The Manufacturing Executive
The Manufacturing Executive

Episode 113 · 3 months ago

How to Craft Messaging that Resonates with the Right Customers

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Over the years, I’ve talked to a lot of manufacturers as a marketing advisor. When I ask them what their ideal customer looks like, I usually get a response saying that they deal with many types of customers in many different industries.  

While there’s nothing wrong with targeting different customers, channeling your marketing energy into lanes where you have the best chances of winning will assure you don’t spread yourself too thin. 

Join us as we discuss:

  • Making intentional decisions about which audience segments to focus on
  • Identifying the buying process influencers and what matters most to them
  • Frameworks for crafting a customer-centric brand narrative

No one cares who you are or what you do until they believe that you understand their issues and their goals, until they're confident that you are a true expert and they've seen proof that you have helped others just like them be successful. Welcome to the manufacturing executive podcast, where we explore the strategies and experiences that are driving mid size manufacturers forward. Here you'll discover new insights from passionate manufacturing leaders who have compelling stories to share about their successes and struggles, and you'll learn from B two B sales and marketing experts about how to apply actionable business development strategies inside your business. Let's get into the show. Welcome to another episode of the Manufacturing Executive podcast. I'm Joe Sullivan, your host and a CO founder of the Industrial Marketing Agency guerilla seventy six. This episode is brought to you by Alpha Software Corporation. Alpha software helps manufacturers digitized paper forms, making data collection fast and easy with built in analytics dashboards. Get a free trial at Alpha software DOT COM. Slash M e. So I've talked to a lot of manufacturers over the years as a marketing advisor and whenever I ask this question, what does your ideal customer look like? I usually get a response that sounds something like this. Well, we do a lot of work in automotive and aerospace, but we also have customers and medical device manufacturing and Pharma and also chemical and oil and gas, and I guess you could throw egg and construction in there too. And it's tough to say who the ideal customer is because we have these big flagship products we sell, but we also do maintenance and sell some consumables and they're all important. Okay, fair enough, and I'm certainly not here to tell you how to run the operations of Your Business, but I will tell you this. To Be Successful with...

...marketing, you're going to have to make some decisions about where to focus, and that's what we're going to talk about today. When you're targeting, say, eight different types of customers, the division of your marketing resources is going to essentially follow suit here. So, if you think about it, if all those different industry verticals I just named, or maybe you segment differently than by vertical, maybe just by customer type or by Persona, if maybe there's overlap in what customers care about from one vertical to another. You know, the thing you really need to think about is that to reach and influence all of these different types of customers and have enough energy and budget and resources to allocate to marketing to those people across the board, you're really just going to run out of energy, you're gonna be thinned out and you're not going to accomplish anything for anybody really. And so what that means is you have to make some decisions. Again, this may not be this doesn't mean that you have to say, well, we're just not going to work with customers in, I don't know, egg and construction and oil and gas anymore because we really need to focus. That's not what I'm recommending here or what I'm I'm advising you on. What I'm saying is that with your marketing initiative and the investment you make there of time and resources and budget, we gotta pick some places, pick a lane and go hard there, pick a place where you feel like you can win. And you know, one exercise I like to go through sometimes with customers or clients of ours is to say, you think of a grid, here we're on, you know, the x axis. You have say growth potential, and on the Y axis you have profitability and plot your different customer types on that grid and say, you know, where are we both profitable and we feel like there's untapped market share that we can still win, or maybe it's a you know, an industry or or type...

...of customer that's in a space that's growing and there's, you know, there's a lot of runway for growth for our business as a result of that. Um, you could do it that way. You know, another way you could do it is to look at, you know, on the on the x axis, you do Um uncaptured market share, and then on the y axis you do where your true expertise really lies. And I talked to a lot of companies that are, you know, kind of over the years. They've just started, they've worked with so many customers. Certain customers have just fallen on their laps and before you know it they're working with all kinds of businesses that really aren't even even where they're at their best. But they're doing it because somebody approached them and at some point they figured out how to do it. So, regardless of how you decide where to focus, my main point here is to do that, to focus one way or another, be intentional and make some decisions and say we're going to go try to win customers that are part of this segment because we know we can win there. So when you do make that decision to focus, here are some things that happen. There's kind of a snowball effect that that plays out here. You know, first of all, your attention and resources are no longer divided like it just described Um and when that happens you have time to really deeply learn what matters to that type of customer. You know, if you're spread thin across ten different customer types, it's I think it's really hard for you and for your people to figure out what are the true pain points that these people are experiencing and especially those buying process influencers inside of those companies, what are the desired future states they're trying to reach? In some cases you may not have a big enough sample size to really learn that deeply if you're just sort of constantly trying to be everything to everyone. So lets you when you focus, you your resources aren't divided, you have time to learn what matters to that specific type of customer. And then what happens with your marketing messaging is. You can craft messaging that aligns very specifically with those things, those pain points,...

