So much has changed in just a few short years. It wasn’t long ago that Canadian business-to-business (B2B) companies, especially manufacturers, really struggled to get noticed out in the world and expand internationally.
Many still do, but it’s far more likely than ever before for Canadian businesses to dream big and make their mark with global clients by using the tools the rest of the world is too.
A lot goes into expanding a company's sales internationally. When they commit to doing so, businesses should think globally and not limit themselves to the United States and Europe. Today, in the digital-first era, doing business in Southeast Asia, South America, Asia and increasingly in Africa, is more possible than ever before.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, customers have moved online. Canadian manufacturers need to be there too.
It’s easy to say, and harder to do, but it’s straightforward if you start with a solid global brand and consistent customer-centric service.
To get noticed in the world, manufacturers need to:
Embrace a digital-first mindset
Businesses need to be where their customers are. We don’t mean in a literal sense, we mean the places customers will be looking for products and services. And that - is online. Be it websites, social media or emails, customers around the globe expect all companies, big and small, to be online. There is no excuse for companies not to be.
It goes without saying that the pandemic has been hard on many businesses, and we can't discount the brutal impact it has had on livelihoods and global economies. But it has also shown us how resilience and innovation can lead to opportunity.
By embracing digital, you make it easier, faster and more cost-efficient to connect with customers - no matter where in the world they are. Digital opportunities also make getting concrete, measurable results easier than ever.
Be thoughtful about branding and design
Get noticed with current and eye-catching design. Your company’s branding should express its commitment to providing the best products and services, and customers should feel like they are working with a current business.
Sadly, too many manufacturers use the same decades-old logo for far too long. This can be a huge mistake.
Logos and design are much more than a creative look and feel for a business. Dated logos, although recognizable by long-time customers, don’t get noticed in today’s world and inadvertently demonstrate a reluctance to evolve. They may also be perceived as having an unwillingness to change and grow with customers. This is bad news.
Branding any business is a process that takes time and effort, and properly re-branding must be planned and executed with care. But, the results are well worth it.
Done well, branding enhances a company’s reputation and demonstrates its commitment to being the best it can be for current and future customers.
When planning a rebranding exercise prepare for the rebranding to be completed across all collateral including website, social media channels, email signatures, stationery, business cards, office templates, etc. Follow through (good content needs website attention) and don’t leave rebranding half-done. Changing logos on some things and not others could cause confusion and lack of attention.
Don’t go at it alone. Securing the services of a solid partner will help you get a relatable, professional look for a global brand.
Read more: Is It Time To Refresh Your Companies Brand?
Commit to an up-to-date and responsive website
Websites should be user-friendly, visually appealing and have relevant and frequently updated content. For many, this can be adding a new layout with white space, friendly fonts, new images, colours and content. These touches can make a world of difference, but it’s not enough.
For many companies, a website is often the first touchpoint for prospective customers, employees and strategic partners. This is why creating a strong first impression is so important.
Having a professionally designed and developed website that is easy to navigate and has a search engine optimization strategy is essential to get businesses noticed in Canada and abroad. A really good website will help manufacturers stand out from the crowd.
Customers want to find the information they want and need, by themselves, as quickly as possible. Gone are the days where customers ask for pricing sheets and turnaround times. They expect to find it themselves, on your website.
If they can’t find something, they expect inquiries to be addressed promptly. This doesn’t mean you need to staff your website 24/7, but it does mean you must somehow acknowledge questions, comments or concerns and commit to responding in a reasonable time frame. It is no longer acceptable for companies to take a week or longer to respond.
Read more: Why Website Updates Matter
Get on social media
Manufacturers are often slow to warm up to the idea of using social media to get noticed and interact with current and future customers.
Here are some common myths keeping many manufacturers from starting with social media when they could be reaping the rewards instead.
Invest in quality content
The prettiest websites and responsive social media accounts in the world fall flat if they don’t have content customers want to read.
Companies get noticed by attracting potential customers and keeping them engaged with regularly scheduled, relatable information. To do this, they must have a strategic approach and plan to educate and often entertain target markets - keeping a company and its products and expertise top of mind.
A robust content marketing strategy includes customized content that matters to your audience, is distributed in a way your audience wants to receive it and is followed by return-on-investment measurement to determine the success of a program. Good content can also be shared in multiple ways. Turn an article into a blog post, or a photo into an attention-grabbing caption on social media.
Learn how investing in quality content can make a world of difference to a manufacturers’ sales and marketing efforts.
Use current and engaging imagery
The old adage is true, a picture is worth a thousand words. Whether you sell pencils, food or custom tools you need good quality images to show your quality and commitment to detail. Even if you choose to use stock images there is value in adding some photos of your own.
Hire a photographer to get the key images you need. They have a subjective opinion and will help your products, services and team shine on the world stage.
Video is everywhere. It’s used on websites, emails, social media, roadside advertising and more. It has become the new picture. In less than 1 minute you can effectively share more than 10,000 words, show how something is done or explain why something is needed.
It’s easiest than ever before to shoot and share videos too. Anyone with a smartphone can shoot a video without special equipment. As with everything, the more you do it, the better you get. Leave it to the professional to get the best results.
Read more: Why Videos And When To Use Them
Return to tradeshows - when the time is right
We are big supporters and believers in tradeshows for many industries, manufacturing among them. For many businesses, tradeshows are a staple of their annual advertising efforts. When the time is right in areas around the world, we predict tradeshows will make a resurgence, so don’t give up on them entirely. Tradeshows are a great way to showcase any changes you’ve made to your branding, your revamped website, promote your participation via social media and more.
When you start exhibiting at international shows, your booth should be up to world standards. Don’t overwhelm your booth with a lot of messaging. Use clear and concise messages along with compelling images to attract booth visitors. Sometimes, less can really be more.
However, we strongly advise against virtual tradeshows. Here’s why to avoid virtual tradeshows
There are many other tactics you can use to create a global brand image for your company. Starting with just a few of these will go a long way towards giving your company a memorable brand.
It’s time for Canadian manufacturers to be recognized as major players in the world market. With a few updates and commitments, any business can grow to its full potential.
Be bold. The world is your oyster if you reach for it strategically.
Additional reading: How To Market A Manufacturing Company
Contact us if you’d like some help preparing your manufacturing business for global markets. Mezzanine B2B Growth Agents specializes in B2B demand and lead generation for companies that have complex sales. It’s all we do, so we have the depth and breadth of experience to help your manufacturing company continue to grow.
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Want to know how a B2B company went from 50 to 500 leads a month? Short answer: smart digital marketing. For the longer answer (with tips and best practices you can apply to your own marketing roadmap), read our case study:
Originally published in October 2019, this post has been updated to add new guidance and more information that was not included in the original post.