Calling something a ‘best kept secret’ is usually a compliment, but this isn’t the case when it comes to the world of business. The truth is that customers can only make purchases from companies they are aware of, and that have an established reputation for reliability, quality, and trust. While many sectors have embraced marketing – and especially digital marketing – in a big way in recent years and are reaping the benefits, the manufacturing sector, unfortunately, continues to lag behind.
The result is that in every manufacturing niche a small handful of large and marketing-savvy companies secure the best customers and dominate the market, with too many SME manufacturers slipping underneath the radar. If your business forms part of this silent majority, you could be missing out on sales and find it difficult to reach your growth targets, or even to sustain your current position.
UK manufacturers should be making more sales – but aren’t.
Despite the global superior quality position held by the UK manufacturing sector, and the widespread recognition that UK SME manufacturers make and offer world-class products and services, it is equally acknowledged that British companies are almost universally poor at marketing themselves.
Because of this weakness, I estimate that up to 80% of SMEs fall short of their potential annual revenues – to the tune of up to 20% shortfall each year. As an economy, this equates to £24 billion of potential revenues lost each year, simply through businesses being unaware of marketing best practices and investments.
Why Is This?
The problem is not that SME manufacturers are inherently unaware of how to market their services. Most SME owners are passionate advocates for their companies. The issue, instead, is one of resources and knowledge: resources because of the way that time and money are always stretched in small companies; and knowledge, because of widespread misunderstandings about the best ways to market a business and – equally important – what not to do.
Running a business with a small number of staff and assets leads to a warped business structure, in the sense that the vast majority of resources are focused on operational service, delivery and production, with very little left over for marketing. The opinion of most manufacturing SMEs about marketing is that of an optional nicety, where ‘we do a bit of this-and-that marketing whenever we get time.’ to do it’. This undisciplined approach is a waste of time and money and is unlikely to make many sales, let alone deliver a positive ROI.
Reinvesting in growth and sales
The solution is to turn this attitude entirely on its head, from a place in which marketing is undervalued, to one where marketing plays the core role in creating value and driving sales. The new marketing environment requires a disciplined and focused approach to marketing that, if implemented effectively and in sync with your business model, is guaranteed to be the best investment you can make in the future of your company.
Steps to marketing success
There are several steps you can take immediately to turn the situation around, starting with a good hard look at your current sales practices – including how much they cost, how much money they actually bring in, and how they could be improved. They are:
- Take time to review your marketing strategy – most manufacturing SMEs have been following the same obsolete tactics for years, unaware that the technologies and practices associated with marketing have moved on exponentially.
- Review your leads database and customer portfolio – in many companies this is years or even decades old, and hopelessly out of date. Stratify your existing customers in terms of long-term value and ROI so you can focus your retention strategies effectively, and trim away any dormant or dead leads so you can concentrate on people who are genuinely interested.
- Level-up your marketing efforts by investing in professional expertise (whether in-house or through an agency) and effective marketing automation and monitoring tools.
- Set a realistic marketing budget – this should be between 5% and 10% of your gross revenues to get sustainable results. Remember, this isn’t money thrown away – it’s money invested in future growth. Always monitor and analyse your marketing activities to establish your ROI, and be ruthless about what works and what doesn’t.
- Be proactive in promoting your business and publishing relevant content where your target customers can see it.
- Don’t ignore your current customers – it costs far less to retain customers than to gain new ones, so invest money in nurturing and developing your current contracts, focusing on loyalty, long-term value, cross sales, and up sales.
Find out more – download my free marketing guide for SME manufacturers
In 2017, I wrote and published the now Amazon #1 bestseller ‘Marketing for Manufacturers’ specifically to inspire small- to mid-sized manufacturers and engineering companies to take their marketing more seriously.
Now, in 2021, I’ve written a free e-guide booklet, again for manufacturers, called ‘The 7 Classic Marketing Mistakes Made by Manufacturers and How To Avoid Them’.
This guide explains the ways in which manufacturing businesses so often sell themselves short in terms of marketing, the negative impact this has on your sales and, most crucially, what you can do to avoid these mistakes.
I’m now offering you this guide for free, as a download from my website, so please [click here] to get your own copy, and even download the audio version to listen to in your car or office.
If you’re unhappy with your sales performance or would like to find out more about how to grow your manufacturing business in today’s environment, please get in touch today for a free, no-obligation advisory consultation.
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