Marketing as the Growth Driver in Manufacturing

Manufacturing marketing has its own unique challenges!
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Written by Dr. Debbie Qaqish

February 14, 2021

Smart solutions across production lines, operations, supply chains, and technology integrations represent manufacturing innovations designed to reduce costs and drive growth.

In a highly-digitized world, the next round of innovation and growth continues to slant towards your ability to engage with customers and your ability to acquire and keep precious customers.

So, where will innovation and growth come from? Not sales!

In fact, the sales organization is more challenged than ever before. Today’s customers and prospects are no longer reliant on the sales team for information – they can get what they need in a few clicks.

Especially in the B2B space, customers are 80% of the way through their buying journey before sales even has an inkling that a customer is looking around.

So, where will innovation and growth come from? marketing!

The three key areas manufacturers need to focus on with their marketing are:

  1. Manage and deliver an excellent customer experience
  2. Drive sales and marketing alignment to capture leads
  3. Know how marketing needs to change to deliver value

We’ll dive into each one, with a “special guest” to help me really explore how marketing needs to change on a more tactical level.

Click to jump to a section: Deliver Excellent CX | Drive Alignment | How To Change | Focus On Your MarTech Stack

To give credit where it’s due, I once hosted a panel of marketing pioneers from the manufacturing sector:

  • Kelly Dickson, Global Revenue Marketing Operations Leader, Commscope
  • Peter Bell, Manufacturing Industry, Marketo
  • Bryan Gassler, Director of Global Marketing Communications, Xylem

We’ve worked with all three on projects, but all are leaders who continue to innovate and drive changes that show revenue impact. I’ll be pulling from each of their expertise as we continue!

Manage and deliver an excellent customer experience

I love this:

Do not assume you know your customer!

Kelly Dickson, Commscope

This piece of advice sets the stage for pivoting from being a product-centric company to a customer-centric one. Too often, companies hyper-focus on what they do and orient their communications around it – very “what” focused.

Instead, focusing on how it helps the customer takes a prospect’s understanding of your offering(s) to a much deeper level: “why” and “how.”

Xylem sells products (such as water pumps), but they shifted how they went to market for a major difference. Bryan noted they changed their communications from explaining how products solved problems to providing resources and education around how customers could make an impact on their business.

As a result of this pivot, “it took pricing out of the equation and gave us a competitive edge,” said Bryan.

Having a consistent story that’s focused on the customer’s needs and outcomes is a major step. Encouraging their input is another – one Commscope made.

Kelly lead an initiative to create personas and a preference center that allows prospects and customers to take charge of what and how they want to be communicated to. This was a game changer!

Email click-through rates skyrocketed to 15% and unsubscribe rates dropped significantly, providing a much stronger avenue for direct communication to key customers / prospects (especially as a reliance on first-party data increases for marketers everywhere).

Related: Our executive’s guide to a winning customer experience

Drive sales and marketing alignment to capture leads

Peter, from Marketo, noted something I think is often-overlooked:

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“The ability to communicate credible data in a structured way is key to aligning with sales.”

Peter Bell, Marketo

Sales has used data and structure for years to communicate, and by marketing taking the same approach, marketing earns new (and necessary!) internal buy-in. Peter added that the use of account-based marketing has also had a positive impact on the sales and marketing revenue relationship. “Sitting around with sales and discussing specific accounts, verticals and leads creates a great working relationship” said Peter.

Common goals = common interests = greater teamwork, something any revenue marketer embraces!

But it takes more. An airtight lead management process capitalizes on this marketing / sales teamwork to ensure total buy-in on all sides and inspire confidence from one team in the other’s abilities.

Want proof?

“Our evolution in the relationship with sales has blossomed. The sales team looks to us to drive leads that will help them hit their growth targets,” says Bryan. “We are also called on to close gaps in sales targets with strategic campaigns that create immediate demand for our products. We are hunters.”

Wow! This is the essence of sales and marketing collaboration to drive leads and to drive growth.

But without measurement and transparency, it won’t happen… something Kelly talks about in Commscope’s journey to measure what matters: “We have measured marketing influence on pipeline and closed-won. This year, we added marketing sourced by looking at who did marketing bring to the database. We analyzed how it moved from lead to qualified opportunity to closed-won.

If we tried to tell that story in the early days, sales would not have believed it.”

