303: How Manufacturers Can Protect Their Market Share – with Sam Gupta

Social Capital 303

Meet Sam

Sam has been an ERP thought leader in the digital transformation space for nearly two decades with a primary focus on financial systems and ERP. He has been part of large transformation initiatives for Fortune 500 corporations but now spends time consulting with SMEs as a principal consultant at ElevatIQ. Sam regularly speaks at industry conferences and contributes his experiences through many popular blogs and publications. He also hosts a podcast called WBSRocks. 

Why are manufacturers not exploring these marketing opportunities right now?

When we look at the manufacturing landscape, especially if we talk about the SMB manufacturers, their business model, traditionally, if we look at the manufacturing supply chain, we had the manufacturer, we had the distributor, and we had the retailers. So just going back 20 or 30 years, manufacturers never had to worry about building their brand, because they had distributors who could actually sell for them. But now things are changing in the world, right? The skillset that they needed to develop, to be able to market, to be able to educate their distributors, they never had that. They were selling through distributors, they always had sort of the sales mindset, they had salespeople who were really good at talking about their products, but they never had to worry about marketing and that is the primary barrier, in my opinion, for manufacturers in understanding why they should worry about the marketing aspect and why they should pay attention to marketing to be able to create the opportunities they already have.

With that being one of the key barriers, what do you anticipate how this next phase of growth can happen and what can these SMB manufacturers do to get to the next stage?

I don’t know whether you want to call this as next phase of growth, or the next phase of disruption. So there are some disruptions happening in the startup space, right. We have a lot of startups that are really good at marketing because they were never good at let’s say the traditional manufacturing just because they had to compete with some of these established channels and their relationships. They had to figure out how to do the marketing because otherwise, they cannot compete with the traditional manufacturers. So disruption is happening in the startup space. Now, their products are going to be slightly more superior and the reason for that is because they are better at manufacturing as well. Just because they are utilizing the newer technologies, they are slightly more innovative. Looking at the traditional manufacture, they are going to face tremendous competition from these startups just because their products are going to be easier. They are going to build let’s say the b2c channels which are going to be direct to consumers as opposed to going through the distribution channel. So manufacturers are going to face tons and tons of competition from these startups, plus, the lines are really blurring between your distribution and manufacturers just because some of the manufacturers are directly marketing to the consumers and the distributors, what they are trying to do is they are trying to develop their own in house capabilities to be able to develop these products. Now, they have competition from their own distributors, who were supposed to be their sales and marketing channel. So it’s going to be a very interesting play overall and I think manufacturers need to think a lot more about what they can do to make sure their market share is protected.

How do you see the buyers and the decision-makers play into this?

Well, let’s look at the buyer types depending upon the kind of products. If we are talking about some of the spaces such as food and beverage manufacturing, in that case, the buyers are going to be slightly smaller overall, in terms of their buying power because of the way they buy their product, and the dollar amount that they spend on a specific product is going to be far lower as well. But if you look at the b2b space and the industrial buyer space, the buyer there is going to be completely different, because the products that they are trying to buy are going to be slightly more sophisticated. They are going to spend a lot more time researching these products before they can talk to the salesperson. Again, going 20 years back, if any of the industrial buyers really wanted to buy the product, what they would do is they’ll go with word of mouth. If they are already working with somebody, they’ll ask them if they know someone who sells that product and these channels were already developed. But now, the way the buying cycle looks at this point in time in the manufacturing space is if anybody wants to buy anything, they are going to research on Google first. There is a saying that I think they performed roughly 80 clicks before they talk to any salesperson. So this is happening on Google so somebody needs to be selling this. So either you could be selling this, or your competitors can sell. So that’s why the whole buyer mindset is changing, the buyer behavior is changing overall, from the marketing perspective for the manufacturers.

Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking stories that you’ve had?

I’m actually going to talk about some of the things that I have personally done pre-COVID, versus what I have done post-COVID. So before I wanted to really network, what I would do is, I would try to find some of the physical channels, and I did not post as much on LinkedIn. But now after COVID, what I’m really doing is I am posting a lot more on LinkedIn, just because when you have the follower accounts on LinkedIn, what happens is that is actually going to increase the visibility of your post which is going to increase the overall influence over LinkedIn that is going to help develop your personal brand. I am actually personally trusting a lot more on LinkedIn networking post- COVID and I think that is going to continue overall, as we move along. So I don’t know if I have any specific story from the networking perspective. So when I used to network, let’s say if I go to my physical events, sometimes I used to be afraid when I was not comfortable talking about the subject. But now, after I mastered whatever I want to speak about, then typically, I am very confident.

How do you stay in front of our best nurture your network or your community?

The best way to nurture for me would be how I can stay on top of my buyers’ minds is how I like to define. So these are going to be either buyer, or these are going to be the people who are hanging out with my buyers. So there are multiple channels that I typically like to follow. It could be from the social media perspective. So as I mentioned, the only reason why we are doing LinkedIn is because that actually gets us in front of the buyers. They are always seeing that I’m always present on LinkedIn. We don’t necessarily get a lot of leads from LinkedIn directly, but that actually helps in creating this brand presence that people are calling us and that actually helps overall in strengthening the brand and also in terms of visibility.

What advice would you offer the business professional who’s looking to grow their network?

The advice I’m going to offer is number one, you need to be super comprehensive in your strategy. So you cannot rely just on one channel. Identify which channel is the right suited for your audience. Sometimes what people do is they will simply go for either LinkedIn or Twitter or let’s say Instagram, but they don’t really know where their buyers are hanging out. So understanding where your buyers are, figure that out, and then figure out what kind of message they are going to understand and then understand the nuances of the platform as well. Those three are going to be equally applicable in terms of actually creating the posts on LinkedIn. That does not mean that everybody’s seeing your post and you are investing your time in the right direction. Sometimes your best angle could be just the cold calling. Just because you might have let’s say five buyers in the market, if you are approaching the masses and if you are targeting a lot of people, then you need to figure out how to how to approach each customer and each message as well. 

If you could go back to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell yourself to do more or less of or differently with regards to your professional career?

I did not respect inbound marketing at all to be honest, because the space that I’m in has very expensive purchases. So we used to be very outbound very sales focused, and one of the misconception or misunderstanding I had, and I still argue with a lot of marketers, what we used to tell them is, “I’m cold calling my CFOs on a daily basis and they are not really listening to me,” so I know who is going to buy for me, I’m already in touch with them and they are not really talking to me. But you are telling me that this is the same CFO who’s not talking to me over the phone, this CFO is going to come to my website and will read my content and then going to ask me to show my product, which did not make a lot of sense. So after COVID, what happened is everything changed, because we are not getting as much result from our outbound efforts. So we had to find ways to be successful in the market. We started doing a lot more content, just because we had time. Now when I talk to my customer, the whole perception changed. It was the same pace that I was doing in the album scenario, but now they want to trust me, just because they know my brand. So if I were to go 20 years back, one of the things that I would do is I would start from marketing, and I would take a marketing-driven approach, and I would take a community-driven approach, as opposed to a sales-driven approach.

Do you have any final words of advice to offer listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?

The only thing I would say is just to figure out how to be a thought leader in your space. I know that this term gets thrown around a lot, the best way to be a thought leader is just open up yourself, go out there and talk about whatever you know. It could be a very small thing or it could be a big thing. Just open up and either start a blog, podcast, YouTube channel, whatever! Just open up yourself, be transparent, and put your content out there. Trust me, people will trust you. 

Connect with Sam

Check out Sam’s podcast! https://wbs.rocks/ 

Visit Sam’s website: https://www.elevatiq.com/ 

Sam’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/samguptausa/