Category Archives: Manufacturing marketing

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.

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.

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.

What’s Holding Back Your Manufacturing Growth?


If you’re a manufacturing company executive who is satisfied with your 5 year CAGR and/or your annual projected growth rate, you should pass on this article.  This article is about some not-so-obvious things that could be holding back your firm’s growth in our present era of global competition, commoditized products and customer empowerment.  There are really only 3 ways to manufacturing growth that is more than the anemic GDP annual growth rate of about 3%:

  1. Purchase manufacturing growth through acquisitions.
  2. Sell more product overseas in developing economies.
  3. Take market share from competitors.

Numbers 1 & 2 have their own challenges and are well beyond the scope of this article, and they are also very difficult to execute.  We’ll focus on the things that are holding you back from executing number 3.  The good news is that if you are a progressive minded manufacturing executive, you can achieve manufacturing growth by taking market share from your competitors because most of your competitors are stuck in the late Industrial Age pitching their commoditized products by attending trade shows and talking about themselves in addition to the worn out product features and benefits.  Here’s the dirty little secret;  the people in your target audience don’t care about your company, your products, your CEO or you.  They care about what your company and your products can do for them.  They care about WIIFM (what’s in it for me).  With that theme in mind, these are the things holding you back from achieving double digit growth:

You don’t talk about the pain and problems faced by the people in your target audience.  This is the number one issue holding back manufacturing company growth.  The good news is that if you are the company in your competitive marketplace to get this and execute first. You win.  Take a look at your website.  Is it filled with first person pronouns such as ‘we’, ‘our’, ‘I’, and ‘us’?  Is the website content all about your products or how your products are used in the field?  Is the blog all about new product launches or company achievements?  Are the webinars about how to use your product or about the features and benefits of the product?  Most manufacturing companies will answer yes, yes and yes to these questions.   Don’t get me wrong, you need to have information about your products available on your website because when the prospective customer is ready to buy, they look for that information.  But what about when they are looking for help to solve their problem, do you have helpful information that is not based on your product?  The manufacturing company that offers helpful, useful information made freely available during a prospective customer’s self education phase will gain the hearts and minds of the people in the target audiences and oh so much more.  That’s right, I’m telling you to give away your expertise to your prospective customers even if they aren’t ready to buy right away.  Help them to be better, solve a problem or relieve pain.   Create some webinars that don’t feature your products but feature solutions to their problem.  Post helpful, useful and interesting information on your blog that is not about your product or your firm, but is about the people in your target audience.  If you change your marketing strategy in just this one way, you will see huge benefits that will launch your manufacturing business into the double digit growth range.

You’re not reaping the knowledge and experience of your marketing team.  In most manufacturing cultures, the marketing team consists of the folks in the back cubicles who are at the beck and call of the rest of the company.  They make brochures, place ads, set up trade shows and maintain the web site.  They are a virtual vending machine for the sales team.  You’d be surprised by the untapped energy, enthusiasm and knowledge buried within your marketing team.  They know about marketing strategy, modern tactics, marketing technology, content marketing and so much more. Elevate your team!  If you marketing team leader is old school and still marketing like it is the late Industrial Age, get rid of her and find someone with progressive ideas and experience with audience engagement beyond promoting similar products from a similar industry.

The brand awareness problem.  Most manufacturing companies don’t have the resources to purchase brand awareness.  If you’re an Emerson, ABB or Siemens you can spend millions to get attention and awareness (although these behemoths could also benefit from these ideas).  The rest of us have to be more clever.  There is a lot of noise out there in the webosphere and it is exceedingly difficult to break through and get any attention let alone awareness.  The solution to overcoming this obstacle and to gain top-of-mind awareness and credibility is to help the people in the target audience to be better or relieve some pain.  If you can achieve this, you get awareness, you get credibility and you get a feeling of reciprocity in the minds of the people in your target audience.  The result is that when the day comes around and they are ready to buy, the manufacturing firm that was able to help will get the call and usually get the business.  That is how this concept will enable you to take market share from your competitor; at least until your competitor catches on.

