Businesses that employ agile and lean manufacturing practices are often known to be ahead of the curve and usually enjoy the benefits of improved performance, innovation, and customer satisfaction. But apart from these benefits, did you know that you could use an agile and lean manufacturing marketing strategy as a point of competitive differentiation?
Agile and lean manufacturing marketing can be used to generate leads. Promote this positive message effectively and you can drive more qualified leads to your website and reach an audience that is drawn to ethically and socially responsible brands.
This article will dive into agile and lean manufacturing practices and the marketing benefits that come from promoting these approaches.
What is the Difference Between Agile and Lean Manufacturing?
More and more businesses in the manufacturing industry are recognising the need to respond to the industry changes that have come from a competitive global market, greater customer expectations and the influx of disruptive technologies.
To remain competitive, businesses need to keep a watchful eye on their bottom line, be responsive to business threats and opportunities, and meet customer expectations consistently. So that they can improve efficiency and agility in their operations, many businesses are employing lean and agile manufacturing practices. Although ‘agile’ and ‘lean’ are concepts that share similarities, they differ in implementation and focus.
Lean manufacturing was introduced by the automobile manufacturing industry in Japan in the 1940s. Agile, on the other hand, originated from the software industry between the 1990s and early 2000s and has since expanded to many other industries. Agile manufacturing refers to the agile principles that are applied to the manufacturing industry.
Looking at these concepts in further detail; lean principles involve streamlining processes through continuous improvement to reduce waste and cost. This can include reviewing manufacturing processes in their entirety and removing aspects that do not add value or are redundant. An example could be to rely on existing functionality in equipment to carry out quality assurance activities instead of doubling up with a human quality controller.
Agile principles focus on using existing resources intelligently and ensuring an organisation has the resources and data to respond to unpredictable changes quickly, easily and accurately. Agile processes rely on having accurate data so that manufacturing processes can be fine-tuned and changes can be implemented effectively in response to customer and market demands. An example could be to use customer feedback to implement instant product improvements.
While there are differences between lean and agile manufacturing, they are not mutually exclusive and can often go hand-in-hand. The two approaches focus on improving business competitiveness and financial stability by impacting the way manufacturers operate and produce products through close collaboration on all levels, data-backed decision making and a customer-centric supply chain. Agility fosters the creativity needed for lean whilst lean promotes the process stability needed for agility.
Agile and Lean Manufacturing Marketing – Why Promote it?
Combined, the lean-agile principles work together to minimise waste whilst maximising value. Lean manufacturing specifically targets the reduction of 8 types of manufacturing waste, which has clear cost and sustainability benefits for a business. These benefits don’t just affect the bottom line – demonstrating corporate social responsibility is growing in strategic importance for B2B marketing.
Sustainability is opening significant growth opportunities for B2B businesses, and more and more companies are using green or sustainable marketing strategies to attract customers and strengthen relationships. Customers are more environmentally conscious than ever, and a company’s green initiatives are becoming an important sales argument for many. Because of this, ‘green marketing’ is now gaining traction in the B2B sector as a way for companies to improve customer loyalty and engagement.
Aside from sustainability, lean and agile approaches can help your business transform in other ways. A financial services provider, for example, used a combination of lean and agile tools to reduce the average customer complaint resolution time by 90% and improve customer satisfaction by 30%. Employee engagement was also improved, which boosted the company’s overall customer service performance.
Lean and agile manufacturing are proven methodologies that help improve operational and financial performance. Employing either of these practices or a combination of both can reduce wasted funds and resources, which can lead to better profits. These are positive messages that can be promoted and leveraged as part of an agile and lean manufacturing marketing plan.
These complementary methodologies share a similar business outcome of improving the financial stability of a business. Promoting agile and lean manufacturing in your marketing can help give potential investors and prospects confidence in your company’s competitiveness, resilience and survivability in uncertain times. A successful agile approach relies on statistics, forecasts and proactive planning, which demonstrates to your customers that you can leverage market knowledge to easily and flexibly adapt to new information (such as changes in customer demands or market conditions). Combining agile with lean manufacturing techniques can therefore improve cost control, product quality and customer satisfaction to build trust and credibility in your brand.
Mediums for Agile and Lean Manufacturing Marketing
Now that you understand the benefits of agile and lean manufacturing marketing, how do you go about promoting this? Manufacturers can use a number of different marketing channels to highlight the positive effects and improvements they have made to their business by implementing agile and lean practices. While the exact marketing mix may look different from company to company depending on factors such as target market, business goals and budget, we have compiled a list of mediums where you could promote your work:
Website (Dedicated Page / Blog / News Item)
Your website is the number one way to establish your online presence and is the most important tool to get right to give your prospects the right first impression. Discussing how you remain competitive and sustainable by using agile and lean techniques is a great way to improve engagement amongst your environmentally conscious audience. Coupling this with good SEO practices could lead to better rankings on results pages and boost your marketing efforts.
Social Media (e.g. LinkedIn)
Social media, and LinkedIn in particular, is often likened to an extension of a company’s website, so why not use these platforms as another way to promote your business? Social media allows businesses to establish relationships with their customers directly and is a popular marketing channel amongst manufacturers as creating posts and sharing media (like images and videos) is often quick and straightforward.
We have worked with LR Engineering, one of our client partners, to promote their lean manufacturing approach on LinkedIn and to showcase how their products can deliver value sustainably, competitively and efficiently.
Email Marketing (e.g. Newsletters)
Regular email marketing, like using a newsletter, is a great way to let your prospects and customers know about the great work you are doing. You could discuss how you used lean or agile principles to build better processes and products and explore how this gives you a competitive edge, making you a good partner to work with.
PR tools and activities can increase your exposure to a wider audience in the sector. This can involve creating and sharing press releases with journalists, arranging interviews with company officials, or attending trade fairs and exhibitions.
As with any other marketing communication, businesses need to craft compelling, medium-specific messages that resonate with their target audience. Whilst doing this, it is important to tailor the message to key decision-makers to highlight how they can benefit from partnering with a lean/agile company. Analyse your client personas – what type of information will they respond to best? Statistics often appeal to a technical audience, so figures on the positive environmental impacts made (e.g. energy savings) are a good place to start. You could also highlight how your customer-centric focus has led to reduced lead times and costs as well as improved quality. These are great messages to promote, which can help boost your image and strengthen customer relationships.
We are a specialist B2B manufacturing marketing agency here at Motion, and we are no strangers to both agile and lean principles from our work with software developers and industrial manufacturers. Reach out to the team to find out how we can work together to develop a successful agile and lean manufacturing marketing campaign to help you increase sales and improve customer satisfaction.