Partners director Karen Tinkler spoke at a recent Made in Yorkshire Masterclass about finding your audience and shaping your message. Run jointly with Clarion Solicitors’ business development director Steve Crowe, and ROCOL marketing and communications manager Shaun Heys, the event focused on helping manufacturing businesses adopt a strategic, value-driven approach to sales and marketing.
Here are some of the insights Karen shared into understanding your audience and shaping your message.
Building real value
A lot of people see marketing and PR as “the fluffy bit” in the sales process. The part that’s difficult to measure. The truth is, keeping your business visible among the right people has clear bottom line benefits.
If you’re looking to grow, improving brand visibility and reputation has a valuable contribution to make. Take for example the lawyer who told me recently that in the sales of a well-known manufacturing business the acquiring company paid – in his view – well over the odds, because they saw real value in having that brand in their portfolio.
Being visible as a good employer and becoming known for being a great place to work can also help your business compete in the race for talent. And what is it that helps keep your business visible? Oh yes – PR and marketing.
My point is that, done well, PR and communications add value to your business in many ways. For it to work, it has to be strategic, focused, and well targeted.
How do I identify my target audience for PR and marketing?
A good sales strategy will identify the industries, sectors, and businesses you are targeting. The next link in the chain is to dig down and think about who is going to buy from you, who else influences the buying decision, and how you get in front of those people with messages that will resonate and encourage them to buy from you rather than someone else.
Walk in your customers' shoes
The first step is to spend some time in your prospective customers’ shoes. Think about who they are and what’s going on for them. This is where sales, marketing and PR teams can do great things together. Your sales team is out on the ground, meeting people, hearing why people want to buy – and why they don’t. They’ll be getting incredible insights into what’s going on for customers and the sector in general – what are the biggest challenges, the real pressures they are facing, the things that are keeping them awake at night, or stopping them doing their job as well as they could be.
Capture those insights. And then think about who else is involved in the buying process.
If you’re selling industrial lubricants for machine maintenance and your end user is an engineer who is measured on keeping machines running, their priority will be a product that is easy to apply, that does the job well, and lasts longer than others on the market so they can extend maintenance intervals.
But if you’re a purchasing manager who is measured on meeting strict budget targets, you’ll be less concerned about how easy the product is to apply and looking far more closely at the purse strings. Their ears may well prick up when you tell them that extending lubrication intervals on all their machines could save them £100k every year. They need to understand the bigger picture, the wider efficiency benefits and not just see your company name as a line and a number on an invoice.
Think about everyone who can have an impact on whether a company buys your product or service, and for every one of them, work through what will help – or hinder – them buying from you.
It’s not about the product
When people buy from you, it is not about the product. Here’s why. if I said: “Do you want to buy some PR?”, I think I know what the answer would be.
But I know that as the MD of a growing business, you are really struggling to recruit enough people, and the right people. And I know that being short staffed is causing you all kinds of pain. It’s pulling you into jobs you shouldn’t be doing. It’s stopping your business from growing. You’re having to deal with grumpy customers who can’t get hold of someone to talk to about their order.
What if I said to you that I can help you get more of the kind of people you want in your business? And what if I showed you how we’ve done that for other businesses like yours? Even if you didn’t sign up there and then for PR support, I think you would be more inclined to give me five minutes of your time to find out more.
That’s why it’s not about the product. For most manufacturing businesses, there are other products on the market that do what your products do. You have to find a different way to differentiate and demonstrate how you add genuine value.
What’s my message?
Once you’ve invested the time to really understand what your prospective customers’ pain points are, it’s time to start thinking about how you can help overcome them. And that’s the message you take to market.
Customers might say that they choose your business because you offer great customer service or technical support. And that’s fantastic. But what does ‘great technical support’ mean to them and how do you articulate that back out to the wider market? Dig deeper. Is it about having a real person on the end of a phone when they need to talk through a software issue on a CNC machine or help them choose the right product to maintain a bakery oven chain?
When you are really clear on where and how you add value for your existing customers, you can go and tell prospective customers how you can add value for them, too.
There are so many PR and marketing channels. Which ones should I use?
So often we see companies approached by people from websites and magazines asking them to spend money. They’ll bombard you with the numbers of website hits they get each month, or the number of subscribers to their publication. Or they’ll sell you a fantastic deal, “only £100”. But if those two million subscribers aren’t the people you need to reach, then there is absolutely no point wasting your money, not to mention your time and effort putting together content that isn’t reaching the people who matter.
Go back to your strategy, your target customers, and your market insights. For example, once you know that 100 people every month are asking Google what anti seize does and how to apply it, you can come up with answers to those questions and post them in a well optimised blog post.
You might think that 100 searches a month isn’t very high. And by some standards, it isn’t. But as manufacturing businesses you’re not answering searches on how to make banana bread in lockdown. Many manufacturers are operating in much smaller niches, and if what you are saying is relevant to those 100 people, you could find yourself with new customers, or at the very least more of the right kind of people in the top of your sales funnel. Share the article on your social channels, and you might find yourself with even more.
One well-placed and well-targeted blog post, news story, opinion piece, or case study can be far more valuable than half a dozen cheap adverts or editorials saying the wrong things, in the wrong place.
How often should I communicate?
Frequency is less important. The key is consistency. Consistently saying the right things in places where the right people are looking will absolutely lead to the right kind of opportunities for your business.
Tell the stories of why your company and products are different, framed in the context of helping to solve their challenges, make their lives easier, save time or money, help them reduce their cost base, achieve greater efficiencies or machinery uptime. Tell these stories where you know they’ll be looking - online, on relevant social channels, at events or trade shows, in industry media. And tell them consistently, to keep your business and brand in front of the right people.
They won’t always need your products and services right now but, when they do, you want to be the company they turn to. If your competitors are the ones out there talking the talk, they’ll often be the ones who get the call. Even if they don’t do it well.
For PR and marketing to work for your business, my advice is to be focused, targeted, and consistent. Spend time on the groundwork, defining your audiences and shaping your messages. Get the right messages to the right people, and it will generate results. And if you need a hand, you know where we are.