The lead generation problem.  Leads are expensive.  A typical trade show lead can cost as much as $300 when you figure in the cost of the show, logistics and travel.  If you are focusing on your product and your field sales team to generate leads, every single new lead is a struggle and a triumph. The problem is that your ads and your trade show booth look and sound exactly like your competitor. By the time your prospective customer reaches out to you, because everyone looks the same, they have determined that price is the only differentiator.  As your prospective customer, if you are the firm that has been helping me solve my problem, I’m happy to pay a little more for your product.  Prospective customers will flock to your lead generation forms is you can help them relieve pain.  As much as you want to believe it, your product and your employees will not be perceived as differentiators to your target audience.  The only way to differentiate yourself in our commoditized, global market is to focus on relieving the pain of the people in your target audience.  When you do this, the lead generation problem is solved.

Need some help with overcoming these hurdles?  Request a free Content Strategy Brainstorming session from KMI.


5 Reasons Every Manufacturing Company Should Do Educational Webinars


I know what a lot of you are already thinking even as you read the title of this post, “we tried webinars and they don’t work for us”. I implore you to read on with an open mind.  I’d be willing to bet that those of you who have tried webinars unsuccessfully tried webinars about one of your products or a new product launch.  I agree, those product webinars don’t get much interest.

If you were to produce educational webinars offering your unique expertise via education, I guarantee you would get hundreds of attendees knocking down the door to hear your experts tell them how to solve a perplexing problem.  How does that sound?  Imagine being in front of (virtually) several hundred people who are in your target audience and solving their problems or making their lives better.  You can and should include webinars as a primary activity in your manufacturing marketing mix.  Here are 5 compelling reasons:

  1. Educational webinars generate demand and create tons of high quality leads for the top of  your sales funnel.
    • Nothing generates interest and engagement like a webinar that educates the people in your target audience.  If you pick a relevant topic and give away useful information, you will attract hundreds or even thousands of the very people in your target audience who will one day purchase your product.  It’s important to remember that only a small percentage of the people who do attend your webinar are ready to buy at the moment when they sign up or attend a webinar.  But, the overwhelming majority will eventually buy the thing you are selling.  It is extremely important to continue to offer relevant and useful information on a regular basis.  A series of webinars is the best way to position your brand and your offering top of mind with your target audience.  If you really want to be a superstar and take market share from your competitors, in addition to the webinars, repurpose the content into an enewsletter or other regular nurturing program.
  2. Educational webinars establish your brand and your offering as more credible than the competition.
    • Which firm is more credible; the one who pounds you with their corporate spin and product features or the firm who helps you to be better at your profession or relieve some pain in your daily tasks by sharing their expertise via educational events and activities?  I can tell you from experience the latter destroys the former every time.  The best way to demonstrate credibility is to prove it by sharing expertise.  Don’t confuse expertise about your product with expertise that helps the people in your audience.  Check out this KMI webinar for more on that topic.
  3. Educational webinars are a gift to the very people who will one day purchase what you manufacture. 
    • Giving a gift of education to the people in your target audience evokes a desire within them to reciprocate.  When the day comes around and the people who attended your webinar (which made their lives better) are ready to purchase the thing you are selling, they want to reciprocate and buy from you not your competitor.  Top of mind awareness (TOMA), credibility and reciprocity are a killer combination.
  4. Webinars offer great engagement metrics that will impress your executive leadership team, the sales team and validate your marketing team’s strategy and tactics.
    • Unlike other content marketing tactics, webinars offer simple and easy metrics that will quickly validate your success.  Imagine telling your CEO that your most recent webinar put your manufacturing experts in front of 2500 prospective customers.  ( I actually achieved this result with a manufacturing company – read about it here.)  If you have the proper tools in place, you can also show how much revenue was influenced by your webinar series.  You just might even be able to impress the CFO!
  5. Educational webinars will grow your business and enable you to take market share from your competitors.
    • You’ll get the attention and engagement of a much larger portion of your potential market by helping them to be better through educational webinar events which share your expertise.  While your competitors are stuck in the old ways of sales and marketing like trade shows and brochures talking about their products and their so called global leadership position, you’re actually helping the people in the market.  You get TOMA, credibility, reciprocity and you take the business from your competition.

