Manufacturing Company Owners: It’s Time to Create a Succession Plan

Today’s blog is kindly provided by our friend and colleague Tony Rospert, Partner at Thompson Hine LLP

succession-plan

Ensure the next generation at your manufacturing company has the tools for success

As an owner of a closely held and/or family-owned manufacturing business, it is well worth your time and energy spent to prepare a detailed succession plan to transfer the business to the next generation of owners and operators. Most manufacturers, however, fail to plan and prepare for succession. These business owners are jeopardizing their chances to obtain a return on their financial investment and “sweat equity” and ensuring that their companies will not survive them.

In a family-run business, succession is a critically important issue; however, nearly two-thirds of business owners over the age of 50 do not have a formal succession plan, which could include either a sale or transfer of the company.

As a result, only 30 percent of family-owned businesses survive into the second generation, 12 percent survive into the third, and only about 3 percent operate into the fourth generation and beyond.

Ultimately, the absence of a succession plan can stunt growth, make it harder to generate new clients and products, stifle innovation, damage the company’s financial health and destroy the company’s reputation, leading to the loss of jobs, knowledge and expertise. Avoiding these issues and navigating succession options requires a proactive approach to planning and the use of advisors and consultants early in the process.

The Price of Failing to Plan

Without a succession plan, manufacturers face significant risk from not having the knowledge and/or infrastructure in place to keep the business viable for the long term. The consequences of not having a strong succession plan in place include:

  • Owners will not realize the full value of their business during the exit process.
  • The entire business will be adversely affected by power struggles and concern about the company’s future.
  • Clients will lose faith in the company’s ability to continue providing a high level of customer service.
  • Uncertainty will lead to top-performing employees jumping ship and seeking other opportunities.
  • The company will have difficulty obtaining long-term financing if lenders perceive inadequate business planning.
  • Owners and family members may engage in an ugly business divorce, resulting in litigation.

Litigation Is Painful

Litigation between owners and family members in closely held businesses is common and very disruptive, potentially affecting daily operations as well as a company’s very existence and its reputation. Litigation is costly to manufacturers in both in time and money; however, its effects are felt well beyond the purely financial impact of legal fees and damages. Most manufacturers are personally invested in their businesses, and litigation causes them not just economic loss, but also substantial emotional hardship, and it often changes the tone of the business. A properly constructed business succession plan can take the sting out of litigation and may even eliminate its prospect entirely.

Planning Is Paramount

Devising a seamless transition for your business is essential to minimizing operational disruption and protecting the company’s value and reputation. An operating agreement that addresses succession issues can help achieve this continuity. Similarly, well-considered, carefully crafted will and estate planning strategies go a long way toward mitigating personal risks associated with business succession. As an owner of manufacturing company, if you are currently contemplating the transition of your business or making decisions about its future, you should consider consulting financial advisors and legal counsel to avoid taking any action that could jeopardize the company and/or your ownership interests.

*This article is not intended to convey legal advice. You should contact a licensed attorney for assistance with your legal needs.
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How to Navigate Paid and Sponsored Opportunities at Trade Shows

trade-shows-paid-sponsoredTrade shows offer a variety of paid and sponsored opportunities. It can be overwhelming for manufacturers to determine which opportunities will have the most return-on-investment.  In our blog, we’ve written on the topic of trade shows for manufacturers from several angles. We have discussed how manufacturers can engage media, who should “work” the booth and even the use of social media at business conferences. As trade show exhibitors, there are several marketing opportunities you may have missed due to early deadlines or perhaps tactics you have not tried previously.

The goal of most, if not all, investments in trade shows is straight forward. Leads. Isn’t that the ultimate ROI for all our marketing efforts? Does this sound familiar? “So, we spent thousands to fly the team and machinery to a trade show, built a new booth, trained our staff, hosted a cocktail reception and even held a press conference…how many leads for new business did we get?” Have you been asked this question from the CFO or president?

Modern trade shows for manufacturers, whether led by a trade association or private company are often more than a 20’ x 20’ concrete slab and two chairs. They are multi-media extravaganzas that involve theatrics, special events, sophisticated mobile tools and print advertising options.

