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  December 7th, 2021 | Written by

Three Surprising Ways Marketing Can Solve Manufacturers’ 2022 Challenges

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  • Branding is not just an external exercise. A company’s internal brand is at least as important.
  • Customers time and again have expressed appreciation for timely communication even with “bad news."
  • What’s sometimes overlooked is that the marketing function can help solve 3 of the biggest challenges in 2022.

Manufacturing businesses small and large have had their hands full with the fall-out of the pandemic, and while it seems the worst of the crisis is now behind us, companies will continue to grapple with how to keep both customers and employees on board despite supply chain issues, intense competition, and labor shortages.

What’s sometimes overlooked is that the marketing function can help solve three of manufacturers’ biggest challenges in 2022—if the C-suite doesn’t limit marketing’s role to lead generation.

Here are three ways marketers can help manufacturing businesses navigate the many disruptions they will continue to face next year, in ways that extend far beyond product promotion.

Supply Chain Related Communications

Up until this year, the markets were very rarely rocked by supply chain disruptions. The Wall Street Journal did not even have a logistics beat in the last few decades. In 2021, everything changed when COVID-19 caused labor shortages, disrupting the supply chain of a vast amount of finished products and base materials—just when demand for manufactured goods surged.

So how should companies communicate about delayed or canceled deliveries to their customers? One way is for marketers to segment the client database and then decide how the different tiers need to be serviced. When demand outweighs supply, choices need to be made on who will receive what, when. One useful approach is to distinguish between client segments based on profitability and potential. For each segment, decide how various customers and customer types will be prioritized. Include a comprehensive plan on how client communication will look across all channels.

Another way marketers can help companies navigate through supply chain issues is by deciding to not manage supply, but rather to manage demand. This can be done through turning down the promotional activities for a series of products that are running short or use targeted price increases to affect demand.

Customers can and will understand more than some managers may expect, but they need sensible and consistent information. For information to make sense, it needs to be based on a coherent and methodical approach to client service in a disrupted market. Customers time and again have expressed appreciation for timely communication even with “bad news” as it helps them with plans and projections.

Value Proposition

Manufacturing companies pride themselves on their legacy and track record. Claims regarding longevity and past success have a place in marketing communications. But having served your customers for many decades with products that work, is table stakes, and not something companies can use as meaningful differentiators or the basis for building customer preference.

Many businesses can still make a lot of progress in differentiating themselves successfully through a better understanding of what it is that their customers value. Insights gained through a customer survey or set of interviews (AKA Voice of Customer or VoC), as well as through consultations with sales and customer service about how purchase decisions are made, who makes and who influences those decisions and what features are important, are vital inputs for messaging that will resonate with the prospect. These insights are invaluable to company messaging and differentiation. Marketers are trained to facilitate these conversations, collect and analyze the data, and then develop and communicate a value proposition that credibly differentiates a company from its competitors.

Another category of differentiators pertains to purpose where marketers can help tell the unique origin story of the company and convey a message on purpose that extends far beyond specific product features.

Purposeful Employee Engagement

Branding is not just an external exercise. A company’s internal brand is at least as important. Defining the value proposition for employees is often overlooked and undervalued. This leads to turnover and poor retention, and hinders employee recruiting. Studies consistently show the high costs associated with onboarding and training new employees.

In many manufacturing companies, the HR function may not be well equipped to manage the complexities of employee engagement that businesses currently face. There is a part of the workforce (the white-collar one) that will work remotely, so that needs to be managed in terms of making sure people stay productive but also engaged with the brand. Marketing can especially help with the latter. With remote working more prevalent than ever, it is important for employees to understand the company’s brand promise and each employee’s role in helping to fulfill that promise.

With a labor shortage in the manufacturing sector, employees can demand more from their employers than they have in the last few decades. For some, the pecuniary aspect will be important, others will prioritize flexibility. Accommodating this is either costly (the first) or impossible to achieve for blue-collar workers (the latter). There is, however, something else to which many employees attach great value, and that can be achieved at no cost—a sense of purpose. Just as with a VoC program, a Voice of Employee (VoE) program can help employers better understand what will motivate and incentivize their associates.

Employees want to know and feel they are contributing in a meaningful way to producing a product or service that helps customers solve important problems. Marketing can help develop and implement purposeful employee communication which will help not only retain employees, but also attract new talent.

Bottom Line

Manufacturing companies will continue to have their hands full managing the fall-out of an unprecedented health crisis. They will have to successfully manage supply chain disruptions and seize opportunities to differentiate themselves. They can use their efficient approach to the current crisis, and their purpose to communicate a credible and purposeful brand that will bolster their hiring and retention of talent. Marketing can play a critical role in each of these areas when allowed to go beyond lead gen and product promotions.


Bob Sherlock and Dennis Bailen are Partners and CMOs with Chief Outsiders, the nation’s fastest growing executive-as-a-service company.