Marketing a small manufacturing company – an owners view

The Marketing Conundrum – marketing a small manufacturing company

Marketing a small manufacturing company specialising in self-cleaning filtration products presents challenges and dilemmas.  A niche manufacturing company like Rotorflush Filters Ltd grapples with this every day. We make excellent self-cleaning filtration products and the demand we have keeps us very busy.  But if we do not promote ourselves and our products we will not grow.

For a small company with no budget or no team dedicated to marketing, this presents a problem. Time and money spent on marketing are essential to get the business better known, but time and money spent on marketing are time and money not spent on the core business.

So what is the best approach to marketing a small manufacturing company making niche self-cleaning filtration products that can be used across several industrial sectors?

Are salesman and exhibitions worth it?marketing a small manufacturing company - an owners view

Rotorflush Filters Ltd is a manufacturing and engineering company; we do not have the money to put a salesman on the road (that would probably cost in excess of £60K/yr).  Taking on a high calibre sales professional could increase labour costs by 20 – 25 % for a company employing 4 -6 people.

In Rotorflush’s experience trade fairs and exhibitions tend not to be a cost effective way of marketing a small manufacturing company. We can’t really afford to have a stand at trade exhibitions with any frequency.  Identifying the trade events that would most benefit us to attend, and in which market sector is always a gamble.

We do not seem to get the return on investment that we would like when we have taken a stand. This is partly because the proportionate cost of attending exhibitions is greater for a small company, and because the focus of such events is very broad so our products have limited interest.

Is magazine advertising worth it?

That brings us down to advertising in magazines, snail mail shots, email shots and our website.  Magazine advertising never seems to pay and it is difficult to gauge the influence or reach it has.

Magazine advertising would work well for us if we were able to target publications about self-cleaning dirty water filters.  But magazines tend to be industry sector specific, and while our self-cleaning filtration products are specialised they are used widely in water treatment, for irrigation, in agriculture, for heat exchange and heat pump systems and so on across a wide range of industrial and agricultural sectors. To get any meaningful coverage we might need to advertise in many magazines.

Is it worth having a good website?

Marketing a small manufacturing company - A good websiteWe have found that nearly all our new customers come from our website, and when they have bought once, many become regulars. When we have revamped our website our business nearly always goes up. We work hard at SEO and this is easier for niche products as by their very nature there are not too many other companies producing the same thing. We have dabbled with adwords but have not really got the return we need. This may be different if you have a lot of competition on the web as it will be harder to get into the top 10 on Google.

Good SEO really is a must for successful organic searches, as is the regular generation of fresh site content.  This does get results and we can generally correlate website visitor numbers to sales figures.

The great advantage to us of online marketing is that in a relatively short time changes to SEO and refreshing and adding to our website content has a measurable effect.  We can see how we rank against the few competitors we have and using Google Analytics we can assess the success of our efforts marketing self-cleaning filtration products online.

What about Email?Marketing a small manufacturing company - Email campaigns

Having good and easy to use contact information online generates enquiries. Marketing a small manufacturing company often comes down to maintaining good relationships with actual and potential customers.  In addition, entry-level Emailer tools, such as MailChimp, allow for cost-effective and free targeting of existing and potential customers. We maintain up to date contact details and endeavour to send out news items and promotions to targeted customers. We know the product sets enquirers and customers are interested in, and the business sectors too.

This means that mail shots can be personalised, low volume and relevant to recipients.   We have had some success with email shots, as long as they are carefully aimed at the right audiences for our products.

How much information should you give your customers?

We are developing a new website at the moment, prompted by the fact that the old site is not mobile friendly. There has been some debate in the office today about how much information we should put on the website. My approach is that the more information you give the customer the more likely they will pick up the phone or at least make digital contact. I am keen to put up our 3D CAD models on a web viewer, and also have animations of the CAD models on the site to show how the products work.

The worry is that people will then use the information to copy our products. This may happen, but my argument goes – ‘If they really want to copy the product they can buy one and copy it!’

We could have a shed full of really good products, but if we never tell anyone about them in case they copy them, – result we have no business!

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