As Seen in Industrial Machinery Digest

Investing In Your Future: Marketing for Sustainable Business Growth

Investing in Your Future

Adapted from an article in the May 2019 issue of Industrial Machinery Digest.

Right now, many manufacturers are enjoying a period of high production rates. It’s a challenge to find qualified employees to hire and to keep up with incoming business. Any extra bandwidth is spent increasing production capacity by cross training and implementing lean practices.

With so much business coming in, it can be difficult to find time to think about updating your website or making your sell sheets and presentations look better. Why spend time and money on marketing when you don’t need marketing right now? The truth is, that makes this the best time to invest in your marketing. When revenue is low, it’s difficult to justify investing in projects when you’re struggling to keep your employees working. Starting a marketing strategy now can help your company avoid feast or famine business cycles and foster sustainable growth.

Marketing in a Manufacturing Environment

Marketing entails much more than you’d think

If the word “marketing” conjures up thoughts of big-budget TV commercials, celebrity endorsements, and billboards, rest assured that there is a lot more to marketing, and it’s a lot more cost effective.

For the purposes of our conversation, marketing encompasses all communication from your company to prospective customers, current customers, and even prospective employees. While this can certainly include paid advertising, such as traditional print ads, it includes much more. Your company’s website, sell sheets, and even business cards all represent your brand and can be enhanced by a marketing strategy.

You don’t need a big budget to be seen

Where multinational companies can have a full department, and possibly several, to cover everything marketing can entail, marketing is important for manufacturers of every size. The internet has been a great equalizer when it comes to manufacturing competition. For a relatively low price, companies can look fairly comparable online. A clean, updated website, active social media channels, and the occasional video can completely change the image of small manufacturers.


Once you decide to start marketing, one of the first decisions a company will need to make is whether to hire someone for in-house marketing or whether to go with an agency. If you choose to hire someone to work in-house, they’ll be able to pitch in on other tasks. You’ll also be able to have direct contact with them more often, but they usually won’t have a broad set of skills for all marketing tactics. Manufacturers are sometimes hesitant to trust an agency with lengthy contracts and high retainers, however agencies typically come with a higher level of marketing experience and more marketing resources than manufacturers can easily access.

Especially for smaller manufacturers who are poised for growth and ready to invest in themselves, a marketing agency can generate more bang for your buck. 360 Direct, a marketing agency that specializes in the manufacturing sector, sees their clients grow and expand their business – and their comfort levels with marketing – with regular marketing campaigns.

John Bernhoft, President of 360 Direct, explains, “Many clients are apprehensive about marketing in general, but have a specific need – either they have an old website they know needs to be updated, or they’ve run out of sell sheets. We solve that problem, but not only do their materials look better, but they are also getting more results. Customers are telling them they like it, prospects are responding more to their materials. Ultimately, they are getting more sales.”

Focusing on results-oriented marketing

360 Direct focuses on results-oriented marketing by working to track the ROI of every marketing tactic they use. If that sounds lean, that’s because it is. Not only has the internet leveled the playing field when it comes to manufacturers’ marketing opportunities, it has also enabled companies to track how well their marketing is doing. Because 360 Direct is focused on results, they’ve done away with contracts or retainers. Bernhoft says, “We don’t want clients who are with us because they can’t break a contract. Our clients stay with us year after year because they see what we are doing works. It’s not a flashy expense, it’s an investment that shows its ROI in your bottom line.”

Marketing to Foster Growth

Internet Search Engine

Marketing is more than making things look nice. Updated sell sheets, brochures, and websites ensure that your current capabilities are communicated to prospective customers. Have you bought new machines or started serving new industries since your website was published? Does your website reflect the services you most want to sell? If it doesn’t, prospective customers are going to have a hard time finding you. Even if they do find you, they may not realize that you offer exactly what they are looking for.

