Sales & Marketing
Experienced manufacturers understand a strong marketing strategy plays an essential role in keeping assembly lines moving. As with any business, those in the manufacturing field constantly look for new opportunities to acquire and retain clients.
With many small to midsize operations in jeopardy of losing customers to cheaper foreign outfits, today’s manufacturers must employ savvy sales techniques to build a client base.
A good number rely on industrial and manufacturing marketing firms to guide them to success. These practices usually provide a range of services to help manufacturers reach further into the marketplace. Services can include:
- Customer analysis. During this process, the marketing firm measures the depth of the manufacturer’s business base over several years. It charts incoming and outgoing business. In fact, they often record client inquiries, quotation records, etc. The firm then categorizes each business by specific industry. In the end, the firm uses the data to show the manufacturer the most lucrative market, as well as the segment they serve most. Likewise, the collected information helps pinpoint weaker market sectors, not to mention unexplored areas.
- Target company generation. During this process, marketing firms rely on industry insiders to generate a list of leads and profile each company. The firm usually pursues businesses with similar demands as the manufacturer’s key client segment.
- Target company qualifying. During this procedure, the marketing firm creates a series of qualifying questions designed to get vital information from target clients. These questionnaires sometimes ask retailers what they look for in the way of production time, price by volume, capabilities, schedule flexibility, etc. In the end, the firm presents the findings to the manufacturer, helping them to pursue the most desirable companies based on their newfound knowledge.
- Competitor analysis. Many prosperous companies not only keep track of their own business moves but also keep track of their competitor’s moves. For this reason, certain marketing firms provide competitor analysis. This procedure studies and reveals the competition’s ownership structure, years in operation, location of production facilities, main products and services, target markets and segments, distribution agents used, range of distribution, trade shows attended, trade publication advertising, reported financial information, website performance, marketing message, current financial condition, staff size and more.
Still, while these marketing firms offer a lengthy menu of modern sales approaches, some manufacturers prefer to stick with the classic fail-safes. Promotional materials like mailed pamphlets and brochures allow operations to tout their services, latest equipment, factory capabilities, company history and prices. Advertising agencies usually design such sales literature and even keep an ongoing data base of contact info for former and potential clients. Even more, most advertising firms record follow-ups and leads stemming from the mailings.
Sealing the Deal Online
Manufacturers cannot ignore the Internet’s overwhelming popularity and its worldwide influence on big business decisions. Retailers routinely log on to the Web in search of companies to produce their items. An easy-to-navigate, detailed website can perform as well as a globe-trotting salesperson. Some manufacturers working for larger retailers use their sites to relay product information to distributors. Features like a product locator let vendors view the items currently in stock or scheduled to roll out of the shop room floor.
In addition, sites usually let visitors enter their zip code to find the closest wholesaler that recently received a particular product shipment.
Manufacturing companies specializing in the production of one part of a larger product – such as automobile components – sometimes provide online catalogs through their websites. This allows other operations to seek out the products needed, view pricing, availability, and time schedule. But even more convenient, the virtual catalog makes ordering quick and stress free. Some manufacturers even utilize their websites to handle all project logistics – from the ordering and scheduling procedure to the invoice and receipt process.
Other manufacturers use their sites to establish electronic marketing campaigns, sending frequent promotional materials and new product lists to registrants.
Yet still, many Web-solution companies use high-tech marketing approaches when designing sites for manufacturers. These include virtual tours of the factory floor, audio testimonials, streaming video of the production process, etc.
Nothing quite showcases a manufacturer’s capabilities like a shop floor tour, according to industry experts. While this approach commonly attracts the general public to a plant, it also helps draw interested vendors. Nonetheless, an in-house tour serves as a low-cost way to brand a manufacturer’s name within the business community. Many companies in the field offer free guided walk-throughs. They use this time to educate visitors about their services, display the assembly process and tout their latest equipment.