The Biggest Mistake Manufacturing Sales Managers Make

Why Connecting with Past Customers to Grow Manufacturing Sales Works

manufacturing-sales

Persistence, heart, effort pay off for Cleveland Indians in 2017

The key to manufacturing sales success that you’re probably missing is connecting with past customers. People, by nature are drawn to familiarity. It is much easier to sell to someone you have a previous relationship with than sell to a new prospect. You know that feeling when you run into an old friend at a restaurant? You went to high school, perhaps served in the same military unit or simply lived in the same neighborhood. We love to share past experiences and we all know what it’s like when you hear “You just had to be there!” When it comes to manufacturing sales, being familiar wins.

Customers relationships should be viewed the same way. You provide a reliable, memorable experience. Perhaps you spent weeks or months working on the sale, maybe another 6 months delivering your products and services. We also know that each experience with your customers, let’s call them ‘touch points,’ only further cements the relationship.

Past customers, like old friends, want to hear from you. Simply reaching out to tell them about your recent projects, sharing an article they might enjoy or announcing a new initiative (as we just did, click here), brings people back to the table.

Wait, you mean those folks who trusted you, gave you money willingly and occasionally return with more money in their hand? Create memories and build on familiarity. “You remember that time, Mr. Customer, when we went to the Indians’ game and they broke the record for the most consecutive wins in the American League?” How can you keep the same feeling alive with your customers?

When we announced our international marketing collaboration with Adexma, we received countless ‘congratulations, nice to hear it, way to go’ messages even from past customers who have not purchased in months or years. We, Felber PR & Marketing, are the familiar. We were established in 1993, so we have many past friends, shared experiences, and stories. Oh, do we have stories. Sharing our knowledge with our network, whether in an email, via social media, or even as a speaker for a colleague’s association, creates more ‘familiar’ touch points. Add up the points and you’re winning the relationship game.

So, then, why are we so fixated on always attracting shiny new prospects? Well, we all need new customers and they really do keep us on our toes. New customers help our companies grow and further develop our offering. Are you starting to see where I am headed? You have invested so much in the new customer relationship. And, just when they trust you and are comfortable with your service, billing and culture, you close the door. You can almost hear your mother now, “you don’t call, you don’t write, you don’t even like the photo of your father in his plaid golf shirt I posted to that book site…”

Keeping in touch with your network is simple in the digital age and one simple touch can make a huge impact.

Sending regular emails, a hand written now, commenting on their LinkedIn post, sending a “customer exclusive offer” are all examples of keeping in touch. Be the familiar, not the lost friend. Use the resources you have in social media and email communications to keep your family close. Keep the pressure on, now and throughout the season and you too can string manufacturing sales, win after win for your firm.

10-Week Program to Ace European Manufacturing Trade Shows

Blog provided by Cedric Le Rouge of ADEXMA

european-trade-shows

Attending a European trade show can reward even the busiest manager with a fresh outlook, new connections, and great opportunities. Feel like you don’t have the time to spare? In just ten weeks, your business can benefit from all that some of the biggest trade shows in the world can offer, such as the Hanover Messe. What makes the travel to Europe even more worthwhile is the benefit of the prep work and research that you do before you go, and the follow up when you return. The trade show is not just a one-week event; rather, it is a chance to communicate with fellow attendees and organizations before, during, and after the show.

Six Weeks Before the European Trade Show

By selecting the trade shows related to your target audience, you can engage with a large number of prospects in a short period of time. Understand your target business environment and market information. Europe is a large market, so you might choose to attend multiple trade shows during a two-week trip.

Make your research on the exhibitors list. Most trade shows give you access to the exhibitors list with contact information and sorting capabilities. Some even help you organize business-to-business meetings by sending a message to the company to ask for a specific time during trade show hours. I usually engage with attendees six weeks ahead of the exhibit to start asking for appointment. Even if the trade show has a platform that organizes meetings, I confirm with a direct email to the prospect to validate their contact information and make sure that they also have my information in their mailbox.

The more you do your research and keep your customer relationship information up-to-date prior to your trip, the better your business trip and your follow up when you return will be. You should know why you want to meet with a specific person and what you have to offer that is unique.

Two Weeks During the European Trade Show

Forget the car. In France and Europe in general, public transportation by train or bus is the easiest. I remember trying to find a parking spot in Paris, at Porte de Versailles, to attend a trade show and after more than an hour and a half I still had not found a place, so I ended up parking far away from the show and came in by metro.

You can also download the trade show app, but for location capability you need to have a good data plan solution for international mobile phone service. This can be very expensive if you do not plan ahead. I now purchase a European SIM card to have the same freedom of use than in the United States, and it is often less expensive.  Call me old fashioned, but I always keep a backup paper copy of my schedule, transportation, and lodging documents. You never know if your phone will run out of power or the train controller will want a paper receipt.

During the meeting, make sure to respect the local etiquette and start by talking their language, even if it is just to ask if someone to speak English + your name + your company’s name: “Bonjour, Il y a-t’il quelqu’un qui parle anglais s’il vous plaît? Je suis Monsieur LE ROUGE de la société ADEXMA.”

