I'm sure your VP of Sales is a driven, hard working, numbers focused person. I'm also sure that (s)he has plenty of reasons why growth is such a challenge.
- Pricing pressures
- Margin compression
- Cheap imports
- Buyers lurk in the shadows of the web
- Purchasing is done by teams now, rather than individuals
- XX feature offered by the competition is winning deals
And so you grind to get 2% or 5% annual growth. Or alternatively, if you achieve 15% growth you assume you're really killing it (do you ever wonder if you could achieve 40%?)
The problem is that revenue growth in most B2B manufacturing remains a very linear process....just like the manufacturing itself. In fact the very core manufacturing function, and its essence to the company, often prevents management and staff from recognizing how that approach constrains manufacturing revenue growth.
Hyatt or Airbnb?
In a recent TechCrunch article exploring "exponential organizations", Nabyl Charania (@nabylc) compared the traditionally linear process Hyatt follows to increase capacity vs. the disruptive model of Airbnb which expands capacity based on an entirely different model.
The essence of the difference in outlook is simple:
"Whereas linear organizations are necessarily constrained by limited resources, exponential organizations are governed by an assumption of abundance....Exponential is a mindset, not an explanation. It’s a choice companies make. And scalability is just one of its natural results."
Manufacturing companies face a pernicious challenge. At their core, much of their function remains linear. Sure they can improve efficiency, but at the end of the day stuff comes in one end of the building and finished products ship out the other. And yet buyers no longer accept linear purchasing processes, nor do prospects, enabled by the world wide web, accept artificial constraints on available solutions.
Only a certain number of prospects
Here's the thing. The buyers are out there.
- Those that know they have a problem which your solution addresses
- Those aware something's not right and struggling to understand a problem, which your solution could address
- Those who suffer without even realizing that a problem is impinging on their success - a problem which your solution would help solve
Group 1 has researched the issue and found a solution. Maybe they'll consider yours as a "3rd quote" and maybe your rep will just happen to cold call at the right time and maybe they'll happen to get through to a key influencer (is there a single decision maker in B2B team buying of complex solutions today?) and maybe they'll have an uninterrupted conversation. And in that case, according to LinkedIn research, there's a 26% chance that they'll select something other than the first resource that helped them understand how to solve their problem.
And maybe you like those odds.....I don't.
Group 2 is thrashing around researching. Not products. Not companies. But some symptom of their challenge. They haven't even defined it yet, don't understand the causes, and haven't begun to formulate a response/select a solution. Your rep can dial away all day long...and even if they reach someone there's no awareness of any symbiosis.
And Group 3, focused on dealing with problems of which they are aware is loathe to complicate their world by fabricating new problems where none, as far as they're concerned, exist.
That's where the power of content marketing as a tool for manufacturing revenue growth comes in.
As a manufacturer you must be the company that:
- helps define and solve the problem so that you have the 74% odds of winning
- provides extensive educational material regarding business challenges that may only feel tangentially related to what you do, to help companies understand their challenge and envision a solution
- create awareness of a problem and help companies understand the real impact (and ease of implementing a solution)
But that takes time. And statistically it takes a certain number of potential buyers. You've done "Total Addressable Market" research. But that's a mirage, right? If you're not in front of the buyers there is no market.
Seeing (actually visualizing) global abundance
This is where manufacturers need to drop their linear perspective. Stop thinking about calling 73 times to generate 4 sales calls to create 2 projects to get 1 sale.
Start thinking about being in a helpful virtual huddle with buyers struggling with a problem you address; wherever and whenever they're looking.
That means that the traditional reticence to export needs to be just as surely jettisoned as an end-of-line inspection to ensure quality. Of course you now design and manufacture quality into your product...and just spot check.
Similarly, global customers will naturally arrive at your doorstep if you simply help companies find you. The old days of market research, resource intensive foreign market forays and painful sunk costs are done. Today, as you help ideal prospects find you, they'll arrive from global destinations - both domestic and international.
Prospects are abundant. Wouldn't you love to trade a slow growth challenge for one of scaling your production? Business can be fun and profitable if you can shed the linear approach to manufacturing revenue growth.
Can you? Would you want to become an "exponential organization?"
image - mikehostetler