Selling Through Supply Chain Disruption: How Retail Manufacturing Companies Can Adapt

For business owners, economic ebb and flow is expected. The current state of manufacturing, however, feels unprecedented. The dual effects of supply chain upheaval and a widespread labor shortage have caused a state of scarcity, inflation and panic.

Sales and marketing teams who have historically focused on communicating the value proposition of products and services must also now assure merchants and buyers that they can continue to meet their needs.

While supply shortages historically resolve over time, a shift in our national attitude towards the value of labor is likely permanent. Steadying the helm in these anxious times requires both sales and marketing to work closely with operations teams to understand the manufacturing challenges their business faces and communicate solutions to merchants.

Our industry experts weigh in on strategies for crafting transparent, authentic brand messages in an uncertain market.

Reimagine your marketing efforts.

If disruptions to your typical sales cycle have you looking for ways to tighten the belt, marketing is frequently one of the first things nominated for the chopping block. History cautions against this - research from the Harvard Business Review reveals that businesses who left their marketing budget in place during hard times fared better on the other side of a recession than those who didn’t.

This isn’t a full endorsement of the status quo so much as an opportunity for a new direction. Because manufacturing challenges are so universal, there is nothing to be gained by ignoring them in your brand messaging. Become intimately familiar with the operational side of your business. What are you doing well? What do you want your merchants and end users to understand about any difficulties you are facing?

Address consumers’ needs and fears while reaffirming your commitments to them, and you can turn a trying time into an opportunity to build trust.

Answer for your supply chain.

The retailers who currently or potentially stock your products need reassurance that you are equipped to meet demands. In fact, it is best not to approach major retailers until you are prepared with a detailed, actionable plan for managing your supply chain.

In the pre-pandemic world, reliable distribution was the cost of admission. Supply chain issues could certainly cause you to lose your product line review (PLR), but a lack of problems would never be the basis for a win. This is no longer the case. With so many businesses meeting similar struggles, this is a tremendous opportunity to differentiate yourself in the eyes of your merchant.

A deep dive into the manufacturing side of your business can prepare you to convey your plan of attack to your merchant, now and at your next PLR. If you are delivering in full and on time when so many are in a crunch, don’t be modest about singing your own praises. If you are facing challenges, be ready with solutions – and communicate them in every touchpoint of your brand strategy.

Market to prospective hires.

The process of recruiting and retaining qualified workers has changed drastically post-pandemic. Steady jobs used to sell themselves – businesses are now in a position where they must engage with job seekers and clearly convey their value as an employer.

The Great Resignation has upended everything we thought we knew about hiring. Workers returning to the labor force are looking for flexibility and a path for personal and career advancement. It’s a job-seekers’ market: businesses who find a way of offering prospective employees more of what they want and need will be more attractive and better at retaining new hires.

With a labor force that is overwhelmingly reporting that job satisfaction is about more than compensation, it is time to get creative about what you can offer in terms of work-life balance, a rewarding career path and assistance with needs like health, housing and childcare.

Take what you know about investigating end users’ attitudes towards your brand, and use those strategies to view your business through the eyes of a potential employee. Find your target audience within the workforce, and create opportunities to communicate that you understand (and can help meet) their needs.

Refresh your consumer research.

The new frontier of the post-pandemic world almost demands that businesses take time to introspect. The insights that guided your marketing and manufacturing strategies in previous years may no longer be relevant on this side of a major economic shift.

Check in with your prime prospects through consumer research – their needs, wants and fears may have shifted significantly due to changes in how so many people work and live. It is also possible that a new prime prospect with an entirely different relationship to your brand has emerged.

Let data be your guide, and work closely with your operations team to ensure you are still marketing and manufacturing products that are profitable, feasible and relevant. If you identify gaps, be prepared to craft unprecedented solutions. The strategies that have served you well for many years may no longer be suited to your success.

Reaffirm your brand’s commitment to quality and value while staying agile.

Want to learn more about addressing uncertainty in your marketing and manufacturing plans? Get strategic solutions tailored to your business goals, and continue to win the trust of your end user and merchant, whatever the future holds.