The pressure to improve your website, gain more visitors and hopefully customers has never been more acute. Yes, the tools and resources are available to do that instantly, but that doesn't mean you have the time or budget to do it. Industrial marketing is driven by product quality and responsiveness. Your current customers come first, with an eye to absolutely, positively, always doing the highest quality work possible. It's the foundation of your company and nothing will undermine a company's marketing quicker than poor quality work. The old saying is true, "When you're happy you tell two friends, when you're unhappy you tell twenty."
Manufacturing is a private business, you have the confidence and money of your customers. However, you can't share their information, their problems or even resell their ideas on your own. It's perfectly alright and good business to promote your customers and their successes if they allow it. We're like doctors ascribing to the Hippocratic Oath. You swear to practice business honestly and responsibly.
So, if you want to grow your business because the business you're in doesn't allow you to grow to the size you want, you'll have to find new customers. Alternately, you might have to find a different business that doesn't have competition. Traditional ideas say you can grow your business by marketing. You really can't. If you do fantastic work and your business doesn't grow -- it's not your fault, it's the economy. What you offer isn't that special or there's no need for your services. Get over it and find a new business or buy another one to grow.
That brings to mind a wonderful presentation on innovation I heard last summer. It was held at the famous "Eureka! Ranch" of Doug Hall in Newtown, Ohio. Doug rose to the rank of Master Marketing Inventor at Procter & Gamble, inventing and shipping a record nine innovations in 12 months. Hall retired from P&G and started teaching innovation at his ranch. The process starts with brainstorming new product ideas. Ideas that could serve your existing customers or could be made with the manufacturing equipment you currently have. They advise against creating a new product using manufacturing equipment you aren't familiar with, or offering a new product to a market you don't know. The second step is to prove there is a market for your idea. They suggest conducting a patent search to assure that the idea hasn't been tried by others. Also, you need solid economic data on size of market and cost to bring it to market. Ask yourself this question, "Is this product really needed?" The third step is to go to market as quickly and inexpensively as possible. As an example Eureka! Ranch showed a video from a chipper-shredder company whose innovative idea mounted a wood saw on a sawhorse. The 'lumberjack' can stand upright at table height and easily cuts small trees into firewood. The cut limbs fall into a wheel barrow positioned under the saw. The video was made on a cell phone by an employee. It went viral on YouTube and launched the product. The only prototype was in the video and they mocked it up in an afternoon! Thanks to Portek for the photo.
Which brings us to the chart at the beginning of this blog, if you have news, great, you can share it or at least news from your industry associations and educational institutions. If not, focus on other inbound type of advertising such as search engine ad words. You want to be in front of your buyer personas when they are looking for products and services. It used to be OK to advertise in the yellow pages and industry magazines, but that's not where your customers are hanging out. They are going to the internet and industrial directories and if you're lucky one favorite technical journal. A good source of information on purchasing ad words is available from Hubspot. Their chart to the left illustrates that you need to know the keywords your prospects may enter into the search engines during the three stages of the sales funnel: looking, learning and buying.
The final tip was to enjoy yourself. We love attracting attention at trade shows, getting positive buzz from advertisements and writing a great case history. But budgets are smaller, time is shorter and marketing is so fragmented that it's hard to focus on the most important media, even if you knew. Your customers will tell you, ask them. In the end, joy comes from two simple steps: listening and responding. If you get lost, listen to the folks in your industry. Next month we'll put that thinking to test at the big construction trade show, CONEXPO- CON/AGG in Las Vegas.
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