Overcome The Key Small manufacturing Business Marketing Challenges

Small manufacturing businesses face their own special set of marketing challenges. In this post we cover the four key challenges and suggest some potential solutions.

Not Products But Commodities

Increasingly a problem for a wide range of businesses. I am not quite sure if it is a function of how society in general now functions, a general more competitive environment or hard times in manufacturing resulting in a dog eat dog culture. Whatever the reason it is becoming harder to differentiate products and, as a result, charge a premium.

Manufacturing used to be immune to an extent from this phenomene but no more. Products are increasingly treated as commodities and therefore price alone is king.

Solution: The solution is in two parts. The first is to strive to introduce new products or services as rapidly as possible. It appears life cycles are shortening and therefore the time available to maximise returns is also reducing. As one product reaches maturity (and therefore commodity status) the next needs to be ready.

The second part is actually a key element of all that follows and that is marketing strategy. It is important to understand in intimate detail what it is the business actually delivers, who needs that product or service, why they need it and who else satisfies that need. This is the key to product differentiation.

Customer Retention

Many smaller manufacturing businesses have a relatively small potential customer base. It is therefore essential to keep current customers and to maximise the value of those customers.

Research shows the prime reason customers leave is a service issue (including delivery) but the second most common reason is perhaps a surprise. It is not price but is a perception that the customer is not valued by the supplier.

Solution: keep touching and interacting with the customer. This is a challenge for sales and with the ongoing pressure to secure the next order it is perhaps not a surprise it is often neglected. The most efficient method is to deliver engaging and useful information (content) on a regular basis.

A robust customer feedback system that is designed to deliver a high response rate is key to identifying potential issues with existing customers and dealing with them before they become serious. It can also be a lead in (with happy customers) to securing valuable case studies to use to both extract more from customers and to help with securing new customers.

New Customers Acquisition

The old maxim it costs 5x more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one tends to hold true. Manufacturing businesses tend to allocate a significant amount of effort to new customer acquisition. Unfortunately much of that effort is often wasted by sales in unproductive meetings based on poor quality leads.

Solution: A well thought out strategy (see above) and appropriate targeting can certainly help. However, the main issue is the game has changed and prospects are much more likely to search for the information they need to make a buying decision (pull) than they ever were in the past. The old push type marketing based on telemarketing, appointment setting, advertising and Emails based on sales copy alone is less and less effective. The process should be identify decision makers, reach out to them with appropriate content or use content to draw them in.

Ad Hoc Approach To Marketing

Without a strategy and a clear understanding of the customer and how to reach them it is all too easy to jump from one marketing activity to the next. To make a success of marketing requires both time and a consistent approach. Falling for the hype about the latest and greatest and marketing technique generally leads to disappointment.

Solution – It takes courage to see it through but what is needed is a marketing process built around the most appropriate marketing techniques. A process that can be measured and optimised to deliver the best approach.

To succeed a solid strategy and marketing process are key. It is also essential to embrace inbound marketing and use valuable and engaging information (content) to fuel the process.

Marketing A Manufacturing Business – Best Practice Review

Recent research into marketing a manufacturing business delivers some useful insights. The report (published by CMI) is based on a sample of USA based manufacturing businesses and shows over 80% have adopted inbound marketing.

It is widely recognised that the B2B buying process has changed with most buyers carrying out their detailed research into potential solutions and suppliers before they make any approach to a potential vendor. Given the increased resistance to push type marketing increasing numbers of manufacturing businesses are switching to pull (inbound) marketing and attempting to engage potential customers.

Content marketing is a major element of inbound marketing adopted widely in other industryManufacturers switching to inbound marketing verticals but relatively new to manufacturing. The report shows that manufacturers are struggling to catch up with only 30% claiming they are currently happy with the quality and effectiveness of their content marketing activities.

Manufacturing Business Marketing – The Statistics

The key objective of content marketing for a manufacturing business is shown as brand awareness (87% of respondents), customer retention (68%), engagement (67%) and lead generation (67%). Measures of effectiveness are shown as website traffic (63%), sales lead quality (48%), time spent on website (45%) and sales lead quantity (42%).

The most effective content delivery methods show as in person events like seminar and exhibition (71% state as most effective), video (71%), case studies (67%) and white papers (58%).

The report shows that the major challenges faced by content marketers in manufacturing businesses are lack of time (69%), producing the kind of content that engages (62%) and producing enough content (56%). However, in our opinion, it fails to cover one of the major issues. That is the difficulties associated with choosing the delivery medium.

Marketing Tactics And Content Delivery

It is also a surprise that social media ranks 4th as the most used tactic (we would have expected it to rank lower) and even more of a surprise that Facebook is a more popular medium than Linked In. Less of a surprise is You Tube ranking as the most popular social media channel and the continued popularity (when compared with other markets) of print and Email. This, we suspect, is primarily because these delivery methods are perceived as those that have a higher chance of reaching the prospect or customer.

So in summary as manufacturing businesses attempt to build awareness and generate leads there is an ongoing move from outbound to inbound marketing. This trend brings with it new challenges associated with generating sufficient engaging and quality content to feed the process. It appears manufacturing businesses are not as advanced as other sectors in dealing with the resource and management issues that these challenges present.

The report fails to deal with the challenges associated with delivering content by the most appropriate channel to ensure it is available to the target customer and prospect base. Failure to address this point can nullify any benefit an inbound (content based) manufacturing marketing process may deliver. There is little point in talking if nobody is listening.