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Manufacturing Marketing With A Touch

By Rob Hawse

Providing customers with a well-crafted object they can see and feel can quickly communicate product quality and possibilities that instantly forge a connection to your brand.

We live in a world consumed with digital ease, and that includes the world of marketing. Our main tools today: Emails, web sites, applications, e-books, videos, webinars, are all virtual products of unseen programming code.

The good news is that digital marketing is becoming increasingly measurable, enabling us to constantly improve the effectiveness of our campaigns. The bad news is that our work also can be disposed of in a millisecond by a tiny bit of code that is the marketing kiss of death —delete.

As easy as digital makes it to initiate communication with prospects, the fact is it’s just as easy for them to dismiss our messages with a click or two.

That’s because we don’t make anything anymore, at least nothing that customers actually have to touch.

I’m not suggesting we return to the pre-Internet days of marketing and communicate solely with print collateral and postcards, but it’s hard to dispute the increased levels of curiosity one experiences when something “out of the norm” arrives in the mailbox. Especially for manufacturers, whose business is making things, it just makes sense that marketing should include something for your customers to hold in their hands.

Why? For one, it’s much harder to “delete” an object. You can throw it away, but to do so you will have to pick it up and put in the trash can. But even the act of throwing the object away creates an opportunity to pique curiosity. To do that, recipients must touch the object, gaining you seconds of exposure. And if you have created the right object, upon touching it, the recipient, now aware of the quality and craftsmanship, may decide to keep it a bit longer.

The question is, what to make? In many cases, the actual product is too big, too expensive or is proprietary. But there are a few different approaches you could take, depending on your situation. Remember, it doesn’t have to be the actual product. In fact, resisting the temptation to send something too literal affords you the opportunity to connect at a deeper level.

If you make materials that are used to make things, obviously you need to give them some form. For example, the object that Spinneybeck leather sends to their customers, who are largely architects and interior designers, is a baseball made from two different colors of leather with contrasting stitching. The object enables recipients to see how the leather will look in three dimensions, and ascertain the quality by how it feels, how it responds to stitching, and translates to the form. Spinneybeck doesn’t sell baseballs but baseballs help Spinneybeck to sell their leather.

Makers of furniture or similar finished goods might consider creating limited edition miniature collectible versions of their products, an indirect sales strategy that positions your branded object as a collector’s item. For example, many high-profile furniture companies have licensed their most iconic designs to The Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany. The Vitra mini-chairs were “created as a way of making the collection available to the public – not just through two-dimensional means, but through the tactile pleasure of meticulously handcrafted, three-dimensional models.” The chairs are available for purchase online at the museum gift store.

Manufacturers of proprietary parts obviously can’t send out customers’ parts for promotion, but one option would be to challenge in-house engineers to design show parts that would demonstrate features and benefits without having to divulge trade secrets. Not only will sales have something tangible to hand their prospect, you also may discover new capabilities and product opportunities for your company in the process!

Sales and distribution are always looking for new ways to demonstrate why your product is the best fit for the job. It can be tough to communicate the value of a three-dimensional object via eblast or webinar and even harder for the decision maker to understand it that way. But if you can provide those seeking well-crafted products and services with something they can see and touch, they will immediately understand what they are looking at. In fact, this “high touch” approach to marketing manufacturing or manufactured goods might be just what you need to differentiate yourself from your competition.

The three-dimensional branded object can serve as your ambassador long after the object has been received and the sales meeting is over. It also will continue to represent you and your goodwill long after the deal has been closed — and your bottom line will feel it.

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