In these days of technology, the web and everything being wireless, it’s hard to imagine that out there, somewhere, there are still companies cutting, bending and forming steel. Yes, is alive and well, and they’re producing the things that we rely on every day. But has their changed?

Fifteen years ago I was sat in the marketing department of a heating company. I say “marketing department”, it was one bloke and a couple of graphic designers. I say “graphic designers”, they used an early graphics package to move images about on a screen.

This department spent most of their time changing words on adverts and then sending them to magazines. They would discuss issues with the sales team, work out if there were any stock they wanted to get rid of, and then produce an advert.

They would then produce leaflets, booklets and that kind of thing. It was fairly basic stuff.

At the end of that company’s life, five years ago, they were still doing the same thing, it’s just the tools had changed.

Research and monitoring

They were doing some research so they could work out how to sell more in the future. It went something like this.

marketing proces

As we can see there, the only real measurement was sales. Was this product selling or wasn’t it? As measurements go, that’s OK, but it doesn’t address the why?

There are plenty of holes in the data here:

  • Was the advert compelling enough?
  • Was it in the right publication?
  • Was the product priced OK?
  • Did people need the product?
  • Was the product, well, crap?

At the very best, all they could do with that kind of data is when a product sold well, make more of them and advertise them in the same way. Hopefully they’d get the same results. Hopefully.

This was a typical employed by many manufacturing companies, and maybe that’s why many of them aren’t around today. The world has changed, and there is so much more information available to marketing departments. So how can companies use it?

Defining a new Manufacturing Marketing Strategy

I propose a new way. It’s nothing radical; it’s based on sound principles and it’s what many companies are already doing.

What we need to do is get some very basic information about the people that buy our products. Some very simple questions need to be answered:

Who is the audience?

Who buys the products? Is it a retail product where they’re sold on the High Street? Or do purchasing managers of large companies buy them? Maybe it’s the sort of product that has to be sold face-to-face in a meeting?

What Content would they respond to?

The standard answer to this in manufacturing was always “Leaflets, Presentations and Booklets”. Always. Is this still true? Do you really have to print everything out in book form?

Where do they find this content?

Regardless of what you think, it’s likely that your prospects do more than just go to the office every day and pick up your junk mail. They’re not robots, they’re human, so think hard – where do they hang out when they’re not reading your booklets?

Enough of the theory, do the practice

The best place to start is with your current customers, so do this now. This particular example is for business to business, we’ll do retail another time.

  • Make a note of the names of your three best customers. Write down the company names and the buyers you normally deal with.
  • Head over to LinkedIn. If you haven’t got an account, create one now and fill in all the details.
  • Search for those three names and companies. Find them? Make a note of the groups and discussions they take part in.

Using this information

Now you can stalk them. Yup, see what they’re saying, who they’re saying it to. Look to see what their interests are, what they talk about and start to profile them. Then, using this information, search for other people like them.

This can be eye-opening for marketing managers, and whole new markets can open up simply by looking to see what your customers are currently saying and whom they’re saying it to.

For example, you might find that one of your customers is talking to a competitor about the qualities and features of a product that you also have a version of. Can you use the information gathered to go back to your quality team and see if your product has these features?

You’re no longer simply relying on sales data, you’re getting data before anything has sold.

Taking this further

There are lots of ways to monitor products, competitors and trends, we’ll cover those in detail another time, but for now you should also be checking out Twitter and Facebook.

Facebook is fairly easy, simply search for your customers again and see if there are any groups or interests that they’re part of where your products or services fit. It could be that they say something like “We use xxx product, but we wish it could do this…” Maybe your product already does that so you need to explain how it’s done? Or maybe you just need to explain to your development team that people are asking for enhancements.

Start Small

Many marketing managers I speak to are overwhelmed with the amount of data available to them via the web, and it’s no surprise. They are also under the impression that blogs, social media and trending news is not for them.

I always like to remind them that people are just people. Find out where they are, what they like and you’ll find your job much easier.