Ready to give it a try?  Do it yourself or contact KMI about Turn-key Webinar Services.  The price of a turn-key webinar is about the same as one full color ad in a trade journal.  Which one do you think will get you a better ROI?

B2B Manufacturing Companies Should Forget Social Media; Do These 3 Things Instead

In the most recent Content Marketing Institute (CMI) manufacturing research about how Manufacturing Marketers are using social media, 89% of respondents claim to be using LinkedIn, 83% use YouTube and 80% use Facebook.  Overall, 85% use social media as a marketing tactic; number 3 behind eNewsletters and Videos.  In other recent research presented by Trew Marketing about the target market of many B2B Manufacturing companies, engineers, 42% report social media as not valuable, 34% as unsure or somewhat valuable and only 24% as moderately or very valuable.  This research, as well as my own experience with manufacturing companies, indicates a pretty big disconnect between manufacturing marketers and their technical audiences.

CMI social graph

Let’s give the marketers a break, it may not be their fault.  How  many of us have experienced the Monday morning meeting with the CEO or GM where he comes in all excited about social media.  Maybe he tells a story about how his high school daughters had a couple of friends over and they loved this cool social media app called [Pinterest, SnapChat, fill in your own blank]?  He proceeds to tell you, the marketing professional, that we need to get on the social media bandwagon?  Check out the “Woo Woo” video from Adobe Marketing Cloud for a more humorous (or sad) portrayal.

B2B manufacturing companies should forget about social media and spend time and budget on something else.  Typically, manufacturing companies have very lean marketing staff and budgets.  Every single choice you make is not only a budget choice, it is an opportunity cost.  Spending time on a marketing tactic that your target audience does not value is a lost opportunity for spending time and other resources on a marketing tactic that reaches them with a tactic that they do appreciate, value and use on a regular basis.  Most research data supports the conclusion that the majority of engineers and/or technical audiences are not found on the social media channels. 


Trew Social Graph

If you, as a manufacturing marketer, are sure your target audience is using social media and you can prove interaction or, even more important, revenue attribution, then by all means continue.  If you are not sure or unable to prove interaction with the people in your target audience, STOP, PULL THE PLUG, CEASE and DESIST using social media immediately.

Instead, divert those resources (people, time, money, opportunity) to these marketing tactics where engineers and a technical audience go for information.

  1. Start an opt-in enewsletter.  Your technical audience values enewsletters that  are short, easy to read and contain technical content or application stories that are relevant to their professional lives.  Use your company’s expertise to create useful white papers, best practice guides, FAQs, etc.  DO NOT start an enewsletter about your company people, events, products, etc.  DO NOT dump your whole database in as subscribers.  Instead, invite them to subscribe to learn about a subject where your firm’s expertise intersects with their pain or passion.  Opt-in subscribers will engage 5x to 10x more than the email blast receivers.
  2. Create an educational webinar series.  This may sound daunting if you haven’t done webinars.  You are also likely to get push back from your executives or your sales people.  But, I encourage you to persevere.  Educational webinars done well can attract hundreds or even thousands of people in your target audience.  The temptation and pressure to create webinars about your products will be strong.  RESIST!  DO NOT create webinars about your products if your goal is deeper and wider engagement with your target audience.  [shameless self promotion – KMI offers turn-key webinar production for manufacturing companies]
  3. Create educational, useful and relevant content.  This one supports your overall marketing strategy.  As a manufacturing marketer, you likely have outbound and inbound tactics.  The more useful and relevant content you can create to use in your enewsletters, website and outbound paid advertising, the more meaningful and broader will be your audience engagement.  As a manufacturer, you probably have tons of content about your products.  That’s a good thing because every manufacturing company needs to have that content for the later stages of the buying process.  You probably do not have a lot of educational content that is not directly about your product.  This is your gold mine for audience engagement.  Engineers love to download PDF documents.  In fact, according to the TREW Marketing research, 90% of engineers prefer the PDF document format followed by 66% preferring pictures, diagrams and illustrations.  STRONG CAVEAT – the content must be useful and helpful to the people in your target audience.

