10 Reasons Small Manufacturers Struggle With Marketing

Donny Kemick

We work with tons of manufacturing companies and there are some common challenges we face when it comes to marketing. Here are 10 reasons manufacturers struggle with marketing.

1 - Long Time Clients & Stability

"We've worked with XYZ Company for years!" I can hear it coming out of a manufacturer's mouth now. While having long time clients that offer a steady and stable operations and revenues environment is a good thing, it can often lead to being reactionary when it comes to marketing.

"Oh crap! One of our longest standing clients just got bought out and isn't going to use us anymore! We need to fill that revenue and production hole! Let's start marketing!"

This is obviously not a great strategy and will produce "shoot from the hip" style tactics that will be very ineffective.

2 - Spread Too Thin

There're a million tasks to choose from and the ones that directly contribute to money coming in the door (e.g., production, operations, etc...) tend to be the focus. Understanding that marketing can/should be directly tied to money coming in the door is lacking. Therefore, marketing is constantly back burnered until it's a necessity (see # 1).

3 - Ownership Motivation For Growth

As we mature and get older, sometimes our hunger for growth is stymied. This can lead to less investment in growth opportunities like marketing.

4 - Past Failures In Marketing

"Remember when we spent all that money on an advertisement in that trade magazine and not a single lead came in the door!?!? Marketing doesn't work!"

I've heard this one again and again. Clearly running an ad one time in a trade magazine doesn't constitute marketing! To many small manufacturers though, that past failure leaves a bad enough taste in their mouths to minimally invest in marketing.

5 - No In-House Expertise

"It's time to revamp the website. Who want's to be in charge?"

cricket... cricket... cricket...

The reason no one volunteers is because no one is knowledgeable enough about it to make the project a success. Marketing takes more knowledge than what colors, fonts and logos to use.

6 - False In-House Expertise

"We just hired Johnny, my nephew. He took some computer classes in school and is all about that Facebook. He's going to get us on there too."

While Johnny may know more about computers or Facebook than you do, it doesn't mean he knows anything more about marketing a small manufacturer than you do.

Understanding expertise is a huge problem for small manufacturers when it comes to marketing. Age and use of social media do not qualify someone for being a marketer.

7 - Disconnect Between Company Goals And In-House Marketing Project Manager

As is often the case, a sales person or the HR manager might be place in charge of getting the "website project" done. Their perspective on what the company needs to do and the perspective of the executives may clash completely.

Without executive direction, a small manufacturer's marketing is going to lack the appropriate focus and effectiveness.

8 - No One At The Company Enjoys Marketing

This often ties back to having no expertise or false expertise in house. It turns out, no one at the manufacturer really likes the art of marketing. It's usually dreadfully clear when that's the case because most of the marketing will appear half-assed and wasteful.

9 - No Clue What's Working and What's Not

"We spent $20,000 last year on social media advertising, PPC, radio ads, magazine ads and marketing software, but we're not sure what worked and what didn't!?!?"

That's no way to market and a definite way to talk yourself out of marketing. Doing it right means planning how you'll measure effectiveness and actively reviewing ROI.

10 - No Understanding Best Buyers

When you're not sure how to attract your best buyers, you probably don't really know who they are in the first place. Buyer personas let you target your marketing like a laser beam instead of a shotgun. That makes all of your marketing more effective, proactive and ROI-focused.

Knowing your best buyers also means you know their pain points, how they go about finding the solution you offer and ultimately why they make a buying decision.

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