People in manufacturing tend to be excellent engineers and problem solvers, but not always excellent communicators. This can make marketing seem alien, but it’s actually just another production process, explains Steve Wilkinson.
Lots of SME manufacturers try to get by without really thinking about marketing at all. Some started up just to supply one specific customer. Many have got by simply through word-of-mouth and assume work will always come their way. Others believe they are too small to get noticed and would get lost in the noise, so why bother?
If that sounds like you, stop what you’re doing right now, read the rest of this blog and then sign up for our next Marketing for Manufacturers workshop.
What marketing is in manufacturing-speak
You may think marketing’s not for you, but you’re actually already doing it – it’s a process that runs through your entire business whether you know it or not. You can understand it just like you would any other process, and once you understand that, you’ll be surprised at what you can unleash.
At the most fundamental level, marketing is simply having:
· the right product;
· in the right place;
· at the right time;
· at the right price.
If you’re familiar with the language of lean, you might notice some similarities. Lean is about giving the customer exactly what they want, on time, every time, at the lowest possible cost. In the same way that you can adopt lean manufacturing principles in your factory, you can adopt lean marketing as well.
To be a successful marketer, you need to go through the same process of understanding what your customer wants. Who buys your services and what are their purchasing decisions? What makes them tick?
Once you start thinking with a marketing mindset, you will begin to amass information at every level of your business and you can follow the Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) cycle, just as you would if conducting any lean project:
· Plan: start by identifying opportunities and setting objectives, using tools such as SWOT (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats), customer motivation or market positioning exercises to help understand what makes you unique
· Do: test and implement ideas. Can you experiment with a new route to market? Can you try different messaging on your website? Can you attend your next exhibition with a specific objective or strategy in mind? Be as targeted as possible
· Check: gather feedback and data. Ask trusted customers and partners for their thoughts and use quantifiable data such as leads generated, sales converted and digital engagement
· Act: evaluate your lessons learned and take corrective action.
Digital is important – but not the only game in town
As my fellow Manufacturing Advisor Matthew Ward has previously pointed out, eventually it will no longer be possible for even the most traditional manufacturer to survive without a digital presence. Even if you feel largely invisible in the public realm, others in your supply chain are likely to be active online, so you should be too.
A good digital presence that makes you visible and findable online helps to create warmer leads, build stronger relationships and can also save time and resources.
You don’t need the fanciest website money can buy. A simple, effective website and an active presence on LinkedIn could be all you need for the right people to seek you out.
You’d be surprised how far digital marketing can take you. When I met timber products supplier Fox Timber, which operates just outside of Preston and Chorley, its market share was falling during the pandemic.
However, an update to the website and some targeted digital marketing activity – supported by a local marketing company – and things turned around. Around half of the company’s turnover is now generated from either online sales or sales from people visiting its depots as a result of their digital marketing.
[ Fox Timber's Story ]
That said, modern marketing isn’t all about being digitally savvy. With the right preparation and strategy, you can often achieve far more with a small stand at an exhibition than you might with a big digital marketing drive. But the same rules apply: you have to really understand your customer and take a lean, scientific approach.
Attend our next Marketing for Manufacturers workshop
If you’re unsure how to get started, our fully-funded Marketing for Manufacturers workshop is for you.
At the workshop you’ll learn how to apply simple marketing principles and identify target markets, including:
· How to embed basic marketing principles into your organisation and develop a communications strategy
· How to create new opportunities and develop new business
· How IP can add value to your business
· How to make the cost of exhibitions work harder for you.
Crucially, if you choose to employ the services of a marketing specialist later down the line, you will be able to enter into that relationship already primed with data and specific objectives to get the ball rolling.
Interested? Sign up to our next workshop here.