Influencer Marketing for Manufacturers
Influencer marketing for manufacturers video interview with Eddie Saunders Jr.
In this interview, Joseph Lewin from CADENAS PARTsolutions discusses how industrial marketers can use influencer marketing in the industrial space with Eddie Saunders Jr. from Flex Machine Tools.
Flex Machine Tools manufactures CNC machines, flex arms, and other machine tool solutions. The marketing at Flex Machine Tools is a little unorthodox, which lead them to start an influencer program for their equipment.
Is influencer marketing a viable strategy for manufacturers?
The short answer is yes, influencer marketing is viable in manufacturing. It sounds a little unorthodox and maybe even crazy to many industrial marketers. Still, Eddie Saunders Jr. and his team at Flex Machine Tools have seen firsthand the effectiveness of influencer marketing in the manufacturing industry.
“I want to say this loud and clear for anybody listening,” said Eddie. “You’re probably afraid. You may think I’m crazy, and you’re right on both of those, but [influencer marketing] absolutely is viable [for manufacturers]. And you have to think about it. It may be a newer concept, but people have been using influencers in their marketing strategies for years, whether it’s celebrity endorsements or things along those lines.”
The word “influencer” feels intimidating in B2B (business to business) marketing in general, but especially in the manufacturing world. Manufacturing tends to be five to ten years behind B2B marketing and even further behind B2C (business to consumer) marketing. For decades, many big B2B brands have been using celebrities and other “influencers” in marketing. So it isn’t a new idea, but it isn’t as widely adopted as it befits the value of the strategy.
Marketers like Gary Vaynerchuck have used their status as influencers to grow their brands. Some companies have hired employees with a strong personal brand to bring credibility to the market.
Influencer marketing in B2B is rare, but it’s becoming much more common.
Eddie went on to say, “and manufacturing is no exception to that specific rule. There are a variety of content creators that are talking directly to everybody’s audiences every single day in ways that brands really can’t do directly. So not only is it viable, I think it’s very strategic and probably one of the most undervalued marketing and branding opportunities in industrial marketing as a whole.”
Influencer videos make excellent materials for sales teams to share with customers. They make great social proof and answer customer questions authentically.
What is an example of influencers in the industrial marketing space?
Flex Machine Tools works with an influencer in the machining space, Abom79, on YouTube. They’ve amassed over 1.5 million video views within two years working with Abom79. These aren’t general audience views. Instead, the audience is highly targeted to Flex Machine Tools’ audience because the influencer they work with posts specialized machining content.
Eddie Saunders Jr. from Flex Machine Tools says, “well, I mean, really what puts so much of my faith into [influencer marketing for marketers] conversation is our own direct experience,”
The costs of getting the same number of views using paid media would be much higher than giving Flex Machine Tools’ equipment to the influencer. Not only would the cost be higher to reach this specialized audience, but the audience trusts the influencer more than they trust a message from Flex Machine Tools.
Eddie went on to say, “you show me another way that you can get over a million and a half video content views for under thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars, and you’ll have my attention. But until then, I would argue that every person that says this isn’t a viable strategy is missing a major mark and opportunity to brand yourself and tell your story in ways that you probably don’t even know how to, and to audience members that you’re clearly not talking to in the first place.”
Imagine having a content creator with an audience making videos regularly using your products. That’s a powerful branding opportunity. Your team doesn’t have to come up with the creative, write the ad, and create the video. Even if the talent is in-house, the costs of producing one video add up. Influencer marketing cuts the creative and production costs significantly, especially if the influencer keeps creating content with your products on an ongoing basis.
How do I get started with influencers as an industrial marketer?
Let’s face it, manufacturing companies aren’t known for forward-thinking marketing. It’s a blessing and a curse. The downside is it can be hard to get buy-in to do something that isn’t standard industry marketing. The upside? Unorthodox marketing can move the needle in manufacturing much faster than in other industries.
If you’re ready to try an atypical marketing strategy in manufacturing, buckle up and get ready to ride influencer marketing to some killer results.
Steps to getting started with influencer marketing in the industrial space:
- Develop a strategy
- Get buy-in from leadership
- Connect with the right influencer(s)
- Decide on terms with the influencer
- Analyze the results, make changes
Research influencers in your space
A solid influencer strategy starts with good research. You won’t get far without an anchored understanding of the influencers in your space and what’s working for other brands.
One way to kickstart your research is to use hashtags on different social channels. The goal is to figure out where the conversation is already happening and which people lead the conversation. Video creators are amazing, but manufacturing influencers aren’t limited to YouTube. You can find influencers on many platforms and channels.
Try searching hashtags to find manufacturing influencers on these social media channels:
Here are a few examples of hashtags in manufacturing:
#machining on YouTube
#welding on Instagram
#iiot on Tiktok
#industry40 on LinkedIn
You can start with broad terms like the ones above and look for people who have a lot of engagement on their content that show up repeatedly. You can also find more niche hashtags on user posts you find from the broad hashtags.
You can also look for niche communities for manufacturing influencers. A few places you can start looking for niche communities are:
- Facebook groups
- LinkedIn groups
Make a list of influencers you think will be a good fit within your niche. These influencers don’t have to have millions of followers. It can be advantageous to find people with an engaged medium-size niche audience.
Think of influencers as people that have influence within the niche audience you want to reach vs. the superstar celebrity with a zillion followers. It’s about reaching the right audience within your means, not reaching the most people, or amassing the most likes.
It’s important not to chase clout. The person with the biggest audience or most likes won’t always make the best partner. Again, it isn’t about finding the most significant influencer; it’s about finding the RIGHT influencer for your products, audience, and budget.
