The Interesting Similarities Between a Manufacturing Assembly Line and a Modern Marketing Process

Assembly line for manufacturing and the marketing process

Guest Expert: Grant Grigorian, CEO and Co-founder of Path to Scale

Listen to the Full Podcast HERE


  • Marketing metrics are strongly similar to metrics used for quantifying the efficiency and efficacy of an assembly line.
  • Learn about the analogy of efficiency and quantity for an assembly line as it applies to modern marketing processes for manufacturing marketing function.
  • Quality versus quantity balance and constraints.
  • Real life examples of how a marketing team has implemented the factory assembly line framework.
  • Challenge question –  Grant outlines how to get started tracking ROI – 3 things to get started with tracking ROI with  Marketo and
  • Just like manufacturing spends time, money and resources on research and development, marketing should set aside time, money and resources to experiment, create and innovate as a separate function to the standard marketing production line.  Don’t mix the marketing R&D with the regular production line.  Develop a marketing ‘Skunk Works’ for your team.

Answers and discussion addressing these questions:

  1. Grant, marketing is seldom integrated into the fabric of a manufacturing company, but you have a really interesting perspective on the parallels between a modern marketing function and the factory assembly line.  Could you summarize your view on this interesting parallel?
  2. Specifically, what is the “product” of the marketing assembly line?
  3. The goal of an assembly line is achieving a highly efficient production process overlapped with high quality.  Is it possible for the marketing process to become more efficient with higher quality using the assembly line framework?
  4. Are you seeing this type of marketing function being used already?  Could you give a couple of real life examples?
  5. Why should manufacturing marketing leaders consider this type of approach if their existing marketing processes, teams and tools have been working well so far?

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The Huge Opportunity for Manufacturing Companies

Are You Missing This Opportunity?

Listen to this podcast episode HERE

Guest Expert:  Tom Repp, CEO and Owner, The Repp Group

Answers and discussion addressing these questions:

  1. Why is there a huge opportunity for manufacturing marketers and their organizations?
  2. Could you provide a couple of real life examples?
  3. You wrote a post on your Market Pipeline blog titled “Why Understanding Content Saturation is a Bonanza for Industrial Marketers”, could you summarize this idea of content saturation and why it is a potential bonanza?
  4. You’ve mentioned content marketing a few times, I think most of our listeners may have heard the term, but are not sure about the definition.  Could you give us your definition of content marketing?
  5. In your Industrial marketing consulting practice, are you seeing a big uptake in content marketing and the other types of marketing we’ve been talking about today?

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Introduction to Manufacturing Marketing Matters

manufacturing marketing matters

Manufacturing Marketing Matters – a podcast

Manufacturing marketing is challenging and marketers are challenged with a unique set of circumstances, but these challenges are very common from one organization to the next. This podcast is dedicated to helping marketers in manufacturing to excel in their profession, make a known contribution to the business goals and advance the marketing function within their organization.

Listen to our podcast HERE

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Sneak Peek at “The New Way to Go-to-Market for Manufacturing”

The book, “The New Way to Go-to-Market for Manufacturing” will be out and available by March 1, 2016. Follow the blog for more sneak peeks over the coming weeks.

Chapter 3 The Sweet Spot of Engagement

Let’s summarize what we have so far uncovered as the very big opportunities available to smart manufacturing firms. We have discovered that expertise is usually prevalent within any manufacturing organization. The expertise we want to mine is not the expertise used in building the product, but is a deeper expertise around the underlying needs of the target audience.

We have an understanding that the best way to engage with the people in the target audience is by helping them relieve pain rather than pitching product features. In order to really understand the pain points that can be relieved by sharing your firm’s expertise, it is a good idea to conduct primary research. We will talk about this more in a later chapter. For now, I encourage you to put on your critical thinking hat and question the tribal wisdom that pervades most manufacturing organizations.

When choosing the Sweet Spot of Engagement, it is important to collaborate with your stakeholders if at all possible. Doing this work as an individual or even as a singular marketing group is much less effective than collaborating in order to gain agreement and buy-in from your stakeholders. The most common critical stakeholders are the Sales and Product leadership folks. If you are in a predicament where your stakeholders dismiss marketing altogether, then, you will have to go it alone which I strongly encourage if the alternative is to do nothing.

The Sweet Spot of Engagement is at the intersection of the pain you have identified as common to a majority of your target audience and the expertise you have uncovered among the employees within your manufacturing firm.

sweet spot

The diagram above is meant to be a worksheet for brainstorming. You may come up with more than one pain, expertise and Sweet Spots, but it is important to choose only one of each for each business category. You may have more than one Sweet Spot of Engagement depending on the size of your firm and the structure of the organization. For example, you may determine a sweet spot for each product area or each business area. The sweet spot will define your topic or mission that will drive the marketing strategy, related tactics and messaging.

As an example, let us continue with the measurement instrument company we discussed in Chapter One. One of the product groups in the instrument manufacturing company is humidity measurement instruments. After conducting primary research, they discovered the pain common to a large majority of the people in the target audience is that humidity is a very difficult measurement to make consistently and reliably. Reliable and consistent measurement is critical to the target audience which consists of pharmaceutical companies and semi-conductor manufacturers. The related expertise uncovered among the product engineers working in the Research and Development department is in understanding the science behind the properties of a moist gas (humidity). The Sweet Spot of Audience Engagement was agreed to be in providing an education about humidity and humidity measurement technology to the people in the target audience who are frustrated at their own ability to get a reliable measurement. The hypothesis is that by teaching them about the science, they will be equipped to make a better measurement.

