We work with many manufacturing companies helping them build and implement strategies for growth so we invest a lot of time in understanding the existing marketing and sales situation.
As you can imagine, there are many common problems across industries and company types.
Three of the most common marketing issues I see with manufacturing companies are:
These three issues are interrelated in my mind. The mindset comes first, which leads to the misallocation of resources, and an undervaluing of the immense opportunities companies have with their existing customers.
The proper mindset for growth is what I detailed in my book Inbound Organization.
“An Inbound Organization figures out who their ideal customer is and then relentlessly establishes resources to attract them first, educate them second, start the relationship third, add value at every step in the process, and then ensure their success so they can initiate a series of loops helping the buyer solve more problems.” Inbound Organization, Wiley (2018).
If a business leader thinks growth comes from the sales department alone, they miss the shift in buyer behavior. Buyers don’t want more salespeople to treat them like a number and name on a list, which often happens when companies add salespeople without adding any other value. Buyers want resources and expertise that help them make the changes they need to get where they want to go. And, they insist on a great experience through the whole process.
When I see manufacturing companies add salespeople without addressing the fact that salespeople only touch the prospects in a small percentage of the overall sales process, I see salespeople set up for failure and a waste of time and resources—mostly wasting time and resources of the prospect.
Inbound marketing is still not a standard best practice with most manufacturing and industrial companies. Just having a website and social media accounts is not enough.
I hear a comment from many manufacturing executives: "If we get in front of qualified prospects, we do well”.
But they don’t make the leap to inbound thinking.
Inbound thinking is the idea that you have to be attractive to prospects and not just interrupt them to get their attention. A few years ago, setting up a website, optimizing it, creating a few blog posts, and adding a conversion offer might have been enough.
Not any longer.
If you under-invest in Inbound Marketing, you miss the early part of the buying process for most prospects. Your salespeople never even get the chance to engage because much of the initial engagement happens online. Not all of the time. Yes, some great salespeople are out there creating their own attractive force that drives leads to them but not many in the manufacturing world.
Inbound thinking is the perspective that content marketing is seen as strategic or as a competitive advantage. Great content is your expertise communicated to your target audience. That’s why it is so attractive; it attracts your audience to you.
Inbound is critical because people are so good at tuning out incoming interruptions. I just had a conversation with a start-up founder launching a very focused business with a clear value proposition. He said they sent emails to 100 very targeted prospects and got precisely -0- responses.
You know what I am talking about. You tune out the spam emails, the horrible cold calls, the junk voicemails.
The third mistake I see is manufacturing companies not connecting marketing with their existing customers. Their focus is on net new customers rather than retaining, engaging, and learning from existing customers.
When you leave existing customer relationships with sales or service, you risk missing opportunities to engage and deepen relationships. Salespeople, and more importantly, their managers, are too often concerned with the next deal, making quotas, and hitting monthly or quarterly goals.
Marketing is often better positioned to communicate with existing customers and develop the deep insights needed to create better content and attract more people.
Marketing should be gathering insights about buying behavior, emerging needs, satisfaction levels, and success feedback (how successful are clients using your solutions).
Engaging with customers using marketing processes builds awareness, keeps your company top of mind, and establishes your credibility by being interested in understanding them more deeply.
But before you can do the above, are you sending a regular customer email? An email with product updates, and success stories, telling them about new tools and resources, and establishing your interest in continuing to be connected.
It is about 50/50 for new clients we consult and coach if they send a regular customer email.
Salespeople are essential, but they are no longer sufficient to grow your business. Manufacturing companies that ignore the inbound mindset, inbound marketing, and customer engagement risk missing enormous opportunities for growth.