Because manufacturers require longer lead times for product changes than other industries (due to reliance on materials, fabrication times, and other considerations), it’s hard for them to quickly react to shifting consumer sentiment.
Demand forecasting for manufacturers has traditionally been like steering a boat: you make tiny adjustments based on faraway observations on the horizon. But what if you suddenly need to make a sharp turn?
Will you be able to deliver what the customer needs? Can your marketing and sales team adapt in time?
Failing to accurately forecast demand leads to increased costs, reduced sales, and less overall revenue. But there are ways to leverage digital technologies to reliably understand market sentiment and quickly adapt your business to changing trends.
Read on to learn more.
Past Performance Doesn’t Equal Future Performance
According to a Salesforce report, only 36% of manufacturers feel very prepared for industry changes that will occur within the next 10 years. Many organizations rely on lagging indicators to understand their customers’ desires.
These indicators represent historical data points that don’t necessarily foretell what your customers will want in the future, especially when industry-wide disruptions occur. Examples of these indicators include:
- Sales performance of a particular product over the last five years
- Seasonality trends of your products
- Past costs for materials and shipping services
To truly understand your customers’ needs, look at leading indicators — data points that reflect what’s going to happen in the future, not what’s already happened.
Using Digital Technology to Uncover Market Trends
Thankfully, predicting market demand and leveraging leading indicators is easier than you might think. You don’t need to conduct lengthy user focus groups or blast out customer surveys.
Instead, you can use the actual information that buyers are researching right now on the internet to reveal where to take your products (and your sales and marketing efforts along with them). This buying behavior could be:
- Reading online industry publications
- Visiting your website
- Digging around your competitors’ websites
- Communicating with fellow buyers on forums
- Posting on social media
- And much more
For decades, this online activity occurred far from sellers’ eyes, impossible to detect or analyze. (We call this anonymized data-realm the Dark Funnel™.) In fact, 70% of buyer research happens anonymously and without your knowledge.
But these days, account engagement platforms — which leverage artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other groundbreaking technologies — can accurately detect, deanonymize, and analyze these buyer activities.
They can provide razor-sharp insights into what your customers and prospects are thinking about, and what they’re searching for online.
Keyword Tracking and Monitoring Web Activity Equals Winning Forecasting
With the right platform, you can track keywords that cover all of the topics related to your business, products, and industry — and receive real-time data on the things your target market is searching for.
Are your buyers curious about a new style, or a new function, of a product? Has there been a technological breakthrough that they’re now keen to learn about? Is there broad shifting sentiment toward a different component, style, or material?
By tracking the keywords customers and prospects are actually searching for, your organization unlocks:
- Key insights into branded and generic terms
- Actual data on what topics are driving the most interest
- Insights into what competitors are doing
With the right keyword tracking, you’ll know exactly what’s coming for your industry … and you can predict how to manage your product mix for the upcoming quarter or year. This results in better overhead planning and inventory management.
And it provides deep, actionable insights for your sales and marketing teams when these new products go to market.
In the manufacturing industry, reliably forecasting demand for products and services is crucial to the health of your business. Without proper insights, you’re left merely guessing at what customers want.
But the right technology can reveal the exact keywords and research your buyers and customers are searching — which will point your entire business in the right direction.