Manufacturers: Do You Have a Loyalty Program?

October 21, 2014

We all want to capture more business, and the best source of that is from existing customers. If you were a retailer, it would be much simpler to develop a program. But if you’re a manufacturer who sells through distribution channels, your challenge is where do you put your efforts … at the distributor or end user? You’re between a rock and a hard place.

From a distributor’s perspective, all manufacturers are trying to get more time and attention. If you’re an A or B line item, chances are you’ll get some time. Here are some challenges to consider:

  • When you do, what kind of plan are you presenting?
  • Is just like everybody else, or does yours stand out from the crowd?
  • And what about the cost? You know it’s coming out of your margins, not the distributors.
  • Do you incentivize for total sales or for incremental sales once they’ve met last year’s numbers?
  • How do you get their sales force excited?
  • Do you incentivize the distributor or the salesmen?
  • Tracking program – make it simple so you’re not spending all your time figuring out who gets what.

End users aren’t as loyal as they once were. Most will change brands at the drop of a hat or for 5 cents.

There are some iconic brands out there that have worked very hard to build that trust and loyalty over many years, and for the rest of us, we are envious. But even these brands have to fight for incremental sales outside their core “loyalists.”

The younger tradesmen, for the most part, have little brand loyalty unless they were brought up through an apprenticeship program or trade school where your products were used.

So if you’re considering doing an end-user promo, here are some things to think about:

  • What’s your objective? Is it brand building or product related?
  • Are you developing an end-user database? If so, what do you plan on doing with it?
  • What’s the offer? Is it memorable? Can you tie it into other branding activities?
  • Are you involving distribution to help create the buzz?

Manufacturers, you do have your challenges. I’d like you to share programs you’ve seen that have been effective.


6 Things You Need to Know About Printing

October 16, 2014

By Robin Heike, Production Engineer, Sonnhalter

via Marta on Flickr.

via Marta on Flickr

Printing may only be “ink on paper” in a general sense, but when you’re printing collateral and other materials, you need quality printing.

Here are a few things you need to know about printing for a quality final product:

  1. Good design requires good art
  2. Good print requires good art
  3. Good print requires good paper
  4. Good print requires good printers
  5. Good printers stay on my vendor list
  6. Good printers have a wealth of knowledge – use it

Ink on paper produces print.

Print with these things in mind products amazing!


Customer Loyalty: Does it Exist Anymore?

October 15, 2014

I know we all want to have customers that only call us and never quibble about price. I guess we need to wake up. Years ago you could build customer loyalty, but today I really wonder if it holds true anymore.

If you’re a manufacturer who sells through distribution, you have a double challenge—to keep both the distributor and user happy. The question is, where do you spend your time, the distributors or users? I guess the answer to that question will be different for all of us, but I think we all agree we need to spend the time building loyalty where it will make the biggest impact on sales.

My guess is for those who are looking to get to the professional tradesman, the best way to do that is to have a strong relationship with the distributors, who in turn have customer loyalty with the tradesman.

Yes, there are some iconic brands that have a great end-user preference, and hats off to those that have. But those numbers are a small percentage of the total. These folks, while we will envy them now, will, I believe, have a similar issue down the road when all the oldies (50 plus) get out of the business and the younger generation doesn’t value the loyalty card as much as the older generations.

No matter what avenue you choose to foster loyalty, there are some basic guidelines that need to be considered:

  • They need to know, like and trust you - Without that, you will have an uphill battle, and it will take time.
  • Make them your top priority – Back it up by having someone treat them like a key account that they are.
  • Spend time with them belly button to belly button - You can build a relationship via emails.
  • Not everything you’ll do results in a sale - Help them out whether it’s tech support or customer visits. Make them look like a hero.
  • Under promise and over deliver - Folks remember those that go the actual extra mile.
  • Show them you do care – Customers stop doing business with people because they have the perception of indifference. Send them a handwritten note or a copy of an industry article that would be relevant.

I’d be curious, for those who sell through a distribution channel, where do you focus your efforts? At distribution or the end-user?


Manufacturers: Are You Missing Out On Video Opportunities?

October 14, 2014

Video is one of the most powerful tools in your marketing toolbox. Why aren’t you focusing more on them?

A recent study from eMarketer showed that even though consumers wanted more video, 75% of U.S. marketers said videos are not a priority, and nearly half said they had no plans on increased efforts this year.

According to eMarketer, consumer-branded video increased over 16% from January to June 2014 to almost 3 billion views a quarter.

We’re a visual society with a 30-second sound bite mentality. Why not use video to deliver your message in a different way? In today’s world with the use of smart phones and desktop editing suites, compiling a video isn’t hard or expensive anymore.

The more successful videos have to do with a single subject and usually run under 2 minutes in length. And, if appropriate, add a little humor (everyone likes to laugh). Manufacturers have plenty of options for using video. Instructional how-to videos, training sales/reps, new product intros and testimonials to name a few.