If social media is a component of your current marketing plan, it might sound scary to abandon the tactic altogether overnight.  Perhaps your particular B2B manufacturing target audience does prefer and value social media as a channel.  If that is the case and you can truly prove it to yourself, your team and your executive leadership, then, by all means, you must continue.  If you have robust marketing resources or marketing people looking for things to do, then, sure, dabble in social media where you could connect with that 15% of the technical audience who do value social media.  For the rest of us, research indicates that if your audience is engineers or technical professionals, the majority does not use nor value social media in their professional lives.  Most manufacturing marketing teams have limited time and resources, so use them wisely and put your message in a place the majority audience values.  Make the message about something they value.  Provide that information in a format the majority prefers.

Good luck!  Feel free to call on KMI for help with content strategy, turn-key educational webinars or leveraging your content with marketing automation.

Resource: (download this report from GlobalSpec).  This report confirms the fact that the greater industrial audience does not value social media in their professional lives.

10 Common Misconceptions About Webinars

myth-realityA customer focused, educational, well executed webinar can get your company thousands of registrants and attendees.  The problem is that most companies who try webinars just get it wrong and then give up, proving to themselves and their stakeholders that webinars indeed do not work.  Webinars do work and they are fantastic quality lead generators.  If you can get past the misconceptions about webinars, you might be surprised about the power of a well done webinar to increase market share, enhance engagement and increase awareness in your marketplace.

Misconception #1 – Webinars are boring.  Yes indeed, most webinars are boring because they are so poorly put together and even worse in their execution.  The reason this is a misconception is that relevant and well executed webinars are only boring if you miss the concerns or interests of your target audience.  Even a somewhat poorly executed webinar is NOT boring if the topic is useful to the members of the target audience.   If you can find a topic that resonates with your target audience and is not just about you and your company, it will not be perceived as boring to your target audience.  Webinars are boring if they are not relevant and not useful.  Webinars are interesting and even entertaining if the topic is germane and the execution is strong.

Misconception #2 – Webinars don’t work.  As mentioned above, poorly executed webinars that are about the company and its products don’t work.  It’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy.  More often than not, it plays out something like this:  someone at a company decides to give webinars a try.  They ask around and decide to put on a webinar about their latest new product launch and the latest press release where their CEO was quoted.  They put together the material straight out of the web page, data sheet and the press release.  Maybe they even get the CEO to introduce the webinar where he or she talks about how great the company is and why everyone should revere their products.  The invitation goes out and it immediately flops.  Ten people sign up.  They go ahead with the webinar test plan, excited about the live broadcast in spite of the low interest.  The day of the live broadcast arrives and only 2 people sign on.  Boom!  The consensus is that webinars don’t work.

I’ve seen this scenario play out over and over again.  On the flip side, when a company chooses a topic that helps the people in their target audience to be better, relieve a common pain or enhance a passion, the registrations flood in and the attendees jam the virtual doors.  Webinars with a strong, audience focused topic do work and they work spectacularly!

Misconception #3 – Nobody attends live webinars.  Typically, attendance rates for webinars with high engagement topics will see a 50% attendance rate.  Yes, it is easy to blow off a webinar in favor of a tap on the shoulder from your boss or an impromptu meeting, but if the topic is relevant, most of those who do not attend the live event will listen to the recording or, at least, peruse the slide deck.  I can’t stress this enough;  if the topic is useful and relevant to your target audience, people will attend.  The most successful webinar I ever created had about 2500 registrants.  About 800 attended the live event.  The recording was viewed another 1300 times.  Yes, people do attend webinars if they find the material useful.  If the audience sees value in the webinar, they will find a way to attend.

Misconception #4 – People in my market aren’t at their computers all day so it’s impossible for them to attend a webinar.  Once again, if the topic is useful for them, they will find a way to attend the live broadcast or, at least, to watch the recording at home or on their mobile device.  I’ve presented webinars to factory workers, warehouse workers and others who rarely sit in front of a computer during the day, but find the time to fill up a conference room or watch the recording after hours because they found the topic useful.