Once you have determined the sweet spot and you have agreement with your stakeholders, it is time to craft the Audience Facing Mission Statement (AFMS). The AFMS will be your guiding light when it comes to making decisions about marketing activities and expenditure. If one of your colleagues suggests creating a piece of content or an activity that is not in line with the AFMS, it should be rejected.
As you proceed with building out your content marketing program with the AFMS as the compass, you will continuously measure results to confirm your hypothesis. As with any hypothesis, if testing does not prove the hypothesis, you should go back to the drawing board and revise the Sweet Spot and the AFMS.

Continuing with our example of the humidity product group, the AFMS might sound something like this: “We help the people in our target audience make a more reliable, repeatable and accurate measurement of humidity so that they produce higher quality goods in a more efficient manner.”

Rather than calling it just a ‘mission statement’, I call it ‘Audience Facing’ for a very important reason. When most of us think about a Mission Statement, we think about the mission of the company. Many times these corporate mission statements sound like this: “To be the preferred widget manufacturing on the face of the planet….” This is internal facing. I want to make a clear distinction between the corporate mission statement and the AFMS. It is important to notice the Sweet Spot of Engagement and the AFMS are not about the product. They are about the people in the target audience. You will likely get push-back from your Sales and Product stakeholders around this idea. As you begin to collaborate, the product culture will kick in and you will hear that the expertise is in ‘building widgets’ or ‘creating new products’. You must remain resolute and push them to see that the expertise is much deeper than just manufacturing products.

Understanding the Sweet Spot of Engagement and the AFMS contributes to the huge opportunity we are discussing. While your competitors build a strategy around pitching products, you will be mopping up the market share with broader and deeper engagement. A manufacturing marketing strategy built around an AFMS works wonders on the growth rate. I have personally developed such a strategy around this type of marketing pivot from product focus to audience pain focus. My experience was in seeing growth increase from an annual rate of 3 – 5% to a rate between 20 – 25% within a two-year period. Naturally there is much more behind driving this type of growth beyond the Sweet Spot of Engagement and the AFMS which we will discuss more in Part 4, the How-to section. In Part 3 we will discuss more about how to overcome the product culture that is embedded deeply in most manufacturing companies.

Takeaway Actions:

  1. Gather some trusted colleagues together for a preliminary discussion about the audience pain point and the company expertise. Explain the ultimate objective of the AFMS. Depending on the tone and outcome of the preliminary meeting, you will get an idea about how strong the product culture is at your company. This preliminary meeting is a rehearsal for the main meeting with your stakeholders.
  2. Prepare a research study to determine the pain points common to the people in your target audience. Use critical thinking skills as you evaluate the tribal knowledge about pain points you will hear from the Sales people and the Product people. The combination of your internal assessment and the primary research will give you a good idea of the pain point. As you prepare your Marketing Research, keep in mind the expertise you have chosen. It may be the case where the primary research examines pain points in relation to more than one areas of expertise.
  3. Fill out the Sweet Spot diagram and craft your AFMS. You are now ready to proceed with your pilot program which we discuss at length in Chapters 17 – 22.

Marketing Automation – Is it right for manufacturing?


marketing automation for manufacturing

The decision to purchase a marketing automation platform/service (MAP) for your manufacturing marketing team is a big one.  Not only is it a big decision because of the monetary investment, it’s a big decision because of the typically large cultural change that may be necessary to support such a broadly invasive tool into your marketing team and your entire revenue generating functions.

There are many companies offering MAP services with price points from a couple of hundred dollars a month to several thousand dollars per month.  The price is usually driven by the size of the database, features and support plans.  One of the good things about these tools is that the pricing is usually posted on the websites for easy comparison.

Is it worth the investment?

When a B2B Marketer contemplates purchasing, implementing and integrating a MAP to their modern marketing tool kit, the concept is usually proposed to management with a supporting business case.   It’s fairly easy to show how MA should improve efficiency of the marketing team and increase sales, but it is very difficult to execute a plan that achieves these results.

My premise begs the question, “is MAP worth it?” and, of course the answer is “it depends”.  Your initial investment in MA will likely cost between $5000 and $40,000 per year.   It’s not a one-time purchase price, but an ongoing subscription.  It is not hard to show a robust ROI on paper based on some rosy efficiency numbers.  However, the danger in determining if MAP is worth the investment is there are many hidden costs that don’t show up in the aforementioned business case nor in the brochures and websites of the MAP companies. Hidden costs may include:

  • Staff man-hours spent on implementation and learning how to use the tool
  • Complexity = hidden cost
  • Vendor cost for set-up and training
  • Outsourced cost for maintenance and execution
  • Opportunity cost (could your time and money be better spent on something else?)
  • Internal selling cost of time and energy, not to mention cost to reputation if the project fails to meet expectations

Suppose you submit to the annual expense and agree to absorb the hidden costs, what is the payback and are you capable of utilizing the tool to realize a payback?  I hear from marketing directors and managers more often than not who have purchased a MAP subscription, excited by the possibilities, but are unable to fully utilize the tool because of lack of leadership, expertise or personnel.  They usually end up using it as an email tool.

