How to Optimize Marketing for Manufacturing

Ed Marsh | Sep 21, 2022

Your Product is Almost Irrelevant in Great Marketing for Manufacturing

Introduction to SignalsFromTheOP

Guide to episode

  1. Manufacturers love to talk about their product
  2. Buyers don't care
  3. Buyers buy when they understand their business case for change
  4. Manufacturing marketing needs to educate buyers and help buying teams navigate decision making. Product and vendor selection will take care of itself once you've differentiated your business through effective marketing

Transcript follows:

Hi, I’m Ed Marsh. Welcome to this episode of Signals from the OP. My biweekly videos are intended to be thought-provoking for industrial manufacturing company execs. If you know of one who you think might find some value, please share it with them.

Misunderstanding the Role of Manufacturing Marketing

Let’s talk about marketing for manufacturing. This is something that is fundamentally misunderstood. Manufacturers define the world by how their stuff is designed and made. That means the technical details. For capital equipment that typically means dimensions, speeds, horsepower, feet or meters/minute, units/hour, the controller and HMI, durometer of rubber, type of stainless steel, and more.

Each detail has been carefully considered from the perspective of engineering and manufacturing, and each is often the product of lots of versions and revisions. The team has a lot of themselves – years and hours – invested in the current iteration. It’s important to them, and they assume to everyone else.

Further, in many privately held middle-market manufacturing firms the owner and senior management are often the people who originally invented the product. So there’s not only accumulated attachment to the current, evolved version but there’s a deep attachment to the original iteration. It’s a reflection of themselves in many cases.

So manufacturing companies project their deep affinity and respect for their product on the market and work to share every excruciating detail with prospects. That’s a problem because prospects don’t care.

Great Marketing for Manufacturing is About Business Issues, Not Technical Specs

Now, I know. I hear you pushing back. Your saying “But the questions we most often get from prospects are about the technical details!” And I advise elsewhere that downloadable drawings and spec sheets are important and effective lead generation tools for marketing to engineers. So how do we resolve the apparent inherent contradiction?

Two ways.

First, often buyers have been conditioned by companies like yours that those are the questions they’re supposed to ask. So, reflexively they do. And there’s no doubt that engineers need to understand floor space, material flow, mechanical configurations, footing requirements, access panel locations, and more when they discuss dropping some machinery into a factory. They need some of the info. And your website and user experience should make it really easy for them to find it, and keep your sales team updated on each engagement, page visited, and file downloaded so that your team understands who’s involved and can infer what questions prospects are asking. Don’t forget the power of chatbots to help visitors find that kind of info and even “portals” to pull information together for technical buyers in a way that helps them and helps you observe their activity.

Second, the technical details at best are used to differentiate one product and vendor from another. But NOBODY buys your products because of the technical details.

Think about how absurd that is. I’m going to buy a machine that I don’t need just because it has 173HP variable speed drive, a Rockwell PLC, and grade 316 stainless??

No way.

I’m going to buy a machine because of the business impact it will have. If I could achieve the same thing by buying a stuffed duck or a garden hose, and it was less expensive, that’s what I’d do.

I will buy your product when I’m convinced that it helps me capture a new opportunity and or reduce cost.

The cost reduction could be in the form of less downtime, reduced material waste, less work-in-process inventory or floor space for the process, less electricity, gas, or compressed air, higher output in the same space and time, consolidation of processes, or other reasons.

The opportunity could be added capacity to take on new customers, the ability to produce new differentiated products that help my buyers achieve something better, greater economy of output to outprice competitors, etc.

Market Around Reasons People Should and Will Buy

Those are examples of the reasons I’ll buy. And that is what marketing for manufacturing needs to speak to. When you really understand buyer issues and build your manufacturing marketing around them, not only will you generate more leads but you’ll differentiate your business by establishing significantly higher credibility with buyers than competitors who just blabber on about technical details.

After all, buyers want to solve their problems. How often do you sense that a buyer hasn’t defined their problem accurately? It’s frequent. And buying a solution to the wrong problem is bad for the buyer and reflects poorly on the vendor that sold it. If your marketing is about technical details then you’re giving them what they think they want, but you’re not helping them get what they need.

Provide Important and Helpful Information for Buying Teams

So effective B2B manufacturing marketing provides extensive information on how to understand, define and quantify the business problems that you know you help solve. It offers diagnostic tips, explanations, checklists, and calculators to help all members of the buying team (financial, technical, maintenance, procurement, executive management) develop a robust understanding of the considerations involved in a purchase like yours. It even coaches them on how to make the decision to avoid mistakes and disappointments because although they buy frequently, they probably solve this problem infrequently.

Change the Way You Think About Marketing for Manufacturing

There’s a problem though. This is a huge mindset shift. Manufacturers have yammered on about their products for years. Trade show booths announce the latest iteration of the X19AZ23 (or whatever name they put on it.) Press releases tout the same. And even email marketing to prospects and current customers spews yet more of it. But you have to stop it.

Start talking about what really matters to your buyers. Help them understand your company, expertise, and products in the context of their vexing and compelling business problems. Build your website, prospecting, sales enablement, and manufacturing marketing around those.

Sure, technical details must be shared so that the engineers on the buying team can ensure they’re not overlooking critical details. But that’s not why someone buys. Effective B2B manufacturing marketing strategy and execution are built on helping companies understand their business issues and seeing a clear path to successfully solving them.

I’m Ed Marsh. If you found value in this episode of Signals from the OP check out the full playlist and maybe even like it, share it, and subscribe – either to my YouTube channel EdMarshSpeaks.TV or at the related blog