How to use Digital Marketing to generate new customers for Industrial Automation businesses

Automation is growing…

The Industrial automation sector is growing. In 2020 the sector was valued globally at £95 Billion and it’s predicted to grow year on year at 8.6%. It’s also diverse, from Machine feeding, Robotic process automation (RPA) and high-speed vision inspection, right through to automating packing and labelling. Automation covers almost every industry, so it’s no surprise then that automation is becoming essential in almost every manufacturing business in some shape or form.

We’ve seen changes too in how buyers are searching, with more customers looking for smart manufacturing and robotic process automation, which has significantly increased the number of industrial automation companies supplying this market.

Chart to show the growth of automation

Industrial Automation – it’s a hard business to market

Industrial automation companies often find it hard to market themselves, projects are often of a very bespoke nature and can be covered by confidentiality agreements with customers. It’s not easy to market an innovation that you have created for a customer when the customer doesn’t want to share it with the world.

Sales and marketing directors for automation companies have their work cut out for them, some automation companies still don’t have a marketing department and rely on just traditional Press releases, exhibitions and word of mouth referrals.

How are your buyers searching?

Over the past 5 years, we’ve seen a significant shift in how buyers are using digital to find suppliers for their automation projects. There has been a definite increase in volume and diversity of searches from customers looking to solve specific problems with industrial automation.

During the Covid pandemic, those that relied on exhibitions such as The Industrial Automation Show and MACH were diverted online to build a tender list and do research.

Search Volume of Automation


Keywords above – showing the number of UK searches on each month. There is a growing trend in searches around Robotic process automation and industrial automation, not just in the UK but world wide, however very few automation companies are taking advantage of this.


Recommendations still play a massive role in lead generation, as you would expect, but more buyers are turning to Google to search and find suppliers and it’s essential that automation companies take advantage of this. If your industrial automation company isn’t coming up in Google, then there is a good chance you’re missing out on lots of opportunities.

What do your customers look for when visiting your website?

With more and more buyers looking at your website without even speaking to you, it makes sense to ensure your website is set up so that it gives your buyer what they want.

Buyers want expertise, experience and capability. They want to know that you’ve got specific experience within their sector, not just within automation. They want to know that you’ve solved this kind of problem before and can build something that will work for them in their sector with their specific set-up and control systems.

  1. Evidence that you have solved a similar type of automation problem – can be demonstrated via case studies, videos and articles.
  2. Sector experience – that you understand the particular problems within their sector, be it Food, Pharmaceutical, Aerospace, whatever the sector, they want to see that you understand their business and the challenges that are particular to this sector.
  3. Capability – to understand that you can cope with a project of their size and deliver on time and within budget. Demonstrating this with images and videos of your team, shop floor production and project statistics help reinforce this, as well as customer case studies.
  4. Process – how do they go about getting a quote and how long does this take? – Make it clear and be sure to show them what the next action is – and always offer them different ways of getting in touch with you, such as a callback form, project specification form or online chat.

What is the most effective way of generating leads for my automation company?

After working in this sector for the last 15 years we’ve found a number of things work really well, this may vary slightly in specific niches. 

Talk about solutions, rather than bespoke projects

It’s not easy to market bespoke solutions, so you should create a range of solutions that solve known problems for your customers. These can be things like ‘carton erector’ or ‘box stacker’ or ‘Picker Cell’.  Customers can then see the types of problems you solve and the likelihood is that one of these solutions, or a combination of them may be close to what they need. Don’t get me wrong, this can be quite a bit of work to do this, but you don’t have to have physical products – these can be created in your CAD package.
Grid view of Automation machines
Sewtec Automation have created a range of standard automation machines. These help the customer see what a solution looks like, plus the content helps Sewtec get found in Google

Focus on the benefit not the specification

It’s easy to get bogged down in the hardware and technical specification, the ‘how it does it’. But don’t forget to talk about how a solution has helped a customer.  Things like ‘reducing labour costs by 37%’, or increasing production output by 12% can be far more helpful. Be specific, but focus on the benefits that make a difference to their business, not just the process and the problem it solves technically.

Video and Photography

Each time a video is watched, it’s selling what you do, without any effort from you. Taking the time to create videos, either pre-installation or post installation (with customers consent) is always worth the effort. Videos, animations and photos take time to capture, but will keep on giving for years after you’ve finished the project. 
Automation Website

Astech Projects make great use of full-screen video to demonstrate what their solutions can do.

With videos, it’s time to focus on the technical aspects, the equipment, software, control and of course showing the process working. Videos are great when you need to deep dive into how it works and this is where you can get technical.

