How to Integrate Sales into Your Manufacturing Marketing Plan

by | Strategy

With more of the sales process occurring online, manufacturers must now integrate digital marketing strategies into their approach. But if you’re a sales-oriented company, how do you create a marketing plan that also includes your sales team?

For most manufacturers, sales are truly what drives your company. So build a plan that starts with sales. 

In this post, we’ll show you how a sales leader with limited experience in marketing can create a plan that helps you adapt to more online buyers AND integrates your sales team into the mix.

Why your digital marketing plan needs to start with sales

In today’s online world, nearly 60% of the customer journey occurs before a meaningful interaction with a salesperson. Your prospects are searching for solutions online, reading comments on social media, and visiting websites well before they reach out to sales for help.

This is a new sales territory for your sales team — we call it the “Digital Territory” — and it will require digital marketing strategies and tactics to get you there. However, marketing alone can’t get this job done, because:

  • Marketing that’s not aligned with sales won’t produce the leads that sales wants
  • Marketing won’t work unless it’s focused on revenue, not just marketing activities
  • Sales needs help with content creation; it’s not their true skill set

That’s why all this has to start with sales, and ultimately include sales and marketing alignment and integration.  

After all, companies with sales and marketing alignment will experience a 20% increase in revenue, but those that are not aligned can experience a 4% decrease in revenue

Your ultimate goal: Using content to create a Digital Twin of your sales team

Any plan must start with an overall strategy, one that functions as both a guideline and an aspiration. We just happen to have one you can use: It’s the Digital Twin Sales and Marketing Framework.

It’s based on a simple premise: Because so many sales interactions are taking place online, we’re going to use content to create a Digital Twin of your sales team.

Our use of the Digital Twin is similar to how it’s used in manufacturing, where the Digital Twin is used to recreate a product or process for testing or prototyping.

In this case, content — in the form of videos, blogs, and social media — doesn’t replace the sales team. It just ensures that when your customers are searching for solutions in the Digital Territory, they’ll find your content, which performs the vital sales function of empathizing, informing, and delivering trust.

Consider that to be the ultimate goal of your sales and marketing plan. You’ll see how it applies as we dive deeper into the plan.  

Digital Twin

Ground rules for creating a plan that gets read and stays relevant

Most marketing plans are written and forgotten in short order. You need a plan that people will actually read. It also must remain relevant after it’s been created; it should be referenced often and serve as your truth north. Here are some ground rules to ensure that happens.

1. Less is more: Make it as brief as possible

In our early days of writing plans, they were often 30-50 pages long, and touched on too many subjects. That’s too long and won’t get read. It also makes it difficult to change when you adjust strategies and assumptions. So here are some ways to keep it short and sweet:

  • Keep paragraphs short — 1-3 lines. 
  • Use bullet points throughout. They’re easy to change / delete. 
  • Ensure every section can lead to an action, otherwise, don’t include it. 

2. Have a methodology for validating assumptions 

Before you begin, you should have a methodology in place with assumptions you can validate.

This is the difference between a report that sits on the shelf and gathers dust, and one that is relevant and guides your organization. Using these types of methodologies can help you test assumptions:

  • Key performance indicators: Establish KPIs, such as website traffic, that validate your messaging is doing its job.  
  • Isolated paid ad campaigns: Create ads that feature customer pain points, and test customer reactions. 
  • Stand-alone website tests: Test new offers on your website, then monitor if they lead to conversions.

3. Modify regularly, consult for decision-making, and use for training

Update your plan annually at the very least, quarterly at best. We always refer to our plan when we’re creating new content or building a new marketing campaign. It keeps you grounded.

This is also an invaluable tool for your sales team and new hires to your company. The Sales Story we’ll create as part of the process should replace their “elevator pitch.”

Ok, enough with the preliminaries — let’s create a sales and marketing plan!

Step 1: Create clarity statements about your company

In the introductory section, we like to create “clarity statements,” a concept that we learned about from Patrick Lencioni’s book The Advantage

What we liked about Lencioni’s approach is that he summarized the company in very short statements, with as much clarity as possible.