Direct customers who are looking for exactly what you offer

Search engines, like Google, pay attention to how often your website is updated and what your content says about your company, and those search engines determine what your website will be found for. Having an updated website and regularly adding new content helps your company be found on Google and helps educate your customers before they call your sales team. That education is important because it saves your sales team valuable time, ensuring customers are calling for things you actually offer, providing your team with warm, inbound leads, and shortening the sales cycle.

Speaking of your sales team’s time, how often is your sales team actually able to reach out to each of your customers and prospects? Marketing is a great way to make sure you stay in front of your target market, even when your sales team is slammed. Email newsletters and even social media are great ways to keep in contact with everyone on your list. You can let them know about new services, remind them of your capabilities, and always be at the top of their mind when they have a need.

Your online presence is important for recruitment

It’s not just customers who are looking at you online. As the workforce ages and manufacturers are scrambling to attract the relatively few younger workers, having a presence on the internet is increasingly important. People of all ages turn to the internet to find out more about a company, and they are checking social media just as much as your website. A polished look adds legitimacy for smaller outfits and can give job seekers insight into your company culture and work environment. 360 Direct has even seen more of a demand for marketing videos that are just used for recruiting! When the labor market is as tight as it is, anything a manufacturer can do to better compete for available labor is beneficial.

Marketing to Support Business Goals

There are a lot of options when it comes to marketing. When choosing which tactics to pursue, there are easy ways to ensure you are making the right decision. Bernhoft elaborates, “All marketing plans and strategies align with your company’s goals. And just as you regularly measure the success of your work cells and production lines, we regularly measure the success of our marketing campaigns. We test and measure so we can run as lean as our clients.”

All marketing communication should represent your brand and should communicate in the language of your best customers. That way, your marketing attracts more of those top customers. 360 Direct has seen manufacturers use marketing to help grow product lines with the best profit margins, or to help diversify a manufacturer’s customer base so they are less reliant on one industry. These marketing plans ultimately help companies avoid large fluctuations in their bottom line as the market shifts.

Growth is more than just capacity. Marketing helps attract new business, retain and nurture customer relationships, and ultimately encourages sustainable growth. When you put it that way, marketing isn’t an expense; it’s a wise investment.

Importance of blogging

Why Blogging Can Make a Difference

Importance of blogging

What does food, shopping, movies, books, health, and relationship advice all have in common?

The answer: BLOGGING.

Throughout the past 15 years, blogging has grown into an Internet phenomenon, with countless new blogs being created each day. It appears that any topic can be blogged about and anyone can be the author, ranging from celebrities to just the average person who wants to express his passion through writing. Blogging allows for endless possibilities in getting your thoughts out for all of society to see. Using a web hosting service, from somewhere like bloggers have created their own place to share whatever they want to.

How is blogging applicable to marketing your company?

Read more

Strategize like spiders

Strategize Like Spiders

Strategize like spiders

Spiders are some of the most intelligent creepy crawlers around. Though their intimidating fangs and many eyes can give them a bad reputation, they’re actually fascinating creatures that help control pests like mosquitoes, making the outdoors a whole lot more habitable for humans.

Known scientifically as araneae, spiders are master strategists when it comes to catching their next meal. Not all spiders make webs, but they all use strategy. For web-building spiders, they begin with a basic Y-shaped structure, and construct what scientists call frame threads. Just like a marketing strategy, this structure ensures that the entire web is sound before the spider even attempts to catch its prey. Next, the spider builds a non-sticky auxiliary spiral, which helps them test out where they want their critter-catching strands to go. Then they lay down the sticky strand all along the auxiliary spiral guide, finishing the web.

At 360 Direct, we’ve gotten past the fangs, and aren’t afraid to take some pointers from these eight-legged strategists. Spider web building is actually a great way to understand the importance of marketing strategy. Our team of marketers builds a basic marketing strategy first, then moves to test and measure that strategy before locking in tactics to an overall marketing plan, just like a spider builds frame threads and auxiliary spirals, before laying down the sticky threads.

