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Most Manufacturers Are Laggards in Marketing - you don't have to be

October 26, 2017 / By Bruce McDuffee

Manufacturers, as a group, are laggards when it comes to marketing. Just to be clear, this is not meant to be a pejorative statement about manufacturers. The definition of the term laggard as listed in the Oxford English Dictionary is “A person who makes slow progress and falls behind others.” The assertion that manufacturers are marketing laggards is an interesting phenomenon because manufacturers as a group are quite progressive when it comes to production, supply chain management, and new product development.

However, when it comes to marketing, manufacturers are laggards. In speaking with hundreds of manufacturers over the past several years, I’ve found that manufacturing is typically near the end of the line in adopting marketing technology, new marketing strategy, and tactics, new marketing ideas, new marketing staff, or anything to do with marketing.

This is your opportunity.

Because you are reading this article, I will assume you either are not a laggard or you do not want to continue New-Way-Cover-paperback_103px.pngbeing a laggard. Not to put too fine a point on it, I’ll repeat it, this is your opportunity. Your competition is probably not reading this book because they are comfortable with being marketing laggards. They have justified in their minds and socialized the idea that 3–5 percent organic growth is okay and it is merely the best they can do because of the globalization of the industry and the plague of the Internet commoditizing their product. Your competitors are sitting ducks. By applying the lessons of The New Way to Market for Manufacturing, you will take market share from your competitors. By the time they wake up and realize your business is growing by 10 percent, 20 percent, or 30 percent and mopping up market share, your firm will be so far ahead; the competitors will never catch up.

Suppose your competition is reading this book and is also getting excited about the possibilities of TOMA and broader engagement through helping the people in their target audience be better. That may well be the case. The winner will be the firm to apply the “new way” marketing strategy first. Let me repeat because this is a crucial point. The winner will be the firm to get there first. The new way is like any innovation in business. Anything that works to gain a business advantage is quickly copied. The first movers gain the upper hand, but eventually, the competitors catch up.

Some manufacturing companies will gain a vague understanding of the new way but will not entirely be able to execute a new, fully functioning go-to-market strategy. They will not be able to cease pitching products at the top of the sales funnel.

A common symptom of a minimalist approach is in the ubiquitous white paper. Recognize that creating onepiece of content like a white paper is not executing a strategy. Also, to create a white paper that supports the new way strategy of high-level engagement, that white paper should not mention the product but should only offer helpful, useful information that relieves a pain familiar to the people in the target audience. A white paper created by a manufacturing company with just a vague understanding of the strategy will pretend to offer helpful, useful information, but it will be mainly about how the product features will alleviate the pain. These sorts of white papers mention their products over and over as the solution or the best technology. Your audience is very intelligent, and they’ll see right through this type of faux-knowledge marketing. You cannot fake it because your audience will see it. Your competition's failure is your opportunity.

marketing laggards

Another way your competition will miss the boat is in not socializing the concept behind the new way. The new way is not a six-month campaign. It is a cultural pivot away from product focus and self-centric marketing to freely sharing expertise with everyone in the target audience without pitching the product. Typically, when a manufacturing company does make the pivot and socialize the strategy, it takes twelve to eighteen months to see results on the top line. Many manufacturing firms will give up and write it off as a failed campaign after three to six months. The manufacturing firms that adopt the strategy and stick with it will win.

Sample Scenario #1: When no firms in your competitive space adopt the new way, and everyone continues with the same old product-based marketing, this is the scenario: A person or a company in your target audience determines a need for the product you are all selling. The prospective customer does most of their self-education research via the Internet, and they talk to their peers either directly or via one of the several social media channels. When they have collected enough information, they reluctantly engage with the sales team at several manufacturers that sell similar products. All of the websites are pretty much the same. All of the products are pretty much the same. (I know you don’t like to hear this, but it is mostly true.) All delivery times are pretty much the same. What’s left? You guessed it: price. There is always one company willing to drop their price just to get the business. All firms essentially lose a little piece of their corporate souls in this process as it plays out millions of times each week.

Sample Scenario #2: One firm (maybe your firm) has adopted the new way to go to market as they share knowledge and expertise with their target audience. This one firm has been publishing white papers, how-to notes, webinars, videos, etc. supporting a mission statement of helping the people in the target audience be better. None of the material mentions the product. As a prospective customer determines a need and begins to research their pain point, which can be relieved by the information and education offered by the firm, the helpful content shows up at the top of the search results in search after search. The prospective customer downloads white papers attends webinars and voraciously consumes a lot of other helpful content offered by only one firm among those companies that manufacture a similar product. Finally, the day comes around, and the prospective customer has budget approval, and they are ready to buy. The firm that has adopted the new way gets the first (and maybe the last) call.

This company has gained TOMA with this buyer. This business has created an immense amount of credibility in this buyer’s mind. The buyer has a strong feeling of wanting to reciprocate with the brand because of all the help the firm has provided. Of course, the buyer is obligated to get a few other price quotes from competitors. At this late stage, what does the competition have to offer? You got it: all they can offer is a lower price. The buyer is more than willing to pay a little more because credibility equals reliability and reciprocity is a powerful influence.

The new way to go to market creates TOMA, credibility, and reciprocity, which causes higher growth rates, more significant market share, and weaker competitors. The laggardly competition, which is unable and unwilling to change the way they go to market, is your opportunity.

Takeaway Actions:

  1. Take a look at your competitors. Review their websites, trade show booths, brochures, and any other marketing collateral you can find. Are any of them using any resemblance of the new way? Try to recognize the various levels of competence in their go-to-market strategy and tactics. If no firms are executing on the new way, your window of opportunity is wide open. Be the first or, as the second, just be better.

  2. Is your firm one of the laggards? Be honest and evaluate your current go-to-market strategy. If you determine your firm is not willing or able to adapt to modern marketing strategy, tactics and technology, you will need to decide if that is okay. If it is not okay, you have a lot of work to do. Read the book to learn how to go from being a laggard to a powerhouse in your market space.

Manufacturing Marketing Group Louisville, CO US 303-953-4361