...as desire future states of that specific type of person from that specific type of company, maybe plant managers and maybe some type of engineer inside of a specific company in a specific industry, and you're you know, understand what matters to them. You start to get to know them really well. You can craft messaging that resonates with them and starts to earn attention and trust from more people who look just like them. We went through this ourselves as as a company years back when we said we're no longer going to be a generalist marketing agency, we're going to work specifically with midsize B two B manufacturers, and a snowball effect immediately started, you know, to go in motion. It took a little while to really get rolling, but the insights we gather from one company become applicable to others and you become an expert. And then what happens is the perception of your expertise because you can speak to you know your experiences working with others just like them. When you're talking to a new prospect, those things really start to matter and people notice that and they say you really understand people like me. And so then what happens is you're able to sell more product or service or whatever you're offering is to that type of customer because they believe that you truly understand them. And the snowball keeps rolling to after you build these relationships. These relationships let you produce insights that let you see patterns and before you know it you're you're truly an expert working with that type of customer and and kind of become the obvious choice. And you can take those insights that you gather and you feed it right back into your messaging and your messaging gets that much stronger and resonates even more with those type of people. So this is what can get set in motion when you make a decision from a marketing perspective to focus in some place, and it doesn't have to be forever, but um it means maybe for the next six or twelve months if you go here and really understand this customer and go after them and, you know, stop dividing all of your resources and when there, and then you can take the things you've learned there that are working and not and...

...start applying it to, say, a different type of customer. Um, but it's gonna work a lot better for you that way than trying to just sort of throw darts at ten different audiences at once. Okay, so now that we've sort of talked about the idea of creating focus and maybe a few different ways to think about how to focus and what the effect that has. Um, now you know, need to start thinking about the messaging. You know, if you're dialed in on this one type of audience, whether it's a specific vertical or a type of customer or maybe a more product centric segmentation, somebody who buys this specific type of product. Um, now you can dial in on how do we create messaging that is going to resonate with them and is going to focus on the things that matter to them, because I will tell you that most manufacturers, in fact most business business to business companies out there, they come out of the gate talking all about themselves. These are you know, these are our products, these this is why we're better than our competed editors. This is why, you know, we've got the best customer service and the best, you know, customer experience and the most expertise and uh, and the reality of it is that no one cares who you are or what you do until they believe that you understand their issues and their goals, until they're confident that you are a true expert and they've seen proof that you have helped others just like them be successful. And you're not going to nail all that by just talking about yourself. It's all lip service to them until they have a reason to believe it. You can start accomplishing some of this with your messaging. Again, if you're dialed in on a specific type of customer. Instead of I, me my, we us our these first person pronouns that are all about you, you start shifting the messaging to them and what matters to them. So, again, coming back to those pains that those specific types of people are experiencing, what matters to them and the buying process and in their daily jobs. Um. So let's talk about that a little bit more. Um, you know, a guerrilla.