Next to Google, YouTube is the second biggest search engine. Let potentials find you. Obviously the demand is there. Don’t be left on the sidelines.

If you like this, you may want to read:

Have Your Videos Gone Viral?

Why Videos are Such an Important Way to Reach the Professional Tradesman.

B-to-B Marketers: Are you Taking Advantage of Online Videos?


From MAGNET: Manufacturing – It’s for Women Too!

October 9, 2014

Each month we’ll be featuring a blog post from our friends at MAGNET (Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network). MAGNET’s mission is to support, educate and champion manufacturing in Ohio with the goal of transforming the region’s economy into a powerful, global player. You can visit MAGNET online at manufacturingsuccess.org.

Manufacturing – It’s for Women Too!

Judith Crocker, Director of Workforce & Talent Development, MAGNET

Judith Crocker, Director of Workforce & Talent Development, MAGNET

As the economy in Northeast Ohio continues to rebound, the demand for skilled, educated workers in manufacturing is increasing.

Employers are seeking future workers from all sources and there is growing recognition of the role that women can play in these 21st Century careers.

Welding is one of those careers that offers great opportunities for women.  A recent CNBC.com article illustrates the demand and potential for women in today’s modern manufacturing workplace.

See the CNBC article here.

Click here to read the original post.


What Buying a New Car Taught Me About Customer Service

October 8, 2014

In my list of top things I hate doing is getting a new car. It ranks right up there with going to the dentist to get a root canal.

My lease was coming due and I looked on the internet at options and customer satisfaction results and had narrowed it down to two models. I filled out the forms on the site, picked a dealer and waited for a response.

One dealer never got back to me, but I got a survey form the next day from corporate asking me if the local dealer contacted me and how my experience was with the local dealer. I told them I’d not been contacted. The next day, corporate called me to follow-up, but by then I’d driven the other car and was signing the papers when I got the call (told them I bought a competitor).

Great follow-up from corporate, but there was a missing link with the dealer I chose. Life Lesson—the sales cycle is only as good as the weakest link. Ironically, I never did hear from that dealer and they were supposed to be one of the best in the area.

The other dealer got back to me within hours, gave me availability of what he had and asked if I wanted to test drive one. I did and the sales process went smoother than I expected. I made an appointment to pick up the car and a check for the last three payments on my old lease.

I arrived at the appointed hour and my guy was too busy selling someone else a car, so he pushed me off on someone else who half-heartedly explained the features of the car and the how to’s, and of course, this new guy didn’t know anything about the check he was supposed to get to me.

I guess the original salesman thought the sale ended when I signed on the bottom line, not when I drove off the lot. I wonder if he’ll ask me for referrals? What do you think I’ll do?

So an experience that started off well didn’t end that way. Life Lesson—under promise and over deliver. The last thing that happens often is what you remember. I’m sure I’ll like the car, but my opinion of car buying hasn’t changed.

If you or I treated our customers like that, we wouldn’t be in business! Treat people the way you’d like to be treated.


Manufacturers: Are You Buying Into Alibaba?

October 7, 2014

alibaba

I know we’ve talked in the past on manufacturers using the likes of Amazon Supply to make your product available through another distribution option. Many of our clients are using Amazon Supply along with their traditional distribution, but until a few weeks ago, I never heard of Alibaba until they started trading on the NYSE.

For those of you who may not know who Alibaba is, it’s a giant e-commerce site started in China and has received traction worldwide. Its model is to build relationships between manufacturers and their customers. Its model is not to sell anything, but to just hook up the right user with the right manufacturer. They get paid by the manufacturers to coach them on how to be more attractive online to potential buyers. As they grow in this country, it will be essential that manufacturers get on the bandwagon because of the size of their network.

I recently read an article by Bridget Bergin, associate editor of Manufacturing.net, Amazon’s Involvement with Manufacturing: Is it too much? where she talks about Amazon testing some new models that will get them closer to the consumer.

One is Vendor Flex (where they are setting up shop in P&G facilities and ship direct out of there) and AmazonFresh (where they set up a program with food producers to deliver items directly to consumers).

I think the key point Bridget is trying to make is that both Alibaba and Amazon want to take over the customer relationship. Where will that leave you? Where does that leave your current distribution model? I certainly am not saying that all power transmission parts are going to be purchased online, but all signs are pointing to more and more purchases, even in the industrial sector, being done on the internet.

Who will have the ultimate power of the purse? Down the road, when someone buys a hydraulic fitting from a supplier, Amazon may pop up and say people who buy this normally buy hose too. If you’re a hose maker, will it be yours they are pushing? This should be interesting.

As a point of reference, before reading this article, did you know what Alibaba was?

Please answer these quick questions below.

Thank you!


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