SIC & NAICS in Modern Marketing

Four Ways to Put Standard Industry Classification to Work for You

For over 60 years, the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) System has served as a widely accepted structure for the analysis of businesses participating in the U.S. economy. Marketers have long looked to the SIC system and its predecessor—the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS)—as methods to simplify the processes behind identifying, segmenting, and targeting potential customers and prospects.

But what if you don’t have a lot of experience in an industry? Perhaps you are just starting out as an industry marketer and quickly need to profile the makeup of your potential customers and prospects. Understanding SIC and NAICS can seem like a daunting task, but having a cursory comprehension of these systems can help you support a variety of marketing activities.

SIC and NAICS Simplified

According to the SIC system, an industry consists of a group of establishments primarily engaged in producing or handling the same product or group of products or in rendering the same services. The U.S. Census Bureau assigns one code to each establishment based on its primary activity (generally the activity that generates the most revenue). Classification codes are typically derived from information business establishments provide on surveys, census forms, or administrative records.

SIC is a 4 digit, top-down code. The first two digits of the code sequence define the major industry sector, and the second two digits further refine the sub classification of that sector.

NAICS is a newer, 6-digit version of SIC, first put used in 1997. While NAICS has largely replaced SIC, some areas of government and business still use SIC codes, so it is important to understand both classification systems.

Making Sense for Modern Marketing

Most marketers face the same questions in planning a new campaign. What customers or prospects are you marketing to? What are the customers’ motivations? Why are the customers in the industry you are marketing to?

If you have experienced a large amount of customer interaction, you may already know the answers to these questions. If not, many of today’s marketers turn to creating buyer personas to document customers’ demographic information, buying motivation, and potential paths into purchasing product and services.

  1. Identify Specific Buyers

SIC and NAICS code contain information about a company’s general industry classification and specific vertical product/service applications. However, some classification categories—such as “pumps”—are very broad and can include a huge variety of manufacturing businesses.

Does your company target manufacturers of pumps or pumping equipment? If so, what specific type?

Pumps and pumping equipment are classified under SIC code 3561. Additionally, NAICS Code 333911—Pump and Pumping Equipment Manufacturing—further classifies the 800+ companies within this category into the following segments:

  • Cylinders, pump
  • Domestic water pumps
  • Hydro jet marine engine units
  • Pump jacks
  • Pumps, domestic: water or sump
  • Pumps, general industrial type
  • Pumps, oil well and oil field

Websites such as list companies in each of the standard classification categories. By searching each of your target industry codes, you can locate basic details for companies in those verticals. After identifying which specific industry vertical your products serve, you can more easily locate basic contact information for your target customers.

  1. Collect Detailed Profile Data

The more detailed industry categories identified in step one allow you to perform long tail keyword searches to further define your target buyer organizations. Manufacturing directories such as IQS Directory offer detailed information about a company’s product offerings, including customer reviews, contact information, videos, blog posts, and recent news.

These resources allow marketers to gain a better understanding of their target customers’ business needs, motivations, and level of interest in the products you sell. Additionally, marketers can build target customer and prospect lists and develop campaigns with content that is relevant to the audiences they are attempting to reach.

  1. Target Related Industries

After you drill down to find specific companies within a specific SIC or NAICS code, you can then drill back up to find other verticals related to those companies. These organizations might also be good targets for your content and campaign messages.

The manufacturing categories listed in online directories also allow marketers to research related vertical industries. For example, a search for “air handling equipment” on IQS Directory returns results for:

  • Air compressors
  • Air filters
  • Air pollution control
  • Blowers
  • Dust collectors

After researching companies listed within the related verticals, you may find that your base of prospect customers may be larger than you expected.

  1. Refine Lead Qualification Criteria

Once you identify the most appropriate targets for your marketing campaigns, you can use the information to determine which inbound leads are most qualified for follow up. Additionally, you can budget advertising, content development, and campaign dollars based on which prospects are most likely to become customers.

As your company website evolves, industry classification codes become a method to guide customers and prospects to relevant content. Potential buyers can select their applicable industry vertical on your homepage and instantly view product information that relates to their unique business challenges.

Even though SIC and NAICS categories were developed in an era of relatively little technology, the classification systems do provide an accepted framework for categorizing the hundreds of industry verticals that manufacturing marketers address every day.

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