Book smarts, street smarts, oversimplification & marketing for manufacturing

Ed Marsh | Apr 19, 2017

Parenting coaches with no kids

There are certain things that one only learns through life experience.

Parenting, for instance. Not just sniping about how kids should behave in a restaurant or church, but the real, grueling, day in and day out journey of sharing joys & successes, empathizing with failures, teaching impulse control, developing discipline and a work ethic, etc.

There's no way someone can prepare for that job, much less advise others on it, unless they have extensive OJT.

Marketing for manufacturing is the same - in fact the entire revenue growth continuum is.

In a recent Op Ed discussing the evolution of the US Federal Reserve, the founder of the company which became TD Ameritrade said:

Intellect is important, but it’s not enough. Practical knowledge, experience and wisdom are needed to produce good policy, and good policy is essential for our free-market economy to prosper.

We could change a couple words and apply it perfectly to industrial marketing.

After all, how many B2B sales people managing complex sales have never bought capital equipment, carried a P&L or managed across departments? I dare say most.

And how many manufacturing marketers have never sold anything besides marketing service, bought products beyond Apple computers and Adobe software or internalized basics of business finance?

Are they all destined to fail? Of course not. There are some naturally curious, empathetic quick learners who know that they must become familiar with the other dimensions of the ecosystems in which they operate. For many, as a normal distribution would predict, mediocrity rules.

It's a bit silly when one steps back and looks at the entire structure objectively...and it's going to get worse.

Because increasingly we're told that simplicity is the key.

The new decision tree

Everyone is "too busy."

We all experience back to back meetings & calls, scramble to check email quickly between, while simply ignoring voice mails that now accumulate. The impact is a serious challenge to the important cognitive labor required for the sort of insights that lead to breakthroughs in marketing for manufacturing.

So to "solve" for that, Forester predicts that the same marketing folks who haven't walked in their prospects shoes - buckle up here - will ultimately control the information which is available to the prospect....

"That is why the future of marketing may see the marketer act as a filter between consumers and the huge quantity of content they receive...That could involve marketers developing a curated, concierge-like digital experience with mobile apps intelligently managing consumers' complicated digital lives and helping them to locate the content they want to see." Warc News

Searching for solutions to complex manufacturing challenges? Who better to determine what's relevant than someone that's never been on a factory floor! And without even knowing you or talking to you! There'll be an element of digital curation as well. That will draw on your historical inquiries and therefore skew any results toward stale solutions rather than new and creative ones.

You can't really make this up....the old saw is right indeed, it seems that marketing does screw everything up after all.

complexity should be embraced in marketing for manufacturing.jpg

Don't worry, it gets worse

Under the curation model you'll get a variety of information from which to choose that's been algorithmically selected for you (by someone who doesn't know or understand what you do.) 

That means that solutions at the intersections of disciplines, or even wonderful and enriching knowledge will likely be lost. 

But at least you'll still be choosing from a list.

Until Alexa decides for you.

Voice search is changing the complexion of internet search upon which we've all come to rely.

Google (and others) have tried to refine their algorithms to deliver the set of results that best answer your question, and delivered those to you in a list of hundreds of thousands of results. You might never go beyond the top 10 (although engineers do, and marketing for manufacturing needs to recognize that) but you have choices. Even if you use voice as the search input method on your mobile device, you still receive a list of results.

The progression of voice search, however, means that you ask a question of a microphone (THE SYSTEM) and you get an answer. You don't have a choice; there's no list to scan; you don't really even have context for how the answer was derived.

And then, of course, since search algorithms take into account the frequency of result "selection" and bounce, this echo chamber will develop because the answers delivered will become, de facto, the best/right ones.

As people rightly fret about automation and the impact on employment, most agree that the opportunity is for humans to find opportunities to exercise the creativity and judgment which make them unique.

And yet, the push to simplify and curate will likely rob them of the diverse inputs necessary to do so.

We're likely condemning our knowledge workers to operating in an environment void of diverse knowledge at a time it's most important.

The solution is to embrace complexity

That doesn't mean turn everything into a production.

It does mean to recognize that complex sales, marketing for manufacturing and predictable, scalable revenue growth for industrial companies relies on improving the buyers condition.

That's more than a sophomoric "ROI" or a cavalier assurance that a proposed solution will not carry with it any undesirable consequences. It means understanding the complex environment in which it will operate - including the customer's full ecosystem of suppliers, employees, customers, and even their customers' customers. It includes awareness of regulatory and financial implications, and empathy for different departmental perspectives. HR might love automation that reduces back injuries or repetitive motion claims....but if it disrupts production and obliges maintenance to babysit equipment it will be unwelcome on the floor.

In a world that is racing toward a single monochrome and 2D answer, manufacturers that sell complex solutions need to embrace complexity - and distill it into digestible chunks.

To do otherwise is to do a disservice to all...except perhaps those who believe that algorithms and intellect trump "Practical knowledge, experience and wisdom."

Manufacturing marketers should embrace complexity. As many run from it, those who strategically develop resources that enable prospects to develop clear solutions within complex environments will have a significant competitive advantage.

Intrigued? Our downloadable whitepaper "Complicated vs. Complex: B2B Manufacturing Revenue Growth and the Risk of Oversimplifying Strategy" provides more context.

free whitepaper complexity of revenue growth strategy