Ford Mustang

A brand is much more than a company’s logo or tagline. Defined by Chuck Pettis in his book, TechnoBrands: How to Create & Use “Brand Identify” to Market, Advertise, and Sell Technology Products, a brand is:

  • The sensory, emotive, and cultural proprietary image surrounding a company or product
  • An assurance of quality, making selection worry-free
  • A significant source of competitive advantage and future earnings
  • A promise of performance
  • An enhancement of perceived value and satisfaction through associations that remind and entice customers to use the product / service
  • Arguably, a company’s most important asset

Pettis states, “A brand becomes an asset over a period of time. Like a seedling, it takes constant care and frequent watering to produce a flower. Brand equity doesn’t just happen; it’s a combination of quality product [or service], advertising, marketing programs, point-of-sale programs [e.g. e-commerce], customer service programs – a bundle of customer experiences that create the ultimate brand image.”

Pettis wrote his book in 1995 when the Internet was in its beginning stages. Although the book is now out of print, we highly recommend reading it, if you can find a copy, as the ideas and principles he lays out concerning technology brands are still relevant today.

Branding and small manufacturers

No matter the size of your company, or what you manufacture, branding is of vital concern. To add to Pettis’ definition, branding today also includes your values and culture. Many buyers are keen to work with companies that make their products in the US or are working to lower their carbon footprint (to name two things).

Prospective new hires want to know what it’s like to work for your company in terms of your values, culture, and the people already working for you (re: will they fit in?).

Most important, however, today’s brand definition includes how your company is perceived by people when they visit your website. Suffice to say, a clunky, outdated website heavily detracts from your brand experience.

For example, outdated social icons, a blog that hasn’t been updated since 2017, and a difficult mobile experience all communicate that your company doesn’t pay attention to details. If your company has a poor website, what does it mean for the products you manufacture?

Therefore, as a manufacturer, your first step with regard to marketing and lead generation is to develop and evolve a solid brand that encompasses the following (Figure 1):

  • Messaging
  • Logo
  • Typography
  • Graphics
  • Colors
  • Values
  • Culture
  • Experience

All marketing tactics should then adhere to your brand.

Figure 1: Develop and evolve a solid brand ©Huff Industrial Marketing, Inc.

Brand awareness and lead generation

For many of the small manufacturers who contact us, lead generation is usually their number one concern – even more so in the wake of COVID.

Companies that have relied on outside sales or word-of-mouth for new business have found it much harder to get into companies or even get appointments with established accounts.

When these manufacturers call, the savvy ones understand they need to completely revamp their brand and messaging, and by extension, their website and other marketing. The less savvy ones think all they need is “some SEO.”

You don’t have to do everything from the list in Figure 2, but you should, at the very least, be employing tactics that drive leads (e.g. pay-per-click advertising and content marketing/SEO) while also building brand awareness both online and offline (e.g. PR, newsletter, networking).

Many of these tactics, such as tradeshows, online search, and the website drive leads and build brand awareness.

lead generation tactics
Figure 2: Marketing tactics for lead generation

Practicing What We Preach

To build brand awareness and generate leads over the long-term, Huff Industrial Marketing uses many of the tactics we recommend to our clients (aka: “eating your own dog food”). Currently, these tactics include:

  • Website
  • Paid Search
  • Organic Search (SEO)
  • Content Marketing
  • LinkedIn / Sales Navigator
  • Email Marketing
  • Direct Mail
  • Print Advertising

We test and track all tactics to determine which delivers the best ROI. Based on data, we make adjustments and move forward.

Final thoughts

When it comes to marketing, the two biggest mistakes we see smaller manufacturers make are:

1. Trying to do everything at once, not seeing the results they want, and then giving up.

2. Not doing anything at all.

What we’ve learned in our six years of working with small manufacturers is that a silver bullet for lead generation no longer exists. You can no longer “SEO” your website and expect results.

Instead, successful manufacturers understand that brand awareness and lead generation work together, and over the months and years, build a robust brand that fully integrates the two.