The marketing machine: How technology can boost manufacturers' success
More than in any other industry, manufacturing relies on innovations in technology to drive efficiencies, reduce production costs and help bring products to market. But can the same be said of manufacturers’ use of technology to help drive their marketing and sales
From selling direct, to distribution channels and dual models, there are several routes to market for manufacturers – and each will have a major impact on the business’ marketing strategy and tactics. Where a channel model is used, does the manufacturer need to generate end user demand or does the responsibility fall to the distributor?
Regardless of the route to market, the manufacturer needs to take some responsibility for marketing the product. It is, after all, their ‘baby’ – and without the proper attention, care and nourishment, their ‘baby’ may struggle to grow and ultimately survive. There are two possible approaches to this – either the manufacturer can go directly to the target end user and try to drive demand, which admittedly can require more resources, or it can equip its distributors with the information, skills and knowledge they need to help drive demand. For the latter option, off-the-shelf toolkits that can be delivered electronically can be a cost-effective and efficient way of supporting distributors.
Old vs. new
For those manufacturers opting for a more hands on approach with the marketing of their products, there are multiple tools to choose from. Offline channels such as PR, advertising and events have been around for a long time and can be valuable.
It is the new developments with online channels and technology that are proving particularly interesting for the sector though. Manufacturers may well be aware of email marketing, social media, customer relationship management, pay per click, social media and e-commerce, but which tools should they focus on, what will deliver the best results and how can they manage several channels simultaneously?
For manufacturers that need to use multiple channels, marketing automation could be the perfect solution. Market automation is a modern, highly efficient way of streamlining and automating the marketing process to improve efficiencies and boost revenue faster.
Market automation is still a relatively new concept for some, but it is expected that by 2020, 85 percent of the customer relationship will be automated . Research also suggests that using automation results in qualified leads increasing by 451 percent, so there is a lot to be said for using such a platform.
Multiple campaigns can be scheduled ahead of them launching and as it streamlines the process of sending out multiple messages across several channels, it can save considerable time – and, therefore costs. Market automation is also extremely effective at collecting specific data and providing insights into the effectiveness of marketing activity, which can feed into future campaigns.
However, it is not simply a case of pressing a few buttons and away you go – market automation is heavily reliant on content. If you’re sending out multiple marketing messages to different audiences using several channels, you need something to send to them. Creating engaging and relevant content is a skill in itself, and an area that marketers can assist with.
Is marketing automation for me?
Marketing automation may be a suitable next step for manufacturers already using email marketing. There are a few other factors to consider before committing to a marketing automation platform though:
- Size of market and product type: If you are dealing with a very niche product and a small target audience, the cost of investing in the technology may outweigh the benefits. For such manufacturers, a more traditional marketing approach of speaking and engaging with the target audience face-to-face or via technical literature may be more effective.
- Internal resources: Do you have the resources in place to manage a technology-driven marketing campaign, which relies on a lot of content to work efficiently? While using several different channels simultaneously is likely to take more time, if you don’t have the resources in place to set up, monitor and manage your marketing automation it could be counter-productive and you won’t get the best results.
- Available budget: Technology investments in marketing, like in any part of business, can be significant and must be able to demonstrate clear ROI. For the right manufacturers though, marketing automation software can prove extremely valuable if used properly.
Regardless of whether market automation is suitable for a manufacturer now or not, with so many new communication channels being developed all of the time, it’s a platform that all businesses that want to have a multi-channel, measurable marketing campaign should consider at some point in the future.
Gartner: Leaders Lack Skilled Smart Manufacturing Workers
With organisations rapidly adopting industry 4.0 capabilities to increase productivity, efficiency, transparency, and quality as well as reduce cost, manufacturers “are under pressure to bring their workforce into the 21st century,” says Gartner.
While more connected factory workers are leveraging digital tools and data management techniques to improve decision accuracy, increase knowledge and lessen variability, 57% of manufacturing leaders feel that their organisations lack the skilled workers needed to support their smart manufacturing digitalisation plans.
“Our survey revealed that manufacturers are currently going through a difficult phase in their digitisation journey toward smart manufacturing,” said Simon Jacobson, Vice President analyst, Gartner Supply Chain practice.
“They accept that changing from a break-fix mentality and culture to a data-driven workforce is a must. However, intuition, efficiency and engagement cannot be sacrificed. New workers might be tech-savvy but lack access to best practices and know-how — and tenured workers might have the knowledge, but not the digital skills. A truly connected factory worker in a smart manufacturing environment needs both.”
Surveying 439 respondents from North America, Western Europe and APAC, Gartner found that “organisational complexity, integration and process reengineering are the most prevalent challenges for executing smart manufacturing initiatives.” Combined they represent “the largest change management obstacle [for manufacturers],” adds Gartner.
“It’s interesting to see that leadership commitment is frequently cited as not being a challenge. Across all respondents, 83% agree that their leadership understands and accepts the need to invest in smart manufacturing. However, it does not reflect whether or not the majority of leaders understand the magnitude of change in front of them – regarding technology, as well as talent,” added Jacobson.
Technology and People
While the value and opportunities smart manufacturing can provide an organisation is being recognised, introducing technology alone isn’t enough. Gartner emphasises the importance of evolving factory workers alongside the technology, ensuring that they are on board in order for the change to be successful.
“The most immediate action is for organisations to realize that this is more than digitisation. It requires synchronising activities for capability building, capability enablement and empowering people. Taking a ‘how to improve a day in the life’ approach will increase engagement, continuous learning and ultimately foster a pull-based approach that will attract tenured workers. They are the best points of contact to identify the best starting points for automation and the required data and digital tools for better decision-making,” said Jacobson.
Long term, “it is important to establish a data-driven culture in manufacturing operations that is rooted in governance and training - without stifling employee creativity and ingenuity,” concluded Gartner.