Download Your Free Trade Shows For Manufacturers eBook

Download Your Free Trade Shows for Manufacturers eBook

If you have already signed up to exhibit, great. Download the exhibitor kit and read it cover to cover. Yes, get the basics ordered such as electric, Internet or special services such as catering. Still have budget? Great!

After all the free advertising options such as your online listing and directory entry have been checked off, see what the organization offers for an extra fee. Print advertising in show daily magazines helps impact name recognition and booth traffic as you can promote any engagement activities such as contests and demonstrations. Company sponsorships can range from private receptions to show properties such as an Internet café and on-the-show-floor receptions. Want to engage attendees on their way to the convention floor? Sponsor the shuttle. Want to reach them where they live? Do a hotel drop with signage inside the leading hotels complete with room gift of fresh fruit and your logoed trade show survival kit of aspirin, needle & thread and shoe shine kit.

The companies that run trade shows understand that lead generation is key. Basic online listing and trade show mobile applications can often be enhanced with featured exhibitor listings, lead capture ready for export and on-screen advertisements right on the device in every attendee’s pocket. Want a pro tip? If you have an idea for sponsorship of a key event that is not listed, offer to sponsor. Often this is unexpected income for the show with no structured fee (thus allowing you to create a truly unique promotion that can drive traffic to your booth for ultimate lead capture.

Trade shows, especially those hosted every other year are a unique opportunity to fill your sales pipeline for a long time. Make the most of your investment and explore as many opportunities as your budget allows.

Manufacturing Websites Are Missing One Critical Analytic: Conversion

conversion-website-manufacturing

Conversion is the key to return-on-investment that your manufacturing website may be missing. Many manufacturers understand the value of tracking ROI on their website. They may look at Google Analytics and be able to see traffic on the website as well as individual pages, but they are missing major opportunities to sell. Without the ability to convert visitors to leads on your website, manufacturers have no way to determine if the traffic they are seeing consists of qualified leads. Worse yet, manufacturers without a defined conversion path lose the ability to pursue leads on their website. In this blog, you’ll learn what conversion means and how to create a conversion path to start generating leads from your website.

What is Conversion?

Conversion happens when you get a visitor on your website to provide you their contact information. Once a visitor gives you their contact information (only an email is necessary), you can start tracking that lead’s behavior. What pages are they have viewed, what emails have they opened, did they answer any follow up questions. Best of all, you can provide your sales team with  a 360 view of who that lead  and how they move through your sales funnel based on documented behavior.

How to Create a Conversion Path

In order to get visitors on your website to willingly give you contact information, you need to offer something in return. White papers, eBooks or a free assessment or demonstration are examples that prospects may find valuable enough to receive in exchange for their contact information. It is essential to create multiple conversion paths on the website to gather information from visitors and the various pages they are viewing.

Tactics to Get Visitors to Convert to Leads

Calls-To-Action (CTAs)

CTAs are essentially links or buttons that encourage your prospects to take an action. Examples include: “Download Our Free White Paper” or “Free CAD Drawing Analysis”. To generate leads, you must have multiple, enticing calls-to-action on your website to intrigue your prospects to take action and database themselves, in return for an offer they find valuable.

Landing Pages

Once a visitor on your website clicks on a call-to-action, they will be directed to a coordinating landing pages. A landing page is essentially a web page where the call-to-action is fulfilled. The prospect will get more information about your offer and then will have an embedded form where they can submit their information to receive the offer. When the visitor fills out the form on your landing page, that visitor is now a contact in your database. Pro tip: make sure the graphics match the look of the CTA

Forms

The way visitors on your website become trackable leads is by filling out a form and submitting their information. Optimize your forms to make the conversion process as easy as possible. Remember, the length of a form on your website should match the value of the content provided. If you are just offering a subscription to your newsletter, the form should only request the person’s email. However, if you’re offering a white paper, asking for more detailed information; such as name, email, company and job title is acceptable. Manufacturers are reluctant to give their information so start small. Once you get a prospect to database themselves through a form, you can track their behavior. The core of converting prospects to leads starts with getting their email.