On the flip side, those marketing organizations able to fully leverage a MAP show more effective revenue and profitability.  Naturally, this begs the question inherent in any correlation, “Does better performance lead to deeper use of MAP or does full use of MAP lead to better performance?” I don’t have the answer to that question.  What do you think?

One may think that everyone in manufacturing is using MAP and if you and your organization don’t get onboard, you’ll be labeled a laggard and end up missing the rapid growth boat to your more adoptive competitors.  This is not the reality of the manufacturing marketing landscape.  According to the 2012 Marketing Sherpa B2B Marketing Benchmark Report, only 24% of B2B marketers are using MA.  The report further states that of those 24%, at best, 53% have implemented core functions.  Only 30% have fully implemented advanced functions such as report dashboards, lead management, nurturing or lead scoring.  Therefore, only 8% of B2B marketers are fully leveraging their MAP.

More recent data from a 2014 study by Sirius Decisions as reported by AdAge states that only 16% of North American B2B companies use marketing automation.  This report shows a wide range of adoption rates as broken down by industry with the highest rate of 65% with Information Technology companies and the lowest rates with Healthcare, Financial Services and Manufacturing all with adoption rates less than 10%.

Could this be opportunity knocking for your firm to get a leg up on the competition with a shiny new MAP?  Perhaps, but there are some strong indicators of success you can benchmark against to help determine if you and your organization have a good chance to be successful with a MAP.  For the sake of this discussion, let’s define success as increased revenue growth rate as a result of a MAP.

Based on my 6 plus years of experience with purchasing, implementing and using various marketing automation platforms, these are some key success factors for marketing automation:

  1. Make sure your key stakeholders are on board and excited about what a MAP can do for them.  Key stakeholders might vary with your organization, but should start the executive team; CEO, CFO, CMO, VP Sales, etc. and their associated teams.
  2. Have at least a preliminary plan written down and shared.  Note the ‘written down’ part of this step.  If the plan is in your head or someone else’s head, be wary because the details of any plan in the head are usually absent.
  3. Own the owner.  You need to have one person who owns the MAP and is responsible for it’s success.  This person should be on your team and not nestled away in the IT department or the Sales department.  This is your champion and, ideally, s/he loves technology, is curious, fearless, innovative, creative and has a thick skin (shouldn’t all marketers have thick skins?).  Reward this person for success!  If you try to add the responsibility for the MAP on to the litany of other tools the webmaster or other marketing person owns, it will be very difficult to get any traction with your new MAP tool.  It will likely languish as a glorified email tool at best and as a forgotten resource costing you $2 – $3000 per month at worst.  Don’t rely solely on outsourcing for strategy and execution.  Outsourcing is, no doubt, a highly valuable resource and I encourage supplementing your MAP with outsourced of freelance help, but they can’t replace an in-house MAP champion expert.
  4. You will need the expertise of an outside vendor, especially if you plan to integrate MAP to other systems in place like your CRM.  The expertise of outside vendors will speed up your implementation, help get your team up to speed much more quickly and set a strong foundation for future efficient use.
  5. Communicate.  Communicate. Communicate.  Let your whole company know how this tool is contributing to the goals of the firm.  Be careful not to report vanity metrics or metrics that seem to be bragging about yourself or the team.  Talk about how a certain campaign increased sales for example.  Even better, highlight the success of one of the stakeholders because of their use of the tool.  You can’t over-communicate the success of the MAP.  As marketers, you could treat it as an internal product launch with a positioning statement, value proposition and associated messaging.
  6. Measure everything and customize the presentation of results to fit the respective audiences.

Your team should be excited and interested to learn as much about this tool as possible.  Every marketer should be assigned to become an expert in the MAP strategy and technology.  Your team should plan to be using this tool on a daily basis.  Without that kind of interest, your success will be limited.  If you plan to assign everything about the tool to one individual or a very small team of so called ‘Digital Marketers’, your success will also be limited.

Is marketing automation worth it?  No, if you’re strapped for resources and won’t be able to invest in the time and absorb the hidden costs that are incurred to optimize the MAP.  No, if your culture is not eager and ready for a marketing automation tool.  Yes, definitely, if you are able to leverage the power and implement all the core functions to your marketing plan around an energized technically savvy group of marketers.

Note: This post was first published at BMA Colorado blog on November 10, 2015.

Is it Time for Manufacturers to Stop Doing Trade Shows?

Time to stop doing trade shows

Of all the marketing activities a manufacturing company undertakes, trade shows are the worst expenditure because of the typically low return on the high level of investment. There are a few things you can do to improve on your trade show investment which I’ll share at the end of this post.  However, I would advise most manufacturing companies to divest of trade shows and invest in other, higher ROI tactics where you can get better engagement and offer more value.  My answer to the title question is “yes” stop doing trade shows.

Trade shows are a very popular marketing tactic among manufacturing companies and their sales teams.  It is the very nature of a sales person that compels them to love the trade show.  They get to be the center of attention albeit one of many centers of attention.  Sales people love to say hello, shake hands and re-acquaint with their customers during a show.  Trade shows are mostly a social event with the booth visits, drinks, dinner, coffee and snacks all shared with their customers and prospective customers.  Some would say that trade shows are nothing more than a boondoggle for event exhibitors as well as the attendees.  I would not go that far because I’ve spent my share of hours standing on barely padded carpet over hard concrete floors with aching feet, an aching back and not much to show for my efforts.  Trade shows can be very tough on the body in spite of the boondoggle nature.  The more popular the destination, the higher chance of the show being a boondoggle for exhibitors and attendees.

