Large-scale, all-purpose factories aren't as common as they used to be. According to data supplied by the U.S. Census Bureau, over 75% of manufacturers now employ 20 or fewer workers. Yours might be one of them. If so, here are five tips for keeping a firm grasp on your niche amid slowing production here in North America:
1. Become the undisputed expert. Niche markets are expert markets. You can serve one without first becoming an expert. And if you already are? Great! Now it's time to demonstrate your knowledge with content marketing. Establish a blog where you'll kick out great, spreadable ideas about your corner of the manufacturing sector. Offer advice so irresistible that readers will have no choice but to share it with their peers.
2. Take inventory of your expertise. You'll need experts writing your blog, of course. Find them by taking stock of the key thinkers you have on staff. How? Create an open call for writers for the blog and offer a fee for contributing. Also dangle incentives. It needn't be cash unless you want it to be. A week's vacation for any post that passes 100,000 views is just as valuable to your staff as any cash bonus and may be even more valuable in terms of the leads it generates.
3. Document what's worked, and what hasn't. Content marketing is an iterative process. Treat it that way. Take stock of which posts do well and which don't. Use tools such as Google Analytics to determine where new readers come from and what, if any, posts generated actual leads for new business. You may find early evidence of problems clients will pay to have solved.
4. Train, train, and train some more. Your factory won't be like most, so don't act like it. Train your workers for the special tools and skills required to serve your niche customers expertly. Then, document the approach you took in your posts. Readers will appreciate that you're revealing what might be considered "secret sauce" while acknowledging your now-documented expertise.
5. Recognize those who are helping to craft the story. One-off rewards are useful but nothing is so motivating as publicly recognizing those who help to document your expertise. Highlight your worker-contributors by interviewing them in distinct posts. Have them talk about the work they do, how they came to learn the trade and what sets their experience apart when compared to other factories where they've worked. Presuming you've already done the hard work of engaging them, you'll have a ready-made testimonial for clients looking for help in your niche.
Manufacturing tends to be a give-and-take business. Not long ago, customers were giving factories more work than they could handle. A year-end cutback in production suggests the tide has since turned, though with utilization near 80% it's likely that your niche manufacturing operation is as about busy today as it was a few months ago. Keep business flowing by demonstrating your expertise with content marketing.
Recruit your best and brightest to submit content to the blog and then document what hits with readers. Train your workers in the techniques to write about, and recognize those who help make the story real. Your bottom line will be the better for it.
John Mills is executive vice president of business development at Rideau Recognition Solutions, a global leader in employee rewards and recognition programs designed to motivate and increase engagement and productivity across the workforce.