It's that time for reflection, goal setting, and planning.
In our experience, most manufacturers tend to be more apt to work in the business than on the business as it is the manufacturing side is where comfort levels tend to be. Collaboration is key in planning so engage your team as sales is a team sport and marketing should provide tools to support the sales strategy.
Start with where you have the greatest opportunity for growth
How are we going to grow can occur in many ways. The most obvious short-term method is to grow organically through upselling/cross-selling existing accounts or by identifying new accounts in your core market segment. This approach is easiest for goal setting (percentage of growth by client/number of new accounts) but often offers a slower growth trajectory. Beyond the obvious approach, manufacturers should also focus on longer-term moves such as geographic expansion, new product development/product extension, business alliances, and acquisitions. Each of these channels requires additional investment but typically pay off in stronger revenue growth.
If your business differentiators are "Quality," "Integrity," and "Service," your company's message is not unique nor personal. People are innately selfish, always seeking what's in it for me. To break through the clutter in your communication strategy, remember the following. Stay true to your core. Be specific to the target. Use fewer words.
Begin by reviewing your current messaging: who you are, what you do, who you do it for, and why you do it better. Now, consider why that specifically matters to your target stakeholder per each growth goal. What is the greatest challenge you can solve for them? What gives you the credibility to be their best solution? Once you have each phrase, revise to use as few words as possible. The lifetime of a tweet is mere seconds and mass media is consumed through AirPods and 60-second video clips. Less is more these days. It's more about sharing the right message in the right place.
Leveraging public relations for brand awareness
PR is an effective way to obtain third party credibility to position your company as a subject matter expert in the supply chain by publishing thought-leader articles in trade media, speaking about trending industry topics at conferences and trade shows, and engaging with customers and influencers across social channels. At the end of the day, PR will help you effectively drive positive recognition of your company and remain top-of-mind during the buying cycle.
Targeted account-based marketing for lead generation
Depending on the focus areas you have identified for sales growth, account-based marketing campaigns can offer targeted tools and strategies to reach prospects who have the greatest impact on your goals. If you are targeting growth with existing accounts, consider marketing strategies integrating email, direct mail, loyalty programs, customer visits, and on-site lunch and learns. If you are looking for new customer growth, start by identifying and defining what makes an ideal customer. Consider which customers are most profitable, most consistent, best fit with your capabilities and capacity, etc. Look at building a list of companies who fit that criteria, and/or leveraging advertising tools like LinkedIn to serve digital ads to only those targets who are truly a fit. With any of these strategies, it is critical to use what you know about your customers and prospects to customize your message. When your target is well-defined, your message should speak directly to that target's pain points and should set up the sales team for their next conversation.
Digital transformation aims to revolutionize your business' performance by finding ways to leverage people, processes and technology. Through automation, people are freed from repetitive tasks, allowing them to focus on solving unique problems. Flexible systems bring that feedback into the fold and improve processes. Integration combines the data collected from disparate sources and allows high-level oversight of the business. Innovation happens when a high-level view is used to find new markets, products, and opportunities. Perform a tech audit in your business and determine where your opportunity is for enhanced performance.
Marketing to keep a pipeline of talent on the bench
With unemployment at an all-time low, we are all competing for talent. Manufacturers are faced with having to attract employees at all levels. What channels executives use are different from hourly rate employees. Ironically, a differentiator can be on how you message the values of your company as a whole, your expertise in the marketplace, and the workplace environment. The one common thread to all prospective employees is cyberstalking. It is commonplace, and in some cases expected, to check out the website and social channels of a future employer. This brings us right back up to value-based messaging -- what is in it for me? Does this company place value on the employee experience and it is demonstrated in the career page on the website. Does it look like a place I would like to work at as shown by socially sharing workplace culture? Don't forget to leverage recruiting channels such as having a strong Glassdoor presence and even Craigslist.
We all want to have an organization that clients want to work with and employees want to work for. Consider in your marketing where are your gaps to build a People+PeopleTM Plan to attract, engage, and retain both clients and talent. Those gaps will highlight your priority on where you need to start!
Starting with and ending on collaboration, it is about your team of talent. This article was a crowdsource effort by the SMEs at Red Caffeine as sales is a team sport and marketing requires many tools in your toolbox.
• Julie Poulos is vice president of Red Caffeine, a Lombard-based growth consultancy