You want to pack a lot of punch into these statements, but also be brief. Keep these answers short — 2 to 3 paragraphs, or use bullet points for multiple items, such as pain points or differentiators:

Who we are (basic company function, history)

What we do (capabilities)

Who we serve (customers)

What are their challenges (pain points)?

How do we solve problems in unique ways (differentiators)?

To answer these questions, you’ll need to meet with the key stakeholders in your company. Be sure to get a representative from all departments of your organization, including:

  • Management
  • Sales
  • Operations
  • Engineering/Product Design

Send out a questionnaire asking the clarity questions (and persona questions below) to key stakeholders prior to the meeting. Ask for written responses, and then review them and probe deeper during the meeting. 

How will you use this: This information helps provide a current snapshot of your company and allows you to draw insights from all aspects of the organization. It serves as a good historical base moving forward. 

Step 2: Define personas

Let’s dig a little deeper into the customers you are helping and define the key personas who will be involved in the sale. 

Because there are so many people involved in a complex sale, the key persona we will focus on the person who will introduce your product / service to the rest of the company.

The key persona will be your advocate and will help sell you to the rest of their organization.

We also like to focus on 1-2 other people who will likely then have the most influence on the decision. 

For clarity’s sake, we don’t create elaborate descriptions of the persona and give them names “Example: Bill the CEO.”  Instead, we find it’s more useful to:

  • Identify by the job functions and job titles 
  • Add a short description of what they do
  • List their typical questions and objections 

What is their job title and function?

What are their pain points and how do we solve them?

What are their typical questions about doing business with us?

What are their typical objections to doing business with us?

Why do they buy from us (and how do you know)?

What don’t they know that would help improve their business?

EXAMPLE:  When you are creating the pain points, provide immediate descriptions on how you solve them in a unique way. Include details in your solution. Here’s one from Winbound’s plan:

  • Doesn’t have the time or resources to execute content marketing in-house. Our service acts like a fractional marketing team, and executes all the functions you need at 1/3 the cost of a salaried team.

How will you use this: This information can be used in advertising efforts, especially on LinkedIn, when you can target specific job titles. You can also provide supportive marketing materials to help the key persona sell your product or services to their own company.

Step 3: Define Competition (and how you’re different)

In this section, we provide a brief description of the types of competitors you face, as well as a brief description of how you’re different. Think about this in more general terms. Some examples of competitors include:

  • The types of companies that are direct competitors
  • The status quo
  • Producing service or product on their own
  • Using fractional resources 

EXAMPLE: Here’s an example from our marketing plan of one our competitors — traditional lead-generation companies:

  • Lead-generation companies. These are the go-tos for sales-driven companies, because it’s the easiest for a sales-oriented company to get their arms around. Lead-gen companies essentially act as mercenary salespeople. 

How we’re different: Our own customer summed it up — we’re less expensive, and we produce higher quality leads. That’s because our content allows potential customers to prequalify on their own, thus producing the kind of leads that sales wants. 

How will you use this: You can use this information to create comparison webpages and blog posts, and provide sales collateral. Our “Compare” webpage is the second-highest visited page on our website.

Step 4: List Core Products and Services

List the products and services that will require the bulk of your marketing efforts. If you have a wide range of products, try to focus on the key products that you can use to penetrate the market. You can always expand your offerings as you build your presence. 

How will you use this: This information will be key in your search engine optimization plan, as it will help you generate keywords for your “buying” webpages.

Step 5: Write the Sales Story

Before we can create the Digital Twin, we need to establish a “Sales Story” so your Digital Twin knows what to sell. 

This is a tool your sales team can use, but it also serves as the guiding light for your marketing efforts. 

It was created by Mike Weinberg in his brilliant book New Sales. Simplified. What we love about Mike’s approach is that it really gets you focused on the customer first, and not yourself. 

