Winning Manufacturing Strategies

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August 26, 2014

Getting content marketing right through the newsletter medium


Handling content marketing is an interesting, constantly learning and evolving role. It's a great opportunity for us as Marketers to interact with our sales folks and know who their existing contacts and customers are also what solutions, our prospects maybe looking for. While one may have the opportunity to visit a booth and talk about possible solutions, I also enjoy talking to visitors through our website, our blog pages and twitter handle about our company, or even the services we offer.

Consider a visitor who may stare at the booth literature for a little longer than a few minutes, we as marketers take the opportunity to capture their mind-space through an important e-medium, the newsletter. While some look at demo units up and down and some others are oblivious of its presence - we need to make the quick eye contact with an attractive subject line and topic that we are discussing in the content that flows. What is happening here, is the non-verbal part of the prospect's brain is already at work -  trying to fit together a small puzzle as they browse through the short and subtle newsletter html sitting pretty on their desktop or palmtop as the case may be.

·         Brand

·         Products or services available

·         Purpose/ Need

·         Importance

Or in short, what is in it for me?

All of this information can be neatly packaged and positioned with a good spiel or a story.

What is equally important since there is no voice, is the visual clarity of the medium. How do we want to position the newsletter in terms of look and feel. What do we want the colours to convey or the design. Being a manufacturing-centric newsletter, do I use colours like orange and black, do I have a serious tone for conversations since I am not addressing the young-and-dashing crowd.

As content marketers our itch to flip the control of the conversation ... that is, to move the visitor from a 'mark' to a 'lead' quickly. Since one is in an unfamiliar territory, the need to put them at terms of content is all the more critical. Also one of the even odder moments say, at a trade show booth is when a conversation gets passed from one booth-person to the other. But that is a good sign that the discussion is probably shifting from 'puzzling' to the 'familiar'. Drawing parallels to this, if as a marketer, the content from one story to the next has been interesting enough, that is also a great job done.

It all starts when you meet the prospect at their level and pace. Websites are awesome for this because a visitor can linger on and linger back until they decide to engage us. It shields us from several awkward moments. But, done right, these awkward moments can be awesome opportunities to make new relationships, and hopefully, regular customers or subscribers as the case maybe.


August 19, 2014

"Nano"nomics - What does it mean for product engineering?

Think about any product that you have recently used - there's a "nano" version, isn't it? Let's take a few examples to validate my hypothesis - automobiles have mini cars, software products have "lite" versions, FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) products have sachets, tablets have mini versions, even transaction volumes are sub $1, you can buy single track vs. the entire album, and probably many more such examples when you think about it.

Before we get into the intricacies of the engineering involved in creating the nano or lite versions, let's understand the business rationale - why do companies invest to create such products? Here are the top reasons that I can think of, and I encourage you to share your thoughts as well:

Before we get into the intricacies of the engineering involved in creating the nano or lite versions, let's understand the business rationale - why do companies invest to create such products? Here are the top reasons that I can think of, and I encourage you to share your thoughts as well:

  1. Broaden the customer base in existing markets: This can be done by creating compelling and right priced "nano" versions of successful products that appeal to customers who desire but find the full blown product too pricey!
  2. Target new markets and thereby new customer base: Develop lighter flavors of product customized to a new region or market to expand the customer footprint and brand.
  3. Experiment new ideas and innovation: This one is a little different where you first create a light version first and then depending on the market response quickly scale up the product. The new age internet companies are great examples here.

There are influencers such as technology advancements, consumer behavior, supply chain efficiencies, manufacturing innovations that contribute to the design and development of these nano products. Product Portfolio Management is a complex topic that needs laser focus, inputs from diverse sources, managing stakeholders and finally matching the demand and supply. This by no means is to trivialize the subject, but the context is essential to deep dive into the engineering aspects.

Let's now look at some of the product engineering dimensions that are required to make this happen. You might find that the commentary is leaning towards software product engineering and that's because of my background. However I strongly believe, there are aspects that can quickly be adapted to other industries as well.

  • Role of product manager: This is a very crucial role. a product manager must have the vision and translate it into product roadmaps that can catapult the core offering and lighter versions into unbeatable value propositions for the customer anytime, anywhere and any channel
  • Agility in execution: Having a product roadmap has to be well supported and backed by agility in execution. This is to churn out the innovation, test it the market and roll out the product. Agility in all aspects of product execution and not just the development is critical.
  • Robust and flexible product framework: I am calling it out as a product framework so that it is generic and can be adapted to multiple industries. Having a framework that can scale helps in rolling out various flavors of the product and increases the ability of business to segment.
  • Built-in product intelligence: This is really something that is gaining a lot of traction recently. While some industries have been ahead of the curve, the ability to extract real time usage data, fault information is exploding with growth in connectivity and sensors. This provides deep insights into product usage as well
  • Superlative product support: After sales support is critical in any industry. Having the right forums, community based support, multiple channel access that are driven and governed by the stringent SLA frameworks. Don't differentiate between "nano" and the full blown version.
  • Flexible business models: This is in many ways is the essence of "nano"mics. Can you charge per packet/per use/per unit of time. Does the product architecture and enablers support monetization in multiple ways?

Nano products are a reality and the question is not "if" but "how" and when". Organizations that adapt quickly to these changing dynamics will continue to grow.