The Manufacturing Executive
The Manufacturing Executive

Episode 109 · 4 months ago

Recession proofing your business with marketing


It appears that we’re heading into a recession. So what does that mean for manufacturers? And how can you deploy (or redeploy) your marketing team to make sure you come out in one piece on the other end of it? 

Today John McTigue, a Freelance Writer and B2B Marketing Advisor at The Customer Journey Maestro, joins us to talk about how marketing can help you recession-proof your business. John brings a wealth of insight with experience as a product marketer and account executive in enterprise software, and a digital marketing agency owner and customer journey consultant.  

Join us as we discuss:

  • Focusing not only on a go-to-market strategy, but also a go-to-customer strategy
  • The importance of brand marketing for demand creation
  • Being a problem solver around what matters most to your audience 

Good repurpose that marketing talent in other ways that support the idea of retaining your customers, for example, or doing a better job with product marketing or helping your channel partners. You know marketers have these skills that they could help all of these sort of partners you have and these different initiatives you have, not just marketing. Welcome to the manufacturing executive podcast, where we explore the strategies and experiences that are driving midsize 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 tob 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 Gorilla. Seventy six it doesn't take an economist to tell you that it's been a pretty strange few years in our financial markets. It looked like we were headed for the next Great Depression as covid started bearing down on us in early two thousand and twenty, and then before we knew it, things started booming to the point where it demand far exceeded production capacity for many across the manufacturing sector, and now we appear to be headed into a recession. So what exactly will that mean for manufacturers and what role could your marketing team play in recession proofing your business as much as possible? That's the topic of today's conversation and my guest has a lot of great advice to offer. So let me introduce him. John mctiage is a freelance writer focusing on BEDB companies selling technical products like cyber security solutions and tent data and predictive analytics. In his previous lives, John worked as a geophysicist in the oil and gas industry, as a product marketer and account executive in enterprise software and as a digital marketing agency owner, and also as a customer journey consultant. John Lives and works in the Houston Texas area and therefore has strong opinions about barbecue and text Max. He's a daily participant on Linkedin and you can find him there for a chat just about any time. John. Welcome to the show. Thanks, Joe. It's going to be here. Well, Linkedin is exactly where I found you, and I think we've been kind of interacting with each other's content for, I don't know, a couple of years now, it feels like. Yeah, yeah, and I was just kind of thinking recently why haven't I had this dude on my show yet? So here we are, I know. Well, good things come last, right, or are close? Well, I hope it's not last, but later, let's put it that way. You got it, man. Awesome. Well, John A, see here. When you and I talked a few weeks ago to kind of figure out what we wanted to do with this episode, I liked your thinking about doing something about as we head into what appears to be a recession. I mean, we'll find out soon enough, but it appear to be going that way. What can manufactures do on the marketing front to sort of recession proof their business? I'm going to leave it open ended and kind of have you get us started on that topic. Sounds good. Well, obviously I was. I was right about that. I mean, things are going downhill in a hurry, it seems like. Yeah, see you and I are on Linkedin every day and lots of layoffs going on and lots of people asking questions about what do I do now? And it's not even officially a recession. So, you know, these things have a way of sneaking up on all of this and it seems like, you know, six months ago everything was great. You know, we were everybody was rolling along and you know it's always a little bit up and down... any industry. But you know, things, things have a way of happening quickly. So my point of view on this is that you got to kind of put things in order of priority. So you know, what is a what is a business leader in manufacturing supposed to do? Now you know the the first thing that comes to mind is cut costs. You know, I think just about every leader goes there first. What can we do to reduce overhead? What what can we do that won't have permanent damage on the company, but we can save some money in the shorter term in case things, in case sales dry up a little bit, demand goes south a little bit, you know, what can we do to to be ready for that and to prepare for it? So my mind goes right to churn. You know, the worst thing that you that can happen. I think is you start losing customers because that's revenue right off the you know, right off the books, and it's very expensive to replace revenue like that. It cost way more than you know retaining them, I think statistics have shown. So I would go first and foremost to how do we retain our customers? You know, what, what things can we put in place that we haven't already done? You know, and you immediately think of well, the sales team could get on the phone and start talking to all these customers and finding out how things are going. And if you have a customer success team in place, you know, not just customer support, but people who actually call the customers and help them succeed, get them involved. You know, do do, more, not less, to get your customers engaged. But my thinking is, you know, may it's almost a reflex that, at least in my experience over almost forty years in business, is that one of the first things to get chopped is marketing because it's considered, at least in many companies, it's considered sort of a nice to have, you know, it's non essential, whereas sales is really kind of essential. You might you might scale back the sales team a little bit, but you're never going to get rid of sales marketings and, you know, kind of a soft science. You know, you don't really know what impact marketing is having on growth and profitability and things like that. So it's almost a reflex to start shopping marketing jobs. But if you just look back the last six months again, what did we just come through? It was really, really difficult to find talent. It was really you know, people were leaving and going to other companies. It was really hard to recruit new talent to replace them, really hard to find and keep, you know, your best employees. So kind of the last thing you want to do is go through that again. At least that's my thinking. You know, do you really want to go back through that pain and agony to replace people that you lay off? Or is there is there something else we could do? And so I actually posted about this on linked in this morning. But there are things you could do. You could repurpose that marketing talent in other ways that support the idea of retaining your customers, for example, or doing a better job with product marketing or helping your channel partners. You know, marketers have these skills with that they could help all...

