The Sweet Spot of Engagement
The best way to engage with your target audience is with a highly relevant topic. Here's the first clue, a highly relevant topic is not about your product, your company or your CEO. Nobody cares about those things. If you can come up with a topic that your audience cares about and one where you have expertise, it will be highly engaging. I call this topic, the Sweet Spot of Engagement. Here's how you can find great topic ideas and your sweet spot of engagement.
Let’s summarize what we have so far uncovered as the very big opportunities available to smart manufacturing firms. We have discovered that expertise is usually prevalent within any manufacturing organization. The expertise we want to mine is not the expertise used in building the product, but is a deeper expertise around the underlying needs of the target audience.
We have an understanding that the best way to engage with the people in the target audience is by helping them relieve pain rather than pitching product features. In order to really understand the pain points that can be relieved by sharing your firm’s expertise, it is a good idea to conduct primary research. We will talk about this more in a later chapter. For now, I encourage you to put on your critical thinking hat and question the tribal wisdom that pervades most manufacturing organizations.
When choosing the Sweet Spot of Engagement, it is important to collaborate with your stakeholders if at all possible. Doing this work as an individual or even as a singular marketing group is much less effective than collaborating in order to gain agreement and buy-in from your stakeholders. The most common critical stakeholders are the Sales and Product leadership folks. If you are in a predicament where your stakeholders dismiss marketing altogether, then, you will have to go it alone which I strongly encourage if the alternative is to do nothing.
The Sweet Spot of Engagement is at the intersection of the pain you have identified as common to a majority of your target audience and the expertise you have uncovered among the employees within your manufacturing firm.
The diagram above is meant to be a worksheet for brainstorming. You may come up with more than one pain, expertise and Sweet Spots, but it is important to choose only one of each for each business category. You may have more than one Sweet Spot of Engagement depending on the size of your firm and the structure of the organization. For example, you may determine a sweet spot for each product area or each business area. The sweet spot will define your topic or mission that will drive the marketing strategy, related tactics and messaging.
As an example, let us continue with the measurement instrument company we discussed in Chapter One. One of the product groups in the instrument manufacturing company is humidity measurement instruments. After conducting primary research, they discovered the pain common to a large majority of the people in the target audience is that humidity is a very difficult measurement to make consistently and reliably. Reliable and consistent measurement is critical to the target audience which consists of pharmaceutical companies and semi-conductor manufacturers. The related expertise uncovered among the product engineers working in the Research and Development department is in understanding the science behind the properties of a moist gas (humidity). The Sweet Spot of Audience Engagement was agreed to be in providing an education about humidity and humidity measurement technology to the people in the target audience who are frustrated at their own ability to get a reliable measurement. The hypothesis is that by teaching them about the science, they will be equipped to make a better measurement.
Once you have determined the sweet spot and you have agreement with your stakeholders, it is time to craft the Audience Facing Mission Statement (AFMS). The AFMS will be your guiding light when it comes to making decisions about marketing activities and expenditure. If one of your colleagues suggests creating a piece of content or an activity that is not in line with the AFMS, it should be rejected.
As you proceed with building out your content marketing program with the AFMS as the compass, you will continuously measure results to confirm your hypothesis. As with any hypothesis, if testing does not prove the hypothesis, you should go back to the drawing board and revise the Sweet Spot and the AFMS.
Continuing with our example of the humidity product group, the AFMS might sound something like this: “We help the people in our target audience make a more reliable, repeatable and accurate measurement of humidity so that they produce higher quality goods in a more efficient manner.”
Rather than calling it just a ‘mission statement’, I call it ‘Audience Facing’ for a very important reason. When most of us think about a Mission Statement, we think about the mission of the company. Many times these corporate mission statements sound like this: “To be the preferred widget manufacturing on the face of the planet….” This is internal facing. I want to make a clear distinction between the corporate mission statement and the AFMS. It is important to notice the Sweet Spot of Engagement and the AFMS are not about the product. They are about the people in the target audience. You will likely get push-back from your Sales and Product stakeholders around this idea. As you begin to collaborate, the product culture will kick in and you will hear that the expertise is in ‘building widgets’ or ‘creating new products’. You must remain resolute and push them to see that the expertise is much deeper than just manufacturing products.
Understanding the Sweet Spot of Engagement and the AFMS contributes to the huge opportunity we are discussing. While your competitors build a strategy around pitching products, you will be mopping up the market share with broader and deeper engagement. A manufacturing marketing strategy built around an AFMS works wonders on the growth rate. I have personally developed such a strategy around this type of marketing pivot from product focus to audience pain focus.
My experience was in seeing growth increase from an annual rate of 3 – 5% to a rate between 20 - 25% within a two-year period.
Naturally there is much more behind driving this type of growth beyond the Sweet Spot of Engagement and the AFMS which we will discuss more in Part 4, the How-to section. In Part 3 we will discuss more about how to overcome the product culture that is embedded deeply in most manufacturing companies.
- Gather some trusted colleagues together for a preliminary discussion about the audience pain point and the company expertise. Explain the ultimate objective of the AFMS. Depending on the tone and outcome of the preliminary meeting, you will get an idea about how strong the product culture is at your company. This preliminary meeting is a rehearsal for the main meeting with your stakeholders.
- Prepare a research study to determine the pain points common to the people in your target audience. Use critical thinking skills as you evaluate the tribal knowledge about pain points you will hear from the Sales people and the Product people. The combination of your internal assessment and the primary research will give you a good idea of the pain point. As you prepare your Marketing Research, keep in mind the expertise you have chosen. It may be the case where the primary research examines pain points in relation to more than one areas of expertise.
- Fill out the Sweet Spot diagram and craft your AFMS.