We talk all the time about identifying who those buying process influencers are that you're trying to reach, because you're not just selling to companies right, you're selling to actual human beings inside of companies, and each of those individuals that you need to reach has a job that they need to complete and the problems they're experiencing in that job and things they're responsible for accomplishing for their company. And so we need to understand what, what are those people? Who are those people, first of all, so that we can understand what matters to them. But you know, I always say that if you're talking to procurement, you're already too later. If procurements your your first touch, you're already too late because usually inside of the companies you're trying to reach, there's a CFO that's approving that check that procurements eventually writing, and there's some design engineer or some technical professional who's specting your product in or Um, you know, making a decision that this is the type of this is the product we want to use, so that he or she can influence the check that's written, as opposed to just choosing the low price solution. And even earlier than that, there's often somebody on the shop floor, whether it is a plant manager or someone even more sort of in the weeds or, you know, could be a machine operator, could be a well, there could be somebody on the plant floor that's experiencing an issue that makes the plant manager say, Hey, we need this new solution Um and so these are the these are the types of people you have to think about. What is this buying process actually look like? And again, if you are dialed in on a specific type of company and you really understand how they buy and what matters inside of those organizations Um and inside of those industries specifically, then you can start to get down into you know, what do the what do these most and who are these most important buying process influencers and what matters most of them? What are those problems they do within their job? What are the bigger issues they're trying to solve? The future states they want to achieve, common questions that they're asking?...

What matters to them in the buying process? So let's just take one of those buying process influencers and use it as an example. For a lot of our clients and the companies have consulted over the years, there's somebody like a plant manager or a facility manager who is one of those most influential people, especially if you know the thing you sell is capex equipment or some piece of heavy equipment that is um you know, out there on a on a shop floor, uh, there's usually somebody who's in charge of making a decision around that. And so what? So the question asks what things matter to that person. If it's a plant manager, this person probably cares about things like, you know what, if my line goes down, how can I create redundancy to prepare for that? Or what do I need to budget for, you know, certain equipment, Um, that may, you know, reach end of life in the next year or the next ten years even. What are my different options? You know what, if I invested this much versus this much, what's the trade off? What's the long term coast cost of ownership? What's the timeline to R O I? So these are things that that person is probably responsible for, types of things that are keeping that person up at night and Um, and so you have to get your mindset into how do how can my expertise or my company's expertise help that person understand the answers those questions better? Help put that person at ease, help demonstrate that you are a true expert on this topic so that you're in the consideration set and you there's awareness for you and your product and your company whenever it is that that person enters the buying process, whether that's now or in a month or in a year. Okay, so how do you uncover these things? Is the next thing I want to touch on. These issues, these common questions, these future states. UH, coming all the way back to the beginning. Here, you're dialed in on a specific type of customer and, as a result, you can understand deeply what matters to who those buying process influences are, what matters to them, and how do you start to...

...uncover those things inside of a specific type of company? A couple of a couple of ways that I'll touch on here. The first thing that we like the most when we work with manufacturers is to go directly to the source. You interview your customers, and we do this on behalf of our clients, where we interview their customers as a sort of third party, Um, you know, source removed from the the actual customer, that it allows them to sort of open up and feel more comfortable talking about some of these things with the types of questions that we will ask our clients customers in customer interviews include things like the following. What are your personal responsibilities at your company. We might be asking this of a plant manager, for example, and what are what you measured on, uh in terms of success in your role? How how are you evaluated? What's the most difficult or stressful or time consuming part of your job? What aspects of your role pull your attention away from that Poe Guess? What projects are you currently working on? Can you describe the problems that you were hoping to solve when you started the buying process for, say, whatever your product or services, and what baseline performance standards do you need from that product or solution to consider it satisfactory, if not better? How did you first discover and then fill in the blank with the name of Your Company? How how did they discover you in the first place? How did you evaluate our company alongside of competitors? What things were positives for you? What things were negatives? What were the competitors doing better, but you ultimately chose US anyway? What were the biggest challenges at the outside of this first project you hired us for or this product you bought from us that Um you know, filled the need that you had? What was that steak? What was that stake? If you used, if you chose the wrong product. You know, a lot of cases, if you're selling something that's big ticket and it's a high price point, there's a lot at risk if they...

