This piece co-authored by Rachel Cunliffe.
November 2020 marked the publication of the 50th issue of Manufacturing Marketing Magazine.
When we started in June 2018, we talked about going the traditional route: becoming a quarterly print magazine.
While print magazines are still viable (judging by the pile on the coffee table), they’re labor intensive, involve many moving parts, and require advertisers or paid subscribers to foot the bill.
We learned that tracking down people to interview wasn’t as easy as sending out a cheery “Hello! We want to interview you!” email. Nor was getting permission to use photos of people for the magazine cover.
We learned that producing original content month after month was tough, and that no matter how much we had going on in our businesses or personal lives, we had a deadline to meet.
And, we learned that viral content exists in the entertainment industry, but not in manufacturing! Finding the right people to hear about the magazine isn’t easy. Leaving it to chance and time is not enough.
With each new thing we learned, we made changes. We decided to stay digital. We went from once a week to twice a month to once a month. We began thinking through editorial calendars months in advance. We signed on for a marketing automation tool.
Most important, we set firm deadlines. Finalizing an issue on a weekend or holiday or late at night wasn’t fun. It also led to errors.
Hard work means constant improvement
Writing a magazine is much different from writing a blog. It requires more discipline (meaning, the writing style isn’t as loose). The format is different too – three columns vs. one with a blog. It means thinking in short, sharp sentences.
You also can’t throw a good issue together at the last minute. Magazine issues are like record albums – it helps if they have a theme that pulls everything together and keeps things “on pace.”
We try to have a theme for each issue – sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
Working together as a team, and critiquing each other’s work, has had its moments. It’s hard to see our own errors, and even harder to see things that don’t make sense to others.
Having multiple people working together ultimately means fewer errors and more informative articles. It’s also led to a wonderful collaboration that Charmaine Moberly, the newest member of our team, has likened to a dance.
“I don’t think I’ve ever worked in an environment that’s as inclusive as ours,” she says. This inclusiveness means being open to and respecting each other’s ideas, feedback and critiques.
“Team effort and collaboration are critical to growing a business,” Charmaine adds. “Different viewpoints, insights, and opinions can all work together for the greater good.”
Innovation comes from repetition
New marketing ventures, such as a magazine, require a big initial investment in terms of time and learning and may seem cost-ineffective in the short-term.
We learned over time that putting together each magazine issue became much more streamlined. Evaluating sustainability too early in the process, therefore, may lead you to the wrong conclusions.
Meeting a deadline each month meant continually refining our processes – which had the unexpected result of positively impacting our work with clients.
We were always efficient, now we were becoming super-efficient. We always used tools, but now we were learning to consolidate and create processes for the tools we kept.
And, the more we learned from interviewing marketers and owners of manufacturing companies, the more we understood their challenges, and the better our own marketing.
Moving forward better than ever
The magazine has been a labor of love. Love in the sense that yes, we love doing it, but more so a love for manufacturing and truly wanting to help small manufacturers grow their businesses.
We’ve met so many wonderful people at tradeshows, educational seminars, and on LinkedIn. We love talking to marketers and owners at companies and learning about their challenges and the different ideas they’re using to get the word out about their products and services.
American manufacturers are doing amazing work. The media is doing more to publicize these stories, but much more needs to be done. We want to be a leading voice in this unfolding story.
We’re super proud of how far we’ve come. The best thing anyone can say to us is, “I read your magazine every month and love it.”
Even better, we’re thrilled when a company we’ve featured on the cover asks us to send them high-res printed copies they can frame and hang in their offices. 😍
We have lots of plans for changes in the coming months (and yes, we’ll be accepting ads in the near future due to repeated requests) but one thing won’t change: Our emphasis will always be on marketing for small industrial manufacturers.