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Marketing in manufacturing: Three common challenges

The newness of 2016 has faded. You’re either executing your marketing communications campaigns as planned, or (more likely) you’re managing against the modified realities the year has brought your manufacturing brand. You’re not alone. Here are strategic workarounds for three of the most common problems marketing teams face in the manufacturing sector.


Feeling intense pressure to perform (i.e. drive sales)

You may feel like your job is on the line. The pressure is intense. Executives who’ve heard how social media, big data and predictive analytics are driving sales now have higher expectations from marketing.

But your company doesn’t have the resources and infrastructure (people and budgets) for success. You don’t have a strong relationship with sales, and departments are working in silos. How can everyone be supported and sales targets reached? They can’t.

It’s time to make the 80/20 rule work for you. Spend 80 percent of your resources narrowly focused on a sales-driving initiative and 20 percent on everything else. It may end up being 70/30 or even 60/40, but don’t kid yourself into believing you can show results if you entertain every request that comes your way. This means making difficult decisions about what product line or market to support.

It may sound counterintuitive or quite possibly insane. But it can work for you. Get input and buy-in from key stakeholders and document your plan, budget and measurement goals. Be vocal with stakeholders about reaching milestones and successes along the way.

I’m not suggesting you don’t put effort into the “everything else.” Because you’re spending minimal resources in those areas, provide what’s needed, set expectations, deliver great work and move on.


The F word is your nemesis when targeting tomorrow’s buyer (millennials) today

Many of today’s manufacturing buyers are still faxing their orders. Hard to believe this dinosaur device is still in use, but old habits really do die hard for some. With the pressures to drive sales now, it can be tempting to focus on traditional audiences. But don’t be short-sighted.

Millennials are the largest generation on our planet and will have the most spending power of any by 2018. They make up more than 46% of the business-to-business purchasing audience, and 63% of millennials are connected with brands through social networks.

Consider this: Customers who are stuck in their ways about faxing orders are also unlikely to change their brand preferences and loyalties. You’ll continue to get valuable sales from this audience if they’re your customer today, but don’t expect much in terms of conversion. So, consider your marketing efforts to this audience as your 20%. Work with the sales team to identify the most valuable tools to serve their needs (like a loyalty program or a new case study). Then, focus on millennials for new sales growth.


Low confidence in executing new marketing strategies

Digital marketing is no longer a novelty. Yet there’s concern among client-side marketers over the growing skills gap – and it’s unlikely to go away anytime soon. The fast pace of change will continue, making it tough to close the gap. Hire, foster and develop a team focused on skills that will help your team navigate the environment:

  • Marketing fundamentals
  • Strategic/critical thinking
  • Curiosity
  • Creativity
  • Collaborative
  • Quick moving; respond rapidly
  • Comfortable with uncertainty and taking calculated risks


These strategies won’t work for all marketing departments, but picking a path and staying focused can offer peace of mind. Develop a strong plan (in particular, ones tied to lead generation efforts), gain consensus and set expectations every step of the way.

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