A few days ago, I was chatting with the president of Kovac,* a $25 million Canadian manufacturing company, and I was surprised to hear of the difficulties he was having in hiring their first-ever marketer. He had been putting it off for six months. The reason for his delay ran much deeper than finding the right talent. Ultimately, he didn’t know what he should be looking for in a hire, because he wasn’t sure what he expected from marketing in general.
This is something that many manufacturers struggle with.
In the past, manufacturers didn’t need to concern themselves with marketing. They concentrated on producing great products, then hired great salespeople to spread awareness and sell them.
But times have changed, and that product and sales focus alone isn’t enough any more. Marketing is now one of the keys to success, so manufacturers are getting serious about marketing.
But that fact doesn't make it any easier for manufacturers to be successful with marketing, because they still have a big learning curve. If they've never had a marketing partner or an in-house marketer (or have had a bad experience with marketers), they have to deal with the fear of failure or the ambiguity of their objectives.
That was the challenge the president of Kovac faced. The board had recommended that the company invest in marketing to support their growth in new markets. But when the president sat down to prepare for the hiring process, he didn't know how to articulate his objectives for marketing.
His hesitation is understandable. When most of us aren't sure what we're trying to accomplish, it's hard (and often dumb) to move forward. But his inaction on marketing was letting important months go by and leaving the playing field wide open for his competitors.
So, what should a manufacturing company expect from marketing? For most B2B companies, the key objectives are:
1. Raise awareness of the company
Many manufacturers believe their company is ‘the best kept secret’ in their industry. That’s a terrible thing!
If a manufacturer has been relying on salespeople to spread the word about their products, it’s time to let marketing do some of that work. Remember, nearly every prospective buyer is doing their own research online, so manufacturers need to market online. And when 71% of B2B Internet searches start with a generic search, marketing must be the new evangelist, growing awareness and shining the spotlight squarely on their company’s products.
2. Build credibility
Even though manufacturers live in the world of tangible goods, the majority of people now evaluate a company online. Since 75% of people judge the credibility of a company based on its website, manufacturers have to rely on their marketing to convey their quality and reputation. When it comes to critical first impressions, marketing will make or break whether a B2B company gets a shot at working with a new client on a new order, or whether the customer moves on to another supplier.
3. Generate leads
Once a company has raised awareness of itself and built credibility, the focus can be on generating leads.
The critical element here is that generating leads comes after raising awareness and building credibility. In B2B selling, it’s very difficult to generate leads if a company doesn’t have any awareness or credibility. No B2B buyer wants to do business with an unknown or untrusted vendor. Marketing has to make sure that a company ‘looks’ legitimate before the company will have much success generating leads and growing the pipeline.
4. Attract talent
The fourth thing that marketing helps manufacturers accomplish is one that is often ignored. But it’s important.
There’s a talent shortage in manufacturing. By 2020, the US will have nearly 3.5 million vacancies to fill. Marketing helps make companies more attractive to top talent, especially millennials, who are known for being particular about the employers they choose. This is true for both attracting sales talent, who want to know that they will be well supported when they go out to market, and for all other kinds of talent, who want to know that they’re working for a company that keeps up with the times, in every function from marketing to HR to operations.
While marketing can be a catalyst or ancillary support for many changes and improvements in a manufacturer, these 4 things are the best way for a manufacturer to think about what they hope to accomplish from marketing.
But first you have to hire them.
*Name has been changed to protect privacy.