How to promote service-specific elements - from processes to machinery - to B2B buyers and organisations.
It’s often that the product of a manufacturing organisation is its specific manufacturing capability. This is certainly the case with many organisations we work with within the pharma supply chain.
But it's also common that, at least on the surface, that the manufacturing capabilities of organisations do not differ from one another. Differentiation is often difficult to achieve, just as is a competitive advantage.
Such organisations compete with others in a procurement process that often consists of a tick-box exercise, where price contributes heavily to the outcome of the process. If you're in a privileged position, you might win business from referrals or existing relationships where the value of the deal sometimes lies within the proposed partnership.
But the investments made in processes, machinery and manufacturing procedures can also be emphasised and brought up to the same level as price in the sales process.
In this post, we will run through some of the key considerations and factors that exist within a B2B manufacturing marketing environment.
PORTER'S GENERIC STRATEGIES FOR COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE
As previously mentioned, price will have a strong say in the scoring when potential suppliers and manufacturing organisations are benchmarked against each other. But organisations who cannot move on price have other options for competitive advantage that are worthy of exploring.
Porter's Generic Competitive Strategies suggests there are two basic types of competitive advantage for organisations: low cost or differentiation.
For manufacturing organisations where low cost isn't achievable, differentiation - where an organisation aim to be unique in some way - looks to identify attributes buyers will perceive as important. By repositioning the product or service against that of the competition with unique elements and may not lower on price to match the competition.
In competitive markets, such as in pharmaceutical manufacturing, a differentiation strategy is usually required (along with a marketing plan to promote this differentiation) even if the organisation is deemed to be the cheapest option for buyers.
IDENTIFYING A MANUFACTURING AND PROCESS STRENGTH TO PROMOTE
Identifying strengths within an organisation's manufacturing process may sound an easy task for someone who knows the manufacturing process well. But the engineer who states the organisation has "a new machine that provides an innovative new way of automating the manufacturing process" might not strike a chord with the target market or buyer.
On the other hand, positioned a little differently, the same statement can be used as a differentiating strategy: "Our new process increases productivity and delivers 20% more units than the industry standard within time frame X." The Four Actions Framework can be used to reconstruct buyer value elements as such for product differentiation, diving into the value chain to find such strengths.
Of course, every organisation will operate within a different set of environmental factors where the differentiating elements vary. Since we are looking at manufacturing differentiation, The 5 M’s of Marketing (which can be used in a number of ways) consist of Manpower, Materials, Machinery, Minutes and Money and may be suitable to identify the assets and commitments required for such strategy from an internal perspective.
BENEFITS OF THE FEATURES, NOT THE DETAILS OF THE FEATURES
Buyers look for benefits, not the features. They might not understand all the features like your engineers and manufacturing teams do and as eluded to in the previous section, these features need to be highlighted in a non-process/product specific way so that the outcomes are made clear. Of course, innovative machinery needs to be promoted, but the weight of that promotion should come from what the innovative machinery produces for the target market. For anyone interested in your manufacturing services, it's not about your investment and process, rather about how your process adds value to them.
Benefits outweigh features in marketing simply because we need to convey why working with our organisation matters. This needs to be made clear during any procurement or sales process when manufacturing is the product being sold. "We produce X per month where our competitors produce fewer at Y" or "We half the time to take your products to market due to our innovative manufacturing processes."
Ensure that once the differentiating elements are identified - effective risk-free delivery, hassle-free experiences or a superior process outcome such as quality, for example - that they are translated into benefits that non-engineers and manufacturing personnel can understand. This is an easy one to get mixed up on, but also, and easy one to put right.
INTERNAL MANUFACTURING AND MARKETING CONFLICT
Be aware that this process isn't a seamless one. This is because such a task does not sit with just the marketing team alone. HBR (as far back as 1977) have identified the marketing/manufacturing areas of necessary cooperation and potential conflict that is likely common within any organisation where it manufactures products and deploys an in-house marketing team to promote the products or manufacturing process. They are summarised below.
Whether the business departments differ in their perspectives on evaluation or the complexity of work or the business orientation in general, conflict will likely hinder the organisation's ability to market its core service product, being manufacturing. Be ready for potential disagreement.
HBR concludes: "The company will prosper when the marketing and manufacturing functions operate in an atmosphere of cooperation with the realisation that each has its role to play and its needs to fill. Neither function can subvert the other."
THE NATURE OF B2B MARKETING
It is also no secret that B2B pharma, although at the forefront of innovative technologies and manufacturing processes, are lagging behind other industries with their use of new marketing tactics. Many B2B manufacturing organisations' marketing outputs are similar in this respect, where B2C organisations are streets ahead.
This presents another problem internally, more so with the marketing team itself, as its team members may prefer to use traditional methods rather than experiment with something different than a marketer 10-20 years junior might suggest.
