What’s a Customer’s Lifetime Value To You?

October 28, 2014

For all of us in sales, it’s all about now. Making this month’s/quarter’s numbers. While there’s nothing wrong with this, we all need to step back and look at the total value of a customer. We need to realize, that even though we got this sale, it doesn’t guarantee the next one.

I know most manufacturers sell through distribution networks and often you don’t know who the actual end users are. But for those of you who offer something other than consumables, there are ways, e.g., warranty cards, that will give you access to the user and related products.

So what are you doing about keeping that lifetime customer? First of all, we need to not take advantage of or assume that all future orders are a lock for you. Remember, they do have other choices.

We need to have the mindset to earn every piece of future business. What can you do to foster and nurture those customer relationships so when the next purchase opportunity comes up, we have the advantage?

Here are some post sale things to think about:

  • Follow-up with them to see how they liked the product (first-time buyers) and did it perform like they expected? If not, resolve the problem or take back the product. Ask them to rate the product online.
  • Keep in contact with them via email. Touching base on industry issues or giving them a sneak peek at a new product coming out.
  • Help them find solutions to make their job easier, even if it doesn’t include your product for that application.

By engaging with the customer, you’re building the three key factors of know, like and trust that will give you the edge next time.

 


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.


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!


Manufacturers: Content Overload. What Are You Doing About It?

October 1, 2014

Even though the economy appears to be improving, corporate hiring is not reflecting it and we are all challenged to do more with less. That’s bad enough, but new things keep getting put on the “stack of stuff” you need to do.

Content Overload! It’s not just in the everyday workload of getting stuff done, but in all the new options of delivering your great content that needs to be reviewed to see if it’s appropriate for your audiences.

Here are a few things I do that might help you cope with all your marketing challenges.

  • Prioritize - You and your team can only do so much. Focus on the things that will get short-term results.
  • Focus on your USP - Focus on delivering your unique selling proposition to your target audience, whether it’s current customers or potentials.
  • Focus on your target audience - Have you ever asked your customers how they preferred, not only to be contacted by you, but how they get new info? This certainly will help you focus on those avenues.
  • Be realistic with expectations - Don’t over promise and under deliver. Better to do less, but do it right.
  • Be consistent - In both messaging and points of contact.
  • ROI - Monitor what you’re doing so you can focus on what’s working and what is bringing in results.

Hopefully these will give you some insight. What are you doing to deal with the overload?


What Are You Doing With All Those Email Leads You’re Getting?

September 24, 2014

email-marketingWe all have a list of customers’ emails in some assemblage of order. What are you doing with them? Let’s not assume just because someone is currently buying from you that they will continue to do so. You need to continue to reinforce why they should do business with you and it doesn’t have to be a sell piece. Give them something of value that they can use in their business. A quick installation tip. A calculator link to help them figure out how much product they need.

Besides the emails you already have from current, past and future customers, what are you doing with all the leads you’re getting from digital sources?

Digital media is a great way to build on to your existing database list and start nurturing them along your selling cycle. By using an email marketing tool, you can build silos by market or by where they are in the buying cycle so you can tailor messaging to each.

Here are a few tips in developing your lists:

  • Get their permission - send them an email that you’d like to keep them on a list to send out valuable info on a regular basis that would help them.
  • Ask questions - when sending out the initial request, give them options of things that might interest them, i.e., markets, product or applications that they would find useful.
  • Get them engaged – invite them to a webinar or send them a how-to video or an e-book if you have one.
  • Stay on topic - focus on what you do. You’re trying to build brand awareness and credibility.
  • Respect their time - experts say you shouldn’t send more than 2-3 emails a month. My recommendation is start with 1.
  • Monitor who’s reading them - by using an email marketing tool, you can see who opened and read your message. If they’re regulars, you may want to pass them on to the sales force as a soft lead for them to reach out to.

By developing a list and starting communication with them, you’ll be able to see response rates increase and hopefully sales as well.

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

Email Marketing: Is this the Best Way to Reach the Professional Tradesman?

Why Email Marketing is so Important in Nurturing the Professional Tradesman


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