Spiders are an intrinsic part of a healthy environment, and growing, community-minded businesses keep our economic ecosystem flourishing too. Our team of strategists wants to help build communities and healthy businesses right along with you.

Meaningful Business Connection

Create Emotional Connections with Your Customers

Meaningful Business Connection

Even “interesting” companies cannot completely rely on a flashy product or a unique concept to make customers develop an emotional attachment to their business. For traditionally unglamorous companies, it can be even more difficult to market themselves in a way that allows their customers to feel like they know the people and the values behind the brick and mortar façade. That’s really what humanizing your business comes down to. With the marketing tips found in this blog you can begin to create an emotional connection with the people who really drive your business.

For businesses that manufacture something basic, yet essential for everyday life like cardboard boxes, or steel beams, that emotional connection is the key to standing out amidst the varied competition from all over the world that builds similar commonly used products. There are multiple ways to go about creating a persona, or a personality that your customers can connect with. Here are a few suggestions that 360 Direct Milwaukee has found useful for our clients.

Use a Little Humor

Some businesses, depending on the marketing angle, have benefitted from poking fun at themselves in a way that builds trust and camaraderie. One of our clients, Converting Solutions Inc., ran a campaign with our team’s guidance to help do exactly that. CSI’s owner happens to be a vocal Bears fan despite living deep in Packer territory, and he’s never been one to pass up the opportunity to engage in good-spirited trash talk with his team’s number one rivals. To reward his customers for their loyalty and engagement with CSI, he ran a Trash Talk with Al competition, where the competitors could sling their favorite one-liners his way, with the best dig winning tickets to a Bears v. Packers game at Lambeau Field. After a few days of fielding creative zingers, Al awarded one loyal customer with those tickets, and succeeded in building a great relationship with all of the participants. As a result, CSI strengthened their image as a creative, easy going, and fun-loving company that treats its customers like friends instead of a paycheck. That kind of rapport can generate continued business over the course of decades through brand loyalty and emotional connection.

Let Them Get To Know You

Some business owners don’t interact much with customers, depending on the structure of the business. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s nevertheless important for owners to not shy away from injecting personality into their company. When a potential customer has to choose between you and another business that provides similar products and services at comparable rates, the way they feel about you personally can sway them in their final decision. To build 360 Direct’s presence in the Milwaukee area, our founder and President, John Bernhoft, participated in a Q&A session with Biz Time Magazine. That article generated a measurable increase in the hits to our website, and gave current and potential customers positive exposure to the person behind the company they’re working with. It may seem like a small thing to conduct an interview with a blogger or industry publication, but in reality, those positive, humanizing aspects of marketing go far in strengthening your brand and building relationships.

Stay In Touch

This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many businesses neglect important vectors of communication with their clients via social media, email subscriptions, or product and service reviews. These days, a phone call can still go a long way in building trust and relationships, but most people today use their smart phones and social media apps to engage with both social and professional networks, however, don’t think that means your business shouldn’t invest in cloud contact center solutions or similar options, as many customers still prefer talking to someone real with actual knowledge and expertise of the product or service that is provided. Online mediums are an easy and profitable method of reaching out, letting your customers know you care what they think of you and the kinds of products and services they want from your company. They’re also excellent tools to show a little personal and memorable flair in your posts. However you want your clients to feel about your business, you can build that perception effectively by utilizing an email marketing campaign, creative social media posts, and engaging surveys. Responding to concerns and praise online helps customers feel heard, and that alone is a powerful way to build trust and loyalty. These customer recommendations and reviews can be compiled into marketing intelligence systems such as you can find provided by companies like Singular and others, compiling these insights with the actions that caused them can point your business in the correct direction to go when trying to engage with customers or potential customers.

Next Steps

This is by no means a complete list of all the ways to humanize your business through relationship building and marketing strategies, but they are good starting points. If you’re interested in learning more about what you can do to strengthen your company’s public persona, get in touch with one of our marketing consultants. We’d be happy to meet with you and see how we can help you find creative ways to outsource your marketing.

