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7 Tips to Attract Millennials to the Manufacturing Workforce

January  6, 2020

With baby boomers retiring from the workforce, the Manufacturing Institute estimates that as many as 2 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled by 2025.  The future of this vital industry depends on millennials–those born between 1981 and 1997, who now make up the largest generation. Unfortunately, many millennials don’t see manufacturing as an option.

The good news is that this can change, if manufacturers make a concerted effort to make the industry attractive to this driven, connected, technology-savvy and socially conscious generation.

These seven tips can help you do just that:

1. Use technology to change public perception

Many millennials labor under the misconception that manufacturing jobs involve tedious, low-paying grunt work.  It is vital to change this perception and rebrand the industry as what it is–dynamic, innovative and driven by cutting-edge technology.  The best way to do this is through technology itself. Use social media platforms, videos, virtual reality and other tools to demonstrate that today’s factory is not the one their grandfather–or even their father–worked at.

2. Show them the job

While you’re at it, try adding videos to your job postings. Show what the job entails, the technology involved, and what the company culture is like. Make them interesting, informative and short–no longer than 3 minutes.  Run similar videos at job fairs.

3. Promote education and training

Millennials want to develop skills in their jobs, so provide ample learning opportunities. Invest in internships, apprenticeships, certification programs and continuing education, both in a classroom and online. Start a mentoring program or speaker series for young professionals.

4. Integrate mobile technology into the workplace

Your workplace may use robotics, virtual reality, 3D printing and other innovative tools, but are you asking employees to stay off their mobile devices during the day?  Don’t.  It won’t work, and it could drive them away. Instead, take advantage of the fact that millennials like to stay connected and use cellphones to help foster quick communication between employees and managers.

5. Provide frequent feedback/communication

Millennials value one-on-one communication and are accustomed to receiving instant and continuous feedback on social media.  An annual review is not the best way to nurture these employees. Schedule more one-on-one meetings, and provide as much real-time, specific feedback as possible.  Maintaining that connection will do wonders for the millennial’s professional development.

6. Create an environment that provides for advancement and growth

Millennials aspire to be leaders.  Keeping them in your employ means having a work structure that allows for advancement and growth. Allow them to pitch ideas and let them know you are open to change. You may want to take advantage of their savvy by putting them in charge of finding new technology solutions or training others in how to use them.

7. Build a corporate culture that reflects millennial values

Many younger workers are open to taking a job because of how it makes them feel rather than how much it pays. Remember that millennials are social, and socially aware, and they want a workplace that reflects their values. Provide opportunity for them to interact with their co-workers, including meetups, off-site retreats, and volunteer days in which the whole team works for a charitable cause.  Survey the team often to find out what is important to them. Let millennials know what you are doing with regard to sustainability, fair trade or other issues of concern.

 

5 Ways for Manufacturers to Produce Outstanding Marketing Content

December 9, 2019

Today, it is no longer optional for manufacturing companies to produce compelling marketing content.  As many as 82% of manufacturing marketers attribute an increase in business over last year to more effective content creation.

But how do you make your time and marketing budget go further in the manufacturing space?

This post reveals 5 of our favorite tactics for creating and distributing more effective manufacturing marketing content.

Strategize and Schedule 

Did you know that   only one-third of manufacturing marketers  have a documented content marketing strategy?

It’s imperative that a manufacturing business creates a documented marketing strategy. That means answering some of the following questions:

  • What is the goal of your marketing efforts?
  • How will you reach that goal?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What types of content do you need to create?
  • What resources does that require?
  • How often will you post each type of content?
  • How will you measure if what you’re doing is working?

Answer those 6 questions and you’ll have a rough beginning of a strategy. You can use any number of template guides online.

Segment Your Audience 

You can’t create content without an accurate sense of who is buying your offering and where they are in the buying stage.

You must create different content for different buyer personas, as well as different content for the same buyer persona in different stages of the buying process.

Imagine that your customer or potential buyer is like a diner in a restaurant. Different diners have different food preferences, and they have different needs as they progress through each course of their meal.

Your audience has a similar set of preferences and needs. You must research your current customers and determine a set of characteristics that define them from those that aren’t interested in your offering.

Don’t be afraid to ask your customers what kinds of content would be useful to them.

Apply that set of knowledge to your current lead base and your lead generation efforts. You’ll learn how to move leads down the pipeline all the way towards the sale.

Use Manufacturing-Specific Content Types 

A lot of these lists will tell you that some of the following types of content are the best for effective lead generation, nurture, and conversion. These lists include:

  • Case studies
  • Blog posts
  • Videos
  • White papers
  • Infographics

These are effective types of content to add to your ideal content blend. But they aren’t manufacturing-specific and they certainly won’t catch potential buyers’ eyes.

