, we focus on the architect audience, and for others we focus on the contractor audience, on the residential home owner, or the commercial interior designer. This diversity in content unique to each audience allows us to keep engagement, and segment our emails appropriately. It is key to the success for this client in a space where the competition is extremely high. Email plays a key role in establishing trust and positioning our client as the best solution.

We use a similar strategy for prospects working in commercial applications — but the lead to sale timeline is much longer. For example, if an architect is specifying products for a commercial space they are working on, it is often well over a year before an order is placed. A manufacturer that has various audiences with varying timelines needs to consider this when building automated email workflows.

Want Help with Manufacturing Email Marketing Strategy?

You’re in luck. As a digital marketing agency focused on B2B manufacturing, Vital has crafted and executed successful email campaigns for manufacturers of construction materials, food ingredients, medical and scientific equipment, tools and heavy equipment, and many, many more industries. Fill out this form and we’ll be in touch soon (perhaps via email!) to get the conversation started.

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