Brand Strategy

Marketing, Manufacturing, and Millennials, Oh My!

by Bridgette Palm
6 min

The landscape of manufacturing in the United States is changing due to the increasing pace of business and rapid technological growth. Manufacturing companies are struggling to stay relevant in the digital age.

To remain competitive, there are three departments that every manufacturer should focus on in the coming year:

  1. Human Resources: Attracting and retaining talent
  2. Sales: Growing revenue
  3. Marketing: Updating marketing materials and technology to reflect the digital age

Though the overall goals may seem common to any industry, manufacturing has a few specific challenges within these departments to address in the coming year.

Growing revenue is a goal for many businesses in 2018, but in manufacturing, legacy sales teams are struggling with updating their sales process to reflect modern challenges. Now that prospects are looking for information in new ways, sales teams must align their processes with customer challenges.

This is where updated marketing strategies will support sales initiatives. By better understanding their prospect’s challenges, you can educate prospects to reduce the sales team’s effort and yield more qualified leads, resulting in improved efficiencies.

Finally, in order to ensure the company is growing and staying relevant in light of an aging workforce, manufacturers need to attract and retain new talent. Unfortunately, I can’t introduce this without the dreaded “m” word: millennials. One of the best ways to truly speak to this crowd is to share your brand story and be transparent in your vision for growth.

Stop Selling Products and Start Selling Solutions

Modern buyers want everything done yesterday.

According to, the first company to respond to a request from a prospect wins the business in 35 – 50% of all deals.

Without the right technology in place, this can be impossible for sales teams, particularly ones using legacy sales strategies.

With the advent of technology, sales teams in manufacturing must adapt legacy sales strategies to reflect the modern buyer. But adopting technology can be intimidating. This series covers why it’s important and best practices to help sales teams generate more leads and nurture relationships by focusing on the way their customers purchase.

Manufacturers hoping to remain competitive must build customer-centric sales and marketing strategies; in today’s world, that often requires integrating technology into their process. Modern sales teams will need to adjust their strategy to acknowledge this shift in the buyer’s journey, and begin coordinating with marketing to better meet potential customer’s needs, or risk losing out to competition who are already doing this.

If you have a great sales team, help them get in front of prospects by integrating technology into their sales process, and updating marketing materials to support them.

The New Marketing Role Within Manufacturing: The Rise of the Marketing Specialist

The role of marketing in manufacturing has changed. Now, rather than simply supporting sales, marketing is leading with content to attract and generate leads for modern buyers, and watching market conditions and industry trends to adapt quickly and stay competitive.

Marketing is responsible for most of the information buyers are looking for long before they speak with sales.

Manufacturers are investing more in marketing than ever before. Historically, if there is a marketing department within a manufacturing company, it’s typical to find a single person managing the whole department. Often, that person is relegated to creating print marketing collateral, pitch decks for the sales team, and organizing trade shows.

However, as technology has advanced, the impact marketing has on closing a sale has become more obvious. The truth of the matter is that way people purchase has changed: they do their own research now long before they speak to a salesperson.

Previously, social media had been largely ignored by manufacturing companies because it wasn’t deemed relevant, but it’s become a focus for many manufacturing companies this year. Especially as recent research has revealed that 55% of B2B purchases are informed by social media.

The executive c-suite is beginning to recognize this shift in the way people buy – the challenge facing leadership now is how to shift their business to better meet the needs of their customers.

One solution is to hire someone who is familiar with the marketing tactics they haven’t been using. Leaders often look for someone who is familiar with social media and can manage other digital marketing technology.

The role of the Marketing Specialist is the second most needed position in manufacturing this year. The challenge now facing the industry is attracting and retaining the young talent needed for the role.

Attracting and Retaining Skilled (often millennial) Talent in Manufacturing

Manufacturing as a whole has faced a growing talent drain. Between the aging workforce and the dwindling number of students entering trade industries, the talent gap is only growing.

Even leading manufacturing organizations are struggling to attract new talent for two main reasons:

  1. Battling the stigma of the trades not offering viable, desirable careers
  2. Failing to communicate their organization’s purpose or mission

Manufacturing, as an industry, has long struggled with being a less desirable career path than other industries. The modern career path for young adults is promoted as a four-year degree; the trades are treated as an alternative that is less desirable and fallback career. The industry, as well as educational institutions, haven’t done a good job of marketing the industry to young talent.

Manufacturers alone can’t battle this industry-wide stigma; to change the narrative, companies must work with educational organizations, at the collegiate, high school, and even middle school level, and in turn with parents.

Through coordinating and collaborating with educational organizations and the local community, manufacturers can help to alter the perception of the trades as a whole.

In addition to marketing the industry, companies must learn how to market themselves to the millennial generation. According to, millennials want to feel fulfilled by the work they are doing; businesses that can articulate their mission are more attractive to this generation. In order to draw in millennial talent then, manufacturers should share their brand story.

Express the impact your business has on your customers, community, or the world at large, and you’ll appeal to a generation driven by purpose.

Additionally, in order to retain talent once they’ve been hired, build on the brand story and help the new hires understand how their role impacts the overall purpose of the organization.

The challenge is simultaneously providing enough guidance to help them tie tactics to strategy, and the autonomy to grow within their role. Many of the people seeking employment are young, yes, but also strategic, sharp, driven. Given the opportunity, they’ll become an integral part of the leadership team.

Align Sales, Marketing, and HR Initiatives to Grow Your Manufacturing Company

Though front-office initiatives like sales and marketing have historically been pushed to back-burner in favor of new product development or operational initiatives for growth, manufacturers who hope to grow must refocus. An increasingly competitive landscape means this kind of long-term, strategic thought will be what defines true leaders in the industry.

The companies who are committed to transformation and dedicated to changing their business to better align with the solutions their customers are demanding, will be the businesses who thrive in the future.

They’ll become the next captains of industry, and t leaders within American manufacturing.

Are you committed to transformation this year?

Bridgette Palm
Bridgette has developed a career around content. Her work as a writer and editor began nearly ten years ago, and since she has harnessed her experience working as a ghostwriter for business owners to develop marketing strategies that connect businesses to their ideal audiences through content. When not devoting her eye to content revision and development, she can be found reading, enjoying the diverse and delicious Milwaukee restaurant scene, or taking long road trips to explore America.