I was going to write a post featuring the coolest manufacturing companies that celebrate their people and humanize their brands. Trouble is, I couldn't find any—other than the usual suspects like Apple and a few other Tech and Consumer Goods giants. So discouraging! Oh well, maybe we marketers aren't getting through yet to the heavy industries. Manufacturing companies are still struggling with that me-first mentality that emphasizes their products and shows photos of their buildings rather than their people. Here are a few suggestions for joining the human race.
Let's talk about your customers. Then let's transform your website, content and social media engagement (if you have any) to be about THEM, not YOU. And while you're at it, let's help your customers understand what makes you tick, not just try to sell them something or brag about your accomplishments. I like this quote from McKenzie Fogelson:
"When a brand is able to make a sincere connection with a consumer, something incredibly powerful happens. Beyond mere fleeting impact, that moment of connection provides a foundation for long-term advocacy, loyalty, and a sustainable bottom line."
Think this doesn't apply to your industry? Think again. IBM makes business machines, and its website is mostly about its products and solutions. No big surprise there.
But occasionally it comes up with something remarkable, like this video, the World's Smallest Movie.
IBM could have gone down the road of showing how its technology enables industries to design products at the atomic level. Instead, it went for something fun and intriguing. Its marketers understand that engineers are probably bored with the same old product spec sheets and would much rather be amazed.
Nearly all manufacturing websites still suffer from at least a mild case of narcissism. The home page features the latest press release on quarterly earnings. The main slider banner features products, and there's not a human in sight. It's as if the machines are selling themselves. The main menu has About Us first, followed by Products and Services. No blog. No human interest stories. No glimpse at the heart of the people that make your company great (other than the Executives and Board of course).
The thing is, building a website for yourself accomplishes only one thing. It makes you happy. Why not talk to your customers, literally, with helpful dialog and content that speaks to their needs?
Why not help your visitors find what they are looking for, not what you want them to see? Let's make your website easy to navigate and easy to read on smartphones, tablets, laptops and big screens.
Why not stimulate visitors to hang around and learn more about your people and your culture—the things that actually separate you from your competitors? Why not transform your company to stand out as a shining star in your industry—a company that actually gets what its customers want?
Your leaders do a lot of thinking. If they shared those thoughts outside meetings and memoranda, you could catapult your company. Look at what Richard Branson and Bill Gates do for Virgin and Microsoft. They write blogs and social media posts every day, and millions of people follow them and share those thoughts with their peers. Sure, they get help from their content teams with the burden of publishing so frequently, but the essence of what they have to say is personal and often profound.
Throw in some public speaking engagements, a few media appearances and some events of your own and thought leaders can become the face of your corporation and earn your brand both market leadership and trust from your customers. Granted, these guys are charismatic, but you don't have to be a rock star to be an influencer in your industry. Just by sharing what you know and what you think you know, you can reach a large audience and propel your brand forward.
Thought leadership doesn't just come from the top. Ask your employees to participate in blogging and social media. Not as brand advocates, but as themselves. Encourage them to share their personal journey, both at work and after hours. Celebrate victories and overcoming hardships. Give them a voice that counts and elevate it to the top of your brand marketing channels. Publish photos and videos of them everywhere and every day. The real face of your company is their faces.
If you are a B2B manufacturing company, chances are your customers also have boring websites and similar challenges with humanizing their companies. Why not spread the love? Get them involved in blogging and discussions in your social channels and share photos of them working with you and solving their problems. Ask them for feedback regularly and publish videos that are real and unscripted. Be as transparent as you can about both positive and negative feedback. Your future customers are looking for that transparency when they evaluate your company and your solutions.
Humanizing your brand is a big trend in marketing right now because there is so much information out there. We are all so overwhelmed with websites, email, tweets and other content that it's becoming difficult to focus and impossible to choose. Your visitors and users are looking for something more than a high volume of content that's focused on pushing product. They want value, they want answers and they want conversation. By humanizing your company in the eyes of your beholders, you can provide that spark that gets them engaged. By going with the same old corporate "look at me" approach, you are giving them a great reason to ignore you and move on.
Photo credit: COD Newsroom