Misconception #5 – Webinars are easy to do.  Poor webinars are easy.  Engaging and useful webinars are difficult, requiring an investment of time and money to be successful.  Is it worth the investment?  You bet!  Well done webinars have some of the highest ROI of any marketing tactic I’ve used.  The reason they are difficult is due to the myriad of details that must be attended.  It helps to have someone own the webinar with responsibility and authority to make it happen.  It also helps to have a proven template to help guide the selection of a topic and the timeline from creation to broadcast to follow up activities.

Misconception #6 – Webinars are expensive and time consuming.  Cost per lead for a webinar is among the lowest possible of most marketing tactics.  Perhaps the first webinar will take some extra time, but after you have a cadence and a process in place, scaling is easy.  Consider the cost of a typical trade show booth lead at about $250 per lead.  By most B2B benchmarks, a typical top-of-funnel lead costs about $45.   Webinar leads are usually less than $10 per lead and of higher quality than leads generated by most other marketing tactics.

Misconception #7 – A webinar is just a voice over a slide deck.  Poorly done (boring) webinars will consist of one person talking about one slide after another.  Perhaps the reason most people have such a poor perception and a lot of misconceptions about webinars is because they have attended so many really bad webinars.  Engaging webinars include more than one voice/personality.  Really good webinars use polls, surveys, quizzes and question/answer sessions to engage the audience.  Webinars can include videos or other media options as well.  Some webinars also include a live video feed of the presenter.

Misconception #8 – Webinars are just new product launch promotions.  This is the single driving force behind all of these misconceptions.  Let me be completely clear. Product based webinars will fail.  Webinars with a topic about something the audience cares about will be very successful.  Don’t waste your time putting together a webinar about your product or service because nobody will sign up.  Not sure how educating your audience translates to more business.  Read about it here.

Misconception #9 – I can use my virtual meeting service for webinars.  Virtual meeting tools do not provide enough features nor enough seats for a properly executed webinar.  You could probably pull it off, but it would end up proving the point that webinars don’t work.  It will require more time and cause a lot more frustration.  Pay for a platform that is designed for webinars.  You’ll be more effective and the attendee experience will be much, much better.  Some vendors to consider include ReadyTalk, Gotowebinar, ON24, WebEx and Adobe Connect.

Misconception #10 – Webinars are a one way conversation and, therefore, not engaging.  If you follow best practices in selecting your topic, platform, speakers, promotion, broadcasting and follow up,  your webinar will be a 2 way conversation with highly qualified and interested people who make up your target audience.  Again, poorly executed webinars where there is one person droning on slide after slide with no questions, no polls, no surveys, etc. are a one way conversation and will be perceived as a failure in most cases.  Nearly all webinar platforms do allow for real-time interaction with the audience.  Making it a 2 way conversation is possible and is a best practice for lead generating webinars.

Webinars are perhaps the single marketing tactic with the highest potential for success and the highest potential for failure.  The internet is littered with poorly done webinars.  Webinars offer the lowest cost per lead and the highest ROI of nearly all marketing tactics.  Do webinars right or don’t do them at all.

If you like the idea of knowledge based webinars but feel you don’t have the resources, check out KMI’s Turn-key Webinar Services.  Already doing webinars, but not happy with the results, KMI can help you do better.  We even support the do-it-yourself marketing team with this free webinar toolkit.

Contant KMI today and learn how you too can become a webinar superstar.

Manufacturing Lags in Marketing Automation Adoption

factory 9One would think that lead management in the B2B business world was ubiquitous.  As a Modern Marketer, I think that everyone certainly must be using a marketing automation system, a CRM system, automatic lead hand-off, lead nurturing, lead scoring, and monitoring the conversion points of a traditional funnel; suspect – MQL – SAL – SQL – Closed or Won – nurture – cultivate.  I’m thinking, how could anyone miss this with all the buzz over the past 5 years.

