Marketing in the course of manufacturing for wholesale was, until rather recently, something of an old school, old boys club. Yes, in the last ten years young guns with new tech hit the wholesale marketing scene but, by and large, trade shows remained king, as some magical holdover from pre-internet marketing tactics contingent upon demonstrating a physical product. In 2020, however, marketers for wholesale manufacturing had to pivot in a serious way and we don’t think marketing in the manufacturing for wholesale trade will ever be the same.
So, what does marketing for manufacturing in wholesale look like today and what does it take to be successful? A tactical blend of old and new.
Out With The Old (Mostly)
It’s worth noting why trade shows are probably on the way out for most, succinctly summarized as: cash, COVID, and connection. These represent what you’d think: trade shows, which are often very costly to attend,1 are off the table because of COVID-19—but that’s alright, because new tech allows marketers to make new connections in wider networks, bringing in new business while maintaining legacy relationships.
So the trade show as an archetype is morphing and many new marketing for wholesale manufacturing hires are reflecting this shift. Companies are zeroing on hires that demonstrate the necessary creativity to set the brand apart in the post-pandemic market.
The Future Of Marketing in Wholesale Manufacturing is Familiar
While we’re convinced old tactics like trade shows are on the way out, the ethos of marketing in wholesale manufacturing remains consistent: the goal is to prove, by demonstration, how your product or service sets your company apart from the rest.
Manufacturing—especially on small to medium scales—might seem a bit like trucking or public warehousing insofar as the industries’ traditional resistance to digital aspects of marketing is concerned.2 For decades, word of mouth and a handshake were sufficient to grow and maintain a customer base. This is less true today, in large part because a huge slice of the potential customer base is searching for service or product providers online. Customers looking for the best deal on a product or service are very likely to compare prices online, at times prioritizing cost above all. But hitting the floor with your prices is not good for your company or your industry; you must find ways to win online customers over in new ways.
This is where digital collateral and rock solid branding come in.
Digitize Your Manufacturing for Wholesale Offerings
Believe it or not, an awesome digital presence is not as counterintuitive as it might seem for manufacturers in wholesale. The traditional standard was to get your product into the hands of potential buyers in real life but the emphasis is now shifting to endearing your company and mission to the minds of buyers before they’re able to see your work in person. Getting your ‘foot in the door’ with a great digital presence can be enough to bring new customers to you; it’s up to you to lock them in by delivering a great product. In its 2017 internet use survey, KPMG reported that 55% of people will search online for reviews and recommendations before making a purchase, with 47% visiting the company website.3 Presenting the company in an attractive and professional way online is crucial.
Moving Beyond Basic Digital Marketing
This challenge goes beyond the gold standard of marketing and your team should be well versed in industry-specific standards, including ensuring strong placements in search engine results for your targeted audiences. But they should also bring something new to the table: an expertise in creating dimensional and experiential digital assets that help your customers—current and future—to get to know your product in a more intimate way. The phrase “I’ll believe it when I see it” is more applicable to consumers than it is anywhere else. Helping your customers to see your product so well that they believe in it, even without experiencing it in real life, is the goal. This should be a central focus for your marketing team and, when hiring, innovation should be a central quality in your ideal candidate.
Hiring For In House Marketers in Wholesale Manufacturing
All this is to say that the future of marketing for manufacturing in wholesale trade is taking on a new form and, as such, demands new skills and approaches from in-house marketing teams. When hiring to build out that in house team, look for expertise in digital spheres with an industry specific background. These hires needn’t be ready experts in your specific sort of manufacturing for wholesale trade (though that would be ideal!) but they should bring a sound knowledge of the overall production pipeline and traditional marketing tactics to help bridge your company into this new landscape, one which is full of potential and room for growth. Instead of setting up posters, tables, and signage at trade shows as in days’ past, they’ll be looking outward, growing your networks and making connections using a safe and powerful tool: the internet.