This week I had the opportunity to interview a local leader of a prominent manufacturing company. Mr. Eddie Wilkinson is the President of Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake Company (BSFB), located in Elyria, OH. BSFB offers a single, complete source for OEM brake system design, manufacturing, hardware, and support for all foundation brake components and actuation systems.
The interview was focused on marketing activities and interests from a manufacturer’s perspective. You can read the questions and answers below:
What are your top priorities in marketing as a manufacturing company?
In our industry, there are a few key drivers for buying decisions: vehicle safety, operating costs, and product reliability. Additionally, due to a driver shortage in America, driver satisfaction has also begun to influence buying decisions. Drivers/companies receive scores based on their vehicle passing a roadside inspection. These scores are critical to a company’s drivers, safety ratings and insurance costs.
Having said all that, the highest priority for me is to demonstrate that we can satisfy our customer or a potential customer’s needs, specifically as they relate to stopping a large truck or bus safely within the required stopping distances and according to federal motor vehicle standards.
The marketing efforts must show our commitment to the vehicle safety and reliability that’s required by our customers, required from governmental regulations, expected from the driver community, and demanded from the public. In addition, good marketing efforts should demonstrate the “value proposition” that’s offered to end users or customers – how our product will generate value for their business. For example, lower fuel costs, reduced labor costs for maintenance, and lighter weight allowing for more payload on the trucks are all needs that provide value to the customer.
What do you see as marketing trends for the future in terms of tools used, designs, or techniques?
I would suspect that the trends are not that different for manufacturing than in other segments. Marketing should leverage the instant transmission of electronic data at your fingertips (e.g. smart phone apps that satisfy customer needs or answer their questions while redirecting them to products).
Marketing tools should be designed to aid the sales person to have the most current marketing materials instantly; for example, marketing materials that show your products on their newest model vehicle, or video of your product solving their business need. I do not believe that in the future, at least the foreseeable future, technology and data will replace the personal touch or relationship interface, but the tools must help the relationship manager become more efficient, more effective, and more nimble. Speed will be a higher priority. Not that it is new, but competitive data comparisons at your fingertips will be even more powerful.
How do you generate, nurture, and manage leads?
We leverage personal relationships to generate new opportunities more often than anything else. Those relationships are important for many reasons, but they also spread a positive message about our products. We also leverage industry events, distributors and their networks to generate business opportunities. Some marketing activities are leveraged in each of these situations and we nurture those uniquely for each customer situation. We also foster product comments through dealerships, fleet owners, and others channels, with onsite training and education, troubleshooting, and customer service tailored to the specific customer.
Generally speaking, our industry leads are nurtured with direct engagement from our sales organization. We reach out in person or via a telephone call to understand their need and ensure that we can satisfy that need. We then characterize the scope and magnitude of their business need. From there we deploy resources accordingly. Our training programs and field services are additional methods for nurturing business opportunities.
Can you expand on barriers or challenges that you see for marketing as a manufacturer?
Well, in my opinion, typical manufacturers are good at designing and manufacturing their products, but may not have the most current tools and techniques to engage in cutting edge marketing strategies. Depending on the manufacturer, they may be convinced they know how to market their products because they have done it for many years. However, I would suggest that that is specifically why they should consider reaching out to experts in the marketing field for fresh ideas and concepts.
The challenge for a marketing firm is how to gain the interest of the manufacturer and convince them that what you offer is better than what they can do themselves, and will generate more sales opportunities than their own efforts. Often, it may be difficult to actually reach the decision makers directly and you will get a “not interested” answer from someone that is not authorized to accept a new marketing provider.
My recommendation is to focus on establishing yourself as a long-term partner that will accept any challenge to get your foot in the door and demonstrate your value as you work your way into a long-term relationship. Learn critical concepts about their industry, about their products, and their organizational values or culture. It is not easy to gain access to a market where you have no knowledge and experience, so gaining that knowledge is critical.
What aspects of marketing help to increase sales?
Focus on the purpose of the prospect company and their product. For example, “reliable products for vehicles” could be better marketed as “experience vehicle safety or saving lives” or “protecting passengers, property, and families.” Purpose is always more powerful than function. Having said that, know your targeted audience. If the function solves their problem and that will generate the value proposition they are looking for given their situation, then demonstrate the reliability and effectiveness of the function. I would still likely bring it back to the purpose as often as possible. (end interview)
I think there are some good takeaways here for both manufacturers and marketers. Are you a manufacturer? Or a marketer/agency serving the manufacturing industry? What are your takeaways from this interview? Share them in the comments below!
For another post about the manufacturing industry, check out:
The Secret to Lead Generation for Manufacturers