Why Cant We All Just Get Along! Making Marketing Work Better in a Manufacturing Business

By Andrew J. Birol, President, Birol Growth Consulting, Inc.

Too often, manufacturing firms have difficulty growing beyond the existing customers they have grown up serving. When it comes to finding new markets or developing new products, many industrial firms have trouble.

Three Reasons Why Marketing Can Become a Manufacturer’s Misfit

When it comes to opening up a new market or developing a new product, many manufacturers have real challenges supporting and integrating the marketing necessary to be successful. Too often, marketing people, programs and investments devoted to forward programs and projects fail and are terminated in favor of an existing sales effort focused on serving existing customers and incumbent products. Here are three reasons:

  • Manufacturers thrive by directly investing in the means (e. g. capital equipment) that meet clear needs of existing customers who will buy the firm’s production
  • The high break even percentage of many firms requires an emphasis on the current month’s sales and profits
  • Those who can efficiently run machines and close existing customers have much of the decision making power in a manufacturing firm.

To create new markets and products requires a supportive environment, mind-set and investment horizon.

Tips for Creating a Successful Marriage of Marketing/Product Development and Manufacturing

Marketing/Product Development should:

  • Gain access to needed resources, set expectations and meet them
    • Ensure Marketing has a permanent seat at the management table
    • Break projects down into pilot, alpha and beta phases with clear go/no go checkpoints.
    • Assure that responsibility for success is both individual and collective throughout the company
  • "Manage" the involvement of the sales force. Their input and support are critical, but Sales’ agenda is often contrary to that of new product development.
    • Sales goals and new market / product goals are rarely compatible and should be kept separate but equal.
    • The sales force’s agenda is usually a result of their how they are compensated and otherwise rewarded.

Manufacturing and General Management should:

  • Make bets on forward projects, hedge these bets, and then let their marketing horses run
    • Invest in multiple projects over time knowing all won’t succeed or fail
    • Leverage company resources through contributions from vendors, customers and strategic alliances
    • Manage to intermediate deadlines and based on market feedback, not to a final sales number
  • Divorce the process of developing new customers and products from the monthly challenge of hitting sales goals.
    • Unless goals have been too ambitious or it is too late for long term efforts, a monthly or quarterly sales shortfall or windfall, should not be a distraction. Linkages are deadly.
    • Customer intelligence must be routinely exchanged between marketing and sales people.
  • Recognize that the obstacles to finding new customers and growing new products and services may have nothing to do with marketing.
    • Infrastructure, cost or other performance problems are likely to surface.
    • Separate project showstoppers from company-wide problems. Each needs independent attention

Like human relationships, the answer to building a successful marketing effort in a manufacturing environment is tolerance, shared goals and commitment.

Articles by Birol Growth Consulting are © copyrighted and all rights are reserved. However, articles may be reprinted with prior written consent if attribution is included as follows:

© Copyrighted by Andrew J. Birol, President of Birol Growth Consulting, who helps owners grow their businesses by growing their Best and Highest Use ®. Andy can be reached at  (412) 973-2080, by email at abirol@andybirol.com, or on the web at www.andybirol.com.

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