To stay ahead, keep one eye on how people use new technology (and their expectations) and the other on how industries are converging (rather than operating in verticals). Move away from your comfort zone and look to experiment with new marketing technologies and ideas, just like your R&D team. We have previously looked at B2C content marketing examples for a sample.
B2B marketing tactics for manufacturers promoting their services and products generally fall into five categories.
Current customers, providing that satisfactory levels are reached in terms of service, will likely favour to resume using your services. Cost, resource, consistency and predictability are some of the reasons why, where that organisation will not want to endure another procurement process after securing your services. It will also cost your organisation a lot less to win more business from current customers and their importance within your business should not go unnoticed.
Go above and beyond for your current customers in every way possible.
Word of mouth marketing is considered one of the strongest forms of marketing for B2B organisations. Good news spreads and if an organisation needs to purchase or outsource services it can use word of mouth marketing to aid the procurement process or bypass it entirely. Referrals account for a large amount of today's B2B sales for manufacturers (both for those buying and selling) who tend to stay within a small circle of existing relationships for a trusted recommendation.
Consider an industry leader or independent representative that can work with you to generate referrals on your behalf or work with media representatives.
Although referrals are strong (in that the likelihood of conversion into customer being high), manufacturing organisations are also required to conduct brand awareness and lead generation programmes to promote and sell services. An organisation cannot rely solely on referrals regardless of how effective they are and need to focus on shaping a compelling message and then take that message to market.
Not many manufacturing organisations will be conducting content and SEO activities, which means that search engines could be a great place to get in front of your target audiences before your competitors do.
Partnerships are similar to referrals in that they exist within a community of B2B professionals who often know of each other. However, they are very different by their nature: referrals tend to be a one-way recommendation of an organisation's service and a partnership is formed for mutual benefits between two organisations. In other instances, both organisations might need to provide a combined service and will look to work together or even work together to acquire a new client. Partnerships are highly effective within a B2B context and require consideration.
Use videos to showcase your current partnerships that include behind the scenes snippets along with testimonials, demonstrations and educational content to show other organisations what it's like to work with you.
Direct sales is also common within B2B manufacturing, especially within the pharma supply chain. As a promotional tactic, it is one of the oldest methods of promoting organisations and their services and has always been highly successful... until very recently. Generally, people are becoming more aware of sales tactics used on them and prefer self-service, paving the way for new marketing tactics to emerge which will become more important than ever before for manufacturing organisations. This said, do not forget about your sales team just yet.
Conduct (inbound) sales activities but do not hard sell your clients; customers do not want to be sold to and will request help when they are ready to buy.
B2B DECISION-MAKING CONSIDERATIONS
Whilst we are looking at promoting business processes to other businesses, we also need to take into consideration how the B2B buyer or procurement executive thinks and makes his or her decisions. It's safe to say that, unless you are promoting your message directly to other marketing professionals, an emotional appeal may not go down well and a straight-to-the-point approach may be better suited.
Consider the following factors which the B2B buyer will factor as added-value incentives into the decision-making process:
Access to information.
Personalised and bespoke solutions.
Speed and efficiency of delivery.
Quality and expertise.
Reliability or manufacturing process and machinery.
Readily available support.
Opportunity for a long term partnership and relationship.
And as we are already aware... price.
NO MANUFACTURING ORGANISATION IS THE SAME
Even though the considerations above are eligible for all B2B manufacturing organisations, no manufacturing organisation is alike. Making promoting processes, machinery and manufacturing processes and services highly difficult.
McKinsey identifies that no two manufacturing industries are exactly alike and they state that: "The largest segment by output (gross value added) includes industries such as autos, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals. These industries depend heavily on global innovation for local markets - they are highly R&D intensive -and also require close proximity to markets."
The good news, however, is that this research identifies that manufacturing in general - not to mention chemicals and pharmaceuticals - is entering a dynamic new phase: "By 2025, a new global consuming class will have emerged, and the majority of consumption will take place in developing economies. This will create rich new market opportunities. Meanwhile, in established markets, demand is fragmenting as customers ask for greater variation and more types of after-sales service."
If you haven't defined your differentiation strategy for your manufacturing organisation, with a focus on the marketing message, now is the time to start and you will discover a unique selling proposition.
WHERE TO START?
The process of promoting your manufacturing services and processes starts with the manufacturing processes themselves, the machinery and the people who conduct those processes.
Evaluate the internal strengths alongside environmental factors and develop a strategy that can be used as a differentiating element. Craft a message (a unique selling proposition) for this strength that communicates the benefits of its features to the target market - create a persona to reflect the customer who should respond to this if clarity of the buyer is required.
Your manufacturing processes are unique and highly innovative, and they will get attention. There is a myriad of tactical methods of taking this to market initially - advertising, inbound marketing, press releases, social posts, infographics and videos are just some of them - and then reiterate the message further along during the buyer's journey.