Look for companies in the industrial space with an influencer campaign to see what’s working in the industry. Also, understand how influencer marketing works in B2C marketing and other B2B marketing.
Develop a manufacturing influencer strategy
If you want to develop an influencer strategy in the industrial space, it’s helpful to reverse engineer the process.
Eddie Saunders Jr. says, “If you reverse engineer with intention and pull out your Simon Sinek, if you will, and say, I’m going to start with why. We have to figure out why. Why are we doing this in the first place? Why are we looking into an influencer? And also, what are we trying to accomplish? Who are we trying to speak to?
“Because in all reality, there are just so many different avenues of influencer, even in manufacturing. You’d be surprised because, even though we have our specific individual who we work with and partner with from machining and a fabrication standpoint, we also have an amazing partnership with somebody in the welding space as well.”
It’s important to find influencers with high engagement within your niche and figure out what content they are creating that gets attention. Start to map out what influencers you want to work with, the audience they reach, how much engagement they get, etc.
Use this information to create a plan for working with the manufacturing creator. Imagine what type of content you would ask them to create, what your company is willing to offer them, and your expectations for content.
When planning out an industrial influencer strategy, it’s best to start small. Which audience do you want to reach first, and what is the lowest barrier to entry to reach that audience through influencers.
Write down your plan for the first few months and show a path to scale your efforts once you prove the value of your strategy.
Example manufacturing influencer strategy:
- Pick an influencer to work with
- Decide what content you want from the influencer
- Set KPIs for success within Q1 of the program
- Reach out to the influencer and set terms of agreement
- Map out how you will scale with that influencer in Q2 & Q3
- Make a plan for engaging other influencers in Q3 and Q4 with success
Get buy-in from leadership for your manufacturing influencer program
One of the most important steps is getting buy-in from your leadership team to launch an influencer program. It’s important to show your team some examples of what’s currently working in the industry and compare the cost of working with an influencer vs. creating the same type of content on your own.
It’s often easier to get buy-in for a low investment, high reward “pilot” program. If you ask to send three separate influencers $300,000 of custom equipment to get started, that’s a big ask and quite risky. Instead, find a way to get started with a smaller piece of equipment or less expensive products; it’s easier to get a “heck yes” from your team when the risks are low.
Show how the program can scale if things go well with the initial pilot program. It’s crucial to define KPIs with your team early on and set the vision for the intangible KPIs that build your brand in the market. You may not get hot leads pouring in with the first post. But getting your target audience to see your products in action has valuable.
Share the value of getting a niche audience to talk about your products in the comments of a YouTube video vs. promising leads.
One KPI to consider is if your sales team starts hearing prospects mention the influencer or references content they have seen online.
Connect with the right industrial influencer(s)
You have a plan, you’ve gotten buy-in from leadership, now it’s time to reach out to your top influencer picks.
Reaching out to influencers is much easier if you’ve been engaging with their content for a little while. When they produce new content, make sure you get notified and leave a thoughtful comment on each new video/post.
They are more likely to respond if they recognize your account when you reach out. Personalization is KEY to getting a response.
Example outreach to a potential manufacturing influencer
Your ‘How to Weld Seams’ video was excellent. The section that broke down your process helped me understand how to set up my workflow the next time I weld a seam.
Have you ever considered working with sponsors?
We are looking to partner with a creator in the welding space. Your content is excellent, and I think you would be an ideal partner.
Are you open to discussing a possible partnership?
P.S. I can’t believe the comment from TrollzRUs. They are out of their mind!
Decide on terms with your potential partner
Remember, you are offering something of value. Your products have value AND give the creator subject matter new content. You can provide them with equipment or products they may not be able to afford without you.
Keep in mind; you don’t always have to offer influencers money. Depending on the size of their audience, whether they already work with sponsors, the value of the products you offer them, and your expectations for content, you may not need to offer any monetary compensation.
On the initial call with a potential manufacturing influencer, ask them questions about their goals with their channel.
- What is their long-term vision?
- Do they currently monetize their audience?
- How do they determine what content to create?
- Would having your products make their life easier?
- How will their audience respond to your products?
Try to find underlying pain points and problems the influencer is facing and connect your products to the solution for the particular issue. The challenges could be related to how your products will help their workflow, engage their audience, or fund their business.
Every influencer will have different challenges. Your job is to figure out how a partnership with you will help them succeed with their goals.
Analyze the results and make changes
After you’ve launched your first campaign, it’s time to start analyzing the results.
- Did the influencer’s audience find value in the videos?
- Was there an increase in engagement, a decrease in engagement?
- Did the influencer’s audience have a neutral response?
- How many views did the content get? Was that what you expected?
- What was the relationship with the influencer like? Were they easy to work with?
- What would the manufacturing influencer want to keep working with you in the future?
When it comes to marketing, things rarely work out how we plan. Take your learnings and make changes to your strategy. You may need to move up the timeline for working with other influencers, or you may need to push the timeline back. Your message may have hit the nail on the head. If so, run with it. Your message may fall flat, Change it and try again.
You most likely won’t nail influencer marketing on your first try. By starting small and scaling, you can learn from inexpensive mistakes and embrace an unorthodox industrial marketing strategy and benefit from taking a unique approach.
Here’s a final word of wisdom from Eddie Saunders Jr.:
“Influencer marketing in the industrial space is cool. You’ve already arrived at the first step by recognizing that it is cool and that it is a really undervalued opportunity right now. It truly, truly is. So if we’re considering influencer marketing, I would just say, go on your social media and scroll. I would say the first step is paying more attention.”
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