Try these types of content instead:

  • AR and VR training and demos
  • 3D CAD models
  • 2D drawings
  • Live Q&As

Think about the tools and processes your customers use on a daily basis. Then see if you can use more useful and innovative technologies to help your customers more effectively do something at their job.

Track Your Content Marketing Maturity

Like a human growing from child to teenager to adult, your content marketing strategy has levels of maturation.

A more mature content marketing program will be more successful and be scalable across the organization. A younger program is still answering the questions above. There are many steps in the middle.

Here is an overview of the stages of content marketing maturity:

  • First steps – creating content but without a process in place
  • Young – experiencing growing pains, as there are still issues with strategy and measurement
  • Adolescent – developed a business strategy and is now measuring and scaling
  • Mature – marketing program is successful but lacking in integration with the rest of the organization
  • Sophisticated – business value is proven with accurate measurements and efforts integrating across the organization

To grow your organization’s marketing maturity, you must continue to improve your measurement, strategy, and scaling.

Make Ideas Go Further

When you have a marketing idea, sit down and break it into valuable little pieces. A good idea can be broken down into so many different content forms.

Start with smaller forms of content, like individual social media posts with data visualizations. Then translate that same idea into a short-form blog post. As you distribute this content, determine if these smaller pieces of content are well-received by your audience.

If so, make the ideas even larger. Create long-form blog posts, maybe even VR or AR tutorials. Create templates, case studies, and white papers.

If you already have big content, you can reverse engineer it to be smaller content. Break that massive white paper into tiny social media posts and shorter blog posts. Use one idea to make 5 or more pieces of content.

Every manufacturer is using content marketing today, which means that it’s more challenging than ever to stand out. Try applying these tactics to your own content marketing practices and see if your content has a bigger impact as a result.

 

How Public Relations Can Bolster The Manufacturing Industry

October 21, 2019

Growing a manufacturing company is hard work.

The competing priorities can seem endless—filling orders, training workers, marketing products, keeping up with competitors, adopting new technologies, improving operations, and more.

Fortunately, there’s a network of organizations across the nation that is ready and available to help manufacturers solve problems, become more competitive, and accelerate their growth.

The  Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) is a public-private partnership with centers in every state nationwide. The New York MEP is a network of 10 regional centers and one statewide center,  FuzeHub.

Every day, the  NY MEP and its peer networks in other states help small- to mid-sized manufacturers access the resources, programs, experts, and assets they need to address challenges related to productivity, innovation, commercialization, efficiency, and other business issues.

And importantly, they’ve delivered results. In 2018 alone, the NY MEP helped create or retain 5,351 manufacturing jobs and generate $819.3 million in company cost savings, new investments, and increased or retained sales.

Since the summer of 2018, The Martin Group has worked alongside FuzeHub and the NY MEP to expand awareness of their work to help manufacturing and technology companies thrive.

With our clients at FuzeHub, we were recently invited to lead a webinar for the  MEP National Network with the  Oregon MEP and its PR partner,  Coates Kokes.

With coast-to-coast collaboration, we shared our successes with the NY MEP and OMEP. We presented to MEP Centers across the country about how they, too, could deploy public relations programs to expand their networks, build their brands, and engage new partners and clients.

When manufacturers learn about their local MEP center, it can be the first step toward stronger growth and job creation. That means empowering MEP centers with PR skills could have a big impact on U.S. manufacturing.

You can watch a recording of the webinar at this link.

We provided an overview of PR basics and dove deep into tactics that can drive earned media success for MEP centers and other organizations that serve manufacturers.

Throughout hourlong webinar, we explained how to:

1. Leverage client stories to drive local news

To help people understand the work that MEP Centers do, it’s often best to use real-life stories of how they helped a manufacturer solve a problem so they could grow. This is especially important with local media that want real stories about people who live in their coverage area.

2. Increase attendance of events through earned media

The news media wants to provide value to their audience. If you’re an organization that helps companies succeed and your events are among the ways you help those companies, be sure you let the media know about your events. If the events can be beneficial to their audience, they will often be interested in including them in their coverage.

 

3. Generate awareness through industry trade publications

Your clients are reading publications specific to their industry to gain insights into how to become more competitive and grow. If you can successfully land a story in one of these publications, you’ll reach people within your target audience.

4. Advocate for manufacturers through op-eds and opinion writing

Writing opinion pieces can position you as an expert in the field. Help your community understand the issues the industry faces, and explain how certain solutions can generate a positive impact. In business-focused publications, your op-ed could explain how to solve trending challenges or capitalize on emerging opportunities.

