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

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 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


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, 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!

Education, recruiting and the trades – a small step can make a big difference

October 2, 2014

Today we have a guest post from Candace Roulo, senior editor at Contractor magazine.


Since I have been writing for CONTRACTOR magazine, I just had my six-year anniversary in September, education and recruiting in the trades are two issues that continue to be prevalent. No matter what trade show or convention I attend, education and training are key topics that are discussed. Since education and recruiting are of utmost importance to the key associations and industry-specific manufacturers, it only makes sense that industry professionals are starting to rally behind the issues surrounding these topics.

You may have already heard this news… With so many people planning to retire soon from the plumbing, hydronic and HVAC industries, there are not enough people in the trade pipeline to fill all of the future available positions.

During the next 10 years, the country will experience a projected 11% growth in jobs across the board, and the HVACR and plumbing industries are expected to grow by 21%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the HVACR industry is expected to need an additional 55,900 trained technicians; the plumbing industry, an additional 82,300.

You just have to wonder how we will find all these industry professionals, especially since the trades are still looked down upon by so many people. To me, this is the crux of the problem, so the industry needs to change the stereotype.

Of course, I understand that a tradesman/tradeswoman can have a lucrative career and have the opportunity to run his/her own business if he/she chooses to. He or she can also decide after years of hands-on work to go into a corporate environment – many of the people I meet that represent manufacturers are just that – a plumber or HVAC technician that decided to change up their career and work for a manufacturer in a corporate setting, so this proves that there are many paths that can be taken when having a career in the trades.

Everyone involved in the trades understands what a lucrative career this can be — the problem is that people outside of the industry do not know and that is where we are failing as an industry. To me it sounds like we all know what the problems are; we just keep revisiting them at conferences, conventions, seminars, etc. What needs to be done is to go out and promote the trades. We need to go to high schools and talk to counselors and kids about why they should consider studying a trade. This comes down to changing the mindset of the educational system in this county, so high school counselors not only promote college, but trade schools too.

At the moment, state education systems focus more on prepping everyone for college, and vocational classes and electives are being cut because of budget issues, etc., and many of the electives prepping kids for the trades are falling by the way side. So many of the students that are good with their hands and have a knack for technology are missing the boat and not being exposed to the basics of the trades.

In a recent Chicago Tribune’s Sunday Paper an opinion piece about this very topic was printed, Apprenticeship Programs Can Close Skills Gaps by Dick Resch, CEO of KI Furniture. In this piece he writes that the feds can’t solve the nation’s shortage of skilled labor on their own. I completely agree with this observation, so it’s time that we step in!

He also points out that skilled trades require an aptitude for math and technology. He then states that a skilled machinist makes about $60,000 per year and a Master welder can bring in up to $200,000 per year. You have to ask yourself, if this is the case then why are there not enough recruits going into these fields?

The good news is that in Illinois, employers are partnering with municipalities to expand vocational training, according to Resch, and there are vocational centers in a handful of cities teaching high school students skills that will be utilized in careers such as machining and welding.

The great thing about what Resch is doing is that he is bringing in high school students to tour his company and he also offers students internships at KI Furniture. I think the plumbing and HVAC industries need to take Resch’s lead and get kids interested in the trades by opening up their businesses for tours, offering internships and going to schools during career days to discuss the trades, pay ranges of different positions, etc. This would be one small step to take, but a step in the right direction that can make a big difference!

Candace Roulo, senior editor of CONTRACTOR and graduate of Michigan State University’s College of Communication Arts & Sciences, has 15 years of industry experience in the media and construction industries. She covers a variety of mechanical contracting topics, from sustainable construction practices and policy issues affecting contractors to continuing education for industry professionals and the best business practices that contractors can implement to run successful businesses.

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?


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