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What CEOs of Manufacturing Companies Are Worried About

As marketers, it is easy to focus only on the facets of the business world that affect us. We keep busy tracking trends in SEO, the newest social media platform, whether QR codes are hot or not, and how people are accessing information most often. When we meet with the C-Suite, these are the concerns we bring to their attention. We talk about things like ad readership studies, the latest way to track analytics, updates we need to make to the website, and more.

As we discussed earlier this year, a key skill for anyone in the business world is listening. By listening we don’t mean hearing; we mean actually listening to absorb what someone else (say, a customer) is saying to us. With that in mind, we thought this survey from Industry Week was a good wake-up call as marketers continue to help companies plan for 2013. We all know that the economy is a concern for manufacturers (along with everyone else) as we discussed in this summary of the National Association of Manufacturers Survey. What are CEOs of manufacturing companies really contemplating as we end 2012? A new survey from Industry Week offers an overview.

• CEOs are worried about the “Wal-Mart” factor. People are making decisions based on price versus what the highest quality product might be. As companies strive to make the highest quality product possible, and as it becomes more expensive to do so, this becomes a significant problem.

• CEOs are worried about politics. In the group surveyed, the general consensus seemed to be that politicians were more interested in their own careers than in actually solving problems.

• Unfair wages are a concern for CEOs. They are aware of the gap between what they make and what their employees make. Consider Warren Buffet as one extreme example of this line of thinking.

• Customers are decreasing while the price of raw materials and freight continues to increase.

• Educational institutions are not properly preparing younger generations for manufacturing careers.

You will probably notice a distinct lack of commentary regarding marketing issues like, “Should we be on Facebook or not?”  This is not to say that marketing is unimportant to manufacturing CEOs, but these are the issues that come to their minds first when asked what they are worried about, not “How is my SEO?” Can marketing assist in dealing with these concerns? In some cases, most certainly. Educating the industry about high quality products is a potential answer. Partnering with educational institutions tied to manufacturing, networking with those groups on social media sites, and using PR to impress the importance of these issues all can help. But the first and most important step, as a marketer, is to really listen to what these CEOs are saying, and to understand the breadth of these concerns. These are not local or regional issues. These issues are global in scale.

Before you lose patience with a CEO who has not gotten around to your social media presentation or your advertising recommendations, remember these factors that are weighing heavily on their minds. Acknowledge that these are pressing issues, and that some of them are probably, in the long run, higher priorities than a Facebook page. Marketing is important, and it is necessary, but it is not everything.

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hygienematters/5505283929/ via Creative Commons

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5 comments on “What CEOs of Manufacturing Companies Are Worried About

  1. You know Margie, I’m glad you wrote this. There seems to be a tremendous amount of insular thought in the blogosphere (understandably) regarding the relative importance of social/digital marketing. What gets lost is how much the importance is relative to industry and other factors. For almost anyone in manufacturing, FB likes pales compared to the list of macroeconomic and geopolitical concerns that affect their business.

    Marketing an unprofitable business model will not accomplish much.

    • Thanks Adam. Obviously we don’t want to imply that marketing is a luxury item or that it’s unimportant (we kind of like marketing ’round here). BUT, when you talk to your boss or your customers, no matter what your business, it’s important to realize that your top priority might not even rank with them. Approaching a conversation with that in mind can make everything far more productive.

  2. I do think that a CEO benefits from product marketing when it comes to pricing strategies. But I also love your point about them not caring about the value of a Facebook like, page, brand. We’re too hung up on media types and not focused on fulfilling a business strategy.

    • I think the list the survey provided was pretty striking. A lot pales in comparison when you’re talking about geo-political factors, right? It’s not to say that marketing or social media is bad. It’s just to say, hey, there’s other stuff going on too.

  3. The lesson you point to in registering your own modicum of expertise before interacting with those either focused on a) other facets of the business or b) a much broader view of the business is certainly apt. Manufacturing or any other industry. I’d liken it to mistaking your own objectives for those of a counterparty. Thanks for the article.

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