Over the course of several decades, we have worked with hundreds of manufacturers to help them discover their brands. We have interviewed customers, employees, executives and dealers to learn what these companies stand for. We have also conducted Technical Immersions to identify key differentiation in processes, materials and products. Through these steps, we have identified 10 critical areas that must be addressed for manufacturers succeed in the future.
- Executives care about their people and morale.
Years ago, we found B2B leaders seldom discussed employee morale. Today, however, they frequently share their belief that strong employee morale and retention result in improved productivity, safety and profitability. In many cases, employees can be the strongest brand ambassadors for a company and product.
- Streamline with caution.
There is constant pressure to homogenize processes and products to improve efficiency and reduce cost —sometimes to the detriment of the product and brand. It’s imperative to protect all that made a company what it is today and streamline with caution.
- Uncover the beauty.
We often find some remarkable creativity and ingenuity that is often overlooked by manufacturers because they are too close to see its brilliance. Those unique differentiators must be promoted and become focal points of the brand. Your brand lives inside your product and processes. Uncover the beauty and magnify it.
- Dealers feel the love (or lack of it).
Some manufacturers feel the dealer is a necessary evil that diminishes their profit. Others view dealers as an effective way to sell products. And a few partner with them to maximize their mutual success. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you treat dealers as a nuisance, they will become a detriment. If you and your dealer look at your success as mutually intertwined, all benefit.
- Customers do not expect perfection.
But they do expect to be listened to and told the truth—now and not when it’s convenient for the manufacturer. If there’s a problem, customers want forthrightness in getting it solved. Studies have shown that an unhappy customer who is made happy through great service is more loyal than a customer who never had an issue. It’s not about perfection, it’s about honesty and working through the problem together.
- Employees want to believe in the brand and the product they are producing.
According to thousands of survey responses we’ve received, many employees are frustrated at a lack of accountability from supervisors and fellow employees. Often, long-term workers have allegiance to a company, but newer ones view it as just a job. These employees fail to engage, leading to lower quality and safety. Enlightened manufacturers rigorously train employees on the “why” of the brand—why we do what we do, why our customer needs and appreciates us and why you should feel proud of the difference you make here.
- “If you expect to charge a premium, you must have a brand personality to match.”
This quote from Anoop Prakash, President, Ambulance Division at REV Group, underscores why leading manufacturers realize they must be bolder and proclaim what truly makes them different. For example, a manufacturer may produce a good—not great—product. But it may offer the most amazing customer experience in the industry. Why not tout that with pride and leverage it?
- There’s no pride in being “second banana.”
B2B manufacturers have looked at branding as being unimportant and unglamorous as compared to B2C brands. Yet they have no issue purchasing millions of dollars in equipment, while skimping on their image, including the condition of their offices and facilities. Any smart investment in your image will pay off in employee pride and morale.
- Turn to technology to capitalize on today’s climate.
There are manufacturers who spend millions on technology, yet to this day, use fax machines and DOS systems. With the recent focus on reduced travel, technology is more important than ever. Many companies are investing in digital training and virtual meetings. Others are creating innovative concepts such as virtual factory tours. This progressive thinking is distancing B2B leaders from the competition.
- People first—your people.
A new product, logo, marketing campaign or website can be exciting, smart investments. Make them more impactful by sharing them with employees first. They are often the ones answering customer questions about these new changes, so they deserve to know first. Don’t be the company where employees find out after everyone else.
To be the Manufacturer of the Future, you cannot play the same old ballgame. Your image, brand and unique differentiators have to be identified, protected and invested in to ensure the people who produce, represent and purchase a product are engaged. It is an inspiring opportunity to take B2B companies into the future.
Discover more about the value of differentiating and elevating B2B brands in our whitepaper, The Manufacturer of the Future: https://labov.com/manufacturer-of-the-future-landing-page/
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