It’s tempting to get distracted by the sexy stuff when diving into a new marketing plan – flashy ad creative, cool one-off pieces of content, exciting live events, the webinar series you’ve been dying to launch. The list is endless.

However, creating great marketing campaigns starts with laying a strong foundation built on customer insights and strategic thinking. Trust us, it’s not boring by any means, but many in-house manufacturing marketers still rush to create content and campaigns without first investing in foundational marketing work to set themselves up for long-term success.

There are four crucial activities that form the building blocks for impactful marketing:

  1. Customer research
  2. Developing a positioning strategy
  3. Crafting a brand story
  4. Creating a content plan

Taking the time to do each of these well pays dividends when creating content and campaigns that resonate with your customers and differentiate you from competitors.

This article comes from a conversation on The Manufacturing Marketer Podcast. Listen to the full episode HERE.

Customer research

We know, we know, you may have heard this a million times already, but it still bears repeating:

Talk. To. Your. Customers.

The most valuable thing you can do as a marketer is speak directly to customers. Interviews reveal pain points, buying motivations, and opportunities your customers may not otherwise tell you about.

Conduct 20-30 minute interviews with at least 6 customers or prospects. Ask open-ended questions to uncover:

      • The biggest problems and pain points they face, both related and unrelated to your solution
      • How they define success in their role and jobs they do to accomplish it
      • Where they spend time online and how they prefer to receive information
      • What alternatives they consider and why they chose to buy from you
      • How they classify your product in the market

Record and transcribe interviews to capture quotes, language, and insights you can incorporate into positioning, brand story, and content.

Positioning Strategy

That customer research is GOLD, but if we’re being honest, no one is going to routinely go back and relisten to a 30 minute recording.

You need to package those insights into a clear and concise positioning strategy that your whole team can easily reference frequently.

Use your research to develop positioning that defines:

Ideal customer profile: Narrow down the exact customer profile you want to target based on attributes like industry, business size, and product types. This helps focus your marketing.

Competitive alternatives: Map out alternatives customers consider for your solution, like manual processes or competitors.

Unique attributes: List your differentiators beyond generic claims of “high quality” or “good customer service.” Identify features that lead to tangible benefits and be specific!

Market segment: Determine your positioning within the larger market as a leader, niche player, subset of a category or maybe even a new category.

Link unique attributes to value: Map each differentiator to the benefits enabled by the feature and the specific value it provides customers in relation to their goals. This helps customers understand how you solve their problems better than alternatives.

Brand Story

Your positioning strategy defines how you’ll go to market.

However, you need to expand on that and use language your customer is actually going to care about. Less bullet points and more human. We’ll give your positioning life through storytelling grounded in customer insights.

Frame your brand story by placing customers as the “heroes” on a journey, you as the “guide” providing a plan to succeed, and problems as the “villains” to overcome. Tell the story of the positives that happen when customers follow your plan versus the negatives if they don’t.

Use quotes, analogies and metaphors from customer interviews to make your story authentic rather than self-centered marketing speak. Frame yourself as helping rather than selling to create an emotional connection.

Create a Content Plan

At this point, you’ve talked to your customers, figured out what you need to say to them, and how exactly you need to say it. Now, you need a way to put it out into the world, and the best way to do that is with content.

Build a content plan informed by your new perspective on customer problems and positioning.

Start simple by listing 3 to 4 pieces of foundational content you will create in the next quarter, such as:

      • Long-form articles that address key customer problems identified in research
      • How-to guides that teach customers to do jobs related to their goals
      • Videos that demonstrate your expertise and humanize your company
      • Case studies that illustrate your brand story in action for similar companies

Update Continually

Foundational work doesn’t have to be set in stone. In fact, it’s stronger when you see these assets as living documents. Continually update based on new customer insights and a changing market. Share widely across functions so your brand story enables sales, customer service and product development efforts.

Drive content and campaigns with powerful value propositions by leveraging insights from customer interviews, your positioning strategy and brand story. With the right groundwork in place, your marketing will make a real impact for your business and customers.