“John Boyd is described by some as the greatest military strategist in history that no one knows. According to Boyd, ambiguity and uncertainty surround us. While the randomness of the outside world plays a large role in that uncertainty, Boyd argues that our inability to properly make sense of our changing reality is the bigger hindrance. When our circumstances change, we often fail to shift our perspective and instead continue to try to see the world as we feel it should be. We need to shift what Boyd calls our existing “mental concepts” – or what I like to call “mental models” – in order to deal with the new reality.” (Brett and Kate McKay, The Tao of Boyd—How to Master the OODA Loop)
Things. Have. Changed.
The days of differentiating on quality, customer service and solutions are over. That is to say, it doesn’t even matter whether or not you have the best product in the industry. That you’re family-owned and operated with the longest history. Or, that you have a bazillion sq. ft. with a fleet of trucks and next-day delivery.
So, why are so many manufacturers still hanging on to, “That’s the way we’ve always done it?” Working with an outdated system?
It still goes without saying that your product has to work well and solve a problem. What else? It has to be easy to find, purchase, receive, and re-order. Maybe even have a 7-year old “unwrapping” it on YouTube. (kidding, not kidding) And, if it can turn water into wine, then even better. (I’ll take 200 please)
Things have changed and adapting requires a new marketing plan for today’s manufacturers.
So, What Now?
Staying relevant and profitable TODAY requires 3 things — continuous self-disruption, reorganization, and strategic communications. Continuously innovating and keeping pace with how customers search, purchase and share. To avoid falling into the abyss of mediocrity or, God forbid extinction, manufacturers must do something they’ve always resisted in the past.
Embrace change, agree on a new plan and insist that operations, sales, and marketing WORK TOGETHER. (Makes your mouth pucker, doesn’t it?!) In strategic harmony because of the customer, for the customer. Resulting in an improved customer experience at every possible touch point, before and after the sale.
Conversely, choosing to ride it out on the ‘quality products’ train and resisting any of the above is the fastest way to a slow death. (Think Sears) So many lessons learned from the financial demise of one of America’s—and once, housing’s—greatest brand icons. (More on that here) Once beloved by many, job creator for millions, and recognized globally as “best-in-class.” In short, failing to continuously change at the speed of culture has them on the brink of total extinction. A faded memory of a by-gone era.
The systems you have in place are perfect for the results you’re getting. No?! Yet, this is what I hear most often from manufacturing leaders:
👍🏼 Feeling behind the 8-ball; immense pressure to “change the world” and satisfy stakeholders
👍🏼 Guilty of being reactive instead of proactive most of the time
👍🏼 Frustrated with incremental growth, but nothing earth-shattering
👍🏼 Having an amazing product, but still feeling invisible
If any of these feel frighteningly familiar, know that you’re not alone. With communication and tech changing at light speed, where to start and what exactly to do can feel like an 8-ton anvil crushing your chest. What’s the right mix? How will you justify ROI? What if it doesn’t work?
THE ANSWER: Start somewhere. But start something.
68% of B2B buyers prefer to research online, on their own – a 15% increase from two years ago.
Don’t Call Me, I’ll Call You
To figure out what to change, start with your audience. In other words, in this scenario, knowledge is power. We are currently witnessing a shift in power from the sales rep to the buyer. Prospective buyers now know what they want and where to get it. A LinkedIn/Content Marketing Institute survey found that an overwhelming majority do not want a cold call (90%). Only 12% of prospects want to meet with a sales rep.
Face-to-face isn’t dead, but it’s definitely taken a backseat to self-service. Recently, a sales rep shared with me that an ‘interested’ prospect said this:
“Don’t call me. I don’t check voicemail EVER. If you want to get ahold of me do it through email or text. I’ll find out most of what I need to know on your website.”
If you want something different you’ve got to do something different. Consequently, disrupting your old system and ramping up your digital efforts is critical to gaining new business.
