Inbound Marketing for Manufacturers - you think I'm nuts!

Ed Marsh | Sep 5, 2012

Optimism & Adaptation

Well....a couple of you actually showed up again today after I hammered you yesterday.  Thanks for being dedicated readers.  I will have to work harder to completely convince you I'm nuts!

How many of you experienced a reaction along the lines of "He's crazy.  Our customers need the technical details.  That's what sells our product.  Just ask our sales people.  In fact, that's why we hire technical sales people.  that's what our customers expect.  maybe his "new fangled" approach works in some businesses, but when it comes to XXX industry, that dog won't hunt."

In other words, you deem inbound marketing for manufacturers to be an idea without practical applicability.

Fair enough.  But let's dig into this.  What if in fact your busy looking for customers while in fact they are looking for you - maybe even watching you, and you don't have any idea......

Why you can't let yourself see what your prospects need

  1. Cognitive Bias - The more expert someone considers themselves in an area, the more susceptible they are to blind spots
  2. Reinforcing feedback - You hire sales reps that feel comfortable to you and fit the mold that you perceive is required for your prospects.  Is their confirming feedback really a separate data point?  And your technically minded buyers routinely tell you how valuable your deep knowledge is.
  3. Your customer personas are evolving - Companies operate, develop, research, source and purchase very differently than they used to.  You have mastered the technical dialog - it's comfortable while others may be unsettling.
  4. You search for certain specifications - You identify a problem to address and then search for a set of technical attributes to satisfy your requirement.  And you assume everyone else does to.
  5. You know the technical details of your solution intimately.  Each is deliberate - and you believe ardently in the value that each contributes to your solution.  So you highlight them.

Who's buying your solution?

This is a fundamentally critical strategy question that most industrial marketing people make.  It's an especially common trap in very small businesses where the owner/president manages much of the marketing closely or even personally.

If you really want to break out of the mold you have created (limiting your business growth by appeal to a narrow segment of prospects) you must first clearly outline the full range of company and individual profiles whom you can profitably target.

Let's say you are accustomed to speaking to a quality engineer who needs to reduce defects in a component which they source.  They reach you through the Thomas Register (along with 73 other vendors whose websites have the same outline - page for company history, page for in house equipment, quotes about quality and customer service and a really inviting 'contact us' form.)  Right out of the gate you are commoditized - and you have done it to yourself!

But who else could be interested?  How about a company CEO who sees warranty allowances consumed?  A purchasing agent who believes that there are value components (e.g. quick turn around) that matter besides low price?  An R&D engineer who wants to do it right next time, and find the right part from the get-go?  Or even a sales rep who has a customer with a problem she can't fix, but a desire to be seen as a resource by bringing a worthwhile solution.

Many of those folks aren't even going to know to search by some technical term - but may search for:
  • how to reduce warranty defects in outsourced components
  • savings through CNC quality or short lead-time
  • designing quality into outsourced components
  • how to fix high levels of machined component failure
or any of hundreds of different possibilities....

And tell me you can't develop a much deeper relationship with that design engineer by helping him avoid future problems than with a buyer just looking for a competitive source!  Help educate him (e.g. with a white paper on the "7 Mistakes Most Design Engineers Make When Designing Outsource Components") and he'll love you....and bring you his business.

And for those of you selling B2B services or other types of products....give me 5 minutes and I can give you a long list of analogous possibilities.

So what do you do?

Here's your choice.  Keep flogging the same inwardly focused, stale sounding message to the same folks - or - start being a resource, building a large base of prospects, automatically (I know you're busy and don't have a ton of time) nurture those until they become leads (like when that design engineer actually needs his next part) and converting them to customers.

The second best part?  This inbound marketing for manufacturers methodology may well be less expensive than your current frustrating marketing efforts.

And the best?  For the hard core technical side of you, this is the most transparent marketing method you can use.  With the right platform you can test, tweak and monitor real-time your you can TQM your marketing and continuously improve.  Tell me that doesn't quicken your technical detail oriented pulse a beat or two!

Will inbound marketing work for you?  Probably, it is absolutely the most effective form of industrial marketing available, but let's talk.  Help me understand where you want to go, why, and what happens if you miss.  I'll ask you lots of questions and then I'll tell you honestly if we can guide you there.

But don't call if you want a quick fix. This isn't expensive, but it will take sustained effort and probably 4-6 months before we move the needle.  Experience tells me when that needle begins to twitch, though, we can hit high RPMs pretty quickly.

Call me 978.238.9898

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