Much has been made of changes taking place in global manufacturing, regardless of the sector. Whether it’s disruptive new technologies such as 3D printing, or global price-pressure from lower cost manufacturers, it seems that traditional, premium manufacturers will undoubtedly face new challenges.
But the solution to these challenges is not on the manufacturing side of the shop - the quality and innovation demonstrated by premium manufacturers will typically lead their respective markets from a product perspective. In fact, as textbook ‘low-end disruptors’, typical threats in manufacturing are inherently lower quality than the incumbent.
For this common business challenge, the solution to compressed margins and falling sales is best delivered by marketing, where good communication, differentiation and responsiveness to market needs can help manufacturers increase demand, find new customers in diverse markets and maintain the premium pricing their products deserve.
Manufacturers traditionally have a very predictable playbook when it comes to responding to changes in the market. Those in more commoditized, market-driven industries are more likely to lament lower demand, often leading to industry consolidation, searching for synergies and efficiencies to survive.
Manufacturers with direct sales models will endure rising sales costs, doubling down to sell more product. Those who tend to advertise, will often pour more money into their ad spend, which can stimulate sales but depreciates quickly. And lastly, manufacturers who embrace sales channels and distributors will seek new markets and lean on their channel-partners to react accordingly.
Marketing Content Drives Long-Term Value
Of all the typical reactions to market pressure, too few manufacturers take the logical step of reinvesting in their marketing content strategy to better communicate the value of their products, participate in all phases of the customer decision journey and proactively drive demand.
With low-end disruptors entering a market, the challenge is not that customer needs have changed- it is that customers are deciding that the incumbents and their premium products ‘over-served’ the market and the cheaper substitutes are fine solutions.
All premium manufacturers can tell customers why this is a mistake, and why their quality, value or total-cost-of ownership outweighs the economy with the new guys. But far too few deploy that wisdom in case studies, whitepapers, video or even blogs.
Where’s the Marketing Content?
The natural question, given the logic of quality marketing content, is ‘why don’t manufacturers create content to support their offerings, defend the premium and drive demand?’ Perhaps the simplest answer is that unlike a tree falling in a forest with nobody around, content without an audience truly makes no sound.
And traditionally, before the Internet, no amount of ‘literature’ alone could logically drive sales. How in the world would the printing of brochures do a thing to help in a time when the business needs more leads and phone calls? This content fallacy is left over from the pre-internet era of marketing, often executed by the same marketers who have successfully driven results through many emerging trends. However, content marketing is not a trend.
And today, when marketing content is authored that resonates with buyers, it can be distributed to entire networks of customers and prospects instantaneously. With customers driving the decision journey, the content becomes sharable fodder to gain consensus amongst peers and most importantly, it can re-educate customers to the premium differentiators of a manufactured product.
Whereas advertising is fleeting, active selling is expensive and strategic initiatives can take too long, content is truly a conduit for demand, driving results instantly and over the long-run. It’s simply time for manufacturers to break old sales and marketing habits and learn to win with quality content.
How Can Manufacturers Get Started?
You’ll note the use of ‘marketing content’ in this post. That’s because content should be a natural fuel for any marketing program. Content is not in itself a unique ‘idea’ or concept. And perhaps we further add to that concept by rebranding the simple distribution of content as ‘content marketing’, ‘social media marketing’, ‘marketing automation’ and even ‘inbound marketing’.
The concept of content is simply not that abstract – its essential, and the only newness of it is the technology that enables its deployment. Manufacturers with traditional market challenges, should consider this philosophy towards content creation as the first step towards regaining momentum. It can start with blog content, authentic case studies, whitepapers, videos or all of the above and the medium matters much less than the message.
But with a small investment in content, marketers can gain a long-term asset while reacting to near-term challenges. And for every other business-driving activity – sales and advertising included - premium content will support the process and more efficiently drive traffic, generate new leads and defend premium pricing.