PLASTICS THERMOFORMING COMPANY USES SOFT-SELLING CONTENT TO GENERATE HIGH-QUALITY LEADS
Allied Plastics has been delivering a wide range of plastic thermoforming solutions to a diverse range of industries since 1995. Staying ahead of manufacturing trends has been a key to Allied Plastics’ success over the past 25 years. In more recent years, staying ahead of marketing trends has proved to be rather important, too. This was especially the case in 2020 when companies had to reinvent the way they communicated with customers and marketed their products.
“When COVID first hit in March 2020, we realized in a matter of weeks that our sales budget for traveling to see customers and attend tradeshows was not going to be used for the foreseeable future,” says Jon Larson, OEM Sales Manager at Allied Plastics. “We needed to adapt quickly and switch to more of a digital marketing approach. We took a big piece of our sales budget and rolled it into digital marketing.”
Naturally, there was a fair amount of anxiety. This was unchartered marketing territory for Allied Plastics. Face-to-face selling had always been a huge part of what the company did.
“COVID forced us into doing something we always knew we needed to be doing, but never really got around to doing,” Larson says.
It wasn’t long before the anxiety began to fade. Results from the new digital content marketing efforts exceeded Larson’s expectations.
“Now that things are somewhat going back to normal, we definitely want to get back out there with face-to-face meetings again,” Larson points out. “But we are definitely going to maintain the same level of digital content marketing we’ve been doing over the past year. It has worked that well.”
Larson says Allied Plastics had explored the idea of producing marketing content in-house. Their efforts weren’t very successful, though.
“Until we started working with Signalfire, we never understood how much effort goes into creating and promoting good marketing content,” Larson says. “We couldn’t have done this without a partner like Signalfire. They also get a gold star for their willingness to really dig in and get to understand our business. That has been a big reason why our digital content marketing efforts have been so successful.”
A New Website is Only as Good as the Content That’s On It
Allied Plastics first approached Signalfire several years ago in search of website development.
“We talked about what they were looking for and what they really needed to develop an engaging website,” says Bryan Giese, Project Manager at Signalfire. “The big question always is: When you have a new website, what are you going to do with it?”
Allied Plastics ended up rebuilding their website with internal talent. A couple years later, in January 2020, they reconnected with Signalfire. Allied Plastics had a much improved website, but urgently needed informative, fresh content to put on it.
“Our contacts at Allied remembered what we had said about needing to have a plan for a new website,” Giese says. “We had already offered some ideas a couple years ago. So we started having phone conversations again. Then COVID hit. We kept the conversations going remotely for a few months. We were finally able to meet in person in June 2020. We had a good meeting and put a good content program together. We began rolling that program out just a couple months later.”
- Allied Plastics had five goals with its new digital content marketing plan:
- Help prospective customers get to know Allied Plastics
- Showcase the company’s capabilities
- Connect those capabilities to customer needs
- Precisely target the right audience(s)
- Generate sales leads
After agreeing to leverage website content as a means to generate leads, Allied Plastics and Signalfire agreed on one other important tactic. “We wanted to make it as easy as possible for a prospective customer to get in contact with Allied Plastics,” Giese says.
Sometimes a marketer’s instinct is to embed long, time-consuming forms into its website. The goal is to capture as much information about a prospective client as possible. Doing so also helps qualify leads so sales staff can better prioritize their efforts. However, overly extensive contact forms can also cause some consumers to throw up their hands and walk away.
“Fill-in forms like ‘request a quote’ can be a little intimidating to some people,” Giese adds. “Many engineers, for example, don’t want to give out their project information or even ask for pricing. Sometimes they just want to start a conversation.”
To that point, Allied Plastics and Signalfire decided to allow the content itself to filter leads. Some articles were designed with a very specific audience in mind, while others were geared toward a much broader audience spanning numerous industries.
“When we built out our content plan, we made sure we had a good mix,” Giese explains. “We didn’t want to have too many industry-specific articles in a row. Part of our content marketing plan included email marketing. If a certain email subscriber received two or three emails in a row about subjects that didn’t really relate to them, we didn’t want to see them unsubscribe. So we made sure that every couple of emails, the topic would appeal to everybody.”
In addition to email marketing, Signalfire also utilized social media to amplify the content. LinkedIn was the chosen venue due to its unique ability to reach professionals such as engineers. LinkedIn was also very appealing due to its ability to zero in on a specific audience.
“We have learned that LinkedIn is the best social media setting for manufacturing clients,” Giese points out. “So we decided to set up a budget for LinkedIn promotion. This was really helpful for those pieces of content that were geared toward a specific audience. For instance, we could target engineers in the agricultural industry. We could target watersports manufacturing companies … pretty much any target industry Allied Plastics wanted to reach.”
Larson says sales lead volume has markedly improved over the past year. Lead quality has improved even more. “Targeted content has really allowed us to match up sales leads to our capabilities,” Larson says. “Content marketing has allowed us to give potential buyers a much better idea of what our core competencies are.”
Results Require Commitment and Planning
One reason some companies fail at content marketing is due to a lack of commitment and planning. Giese says Signalfire and Allied Plastics meet at least quarterly to map out the tactical plan, which includes the audiences they want to target and the content to help make a connection.
“We have found that working three months out is an effective approach,” Giese says. “This keeps us focused on plan execution, but still allows some flexibility. For instance, Allied Plastics made a somewhat spur of the moment investment in a CNC trimming machine. We were able to schedule an article just a couple of months later, giving us plenty of time to gather information and get a good article written that performed very well.”
Speaking of performance, Giese constantly monitors website analytics to see which articles get clicked on the most, how much time people spend reading them, and social media likes and shares. If he sees an article that performed especially well, he brings it to Allied Plastics’ attention.
“When an article gets a lot of traffic, we look for an opportunity to build on that article,” Giese explains. “Maybe we can do a follow-up or expand on a specific point that was made. This is a collaborative process between Signalfire and Allied Plastics.”
Now a year into this content marketing program, Signalfire is looking for ways to leverage other types of content, such as video, to help tell stories and increase engagement. Video production is among the long list of digital marketing services Signalfire provides.
Likewise, graphic design is another service that lends itself to content marketing. For instance, infographics can be an incredibly useful tool to help convey certain information. Other types of graphics, such as logos, can also help reinforce content marketing efforts.
“One of the articles we created for Allied Plastics was about the company’s 25th anniversary it just celebrated,” Giese says. “We actually created a 25th anniversary logo. We attached that logo to the article, LinkedIn and email promotion, and other traditional marketing tools Allied Plastics continues to use.”
For Allied Plastics, the pandemic helped them realize that striking the right balance between traditional marketing tools and modern digital marketing tactics is critical. So far, Larson feels like the right balance has been struck.