Challenges of manufacturing marketing
MANUFACTURING Marketing Complexity
Industrial products meet a specific need, which means they are usually involved. They are very complicated and require technical knowledge to sell the products, especially the more customized the product is.
The manufacturing sales process differs drastically based on the type of product, the length of the sales cycle, product size, and the number of decision-makers. The product may be a seasonal product, such as snow plows for road crews. There may be several decision-makers, from the supervisor over the snow truck drivers to the general manager over the corporation, who emphasize supplier selection.
Another factor for this industry is bids and quotations. These customers often do not have the luxury of picking up a catalog or browsing on the internet and merely making a one-size-fits-all purchase. A request for quote (RFQ) is published, requesting quotes and specifications to ensure the product meets all the needs. An evaluation of all those who submitted quotes occurs before a decision. Industrial customers may spend weeks or months evaluating products.
Because of the complexity of industrial sales factors, the marketing strategy becomes complex to reach the right audience in the right way to benefit the manufacturer and the consumer.
New Marketing Pressure for Manufacturers
Today, more manufacturers feel the pressure to diversify and find new customers and markets to grow but don’t know what to do. Historically, industrial manufacturers have depended on trade shows, ads in trade magazines or catalogs to promote their products aside from personal networking and sales teams. While industrial manufacturers have used this approach for decades, the digital revolution is changing all the rules.
Digital communications have increased competition and reduced or even eliminated the need to engage with industrial sales representatives until much later in the evaluation and decision-making journey. Online reviews and assessments have also created a new level of expectations of quality and transparency.
As a result, more industrial firms are approaching marketers to help provide new marketing solutions. Unfortunately, most marketers don’t know how to handle the manufacturing industry with the same confidence they usually do to promote general products and services. The majority of marketing education focuses on products and services. Even though the lack of teaching industrial marketing has been an issue for years, a field of study for manufacturing marketing is still not widely available.
Manufacturing Sales Reps are Product Experts
As I stated earlier, industrial products are very complicated and require technical knowledge to sell. The sales representatives at manufacturing companies are often “homegrown,” meaning they emerge from the ranks of employees who have gained a great deal of expertise working on the assembly line. Or from their engineers. They identify folks within their ranks who know the products and possess an acceptable level of communication skills. Once that is established, then they try to teach them to sell the product. This conversion more often takes a lot of time and money to get traction.
manufacturing Sales Reps are Not Marketing Experts
With the increasing pressure to implement and improve their competitive position through marketing, manufacturers must also invest time and money into their marketing team and initiatives. This process is not as simple as assigning an engineer or a sales representative as the company marketing director. Even those who have become great salespeople don’t know enough about the complex world of marketing. Nor will the solution be simply hiring a marketing graduate or one with limited multi-channel experience, placing them in a cubicle, and then expecting them to produce any meaningful results or an ROI on your promotional dollars.
One internal person can serve as the marketing director but will need to be the Marketing “Coordinator.” This person can help develop strategy but will need several other marketing specialists to create an effective plan that delivers precise results in an ever-changing digital landscape. New marketing rules and tools emerge every month. One person in your firm, or even in an agency, cannot possess the acute degree of marketing experience and knowledge required to effectively plan and guide a company through the changing digital landscape and new brand positioning wars by themselves. Effective marketing now requires a team.
Get a Professional Marketing Firm to Help
One promising approach is to engage an experienced and diversified marketing firm that already has a team of marketing specialists. You could also seek out and hire individual specialists such as a web designer, graphic artist, content writer, social media strategist, etc. There are two significant flaws with this choice.
- Each is only concerned with and accountable for their particular specialty. Individual marketing vendors don’t work within an overall marketing strategy and will not understand or be too worried about how to design their contribution to merge with other marketing factors. You will find yourself with a mish-mash of brand cohesion and many different and expensive marketing play-toys that never improve your situation.
- Individual vendors come and go. Often, they take a job elsewhere or disappear. Then you’re back to looking for a replacement, who, when found, will tell you their predecessor did everything wrong, and you must start over again.
Working with a firm allows you to expect accountability and results. And they are responsible for vetting, engaging, and directing marketing specialists.
Besides, you’ll want a firm that will commit to dedicating their resources to focus, learn and understand your industrial products and customers to a much greater extent than would generally be required of them.
As I stated, each industry is different and requires a customized case-by-case approach to reach its target segments. Just as it is with industrial sales reps, manufacturing marketing also requires investing considerable time in on-the-job training to identify and refine industrial marketing strategies unique to the type of product they build. In other words, you may need to blend an experienced marketer with “homegrown” knowledge.
Manufacturing Marketing Data Limitations
Industrial designers and engineers don’t build products based on guesswork or intuition. They produce products based on needs and empirical data.
Marketing requires the same. Marketing decisions based on subjectivity, intuition, tribal/popular control, or “on the way we’ve always done it” are fast ways to lose money and brand position. Today, empirical evidence must guide marketing as much as possible.
However, another problem unique to the manufacturing sector is the lack of industrial marketing data to build marketing strategies. There are mountains of database information available for consumer products and an enormous amount of consumer demographic information to identify the customer profile and market segment. Colleges focus on consumer marketing because the data and research are readily available. On the other hand, information on industrial market niches is complicated to acquire and is generally qualitative, and requires considerable industrial experience to gather.
Industrial market research is more complicated, which is why little is available. Consumer market research methods generally do not work for industrial products because the samples are too small. The buyers are not a homogeneous group who can be considered a valid model. Because of these two problems, statistical techniques for projecting the sample cannot represent a larger market.
Also, factors differ from consumer to consumer since interest rates may impact one, while government regulations may be a more significant factor for another company. It is not as simple as asking someone to take a survey. Industrial marketers must apply qualitative techniques requiring field research and personal interviewing.
Start Acquiring Data for Marketing
Since the type of data required to assist manufacturing marketing typically does not exist, you and your marketing team will need to develop a process to acquire it.
Effective industrial marketing requires data. A clear understanding of the buyer, the buyer “journey” or decision-making process, customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction, the degree of customer awareness of your product, their current attitude regarding your product (or company), as well as their attitude regarding your competitors, your market share, are all important. There must be analytical tools to measure results (so your marketing will know what to fix). You must also try to develop a process to listen to your customers regularly. With increased competition, early detection of dis-satisfiers is now more critical to have in place to quickly correct problems and retain the customers you have.
manufacturing Marketing is unique
Manufacturing marketing is a specialized area in the marketing world, with very complex and unique products, decision factors, and limited data to formulate marketing strategies. Industrial manufacturers should consider engaging experienced, capable (and passionate) marketer(s) who are not too proud or jaded to invest the time required to learn an excessive amount of knowledge to help their industrial clients achieve their strategic objectives. Industrial companies must be willing to invest time and money to develop their marketing arm, acquire data to make better marketing decisions and work to pay attention to both the tangible and intangible characteristics and perceptions of their company and products.