...of these sort of partners you have and these different initiatives you have, not just marketing. So you know some other examples might be. They might be you might be able to redeploy them, at least temporarily, in customer success roles. They've got their hands on the marketing messaging and in the the content that you've created over the last few years and they know exactly where all that stuff is and they know how to advertise, you know, and sort of ways that aren't too obtrusive but help your customers remember you, you know, remember your products, remember what value they're getting out of those products, and maybe they should get back to it, you know, especially if your product is actually helping them through times like this. Why not remind them of that? You know, it's not about bombing them with emails. It's about putting out more content, it's directed towards the issues at hand and clever advertising that isn't just trying, isn't trying to get a demo, because these people are already your customers. It's about what can I do as a customer to get through these next six, twelve months, using your product to help me get there? So those are just some examples. There's plenty of others. But you know, why not use your talent that you worked so hard to get and to keep? Why not keep them busy doing other things that are just as important, you know, more important right now, keeping, keeping your customers. You know, the new the new customers, are still going to be out there. You know there may not be that much demand right now, but they're still going to be out there when the weather clears a little bit and you want your marketers to be ready to pounce, ready to get out there, even sort of in advance of that. Get Your brand out in front of them, remind them of remind New People of the advantages of, you know, of your brand and your products. So that's kind of a summary. There's other things you can do. You know, I a good friend of my, Kathleen booth, who's at trade swell. She was at an agency before and her idea was to create a media company out of the Marketing Department. So what does that mean? That means you're actually creating products by by doing what you do with content marketing, for example. You create communities and products and subscription things that people will pay for. So you can actually generate revenue directly from your marketing department. It's kind of a novel concept, but she did it very successfully in a number of other companies and agencies have followed in that and that path. So that's another example. And then maybe sure up some things that you didn't have time to do very well before. You know, you were out there doing demand generation and advertising and all this other stuff. Maybe there's some other things that you should look into that marketers could be at least parttime deployed on, like, for example, live digital event marketing. You know, instead of going to that trade show that costs you a hundred thousand dollars every time you do it, have some virtual events. But you can't just kind of do that. You got to have people working on it, you got to make it professional, you got to use you got to bring people in, you know, speakers, and...

