Marketing is something job shops and contract manufacturers know they have to do if they’re going to reach new markets and new customers, but it often gets put on the back burner while more urgent matters take priority. It almost goes without saying that most don’t have a formal marketing plan in place, so even if they had the time to do marketing they wouldn’t have a map to guide their efforts. If this sounds like your operation, we can help you start making more progress on marketing your business with an overview of the first few steps needed to develop an actionable, affordable plan that will help you generate more business.
Who Are You Marketing To?
The first step in putting together a marketing plan is to identify the target you’re marketing to. You might be tempted to cast a wide net that includes “any company that needs our product,” but you’ll be far more successful in reaching and convincing prospects if you focus on a fairly narrow target, like “farm implement manufacturers.” Even that example may be too broad; refining further to include the following characteristics will get you closer to the right target:
- Size of company
- Average spend
- Potential for long-term relationship
- Purchase process and buying cycle
Once you identify the target(s) you want to market to, look within their industries/companies to understand how they operate:
- What are the relevant reporting relationships?
- How do departments interact?
- What do internal processes look like?
Who are the key players when it comes to parts purchasing?
These will all be important as you develop your messaging because, for example, if the decision maker at your target company is influenced by an operations or purchasing manager, then your operations manager is a good target, as is the decision maker.
What’s Your Job Shop's Most Effective Marketing Tool?
Everyone consumes information differently; some spend hours paging through trade magazines while others use only their smartphone to access websites and get the latest updates. Age is an important consideration in how to best reach a prospect, as is your target’s role within the company. Here are some of the most common methods manufacturers use to communicate to prospects:
- Websites: Websites are the most robust way to share information with prospects. With an expansive, all-inclusive format that can provide everything from products and pricing to insights, news and other information, this is where most prospects will find what they need as they look for vendor solutions.
- Trade shows: Trade shows can be good places to connect with prospects and showcase what you do to a large audience. The main drawback is that trade shows are expensive and only give you the opportunity to tell a very broad story, not address a variety of needs.
- Trade ads: Trade ads can help establish your brand and what it stands for, but their effectiveness is very hard to track, so you may never know if you’ve obtained a single customer as a result. In addition, they’re expensive and usually require hiring a design or marketing firm to create and place the ad.
- Direct mail: With an average two percent response rate for direct mail marketing, this is the least effective methods for reaching prospects.
One way to help you determine which of these methods you should leverage is to think about a customer’s lifetime value (CLV). If you take an average customer’s yearly spend and multiply it by the average length of a customer relationship, you have your CLV. If you find that a single new customer is worth $21,500, how many do you need from a trade show or other method to make that show worth your time and investment?
What Will You Tell Them?
Now that you know who you’re talking to and what formats they prefer, it’s time to think about what you’re communicating to targets. Of all the things you offer (or could offer), which are the most valuable to prospects? In other words, what will motivate them to buy from you rather than another vendor?
In a previous post we talked about your value proposition—what you do better than competitors (keeping in mind that it must be something customers value). This unique selling proposition should be, in essence, your primary message. If you don’t know what’s most important to prospects, ask a few of your customers. You might be surprised to find that what you thought was most attractive to them—like price or quality—aren’t as important as your ability to customize, your fulfillment rates or some other offering.
Keep in mind that a primary message is just that: primary. In addition to that single most meaningful message to prospects, you may want or need to support it by also talking about other offerings you know are of interest to them.
Well, now you have it: a very basic overview of how to market to the right prospect, with the right message, using the right format. To be sure, this is a broad-stroke look at what it takes to persuade prospects to buy your product—the actual process of developing and executing a marketing plan is more complex. However, there are a number of resources out there to help job shops, one of which is the team at Wipfli. Our manufacturing experts understand your business—many have been where you are—and can help you establish a practical marketing plan that compels prospects to want to do business with you.