As we approach 2018, it is time to assess your current situation for marketing in a new way in the new year. The New Way to Market for Manufacturing is counter-intuitive. It will ruffle feathers and might even get you fired. But, it will grow your business beyond traditional expectations.
In this marketing readiness assessment exercise, you are evaluating the current situation in the context of implementing your pilot program or your complete 'New Way' strategy. There are three areas of assessment you should undertake as you begin to execute your plan in the coming year:
- Content assessment
- Sales relationship assessment
- Product relationship assessment
The purpose of the content assessment is to prepare the content for use in accordance with your audience-facing mission statement (AFMS). The first step is to evaluate the current state of your existing content. Determine if you have any existing content that conforms to the AFMS and is not a direct product promotion. You may have existing content that is close and could be very useful with a slight rework.
For example, if you have a current white paper that is in line with your AFMS but the last third of the paper promotes a product line, you could easily reformat the paper to be useful and helpful without touting the product. It takes much less time, energy, and money to re-purpose content as compared to creating brand-new content. Always keep in mind that if a piece of content (whether existing, re-purposed, or proposed) does not support the AFMS, you should not use it.
Here are some examples of useful types of content may include a mixture of any of these items:
- Technical notes
- Application notes
- Frequently asked questions
- How-to guides
- And more
Creating content can be a fun and exciting project. It’s easy to get caught up in the creation process, but when creating content, keep in mind that you are always better off building fewer higher-quality pieces of content rather than generating a high volume of mediocre content that loses touch with the AFMS.
I recommend creating a big poster emblazoned with your AFMS and posting it in your marketing area.
Do not lose sight of the mission statement. Many companies will start with the creation of content with quantity being the driving goal. Avoid this big mistake and at all costs. Every piece of content must be high quality, useful, and support the mission statement.
To clarify, the AFMS is designed for audience engagement at the top of the funnel, in the “get to know us” stage of building an eventual customer relationship. Content that is about the product and its features and benefits is in a separate category used at the bottom of the funnel. Most manufacturing companies are very good at the product content but very weak in the engagement phase content. We are focusing on the top of the funnel in this section.
Before you start to create a lot of new content, which can be expensive and resource-intensive, conduct a content audit. There is a high likelihood of there being some usable content within your organization’s archives, content that supports your mission statement. The archived content will probably need an update and a makeover, but it may very well be useful.
I worked for a company that manufactured aviation navigation charts. During the content audit, I found a treasure trove of articles that were more than ten years old. I asked around about the articles (which were included in past printed newsletters) and to my delight, some of the old-timers said those articles were a huge hit back in the old days of ten years ago. We were able to re-purpose them as blog posts with a little updating of the data and, sure enough, they were a huge hit again ten years later. It probably took 10 percent of the money and resources to re-purpose the old content as compared to creating new content from scratch. Re-purposing content can be a gold mine for your marketing team.
One last point of content creation: It is a good idea to get a sense of the type of media the people in your target audience will consume. In an April 2014 research study by TREW Marketing, respondents said that the number one choice of content consumed by engineers was to download a PDF file. If your audience likes to download files and print out the content, you would be wise to provide them with the most relevant format. It would not be wise to give this audience an infographic or a video if they are not consuming that type of content. Find some third-party research about how your particular audience consumes content as you make your decisions about content types.
Sales Relationship Assessment
Another area to evaluate as you assess your organization’s readiness for the new way is the status of the relationship between the marketing and sales teams and the associated leadership. You can be successful with this type of marketing strategy without the support of the sales team. It may be the case that the sales folks only care about getting leads and they don’t care how marketing finds the leads. If that is the case, I encourage you to proceed with a pilot program but without the involvement of sales. I guarantee that as soon as you start to have success, sales will eventually come around and jump on the bandwagon. However, if your organization does have a healthy, collaborative relationship between marketing and sales, you will see better results, and you will see those results faster with an aligned revenue team.
Do the sales and marketing leadership collaborate or do they work in separate silos?
If the culture is such that they work in different silos, it might be difficult to get the sales team involved. Animosity between the marketing and sales functions is not uncommon in manufacturing organizations. If there is animosity, your task will be much harder, but do not give up easily. I suggest you pursue your pilot program in spite of the hostility. Is marketing perceived as the toady to sales? If yes, it will take sales longer to realize your newfound budding role of a revenue generator, but it will happen eventually.
Product Team Relationship Assessment
In many manufacturing companies, the product group runs the show and wields heavy influence. As a marketer, you may even report to the product manager. Some members of the marketing organization may have the title product marketing manager. If your hierarchy is such that your leadership is embedded in the product group, your challenge will be difficult. Imagine the looks you will get when you tell your boss, the product marketing manager, that you recommend top-of-the-funnel activities should cease talking about the product features.
Do not despair. Go back to Part 3 and proceed with a pilot program. Even the most ardent product culture perceives itself as creative and innovative. It would be hard for the product manager to deny your initiative in demonstrating innovation and creativity without appearing hypocritical.
Upon completion of your three-part assessment, you should have a good understanding of what you are up against as far as the existing content, sales team alignment, and product culture. At this point you should have the following assets in place:
- A few pieces of educational content in a few different formats
- A subject matter expert or two ready, willing, and able to provide expertise in line with your audience-facing mission statement
- An understanding of your organization and the level of difficulty you will face with the culture change
- A plan to overcome the identified hurdles with a comprehensive new way pilot program
- Conduct a three-part assessment as outlined above.
- Build a network of supporters based on what you learn about the politics of your existing structure.