The Authentic Manufacturer

Blog Post By:Rob Hawse

You’d think that for manufacturers communicating authenticity through marketing efforts would come easily but in our experience this is not usually the case. Don’t get me wrong, authenticity clearly exists in their original thinking, their translation of that thinking into innovative designs, and the conversion of raw materials into useful physical objects. So why is it when it comes to marketing authenticity it is nowhere to be found?

The problem is that in most manufacturing organizations, management is wholly focused on the making of the “product”. So focused, in fact, that they fail to tell the stories about the “product”.

Stories that will enable prospects to begin to understand how the “product” will fit in and meet their needs.

You may think that listing facts on the website is enough. The problem there is that “just the facts” style of marketing communicates nothing to the audience about who you are and why it is worth it to them to risk leaving their current partner for you.

Your ability to represent and to convince those customers that they can trust you is directly connected to your ability to communicate proudly and unapologetically exactly who you are as an organization. What you believe. Why you do what you do. Who you are, why they should trust you and what they will gain from making the change.

The paradox is that while most companies (not just manufacturing) pay a lot of lip service to the need for market differentiation, the thought of being perceived as different from competitors scares the living daylights out of most of them.

Here’s the thing: If you haven’t connected with and embraced who you are as a company it doesn’t mean you’re not different! It just means you’re trying to be something you’re not and either confusing your customer, or that what you are communicating is so vanilla that you are making no impression on customers whatsoever. (Arguably, vanilla is worse).

In fact, our experience has shown that manufacturers authenticity is already in alignment with the nature of your business. You’re already creating things that don’t exist, which are grounded in all types of awesome core values (honest, original, pure, out of the box, edgy, conservative, expensive, inexpensive, utilitarian, desirable), etc.

The thinking behind what you make is what your clients and prospects want to know about you. It’s what they need to make the jump.

Bear in mind, authenticity is not about divulging trade secrets. It’s about communicating effectively to your audience beyond the product tolerances and warranties to what it’s like to buy from you, work with you and be successful with you.


Wonder where you are on the authenticity scale?

Rate where you are in the quiz below on a scale of 1-5, where 1 is not at all and 5 is always.

  1. In blog posts, subject matter experts share their thoughts about the industry and best practices rather than emulating the thoughts of competitors. We ask ourselves why we are writing something and how it will help those who read it.
  2. In technical papers, we include our distinct point of view or why we are writing the paper in the first place, and clearly communicate its purpose.
  3. When it comes to photography for the website or brochures, we hire someone to take photographs of our staff and customers rather than deceiving our audience with stock photos of people who don’t work for us – and never would.
  4. We thoroughly train staff to conduct highly coordinated walking or plant tours that showcase their passion for the work and their individual personalities, making the most of that 1-to-1 interaction opportunity someone has graciously provided to you.
  5. Customer service reps are empowered to solve customer problems in a real and human way guided by procedures and processes rather than hamstrung by scripts.
  6. Our proposals and quotations reflect our client’s best interests, period. There are no hidden agendas. Our clients can trust that we will offer only those solutions that are required to solve their specific problem.
  7. Our student program offers participants “real” behind the scenes exposure to what, how and why we do what we do. The program is designed to inspire youth to get into our field of expertise or just ignite a passion for manufacturing, in general.
  8. To ensure we are attracting the right people to work for us, we encourage employees to share their opinions about working for us and in manufacturing, in general, on our blog. Leadership has developed and is executing a smart and effective social media strategy to raise awareness of our organization as a great place to work.
  9. We staff our conference show booth with energetic, knowledgeable, and outgoing professionals, not booth babe actors. The booth experience encourages visitors to engage, gives them a reason to feel good about our brand, and take away something beyond a bolt shaped stress ball, or cheap logo pen.
  10. We work with distributors on a regular basis to educate them about what makes us different through the what, who, why lens. Sales training includes exercises on what it means to be authentic, and brand focused support materials, and experiences are available for their use.
  11. The history section of our website offers visitors more than an old black and white photo of an old brick building and original shingle. We visit significant times in history and tell stories about how we responded to opportunities and challenges as an organization. Our customers can get a feel for what we’re like to work with, not only in good times but also when the going gets tough.

How did you do?

If you scored less than 40, you might want to recheck your playbook. Chances are you’re operating from a place of authenticity; you just need to make some adjustments to how you are communicating this to your audience. Today’s customers are savvy and, whether you’re ready or not, they expect this level of interaction.

The good news is that as manufacturers, keeping it real is in your DNA but it’s only half the battle. To win in today’s competitive environment, you’re going to need to share it, too.

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