...have paneled discussions that that your customers care about. So that's a that's another example of how marketers could be sort of redirected into areas that are your weak in. Another one would be product marketing. How well are you communicating between your customers and your product team? What what do you have in place that? What are the product marketers do to position your products well in front of your constant customers and future customers. I think most companies that I've I've worked with and talked to could use some help in product marketing. It's usually not the number one priority for the marketing department. So creating not just product brochures but content that helps customers and potential customers understand the value of your products and how they can be used. And that could be customer interviews, that could be customer generated content, it could be paneled discussions, all kinds of videos and things that help your current customers, but also your future customers, really understand the value of your products. To me, that's kind of what product marketing does, but it yeah, it's often kind of a weak little sister to more of the demand generation, you know, new customer acquisition people. So that's that's, in a nutshell, what I talked about this morning in my blood learn my linkedin post. Yeah, I saw that post. I think it was a good summary and the like the way you elaborated on that. You packed a lot in there. I'm going to maybe pull out a few things that that you talked about. I think that really liked your idea. You know, how do you readeploy, say, the time of some of your people into, you know, more of a customer success focus? You, I think you described when we talked a few weeks ago. You kind of describe this as more of a go to customer strategy as opposed to a go to market strategy. And and yet I think a lot of it overlaps. I think there's a lot of you when you can take your subject matter experts inside of your company and sort of harness what's in their brains and all their expertise around your products and the things you do and the problems you solve, and you get that stuff on camera and you get, you know where you get a market to facilitate some creation of content around that, whether it's written, ner video or audio. Now what you're doing is you're educating, you're using the time of your subject matter experts, you're using the output of that help inform and teacher existing customers and you're also probably repurposing that for new customer acquisition purposes. So I think a lot of the when you said early on in the conversation that marketing tons of you, one of the first things that gets caught as you head into a recession and costs are slashed. I think it's that happens because a lot of manufacturers don't really think of marketing as the way that they should you know, they think of it as as the the nice to have, you know, support the sales, make the website look nice, make some brochures and really where it where it needs to be focused, is how can we, like I said a minute ago, harness all the expertise inside of the brains of our technical experts and become a resource to our cost existing customers, but also future customers. So I don't know if you elaborate more. I mean you said plenty about it there, but I just I wanted to kind of emphasize that because I think there's a lot of overlapp in a few of the things you said in the purposes they...

...serve. I couldn't agree more and I really think it's under utilized, not just in marketing but across the board. So the more you can harness the brain power that you have and get it out there. You know, it could be a video, could be an interview, it could be a blog post, it could be a linkedin presence where you're kind of there every day answering questions. A lot of companies are going into sort of community mode nowadays, so they're creating a customer community, or it could be a broader community of people that are interested in your industry, for example. And then you know, your rock stars, your experts, as you said, they're the key. You know, they're there, the there. The reason people come to communities like that is to ask and answer questions, learn from the pros, you know, get case stories about how the company is as succeeded using this technology or that product. It's crucial nowadays because people are really focused in on not just social media but media in general. You know, how often do we sit down and and read journals and magazines and books anymore? You know, it's sad, but that's that's the way it is. So if you can listen to a podcast and which a real acknowledged expert in cyber security or something is is getting into the weeds about how hackers break in and what you can do about it, you know, because we're all worried about that problem, but everybody's got a similar problem to solve. That's why we're in business. So the more you can leverage that across the entire what we call the customer journey, which is really from the first day you learn about a product or a brand or something like that, all the way through till you're a loyal customer and recommending it to other people. You know that could be a long journey and usually is in manufacturing. The more you can leverage that kind of expertise and content in different ways and different stages of that journey, the more successful you're likely to be in the more likely you are to close sales in the first place, retain them, grow them and get, you know, loyalty, brand loyalty, so you get recommendations for other divisions in a company or other companies all together. So that's kind of how it's all woven together. But you know, the real question is, why should I trust you? Why should I trust your brand? Why should I why should I buy your product? And that boils down to trust too. So how do you get that trust? You have to give to get so you have to give knowledge, you have to give valuable advice, you have to give tips you know and how to's and things like that. You got to get on Youtube and show people how to do stuff and the more you can bring your acknowledged prose to bear on that, the better you got away. That against their real jobs, right. I mean they're actually designing products and so on and overseeing, you know, manufacturing processes and that kind of thing. But you can find time with them, they would actually in my experience at least, they enjoy being on camera, a lot of them do anyway,...