But, it is not so.  According to a May 2014 article in Ad Age, approximately 16% of B-to-B companies are using marketing automation. Citing the same article, Ad Age shows data accumulated by Sirius decisions breaking down adoption rate further by industry:

  • IT – 65%
  • Business Services – 35%
  • Manufacturing – 8%
  • Financial Services – 3%
  • Healthcare – 2%

According to Marketing Sherpa,  of those 16%, only about 30% are using the high ROI lead management tactics of lead scoring, lead nurturing or basic lead funnel management.  Even more astounding is that the Marketing Sherpa survey shows that companies using lead scoring see a 77% improvement in lead generation ROI and a 79% improvement for those using lead nurturing.  So the obvious question is, “why aren’t more B2B firms capitalizing on this powerful technology?”

I am a proficient user of Marketo, Eloqua and Act-on and have been using high engagement high ROI lead management tactics for 5 years now with demonstrated strong revenue growth results due in large part to these and other automation strategy and tactics.  I’ve spent hundreds of hours learning the platforms and it has not been easy to learn how to fully leverage this marketing automation platform.  Most marketing departments are under resourced, over-worked and under-appreciated with little time to spend learning how to use a new technology.  Unfortunately, having the time to learn how to use a marketing automation technology is a luxury in most manufacturing marketing organizations.  I suspect this is the reason for the low adoption rate of such a powerful tool.

On the flip side, for those organizations with a marketing leader and willing, capable team members able to learn this technology, you can take a huge advantage over your competitors who are not able or willing to use the technology.  I’ll say it again.  Manufacturing companies can have a huge advantage in their space by adopting a modern marketing team, strategy and tactics leveraging marketing automation and knowledge marketing.

For you CEOs and CFOs out there who view your marketing department as an expense, it’s time to break out of this mid 20th century, industrial revolution paradigm.  A properly established marketing department is your revenue engine!  At the risk of sounding pompous, using the lead management tools of a marketing automation system, I could take any manufacturing firm in the 92% who are not using automation or any of the 70% not fully leveraging automation and add an additional 10% to their top line within 12 months (assuming support from the C-suite).  I’ve done it and I know it works.  If you’re one of the laggards not using or not fully leveraging marketing automation tools, time to get busy!  Take the reins and make it happen.  There’s plenty of research available to help you to make the business case to your executive management team.

My recommendation is to invest in your marketing team, build a revenue engine, give them the time and money to gain the education and purchase the tools of marketing automation.  Don’t be one of the laggards not using this powerful tool.  I’m quite passionate about fully leveraging marketing automation and making marketing the revenue engine.

Need help choosing a marketing automation platform, establishing a strategy and training a team?  Contact KMI, we specialize in manufacturing businesses and we can help you get your growth on!

Part 2, The 8 Step Framework for Lead Generating Webinars


In the last webinar post, we described the first 4 steps of the 8 Step Framework for creating, producing, executing and measuring lead generating webinars.  You can view the first 4 steps webinar here.  As a refresher, these are the first 4 steps:

  1. Collaborate on the basics with your stakeholders
  2. Create the concept, topic and face you will promote to the audience
  3. Build the team
  4. Choose the best tools

The 8 Step Framework is primarily written for companies that manufacture a product.  The idea behind the framework is that by moving away from webinars about the product, you will offer more useful information to the target audience.  As we outlined in the first webinar and in last week’s blog post, the sweet spot topic will generate hundreds or even thousands of registrants and attendees to your educational, knowledge based webinar.   As a reminder, the sweet spot is the intersection of the pain or passion of your target audience with the relevant expertise housed within your company.

By educating and/or helping the people in your target audience to be better at something that matters to them, your brand gains TOMA (top of mind awareness) and credibility in their minds.  It follows what when the day comes around when they want or need to purchase the type of product you are offering, your firm gets the call and, usually, gets the order.

Here’s steps 5 through 8 of the 8 Step Framework:

Step 5 – Promotion or lack thereof can make or break the success of your webinar.  Promotion of the webinar should be accomplished via multiple inbound and outbound channels.  All promotion activities must make it easy for someone to learn more about the webinar and presenters AND make it easy to register.  If it’s not straightforward, intuitive and easy, you will lose people during the process.

