According to a recent study by Boston Consulting Group, the United States manufacturing sector has been making huge strides in the last 5 years to become more competitive in the global manufacturing space. According to this study, in 2004 manufacturing cost 14% less in China than in the United States. AS of January 2014, that gap had narrowed to 5%. The study also concluded that by 2018, manufacturing will cost less in the United States than in China.
While this is exceptional news for US manufacturers, it means that domestic competition is going to increase, and the already changing market is going to shift in the way it does business.
The Old World Is Passing – The New World is Dawning.
Whether we’re talking early supply chain manufacturers, or lower chain distributors, the landscape of manufacturing is changing. According to the 2013 Digital Use In The Industrial Sector report from IHS GlobalSpec, 84% of industrial professionals use the Internet to find components, equipment and services. Further, 86% of those professionals source their information from search engines (like Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.).
What this points to is that having a prominent web presence is going to be an imperative for manufacturing firms to continue to be competitive in the near future.
Not Just A Website – A Technology Solution
The challenge with websites is that they must function on multiple levels. First, the website must be a functional marketing tool, providing the information your clients need. According to recent studies of B2B businesses, decision makers and influencers look for 60% of the information they need before they ever contact a sales department. To capitalize on this opportunity, manufacturing websites must offer information, in a logical manner, to its users.
However, it goes well beyond just information. What about providing the solution for your distributors to place orders, get additional, very detailed information, and do purchasing calcuations, or to allow some end users to purchase your products directly? And… how about giving both end-users and distributors the information they need in a compact and mobile solution?
As you can see, the digital assets that you need to be competitive are growing in both breadth and complexity.
Watch Out For Simple IT Solutions
IT teams are fantastic, and often have the technical knowledge to implement some of the technical solutions you may need. However, they often lack the design and marketing skills necessary to truly make your solution work for both you and your clients.
Further, gaining visibility in the World Wide Web has become more complex and more competitive. In addition to building your digital assets, there is the work of making those assets visible to the people who will need them. Can your IT team effectively market your digital assets?
Don’t Wait For The Wave – Earn Business Early
Don’t worry; you’re not up a creek without a paddle. It’s important not to delay developing and deploying your solution. If you wait too long, the new entrants to your market will gain business that should have been yours to begin with. It’s a simple concept, but it takes some time and effort to plan, develop your strategy, and begin rolling out your solutions. Here’s a handy checklist of what you’ll want to do:
- Develop your product roadmap. Know where your products are headed and what you’ll be developing over the next 3-5 years.
- Research your market and your competitors. Know how your products and solutions stand up against other players in the market. Be sure not to ignore the “little kids on the block,” as they can quickly become very strong competitors.
- Plan your digital asset strategy. This should include your website, any ecommerce sites, any dealer portals, forums, content destinations, mobile apps, customer support sites and more.
- Plan your marketing strategy. Determine the strategy and tactics, as well as the time frame for taking your digital assets and products to market. Additionally, be sure to consider the budget needed for each area.
- Execute your marketing strategy. Take the plan you have carefully worked out and begin to work through those tactics in the priority and order determined in your strategy work.
- Measure and tweak your efforts. What gets measured gets improved. Be sure to determine what KPI’s you’ll be measuring, and have a plan in place to analyze and respond to these metrics.