How marketing needs to change to deliver value

If your company doesn’t have a culture that allows you to experiment, fail, and grow from it, you’re already behind leaders in the manufacturing space. Working with countless multi-national organizations has shown two primary types of companies:

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  1. Those with executives who empower their team(s) and remove roadblocks
  2. Those with leaders who hinder progress through outdated processes aimed at avoiding problems instead of allowing progress

Your customer(s) expect faster, better, and more convenience in every dealing with your company, from paying invoices to finding product documentation.

It’s why I’ve focused more and more on marketing operations – read this blog on why you should invest!

There’s also practical examples of change.

For manufacturing, trade shows and events are still quite important. As marketing becomes a revenue center responsible for ROI on all their efforts, all marketing activities are up for review.

Where is the best place to spend marketing dollars so a return occurs? Going to trade shows is expensive and if no business results, it needs to be stopped. This is exactly what happened at Commscope: “I loved the year that we took the data and showed sales which trade shows worked and which did not – they could not refute the data!” said Kelly.

Perhaps the most important change for marketing is to measure and report what matters: pipeline and revenue.

No one cares about your opens or click-throughs. Website conversions and asset downloads won’t cut it.

Simply put, those are operational metrics … for marketing.

Measuring and reporting on metrics that matter in a transparent matter helps marketing gain credibility in the business.

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So does being able to predict future impact. Bryan, at Xylem, said “We can already predict the quantity of leads and now we are working on being able to predict our impact on pipeline and closed business.”

Now that’s a change!

Upgrade Your Tech Stack … Strategically

No, this isn’t a suggestion to get more tech. In fact, when we assess a company’s stack, we often find redundancies and ways to better integrate existing systems. Allow me to introduce Brian Johnson, who is often working on optimizing tech stacks for our clients, to dive into this further.

Building the ultimate MarTech stack is a process of fitting blocks together and making sure they have a great bond. If you haven’t yet read the blog article Planning your Revenue Marketing Stack, it serves the stage for this topic.

I assume you have already aligned with the information in that article, but to summarize:

Building the ultimate stack for your industrial manufacturing business is about knowing what you have and where you want to your organization to go. The organization must be able and willing to change and have a proven process for adopting new technologies.

Assuming the goals have been determined and have been associated with some tactical objectives, the task of optimizing existing technology and acquiring new technology should follow next in the process.

Inventory

You may already be utilizing a few platforms or applications to manage marketing and engagement. Each tool supports different aspects of marketing strategy and execution, and it and will likely be related to a particular marketing function.

To map an objective to the technology ideal for supporting it, organize your objectives and tactics into categories such as Social Monitoring or Syndication, Data Management, Content Development and Publishing.

In documenting your inventory, attempt to pair what the organization wants to do with what is technically possible given your current infrastructure. This will identify what applications are missing from your stack.

Assess

Once you have created an inventory of your existing platforms and their purposes, identify how well each is performing. Characteristics of performance include degree of integration (if applicable), adoption and success metrics associated with the use or implementation of the platform.

Evaluate your existing technologies by determining if they:

  • Align with your business objectives
  • Have been implemented to support those objectives
  • Are relevant given your current model or strategy
  • Were short term/low cost and should be replaced with something more comprehensive
  • Have an internal support team/owner associated with them
  • Have been integrated successfully with other core components

Improve

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The Revenue Marketing Architectural Assessments are part of our RM6 methodology – ask us about it!

You may have noticed you have applications that align with your marketing objectives, but the stack still doesn’t meet the needs of your entire organization. I’ve performed several (what we call) Revenue Marketing Architectural Assessments in which I’ve found clients had many of the platforms they needed, but those systems were not achieving expected results.

Reasons for this included not being well-integrated with core components, not being well-adopted, or not having support from other parts of the business… they were used only by marketing.

In this case, optimizing the client’s tech didn’t require buying new tech or migrating to a different instance; instead, they needed our support with improved process engineering and improved adoption through training programs.

For some organizations, acquiring new technology is difficult due to procurement constraints… we’ve all been there. If yourt organization has already purchased a platform or service, it’s probably far easier to improve it rather than begin the process for acquiring a new one.

Also, explore other service or platform offerings with your existing vendors that can be added to meet your objectives since they may already be on an approved vendor list!

Augment

Acquiring new technology may be necessary to address the gaps identified in your assessment. However, this process can be overwhelming given how many options are available on the market. Scott Brinker’s vaunted MarTech supergraphic has gotten nearly-impossible to read!

