Mastering the manufacturing and marketing relationship: Five solutions to your biggest marketing challenges.  By Brooke Chapman, Director – N.B. Strategy

Perhaps as a manufacturing business you’ve never considered that marketing could be your superpower.  That’s understandable – the two disciplines haven’t always been the match made in heaven they could be.

Historically, manufacturers have relied heavily on a sales team to connect with potential customers through a limited number of channels – trade shows, direct selling and industry publication advertising.  Strong word of mouth and referrals have also been key to growth, and this organic approach, supported by sales, has been the new business development model that’s been popular for a large portion of manufacturers across the country.  This approach has served them well, but times are changing.

In today’s competitive landscape, with challenging economic headwinds to contend with, manufacturers are engaging with strategic marketing more than ever before, not only to pursue growth, but to remain relevant with existing customers.

But how do you get started?  The world of marketing can be overwhelming.  There are so many different routes out there, so many agencies offering services to generate leads for you.  How can you determine what’s right for your business, your customers and your bottom line, ensuring there are no random acts of marketing being unleashed?

There are some common challenges manufacturing businesses experience when they make the leap into marketing.  Here are a few areas where you could get stuck – and how to overcome them.

Challenge: We’ve invested significantly but our marketing tactics aren’t working

Solution: Make sure you take a ‘strategy-first’ approach to your marketing

Businesses who have a disappointing experience with marketing are usually engaged in tactics that don’t form part of a broader strategic growth model.  Marketing activation without the right strategic foundations to guide decision-making can result in a lot of wasted time and investment, not to mention frustration.  Engaging a marketing strategist to guide your business through the marketing planning process to develop a sound strategic direction not only helps you to get on the right track, but builds internal capability within your business so that marketing can deliver results month after month, year after year.

A strategist will properly scope and understand the operating market, build a comprehensive profile of key customer groups, analyse recent sales performance, assess current marketing initiatives, plus more to determine the appropriate course of action for the business.

Challenge: Our leaders have different opinions about how to grow our business through marketing

Solution: Understand your customers deeply – let that drive your decision-making

When was the last time you spoke to your customers outside of the day to day sales conversations?  Have you asked them how happy they are with your product, and if you are satisfying all of their needs?  It’s an unfortunate truth that when we get busy, checking in with customers to see how their needs and behaviours are changing and evolving can slip further and further down the to do list.  Markets evolve and so do customers.  Undertaking a research project provides invaluable insight into customer buying triggers, stages of the purchasing journey and the type of customer experience you are expected to deliver.  These insights are critical to building an effective marketing strategy for your business.

Challenge: We sell complex products that take a while for customers to understand

Solution: Build a suite of content that educates and influences at key moments

Manufacturing businesses that sell complex products require marketing strategies that educate their customers. Businesses that are good at this proactively support customer with plenty of educational resources that can help them to make a decision and convince and convert other stakeholders along the buying journey.  They position themselves as thought leaders by sharing content that is of value that addresses the problems and hurdles that are front of mind for the customer.

Consider using a range of content types for increased engagement including blogs, videos and infographics.  Remember it’s critical to send out materials with the right message, through the right channel, at the right time.  If you understand your buyer’s journey and how customers would like to be engaged at every stage, you have a much greater chance of keeping them interested in your product instead of someone else’s.

Challenge: Sales and marketing are working in silos

Solution: Build joint KPIs, share performance insights and ensure marketing and sales are managing the right stages of the purchase journey

It’s unfortunate that in a lot of businesses, marketing does not do its fair share of the heavy lifting in bringing in new leads and supporting the early stages of the sale, which means the sales team needs to get involved too early.  This takes them away from what should be their core focus, closing.

The end-to-end customer experience needs to be assessed to address this issue in your business.  Where do customers fall out of your funnel and how can you address this?  Be clear on the role of marketing and sales and be sure to have clear KPIs for each team.  Have a regular monthly meeting where performance is discussed and make sure there are some joint KPIs, where each team supports one another to reach a shared goal.


Brooke Chapman is the Director of N.B. Strategy, a business working with manufacturing clients across Australia and New Zealand to develop and implement marketing strategies to achieve their growth goals.