Manufacturers: Are you Keeping up with Your Customers’ Expectations?

July 21, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

Are we living up to our customers expectations? As consumers, we know that through the improvements in technology that most of us want fast, cost-effective and personalized levels of experience. And most are getting it, but at what cost?

Is this any different for the manufacturing world and your customers? Have your distributors and contractors become more demanding? My guess is yes, because remember, they are consumers too and they expect the same from their business dealings.

I read an interesting article in eMarketer recently that companies in general are having trouble meeting customer expectations. 93% of business leaders worldwide said technology has changed the customer experience in the last 10 years.

Ways in Which Technological Innovations Affect Customer Expectations Today vs. in the Future* According to Business Leaders Worldwide, Jan 2015 (% of respondents)

How does that stack up with what you’re experiencing?

What are your biggest challenges? Are they in this chart?

What are you doing about it?

Customer service. We all say we have it, but what is it? Where does it start?

Unless you are offering something you can’t get anywhere else, then you’re going to have competition from someone. So what makes your customers or potentials want to do business with you instead of them?

Assuming you have a good product, then I’d say the customer experience would be the major deal sealer or breaker. Customer service starts the moment someone from your company answers the phone, through the sales process and follow-up with your customer service department if a question or problem arises.

I guess what I’m trying to say is your company’s customer service should start with every employee. Those that are on the front line (be it a CS or delivery man), they have the one-on-one contact with the customer and can sway future purchases by their actions or inactions. We all build our business around repeat sales so everyone in the company needs to be goodwill ambassadors. The challenge for all of us is to find the friction in our process and smooth it out.

Do you know what a customer is worth to you? Think beyond this quarter or even this year. Think about the last 5 years. How much stuff have you sold them? More importantly, if you come out with something new, where are your best chances of selling it? To someone new, or to someone who knows, likes and trusts you?

Here are some insights on how we can make the customer experience better, resulting in better loyalty and ultimately more sales:

  • Deliver outstanding quality – from a great quality product to courteous customer service and user-friendly literature.
  • Understand what your customers want – don’t assume to know what they want – ask them.
  • Connect with them – direct relationships are the most important and the most challenging. Always think WIIFT (What’s In It For Them). Be sincere and upfront with them. When communicating with them, don’t always be selling. Try to help solve a problem even though it might not, in the short-term, result in a sale to you.
  • Under promise and over deliver – exceed your customers’ expectations, then do it again!
  • Don’t sit on your laurels – yes, you have some neat products, but instead of sitting there and just doing the same old same o, innovate. If you don’t, someone else will.

Now these points probably aren’t a revelation to you, but when was the last time you focused on your customers and said THANK YOU!


Is Trust Part of Your Long-Term Marketing Strategy?

July 7, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

trustIn today’s world, trust is a more important marketing asset than the product or service you’re trying to sell. Think about that for a minute. Would you buy something off of someone you don’t trust? Chances are, the answer is no.

Trust is something that’s earned and it’s always been important. But in today’s world, you can’t BS your way through it. People want to see proof. With the internet and social media, the potential customer has several options to gain access to you and how you’re actually performing in the market.

That’s why building trust should be a long-term goal.

I recently read an article by John Jantsch from Duck Tape Marketing, 5 Ways to Make Trust Your Most Important Marketing Asset, that brings home this point. Here are some highlights:

  • What do others say about you – These third-party comments say a lot about how you really do business. Customer reviews impact SEO.
  • Who are you connected with – Who do you hang out with, how do you add value, who do you collaborate with? All help shed a light on who you really are.
  • How do you react – How do you react to questions or negative comments? People are watching.
  • Are you easy to do business with – Convenience has become a value proposition. Actually go through your own process to see how easy it is to really do business with you.

The Challenges of Being Seen, Heard and Read

May 20, 2015

By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

Everyone is getting better at resisting all the interruption-driven ads and promotions. Your customers are taking control of what they want to read or look at.

So what’s the answer? Quit selling and start giving them what they want (helpful content), where they want it and when they want it.

I recently read a post by George Stenitzer on Content Marketing Institute that talked about when more people are saying no to ads, what options do we have to get your message in front of them?

