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?


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!


We’ve Always Done it That Way!

September 9, 2014

OutsidetheBox

I cringe when I hear someone say that phrase. Past actions will not ensure future success. Manufacturers who have this mindset are missing out on many opportunities. You literally need to think outside the box.

In today’s market, there are so many other options to consider. Some may not be appropriate for you, but you have to evaluate and pick the ones that might be useful for you. One basic change we all need to make is change how we reach out to potentials. If you’re trying to sell features/benefits to a prospect, you’re going to disappointed.

Here are some tips to consider:

  • Take a different approach - Instead of talking about you, help your customer solve a problem. Always answer the question from your customer’s perspective of  “What’s in it for me?”
  • Friendly website - If you count on your website as a way of selling your brand, come at it from a customer’s perspective and make sure that your site is responsive (have different versions for smart phones and tablets). Make it easy to find what they are looking for.
  • Limited social media - Most manufacturers don’t need to utilize all the options that are available to you. You should focus on those areas that will bring you the most bang for the time you have. You already may have existing things like how-to videos (YouTube) or Power Point presentations (SlideShare) on the best way to solve a particular problem. If you’re in specific market segments, join and participate in the conversations (LinkedIn). If you have the resources, starting a blog would be an ideal way of setting you apart from your competitors and putting you out as an industry expert. Places like Facebook and Twitter, for the most part, are not ways to communicate with contractors and professional tradesman.

The key is to do something different, and as I’ve shown you here, in most cases you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You have valuable info and insights on how to solve your customer’s problems. Don’t keep to yourself – share it.


B-to-B Video is on the Rise: Are You Taking Advantage?

September 2, 2014

Does your company have a presence on YouTube? If not consider these stats:

  • 1 Billion unique visitors each month
  • Over 6 billion hours of video watched each month
  • 100 hours of new videos are uploaded every minute

We’re a visual society and everyone loves to watch videos. Of B-to-B companies who are using videos, 80% of them reported positive results. From a manufacturing perspective, this should be a no-brainer. The key is to have a strategy and create compelling content. How-to videos, troubleshooting, new product launches are just a few that come to mind.

Some of the challenges firms are facing are lack of manpower and budgets being their biggest, followed by creating compelling content. Videos don’t have to be long or be made into a Hollywood production. There are inexpensive cameras out there and editing software that most things can be done in-house. The key is content. Give the viewer something he can use. Keep the message clear, to the point and short.

Here’s an example of one of our Marketing Minutes:

 

According to a recent study by Demand Metric, the most important objectives of videos are:

video objectives

I’m sure that those top 3 objectives fit into yours. So what are you doing about capitalizing videos to enhance your marketing efforts?

If you like this post, you might want to read:

Have your Videos gone Viral?

Why Videos are an Important Way to Reach the Professional Tradesman

 Are you Taking Advantage of Online Videos?


B-to-B Marketing: Is There Room for Humor?

August 13, 2014

Everyone knows that B-to-B  marketing is serious stuff. Maybe sometimes too serious! We need to write white papers and do microsites that talk about all the features and benefits. All good and necessary stuff, but is it memorable to a prospect looking at your brand? Now I agree that not all things may be appropriate for a humorous take, but most are and there are plenty of companies reaching out and taking the leap.

The president of our agency earlier this summer attended the annual BMA Conference in Chicago where one of the presenters was Tim Washer with Cisco. His topic was humor and why it’s important  to use it.

Here’s an example from Tim Washer on how Cisco used humor introducing a new router .

Another example is Kinaxis who used the idea of a dating scenario to bring home the points on supply chain management.

Here’s an example of how Kinaxis puts humor into the use.

The challenge to all you conservative folks out there is to keep an open mind. I’m not suggesting you drop all the traditional stuff, absolutely not. But it’s not bad to show folks you’re human.

  • These don’t have to be Hollywood productions.
  • The key is delivering a key message using humorous situations.
  • Keep it focused and under two minutes.
  • Take a risk and dare to be different.

Let’s face it, we’re all humans here, and with all the things going on in the world, everyone enjoys a laugh. Make your brand stand out from the rest.


Are You Having Success With the Likes of Amazon Supply?

August 12, 2014

AmazonSupplyNew

It’s been two years now that Amazon decided to get into the industrial space and compete with the traditional brick and mortar stores. Google shopping even jumped in for a while (though they recently discontinued their pilot program).

I’ve written a few posts over the last couple of years asking you, the manufacturer, if you’ve jumped on the band wagon. For those that have, I’d be interested in what kind of results (sales) that you’re getting from this channel?

A bigger question is, are the big boys, Grainger, MSC, Fastenal, etc., becoming a bigger percentage of  your sales number?

What’s your forecast going forward? Are the independents still going to be a vital part of your go-to market strategy?

I know these are lots of questions, but I’d like to get a feel for where folks are going to be focusing on in the future. Here are some of my thoughts Distributor Strategy: What’s yours?

What’s yours?


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