Hey Manufacturers - Get Strategic About Your Marketing

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In a recent article from The Fabricator titled Strategic Marketing for Manufacturers, sound marketing advice is given to small and midsized manufacturers. There are four main items that form the strategy, and several subtopics. Here's MOJO's take, with some additional advice.

"Marketing Is An Investment, Not An Expense"

So true. I've seen this manifest itself for years in small businesses across the US, and even around the world. Amy Hudson, the editor from The Fabricator, really nails this first point:

"If a line item on a budget does not have to do with physically forming, fabricating, machining, or finishing a part, many manufacturers consider it to be an expense. Many invest large portions of their budgets in research and development, as well as new equipment, and view these items as helping produce high-quality products and fostering a competitive edge. Yet they fail to see how important marketing is to business success."

Look, marketing is like taking vitamins. It's benefits aren't measured by calipers or micrometers or CMMs. Stealth prospects learn what they can from your marketing efforts and choose to engage you if they think you're worth it. Marketing for manufacturers is like your reputation - only it must exist before the chips hit the floor, not after. This is where manufacturers lose sight of the value. Often, business comes from unexpected places and at unexpected times. Strong marketing strategies help to ensure these events can happen more often.

"Integrate With Various Media Platforms"

On this second point, we have only a minor bone to pick with Amy - otherwise she's hit at least a stand-up triple on this one. Her advice is to use other media platforms to work in tandem with and feed your Web site. And she's right - the figure below show's what she - and we - are supporting:

From the article:

"Use social media, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, to engage users in high-traffic areas. To be successful, you must update your content frequently."

But where I think many smaller manufacturers go wrong is in swallowing the case for social media whole. By realistically, logically assessing what "Procial Media" (that's social used for professional purposes) is being used by the business' customers and prospects, you'll assure a greater likelihood of success. For example, LinkedIn may in fact seem as though the activity in groups like CNC Machining is strong, but who's really using it? And for what purpose? Is it to find and award business, or is it more self-aggrandizing? (Hint: you're likely to find more of the latter than the former.) And are you aware that more and more larger industrial firms and organizations are blocking YouTube from use by their employees? (Hint: They are, and that means less likelihood that a buyer in one of those organizations might find you).

We're not splitting hairs here. Amy's right - your Web site  is the center of your marketing universe, and it needs to be fed from other sources to work. But developing a strategy to engage THE RIGHT channels and avoid those that won't bring the right customers in the right conditions will waste effort and deliver less return.

Also, Amy touches on a platform that's coming under a lot of scrutiny lately - Trade Shows:

"Trade shows are excellent venues for meeting potential customers and demonstrating your products. Doing your homework can help you make the most of trade show opportunities. Begin by identifying market-specific shows. Weigh the ROI of each show carefully. Will the number of attendees support the cost of participating, shipping, and labor?"

We can definitely tell you from our perspective here at that nothing will replace a handshake and a shop visit - at least not in our lifetimes, and especially where tolerences, specs and security are more critical. Follow Amy's advice about ROI as best you can, but understand that relationships matter, too.

"(Your) Web Site"

They've nailed it, and we have little to add:

"In business today, more first impressions are made by looking at a company’s Web site than in person. Your Web site must be highly organized, have a clean look, and be easy to navigate.

One mistake many Web sites make is to fill the home page with flash multimedia, such as audio or video. The longer you make users wait for the page to load, the more likely you are to lose them."

The only thing that we can add is that content is actually the most critical component of your Web site. And your social/procial media. And your collateral. Nothing is more important, because a strong SEO and marketing strategy without the information about you your prospects are trying to find is useless. Might we recommend a "vignette strategy" to optimize your odds of successfully gaining prospects and more business?

"Search Engine Optimization"

Yessir, it's important to be found, alright. Couldn't agree more (see our comments above). But an over-reliance on coding and other manipulations lose their importance (and costs) with a strong content & messaging strategy. As Amy says:

You can take some steps on your own to begin optimizing your Web site by focusing on keywords and building reciprocal links. Try using the keyword tool in Google Adwords to research which keywords related to your business are the most popular. If a term has a high search volume, it is considered popular. Your keywords are your capabilities, such as “punching,” “cutting,” or “bending.” Also try phrases like “cutting stainless steel” or “bending tube.”

It's critical to market these days, but it's even more critical to do it right. The Fabricator article does a great job to get small manufacturers on the right paths. But where it really shines is in its closing quote from Peter Drucker. So don't just take it from MOJO or Amy. Pete says it all:

"Because its purpose is to create a customer, the business has two and only two functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results. All the rest are costs."

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