He cites some amazing stats:

  • Mobile has taken over as the first screen to view content
  • Over 50% of Americans record TV shows and don’t watch commercials
  • 91% of consumers unsubscribe or unlike brands for which they once opted in for

George gives us some helpful ways to make sure your content is seen and read.

  1. Permission is golden – If someone allows us to share info with them, make sure you give them good relevant content (it’s not about you).
  2. Give them what they want – A small percentage of your content will outperform the rest. Use your analytics to give them more of the same.
  3. Earn their attention in 7 seconds (23 words) – In the battle for attention, you need to answer the question quickly of what’s in it for them. Use images where possible.
  4. Keep customer info up to date – If you’re trying to be more personal and have the wrong info, you’ve lost the battle before it started.

These tips are not earth shattering, but a good reminder of what sets good content apart from the other self promotions.


Are Your Employees Brand Ambassadors? Why Not?

April 22, 2015

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent at Sonnhalter

Osborn

Photo Courtesy of Osborn

Do your employees know where your products are used? Do they know the applications the parts they make make possible? Are they aware of the history and critical nature of your company? There are many simple, cost-effective ways to increase productivity and morale by implementing a program that lets them know.

To land new business, you’re always told to “Tell Your Story” well. It’s just as important to tell it internally. Why?

It makes employees feel like part of the plan – Let them see the big picture and where you as a company fit into it

It helps them see the long view, not just their day-to-day part in it – There’s a plan, not just a daily task

It builds internal networks – If Engineering tells their story to Customer Service, everyone sees people and faces, not silos

It allows them to be brand ambassadors – If they know the story you want told, then that’s the story that gets re-told

So how do you reach them? That’s the easiest part—the same way you reach new customers:

Host an Employee Open House – Let them show off to their kids, and see what goes on in other departments

Giving a tour of your facility? Engage employees – Don’t treat them like an extension of the machine they’re working, but have them describe what they do, and the cost savings, quality assurance or other aspect of their work

Start an internal newsletter – It’s a great place to either post external press releases, or develop case studies for outside use

Cover the Walls – Advertising blown up as posters reinforce your brand internally and when guests tour your facility

Let them hear & be heard – Have a quarterly or monthly meeting of non-managerial representatives from every department, and allow for an open exchange or ideas, complaints and stories

Highlight your company’s history whenever possible – Old ads, press clippings or photos give a sense of pride and place

Have a mission statement – And stress it internally. Print it on business cards, coffee cups in the vending machines; anywhere it will be seen regularly

You don’t need to be told that Manufacturing has gotten a bad rap. For years it’s been the butt of jokes, seen as a “dead end” and been declared all but extinct in this country by countless talking heads.

Well those people are wrong. And the house they left to get into the car they drove to the studio where they made their comments is testament to it. And it’s time your employees knew that too.

I once heard a really cool story about the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. It has a unique elevator that kind of side-steps its way up to the top of the arch. Well if you look into the arch, instead of out at the view, along the way you’ll see large welder-generators. They’ve been there since the Arch was built in the mid 60’s. Because of the way the arch was made, it was impossible to move them, so they just left them, placed another (which also got left behind) and kept building.

As a former employee of that welding manufacturer, I think that’s fascinating, and if I could ever get over my nagging fear of heights, it would be the best part of the trip up. To know that something that was made in the same building I worked in was instrumental in a project like that, it just boggles the mind. All the “ordinary” people, doing their “ordinary” job at factories all across the country added up to a modern marvel like that. Inspire that sense of awe in your employees, and they’ll help do the heavy lifting of establishing a brand.


Automate and ProMat: One Badge, Two Shows

April 1, 2015

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Engineer, Sonnhalter

I had the opportunity to attend Automate and ProMat in Chicago on behalf of two Sonnhalter clients (one at each show). A single badge got attendees and exhibitors into both shows, and the combined efforts of the automation and materials handling groups provided for a great event that included keynote presentations from Renee Niemi (director of Android and Chrome Global Business, Google for Work), John Mackey (co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods) and Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple, founder, chairman and CEO of Wheels of Zeus).

