In 1993, Don Peppers and Martha Rogers introduced a new concept that became the foundation for many of today’s marketing programs.
Their book, “The One to One Future: Building Relationships One Customer At A Time,” has become a classic reference for personalized marketing and sales. One industry expert summarized the book as a “unique perspective on the fundamental, structural changes that technology has already brought to the real world of business competition.”
It has taken more than a few years, but today, a highly developed integration of several technologies offers manufacturers the ability to grab hold of the growth potential that Peppers and Rogers promised 30 years ago.
We shouldn’t be surprised by technology evolution. Marketing and sales technologies such as customer relationship management (CRM), marketing automation, and smarter databases for companies and contacts are available to manufacturers that understand how important they are to lead profiling, lead generation, and lead qualification processes.
These technologies didn’t exist 30 years ago, and neither did some of today’s manufacturing production technology. Automated materials handling and multifunction production platforms were nascent in the ’90s too. Today, a contract manufacturer can integrate these maturing technologies into a highly automated plant. That’s been the promise of Industry 4.0. And as we have seen with marketing tech, promises to become realities over time.
What would your world look like if you matched personalized, highly targeted marketing with highly developed production capabilities?
Leveraging the Production Technologies You Know
Every manufacturer looks in a way of creating competitive differentiation. It’s good to be different. Differentiation is the key driver behind revenue and profit growth.
Your investments in production technology are driven by your need to offer quality, cost, scale or competency advantages. One could say that these investments are “table stakes” required to maintain your market position. Every year, you budget capital to replace and maintain your production platforms as part of your overall operational excellence initiatives. The continual evolution of production technologies means that equipment upgrades are ongoing. And the pace of production technology evolution continues as equipment vendors upgrade their products to maintain their own competitiveness.
While investments in production technology can be beneficial, market factors limit the effectiveness of capital investments in production technology:
- Every production technology can be available to every potential buyer with enough capital to buy it. This levels the competitive playing field.
- As production equipment prices decline (think low-cost fiber lasers from overseas), that affordability attracts new entrants to the manufacturing industry.
The question is, if you and your competitors can acquire the same production technologies, how will your business be different?
Leveraging the Marketing Technologies You Should Know
One way to set your company apart from other manufacturers is with targeted, personal marketing. Today, you have access to contact databases, marketing automation platforms that track the performance of marketing investments, CRM platforms to monitor and manage the sales pipeline and existing customer relationships, and digital marketing to promote your business. And search engine optimization and pay-per-click programs can boost your website’s performance.
Many manufacturers don’t think about marketing. They don’t understand its potential benefits and are unwilling to invest in it beyond the minimum. Some still confuse sales and marketing. So, those manufacturers who pay attention to marketing tend to outperform the overall market. And those that combine high-performing production technologies with relevant marketing technologies create a truly unique opportunity to generate revenues and profits.
A Road Map for Merging Technologies
As you go through this integration process, you won’t be able to do (or afford) everything you want. Technology will continue to mature and change, and you’ll want to use early successes to help find future investments. So, you’ll need a business and technology road map to guide you (see Figure 1). Road maps are visual projections of the major steps, or initiatives, that drive both your production and your marketing investments. Their visual nature helps you communicate these priorities to your organization and enables your staff to see how their personal priorities, whether production or marketing, are part of your overall business priorities.
When designing your specific road map, think about what your technology road map for production and marketing does today and what it could do if you augmented it. Then follow these best-practice steps:
- Identify and prioritize your opportunities based on revenue and margin contribution to your business. You can do this by constructing and evaluating the P&Ls for each market you serve today. Identify your best historic growth markets and those that generate your profits.
- Connect business/marketing processes and production processes. This involves selecting the marketing programs that will drive new business most effectively, based on your understanding of specific market needs for the production capabilities you have in-house. If you don’t know what makes up your target market priorities, secondary research can be useful, and primary research via interviews is an excellent resource.
- Apply the appropriate technology to your first priorities from step 1. This step involves selecting the go-to-market programs that fit your customer acquisition costs and revenue pipeline goals.
- Test and evaluate, then refine based on customer validation. No marketing program should ever be considered a “silver bullet,” and campaign testing helps you understand what type of qualified leads you should expect from each program. Two factors are important here: having established marketing metrics and understanding industry benchmarks.
- Set discrete financial objectives for each investment. Effective marketers understand that projecting and tracking results is a necessary part of their role. When campaigns don’t work or peter out, it’s time to try something else.
- Measure payback and move on to your next priority. An effective go-to-market approach tests several alternatives. Once you understand what works best to generate qualified leads, shift more of your marketing investment into it from programs that are not performing as well.
Case Study – Contract Fabricator
The current hot topic in manufacturing production technology is automation. Large companies are integrating material automation technologies with production capabilities such as bending, punching, and cutting as they look to scale operations. But automation is being adopted by contract manufacturers too. Not only is this type of integration excellent at offering more capabilities and reducing delivery time, but it also helps mitigate the labor shortages that are sure to continue.
One contract manufacturer, Dalsin Industries, located in Bloomington, Minn., has developed a way to integrate one-to-one marketing with its production technologies to highlight its automated capabilities for punching and panel bending. And that combination has helped the company outperform the industry measures for annual year-over-year growth (see Figure 2).
We developed this approach and perfected it at Dalsin Industries over a couple of years. Now, in the fall of each year, we select the target markets we are most interested in for the next fiscal year’s business plan and budget. This process is guided by our understanding of which production technologies we want to emphasize, as well as those for which we believe we can support additional demand. We also identify the specific applications (such as enclosures) we want to emphasize based on customer feedback and an analysis of industry trends.
The final steps include identifying OEMs we want to do business with (based on our ideal customer profile) and then mapping out a marketing plan to develop new relationships. The marketing plan contains a calendar, a budget, details on both the target market and the target customers, what programs or campaigns we plan to execute, and the results we hope to achieve.
Concentrate on the Front End
Manufacturers spend a lot of time looking at ways to automate and streamline their production operations. But they need to put that same energy into the front end of the business.
If you believe in continuous improvement and lean operations, you should be willing to apply that same expertise to look at the way you go to market, build a revenue pipeline, close new customers, and manage customer relationships over time to increase long-term value .