“No one cares how smart you are or how great you think your company is. They want to know what’s in it for them. No one argues this point. When I share these concepts with clients, everyone nods and agrees. But intellectual assent isn’t enough. That conviction must get carried into the sales story we use.”

Mike Weinberg

The Sales Story is a one-page document that concisely answers:

  • Who do you serve and how do you help them?
  • What pain points do you solve for your customers?
  • What capabilities do you offer that solve those pain points?
  • What differentiates you from the competition?

To write the Sales Story, we create brief paragraphs that answer questions #1 and #3, and then bullet points for #2 and #4. 

How will you use this: It’s a unifying messaging document for new and current salespeople, and you can pick out various aspects for content messaging (explained next).

Step 6: Plan the Content for Your Digital Twin

Now that we’ve built the Sales Story, we can use it to help us define the content topics we’ll need to create the Digital Twin of your sales team. 

For the content to sell, it has to adhere to the eternal rule of sales:

Know you, like you, trust you

Think of those three stages as goals for your content. Based on research and empirical data, we’ve found that there is one defining theme that makes the content in each of these stages most effective. We’ll identify them below. 

Know you: Pain Points

Talk about your customers’ pain points. People want to hear about themselves, not about you. And if you show them you have empathy and understand what they’re struggling with, they’ll get that you know how to fix their business.


Delta ModTech blog post

Where to find the Pain Points:

Refer back to the Sales Story. Look at the first half that focuses on the prospects. What are they struggling with? 

Like you: Insights

Once they know you, it’s time to present an insight on how to remove the pain and help them grow their business. If you talk about your products and services, provide tangible insights on how this will be an improvement from the status quo.


Spuncast white paper

Where to find Insights:

Once again, refer to the Sales Story. Look at the second half that focuses on your company. What are the unique ways you’re solving customer problems — i.e., your differentiators? What insights have you learned from that approach?

If you can generate data from your methodology, that’s all the better. Any type of factual data can only improve the quality of your content. 

Trust you: Proof 

Show them you can deliver the goods. In this stage, you want to use case studies and customer testimonials to show your performance. It’s important to capture the actual words of the customer. Whether it’s a short testimonial quote or a video, let them do the talking. 


NADCO case study

Where to find Proof:

The first place you’ll find proof is with your customers. Reach out to them for testimonials and case studies.

The second place you’ll find proof is within your own company. You likely have performance data from all your clients. Aggregate that to show your results.  

Don’t be shy about including proof points such as how long you’ve been in business; your employee retention rate; and all the certifications your company has received. These are all proof points of your success. 

Build a Content Calendar

At this point, we plan out the pieces of content we want to generate for each of the buckets in broad strokes, and then we prioritize what comes first. The easiest way to keep this straight is to break it out into two lists:

Content Production: These are the pieces you’re currently creating. We keep track of our current content in a project management tool called

Content Pipeline: This is a list of content ideas you’re likely to pursue. Go for a bulk number of pieces per year that you are shooting for, and then prioritize based on that number. (If you are only going to produce 12 blog posts, just pick the top 12 topics, then move the three highest priority topics into the Content Production board every quarter.)

How will you use this: You will use this methodology to prioritize which content gets published first. Organize the multitude of topics you “could” execute into ones you “should.”

Step 6: Create the marketing strategy for the content

Once we’ve created this content, you need to market or distribute it online. If you don’t, no one will know your market exists, much less consume it. 

That means you need to find the places where they consume content, and proactively get your content in front of them. Think of it as prospecting, as we describe in this video:

Finding where your customers consume content is like having your Digital Twin getting out there and prospecting. There are essentially two ways to do this, Paid and Organic:

Paid: Advertisements in social media, trade pubs, Google Ads

If you’re going to use advertising to help distribute your content, think of it in these terms. According to LinkedIn, only 5% of your audience is ready to purchase at any given time. 

Out of your entire audience, you have no way of knowing who is in that 5%, so you need to stay in front of them, every month. A paid advertising campaign can do that for you.