Automate

Automate is North America’s broadest automation event. Put on by the Association for Advancing Automation and its trade associations (the Robotic Industries Association and the Motion Control Association), Automate showcased the full spectrum of automation technologies and solutions, ranging from traditional industrial applications to cutting-edge new technology.

Via @NookInd

Via @NookInd

My travel to the show was delayed by a Chicago snow storm, but the snow didn’t keep anyone away. The media at Automate were busy seeing what’s new in the industry. Our client, Nook Industries, exhibited linear motion solutions including mechanical solutions that can replace hydraulic options, as well as integrated automation systems.

Timed well with March Madness, at several booths, attendees could play basketball against robotic arms. The precision and technology in this part of automation definitely fascinates me … and not just because a robot made me a chocolate chip cookie!

Via robostox.com

DSC_0891

Automate takes place every two years and dates back to 1977. End users, OEMs, machine builders, distributors, buyers, researchers and students attended the show coming from more than 30 countries.

Right across the hall at McCormick Place, was ProMat.

ProMat

ProMat is the largest expo for manufacturing and supply chain professionals in North America, showcasing the latest material handling and logistics equipment and technologies. More than 800 exhibitors displayed material handling equipment and systems, packaging and shipping equipment, inventory management and controlling technologies, dock/warehouse equipment and supplies, and many more supply chain management solutions.

The ProMat hall was bustling every time I entered. Product demonstrations reached to great heights and lengths, and the show itself offered education and networking opportunities on top of nearly every supply chain and logistics solution in one place.

Our client, UniCarriers Americas, exhibited its reliable brands of forklifts which provide for more uptime, great value of ownership and are backed by a best-in-class warranty.

Via UniCarriers Americas on Facebook

Via UniCarriers Americas on Facebook

ProMat also takes place every two years and is powered by the Material Handling Institute.


New Content Marketing Research for Manufacturing

March 18, 2015

A new study published by The Content Marketing Institute identifies tactics that are working for manufacturing. The B-to-B sector has always been known to be slightly behind the curve when compared to consumer goods, but the manufacturing side is even farther behind.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that this sector is willing to try things, and this study shows that they are now identifying things that work and are focusing on improving them.

2015-MFG-Research-goals-image 1Beyond brand awareness, their primary concern is sales, and to get to sales, they need to generate leads. Ironically, even though they identify sales as the top goal, fewer than half use sales as a measure of content marketing success. One of the challenges is getting everyone on the same page as to who you are and what you want to accomplish. Mixed or multiple messages don’t work.

Manufacturers top 5 effective tactics are:

  1. In-person events
  2. Videos
  3. Webinars/webcasts
  4. Case studies
  5. White papers

Manufacturers are presently working on:

  1. Converting website visitors
  2. Organizing content on website
  3. Creating better, more engaging content
  4. Better understanding their audiences and how/when they consume content
  5. Finding more/better ways of repurposing content 

So how do these results stack up with what you’re doing?

As a side note, this fall, Content Marketing World will have a whole day focused on the manufacturing sector and it’s worth attending. Great speakers and ideas.


Are you using SlideShare to Generate Leads from Tradesman?

March 11, 2015

SlideShare is probably the most overlooked social media tool.

Close to 70 million visitors a month second only to YouTube is nothing to sneeze at. SlideShare was purchased by LinkedIn a few years ago which allows both platforms to work seamlessly together which is good news for you.

Why should you consider using it?  It’s a great way to market your business, showcase your expertise as an industry leader. Not only can you put up Power Point presentations and white papers, you can upload videos by using SlideSharepro  and have a way to repurpose your webinars or online training options.

If you’re worried about sharing your information with the world, you can upload content that you can make available to select audiences (by invitation only).

The most important reason for using SlideShare is to generate leads. Peg Fitzpatrick recently wrote a great post on Social Media Examiner on ways to capitalize on getting leads.

She focuses on ways to collect emails from viewers, how to use links in slides, why you should add visual calls to action and lastly, why the description. It’s a good quick read.

Heidi Cohen outlines 10 actionable marketing tactics to get the most out of leads.

Don’t miss out on this valuable tool that will help you not only become a thought leader, but generate leads at the same time.


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