Manufacturing and engineering companies are very special organisations; full of invention and innovation, hi-tech and inevitably complex. Yet invariably, many are a ‘best kept secret’ unless you happen to be a customer and therefore know what they do.
With a loyal customer base and working in a niche sector with little competition, this would all be fine – but nowhere is without competition these days and nothing stands still. Competitors have sprung up left, right and centre under the noses of engineering and manufacturing businesses that continue to do things as they have always done them.
It is, therefore, little wonder that the focus has typically been on conservative growth (or indeed survival), rather than ambitious growth with a sophisticated marketing strategy to overcome the challenges these companies face, namely large overheads, tight margins and supply chain pressures.
These businesses are inherently difficult to position and market, not least because what they do is seriously complicated, but also because the focus has always been on the product or the engineering process that defines what the company does. Customer-centricity has not been high on the agenda, with the exception, perhaps, of a fundamental understanding that without their customers, there would be sophisticated and costly machinery, highly talented people, but no business.
We are in a time of change – the pandemic has seen to that. Although the trends and behaviours we are seeing now were always on the horizon, the shift has been accelerated.
We are in a remote-working, digital world where relationships still hold considerable value but the ways and means of communicating, and indeed buying, in business to business (B2B) markets are transforming – and fast.
We have seen that those companies that were able to pivot and embrace a digital marketing strategy saw their growth trajectories stabilise during COVID.
Some have even seen a healthy uplift. The buying timeline, which is historically long for many of these companies (averaging 12 to 18 months), has lengthened owing to increased risk-aversion last year, but leads and opportunities were (and still are) out there for the taking.
There can be no doubt that companies must continue to embrace change in order to stay ahead of competitors and win market share. And as we know, share of voice equals share of market as we come out of the recession, so investment in marketing communications now will reap returns in the not too distant future.
Those who wish to thrive, and not just survive, must leverage the latest technologies and trends as part of a strategic B2B marketing plan, focusing on marketing productivity and on ROI that comes from aligning marketing activity to the financial goals of the business.
And whilst these technologies and trends are admittedly changing at a scary pace, the principles of B2B marketing remain the same: understand, listen, and respond to your customers’ needs and pain-points. Be customer (and not product) focused.
Identify how, where and why your customers buy, which means asking your customers rather than relying on individual perceptions or out-of-date tacit knowledge.
Make sure you are present in the places where your customers are doing their purchasing research, articulating your value proposition not just so that someone technical can understand it, but so that all members of the decision-making unit are convinced and aligned (there are, on average, seven decision-makers in a unit and they won’t all be engineers!).
According to themanufacturer.com, 86% of you believe your marketing budgets will either stay the same or increase this year, which is truly positive given the recent climate. So, make those budgets count! Some 96% of buyers search for businesses online.
At the very least, an engineering or manufacturing business should have a mobile-responsive website, social media presence to build awareness and reputation, and content to position you as thought-leaders in your industry.
Your potential customers use all these channels – so to be seen and heard, you need to be there. But if you’re going to do it, do it properly. Here at bcm, we pride ourselves on simplifying the complicated.
Working to a cognitive marketing approach to help you better understand your customers and the value you deliver, we partner with engineering and manufacturing
companies globally who want to be strategic, productive and agile in their marketing. Whether we are working with your in-house marketing teams or indeed as your outsourced marketing department, we understand the challenges you face and help you overcome them using a proven five-step process: customer, clarity, creative spark, communication and control. Take a look at our animation using the QR code.
Get in touch if you would like to discuss our Cognitive Marketing approach and learn how to better understand your customer and audiences to maximise business growth and return on marketing investment.