DIY Marketing

DIY Marketing

DIY Marketing

Would you cut your own hair? Fill your own cavity? Replace the water pump in your car? There are people who are capable, not me for one.

YouTube is one of the culprits promoting an age of do-it-yourselfers. Although, I could watch a video or two on YouTube and attempt to replace a water pump, I know it would be a bad idea. The result would not be the same had I taken it to a mechanic. Having a professional do the job would be the most sure way of knowing I will be driving my car to work the next day.

For some, it is essential to hire a marketing agency. Whereas others consider it acceptable to have the high school kid next door work on their business’ website. Many people build their own website, but can they navigate the sea of SEO? Do they have the time (+ or -20 hours per week according to Google) for the monthly upkeep of a website (along with social media tools.) Does the neighbor know the strategy and what keywords will work this month, and knowing what Google feels is of importance (as this changes every day)? DIY marketing is not the way forward.

Using a professional service for almost anything tends to get you the best outcome, the best solution to a problem. Professionals, no matter what the service, engross themselves in their craft and are the best suited to help. Investing in people who know, really know, how to make the most of what marketing you have in place (or need to have in place) is as important as investing in a mechanics’ skill to ensure you will move forward. Save the do-it-yourselfing for fun projects; not the essential elements that drive your business.

Build an Online Community

5 Free Tips to Build an Online Community

Build an Online Community

As the ancient Greeks are to being one of the largest contributors to present-day civilization, social media is to building an online community. And it is not going away anytime soon.

It can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you:

• Have no interest being on Facebook
• Believe social media is not useful to obtain leads
• Think your customers aren’t on social media

Not to worry. This blog may change your mind.

5 tips to build (and justify building) an online community for your business:

1. An online community helps build value to your business – having quality information on your website, or adding informational posts on your LinkedIn page gives something of equity to potential and existing customers.

2. Show your ‘usp’ – stand out from the competition with your unique selling point and create a community that supports and virally promotes your usp by posting related topics.

3. Make community building part of your strategy and goals – write a blog every week about a subject your customers want to read about. It helps keep you working on and not in your business.

4. Continue to set new goals – commit to giving a new social media tool at try, like LinkedIn or Pinterest. This will encourage trying and testing new marketing tools in this digital age.

5. Show that your business is modern and current – be the thought leader. Communities like to know that they have the best and most up-to-date information.

Would you be interested in learning more about how to build an online community, or interested in having someone do the work for you?

Marketing on a limited budget

Target Customers with a Limited Budget

Marketing on a limited budget

Do you say, “my target customer is Everybody“? Realize, “you can’t boil the ocean.” In other words, there are limitations to everything, and budget is a big limiting factor in finding your target customers. There are some customers who frequently use sites like Raise to find coupons and promo codes and there are some customers who don’t bother with coupon codes all together. Whatever the preference, no customer is the same.

Targeting potential customers, in general, without details and specifics, works great if you have an unlimited budget. By defining your best customer and focusing on more specific details such as demographics, behaviors, and truly understanding the needs and wants of your customer is much more efficient and cost effective. Further define who is not your customer, as the non-ideal customer can be a drain on resources. Realizing that not everyone has the potential of becoming a customer leads into profiling the characteristics and interests of those who are. This is the group who are good long term frequent buyer customers.

Know that customer. Know them well. Knowing what is important to them, and knowing their common interests goes hand-in-hand with why they are, or why they will be your best customer. Your company having ties in the same community, for example, can lead to relationship building and trust. The feeling of connection with your customer often goes further than the message of advertising the ‘lowest price’. Emotion plays a huge part, and you are not going to bond with everyone.

Make the best use of your marketing budget. Spend the time to really know who your customer is, and then focus on them. A smart strategy can attract your new best customer versus wasting time trying to ‘boil the ocean’ to get everyone as your customer.

Would you like to learn more about defining your target customers?