“I had learned that a dexterous, opposable thumb stood among the hallmarks of human success. We had maintained, even exaggerated, this important flexibility of our primate forebears, while most mammals had sacrificed it in specializing their digits. Carnivores run, stab, and scratch. My cat may manipulate me psychologically, but he'll never type or play the piano.” Stephen Jay Gould, The Panda's Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History
As you're clicking your mouse, holding and sipping your coffee and texting with one hand while carrying something with the other do you ever wonder at the incredible dexterity which the complex structure of your lower arm (along with your opposing thumb) provides? It's really a remarkable accomplishment of nature.
Imagine if your lower arm only had a single bone like your upper arm....there'd be less to break as a kid swinging & sliding but you'd be restricted to running, stabbing and scratching like Gould's carnivore.
In fact, you'd go through daily life with vastly restricted dexterity - much like most B2B marketing.
Clumsy vs. dexterous manufacturing growth strategy
Most manufacturers structure their business development as a series of responsibilities. Simplistically, the PR bone is connected to the marketing bone....the marketing bone is connected to the sales bone....the sales bone is connected to the customer service bone.
And like an arm which evolved with only single bones in it's upper and lower sections, the opportunity cost in dexterity is enormous.
Surely there was a time when business development for manufacturers was linear. When marketing would generate "leads", or some indication of interest, and sic sales on the poor prospects to be worked. And when sales controlled the information which buyers needed to understand and compare solution alternatives, that system worked.
Until it didn't...as soon as buyers no longer were hostage to sales for the information they sought. Yet while buyers have changed the way they buy, generally B2B manufacturers persist in following outdated growth strategies.
There's lots of work to do, but a simple organizational shift would substantially improve the results.
Visualize, organize, fund and manage the marketing and sales functions like the human radius and ulna - intricately collaborative elements which together deliver exponentially more dexterity, reach and capability than the traditional serial connection.
The fundamental justification? Research shows that buyers are more than 70% of the way through their buying process before they are willing to entertain direct rep contact.
That means that email, online content, videos, whitepapers, infographics, webinars, etc. (all traditionally the domain of 'marketing') now must sell through a virtual dialog with buyers who are intent on educating themselves, clarifying their requirements and researching options....on their own; stealthily.
So the domains of B2B marketing & sales that used to be clearly delineated now largely overlap, and a manufacturing growth strategy must fully intertwine the disciplines into a coordinated approach.
But how's a company truly to achieve that with silo structures and separate management, org chart positions and even, in many cases, different accounting treatment of investment in each?
This is the fundamental challenge facing B2B manufacturing challenges today - and it's complicated by the skepticism with which many exectutives view "marketing."
What's particularly fascinating though is the disconnect between the buyer and seller "alter egos" of most manufacturing execs. When asked who buys from cold calls, they skoff. But 10 seconds later, when asked who relies on sales reps cold calling for sales, they invariably nod. Crazy? It sounds it, but it's so pervasive there's some more fundamental explanation at play.
Like any major change this must be embraced and consistently modeled and reinforced by senior leadership. Of course, that's the same senior leadership which may fret about a manufacturing skills gap while being blind to their own.
That's the value, perhaps indespensible role of capble business development consulting. Like a LEAN implementation made achievable, a market development strategy with execution assistance represents the next opportunity for breakout manufacturing growth.