Grow Your Business When You Stop Talking About Products

February 02, 2019 / By Bruce McDuffee

What if I told you there was a way your manufacturing firm could increase annual growth rates to 10 percent, 20 percent, 30 percent, or even higher? Would you be interested in hearing more?

Your firm can gain market share, get top-of-mind awareness (some would call this mindshare), increase credibility, and build a strong sense of reciprocity in the hearts of the people in your target audience. I am talking about the very people who will one day purchase a product like the one you are manufacturing. If you follow the framework presented in this book, you will achieve this position. Your manufacturing firm can be the go-to expert for the very problem your target audience faces.

The secret is to stop pitching product features and start sharing expertise and knowledge.

Your firm already has the expertise and the solution. All you have to do is stop pitching your products and start helping the people in your target audience be better, relieve a pain point, or enhance their passion, even if they do not buy your product today. When the day comes that these same people you have already been helping are ready to make a purchase, your firm will get the call first, and the business—even if you offer your product at a higher price than the competition. The value behind offering helpful, useful information can support a premium price in your market place.

This is Chapter 2 from my book, The New Way to Market for Manufacturing. Get your free digital copy here.

Here's how it works:

Most manufacturing companies have a very, very strong culture built around their products. This chapter will be counterintuitive to many if not most manufacturers reading this book. Read on and you will learn why you can grow your business and take market share by marketing without pitching your products. 

Manufacturing companies that are able to stop pitching their products and start educating their target audience to gain awareness and engagement will win in their market space. Sharing expertise instead of pitching products is a far more effective means of marketing. This concept has been proven to work over and over in other industries and even in some manufacturing organizations. If used consistently, it is the secret to winning big in your market.  

With direct A-B testing, I have compared product ads to educational ads many times. The education ad always, always wins by a huge margin. The largest difference I observed was in a GlobalSpec enewsletter ad. GlobalSpec is a media group that provides a global marketplace for industrial buyers.  I ran a new-product promotion ad in the enewsletter. In the following month, I ran an educational ad offering a simple FAQ (frequently asked questions) document in the same position to the same audience. The ad offering the FAQ outperformed the new product ad by 800 percent. More specifically, the audience engaged with the new product ad 252 times and the FAQ ad 2288 times. 

The fact is, the people in your target audience dont care about your product, your company, your CEO, or you. They care about whats in it for them. When they see your marketing message, they immediately ask themselves, Whats in it for me? We all do this, either consciously or unconsciously. The answer comes quickly and is usually “Nothing is in it for me as we move on by turning the page, deleting the email, ignoring the banner ad, etc. It doesnt matter how much you try to convince potential customers that the features of your product are good for them and superior to all other products on the market. The answer to WIIFM 99.9 percent of the time is “Nothing or “Not enough.  

To get a positive response to WIIFM, you have to prove to your target audience that you can help them relieve pain, be better at their professions, or improve their lives. One popular metaphor we can all relate to is dating and marriage. Leading with the product pitch is like trying to get a date by asking someone to marry you Most of us know not to talk on a first date about marriage, the house we will someday live in together, or how beautiful our kids will be. Think of the top of the sales funnel as analogous to a first date. You need to show some interest in and goodwill toward your audience before they begin to care about your firm or your offering. An educational offer does that, providing value to the audience.  

When someone in your target audience is faced with a problem and you offer a solution (without talking about your product), the answer to WIIFM is positive. They consume the content and relate a positive experience to your brand. With a product ad, unless your ad just happens to pass before the eyes of someone who is at that instant considering the purchase of your product type, there is nothing in it for them. This is why product ads perform so poorly. The percentage of people ready to buy the product at the exact instant they see the product ad is minute. 

The problem and the opportunity lie in the culture of the product. In nearly all manufacturing companies, every aspect of the culture is centered on the product. Many firms have been building the same or similar products for 50, 100, or 150 years with great success up until a few years ago. Each and every employee loves that product. They understand that the only reason they have a job is because someone buys that product. They tell their friends and family about the wonderful product that is manufactured by their company. They attend meetings where everyone tries to come up with more reasons why people should want to buy that product. Their websites, brochures, and trade show booths tout the product. The power influencers within the company are those managers who own the product development, the employees who make the product, or the sales team who sells the product. Every other department is secondary, except marketing, which is even farther down the pecking order. In most manufacturing companies, the product rules, and any attempt to go to market without mentioning the product is perceived as ludicrous. 

This is your opportunity. If you can change the culture within your company even just a little bit to focus on the people in the target audience and not your product, youre on your way to taking market share from those product-obsessed competitors. The people in your target audience are sick and tired of hearing about the product, the company, the CEO. The prospective customers think about themselves. They think about WIIFM. Use that to open a window of opportunity. Those manufacturing companies that can open their minds and move away from the product culture in order to help the people in their target audience will win. 

You choose your target audience because you believe that someday they will buy what you are selling. If we look at the entire population, on any one day when they see your product ad, they will take action if they are at a very specific point that meets four criteria, called BANT: budget, authority, need, and time frame. Only a very small portion of the population (<1 percent) is aligned with your product pitch at the time they view the ad. Lets suppose 80 percent are faced with a problem that you can help them solve. On any given day, they are struggling with the problem. If you promote something like a webinar or a how-to paper that helps them address that problem, you have a much greater chance of them engaging with your asset and your brand. Perhaps 80 percent are interested in your knowledge content. Remember, we said that less than 1 percent are interested or ready to hear your product pitch at any given moment. The high level of engagement with your knowledge content leads to top-of-mind awareness and credibility as they get to know your company, brand, experts, etc. Then, when the day comes along and they have BANT, who do they think of? They think of the company that has been helping them relieve their pain. This is a huge competitive edge over your competitors who continue to simply pitch their products. That, my fellow manufacturing marketer, is the foundation of the new way to go to market. 

Takeaway Actions: 

  1. Conduct an A/B test comparing a product ad to an ad offering only educational content.Make it a fair test and try your best with both ads.Make sure you pick a medium that can be conclusively measured. Keep the results ready for the time when you are ready to propose your pilot program. 
  2. Put yourself in the position of one of your prospective customers and ask yourself,“Whats in it for me?”when you see a product ad as compared to an ad offering valuable content. Keep notes and confirm your hypothesis with primary research if you can get the budget and approval. This will be powerful data when you are ready to confront the strong product culture in your organization. 
New Way to Market for Manufacturing
Manufacturing Marketing Group Louisville, CO US 303-953-4361