...and and being acknowledged as an expert. That's that's kind of a big deal. Yeah, I agree with you. I had on the show a couple months ago Chris granger from ECO and it's an industrial automation and Power Solutions Company and he oversees a, you know, a team there that if engineers and technical experts that they actually it's actually part of their job role. I don't know what percentage of their time it is, but they have a content creation of responsibility, which I think is really cool, something that I've not really seen inside of a manufacturing organization. But you know, he's a he's a couple of years into his PODCAST FOR EGO and they've spent out two hundred plus episodes the writing content, they're publishing video content and they're building a reputation as the experts in their space as a result of all this. And all it is is it's a lot of his people just, you know, working with him and his team to turn what's in their brains into something that's public facing. And you know, it's I'm not going to say it's easy to do, but it's also not that hard to do when you have you know, the hard thing to do is to acquire all that expertise through all your years of experience, sharing it and having somebody help you sort to facilitate the process of sharing that is a lot less difficult than acquiring that knowledge. So no doubt about it. And you're squeezing more out of the limit as well, right, you're you're actually helping your own people, because your own people are going to watch those same videos and content and they're going to learn how to do things better. Yep, and then, you know, use it to leverage channel partners. All of that sort of authority that you're building up and publishing is helping your brand grow. HMM. I think the problem that leadership often has is that, well, really don't want to just lose all of that Ip. You know, we don't want to just publish everything we know, without kind of scrutinizing it or limiting it, because that's that's our competitive edge and it's not an unreasonable thing to think about, that's for sure. So I think the really smart companies that are doing this have sat down with those subject matter experts and had that conversation and put policies in place, even, you know, kind of rules of engagement and, you know, brand guidelines and things like that. I mean, you don't want to be too heavy handed about that, but it is possible to at least keep things under control and, you know, lose sort of. I think that the big barrier often is that. Well, if my experts have personal brands like that and they're out on Linkedin and people are following them and not us, that could hurt us in the long run, especially if these guys leave. It's true it's a risk, but it's a good risk because most of that time they're spending is generating business for you. One way or another. It's either helping your customers be happier or stay happy, or it's attracting new ones. You know, just by virtue of educating people, like you said, and and by being open and helping people, you know that's kind of the watchword of this centuries marketing is being open and honest and transparent and helping people.

