Marketing matters

Deborah Meaden, Dragon’s Den star and owner of textile manufacturer Fox Brothers celebrates the opportunities in 2012 to put British manufacturing on a world stage but begs companies not to let this moment in the limelight be a one off.

Debra Meaden wants British manufacturers to improve marketing and PR.

2012 is a pretty amazing year for Great Britain. The recent Jubilee and of course the Olympics mean millions of new eyes will turn their attention to London and, ultimately, the nation as a whole. Whilst they are looking we have a real opportunity to tell our story.

London claimed the 2012 Olympic Games on the strength of the legacy Locog committed to create and British business is already benefitting from £7 billion worth of contracts generated by the Games.

But these contracts do not represent the end of the opportunity for the Olympics to stimulate business. If British manufacturers want a slice of the lasting Olympic legacy it is essential they leverage opportunities around the Games to engage with potential customers, both within the UK and overseas.

Government has recognised this and I am proud to be part of Make it in Great Britain, a campaign launched to showcase British manufacturing. The Make it in Great Britain exhibition at the Science Museum is being staged to coincide with the Olympic and Paralympics Games and will attract thousands of visitors. A number of business networking events are also planned at Lancaster House including an Advanced Engineering Sector Summit on August 10.

British manufacturers must make sure they make the most of these events to raise the profile of their businesses and the industry as a whole. But in doing so they will highlight a dangerous dichotomy with every day approaches to PR and marketing in the sector.

Oddly, despite the countless manufacturing success stories I encounter there is a common misconception in Britain that we don’t make things anymore and I believe that manufacturers themselves are responsible for this to some extent.

I find many manufacturers, particularly at the SME end of the scale, ambivalent about marketing their products, either through fear of upsetting customers or simply feeling that they are too busy with the day-to-day concerns of their business to indulge in an activity which is seen as a ‘nice to have’ rather than an essential.

This is a mistaken belief. Every business needs speak to its customers, both current and potential. I have come across many businesses which proudly believe in their product but remain bewildered when nobody else seems to ‘get it’. The answer is usually very simple. It is because there is no conversation, no communication.

“There is a common misconception in Britain that we don’t make things anymore and I believe that manufacturers themselves are responsible for this to some extent.” – Deborah Meaden

Good PR and good marketing encourage engagement, conversation and relationships which will ultimately benefit both parties. The mere act of engaging in such activities helps keep a business focused outwards on its customers, its market and its competitors. It helps the business avoid getting bound up with internal issues.

To be effective, marketing must be relevant, engaging and purposeful. It should drive a process of really considering your raison d’être and its delivery. Done well, marketing can be a real catalyst for driving business growth providing direction, focus and motivation. Done badly or with a lack of understanding it can create exactly the opposite effect.

PR and marketing is never the only answer to a business failing, but combined with a good and relevant product it can mean the difference between success and failure.

Let’s learn from 2012 and the prompts it has given industry to improve its marketing and PR.