You're not Coca-Cola. I'm pretty sure you knew that already, but just in case. But, what that means is your marketing dollars need to be spent targeting very specific people. Specialized manufacturing in the USA has become an efficient market. Creating and maintaining a competitive edge means staying innovative when it comes to your core business and improving all aspects of the business - including design and brand.
I've noticed that the term "branding", to CEO’s of manufacturing firms, is pretty consistently a non-ROI important factor and therefore gets a bad name. And I get it since “corporate branding” and “social media” has been run amuck with non-ROI producing activities. But, if you think about your company's brand the same way you would consider how to present yourself at a business meeting, then it gets to be super easy. When you are at a meeting, more than likely you consider how you look and how you sound (your tone or "voice"). Staying consistent with at least those two things can put you at the head of the pack.
CEO’s of middle-market manufacturing firms should consider the following factors when creating or evaluating their brand:
- Identify Audience Succinctly - Create 2-5 different Personas. Specialized manufacturers typically have between 3-5 different profile types (commonly known as Personas) that the website and other mediums should be talking to specifically. Seriously, before taking another step in marketing, make sure your marketing team is using personas as a basis for ALL marketing efforts. Each brochure, webpage, blog post, video, trade show booth, etc. should have a persona assigned to it so the messaging is clear and relevant. The foundational question when creating and evaluating content should be: Is what I'm creating talking to one (or possibly more) of my personas specifically? Knowing exactly WHO you are talking to not only targets your message and makes it more effective, but it clarifies what your voice should be in your marketing. Light and funny? Serious and factual? Conversational?
- Create at least a basic brand guide - You wouldn't go to a business meeting in dress shirt and sweat pants! A basic brand guide ensures a consistent look to your marketing. The easiest way to muddy your brand is to have multiple "looks" for your company. Your company and its products/services is complex, don’t let your website's design and your marketing materials get in the way. The two most important things to consider for a basic brand guide are your color scheme (should include 2-3 commonly used colors and hopefully 1 accent color to easily draw eyes to your CTA's and important messaging) and your font(s). Make sure everyone knows these basic things and stays consistent.
- Use a website platform that is fairly easily updated - An effective website is constantly growing with additional pages and useful content for their target personas. A good platform reduces development costs by reducing the need for specialized coding to add web pages, videos, landing pages, blog posts, equipment & widget pages, etc. The right website platform may cost a little bit more up front but will save you tons of money over even a short period of time. There are a bunch more benefits to a solid website platform too. Check out this blog post if you are interested in learning more about that...
- Understand the SEO aspects of design - Adding proper tagging to photos, understanding the trade off between design and SEO +/- impact, photo sizing, and many other design/content factors need to be understood. Sometimes great design ideas, cool looks or animations might look awesome, but may kill webpage SEO value. You have to be able to find the happy medium cause if no one is getting to your website, it doesn't matter how great it looks.
- Websites need to be built for desktop and mobile - I feel like in today's age that this is common sense, but you would be surprised. The easiest way to ensure this happens is to make sure you use a platform that does that for you. Many of them do and a few of them do it very reliably. If you make the wrong decision here, you will be paying double to build every web page again.
Bottom line: The most successful manufacturers deploy a consistent design with targeted messaging on a dynamic platform.