Goals for your advertising campaign should follow the Know You, Like You, Trust You model.

Know You – Address people’s pain points and get them to either interact with your ad or click through to your website so they can learn more about your company. 

Example: This ad messaging touches on a concern for manufacturers and is targeted at our Ideal Customer Profile. 

Old ways aren't working

Like You – If the client is in that 95% of the market, try to get them on your mailing list by giving them some content of value. You want to attempt to stay in regular contact with them.

Example: This ad messaging promoted our research, which revealed how many manufacturers are publishing content online. 

2023 Research: How Manufacturers are Using Content

Trust You – These ads are targeted at the prospect in the 5% of the marketplace — they are ready to buy.  The ad should show the results they’ll get from working with you. It may also be a keyword-driven ad from Google Ads, prompted by a term that indicates they are looking for a solution.

Example: This ad messaging showcases a testimonial from a client.

Ad messaging

Organic: Search engine optimization, social media, email, placement (guest posts)

Organic can be distributed for “free” in the sense that anyone can post online content on a webpage or social media. But it requires resources to build, both in terms of time to post content and write content, and money to pay a team to accomplish both functions.

Nevertheless, the Digital Twin content types can be applied to organic content. 

Social media: Use content to make connections and extend your referral base.

PRO TIP: We are big proponents of encouraging your sales team to use LinkedIn to build their referral network instead of as a cold outreach methodology. We detail that approach with our Referral-First strategy.

LI to Generate Referrals

Search engine optimization (SEO): Rank for keyphrases around pain points and around keywords that indicate customers are ready to buy.

The most important thing to know about SEO, especially with AI-driven tools changing the marketing landscape, is that you need content that fills the Know You, Like You, Trust You buckets to help you rank for keyphrases.

In this blog post, we detail how to strategically turn SEO into sales

Email: Build your list by offering a valuable monthly newsletter or exceptional tools / downloadable materials, then use follow-up emails to stay in front of prospects. We’ve found two types of emails to be valuable:

1. Traditional email newsletters: It’s getting harder and harder to get subscribers to traditional email newsletters. We use these primarily to help clients stay in touch with current customers, and share new helpful content and product releases. 

2. LinkedIn newsletters: We’ve seen much higher subscription rates with LinkedIn newsletters, which allow you to subscribe on the platform but are still shipped directly to your email inbox. 

Placement (guest blogs): Share content on other websites, which extends your brand reach and also drives inbound links back to your website.  

These types of guest posts are typically hard to come by, but they are a great way to generate inbound links to your website. This also helps boost your SEO. 

How will you use this: Use your marketing to distribute your content. Without great distribution, you are just producing content that no one will read, watch, or learn from. That drives frustration, not revenue.

Step 7: Use metrics to measure your Digital Twin’s performance

Everything in the first four steps of your marketing plan matters little unless you have the correct metrics in place to measure success.

That being said, it’s best to focus on a “critical few” metrics as you establish your marketing Key Performance Indicators. Here’s the metrics we use for each stage of the Digital Twin:

Digital Twin Metrics

Know You Stage

Primary KPI: Impressions

Impressions are a measurement of how many digital views or engagements of a piece of content. 

We use impressions at this stage because you want to get in front of as many people in your target market as possible. The impressions KPI will tell you that, and it also is used for advertising, social media, and search. 

Secondary KPI: Social network engagements

We also look at what types of engagement you’re generating on social media. Again, that’s a sign people are out there getting to know you if they are interacting with your message.

Like You Stage

Primary KPI: Website traffic (users)

If people know you from your content, the fact that they take the time out of their day to visit your website and learn more about you is an indicator that they like what they are seeing and want to learn more about you.

We measure not only visits to your website, but specifically individual users. A user can make multiple visits to your website, called sessions, so we focus on the user count, typically generated from your Google Analytics. 

Secondary KPI: Events and Followers

If someone really likes you, they will sign-up for your newsletters or download some of your content. Any time they give you their email address, that’s a sign that they really like your content. 

