How do you get the market place knowledgeable about – and receptive to- your product and service offering? In this era of social media, there are a ton of strategies out there about content marketing, sales training, relationship marketing, customer experience, you got it.
While it’s important to eventually push your manufacturing, and even your start-up’s, products and services into the market place, it’s more important to create pull.
You and I know there’s a lot more up-front work involved than simply posting your first Tweet.
Your objective is for the marketplace to pull your product and service forward, prior to initiating that sales as well as social media cycle. This concept marries up with the way we are comfortable initiating business: by producing and implementing.
How do you get the market knowledgeable about and receptive to your output?
Here are four tips for working towards defining a company strategy whose fulcrum is based on what you do best: technical thought leadership. Become a go-to resource for your peers as well as customers.
- Define your sweet spot. What are the one or two manufacturing or software capabilities what you do very, very well? These capabilities may or may not be the ones you’ve been promoting to the marketplace; so in addition to this strategy being “news” to you – it’s also news to your customers. These core competencies can be the fulcrum for expanding your business among your current customer base and creating business relationships with new customers.
- Understand your customer base. Many manufacturing companies become busy trying to be a generalist when, in fact, your sweet spot core competencies are underutilized as a major basis for differentiation. Perhaps you are busy doing lots and lots of small, “busy work,” projects which may prevent you from scheduling work more efficiently around your manufacturing capacity. Having lots of customers who contract your company for small and low margin jobs may look good in terms of quantity of customers. However, this may not be a profitable strategy in the long run. Figure out your customer segments, the types and size of jobs they contract for, and the short and long term impact of “the way things are” on the way you really want things to be.
- Analyze who you do your best work for, across rapid turnaround vs. longer term work. Are you doing business with anyone who wants to do business with you? Are these really the folks you want to do business with? Who are your A-list customers? What makes them A-listers? Is it simply a matter of who gives you repeat business, regardless of size. Consider doing business with customers who understand the breadth and depth of your capabilities and manufacturing capacity and are interested in stretching your creativity and collaboration. Just something to think about: moving beyond your current status quo.
- Develop a subset of customers with whom you’d like to create your thought-leadership panel. These are the individuals, your A-list customers, whom you reward by providing them tips and insights that make their businesses more profitable and efficient. Your willingness to bring in a speaker, send them relevant articles, communicate with them even when a project isn’t involved, is your differentiator. In these days of social networks, it’s all about creating a group of trusted folks who will have your back as you, in turn, will have theirs. Perhaps these A-list customers and collaborators offer additional manufacturing capacity or capabilities that will allow you to go after a new market or larger scale projects. Perhaps your thought-leadership panel includes members outside your industry, whose work you admire and whose organizational structure or business philosophy complements yours. Provide them with relevant information that makes you a valuable, go-to resource.
Creating a business development strategy that involves becoming a business resource and manufacturing thought-leader won’t happen over-night. You will find, however, that you will receive far more than you give. You will find that the folks you invite to this A-list table are receptive to your invitation and hungry for some cross-functional collaboration.
How will you adopt, adapt, and apply this strategy to your manufacturing and/or technical startup?
Babette Ten Haken blogs about manufacturing, engineering, technical start-ups, and entrepreneurship. She gets people who traditionally sit on opposite sides of the table – manufacturing and sales, R&D and marketing, engineering and sales, entrepreneurs and venture / angel investors – to speak together more productively and profitable. This Thursday, she’s giving a webinar on The Fine Art of Technical Selling. To find out more, click here.