...get it wrong. And so what mattered the most? What was at risk? If you know, if it was a more of a project based thing, if you didn't finish on time or you didn't have the solution at place in time, and then why did you ultimately hire us as opposed to somebody else? What was sort of the final thing that was helped you make that decision, especially if it was a difficult decision to make about which way to go. So these are just sort of some of those starting places. But if you can ask these questions of, say, the plant manager or this design engineer, whoever that most important buying process influencer is inside of the companies you're trying to reach, and you get a sampling from five or ten or twenty over time of people who look like this, you really start to get an understanding of what matters to these people. You'RE gonna see trends emerge, you're going to see common threads and now you've got something that you can formulate messaging out of a lot of times we will take the words directly out of the mouths of our clients customers, and we will feed it right back into their marketing materials, in their positioning language, in the ads they run and paid social for example, targetings those exact people do, say a Linkedin ad. We'll do it in email messaging, wherever, you know, wherever we can apply outward facing messaging, we're gonna WE'RE gonna take those insights and we're gonna use them directly. So what if? You know what if, for one reason or another, it's just too hard to get a sampling from your customers, and first of all, I'll encourage you to push through that. You get resistance from others within your organization or you feel yourself sort of just not inclined to say bug a customer because you don't, you know, you feel like you're gonna be bothering them. First of all, I'll tell you that most people are not going to resist that. Most of your customers are gonna be happy to help you, especially if you position it as hey, we are just trying to become better, we're trying to understand our audience better so we can serve you better or we can prove our product line Um, and so most people are gonna be happy to help you to jump on a fifty twenty minute call to answer some of these questions. In fact, that...

...they will look at you as they'll probably have a lot of respect for you for taking the time to do that, because they know that you're invested in your product or your service or R and D and getting better, and so that's a positive thing actually reflect positively on you. So I'd encourage you to push through any resistance that either you get from others in your company to to actually talk to your customers in this way or if you're just feeling it yourself, if you're the ultimate decision maker, Um, push through it. So anyway. But if, if for whatever reason, you can't or in addition to that, I would still encourage you to get the second hand insights as well, and by that I mean talk to your sales team or your account managers or whoever the people are who interface directly with your customers on a regular basis. And what are the issues that these people here, these people on your team here, or time and time again on sales calls or in customer conversations? What are the questions are being asked by everybody that they seem to want to know, as it relates to your area of expertise, Um, what industry trends are they seeing in their conversations? That are clearly things that are are coming up time and time and time again. These are all really great things that you can use to feedback into your positioning or your messaging as you create focus and you try to reach a specific type of customer. Let's take a quick break for a word from our sponsor. Still using paper forms for inspections? Alpha Software Corporation helps manufacturers turn paper forms into powerful mobile APPS. You'll create more accurate and thorough manufacturing data, and built in dashboards will help your manager's pinpoint quality and supplier issues faster. You don't need to have any development skills to build apps with Alpha software. They offer APP templates that make it easy. Get a free trial at Alpha software dot com, slash M e. okay, so now that we've got all that behind us, we've talked about focusing on the right customer, identifying the influencers and figuring out what matters to them. Now we need to actually craft messaging that's going to...

...resonate, and you know just to give you an example, I'm gonna use my own business. We're obviously a marketing agency, not a manufacturer, but there's you know, it's the same situation here. We're trying to reach a specific audience and talk to them in a way that is that matters to them and not is not all about us. And so here's what we could say. You know, for those of you who are listening and don't know, I co own a industrial marketing agency works specifically with midsized B two B manufacturers. And so here's what we could say and probably what we used to say, frankly, eight or ten years ago on the home page of our website and our elevator pitch when we meet somebody new or on a first sales call, we'd say we'd say, or could say something like this. We could say guerrilla seventy six is an award winning Integrated Marketing Agency that specializes in positioning and content strategy and search engine optimization and paper Click ads and social media marketing and email marketing and website development and marketing and sales tech stack implementation and Blah Blah, blah, Blah Blah. We hire only the absolute best in the industry and our customer services second to none. Well, first of all, the word specialize would seem to indicate that you maybe are an expert in a few things, not trying to be everything to everyone. And I just read you a long bulleted list of all kinds of stuff we do. Uh, you know, speaking in a way that you know, when we come out of the gate saying guerrilla seventy is an award winning integrated marketing agency, first of all, it's all about us. Right out of the gate. It's meaningless corporate speak that probably means nothing to my audience. And by the time you get to the end of that bulleted list, first of all, you've completely lost them anyway. When you say things like we hire only the absolute best or we've got the best customer service or the best people, there is no reason why somebody who doesn't know you yet a future potential customer, would ever have any reason to believe that. And and your competitors are saying the same, Same Dang thing. And so what you need to do here is...

