Building a successful manufacturing biz on copied & 'me too' products

Ed Marsh | Aug 28, 2014

Real success on a rock solid foundation

It's been brutally hard work.  In the early days it was about sourcing and reverse engineering all the products.  Later you concentrated on mimicking processes and fixtures to manufacture the knock-offs as efficiently as possible.  Today, as you survey all that you have created, you can say with confidence that there's not one new thing which has contributed to your success - it's a demonstration of the immense power of copying!

A pretty silly premise


Of course - it's patently absurd.  You wouldn't take that approach...and even if you tried it wouldn't work.

Except that you are taking that approach with your business development, and while you may not realize it's not working.

Why do so many B2B manufacturing companies innovate the bejeebers out of their product and then create a biz dev approach that is regurgitated crap?

You know, the website that looks like:

  1. Home - "We're great!"
  2. About - "Founded 25, 50 or 100 years ago, 3rd generation, 25,000 sq. foot facility with computerized manufacturing equipment, highest quality, & we're great"
  3. Industries Served - "We've got lots of customers in these industries...because we're great"
  4. Services - "Milling, turning, grinding, bead blasting - We do the same things as everyone else....but we're great!)
  5. Products - Here's where you have all the detail on everything you make or made.  You may even still have some placeholder 'lorem ipsum' text in here - and tons of technical detail and spec that will never help you get a deal but be used to disqualify you from many - even though it's clear how great you are!
  6. Contact - Impressed by how great we've told you we are?  Fill out our form so we can call and ask what you're ready to buy
And of course the corporate overview video and the 8.5 X 11 product data sheets....put a different logo in the corner and see if you can tell which is which!
Your product is different, and the resulting impact on your customers' businesses is vastly different - shouldn't that be clear?

Breaking from B2B marketing mimicry

The range of tactics, approaches and opinions for how to distinguish your B2B Sales and marketing is endless.  So let's stick with two fundamental points:
  1. Forget about you - everything needs to be about your prospects, their business, their challenges and how your products can make a difference in their business
  2. Skip the navigation - maybe not seriously, have it there like a pacifier just because without it you'd feel naked.  But remember that anyone coming directly to your home page has a clear idea of what they're looking for.  Those folks know you generally.  The vast majority of prospects arrived on specific pages of your site based on an internet search (>90% of all B2B purchasing starts that way) for solutions to some challenge they have.  The point is that when they arrive via this VIP entrance, not enduring the line and ID check at the front door, they want a worthwhile experience.  They want relevant info that helps them - not a treasure hunt.

That's where most B2B manufacturing sites (and sales & marketing programs) break.  Online catalogs are of limited value - unless you're a catalog business like MSC or Grainger.  Rather B2B sales success is built on a huge variety of focused discussion, information and solutions around the business problems your prospects have.  You need a huge array of different, focused and worthwhile pages that each addresses typical challenges.  And you need not just written pages but graphics, videos and presentations.  And as prospects engage with your resources you need to have more the share - deeper dives and in depth discussions of key topics.

Why did I say B2B sales rather than marketing?  After all, we're talking website, right?  Because buyers are increasingly resistant to 'being sold.'  Instead they buy - at their own pace according to their priorities.  And research shows that they are typically >70% of the way to their purchase before they'll talk to a direct sales rep.  So today....your online presence is your early stage sales effort - it's not just marketing.

If you've got 1 more HP; longer life sealed bearings; a slightly more compact design or any of many other technical differentiators - good for you.

But if you want to grow your business you'd better figure out how that's good for your prospects, and then help them in their business.

You wouldn't stamp out the same products as everyone else - isn't it time you stop making yourself look the same?