Here's Why Your Manufacturing Business Isn't Growing

September 07, 2017 / By Bruce McDuffee
Do you ever wonder why your company just can't seem to grow the top line? Or, even worse, why you can't seem to stop the slow and steady decline in revenue. Your bottom line might be OK since you've cut your HR, Procurement, Marketing and any other so called 'expense' functions to the bone. Oh yeah, and you've beefed up your sales force and invested more in R&D, all to no avail. You're beginning to think adding those sales people was a mistake, and R&D can't seem to put out a product on time as you ponder the stagnation and subtle decrease in profit.
Sound familiar? To use a few old and tired cliches, maybe it's time to take a fresh look or think outside the box or take off the blinders.

I recently visited a manufacturing company here in Colorado struggling to stop a slow decline of revenue. I'll call them Acme to maintain anonymity. Acme is a private company with annual revenue of about 300 million dollars. Their management team desperately wants to grow the business but they just don't know how to engage with the people in their target audience.

I spent a week with them but only needed a few hours to see what was going on. Their problem is similar to many (or even most) manufacturing companies. They don't understand how to go to market in the 21st century. Their marketing machine is working like crazy as if they're stuck in the 90's when trade shows were the main event. They don't understand how to break through the noise and get the attention of their target audience. They're a me-too product and perceived as a commodity by their customers and prospective customers. They have no idea that this is the perception of their brand in the marketplace.

I was able to isolate the problem to two major issues, centralized control, and archaic marketing.Revamp marketing for manufacturing growth The strange thing is that the industry Acme serves, pharmaceutical manufacturing is growing rather well compared to other manufacturing sectors.

Their old style marketing looked like this:

  • A cost to the business that was hard to justify
  • A group of people in the back cubicles who manage the brand, create brochures, set up trade shows, send some emails, and do what the product and sales people tell them to do
  • A team with no idea about the effectiveness of generating revenue, leads or opportunities
  • A CMO who is fond of sharing metrics like clicks, views, likes, exposures, cost per this and cost per that which means nothing to the CEO or CFO
  • An old, poorly maintained database kept as an Excel spreadsheet.
  • A poorly performing, non-responsive website hosting nothing more than digital brochures and a description of the company
  • Messaging is about product features and a company mission statement. The team doesn't see to possess any knowledge of the positioning, value proposition or perceptions in the marketplace
  • They practice ad-hoc marketing and do whatever the sales or product people tell them to do without any thought, question, planned strategy or tactics

My recommendation is to completely revamp their marketing function. I promised Acme leadership that if they follow my advice about restructuring the marketing strategy, team, and technology by bringing in a leading marketer who understands how people buy, how to engage with the target audience and how to scale marketing activities with technology they would be in double digit growth territory within 18 months.

They brought in a tech savvy, business savvy, 21st-century marketing savvy CMO and put him on the leadership team as a senior adviser. He brought in marketers who were able to fully operate modern marketing technology. They aligned the sales and marketing people under one leader and implemented uniform goals with an aligned reward system. The new CMO immediately updated the fundamentals of positioning and messaging. The hardest part of the culture change was convincing the leadership team to stop pitching products and start educating their audience.

Twelve months later their marketing department looked like a modern marketing function, and their revenue was ticking up to an 11% annualized rate.

Here's an overview of their new style Marketing 2.0:

  • They enjoyed a commitment from top leadership to view Marketing as a revenue engine for the business.
  • They used a written, dynamic and current marketing plan to guide their activities.
  • The CMO and the marketing team embraced the new culture and the new structure.
  • They became a strategic partner providing high value and proven revenue generation.
  • Sales and marketing became aligned around a comprehensive go-to market strategy, tools and teams.
  • The team became obsessed with KPIs and revenue based metrics. They made sure they knew what tactics were successful and which ones weren't working to optimize and iterate for optimum spend and absolute growth.
  • They had a high value, clean and comprehensive database from which to market, cross sell, up sell and analyze via relevant and timely messaging
  • They redesigned their website for interaction with visitors by delivering relevant dynamic content.
  • They generate large numbers of qualified leads who are ready, willing and able to buy. The sales team loves the marketing team!
  • They created high value, useful, helpful marketing material, events, and activities engaging early in the purchasing process.
  • Everyone (marketing and sales functions) understands the tools and can fully leverage technology for efficient and scalable teams and activities.
This could be your company. But the question is, "is it a description of your present company or a description of your future company?"
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