Check out the blogs below for more information to help you strengthen your conversion rate on your website.

3 Captivating Calls-to-Action to Drive Manufacturing Lead Generation

Industrial Manufacturer’s Guide to Inbound Marketing
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3 Best Practices for Stronger Manufacturing Referrals

manufacturing-referralsManufacturing referrals open doors to new business opportunities but getting your business colleagues to introduce you is easier said than done. Rather than asking for referrals blindly, you can improve your quality of referrals and odds of closing those referrals as customers by doing your homework. Below learn how to receive better, more frequent referrals that lead to sales.

Advance Search Your Business Connection’s Network on LinkedIn

Have a good relationship with a business connection? Why not ask them for a referral. Instead of asking them blankly for a referral, it’s better to see who they are connected to and ask for specific referrals, by name. If you read my last blog Hack that Eliminates the Need for LinkedIn Sales Navigator, you’ll know a how to advance search your connection’s contacts by a specific geographic area, job title, industry or company. The blog has step-by-step directions as well as a video that walks you through how to navigate this process. So check it out to find great contacts to be referred into.

Asking Your Colleague for a Referral

Now that you’ve mined through your strongest business connection’s LinkedIn network, it’s time to ask for a referral. Either pick up the phone or email the following:

“Hi [Business Contact], I see you are connected with [Name] on LinkedIn. After reviewing their website, I think they could use our products/services. Would you be willing to introduce us?”

If your contact agrees to refer you, reply “Thank you very much. Below I’ve attached a draft email introduction which you can use or tweak as you see fit.” Sending a draft intro is helpful for a few reasons:

  1. You are taking the pressure off your contact to draft an introduction.
  2. Your contact will be more likely to refer you in a timely manner since it’s as simple as a quick copy and paste
  3. You can control how you are introduced and ensure that the first introduction to you and your company is as strong as possible.

Drafting Your Referral Intro

Stumped on how to draft your intro, here are some tried and true tips and tricks I learned from Caleb Townsend, co-founder of Factur—Manufacturing Referrals Network.

  1. Keep it short and sweet 4-6 brief sentences. Nobody has times to read a novel so keep it straight and to the point.
  2. Make your name a link to your LinkedIn profile and your company name a link to your website.
  3. Don’t bury the lead- keep the ask in the beginning of the intro. People shouldn’t find out that your contact is looking to refer you in the last sentence.
  4. Put a sentence about your differentiating factors in the paragraph.
  5. Any notable awards or industry certifications? Include those in a sentence.
  6. Soft close that puts the ball in their court and gives the person being asked the ability to say no.

Examples of Referral Introductions

Need some inspiration for your mock referral intro? Check out 2 strong examples below.

Mock Intro #1:

I’d like to introduce you to Jane Doe with Manufacturing Lubrications LLC. Manufacturing Lubrications is a direct distributor of ENI oils, greases, and lubricants as well as oil and grease systems. Jane is the product manager for light-duty to heavy-duty machinery and equipment. Combined as a team, Manufacturing Lubrications has over 60 years of hands on industry experience, including pumps, hydraulics, engineering, and lubrication. If you are interested in speaking with her, I would be happy to connect you.

Mock Intro #2

I’d like to introduce you to my colleague John Smith, business development manager at Yes Metals Inc.  Yes Metals is worldwide metals distributor which distributes a full-line of over 46,000 products to more than 22,000 customers. Currently they have 8 US service center locations, 11 additional satellite facilities.  The company offers supply chain solutions through value added processing, inventory management/VMI, logistics support and lean buyer. They are ISO 9001:2008 and AS9100 Rev C certified.  Would you mind if he reaches out to you directly?