Starting with your website, user experience, content, videos, support and clear calls to action. Create and leverage a connected inbound and outbound strategy to serve up that ‘knowledge,’ even while your sales reps are sleeping.
Make it so easy to know you, trust you and buy from you they just can’t say no.
The McKinsey Global Institute has said that the transformation of society is ‘happening 10 times as fast and at 300 times the scale, or roughly 3000 times the impact’ of the industrial revolution. “We no longer have the option of choosing whether or not to change. Rapid change is irrefutably upon us and we must embrace it and figure out how we can harness it to better the organizations we run and the lives we lead.” (Ray Ziganto)
Position determines perspective. And, whatever your position in the market, you’re only as strong as your weakest link. Therefore, teamwork has never mattered more—especially when it comes to adopting and adapting to change.
Operations, Sales and Marketing have to work together. De-silo-ing, if you will. Of course, each department has some boundaries and that’s normal. But, if I had a nickel for every client who didn’t think it was necessary to include Sales in our strategic planning…let’s just say I’d be living on a tropical island right now.
Operations and Marketing exist to support sales. Sales exists to support customers and the company. Ultimately, replacing old beliefs with new understanding makes reorganization obvious and a whole lot easier.
As a result, the team that works together, profits together.
Understanding how customers search, purchase and share is one thing. Staying innovative and keeping pace is another. It takes vision, empathy, consistency, and a connected scalable plan.
Knocking down trust barriers and building strong relationships requires consistent, personable content.
This doesn’t happen overnight or from two random blog posts and a couple of tweets. You need a long-term strategy, commitment, and an editorial calendar. In other words, force yourself to show up, make a difference, and stick with it.
Utilizing a knowledge management tool doesn’t hurt either. It helps fuel new ideas and keeps your stories relevant and compelling. You and your team can use a knowledge management template to store and organize content ideas, personal and company-specific stories, examples, statistics, and more.
Brands — especially B2B brands — that neglect to tap into their humanity and share their stories leave their messaging dull and their audience unengaged. -John Hall, Forbes Contributor
Unless you have all the business you can handle and couldn’t possibly accept another customer, you also need to make it personal.
People make decisions emotionally 95% of the time. If you’re only engaging rationally (aka leading with features and benefits and this month’s flash sale) you’re effectively shooting yourself in the marketing and sales foot. Therefore, your new strategy and content must focus on the customer—at the intersection of your shared values, their pain and gain points, and how your product solves their problem better than anyone else.
MARKETING PLAN CHECKLIST:
1 – 360° View
INTERNAL ALIGNMENT: Shared Vision For The Customer Experience
Uncover your unfair advantage.
2 – Brand Infrastructure
SPECIALTY vs. COMMODITY: Who Customers Think You Are
Make it easier to know you.
3 – Marketing Strategy
PLANNED vs. HAPHAZARD: How, Where and When You Interact
Make it easier to find you.
4 – Content Strategy
PROACTIVE vs. REACTIVE: How Often You Interact
Make it easier to rely on you.
5 – Content
ENGAGED vs. IGNORED: What You Say, How You Sound
Make it easier to choose you.
6 – Amplifiers (identity, online, social, mobile, print, trade show)
CONVERTING vs. INTERRUPTING: How You Connect Pre and Post-Sale
Make it easier to buy from you.
MANUFACTURER’S MARKETING PLAN GUIDE
Consequently, to make your life easier, there’s a GUIDE for that.
UNGATED NO STRINGS FREE DOWNLOAD
⚡️Connect with prospects faster
⚡️Make it easier to know and trust you
⚡️Nurture customers before and after the sale
Reach your desired state faster. Knock that top-line growth goal out of the park. In other words, drive the conversation and conversion and make sales easier.
Above all, you’ve worked too long and hard to let competitors pass you by. You deserve to generate a bigger return now — on your investment, your innovation, and your influence.
Need to improve your current marketing strategy? Because no one wants to be the Sears.
Make sales easier. Schedule a 15-minute call.