So I think it, like you said earlier, it all fits together. You just have to see it that way. You have to see it if you take, and you mentioned, you know, the sort of go to customer philosophy, what that's about is putting yourself in your customers shoes and looking at your entire organization and your brand and products and everything else, looking at it from their point of view and then adjusting your strategy and your your processes to optimize that experience to really help them get what they want out of engaging with you. So it's a bit of a mindset change. It's really a company wide thing. It's not just sales and marketing or customer success. It's everybody kind of having that customer centric point of view and you can't just sort of imagine that you really have to talk to customers on a regular basis. Everybody does, you know, not just sales and not just support. You know it's got to be marketers need to get on the phone and find hey, what do you like about? You know what happened during your experience shopping for our products. You know what was good and what was bad. What are how are we? You know, how are we doing, essentially, and then what could we be doing better? So communication with customers is a big part of that and I think that's also difficult for companies because they're not used to that. They're used to getting feedback occasionally, but not like every week. You know, it's not like asking them to be on your podcast. You know that's a difference, different level, but it's an important level. You know, we should we should all be striving to do that. I think, John, I want to swing back around to, you know, this idea of hey, we're looks like we're headed into a recession here. Maybe there are things we can do on the marketing front in regard to new customer acquisition, but I think the approach needs to be different and one of you, one of my favorite marketers to follow is Chris Walker, founder and CEO of the marketing agency refine labs. He's got a major linkedin presence and I think it's done a lot of really innovative things terms of his thinking and sharing his insights. But he brought up a point recently on his own podcast that during a recession there's less demand out there to capture, which, if you think about it, I mean it's a simple thing, right. Less people are buying in your market, the potential pie of business to win is smaller. So when that's the case, if you kind of sit back and wait for people to come find you through search engines or, you know, referrals or other means, kind of playing a losing game. So I think, you know, I want to hear from your perspective. Why is it so important to proactively go out there and be doing the brand of marketing that will, you know, essentially create demand for your product and be doing that consistently during good and bad times, and and will help, you know, not only create de man for your product, but your business and even the category of business that you kind of reside within. Well, I agree with you, you know, and I do follow Chris and I, you know, I think he's really tapped into something that has changed on its own because of customers preferences. But is also important for us as marketers and go to marketing people to embrace and think about because of that fact, because customers,... know, they want to do things on their terms. They don't want to be sold to anymore. They want to do some research and find what they need to find and do their comparison, just like they do for a car or TV or whatever else. It's all kind of done the Amazon way nowadays and they don't want exactly that ex same experience from a manufacturer in B Tob, but they want some of that, you know, they don't want to be harassed and they do want to learn first and they want to become aware of you know, what the problem is and why I should care. You know what it's what it's likely to become if I don't do something about it. You know, questions like that. You know, if you look at your own work life, what could be better? Where do we need to go and how are we going to get there? You know, basic questions like that lead people to do some research and that might be an argument for, you know, Google and organic search and things like that, and it is to some extent. You got to be there during the search, but you also have to be more proactive than that. I think, as we talked about earlier, having your expertise out there in sort of a live format, you know, either on social media or in quasi live things like a like a virtual event, for example. People actually tune into that stuff. They learn from that stuff. Nowadays they don't want to just do a search, they want to hear it from person. And the other thing is that it could be secondhand. You know, I might hear something on a podcast that I think you would benefit from, so I'll tell you. You know, I'll jump on linkedin or send you an email say hey, you know, you need to check this out. This you know, I saw you talking about this problem you were you were having and this might be the solution. So that kind of word of mouth is very prevalent. You know, they call it dark social on Chris Walkers on his team, and it is kind of dark and it is social. But you know, the whole idea is to be out there, be present, be a leader, you know, be a communicator, be a facilitated whatever it is you do, you got to do more of it, because just laying back and waiting isn't going to work in an environment like this, and I would argue and never really works a hundred percent. You still need people to do any kind of especially an expensive sale like, you know, a grain elevator. You know, I don't know how much of those cost, but they're not cheap and that might take months to close a sale or years. Even so, you got to be there, just like in the old days. You know, salespeople used to do this all the time and that's a kind of all they did. Get on the phone, meet somewhere, have a beer, go play got you know, whatever it is, but mostly you're talking business and it was that relationship that ice the deal, and it's that's still works. You know, I'm not saying that doesn't work, but just and nowadays people spend more time on their digital devices. So you got to be there too. So that's kind of that's kind of the essence of it. You...