The Sales team will fight you to the death to keep the trade show bandwagon going.  If you ask your sales folks why they want to do so many shows, you’ll likely get these answers:

  • “I can see a bunch of my customers at one location and one time.”
  • “In some cases, it is the only chance I have all year long to see my customers.”
  • “We’ve been going to show ABC for years, if we stop going now, everyone will think we’re going out of business.”

Each of these are legitimate but weak arguments that can be rebutted with a good marketing strategy.  Other reasons some companies go to trade shows is to actually sell product on the show floor.  This may be the one instance where a trade show might produce a decent return, however, it certainly should be analyzed.  What is the gross margin for products sold at a show?  You actually might be losing money if you include the costs of the show and the time invested by staff.

Bottom line, trade shows are most likely producing a negative return.  Back in the old days, let’s say before 2000, trade shows were a necessary and effective spend of marketing money.  Interactions with customers and your general target audience were limited before the days of email, Skype, easy screen sharing, webinar broadcasts and even virtual events.  Sales people did have to go to a show to see people.  Before the high speed internet, the annual trade show was the only place customers could see what’s new and what’s coming down the product pipeline.  Those days are long gone with the advent of the internet and your website.

Let’s look at some numbers.  Suppose you rent a 200 square foot booth space at your (or your sales team’s) favorite annual show for a fee of $10,000.  You fly in 4 of your sales people from around the country and also bring in a couple of product managers from Europe.  Add up the travel costs, food, shipping, booth setup and event extras and you’re looking at a $50,000 expenditure for the 3 day show.  Let’s say the venue is able to bing in 25,000 people to the show.  You get about 150 visitors to your booth over 3 days and collect about 100 new names.

  • Cost per thousand exposure  $2000 per thousand exposure.  A good trade magazine ad gets you about $30 per thousand exposure.
  • Cost per visitor  $333.33 –  This is only a visitor, not necessarily a prospective or existing customer.
  • Cost per new name  $500.00 – You can do a lot better than that with other types of marketing activities.

How about a true measure of return on investment.  Are you able to track a sale from a new name obtained at a trade show all the way to a purchase order?  If you’re sales and marketing infrastructure is not able to track attribution, it just adds one more reason to stop going to trade shows.

In many manufacturing organizations, trade shows are the single most important marketing event.  I’ve seen large firms spend a couple of million dollars each year on trade shows with no idea if they were working or not.  What would happen if you started showing the true ROI and started recommending that you trim the trade show budget in favor of something different?  I can pretty much guarantee your sales people will go ballistic.  You’ll likely hear the usual reasons it is absolutely necessary to keep spending money on shows.  See the list above.

If you’re a marketer and you are going to attempt to pare back the trade show spend which is, typically, a drastic and cultural change in your manufacturing organization, you need to be ready, willing and able to make a case for the poor return and be ready with your recommendation for other lead producing activities.  Here are a few activities that are measurable and gain high engagement to consider in place of trade shows:

  1. Try a webinar.  A webinar with a well chosen topic can easily garner hundreds of registrants and hundreds of attendees.  Not only is the cost per registrant about 10% that of a trade show booth visitor, but you capture their attention for any where between 30 and 60 minutes.  Which is more valuable, a 3 minute visit to a trade show booth or a 30 minute conversation that actually gives the person in your target audience something useful.
  2. Try a live seminar.  A live seminar can draw anywhere between 20 and 200 attendees, again depending on the subject matter.  Which would you rather have, 100 people stop by your booth for 3 to 5 minutes or 20 people to spend the day with you at a seminar?
  3. Try exhibiting at a virtual event.  These types of events have been proven to engage better and more people than live trade shows.  The virtual show is not tried and true, but they are worth investigating.
  4. Instead of spending $2 million on trade shows, spend half on shows and spend the other half on a digital marketing strategy, tools and personnel.

Your sales team won’t like #4, so be careful to prepare your base of support on that one.   It is also a good idea to start small as far as stopping the trade show train.  Coming up with a proposal to drop 50% of shows will likely get you more push-back than proposing dropping 5% or 10% per year.

Not convinced and you feel that trade shows are a must for your firm?  At least do these 2 things to help improve your ROI on trade shows:

  1. Let them know you’ll be there and why they should visit your booth.  I’ve seen the oft quoted statistic that 80% of trade show visitors decide which booths they will visit before ever setting foot on the show floor.  You need to let your target audience know ahead of the show that you will be there and give them a compelling reason to put you on their list of booths to visit.  What’s that you say, of course our customers will seek us out, they love us and how could they resist our charm and our magnetic smiles?  Think again my friend, you even need to give your customers a reason to visit. We offered a very simple promotion this year at Interphex; stop by to see some new products and pick up a free t-shirt for your trouble.  It worked like a charm.  We had more visitors than any previous year.  I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the booth across the aisle with not much activity and a booth size twice as big.  Undoubtedly, they did not tell their target audience or their customers about the show or give them a reason so visit.  But, they did seem charming and magnetic.
  2. Follow up quickly.  After 24 hours, every day that goes by causes an exponential decrease in your show ROI.   Make sure the sales people follow up on requests immediately and that everyone else who visited the booth gets some type of follow up correspondence or action within 24 hours.  You would be amazed at the number of companies who spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on a show but never follow up with the visitors after the show.  It’s hard.  The poor salesman spends 3 days at the show, offline or partially offline and when he gets back, there’s just too much “real work” to do, so the leads go into the CRM or sit on his desk, never to be heard from again.  This scenario is the BIGGEST killer of trade show ROI above and beyond any other issue.  Let’s face it, in big shows, there are so many booths and so many people to see, your booth folks, your brand and your offering are way too easy to forget or mix up with the competition.  Follow up!