Use Your Research to Your Advantage

Have your pitch ready and adapted to your audience. This is where your research will pay off at a European trade show. If your prospect sees you have put the time in to look at their website and their information, they typically respect your interest and answer some of your questions. Make sure to have more business cards than you think you are going to need; they have the tendency to go faster than expected. For the brochure or handout, I prefer send it by email because at trade shows we all have too many brochures and it gives you a reason to follow up.

Keep some extra time between your connections and meetings in case something happens. Often, something happens: transportation delays, or you get sick. If all goes well, I have a list of contacts who I was unable to confirm an appointment with beforehand. You would be surprised at the number of people you can simply meet at the show. Exhibitors are ready to talk about their company and products. I typically double my number of appointments directly on the show floor.

Follow Up Two Weeks After the European Trade Show

Follow up is key in the two weeks after the event. You are coming back home and the exhibitors are packing before going back home. The result is that everybody is tired, but don’t throw all that work out the window. Register their contact information in your CRM database, record what you talked about, send an email, and schedule a follow up reminder. If you are exhibiting, VAT can be refunded on some items. For example, if you exhibit in France, you can contact your local French-American Chamber of Commerce and they will assist you with the paperwork.

In conclusion, doing the research before attending a European trade show and following these tips will help you make the most out of your visit. There is no substitute for meeting contacts in person, which is why international trade shows are such an important part of the marketing mix. Contact an international marketing company like ADEXMA to get help with research, build a strategy, and conduct follow up that will give you measurable results.

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Bibliography

Absolute Exhibits. “Top Trade Fairs in Europe.” https://www.absoluteexhibits.com/top-trade-fairs-in-europe.

Events Eye. http://www.eventseye.com.

Exhibit in Europe. http://www.exhibit-in-europe.com.

Neventum. “Trade Shows.” http://www.ntradeshows.com.

Trade Fair Dates. https://www.tradefairdates.com.

Trade Show News Network. http://www.tsnn.com (2017).

What Manufacturers Need to Know About ERP System Integration

Guest blog provided by Hannah Gierosky of Briteskies

erp-system-integrationERP system integration is a hot topic in the manufacturing sector and for good reason. Today’s manufacturing companies face a variety of challenges: pressure to increase productivity, lower operating costs, and manage ever-changing data needs. These days, data is king. Most companies do not have an issue generating data; problems arise when trying to access it and leverage it to positively position themselves within a competitive marketplace.

One of the best ways to harness the power of your data is to integrate your ERP with B2B eCommerce capabilities. By adding B2B eCommerce, you can greatly improve the effectiveness and efficiency of your back office processes. Using a sophisticated integration strategy, B2B companies can leverage the combined power of their ERP system and the online channel to simultaneously increase revenues and drive costs out of the organization.

Connecting an eCommerce system to a large and stable ERP, such as JD Edwards, allows for a seamless movement of data. However, the integration effort can be one of the most difficult parts of any implementation initiative. These projects require a robust and well-planned strategy that covers data flow, business logic, and an ERP integration methodology.

Data: There Can Only Be One Source of the Truth

The first item that should be addressed in an ERP and eCommerce integration project is to determine where each data element should be stored, and which system “owns” the data. You should consider specific items such as Customer Master Data, Item/Catalog data, and Customer Order Information.

After you decide on where each item should reside or if it should be shared, create a data map so that ownership is clearly defined. A great mantra to keep in mind is: “There can only be one source of the truth,” which will help you establish whether the eCommerce or ERP system should own the data.

Put the Logic Where It Belongs

After it’s determined whether the eCommerce or ERP system owns each piece of data, consider the business logic required to process an eCommerce order. ECommerce systems typically include functionality that is duplicated in the ERP, such as item pricing, taxing, and order processing. In considering these redundancies, you should look to keep a business function within the system that is best suited for processing that function.

A great example is tax calculations. In most instances, you can keep the tax calculation function of the ERP, as this is where all order processing occurs. However, if orders entered into the ERP are not taxed and the orders in the eCommerce system are taxed, then it make more sense to have the eCommerce system house the tax calculation logic.

Use the Best ERP Integration Methodology for the Job at Hand

Finally, you should look at ERP integration methodologies. There are a host of options from which to choose, including a simple FTP process, an MQ Series, Web Services, and more. It’s often more beneficial to use an integration methodology that is already being used. This allows for consistency across all projects. We believe that this allows the development team to better understand and support new integration points.

Also, consider how close the data needs to be to real-time, as the closer it is to real-time, the more labor-intensive and costly the integration project becomes. We also like to keep things as simple and straightforward as possible. Over-complicating the integration simply makes everything that much harder, from programming it in the beginning to supporting it after go-live. If you’re keeping everything as simple as possible, it’s usually a good indication that you’ve chosen the best integration method.

Summary

Integrating a B2B eCommerce site to an ERP, such as JD Edwards, can be a challenge, but it’s worth the effort. Getting your back office and eCommerce site to communicate with each other will significantly improve sales interactions for your company. This allows the order management process to become seamless, and data and order information to be easily accessible.

In executing any integration, planning, organizing, and documenting a strategy allows for a much smoother project. So measure twice, cut once, and keep things simple.

If you’re interested in integrating your ERP and B2B eCommerce systems, contact the qualified Briteskies team to see how we can help.
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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.
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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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