As manufacturers, we are so good at improving manufacturing processes, reducing waste and engineering solutions, but we don’t spend near enough time focusing on what happens upstream from when we receive the purchase order. But why don’t we? That’s a process, too.”
So says Mike Katz, who, along with his wife and a dedicated team of employees, owns Molded Dimensions Inc. Mr. Katz’s point is that manufacturing people love manufacturing. We love the science that allows us to start with a steel block or coil of wire and convert it into a useful part with practical applications and one that is virtually unrecognizable from the material with which we began. And we love finding more efficient methods for doing so. When it comes to marketing, though, most are a little less passionate.
Start by defining your value proposition. I advocate ranking customers on a scale of one to ten on the basis of the 3 Ms—Margin, Maintenance and Magnitude. After ranking your customers, add up the scores and see which ones score the highest. These are your best customers. Ask them what they love about working with you. I suggest that the answers they provide define your value proposition.
The value proposition defined, it must then be communicated to customers and prospects. To that end, consider these marketing ideas for manufacturers:
SEO, or search engine optimization: An SEO consultant engaged for less than $500 can identify what keywords prospects use when searching online for a company such as yours. Almost 85 percent of the time, people using a search engine click on one of the first three results. To move your site up in rank, make sure its content includes the right words and that it is linked strategically to and from as many other related sites as possible.
Email newsletters: I was surprised to learn that 23.78 percent of blast emails are actually opened by their manufacturing industry recipient. Select a free platform (MailChimp is one example), sign up for a free account, upload the email addresses of your contacts, choose a template, write your content and send the email. It’s that easy. Then track the statistics of who opens the email, whether they visit your website and what they read when they visit.
Content marketing: With 80 percent of decision makers preferring to get company information in a series of articles versus traditional marketing, many marketers are turning to “content marketing.” Content Marketing delivers relevant and educational information to current and potential customers. Sharing a current customer success story via a case study, publishing a research paper or posting a “how to” video to YouTube are fantastic ways to expose your company to prospects even on a tight budget.
Customer satisfaction surveys: As a marketing tool? Absolutely. Conduct the survey in person and pull out a copy of your value proposition and ask your customers to rank each item. This becomes a great way to make sure your value prop still resonates with your customers, and it reinforces the value you provide in the mind of your customer, every year.
Be the Expert: Years ago when a new governmental regulation required major changes for companies in his market, a colleague of mine spent an entire weekend studying the new rules and prepared a presentation on how the changes would affect his prospects. Instead of leaving voicemails begging for sales visits, he sent emails offering to deliver his presentation at no charge. Suddenly prospects that never returned calls and wouldn’t let him past the gate keeper were imploring him to pay a visit. On what topics could your prospects use a primer?
Though my list of creative marketing ideas could go on for pages, these are great places to start. Machining a production part is a process, and so is marketing. Attend to it with the same degree of enthusiasm and attention to detail, and marvel at the results.