Good luck!  Here’s another good article along the same lines from Red Cedar Marketing & Events.

How to Win Big in B2B Manufacturing

B2B Manufacturing win big

B2B manufacturing organizations are having a rough go of it lately due to rampant global competition and a tepid economic recovery just to mention a couple of challenges.  Is it even possible for a B2B manufacturing firm to ‘Win Big’?  Let’s preface the conversation by saying that to ‘win big’ means to grow market share annually in the double digit range along with a healthy profit margin.  Let’s also stipulate that manufacturers, as a group, have the infrastructure, supply chains, production and most other critical production and delivery functions in good shape as a whole. Because manufacturers have been focusing on their products, i.e. the production and distribution for so many years, they are good at it and attaining an edge in these particular areas is very difficult at best.  In most cases, even if a firm is able to gain an edge in production or distribution, it is not perceptible to the market audience.

So, what is left?  Marketing may be the final frontier where manufacturers can gain an advantage.  Manufacturers can win big by being better at marketing their offering.  By marketing, I don’t mean setting up more trade shows, re-configuring the web site, creating a new brochure or coming up with a clever advertisement.  That’s not the type of marketing that will make any difference at all.  [By the way, trade shows are one of the worst marketing activities a manufacturer can do with respect to return on the investment.  More on that in a separate post.]

Here’s how B2B manufacturing can win big with marketing:

  1. Stop pitching products and start helping the people in your target audience.  At this point, many of you who are in manufacturing might say a cuss word and delete the post.  I encourage you to keep an open mind and read on. This stuff has been proven over and over to work and, if used consistently, is the secret to winning big in your market.  Now is where I share the tough love.  The people in your target audience, I mean the ones who will some day buy the thing you are making from you or from your competitor, don’t care about your product, your company, your CEO or you.  They care about what’s in it for them.  It doesn’t matter how much you try to convince them that the features of your product are good for them and superior to all other products on the market.  You have to prove to them that you can help them to relieve pain, help them to be better at their professions or help improve their lives.  It’s like dating and marriage.  You don’t talk about marriage, the house you will live in or how beautiful your kids will be on the first date.  Just to be clear, I’m talking about early engagement with the people in your target audience to position your firm and your brand top of mind.  Of course, your sales people will have to talk about the product features and advantages later in the purchase cycle.  The secret to winning big is in positioning at the top of the sales funnel.  You don’t use that stuff to engage with the broader audience as they first get to know your company.  You win big when you don’t pitch the product at the top of the sales funnel.
  2. Share your expertise.  Many manufactures guard their expertise like it’s the gold in Fort Knox.  If you feel this way about your B2B manufacturing firm’s knowledge and expertise, then I’d like to suggest that you’re living back in the 80’s and 90’s when manufacturing firms could control the information and use that control to their advantage in growing the business.  Now, in the year 2015, there is no such thing as proprietary information.  It’s all out there somewhere, so why not share it freely and be fully transparent. By sharing your expertise freely with everyone in your target audience, you will become perceived as the go-to expert, increase your credibility and, ultimately, gain market share from your competitor who refuses to share his expertise.  Sharing creates a feeling of reciprocity.  What good does reciprocity do?  Here’s how it works; if you have chosen your target audience well, one day they will buy the thing you produce.  They’ll buy it from you or your competitor.  Sharing expertise positions your firm as the first and best choice.  When the day comes around and that person in your target audience is ready to make a purchase, the manufacturing company that has helped the prospective customer to be better by giving the gift of expertise will most likely win the business, even at a higher price point.  What’s that, you’re worried about your competitor getting your valuable information?  Foggetaboutit.  They already have it, compliments of the world wide web.
  3. Focus on the people in the target audience.  Most manufacturers will swear they focus on the customer.  “Customer is king”.  “The Customer is always right.”  “The Customer can fire us all.”  But do they really focus on the needs and wants of the people in their target audience or do they just try to figure out ways to convince them that their widget is the best and call that customer focus?  Do you see the difference? Another common refrain we hear is that the manufacturer (usually sales reps) are out there asking the customers what they want and/or need.  I ask you, is that really customer focus or is that just trying to figure out what else you can sell to them?  Customer focus is when the manufacturer really understands the pain points of the audience and helps them to relieve that pain by sharing expertise even if they never buy anything.  I can see the eyes rolling and hear the curse words flying after that last sentence.  Hang in there. This type of attitude, helping them even if they never buy anything, is deeply engaging with those people in your target audience.  If you act like they will never buy anything from your firm, but help them to relieve their pain anyways, guess who they will call when they have a need to make a related purchase.  That’s right, your firm gets the call and usually gets the business.  That, my fellow B2B manufacturing marketer is customer focus!
  4. Embrace the Marketing function as a highly valuable, strategic partner within your organization.  Your marketers are smart.  They know about how to engage by sharing expertise.  Embrace your marketing professionals and let them be the professional marketers they long to become.  I’m not talking about the marketing function you have right now, those folks chained up by your lack of faith in marketing in the back who set up trade shows, make some brochures and create PowerPoint templates.  I’m talking about creating and embracing a Marketing leader and his team as a revenue generating machine.  Yes, this means investing in the marketing function.  It means finding a marketing leader who understands the strategic and the tactical aspects of marketing, how that function can generate revenue and how to discuss it with the executive leadership team.  Embrace the marketing function that knows how to use modern digital tools for engagement and measurement.  Embrace a marketing team who can drive revenue 10x more than the field sales force and manufacturers reps combined.  It can be done and, in fact, it must to be done to win big.  Marketers are smart and they get it if you would only listen to them once in a while.
  5. Walk the walk when it comes to innovation.  Most B2B manufacturing leaders consider innovation to be about new products or new processes within the production and distribution lines.  There is no area today more ripe for exploiting innovation than in Marketing.  After you embrace Marketing as a strategic function, let them innovate and support that innovation.  When the Marketing leader comes to the next leadership meeting and requests funds for a strategy that does not pitch the product, give it to him!  Listen to him with an open mind and an authentic, innovative heart.  Discard all of that old product culture baggage and try something new and innovative in marketing.