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Hack that Eliminates the Need for LinkedIn Sales Navigator

linkedin-sales-navigator-hack

LinkedIn shook up the business world in January 2017 when the platform made major changes to its interface. If you read our blog Big Changes Coming to Your LinkedIn back in January, you’ll see the many changes that occurred, the biggest being limiting search capabilities. Prior to the interface change, LinkedIn users could easily advance search their connection’s contacts by a specific geographic area, job title, industry or company. This change alone has made many of my business connections jump ship and buy a seat on LinkedIn Sales Navigator—costing them a whopping $79.99 a month (ouch.) Fortunately for you, my friend Caleb Townsend, co-founder of Factur—Manufacturing Referral Network, has found a hack to get around the dreaded LinkedIn search conundrum.

Advance Searching Tips                       

  • Open LinkedIn in Google Chrome (best browser to use)
  • Select a business connection or friend’s LinkedIn profile
  • Click “See Connections”
  • Make sure you are on the “All” tab
  • Highlight all of the connections
    • Click Command A (on Mac) or Ctrl C (on PC) to highlight all the text on that Connections page
  • Click Command F (on Mac) or Ctrl F to search the highlighted text
  • Input a keyword into the search
    • Job Title (President, Engineer, etc.)
    • Company
  • Click the arrow on your search to sort through the contacts that match that keyword
  • When you find people you want to ask your contact about highlight the contact
  • Then right click and select “Open in a new tab”
    • Note: Never just click on the contact, as it will exit you from your search!
  • Look through the profiles of those who match your keyword search and make note to ask your contact if they would be a good fit for your product or service.

Now that you have this tip you’ll be able to mine your connection’s network for potential leads without paying the hefty nearly $1,000 per year for LinkedIn Sales Navigator. In my next blog, I will share next steps I’ve learned from Factur—Manufacturing Referral Network on how to approach the people you’re interested in meeting. This method has both increased my referral rate and also the number of people that agree to speak with me after being referred.
Interested in attending Manufacturing Networking Mixer? Click Here

How to Convince Your Stubborn Manufacturing Customers to Participate in Case Studies

case studies manufacturing

3 Ways To Get Great Manufacturing Case Studies

Manufacturing case studies are an amazing way to show your prospects and customers your skills and capabilities. Case studies add third party credibility and could be the difference between your prospects choosing you over your competition during the decision process of the buyer’s journey.

case-studies-manufacturers

Yet, many times when I ask my business-to-business manufacturing clients if they have case studies, a surprising number of them will answer: “We don’t do case studies. Our customers won’t agree to work on them with us.” I cringe, as they are not only losing a valuable content opportunity for both their website and even the industrial trade media, but missing an opportunity to deepen their customer relationship (hence turning them into promoters). Below are some ideas to combat the dreaded case study feature dilemma.

Highlight The Benefits For Your Customer

Many times, companies will approach a customer for a case study feature like it’s a favor. This is a major no-no, as your customers already feel they are doing enough for you giving you their business. Instead, approach the case study as a win-win that will benefit both of your companies. Make sure you promise to spend a significant portion of the case study highlighting the benefits of your customer’s products, processes, and services.

Also, let the customer know your intentions to distribute the case study. A simple write up on your website is fine but agreeing to pitch the case study to publications, trade associations, or websites that reach your customer’s prospects and customers makes a case study seem more valuable. As an agency, we have honed the art of making our customers’ customer comfortable with how the trade media works and will feature their company.

Make It A Low Pressure Commitment For Your Customer

After presenting your customer with the benefits of a case study feature, explain the amount of time or effort required on his or her part to bring the case study to fruition. Offer to have someone from your company interview them, write the draft and submit it to the customer for final approval. If you have an established PR professional facilitating the case study, your customer should only have a 45 to 60 minutes time commitment for the interview. Whether you have a PR professional onboard or a marketing professional in house, it is important that whoever is facilitating the interview has a technical background. Remember, always be sensitive to the time commitment.

Make Sure Your Customer Loves The Finished Product

Engage your customer throughout the case study writing process. Email them questions during the writing process to check for accuracy, double and triple check to ensure you aren’t giving away anything  your customer wouldn’t want the public to know and ask for photo suggestions from your customer, all the while making sure nothing proprietary is being shared. Show your customer you value their opinion and want to promote their company in the best light possible. Remember to send the final print article or, even have it framed as a gift to your customer. Then, when you come back in a year or so and ask that customer for another case study feature, your customer will be more inclined to accept.