We have seen the highest degree of success when clients approach this like any other project in their organization:

  • They assign project stakeholders and a team to support the tasks of selecting, implementing and adoption of a new technology.
  • The team is responsible for identifying business processes that can or should change, business processes that cannot be changed and business requirements that the technology should support.

This is important since many platforms are architected based on common business practices; during your vendor evaluation, it will be important to understand if your processes can be changed to align with the platform.

Prioritize

All organizations operate within various constraints such as time, budget and resources. This can complicate defining a roadmap and selecting technology, and often leads to two common mistakes:

  1. Consider what pain points are most prominent and evaluate technology to alleviate those first.
  2. Acquire technology that promises substantial revenue growth.

Prioritize what will remove roadblocks, provide greater efficiency, is scalable, and positively impacts your bottom line … these guiding factors will lead to wiser decisions.

Technology Selection

We’ve already established there’s far too many options on the market. So, how can make the right selection?

A quick way to start is to look for those that have native integrations or plug in to your existing stack. For example, many platforms or services have native integrations with leading marketing automation platforms, such as Marketo, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, and Eloqua.

This can help reduce time to deployment, but be sure the integration will meet your business requirements, as some can be very limited.

Some common questions to ask when selecting technology:

  • How does this technology align with our strategy?
  • Does it achieve a majority of our business requirements?
  • Is it compatible with our current stack? Integrate natively?
  • What revenue impact will this have?
  • How long will this take to implement and provide a positive impact to our business?
  • Do I already have the resources needed to manage and maintain this?

Narrow down the vendors based on these and other factors, including price, to be sure the solution meets your budget. Here’s a few other steps you can take:

Free Trial

A free trial can be a great way to evaluate software, but I encourage you to do this while still scheduling a demo with a sales engineer. You may miss key functionality in a technology that is essential to your business when giving yourself a self-guided tour of its capabilities!

Since you have already identified many of your business use cases, you can also ask how the vendor would handle some of the more complex scenarios.

Pilot

A limited pilot can also be a great way to evaluate functionality.

Define a very limited scenario and build it out either using a free trial or a demo instance provided by the vendor. This can also help generate some rough timelines for implementing the solution as you better understand the learning curve required and effort for configuration tasks.

Ask Your Friendly Consultant

In my career, I have learned that the more time spent with a platform or technology, the more you understand how to best leverage that technology to meet the needs of the business. You learn its strengths and limitations.

Here TPG, we have consultants who spend a significant amount of time in these tools… and we’re vendor-agnostic, meaning we won’t steer you to a specific tool simply because it benefits our revenue number. (There’s a few other great reasons to consider us, I’ll add!)

It is common practice for us to send an internal email asking for recommendations for technologies for clients. When I’ve asked, I’m always amazed by how many responses I get and the depth of knowledge our team has. Try us and see for yourself!

Implementation and Integration

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Simply put, this is a challenging process!

Your team must identify and document all business use cases to ensure the technology is implemented properly. Internal resources may require training on platforms to be able to configure and manage them for your environment and organization. The process needs to account for change management to ensure successful adoption and ownership to ensure proper support.

The tech may need to be integrated into your existing stack. Although the integration discussion is an important one, it will be addressed in an upcoming article. Adoption, support and integrations are what binds these blocks in a stack.

These join what would otherwise be disparate systems and unify them under a common goal: revenue growth!

In summary…

Building the ultimate stack for your manufacturing marketing begins with knowing what you want to do and how you can do it.

With this knowledge, you’ll be able to identify the right technology to achieve those goals. Your organization must also equally be prepared to acquire them and assimilate them into your stack. That includes proper implementation, adoption, support and integration.

As you bring on new technology, this process will become refined. It will become easier to add technologies to your stack. As you become more agile, your marketing architecture will inevitably become much more mature … and so will your revenue marketing impact!

And with that, I’ll turn it back over to Dr. Debbie.

So, What Now?

Change occurs as a result of integrating people, process and technology driven by a customer-centric strategy and enabled with great technology.

I won’t promise you this is easy – it isn’t.

But it is rewarding and continues to be the future of marketing (and not just in the manufacturing space!). It is the way that marketing gains both a seat and a voice at the revenue table and evolves as a key business partner that’s vital for ongoing success.

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