Vibratory Feeders Google Search

RNA Automation have had great success in using video to help them rank in Google, as well as on Youtube, generating visits and leads from potential customers.

Some of our Automation customers have generated leads directly from searches on Youtube.

Making use of SEO

Due to the low volume but large variance in very specific search terms, SEO can be incredibly effective for Automation companies. Providing that your website is technically sound, one of the most effective ways of improving visibility in Google is just by writing content. These can be case studies, articles, sector or product pages – but they need to be reasonably in depth. 1000-2000 words tends to work best, using the keywords that you want to target in the title and heading tags as well as throughout the content.
CNC Automation Google Search
Mills CNC, who are CNC automation specialists have created specific content which helps them rank (no.1) for specialised key terms (CNC automation specialists), generating clicks and enquiries from potential customers

Paid marketing

Although competition is increasing, likely, there aren’t that many companies that are directly competing with you and your area of expertise. Because of this, advertising on Google can be particularly cost-effective. Google Ads works on a bidding system, when there isn’t so much competition, the price for clicks will be lower.

Although not everyone clicks on adverts, it’s growing, around 15% of all clicks on Google are attributed to adverts. Google Ads is also quick to set up, easy to change or adapt and you can start getting clicks and enquiries much more quickly than with any other form of marketing, normally in just a couple of weeks.


Automation projects often involve a tender or quote process, which can take weeks or even months. As your customers build a shortlist, retargeting can help your business stay front of mind. Your website can record when a potential customer visits you, dropping an invisible cookie. You can then display adverts to this customer around the web, following them around, building your brand and making it more likely that they think of your company when building the tender for the project.

Email marketing

It seems obvious that staying in touch with existing customers can lead to new projects and work being commissioned, but it’s something that many automation companies don’t do. Being proactive and sending a regular email, telling customers what sort of problems you’re solving and what benefits this is bringing is a no brainer.  It works for prospects too, as you’re waiting for a decision on a project, keep them updated with new innovations and work that you are doing, this will set the impression that you’re proactive and a good business to work with.

What sort of results should I be getting?

We’ve been working in the Industrial Automation sector for 15 years. Over this time we’ve built hundreds of adverts, written hundreds or articles and generated thousands of clicks and leads for our automation customers.

These are our benchmarks for digital marketing in the industrial automation sector.

Should digital marketing be a focus for Automation companies?

The short answer is Yes, and the reason why is that it makes total financial sense. The cost for generating a lead via digital is significantly less than more traditional methods such as Advertising in trade magazines, press coverage, exhibitions and telesales.  We’re not saying don’t do this, but consider digital first.

An example of a digital marketing campaign for an industrial automation company

ABC Automation offers RPA (robotics process automation) for the Pharmaceutical and Electronics industries. Their average automation cell comes in at around £120K, but the average order value is normally greater than this because customers normally buy on average 2.4 cells, making their order value £288k.

They get 3,500 visits to their website each month, which are generated from SEO campaigns, content creation and Google Ads. They also create a newsletter, which goes out to around 600 existing customers each month. They don’t have a marketing manager, but they do have three people working in sales. All their marketing is outsourced at a total cost of £6,500 a month to a specialist digital marketing agency.

Due to the Pandemic, all exhibitions have been cancelled and the only marketing they are doing is online. Their digital activity generates on average 20 new leads per month, at a rate of just under 1% conversion.

The average cost to generate a lead is £325.

The sales team work hard to build proposals and specifications, but these can take several months to get approval, normally 6-12 months, but they have a reasonable success rate of 20% which brings the direct cost to generate a new customer £1625 via digital.

Their business works on a 18% NP margin, so each order generates £29,700 in profit, less the direct cost to generate the order of £1625.

So on an annual basis, the cost for lead generation is £78K including digital advertising, the company is closing on average 4 sales a month, to a value of £1.1M or £13M annually. You don’t have to be good at maths to know that this is good value, giving a ROI on marketing 1727%.

Digital marketing campaign example for ABC Automation

  • Digital marketing costs per month – £6,500
  • Lead generation – 20 per month
  • Cost per lead – £325
  • Sales team conversion rate – 20%
  • Cost to generate a sale (not including sales team overheads) – £1625
  • Net profit on Automation projects – 18%
  • Profit per sale £29.7k on direct marketing costs of £1625
  • ROI 1727%

If you’re looking for an agency to take on your digital marketing campaign – big or small – Auburn Creative is here to help. We work with brands throughout the manufacturing industry and help them build digital marketing strategies that get results.

Contact Steve Tipson today and see why we are specialists when it comes to digital marketing.

Author: Steve Tipson