New way to Market for Manufacturing
Written By: Bruce McDuffee-Founder and Executive Director of Manufacturing Marketing Institute (MMI)
Chapter 9 Overview
The Two-Stage Funnel
“Within the manufacturing buyer process, there are really only two stages to the ubiquitous sales funnel. The top of the funnel is where you market to engage with (or gain attention from) the people in the target audience. As mentioned in Chapter 3, by determining the sweet spot of engagement, you introduce your brand and offering to the target audience using education content that helps the people in your target audience relieve a pain, fan a passion, or just be better in their day-to-day professional activities.”
When those same people in your target audience are ready to buy the thing you manufacture, they drop down to the bottom of the funnel, where you can tell them about your product and your company. Just before they are ready to make the purchase, they want and need to know about the details of your product, features, and the firm itself. If you have been successful at the top of the funnel and your competition is not better than you at engagement, you will get the business as long as your product lives up to expectations.
What about the middle of the funnel? You cannot map the buyer’s journey to the middle because there is not a common path between the top and the bottom. Therefore, I am proposing that the sales funnel for most manufacturing companies has only two parts, engagement at the top and product information at the bottom. What happens in between the top and bottom is not predictable nor is it controllable. In many cases, people will bounce around in the funnel, moving from top to bottom then back to the top. Most manufacturing companies are very strong at the bottom of the funnel.
As mentioned in Chapter 1, engagement is where you can take advantage of the big opportunity that exists right now within most manufacturing market spaces. The firm that does the best job in engaging with the people in the target audience will win. In the minds of your target audience, the factory that produces the product is inconsequential. Your product looks just like the competitor’s product. Trying to differentiate the product during the engagement phase is a waste of time. Save that for the bottom-of-the-funnel interactions. The product does not matter and the company does not matter during the top-of-the-funnel engagement phase of your relationship with a prospective customer.
The secret to success for engagement lies in a thorough understanding of the pain that is common to the people in your target audience and the expertise that resides within your firm that can help relieve that pain and make their lives better. You may recognize this statement as the definition of the sweet spot of engagement we discussed earlier. Helpful information or education shared freely with the people in your target audience sets your firm apart from all of your competitors that are still pitching their products at the top of the funnel. Successful engagement positions your brand top-of-mind with your audience. Your brand gains a higher level of credibility than your competition because your firm is positioned as the expert in reliving this particular pain point. The information and education you share is a gift. Offering a gift evokes a desire in your audience to reciprocate. Reciprocity manifests in a purchase from your firm and not your competitor.