Manufacturers of premium products are important to our economy in so many ways. Not only do they design and build essential components, parts, devices, machines, vehicles and more, but their production in itself represents economic health. Where there is creativity there is invention and where invention meets investment and demand, differentiated products solve big problems. Premium means proprietary. And with proprietary design and build comes a very special story behind each manufactured good. Why does it exist? What does it solve? How does it work and why is it better than a cheaper substitute?
Manufacturers who make great products have this marketing challenge every day.
Unfortunately, communicating these differentiators, while important, often takes a back seat to 'features', 'specifications' and 'price'. And manufacturers who once focused on innovation, new markets and growth, find themselves working primarily with existing - often waning - accounts, or responding to price and spec-driven RFP and order taking. Lost in the process is the zest for the product. And certainly, lost is the story behind the differentiation - the why to go along with the buy - and slowly, manufactured products and sometimes entire brands start to sink.
Anybody who has ever gotten a truck or a Jeep stuck in the mud, knows that your first instinct for how to get out is wrong. Pushing the gas pedal and revving the engine only worsens the situation. But 9 times out of 10 when someone is stuck in the mud they simply can't resist the urge to gas the engine in hopes of traction. We've all been there. So what is a marketer of manufacturing to do to keep the brand moving and avoid getting stuck - even when traction is hard to come by? Find more balance in marketing: eliminate the information asymmetry between the you and prospects, enabling more balanced information economics. In our analogy, engine failure could become another problem. In marketing today, 'information failure' is much more likely.
From Economics Online:
Information failure exists when some, or all, of the participants in an economic exchange do not have perfect knowledge. Secondly, information failure exists when one participant in an economic exchange knows more than the other, a situation referred to as the problem of asymmetric, or unbalanced, information.
With asymmetry, prospects rely on sales teams, or simply focus on price, to help guide their decision making. Or worse, they seek information from competing brands with better investments in content. Because the prospects do not and cannot become adequately informed regarding the features and benefits of your manufactured product, they cannot appreciate the differentiators and lose interest in paying a premium. And as this starts to sink brands, the asymmetry is often subsidized by expensive advertising. In an information economy where buyers want to conduct research, spending money on advertising is important, but only after organic, informational bases are covered; only once a brand deploys the content, materials, white papers, case studies and other content assets to be consumed by prospective buyers.
Again from Economics Online:
Markets work best, that is they are at their most efficient, when knowledge is perfect and is evenly shared by all the parties in a transaction.
Fortunately, the solution for marketers in manufacturing is an easy one. You know your premium products are superior, you have an appreciation for each and every differentiator and can communicate it with ease. By communicating this with rich content and materials, buyers will be much more informed in the decision making journey. Product descriptions are no longer enough. The following content strategies must be deployed to help communicate your premium message and protect the brand:
-B2B Blog, with keyword-rich technical content. Did you know that Manufacturers who blog almost every day can see 1200% more web traffic than those who don't blog?
-Case Studies, proving how and why clients have utilized your products and services successfully. Case Studies can even bring new use cases to the market, enabling new market growth.
-Whitepapers, which document the mechanics and the science behind the product. Helping your engineer client base better understand the product is essential. -Guides and eBooks. Don't you want to be able to say "we wrote the book on this"? Plus, these are typically downloadable content assets, creating new leads.
-Video. Buyers are 85% more likely to purchase a product after watching a video or film. Enough said.
All of the above strategies can be defined in two words: Inbound Marketing. Inbound is build on the philosophy that 'Outbound Marketing' is broken. While many will point to the ineffectiveness of cold calls, etc. we defined some economic reasons why Inbound is superior - it simply balances the information asymmetry, enabling a more informed buyer who can appreciate your differentiators.
Whereas Outbound Sales and Marketing strategies are driven by variable costs, Inbound Marketing is characterized by fixed costs. Content done well is an asset. An investment in content and the infrastructure to host the content and capture its associated leads is a fixed cost that will yield a return over time. And without the content - the information - your buyers are looking for, commoditization, price-sensitivity, and other hallmarks of the markets for manufactured products can eventually conquer even the most premium, differentiated brands.
Upon considering an investment in Inbound Marketing, do some simple math. Calculate the total amount of expense associated with sales and advertising - all outbound efforts to include promotion and events. Next calculate the total expense associated with the development of content, video and sales materials - information that can both support the sales process and deliver results in an automated fashion - true leverage for your business. If your spending is lopsided, take the steps to bring balance to your budget. Balance investments in content, materials and automation via Inbound Marketing and everyone wins: your customers are better informed, your sales teams have more leads and better sales tools, and lower variable costs improve margins and help the bottom line, which is ultimately everyone's goal.