Marketing Strategies for Small Manufacturing Businesses

By Michelle and Justin Fluegel, Fluegel Growth Consulting LLC,

Milwaukee was once known as the machine shop to the world, and while that title has been transferred to other areas, Milwaukee and the state remain a critical link within the world’s manufacturing resources.  What is true about the growth of manufacturing, specifically in the Milwaukee area, is that entrepreneurs spring up with competitive products or services seeing a better way.  This spirit drives growth and transformations in Milwaukee.  Today though, small companies need to explore options outside their industrial or corporate park.  A great need we have found at Fluegel Growth Consulting exists in helping small businesses develop marketing plans, or revise their established ones, to generate the growth they desire.

Small business is the product of two inputs: self-confidence and the desire to perform better than those currently in the market.  It becomes clear after a few years that small businesses fall into two categories: those that are just an entrepreneur and those that are serial entrepreneurs.  An entrepreneur starts a company, achieves a level of success and maintains that level as normal operations.  This might be a sustainable model if the environment remains constant, but if it changes, it could result in desperate situations.  A serial entrepreneur is a company that develops itself and continues to reinvent itself over time.  The easiest method to tell the difference between the two is in their marketing plans.

We have found that many small businesses connected to the manufacturing base of Milwaukee are clear cases of an entrepreneur.  They lack a web presence and rely predominately on word-of-mouth lead generation and marketing programs.  This was successful decades ago when they started and the marketplace in Milwaukee was much different.  But because of the many changes that have occurred within the manufacturing industry, they are no longer competing against the company in the next industrial park or just down the road.  Increasingly these small businesses are facing competition from the next city, state, or country.  In order to compete successfully in this environment, their marketing plans need to expand even further to widen their market presence.

Some small businesses are clearly serial entrepreneurs having redeveloped their companies to better compete in the environment that currently exists.  They require a different service from a marketing consultant.  While developing strategies for marketing plans and translating that into growth of their business, they seek the knowledge of improved approaches and new trends that will continuously advance their business. 

While the economy in the Milwaukee area has changed over the decades, one thing has remained constant – a strong manufacturing base lies within the foundation of the community.  It might not be found in the business section of the newspaper or through reports in the news, yet Wisconsin has become the number one state in the country for manufacturing employment.  Many opportunities exist in supporting the small companies within manufacturing to expand their businesses through more effective marketing plans.

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