...flip this messaging completely around. Instead of just talking all about yourself and why you're the best, what you need to do instead is you need to come out of the gate talking about who you help and how you help that specific type of person or company, and you need to talk about the issues that those people tend to be experiencing that would lead them to you in the first place and talk about it in a way that will resonate with you. Know, those exact will resonate with them for the exact reasons that they stated in those customer interviews. So you know, I just gave you an example of how I could write really poor positioning that's focused on me for my company. So here's what we actually say. This is on a page on our website that's titled who we help and how. We start by saying we don't do everything and we don't do it for everyone. We help B two B manufacturers grow through revenue focused marketing programs. We link to a page there that says here's what our ideal client looks like and we drive people to that that page where we go in even more depth about who are ideal customers. But we go on to say manufacturers see our seek our expertise when they are lacking awareness among ideal future customers, when they're not consistently filling their pipelines with sales qualified opportunities, when they're still relying on trade shows and referrals to drive business, when they're unable to connect the dots between their marketing spend and real business outcomes, when they're missing cross selling opportunities with existing customers, when they're struggling with an outdated hiring process that doesn't attract or retain top talent. And so, as you can see here, we say very concisely and briefly who we do help, and then we go on to talk about the things that we hear time and time and time again from our customers and prospects about why they would...

...come to a company like us. So we're pulling those and we've done this customer interview process that I just described. We've done this for our own customers and we pulled those insights into our own messaging so that we could write something like this. You know, again, we start by focusing on the customer instead of ourselves. We make it clear who we help and who we don't, and then we identify with their pains and objectives, and this is exactly what you can do. So here's here. I'm gonna give you a couple of frameworks here. I'm not going to go through them in depth because I want you to go pick up these copies of these books honestly and figure out for yourself which one makes sense for you in terms of crafting your own brand narrative. But there are there are two, Um, two resources that I love both of them. We use them both for our clients and we're helping them with positioning and messaging. Sometimes one makes more sense than the other, so we usually pick or choose depending on Um, and who the customers and and how we want to craft messaging for them. But the first one is a book called New Sales Simplified by Mike Weinberg. Um, I had Mike Weinberg on the show actually, Um, you know, back in I think it was probably, I don't know, early or so, so you can go check out that episode if you'd like. Mike is just absolutely brilliant and he wrote a book called new sales simplified. It's a sales book, but Chapter Eight of that book is all about crafting what he calls your sales story. And you know, from my perspective this is a brand narrative. It's a this is so it's a way to very concisely right who we help, what problems are goals lead those people to us, how we help them address those things and what makes us different Um. And it's a great framework. It's exactly what we used on that who we help and help page that I just read, part of two on on our own website, and we've helped our clients use that same platform to do it for themselves. So pick up a copy of new sales simplified by Mike Weinberg and specifically read Chapter Eight. Okay, so the other platform that we really like for writing a brand narrative or positioning language or whatever you want to call it. That that messaging that...

...describes who you help and how to your customers. Um Comes from a book called building a story brand, which is by Donald Miller, and this is like a Wall Street Journal Bestseller. It's Donald Miller is a really well known author and a respected marketer. But what he essentially does is he takes the classic Hollywood script where you have a character, Um, who has a problem that they're trying to solve and they meet a guide and that guide leads them to, you know, leads them to success so they can avoid failure and so you think of, for example, if, if I don't know if there's any other Lord of the Rings Um Dorks listening right now like myself, but you could use star wars, you could use Lord of the Rings, probably a whole variety of classic Hollywood movies. But you have, you know, a character, let's say Frodo Right, who has a problem the end of the world appears to becoming and meets a guide, Gandolf, who gives them a plan to travel to more door and return this ring to the fiery chasm from whence it came and call them to action. Here's a group of people that will help you, but you have to be the one that ends in success. Lord Sauron is defeated and helps them avoid failure, which is the world doesn't end. And so really what Miller does is he says, okay, take this classic Hollywood story and apply it to Your Business, where there is a character who is your customer, who has a problem, you know, whatever that issue is that they're trying to experience or or that they're experiencing, they're trying to solve or that that solution they're trying to get to, and they meet a guide who is you. You are the guide, you're not the hero. They're the hero and you need to focus the messaging on them and you give them a plan whatever. That is the way you consult someone through the process of finding a solution. Um, the way you act as as the top resource to them. Um, that's gonna look different for any company, but you probably know what I'm talking about here. And you call them to action, to, you know, engage in whatever that process looks like to start with you, and and if they engage in that...

