A Guide to Manufacturers Branding
Most manufacturers already have a reputation. The one you go to for short-run, high-quality manufacturing. The one you use for high volumes, fairly quickly, with a clever, quippy approach. The reliable one you use when you just want to be sure you get it done.
You have a reputation. Does that mean you don’t need this fuzzy thing called “a brand”?
Actually, a brand is a key element of your business.
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A brand is a business persona — it’s how people think of you. With some thought and planning, your manufacturing business can do a lot to influence that.
What we’ll cover
- What is manufacturer branding?
- How and where to implement your brand
- Your manufacturing brand has many uses
What is manufacturer branding?
More to the point, what does branding do for a busy manufacturing enterprise?
Your brand is a kind of container that holds all the experiences customers or prospects have with you. The more consistent those experiences, the easier it is for them to think about you.
And the easier you are to think about, the faster you will come to mind when someone needs the product you manufacture or the manufacturing services you provide.
There are a few relatively simple steps to figuring out your manufacturing brand.
Know who you are
This is your first, essential step. But it isn’t some kind of deep, philosophical analysis. It needn’t involve a lot of company listening sessions or customer surveys.
Just ask yourself the following questions:
- What business problem do we solve for our customers?
- What keeps our customers coming back to us?
- How are we different from our competitors?
- What about us would be most appealing to the customers we want to acquire?
The day-to-day responsibilities of running a manufacturing business can cause you to neglect how you appear to your current and desired customers in a changing market. This is particularly true if you have been in business for some time.
You may find some interesting differences of opinion in your own organization about how to answer some of these questions.
Clarify what you offer
Branding is mostly a matter of editing. It’s as much about what you take out as what you leave in.
It’s a natural impulse to think that, if you do a lot, your brand should say a lot. But consider the last résumé you received that listed every single thing the applicant had ever done, since their high school lawn-mowing job. Did that help you understand what would make them a good hire?
Being heard once is not enough. You have to convey your message clearly and consistently over time for it to properly resonate. Branding questions to consider include:
- What do we still do that is not core to who we are now?
- What topics do the more junior engineers and managers — and our customers — ask about that senior people never mention?
- What do customers say is the one highest-value thing that we do?
Come up with a tagline
The simplest way to ensure your message is clear? Create a tagline — a simple phrase that says what you do. For example:
- Durable submersible pumps for remote locations
- High-speed conveyor belts that protect fragile contents
- Self-reporting, high-capacity batteries that prevent unexpected outages
Coming up with a tagline is fun, frustrating, and enlightening. Don’t say, “We’re so much more than a tagline.” Of course you are. But a tagline will keep your focus on how others see you — not just how you see yourself.
Express your brand visually
Design is where a lot of people start when they think about branding. And design is immensely important in ensuring your brand has a clear, visual identity in the heads of people you want to reach. But leave this for near the end of your branding effort.
Why? Because there is nothing easier than having opinions about colors, fonts, and layout, and everyone will. But it’s easier to choose these things once you have a clear vision of what your brand is. So save it for near the end, when it won’t hold things up.
How and where to implement your brand
Building your brand is a slow and steady process. While there are many different methods and places to make your brand more visible, for a manufacturing brand it’s best to focus on providing useful content, clarifying your website, and ensuring that wherever you appear, your brand identity is clear and consistent.
Show your brand’s value with your content
The best way to reinforce a brand that conveys competence and understanding is to provide useful content.
Content marketing consists of things like blog posts, videos, long-form white papers, and podcasts. But don’t start with those details. Start with a few questions:
- What do customers often not understand about what we offer?
- How are our devices or our service underused or even misused?
- What should customers outside of engineering know about us?
- What do various customers want to learn to advance in their careers?
Manufacturing brands have a lot of information to convey. Many people may not be interested, but your potential customers have the interest, background, and incentive to learn more.
So get detailed — but as always, keep your audience’s needs in mind. Don’t make it hard to get to the real information, don’t add filler, and don’t push the product.
Showcase your brand with your website
How often do you have to spend five minutes digging around a website just to figure out what the company does?
Now that you know who you are, and have clarified what you offer, apply that knowledge to your website. And put your tagline right at the top.
Your main goal? Letting your prospects know they’ve reached the right place so they don’t immediately click away. Once they know that, they’ll be comfortable checking out your site to see if you can solve their particular problem.
In every channel where you appear to a possible customer, you should recognizably show your brand. Of course, you appear in a lot of different places. That’s why it’s so important to get a handle on them so you can make decisions about each possible channel.
This is a good time to include a wide range of employees. Ask them what customer-facing tasks they do. Some of their answers may surprise you. Places your brand appears that you might be neglecting include:
- Customer service messaging and responsiveness
- Phone tree structure and recordings
- Contracts and contract-related communications
- Routine boilerplate in directories, at trade shows, and in other content
This is no place to be heavy-handed and prescriptive, but most employees will be happy to get guidance on what your manufacturing business truly wants to convey.
A clear brand helps with all of your marketing activities, including search engine optimization, email marketing, direct mail, and trade show and conference appearances.
Your manufacturing brand has many uses
A brand helps customers remember you, make decisions about you, and trust you. It clarifies for your employees how they should present the business to customers.
It also helps your employees know who you are and what you stand for. A good brand can support you in a number of unexpected ways.
And branding supports all of your lead-generation activities. Prospects who have a good sense of who you are will be more comfortable in giving you their contact information — turning a prospect into a lead.
Because branding has both long-term and immediate benefits for your manufacturing business, you should get started if you haven’t already. You’ll likely get more out of it than you thought you could.
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