"Industry 4.0, or the Fourth Industrial Revolution, is set to revolutionise the manufacturing and production industry by integrating the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, data integration and other technological advances into the heart of production and manufacturing systems."
There's no doubt that Industry 4.0 is coming for the manufacturing industry – and with it, big changes. The ultimate goal of Industry 4.0 is the "smart" factory, in which "cyber-physical systems (CPS) will monitor the physical processes within modular structured factories, and a virtual copy of the physical world will be mined for data in real time, enabling decentralised decisions" (Source: The Manufacturer).
Simultaneously, there are changes afoot in the sales and marketing environment – the go-to methods simply don't work as well as they used to. Today, more and more business is conducted online and, to put it simply, no one wants to talk to your sales team – at least, not to start with. The power has passed into the hands of buyers, who want to ensure they are informed and educated about their needs before they speak to a sales person. In fact, according to a survey carried out by Forrester, 74 per cent of B2B buyers conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase.
So, what to do?
Inbound marketing for manufacturing
The benefits of Industry 4.0 will include increased productivity and efficiency, as well as the ability to manufacture progressively personalised products that are built-to-order. Essentially, it's all about utilising the power of data and technology to drive growth and better meet the specific needs of the customer, as and when they arise.
So, how can we marry this with inbound? In an article for Asia Outlook Magazine, Joe Birkedale suggests that adopting an inbound approach can help manufacturers to successfully respond to these emerging realities. He explains that Industry 4.0 is turning manufacturers into "digital enterprises" and suggests that implementing inbound "supports the digital infrastructure that Industry 4.0 will bring".
Inbound focuses on creating quality content that pulls people to your company and products or services by generating interest and demand. Educative and valuable content will attract the right people to your website and show them why you are the best fit for them.
Your content should speak to people at each stage of their buyer's journey and provide relevant information that answers their questions and addresses their concerns. In this way, an inbound approach enables you to convert visitors to leads, close these leads to customers, and then delight those customers over time. So, it's a perfect fit for the longer sales cycles typically associated with manufacturing. Inbound keeps you top of mind with prospects until the time is right for them to contact you - on their terms.
And, because it's online, inbound marketing is entirely measurable. You can see how many people are viewing your content, how many leads you are acquiring, and how may customers you are winning – ultimately, you can assess what's working and what’s not.
As Joe Birkedale says: "Inbound marketing relies on data to merely exist, as it's the compound to pretty much all operations.
"[…] The concept of being hyper-connected to people, devices and systems at all times plays into your marketing hands, in that you can access customer data and analyse how they interact with your company and utilise your products. In providing the right products and technology, based on in-depth insight, customers are more likely to value your digital offerings and develop a trust in your brand."
Inbound and Industry 4.0: natural partners
As a manufacturer, you understand that measuring your processes and systems is vital to the success of your manufacturing operation – enabling you to meet the needs of your customers. And you may have implemented practices, such as 5S, to reduce waste and further streamline your procedures. And yet, you might not be measuring your marketing. By implementing inbound, you instantly acquire the tools to do so.
Inbound and Industry 4.0 go hand-in-hand: both rely on data; both aim to improve the experiences of your customers – and, consequently, drive sales and grow your business.