Interested in learning more about the power of PR for manufacturers? Check out these blogs: Why Manufacturers Still Need PR in a Digital World and Why Your Manufacturing PR Firm Should Be Sales Focused

Difficulty developing and distributing content? Contact us.

Why Manufacturers Need a Content Map for Inbound Marketing Success

content-map-manufacturersYou’ve heard it before: content is king—and the way to create relevant, consistent content is by creating a content map.  Content marketing is not a short-term campaign. Just like the manufacturing sales cycle, it is a long-term strategy to attract, convert, close and retain customers. Below, learn my best practices for creating a content map for inbound marketing success.

What is a Content Map?

A content map is a cross section outline detailing your approach to your buyer personas (prospects and customers). Your map details not only the type of content such as a blog post, infographic or video but the schedule and nature of how you are sending the content. Your messages are always developed with the inbound marketing methodology and your target buyer personas in mind. Furthermore, you must consider their stage in the buyer’s journey (awareness, consideration, decision). The goal is to target content according to the characteristics of the person consuming your content (that’s why buyer persona research is so crucial) and how close that person is to making a decision to buy your product or service (lifecycle).

Content Map Essentials

A content map is so much more than a calendar with content assigned to specific dates. An effective content map is tailored to the buyer personas (who you want to sell to), their specific engagement level (how often their opening, clicking or engaging with your brand/content), and the channels used to reach those targeted personas. Content map essentials include:

  • A list of what you are publishing based upon your content strategy. This should include if the content is repurposed or needs to be written. Also, keep in mind industry trends, new product lines, or other factors that should influence when you post certain content.
  • Names of individuals creating the content.
  • The channel(s) for the content.It is essential to map out where you are sharing your content. For example, if you are creating an eBook, list the blog content, social content, and email blasts to promote the eBook.
  • Target Audience and Lifecycle Stage. It’s important to include the targeted “buyer persona” and “lifecycle stage”. Also include keywords which your target buyer persona will be searching during their specific lifecycle stage.
  • Dates for completion and publishing. Indicating when it’s due for review and when it’s intended to be published is key to keep your employees accountable and ensure you create the content you intended.

Content Map Organization

When organizing your content map, we suggest mapping 6 months to a year worth of content. Below is a suggested content map layout.

  • Content type
  • The buyer persona(s) targeted
  • Lifecycle stage of buyer pesona(s) target
  • Person/individuals responsible for creating the content
  • Channels to publish the content (social, blog, YouTube, etc.)
  • Due Date
  • Publish Date
  • Column for Status (yellow for in process, green for completed)
  • Call-to-Action on the content
  • Separate tab on the content map for content idea brainstorming

With these simple tips, you’ll be on the right track to content marketing success. Struggling to think of content ideas? Check out our blog 10 Ways to Reignite Your Manufacturing Blog for some content ideas that your manufacturing prospects and customers will love.
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Cleveland Business-to-Business Manufacturers Networking Event

CONNECT WITH MANUFACTURERS AND SUPPLIERS

FACTUR–Manufacturing Referrals Network presents the first Cleveland “Manufacturing Networking Mixer” hosted at Felber PR & Marketing!

Details for the Event

When: August 23rd from 4:30 – 6:30 PM

Where: Felber PR & Marketing, 8963 Darrow Rd. Twinsburg, OH 44087

Who’s attending?

Job Shops

Metal Fabrication | Thermoforming | Stamping | Plastic Fabrication | Assembly | Control Panels | Special Machinery | Coatings | Electrical | Inspection | Machining | PCBA | Rapid Prototyping

Distributors

Metals | Equipment | Tooling | Components | Plastics | Supplies | Software | Automation | Material Handling | Packaging | Electronics | Mechanical | Power Transmission | Chemicals | Lube & Oil | Compressed Air

Engineering and Consulting

Design Engineering | Quality System | Process Improvement | System Integration | Product Development | Tooling Design | Automation | Electrical Design | Control Design

Service Providers

Materials Recycling | Maintenance & Repair | Facility Services | Staffing & Labor | Logistics | Process

The event is invite only! Submit your information for an invite consideration in the link below.