...process, you're gonna help them reach that outcome and avoid success and help them understand what things, you know, what, what problems they're going to avoid or potential, you know, wrong outcomes could occur if they don't go down that route. So, again, this is just a way to talk to your customer in a way that, uh, puts the focus on them and takes it away from you. It leads with what matters to them and it sets you up to be the guide to help them get to that outcome that matters to them. Okay, so whether you, you know, go that route of using, say, Mike Windberger Donald Miller's frameworks to help you craft that messaging, Um, and the last question I'd want to answer here is, well, where do you apply this? How do we? We go through this process and we write this really great brand area. Of what happens thence it's you know, we we sits on a we print it out and give it to all our employees and it sits on some shelf and collects dust and nobody ever sees it again. It's kind of the OPP said of what should happen here. Um, and you know the answers. You need to consistently communicate in the same way if you've gone through this process and your c suite, if that's not you, is on board and you know can say this is how we are going to communicate the value we create and for WHO. Now it needs to be consistent, consistently communicated everywhere. You know you're the homepage on your website should pull pieces of this brand narrative. Maybe there should be a page like our who we help and how page that I describe to you that uh, going more depth on that story. And listen, you know, sort of spell out that whole thing on sales calls. When when you're talking to about when you're giving that elevator pitch right this is who we this is who we help, this is how we create value. These companies come to us when they're experiencing these issues. If you position it that way, rather than just going into a launching, into a product pitch about all the stuff you sell and why you're the best, you're gonna capture attention earlier, you're gonna people, the message is going to resonate with people because it's going to be about the things that they're experiencing, not why you're great.

Uh. In your printed materials the same as your website. Right, it should be focused on the value you create and how you help solve problems and presentations you give or lunch and learns or continuing education events or Um, you know, events you speak at our Webinar as you give. All of this messaging should come out there too, internal communications. I mean I think this is really important, just making sure that everybody understands this is inside of your company. This is how we are going to talk to the outside world about who we are and what we do and how we create value. And then, of course, just in your regular customer interactions, to talk this way too. So so that that pretty much wraps it up here. I'm gonna just summarize a few key points that we hit on today. First of all, if you try to be everything to everyone, you wind up being nothing to no one. So you need to make some intentional decisions about which audience that you're going to focus on with your marketing program no one cares about you or what you are or what you do until they believe that you understand their issues and goals and they're confident that you're an expert and they've seen proof that you've helped others like them be successful. So you need to shift your messaging from you to them. You need to learn who those buying process influencers are at the types of companies that you're targeting focus your messaging on the problems and desired future states of those individuals instead of focusing on yourself. And then there are a couple of platforms here that I summarizor that I ran through, chapter eight of new sales simplified by Mike Weinberg, and then building a story brand by Donald Miller. These are both great frameworks for crafting a customer centric brand narrative and recommend picking up both and making a decision about which one makes sense for you. And then you need to finally apply that brand narrative, once you've created it, consistently across your company's communications, including your website, sales calls, print materials, presentations, internal communications and in customer interactions. All right, well, I hope, hopefully, you have inspired you,...

...at least in some capacity, to think a little bit differently about how you go to market, who you focus on and how you're going to talk to those people. And I think if you can put some of this stuff in place, you're gonna start to very sick quickly. See. You'll see it in the in the expressions of people you talked to on your sales calls and customer interactions. You'll start seeing it in terms of the inquiries you get on your website for potential new business and you'll hear people say things like wow, you really understand us. You've seen, you've worked with people who are just like me, haven't you? I can tell just from the way you talk and that that if you can get into that habit and put those pieces in place, it's gonna have a lasting impact on your business. Before we go, I want to say a quick thank you to our sponsor, Alpha Software Corporation. Alpha software helps manufacturers digitized paper forms, making data collection fast and easy with built in analytics dashboards. Get a free trial at Alpha soft or dot com slash M e. you've been listening to the manufacturing executive podcast. To ensure that you never missed an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you'd like to learn more about industrial marketing and sales strategy, you'll find an ever expanding collection of articles, videos, guides and tools specifically for B two B manufacturers at guerrilla seventy SI DOT com slash learn. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

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