As marketers, it is easy to focus only on the facets of the business world that affect us. We keep busy tracking trends in SEO, the newest social media platform, whether QR codes are hot or not, and how people are accessing information most often. When we meet with the C-Suite, these are the concerns we bring to their attention. We talk about things like ad readership studies, the latest way to track analytics, updates we need to make to the website, and more.

As we discussed earlier this year, a key skill for anyone in the business world is listening. By listening we don’t mean hearing; we mean actually listening to absorb what someone else (say, a customer) is saying to us. With that in mind, we thought this survey from Industry Week was a good wake-up call as marketers continue to help companies plan for 2013. We all know that the economy is a concern for manufacturers (along with everyone else) as we discussed in this summary of the National Association of Manufacturers Survey. What are CEOs of manufacturing companies really contemplating as we end 2012? A new survey from Industry Week offers an overview.

• CEOs are worried about the “Wal-Mart” factor. People are making decisions based on price versus what the highest quality product might be. As companies strive to make the highest quality product possible, and as it becomes more expensive to do so, this becomes a significant problem.

• CEOs are worried about politics. In the group surveyed, the general consensus seemed to be that politicians were more interested in their own careers than in actually solving problems.

• Unfair wages are a concern for CEOs. They are aware of the gap between what they make and what their employees make. Consider Warren Buffet as one extreme example of this line of thinking.

• Customers are decreasing while the price of raw materials and freight continues to increase.

• Educational institutions are not properly preparing younger generations for manufacturing careers.

You will probably notice a distinct lack of commentary regarding marketing issues like, “Should we be on Facebook or not?” This is not to say that marketing is unimportant to manufacturing CEOs, but these are the issues that come to their minds first when asked what they are worried about, not “How is my SEO?” Can marketing assist in dealing with these concerns? In some cases, most certainly. Educating the industry about high quality products is a potential answer. Partnering with educational institutions tied to manufacturing, networking with those groups on social media sites, and using PR to impress the importance of these issues all can help. But the first and most important step, as a marketer, is to really listen to what these CEOs are saying, and to understand the breadth of these concerns. These are not local or regional issues. These issues are global in scale.

Before you lose patience with a CEO who has not gotten around to your social media presentation or your advertising recommendations, remember these factors that are weighing heavily on their minds. Acknowledge that these are pressing issues, and that some of them are probably, in the long run, higher priorities than a Facebook page. Marketing is important, and it is necessary, but it is not everything.

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