As I have stated loudly and often, those manufacturing companies that can stop pitching their products will win market share and that is absolutely true! However, the product pitch is essential at the bottom of the funnel and it is totally ineffective at the top of the funnel.
What I mean is that manufacturing companies should not introduce themselves to a market where they are not known by talking about the product. The product plays a significant role in the practice of marketing, and that purpose lies at the bottom of the funnel after the firm has earned TOMA, credibility, and reciprocity during the top of the funnel engagement phase (where we never pitch products).
Product marketing is important to the successful completion of the purchasing process. In many manufacturing companies, product marketing has nothing to do with the marketing function but is more about product development. Typical activities a person on the so-called product marketing team perform are research and development of new and existing products, market research to determine the product development roadmap, and creating product literature such as specification sheets and user manuals. They usually view the marketing team as the people who do their bidding in creating ads, brochure layout, spec sheet layout, webpage updates, etc. Many product marketers come from the engineering side or the sales side of the business. Rarely does a person with the title product marketing manager have a strong academic or practical background in marketing.
I suggest eliminating the term product marketing in favor of product development to avoid confusion between the two very different functions. Product development is a source of information for the marketing function, and marketing could be a source of information for product development, but they should remain separate and disparate functions. It is also crucial for the product development group to work very closely with the marketing group. Their success is intertwined. Product marketers are product developers. They require information from the market, but they are not marketers. They know very little about strategic marketing and even less about tactical marketing. They are great for product development.
If you give a product marketer a chance to promote their product, they will talk about the product ad nauseam with little effect on top-of-the-funnel engagement. If you tell a product marketer you want to promote their product line without talking about the product, you will be summarily dismissed. I suggest letting them do what they do best, which is developing the product line and turn over the marketing to the professional marketers.
This next paragraph might sound antithetical to the thesis of the new way, and it is subtle in that making a connection to the brand. The offering is not the same thing as directly pitching the product and company.
During the engagement stage (top of the sales funnel), it is still critically necessary to connect the brand and the offering to the useful content. It can be a delicate balance between not pitching the product but making sure the consumer of your educational content knows who is helping them, what they offer, and how to reach them when the time comes. It does not help grow your revenue if you fail to make this vital connection. We discuss how-to in more detail in my book, The New Way to Market for Manufacturing, but for now, let us stipulate that the relationship between helpful and useful content and the brand and the offering must be made and made strongly without pitching the product.
The people in your target audience get it.
They know you ultimately want to sell them something. That is why most manufacturing firms are in business. It is essential to let them know what you manufacture in conjunction with providing them with helpful content. Many times, the connection to the brand and the offering can just sound like a short commercial. As an example, if you are producing an educational webinar, the moderator can make a brief statement about the sponsor of the webinar before diving into the educational content. The slides should be presented on a branded template and, perhaps at the end of the webinar; the moderator can remind the audience once more about the brand, the value proposition, and how to contact the firm should they want to know more about the products. At the same time, there is no mention of the product during the meat of the presentation.
The product pitch is a critical part of the purchasing process at the bottom of the funnel. Information about the product features and benefits must be potent, easy to find, and compelling. The information must be readily available when the prospective customer is ready to move into the bottom of the funnel and make the purchase.
In summary, I want to be clear about the fundamental tenet of the new way to market, i.e., not pitching the product. I do not mean stop pitching the product entirely. That would be preposterous. When a prospective customer is ready to buy and reaches out to engage with your sales process, pitch that product! When you are introducing your company and your brand at the top of the funnel, before they know your brand or after they have forgotten about your brand, do not pitch products! Once again, at the top of the funnel share expertise and educate the people about something that matters to them.
- Take a look at your firm. Does it have employees with the title product marketing? If yes, are they experience in marketing strategy and tactical execution? Assess who is making the strategic marketing decisions in your firm. Is the current structure of your firm’s product department optimal or is it strangling the growth rate?
- Prepare your presentation that goes along with the “stop pitching products” strategy. Be clear about the need for strong product pitching at the bottom of the funnel. Be clear about the need to stop pitching products at the top of the funnel.