Interested in attending Manufacturing Networking Mixer? Click Here

Why Your Manufacturing PR Firm Should Be Sales Focused

How to Align Your Manufacturing PR Strategy with Sales for Ultimate Success

manufacturing-prAt the end of the day, (for most manufactures on a single shift that could be 6:15 pm!), sales are the bottom line. We have said it before, “nothing happens until someone sells something.” Sales should be top of mind for everything you do from your trade show strategy to manufacturing PR and everything in between.

Your marketing department needs to be laser-focused on this one goal: When they see our content (news article, press release, blog post, social messaging) what do we want them to do? You guessed it, buy your product and service. Ah, if it was just that simple.

Tactically, you still need all the tools of an optimized website, a strong trade show plan, a targeted direct marketing program…but let’s keep the focus where it needs to be, selling. Inbound, outbound, telemarketing, even cold calls still work if done in the right context. Content is the fuel that each of these tactics need to move the process forward.

Stories allow your manufacturing company to show your expertise and differentiate your company from competitors, and who better to tell your story than the experts at content creation: a PR firm. PR firms are the experts in telling stories. Your marketing strategy should incorporate PR to create brand recognition and give your company third party credibility. Read “Why Manufacturers Still Need PR in a Digital World” to learn about the importance of PR.
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Now, not all PR strategies are created equal and it is important to have a PR strategy that is tailored to your buyer personas, or the people to whom you sell.   Now you may be thinking to yourself “how do I create great content”? Have your sales engineers, the ones who know each customer’s story share what was successful on a recent project or trends they are noticing in their industry. There is a story behind each invoice; align your sales team with your PR firm. Let your PR firm help you evaluate the newsworthiness of each piece of content. When you feed the top of your sales funnel with more qualified leads and you’ll start to see customers at the end of the funnel. So, what story will you tell?

 

Grow Your Manufacturing Workforce – Manufacturing Day 2017

manufacturing day 2017

Manufacturing is booming in the United States, yet there is one major concern holding companies back from growing to their full potential: manufacturing workforce. We exclusively work with business-to-business manufacturers and at every single meeting, regardless of whether we’re discussing trade shows, content development or publicity, the topic eventually turns to talent acquisition.

Manufacturers across the country continue to struggle with attracting qualified workers. Manufacturers tell us workers do not have the skills needed to operate a more advanced machine, many are lacking soft skills for the work place and worse, many cannot simply pass a drug test. Is this an epidemic? You tell me…a recent meeting with a colleague revealed they could add one million more in sales if they had the workers to produce the goods.

So, why is your talent on third base looking for signs from their coach? It’s summer and school is out. Before we know it the lazy, hazy days of August will turn to the Labor Day picnics and the beginning of another school year.

Now, not three months from now, will be the time to plan your Manufacturing Day events. Teach students, parents and educators why manufacturing is a strong and worthwhile career. Demonstrate your capabilities while you recruit future talent.

Not sure how to begin? Here’s a few stories to get you started:

Planning articles: It’s Time to Start Planning Manufacturing Day 2016 Events and I Don’t Work In Manufacturing So Manufacturing DaSubscribe to Our Newslettery Doesn’t Matter

Past events: Manufacturing Day Campaign 2015 and, always photos: Facebook photos from past events and tours

Make sure to invite your local reporters. Local stories help recruit talent. While discussion the media release on a recent plant expansion, we reminded our colleagues that the local press is what your neighborhood workforce is reading. Product sales might come from trade publications, but home town news provides the buzz in your city. The business media loves to report on positive manufacturing news:Local Manufacturing Day events aim to produce buzz for industry

Lastly, don’t forget to list your event. Yes, search engines love listings and Manufacturing Day is a national event. List your event on the Manufacturing Day site Felber PR & Marketing Event