Light The Fire Before You Need The Heat

A common theme that I hear when visiting with manufacturers is that they are too busy to concentrate on marketing their company or products. In fact, some of them tell me that they are so busy that they are turning away work. Their logic, then, goes something like this: why encourage more people to buy our products when we can’t keep up with current orders? To them, it just doesn’t make any sense.

Or does it?

Marketing when you’re busy doesn’t make sense if you define it as “buying advertising.” Using hastily chosen media to spread a poorly planned message is, indeed, a waste of resources. John Wanamaker (1838-1922) was credited with coining the phrase, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” This kind of thinking stops many manufacturers from realizing the true power of their brand.

Marketing when you’re busy does make sense if you look at it as the process of building brand awareness in the minds of your prospective and current customers. A process? Yes, a process not unlike one that exists on the production floor. A good process is one that follows the PDCA method made popular by W. Edwards Deming—Plan, Do, Check and Act/Adjust. We’ve all experienced the results of jumping into something at the “Do” stage rather than the “Plan” stage. The rhetorical question comes to mind – “If we don’t have time to do it right, why do we have time to do it over?”

I recently had a conversation with a successful manufacturer whose company was the market leader. He was simultaneously thrilled with their 30% increase in sales and unsettled by the fact that he could not attribute that growth to a specific strategy that he and his team had executed. Could the flow of new orders dry up as quickly as they had come in?

Having been in manufacturing for more than 20 years, I could empathize. There are a lot of factors in that “Do” step. Workforce recruitment and retention, raw material costs, material lead-times and government regulations are just a few of the challenges to be faced. You may not be able to control a lot of those factors, but you can control the strength of your brand.

Always keep your brand strong, and it will be ready to help you when you need it most.

A strategic marketing plan is the key to positioning your company in the minds of what I call the Big Four:

  • Prospective customers
  • Current customers
  • Prospective employees
  • Current employees

These first two are obvious and need no explanation. However, the last two sometimes raise eyebrows. In a future post, I will explain why it is important for companies to consider their prospective and current employees in their marketing planning.