So that’s how to win big in B2B manufacturing.  Marketing is the last organic revenue growth frontier in manufacturing.  I know many manufacturers have a hard time getting their arms around the fact that marketing could make any more difference than a line item on the expense side of the ledger.  It’s a hard cultural change in most manufacturing organizations.  My final piece of advice is to do this thing before your competition does it.  First movers will be the big winners.

Webinars Don’t Have to Suck

Webinars Suck

The painful truth is that most webinars suck.  The reasons they suck are numerous, but these are the big 3; we, I and us.  Most webinars and the main presenters are excited to talk about their product, their company and themselves.  That is a failing webinar strategy.  Most companies who try webinars as a marketing tactic do not realize that the people in their target audience don’t care about their products, their company or the presenter.  The people in the target audience care about WIIFM (what’s in it for me).  The bottom line is that if the attendee does not perceive value in the webinar, they won’t register and if they do register and attend, they will bail out fast if the content is self-centered.  Don’t talk about we, I and us, talk about them, theirs and you.

Here’s how you produce a webinar that doesn’t suck:

  1. Choose a topic that is useful to the people in the target audience.  A useful topic either helps them relieve pain or helps them to enjoy a passion more.  As much as we want to believe that our products are are the means to helping everyone to relieve their pain, that is not the perception of the audience.  You have to give them something they can use besides your product.  Here are a few examples.  If your firm manufactures humidity sensors, don’t do a webinar about your sensor, do a webinar about how to make a better measurement of humidity.  If your firm makes air navigation charts, don’t do a webinar about why your charts are different or unique, do a webinar about how to be a better pilot.  If your manufacturing company makes digital display meters, don’t do a webinar about the attributes of the meter, do a webinar about how to be more efficient with power and wiring.
  2. Make the webinar fun and conversational.  You may be thinking, “How can I make it conversational if I have 500 people logged on to my webinar?”  Use the webinar platform tools such as mark-up, pointers, polls, quizzes and chat to get the audience to pay attention and participate.  Have multiple question and answer breaks throughout the webinar, not just at the end.  Give away a prize or two during the webinar.  Laugh and crack a joke once in a while.  If the speakers have fun, the audience will have fun while they learn about what matters to them.
  3. Don’t talk about yourself, your company or your products.  As soon as the speaker starts to drone on about his company, your audience will zone out.  It’s important to tell the audience who is presenting the webinar, but do it in one or two sentences at the most.  I like to say something like “This webinar is presented to you by Acme, manufacturer of custom widgets, but we don’t talk about the widgets during the webinar because it is strictly educational.  Naturally, if you have questions about Acme widgets, we’d love to hear from you after the webinar.”  It is important for the audience to know who is giving them this valuable, pain-relieving information and it also puts the audience at ease in that they haven’t been duped into sitting through a sales pitch.
  4. Use at least two speakers.  Yes, webinars suck if they have one speaker talking over slides with no interaction.  Use at least two speakers. Two speakers can interact and have some fun.  Two voices and two personalities are much more interesting than one.  Even better, use two speakers and a question moderator for a total of three personalities interacting and engaging with the audience.

If you do just these four things, your webinars will be light-years ahead of most, but it doesn’t stop there.  One of the things that can make or break a webinar is the infrastructure.  Speakers should be on a high quality headset connected via a land line if possible. Speakers should avoid using cell phones or VOIP phones if possible since they can cause poor sound quality.

Finally, practice is important.  Do not allow  your subject matter experts to just show up at the live broadcast without attending any practice sessions.  Not practicing is a sure fire way to guarantee that your webinars suck.

Check out the Webinar Toolkit page for some additional helpful resources.

Watch the KMI ‘How to Webinar‘ series.

Request a Free Webinar Strategy Brainstorming Session from Bruce McDuffee, Principal Consultant at KMI.

My Personal Takeaways from Content Marketing World 2015


Fresh of the airplane returning from Content Marketing World 2015, I was able to ponder my 3 days in Cleveland and come up with 5 important takeaways.

