As a young marketer, I led a team at a B2B e-commerce technology company. Here, I learned about the complexities associated with manufacturing and indirect sales. Our e-commerce users often asked how, if at all, they could leverage the digital tactics they were reading about like inbound marketing, funnels and such, in their manufacturing businesses. Digital marketing for manufacturers with indirect channels might seem weird, but it can fuel sales. During that time in B2B e-commerce, I saw multiple examples of success when implementing a digital conversion funnel designed to support your channel. Here’s why and how a digital conversion funnel works for manufacturing and indirect sales.
Benefits of a digital marketing program for manufacturers
Implementing a digital conversion funnel results in two key benefits.
Demand for product:
First, manufacturers can drum up demand for their channel partners and drive sales for their goods through their channel.
Demand for partners:
Second, makers of goods or parts can also attract additional interest from new channel partners. With a well crafted digital marketing strategy and funnel, partners are drawn to manufacturers who support the demand for their widget, ensuring their partner’s success.
Now that we’ve explored the benefits of a digital conversion funnel for manufacturers, let’s get down to business. How do you build one? We’ll start from the bottom and work our way up.
Step 1 – Pick a destination
In an indirect channel, our goal is to attract demand and traffic for our widgets. So we have a specific campaign and goal. As outlined in this post from CreativeBloq – it’s a perfect opportunity to setup a microsite or a landing page. The microsite or landing page allows us to route that demand and traffic to our channel partners. This accomplishes two initiatives 1.) identify a conversion point within our own funnel for insights and analysis and 2.) perform some traffic control and make sure the prospect gets to the right partner. Those two needs have some technical concerns that we’ll address in a minute. But first, let’s talk brand.
Those two needs have some technical concerns that we’ll address in a minute. But first, let’s talk brand.
Branding your microsite
We want to pick a destination and domain that will be recognized. This way, we can promote it via marketing channels and share it easily with our channel partners.
What makes a good microsite domain? I’m glad you asked. Let’s take a look at an example.
Bank of America wanted to reach people going through “financial firsts.” Rather than just having a page on their site, they wanted to be able to build an entire marketing strategy around this effort. To that end, they developed the “Better Money Habits” brand. It operates as a subdomain, https://bettermoneyhabits.bankofamerica.com/en, and presence across social media. It engages its target audience because it’s relevant and serves as a destination or clearing house to deliver relevant content and essential shepherd people when they need to go on their journey through the funnel. For some additional inspiration, Hubspot outlines 11 more great examples.
Now that we have the bottom of the funnel figured out, let’s move up to the top and how we’re going to fill it up.
Step 2 – Build funnel demand
Our funnel starts with getting people to our microsite. In order to do this, we’re effectively partnering with our channel in a co-marketing effort. Think of this as a modern co-op marketing program.
The modern co-op marketing program
Once upon a time, you’d let your retail channel use a portion of a budget set aside for say, a Sunday circular. You did this in the hopes of them advertising your product. If you manufacture business products, maybe your co-op program provides funds for trade shows. Now, instead of paying for a flyer that advertises your product and a bunch of other companies, you can work with your partners on a custom journey from research to destination for buyers of your goods.
Now, instead of paying for a flyer that advertises your product along side a bunch of other companies, you can work with your partners to curate custom journey from research to purchase your goods.
Developing your conversion funnel’s marketing mix
Each company and industry will be unique, but most marketing strategies will have a blend of paid, organic, social and earned efforts to drive traffic to your microsite. Depending on the depth and breadth of the content on that site – you may have more focus on organic. If it’s just a conversion point, it may be more focused on paid.
Your final mix should be dictated by your goals. Do you want to educate buyers along the way? Focus on a site with more information and build your organic efforts. Do you want to control more brand experience and deliver a purchase opportunity? Drive traffic with paid ads and provide a click to purchase opportunity.
Now that you’re driving traffic and we have a destination, let’s dig into the technical part. Tracking and tagging.
Step 3 – Attribute and distribute opportunities
You now have traffic coming to a branded microsite. But you’re a manufacturer. You don’t want to create channel conflict by fulfilling these orders. So what do you do?
Two things need to happen – Attribute and distribute your opportunities.
Attribution of opportunities
A major premise behind owning the conversion funnel for your indirect channel is that you get to grow insights and data into the end user of your products – the person who’s actually buying it. Leaving all the data spread out across your channel partners doesn’t allow you the opportunity to analyzes and garner broad insights to improve the product, positioning or marketing. Improvements that enhance the value of the product throughout the channel.
Make sure that you are tracking and learning where your prospects are coming from and what their shopping habits are. You’ll start to learn more then you can imagine. I’ve written in the past on the approach to marketing technology planning and how you can gain insight. Take a look there to start. Next up – send them off for fulfillment.
Distribution of opportunities
Depending on what you manufacture and the nature of your channel – the actual “how” you send leads to the final stage of the funnel could be a variety of different ways.
- Click – a user could click to purchase from a local store and you can have browser identification built in that recognizes where a user is (with their approval) to match them up
- Click – a user could just select the name of the provider they want to purchase from
- Form – a user could select from a drop down
- Form – a user could provide purchase information and the data goes into a central CRM that routes the information.
- In all cases redirect the user to the partner site for fulfillment – or provide them a lead form – again depending on the type of product and if you are B2B or B2C
Bringing it all together
Finally, make sure to set up a funnel to attract and convert interest in new channel partners. Franchising does this really well. On the bottom of consumer sites used to drive demand to local franchisees, you’ll also see “interested in becoming a franchisor? – a link to drive business development for the overall organization and channel.
It could be as simple as this, a link in the microsite footer to capture interest from new channel partners
The funnel in action
I’ve seen these funnels implemented across a variety of industries and for both B2B and B2C situations. In every scenario, they always drive learnings to the manufacturer about the way the user shops, while building additional value in the eyes of partners.
Over to you
What about you? Have you tried implementing a digital conversion funnel to support your manufacturer’s indirect channel? Did it work? What lessons did you learn? Leave a comment below.
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