  1. Your internal email list will be your best channel for promotion.  I recommend sending an invitation email 2 to 3 weeks ahead of the broadcast date.  As mentioned above, a marketing automation platform is ideal for managing the process.  It’s OK to send 2 or even 3 invitation emails to each of the contacts in your database.
  2. Consider sending a press release announcing the webinar series.
  3. If you have social media followers on the various channels, be sure to push out information on a regular basis telling followers about the webinar series.
  4. Advertise in venues where your target audience goes to get information.  Industry associations are excellent places to advertise educational webinars.
  5. Make sure you don’t forget your own web properties.  Place ads on your home page and all other relevant pages where your target audience visits.
  6. Engage your sales team to tell their customers, prospects and contacts about the webinar.  Provide them with a custom email signature.  Make up an email template they can easily forward to their contacts.  Ask them to promote the webinar on their personal social channels.
  7. Create a custom landing page where you will funnel all traffic.  Again, as mentioned above, make it super easy for people to learn more about the content, topics, speakers and how to register.  The landing page should tell a curious visitor what they should expect to get out of the webinar, details about time and date and provide credentials of the speakers.

Step 6 –  Broadcast the live webinar.  Some organizations prefer to record the webinar only for on demand viewing and not to broadcast it live.  There are some vendors who offer a hybrid where you record the webinar but promote it as live event where the presentation recording is played, but the chat feature is live.

  1. Try to use at least two speakers.  Two or more voices and personalities makes for a more interesting event and keeps listeners more engaged.
  2. Use the interactive features of the webinar platform such as polls, surveys, quizzes, questions and the chat feature.
  3. I do not recommend opening phone lines (or VOIP) for live questions.  The sound quality is just too unreliable.
  4. Be sure to send automatic reminders as the broadcast day approaches.  I recommend sending 3 reminder emails at 7 days, 1 day and 2 hours prior to the broadcast.
  5. Don’t be disappointed when everyone who registered does not attend.  Typically, you will get 20% to 30% of the registrants to attend the live event.  If you get 50% or more, that is an outstanding attendance rate.
  6. PRACTICE, PRACTICE AND PRACTICE!  The key to sounding natural and confident is to practice.

Step 7 – Post webinar is where the gold is mined.  If you want to see good ROI from all your work, make sure you follow up with attendees and, especially, those who registered but were not able to attend.

  1. Send a follow up email as soon as possible after the broadcast.  Send one saying ‘Thank you for attending’ and another on saying ‘Sorry you were unable to attend’.  Both emails must include links to the recording and to the slide deck.
  2. Some companies contact each registrant via telephone after the webinar.
  3. Another option is to make another offer of educational content via a separate nurturing flow.
  4. If you are executing a webinar series, make sure everyone who registered for the prior webinar gets invited to the next one.
  5. The key to converting registrants and attendees into customers is to continue to engage them with value based content.
  6. Make sure to have a debrief meeting with all those involved with the production and broadcasting of the webinar.  Show special appreciation for your speakers as it is likely they have volunteered to participate on top of their regular day job.  Talk about lessons learned.  Ask each person to offer ideas about what went well, what should be done differently and what should not be repeated.

Step 8 – Measure and report the results.

  1. Compare the results to your objectives and goals.
  2. Report return on investment.
  3. Report on revenue based metrics such as new opportunities and influenced won opportunites.
  4. Get ready for the next one!

Register for the fourth and final webinar in the series, Converting Webinars to Revenue

Watch webinars 1, 2 and 3 on demand.

Request more information about KMI turn-key webinar services for manufacturing companies.

Lead Generating Webinars for Manufacturing – 8 Step Framework


The secret to great marketing of manufactured products is to stop talking about the products.

Last week, we discussed how to get started with lead generating webinars.  This week, we’ll delve into the detail of the first 4 steps of the 8 step framework.  You can view the webinar covering the same topic here.