  1. Be authentic.  This seemed to be a recurring theme this year.  We heard it from Jay Baer in his keynote as he regaled us with tales of his mother’s brutal honesty.  We heard it from John Cleese in his keynote as he was not afraid to tell us what he thought of Cleveland in no uncertain terms.  We heard it from Nick Offerman as he told us how he rejected the Hollywood entertainment industry when they tried to cast him as the murderer/rapist role which was he felt was not his authentic acting role.  We heard if from Doug Kessler in his B2B presentation titled “Insane Honesty” where he enlightened us marketers to embrace the true offering or meaning of our products.  We heard if from the “man” himself, Joe Pulizzi, who encouraged all of us to be true to ourselves and be authentic in our marketing.
  2. Most of us will never be GE, Marriott, Coca Cola or Red Bull.  If you got the chance to attend Katrina Craigwell’s presentation, you were no doubt amazed at the content GE and Katrina are creating.  It is awesome!  They show us how a jet engine is made and how it works. They film a new, state of the art, locomotive from a helicopter whistling through the sky over the high plains of the Midwest.  They are even creating content with state of the art virtual reality technology.  I think Katrina might have the best marketing job in all of the world.  But, alas, most of us will never be hanging out of that helicopter or even be able to get near the factory floor where turbines or locomotives are being manufactured.  We’ll never have multi-million dollar budgets or work with virtual reality content.  And that’s ok.  Referring to number 1 above, if we’re authentic and true to ourselves we can be happy even if we never get to be GE.  But that doesn’t mean we can dream about hanging out of a helicopter.  If I worked for GE, I would want to drive that train, not just film it.
  3. Marketers are smart.  Every marketing conference I attend reinforces this idea.  Marketers are some smart bastards.  I mean that with all due respect and love to my profession.  Talking to my colleagues at CMW, I am always amazed at their insight, cleverness, creativity and pure dedication to the profession of marketing. It always saddens me a little when the share their all to common stories about how the leadership at their company will never let them implement any new ideas.  Most corporations would be amazed and dazed if they would only listen to their marketing team, especially after a conference like Content Marketing World.  The vast majority of these smart marketers will return to their cubicles on Monday, file their great ideas away, and settle back down into their world of servitude to the sales or product teams.  My message to all the really smart marketers out there is to keep going and make yourselves the absolute best marketer you could possible become.  Bring up your creative and innovative ideas to your colleagues, peers and managers whenever you get a chance.  Sure, you might get that blank stare or even a derogatory laugh from time to time, but persevere and your day will come.  When they tell you ‘no’, find a way to do it anyways and learn from your trials.  Treat your corporate marketing position as a live learning laboratory and experiment away you smart bastard.
  4. Write a book.  This is more of a personal takeaway, but can be applied to anyone striving to establish themselves or their company as the ‘expert’ around a certain subject area.  There is a lot of noise out there in the marketing and advertising space.  One can become perceived as an expert by shouting loud and often.  Shouting loud and often requires inordinate amount of resources (time and money) which most of us do not have.  Writing a book seems to be a reasonable means towards achieving the perception.  Why would one want to be perceived as an expert?  This perception helps a consultant like myself, grow a practice or it can help a company increase their growth rate.  If one were inclined towards professional speaking or being invited to conferences as a speaker, a book is your calling card.  My takeaway is that I need to write a book.  The challenge is time and money.  Anyone out there want to sponsor my effort?
  5. Patience is a marketer’s virtue.  As marketers, or maybe just as human beings, we love the new shiny object.  This year’s CMW vendor floor was chock full of shiny new marketing technology.  Wow, if I had a million dollars.  (someone should write a song about that)  Regardless of the technology, not much is really new or unique in the bigger picture as we might observe.  As much as we want to play with all this new technology, patience is advised.  You must have the time, inclination and budget for new technology.  But even more important, we must have the marketing fundamentals in place first before any technology will pay off.

Finally, as I was walking out of the Cleveland Convention Center yesterday, I happened upon this guy dressed all in orange.  His name is Joe Pulizzi and I asked his advice about growing my fledgling and sometimes struggling marketing consultancy for manufacturing companies.  I said, “Joe, it’s not working.  I can’t get any traction in growing my audience of subscribers.  I’ve been blogging every week, sharing content, posting religiously on LinkedIn and fine tuning my SEO for my website and nobody is paying attention.  I have 35 subscribers to my enewsletter and I’ve been stuck there for 3 months.  Joe, I’m begging you, let me in on the secret.”  Joe looked at me, sort of smiled and stifled a chuckle as he shook his head ever so slightly and said, ”Bruce, you’re doing all the right things.  It took me 4 years to begin to get traction.  Here’s my advice, refine your niche, ‘manufacturing companies’ to be more targeted, be authentic and be patient.  Patience is the hardest one.”  Thanks Joe!   You’re awesome and I’ll see you next year.

Those are my takeaways from Content Marketing World 2015.  I’d love to hear your takeaways, even if it’s just one thing.  Stay patient, be authentic and keep on marketing.

Marketing, the ‘Rodney Dangerfield’ of Manufacturing


You may not know Jacob Rodney Cohen, but you probably do know his stage name, Rodney Dangerfield.  There are some days I feel his pain when it comes to manufacturing and marketing.  The lament of Marketing in a manufacturing company is the same as Rodney’s lament, “I don’t get no respect!”  Chances are, if you are a manufacturing marketer, you feel the same way.