5. Create and distribute media kits to grab attention

Media kits put engaging, compelling materials in front of reporters and editors to facilitate introductions to your organization and experts. In our media kits, we typically include a fact sheet, spokesperson sheet, a narrative about the organization, pertinent news releases, localized data, and high-res imagery.

6. Share the experiences of manufacturers to connect with readers

To reinforce the message, we emphasized that each MEP center’s best stories live within the clients it helps strengthen and grow. When timely and compelling, client successes can lead to valuable coverage. However, one significant challenge is that many manufacturers get nervous about speaking to the press because they fear they might share proprietary information. The solution is to get manufacturers comfortable; try conducting pre-interviews, which will help you gather pertinent info for your pitches or your own website content, plus, it will give them a practice run.

7. Create a steady drumbeat by keeping the media updated on your work

Beyond the big successes with notable clients, MEP centers are doing important work every day to strengthen the manufacturing industry. Let the media know about it. Keep a pulse on activities happening throughout your organization and create a habit of regularly sharing updates—through news releases or media pitches—with key journalists. And, focus on building relationships with those key journalists.

8. Become your own reporter

Unfortunately, newsrooms across the country continue to face a shortage of resources, especially outside of major markets. Capture video and photos. Gather learnings from events and from local manufacturers, and write them up into digestible content. Constantly consider opportunities to share your content and maximize its reach—through social media, blogs, email newsletters, and other tactics.

The takeaway

While the information we shared during the webinar was tailored to the needs of MEP Centers, these tips can help any service-oriented organization or company. Strategic public relations can be an effective tool to connect with your target audiences and encourage them to take action.

 

Will Manufacturers Working Like Cobots?

September 23, 2019

Some workers at Walmart dislike their new colleagues. Cobots like “Freddy” and “Emma” have familiar nicknames, but they’re blamed for a host of workplace problems. These collaborative robots, or cobots, are built to interact with humans in a shared workspace. Moreover, they’re designed to operate autonomously or with limited guidance. Walmart executives say that cobots will eliminate mundane tasks, so why are some workers complaining that their jobs have become more robotic?

According to       The Washington Post, Walmart has deployed thousands of cobots to more than 1500 of its largest stores. Automated shelf-scanners, box unloaders, floor scrubbers, and other machines are now doing jobs that were once performed by humans at the nation’s largest private employer. The new in-store technology also leverages cameras, sensors, servers, and artificial intelligence (AI). Walmart isn’t an industrial company, but are there lessons for manufacturers to consider here?

The Walmart workers who dislike cobots aren’t worried about losing their jobs to them. Rather, these employees seem concerned about what their jobs have become. In some cases, workers say they no longer perform tasks that they used to enjoy. For example, it’s now the cobots who walk through the store in search of problems to solve, such as identifying out-of-place items and returning them to their proper location. Perhaps more importantly, workers complain that they no longer control the pace of their jobs.

If a shopping cart pen is empty or the bananas are overripe, a worker receives an alert on a handheld device. Efficiency-driven manufacturers may not see this notification as objectionable but consider the workers’ larger complaint. The same cobots that are supposed to eliminate mundane tasks have created more of them. When cobots malfunction, it’s the human workers who must respond to and resolve the alerts. The cobots also require training and retraining that re-directs the workers’ efforts.

For example, the self-driving floor scrubbers must be driven manually until they “learn”  the store’s layout. When the aisles are reconfigured, as is common during store remodels and holiday displays, the cobots need to learn the new pattern. By contrast, the industrial robots that are used in most factories are already programmed to perform specific tasks. These machines can’t work side-by-side with employees, but some Walmart workers wouldn’t want them to anyway.

For manufacturers who want to learn from Walmart’s experience, it’s important to separate the cobots’ limitations from their implementation. The frequent breakdowns of the machines may be frustrating, but it was an executive team that decided which technologies to buy and which tasks to automate. Worker expectations may have a role to play, too. If managers promoted cobots as a way to reduce drudgery, the human employees who still perform most of the physical work may wonder why their backs are still sore.

Finally, there’s room for improvement in human factors research.       Bossa Nova Robotics, the company which makes Walmart’s inventory-scanning robots, spent years teaching its machines to be as human-friendly as possible. Yet there isn’t any etiquette for human-cobot interactions. Cobots that remain silent can seem creepy, but machines that beep can be annoying. Plus, making cobots more like cars won’t necessarily help since shoppers don’t expect to see turn signals in the snack foods aisle.

Most manufacturing workers haven’t seen a cobot before, but an army of these machines could arrive at their favorite big box store sometime soon. Will their experience as shoppers affect how they perceive future cobots on the factory floor? They probably won’t punch or kick the machines (as some Walmart shoppers do), but don’t assume a warm welcome. That’s why it’s important to prepare for a discussion that covers technology, implementation, expectations, and human-machine interaction.

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