The 8 Step Framework is primarily written for companies that manufacture a product.  The idea behind the framework is that by moving away from webinars about the product, you will offer more useful information to the target audience.  As we outlined in the first webinar and in last week’s blog post, the sweet spot topic will generate hundreds or even thousands of registrants and attendees to your educational, knowledge based webinar.   As a reminder, the sweet spot is the intersection of the pain or passion of your target audience with the relevant expertise housed within your company.

By educating and/or helping the people in your target audience to be better at something that matters to them, your brand gains TOMA (top of mind awareness) and credibility in their minds.  It follows what when the day comes around when they want or need to purchase the type of product you are offering, your firm gets the call and, usually, gets the order.

Here’s steps 1 through 4 (we’ll cover steps 5 through 8 next week) of the 8 Step Framework:

Step 1 – Get together with the key stakeholders at your organization to agree on these concepts:

  • The objective for the webinar. This could be leads, closed business, awareness or something
    else supporting the business goals.
  • Identify the target audience and where they can be reached.
  • Select the topic for the webinar. The first ideas you hear will be to promote your wonderful
    product. RESIST! Product based webinars will fail. The webinar topic should be of an
    educational nature. Educate the target audience about something that matters to them and
    about something where your firm has unique expertise.
  • Agree on the metrics used to determine success or failure.
  • Agree with the Sales Team on their role in promoting and/or follow up to the webinar.
  • Gain agreement on budget and personnel resources. Personnel resources are especially
    important if your Subject Matter Experts will be contributing their expertise and knowledge on
    top of their regular duties and responsibilities.

Step 2 – Create the concept and agree on the face you will present to the audience:

  • Create a compelling name for the webinar or for the webinar series. The name doesn’t need to
    be extraordinary or clever, but it should clearly explain what the webinar is about.
  • Choose compelling titles for each webinar in the series.
  • Create 100 word descriptions to be used widely in the promotion of the webinar.
  • You may or may not want to create a brand around the webinar. A separate brand could
    include a logo, colors, look and feel of the promotion and webinar itself.
  • Create uniform looking templates for emails, registration materials and the webinar
    presentation materials.

Step 3 – Identify the players. You will need this group to be willing, available and committed:

  • Appoint a webinar manager or chairperson to make sure everything comes together. The
    webinar manager will own the Webinar Checklist and make it all happen.
  • Identify potential speakers and solicit them to volunteer and commit to the webinars. You
    might also need to talk to their managers to make sure they will have support to participate as
    needed. The speakers must be Subject Matter Experts. It is very important that the speakers
    have the authority to speak about the topic. If the speaker is not a SME, the firm will lose
    credibility with the target audience.
  • Identify a Moderator. This position is not mandatory, but I strongly recommend to have at least
    two speakers because it makes for a much more interesting listening experience. A professional
    moderator can go a long ways towards improving the quality of the event.
  • Assign at least two people to moderate the chat interaction. These people should also be SMEs,
    but you could get by with people who are not experts. I suggest one chat moderator for each
    500 registrants if at all possible.
  • Assign one of your marketers to be the Promotion Manager who lines up all promotion activities
    and monitors results.
  • Assign one of your marketers to be the Post-webinar Manager. Activity after the live broadcast
    is critical for converting registrants and attendees into the sales funnel and ultimately to more
    sales. This person is responsible for that activity happening and for it to be effective.

Step 4 – You will need to have some tools to create, produce, promote and broadcast the webinar:

  • You must have a webinar platform. Don’t try to use your virtual meeting provider as the
    webinar platform. Use a tool designed for broadcasting a webinar. There are a lot of options
    out there with different price points and features. Some well-known providers include
    ReadyTalk, ON24, WebEx.
  • A marketing automation platform is ideal for promoting, managing and measuring your webinar.
    However, you can still produce a webinar without one of the MAP tools.
  • If you do not have MAP, you will need an email service provider for invitation, reminder and
    follow up emails. Some webinar platforms include these email options.
  • Depending on the interaction of the sales team, you may want to utilize your CRM as a means to
    manage leads and campaigns.

Stay tuned for learning all about steps 5 through 8 in the Smarter Manufacturing blog.

Register for the 8 Step Framework webinar.

Watch the webinar on demand.