These are measured as “events” in your Google Analytics. We also keep tabs on how many followers you have, which includes subscribers to your social media pages and subscribers to your newsletters. 

PRO TIP: You can gate content– i.e., put a form in front of it that requires an email address — or ungate your content. At this date, we ungate our white papers. Our goal is to let information be free, and entice them to sign-up for more.

Trust You Stage

Primary KPIs: Engaged Leads

We like to think of a “Lead” as anyone out there in your Total Addressable Market. Think of the 95-5 rule again: These are all the prospects who could buy your product. They are leads.

When someone fills out a form on your website on your Request a Quote or Contact page, and asks to be contacted by a sales representative regarding a product or service, that is an engaged lead

They’ve given you permission to contact them regarding buying your product. That’s the goal of the Digital Twin — to transition people from the Digital Territory to a 1:1 contact with a sales representative. 

Secondary KPIs: Marketing Qualified Leads

This is a secondary KPI in name only, because it’s just as important as getting a submission via your website or a call-in.

You are going to get a fair number of form-fills and call-ins from sales reps and sometimes even current customers. Your marketing team will need to qualify the leads, and determine who are the true leads that the sales team will pursue. 

ROI: Closing the loop

Keep in mind that your ability to measure true ROI will be tied to your organization’s tools and commitment to “closing the loop.” In other words, do you have a mechanism for attributing the marketing source that brings in leads and closed sales?  

This can be anything from a spreadsheet; to tools like HubSpot, ActiveCampaign, and Salesforce. These are sophisticated tools and require an investment of time and money. 

We’ve seen plenty of manufacturers that only generate 2-5 leads per month get by with a spreadsheet. They don’t feel the need to get granular with the source of their marketing leads. In truth, you can get a good sense of where the leads are coming from with Google Analytics multi-source attribution. 

But if you want attribution down to the source, you’ll need to use one of the products we just mentioned. There are many options in the marketplace. 

How will you use this: Your metrics are the quantitative proof that your qualitative strategy is working. If the numbers are down, the strategy needs to change.

Step 8: Refer to and modify the plan

This might be the most important step of all, because this will determine the actual usability and relevance of your marketing plan. 

You must update the plan regularly and validate your assumptions for this to be the guiding force for your marketing efforts. 

We refer to it when:

  • Creating new content. What was the customer’s pain point, and why does it matter to them? Refer back to the persona section
  • Building new audiences for advertising. We refer to job titles and functions in the persona section
  • Generating keyword lists. Look at the capabilities section for key products and services, as well as competitors’ sections to research their keyword usage. 

We modify it when:

  • Reviewing advertising results. We see what people are actually clicking on, and whether or not our key assumptions actually proved to be valid. 
  • Assessing valuable keywords. Are we ranking for the keywords that are actually driving sales? If not, perhaps we need to re-strategize.
  • Planning for the new year. Refer to the Clarity Statements to ensure you are addressing the current state of the company, and modify your content based on last year’s pipeline. 

How will you use this: Use it as the tool that drives your organization and discipline. The more you refer to it and modify it, the more useful it will become.

And the final word on planning goes to…

I had planned on listing a number of quotes on the merits of planning, but you can find a gazillion of them on the Internet. Besides, for all the merits of planning, there is one essential point you must always remember:  

“Everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face.” – Mike Tyson

Things are going to go wrong. The unexpected will occur. Everything will not go according to plan. Be prepared to pivot and switch gears.

The most important aspect is to keep sales and marketing talking and working together. Share your learnings and react to the marketplace. That way, your plan will stay relevant and effective, and more importantly, your revenue will continue to grow.


Improve Your Web Presence and Generate Quality Leads!

Greg Mischio

Greg Mischio

Greg Mischio has been creating content for many moons. He is the Founder and CEO of Winbound, a sales and marketing agency that provides content and marketing services with a focus on manufacturing and industrial verticals.

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