...know, we still need marketers to do that. It's not that salespeople can't learn and, like we talked about in a minute ago, you know, subject matter experts can learn that too, but that's kind of where, you know, the go to customer comes in, because that's where they are, you know, during the day. Maybe not, maybe they're having me internal meetings, face to face meetings, or maybe they're on zoom. They don't have time for Linkedin or and you know, they barely have time to read their emails. But when they go home and they're just kind of hanging out and maybe checking out what the kids are doing on on social media, you might get an ad through. They know that kind of goes Oh yeah, I was just thinking about that today. And they go and there's you know, it's not like click and by. It's like, Oh, okay, I'm going to check this out tomorrow. So they'll get on Google and search your brand that they scribbled Dale and suddenly the ball is rolling, you know in a very indirect way, and then they'll call their buddies and they say, Hey, you know, have you heard of this? And they'll go, oh, yeah, yeah, we did it. We did a demo last week and it's awesome, you know. So we're back to kind of human to human to some extent. You know, we're kind of back to where we were in the S and S, but now we're using digital to do it. Yeah, yeah, I think you're exactly right. There's a it's almost we went from this place twenty plus years ago where you couldn't really measure anything marketing wise. You know, you you'd make assumptions that if we did a bunch of marketing and revenue was going up or quoted business was going up, that something must be working. You didn't know exactly what. We moved in this era where, all of a sudden, you know, Google analytics emerges in the early or mid you know, two thousand and five, I think it was or so, and from there all kinds of marketing analytics start exploding and and all of a sudden, like everybody's trying to measure everything and and they're not even thinking about like the logic behind what they're measure during they're just like day to day to data and and now we're at this place where there's such an overwhelming amount of data and the expectation is that we're going to be able to attribute everything we do to any any source of revenue, to the thing we did that generated that revenue. And it's all gone way too far. It's gone it's gotten to a place where we're kind of forgetting a lot of the foundational things about brand marketing and being problem solvers and understanding what the customer cares about. So I do actually really like the recent trend over the last few years. I think it's a matter of being able to communicate that to people who are buying marketing services, are trying to do marketing that. Listen, you got it. You got to just focus on what matters to the customer. You've got to create messaging and content that is going to speak to them, and then you need to kind of look holistically at are these things working together to generate the right sales conversations and quoted business and resulting revenue. So well said. I agree with you a hundred percent. And you know, it's kind of interesting some other trends that have come along recently, or not recently, in the last five years at least. People... about account based marketing, ABM, you know, and and that's really kind of as simple as figuring out who the ideal customer is that you want to work with, which we've been doing forever. Sales Reps have been doing this since since forever, and then focusing on them with marketing and sales calls and customer success and anything else, you know, and it's not new, but the techniques and the technology are kind of new, so that gives it that next level sort of feel. But it's really what we've been doing all along. And by focusing on just a few accounts, how can you. How can you not be personal? How can you not be relevant? You know, it's not going to work if you if you aren't, but clearly that's the way to do it. You know, get to know the people on the other end and understand what they're their mission is and what they need to get there, and then how you can help and just be there to help them. You know, it's kind of dead simple, but that's considered one of the kind of cutting edge marketing strategies and it's anything but kind of funny. You're right. Well, John, anything else you would like to add to this conversation that I didn't ask you about? Well, I mean, the way I view this, the topic we started with this recession thing, I think it is an opportunity. We forget about that. You know, if if your competitors are struggling the way you are, that means they're probably losing market share too. So you might want to use this to your advantage. You know, it might be worth not laying everybody off and not, you know, cutting investment down to nothing, if you can swing it. I mean it takes takes a lot of strategy and a lot of internal sales, for example, to kind of get something like this through, but at least in a very targeted way. Don't let it, don't let the opportunity slide. You know, get in there, get get those new customers that are are now being ignored by your competitors and by all you know. I didn't mention it before, but don't ignore your own pipeline. You Got People in the pipeline right now. Close them, you know, don't wring your hands about how things are are going south on you. Get in there and do absolutely everything you can to close the people in your pipeline and keep them happy. It's good advice, John. Well, I appreciate you doing this today. Can you tell our audience how they can get in touch with you and learn more about what you're up to? Well, the same way you did so just follow me on Linkedin. It's just linkedin calm in jmctigue. If you can remember that, I guess it'll be in the notes. I'm there every day, like you are, and you know, expressing myself one way or another. Sometimes you may not like what I have to say, but that's the whole point. You know, we're starting a conversation and yeah, you got some questions to ask or, you know, want to make some comments about this show or anything else? That's that's where I'm at.

Love it. Well, I appreciate you doing this, John, my pleasure. It's really I guess this is our first actual facetoface, is it not? And I guess it is. So this is a cool way to repurpose that first meeting exactly. I love it. I love it, it's great, awesome. Well, appreciate this, John, and as for the rest of you, I hope to catch you on the next episode of the Manufacturing Executive. 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 be tob manufacturers at gorilla seventy sixcom learn thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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