ERP systems are both a blessing and a curse. They promise better comprehension of your manufacturing company's processes, and they help manage production of your equipment, but, at the same time, they can be a horror story to implement and understand.
For those who may not know, ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning. The systems are meant to help manage how a company operates and uses resources. Some of the more common brands in the ERP space include SAP, Netsuite, Sage and Oracle.
I have worked in settings with giant ERP systems that were implemented by some of these larger names in the industry, but I've also worked in smaller companies with home-grown systems.
While ERP systems can be daunting, the data held in them can be invaluable in your marketing efforts, particularly for manufacturing companies with production data, part inventories and service request information.
Today, I'll explore eight ways that ERP data can be extremely useful for your digital marketing efforts.
1. Use Your ERP Data to Help Build Your Target Personas
At Weidert Group, we use customer interviews to build personas for our clients. These are great at getting information from specific individuals. But, of course, interviews aren't perfect.
ERP data is valuable for helping to build out your customer personas because your ERP holds historical data that an interview process and other research methods won't necessarily be able to find. It’s better than general market data because it is specific to your company. It’s more reliable than what an individual may say because a human's memory is not great.
ERP data can give you hard numbers on what a customer's buying cycle is, what they spend on a line or individual piece of equipment, and how often they buy spare parts from you. This can then let you know what your nurturing cycle should be, how long to wait to follow up on a marketing email, and how much you should be willing to spend on a pay-per-click campaign to generate leads.
2. Reach Out To Customers When Behaviors Change
In the same way that we track user behaviors on websites, you should track your customers' behaviors with your ERP system. Get to know their buying patterns and sales cycles. You might have a customer who regularly buys parts from you and then suddenly stops. Use that to trigger sales to reach out to that company to determine why.
3. Target Your Website Content to Become Extremely Focused
Your ERP system contains all of your customers' purchase data. Take that data and create lists of customers that have similar purchase histories. Then, create smart content that can customize your website to target those lists.
For instance, you could take all of the customers that recently purchased a piece of equipment and provide maintenance resources, blog posts and CTAs to upsell for onsite services.
4. Know and Market Your Equipment Better
You know how often you need to replace your equipment bearings, right? How about your wear strips? Is that from your own data or from the parts specs?
Most likely you are purchasing pieces from a vendor that states a given device's life, but it may not take into consideration the production facilities environment or how much the equipment is used.
Instead of relying on the parts specifications, look at what the data in your ERP system tells you about how often customers replace parts. Use the data to create specific content that applies to your market's customers. By showing—with exact numbers—that you know more about equipment, you can differentiate yourself from competitors.
5. Send Marketing Emails at The Right Moment
When do you want to get reminded to buy critical spare parts, before or after they fail?
Buying spare parts after they fail means they are not spare parts.
Be your customers' best friend by sending them an email when your ERP data shows that they have no spare parts on hand and are reaching expected end-of-life for a particular part of their equipment.
6. Let the Sales Team Know Your Customers Better
In an ideal world your ERP would be integrated with your CRM.
Perhaps yours is... lucky you!
Even if it is not, you should share your ERP data with your sales team so that when they communicate with your customers they have a better understanding of their needs.
If they know that a customer recently bought a production line for one plant, they can point out possible savings by having similar equipment in another plant and sharing spare part inventories.
7. Market Your Own Inventories
Did a parts order that you thought was a sure thing recently fall through? Perhaps you have an overstock of raw materials because you have been more efficient with your production.
However it happens, your company is going to have some inventory that does not have a buyer, and your ERP should know this.
Use the force… I mean data, and market the hell out of your surpluses.
8. Continue to Nurture Your Customers Throughout Production
Your ERP knows where a customer's equipment is in production. Especially for machines and projects with long lead times, use that information to keep nurturing your leads with relevant content to keep you top-of-mind.
In a past life I worked for a conveyor company, and many customers out there never considered the conveyor portion until later in the procurement of a production line. Even when we were brought in right away and awarded a production order it could be months, perhaps even a year, before they expected our conveyors to show up for installation.
So what’s a custom conveyor company to do?
Create content for the production cycle. How about sending maintenance and training material so their staff can get up to speed before the equipment is ready? Develop a webinar about how to change parts and what to look out for to prevent problems.
Stay at the top of your customers' minds, and when another project comes up while you are nurturing them through your current one, you will be ready and waiting, all thanks to using your ERP data to the fullest.