Granted, this is probably not true in every manufacturing organization.  B2C manufacturing is likely to respect their marketing team a bit more.  Based on anecdotal experience and evidence, I feel confident in saying that the vast majority of B2B manufacturing companies do not respect their marketing team or marketing as a discipline. All you need to do is look at the marketing activities and advertisements put out by manufacturing companies.  They are usually terrible and you can’t blame the marketers.  The marketers want to be better and want to do better, but the ‘powers’ within the manufacturing organization (sales, product or executive) don’t support marketing with resources and, even worse, force just shitty ideas on the marketing professionals.  Advertisements appear to be either done in-house by someone who has no idea about design or layout fundamentals or they are done by an advertising agency.  Marketing is getting no respect in either case.

Let’s explore the reason why marketing is the Rodney Dangerfield of the manufacturing organization.  When manufacturing was in its glory days during the post World War II boom, there was really no need for marketing.  The product was king and all they had to do was invent or produce a product and people would buy it if they had the money.  If a product person or a sales manager decided they wanted to run an ad, it was usually a seat of the pants decision and the nearest secretary was tasked to ‘put together an ad’ based on a sketch on the back of a napkin.  There was no strategy or coherent plan in place beyond the sales team, an occasional advertisement and the regular trade show.  Surely, how smart do you have to be to put together a trade show was the thinking in the male dominated industry.   So it was a task someone’s assistant took on.  Note how the manufacturing culture is beginning to define the role of marketing during this time.  Marketing was being defined as a service to the sales or product team and it was just not important enough to support with any type of resources.

Cultures don’t change easily.  Even today, in our so called modern era of digital marketing, the culture in most manufacturing companies is dominated by either the sales organization or the product/R&D organization.  Marketing is seen as an admin function, subservient to all other functions.  Marketing is under funded, under appreciated and under utilized.  Marketers in a manufacturing organization “don’t get no respect”.

At this point in my little rant, I think it’s important to delve into the definition of “marketing”.  I see marketing as being divided into 2 areas; strategy and tactics.  Strategic marketing is usually formulated (and I use this term loosely) by the big boys and girls at the leadership table.  Typically, the ‘Marketing’ leader does not belong to this self-proclaimed ‘elite’ group.  So we have a group of executives who know nothing about practical marketing strategy or marketing tactics making decisions which are usually based on the latest sales persons shallow insight or the latest product under development.  They will try to bring their own personal experiences of being ‘marketed to’ into the discussion.  This leadership team will likely include the CEO, CFO, HR, and business segment leaders.  None of whom will have had any practical marketing experience.  (check out my past post, “Help, My CEO knows nothing about marketing”) Strategic marketing will usually be reduced to a few catch phrases like, “we have to be more customer focused” or “we have to use more digital marketing”.  It is from these types of meetings where strategic decisions about social media are born.  It sounds something like this from the CEO, “Hey, my daughter spends all of her time on Facebook.  Did you know there are more than a billion users of Facebook?”  Then the head of HR pipes up and says, “yeah, my son is on Twitter and he loves it.  He’s majoring in marketing at State U this year.  He says social media really boosts a company’s SEO too.”  The CFO says, “What’s SEO?”  They all have a good laugh, assign someone to tell Rita the marketing manager to get the company up on Facebook and Twitter as they move on the the quarterly income statement. Sadly, but alas, typically, that type of conversation serves as the marketing strategy discussion with the leadership team.

In the meantime, the servant class of marketer takes care of the tactical marketing which includes the daily things called marketing such as trade shows, advertisements, email blasts, etc.  Typically these disrespected marketing team members react to the sales team or the product guy.   In many cases, Product Marketing leads the marketing team.  Even worse, in many manufacturing companies, the engineering team leads marketing.  Ask any manufacturing marketer about what engineers think of marketing and you’ll see the marketer’s eyes roll around and their head shake back and forth.

True story, I was working with a large manufacturing company last Fall where the Vice President of Engineering was given the joint title and role as Vice President of Marketing.  In one meeting, he revealed his idea about what was needed from Marketing.  He wanted to see “pizzazz” and “flamboyance” from the marketing team.  He was completely clueless about marketing strategy, tactics or what a marketing team should be doing for a manufacturing organization.  Clearly, there is no respect for Marketing at that firm.

Marketing can and should be a powerful, revenue generating force within all manufacturing companies.  In this day and age, Marketing should be leading the entire revenue team, including sales, marketing, inside sales and product.  A modern, smart, adept marketing leader and organization has much to offer.  Why is it that there is little mention of marketing in most manufacturing professional organizations?  There is plenty of discussion around “lean manufacturing”,  “supply chain”, “Six Sigma”, etc., but very little mention of marketing.  Oh, but there is one place when marketing is talked about and brought into the conversation.  When budget cuts need to be made, invariably someone on the leadership team will say, “We can always cut our marketing spend”.

The upside is that there is a HUGE opportunity for the manufacturing business and its executives who are willing to change this culture of ‘no respect’ for marketing as a discipline and the professional marketers behind the discipline.  Marketing leaders and professionals are ready, willing and able to step up to the demand for growth.  Professional marketers know how to drive engagement, fill the top of the funnel, create TOMA (top of mind awareness) and, most importantly, deliver business.  Most manufacturing leaders embrace innovation and creativity as a cornerstone of their business.   Well it’s time to put up or shut up when it comes to innovation and marketing.  There is no more innovative and creative group of people than the modern marketer.  There is not a more exciting opportunity to innovate than embracing, respecting and creating a revenue driving marketing team.  Yes, I am a professional marketer and I’m proud of my profession.  As marketers, we have the technology, tools and the knowledge to contribute at the leadership table.  We, the professional marketers, are ready to earn the respect of the manufacturing organization.