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5 Marketing Tips for Manufacturers

Biz 101, Strategy

North America has a staggering amount of manufacturing companies. In our small town in Southern Manitoba, most of the jobs are in manufacturing with products from Winkler going across the globe, and for many industries. Almost by default, a significant portion of our business is done helping support these manufacturers. Along the way, we’ve learned a few things that apply almost across the board. In fact, many of these tips apply to other businesses as well, not just manufacturers. Here are a few of the things that we put into practice, and a few examples of other businesses that we don’t work with, but ones that are really doing a phenomenal job and we need to give credit where credit is due.

Brand a product, don’t simply name it.

A lot of manufacturers make a handful of products. Oftentimes industries default to simply using nomenclature that describes dimensions of the product, outputs, or a number of other measurable specifications. While this may be an effective way to communicate what the product can do, it hardly sparks any emotional engagement or commits that product to memory. One client that we worked with 7 years ago (before my time here) came in with this understanding and did an incredible job separating themselves from the competition.They branded each product extremely well. Between the innovation in their products and how they separated themselves from their competitors, propelled them into becoming one of the most trusted brands in the Oil and Gas Industry.

Support your dealer network.

It’s extremely common for manufacturers to have an extensive dealer network as a key component of, if not the exclusive, distribution channel. All to often dealers are ill-equipped to do the best job possible in selling your products with a high degree of knowledge and lack the tools and time to really dedicate. The unfortunate reality is that when a competitor comes along to see if the dealer wants to pick up their product, it’s far too easy to lose the dealer if the competitor comes better equipped and makes it easier for the dealer to sell. This is where the on boarding process, and ongoing support mechanisms are incredibly important. The more complex the product, the more training and support they will need. At the most basic level, provide dealers with point-of-purchase materials. Posters, “authorized dealer” door stickers, video files, and brochures are the absolute minimum. Beyond that, a comprehensive product binder, dealer area on the website, and face to face visits are great ways to empower and equip them for success. When possible, hold training sessions, refreshers, product demo events, and be at as many of your dealers trade shows as you can.

Map your customer journey, and take control.

I use a handy tool to map out a lot of things. One thing that I map out for some clients is the customer journey. We start at the end customer deciding they need to do something that would send them eventually to you. If they need your product(s), what does that journey look like? How many companies are their considering buying from, how long do they spend researching, once they make their shortlist, how long until they request a quote or contact you or your dealer? Once you figure this out (the data is there) target them with digital ads before they make their decision so you’re top of mind or to get yourself back in the running. If they come into the dealer, what literature can they get from you or your competitors? Can they watch videos to better understand your products and the benefits of yours over your competitors? Once they purchase, what kind of support can they expect? Each one of these touch points and steps in the customer journey matter and will influence the customer one way or another. Before you can take control of these steps in the journey, you need to understand them. Map it out, take control.

Where applicable, use a product configurator.

Automotive companies have been using configurators for ages. A couple shoe companies used these for customers to create individualized shoes. Some home builders are starting to use floor plan customizers to the same effect. What happens when we enable our customers to use a product customizer is 2 key things. First, when we track this data effectively, we can see what our customers prefer, value, and what they want. This enables us to build in higher value standard features on the next iteration of that product. Second, and perhaps most importantly, our customers start to “buy in” emotionally. Subconsciously this is now their creation. They had a hand in making it something different, a new thing that wasn’t there before. With online retail, ThreeKit (one developer of such customization tools) has noted a 40% higher online conversion rate when using 3D models to replace 2D images. Beyond retail, a couple aforementioned industries have leveraged online configurators, and as also been adopted by manufacturers of traditionally “old school” heavy duty products. One such company, and no surprise to anyone in Winkler, is Lode King. A well tailored configurator for their heavy duty trailers provides website visitors with an in depth understanding of their product, and very likely cuts down on the steps required to go from interested in the product, to having it added to the fleet by reducing time required for a sales person to go through the options list. When added to the customer journey map, you can really take control of those touch points.

Zero in on the things that make you better or different.

Three words that a LOT of manufacturers use that they feel sets them apart is Quality, Service, and Innovation. In this day and age it should be implied that you have a focus on these things. Saying them doesn’t really set anyone apart from anyone else, because no one is claiming otherwise. Ever. What you should be putting out in front are the specific innovations that separate your product from your competitors and how they lend themselves to the benefit of your customers. If you have found a way to lower maintenance, extend the life of high-wear components, reduce operating costs, or provide a real world benefit over that of your competitors, that’s what we need to shout from the mountaintops. It seems pretty straight forward, but I’m still surprised by not only how often I don’t see these things talked about, some manufacturers haven’t even identified them. This is more often the case with more established companies that are still telling the same messages they’ve had for decades, before they had competitors pop up. Information used to flow a lot slower than it does today, and you need to tell people what makes you better. I don’t like comparative messaging, where we say that we do this, better than the other guys. Don’t draw attention to competition. Stand alone on your own strengths.

These principals don’t only apply to manufacturers, however if you are a manufacturer, take these ideas and see if they can help improve your sales and marketing. Need some help with this? We’d love to chat with you. Send us a message and let’s grow together!