Why do manufacturing companies need marketing automation? Because in the age of Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Netflix all of us expect fast, personalized service, great products, and an easy to use experience from any company we work with, including manufacturing companies.
As a manufacturing business owner or leader, you surely know the time, effort, and investment it takes to implement ERP and shop-floor automation systems. These tools are required to manage your business and to deliver the quality and excellence in production that your customers require.
But do you apply the same rigor and effort to developing and using tools to manage the most important asset you have -- your customers and contacts?
What is marketing automation and why do I need it?
Studies show virtually all B2B sales start with a search, and up to 70% of the buying journey is over before anyone calls you, which means a large portion of the buying process starts online. You can no longer wait until someone calls you to start helping them. Instead, your website, email campaigns, social media, and any other marketing outreach must be tuned to the searcher and deliver the helpful information they want, when they want it.
Marketing automation is the technology used to facilitate these conversations and build relationships with your target audience, your leads and prospects, and your customers. The goal of marketing automation is to gain a centralized view of your customers.
Running a manufacturing business without marketing automation tools is like driving at night with no GPS or headlights and expecting to arrive at your desired destination.
What marketing automation tools do I need?
Your marketing tech stack is just as important as your ERP and factory floor automation systems.
Key marketing automation tools include:
- Content management system for your website to develop insights into site visitors
- Email tools to send personalized messages to your contacts and track views, clicks, and engagement over time
- Social media monitoring tools
- Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) linked to service and ordering information and looped back to marketing in order to service/grow the relationship, the goal is closed loop relationship information and tracking.
- Conversational marketing tools such as phone call tracking, chat, and chatbots
- Project management tools to track and manage open projects
There are other marketing automation tools available but these represent the basic technology stack that all manufacturing companies should have.
How do I start implementing marketing automation?
The end goal of implementing marketing automation is to be intentional about building your customer relationship process. With no process, there is no chance to understand how to make it better. And with no marketing automation to deliver data, context, and information there is no way to see what is actually happening in those relationships.
To get started, first you must understand the buyer’s journey and how your sales process matches it.
1. Create Buyer Personas
A well-developed persona describes how the buyer goes about the process of adopting something new, or stated in another way, changing their processes.
“A persona, if built correctly, goes beyond what I call a persona profile and the buyer’s journey and includes buying insight. It includes the buyer’s voice speaking directly to how, when, and why they make the investment that the company wants buyers to make. The persona tells the company what triggers an investment, what outcomes the buyer expects from that investment, and what their objections are to choosing a company as their investment partner.”
Adele Revella, Inbound Organization, Wiley 2018
Using well-developed buyer personas and buyer journey models can help identify and map the customer relationship value stream, and allow your team to identify inefficiencies in the service process and build a plan to improve it. Ultimately you and your team will create a customer management process just like you would create a product design or production or process.
2. Remove Information Silos
Have you had this experience? You call a company to resolve an issue and you are handed from one customer service person to another, each time repeating your name, account number, or other known information - information they already have and that you have repeated to identify yourself. How annoying is that process?
More in-depth customer experience optimization:
That annoyance you feel is the direct result of a poorly constructed marketing automation system. One department cannot smoothly transition the call to another. But as a customer, you don’t care about their departments; you care about getting your problem solved.
Removing silos to information allows every person in your company who comes in contact with your customer to have the correct information and context to solve the customer’s problem.
Information and value must move smoothly from marketing to sales to service, and this process starts with your website. Can customers pull information and value from your website when they need it, and can they get to the right person quickly if they need to?
Get rid of the self-indulgent fluff on your site and build it for your main persona. Rather than focusing solely on what your web designer thinks makes a site look good, focus on making your web content about your customer -- talking to them, providing the content they need.
Peter Drucker, “the man who invented management”, said marketing is “finding and keeping a customer”. Defined this way, marketing encompasses all interactions throughout the lifetime of the customer and all interactions they have with your business.
3. Identify Inefficiencies
“Please listen to the entire message because our options have recently changed.”
“Enter your contact’s name to find their extension.”
“Click one for accounting, two for sales, etc”
Does one human being on the planet enjoy this process, or does it make every single one of us cringe?
Leaders, you hate these systems yet you allow your manufacturing company to begin your communications with prospects and customers with a system YOU KNOW they hate. This is an example of marketing automation done wrong.
Quality process thinking dictates that you eliminate all waste within the customer relationship process. This means there are no steps a customer is required to take which do not add value to their experience --, especially including the dreaded automated phone system.
Use all of the key marketing automation tools listed above to evaluate and understand where you are creating friction in the relationship process.
The goal is to Identify inefficiencies in your customer’s experience with your business at every point in the process. Eliminate any waste you find. Remove the roadblocks to communication and a deeper relationship.
4. Make it Personal
As a manufacturing leader, you regularly solicit feedback from the shop floor and use it to improve your production process. In the same way, you must apply at least as much quality system thinking rigor to your customer relationship process. Begin by asking for feedback from the field.
To gain the most value from your marketing automation system, every manufacturing company employee from marketing to sales to service must own their customer relationships and have regular opportunities to share their feedback with leadership in order to facilitate continuous improvement.
How can marketing automation improve my business?
Your customer value derives from the relationships you build with them, therefore it is critical that you monitor and improve these relationships as you would any other production process. Marketing automation is the most modern way to provide fast, personalized service, access to great products, and an easy to use experience that your customers demand.
With the correct marketing automation tools, there is no reason you can not strive for perfection in your interactions with customers the same as you do on your shop floor.
Thank you Todd Hockenberry for your Chip In contribution!
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