Get To Know Your Customers
Marketing is a mystery to a lot of people - one of the great business intangibles. A manufacturer can easily look at a piece of capital equipment and calculate the payback on investment the equipment produces. Unfortunately, when it comes to tracking the effects of a marketing, sales or advertising project, many smaller companies find the process complicated, time-consuming and tedious. Buying a new machine can be fun, but writing a marketing plan seems about as exciting as a trip to the dentist.
Yet, marketing is absolutely critical for the success of a manufacturing company. Effective marketing increases profits. The absence of a marketing plan, however, can bring a company to the brink of bankruptcy.
The Right Fit
Many business owners think marketing means generating a prospect list for their sales staff or creating a good-looking brochure. In reality, it means communicating the benefit of your product or service to your customer. Bottom line, marketing means fitting your customer's needs and your company's products and services together in a manner that is profitable for you and beneficial to your customer.
That sounds simple, but you can't achieve the right fit without understanding your customer's business and industry. Do you know who your best customers are? Do you understand what they buy, what margins you make, and why they buy from you? Do you know what your OEM customer makes from the parts it purchases from you? How large is your customer's company? How does your competition treat your customer or potential customer? What are the current trends in your customer's industry, and what are the trends in the industries in which you compete? Answering these questions about your customer and then knowing the customer's needs is the most fundamental marketing project in any business.
Compiling such detailed information on your customers may seem like an overwhelming task. I'm not advising that you get to know all of your customers better, just the ones who are the most profitable for your company. Remember, no profit - no business!
You can use this preferred customer information for a variety of purposes. Join trade associations in your customers' industries for more efficient networking. Or you might develop a prospect list using the number of employees, SIC code and gross revenue of your preferred customers as guidelines to find new customers with similar profiles. Interview your preferred customers and you might find, for example, a more cost efficient distribution channel or new ways to meet important customers' needs. Researching your customers industries will give your company a leading edge when developing new products for these businesses or warn you of upcoming changes in their businesses.
Get to know your customers better and you can refine your product strategy, channel strategy, market development and sales strategy to grow your revenues.
About the Author: Deborah Henken served as VP of Marketing at several Silicon Valley start-ups; was in senior marketing and channel positions at Hewlett Packard,Informix and BEA Systems. She brings strategic marketing thinking and rapid implementation for optimal ROI. Susan Henken has directed marketing at consumer and health care comanies for more than 15 years. Highland Team can assist you in understanding your customers, finding new segments of customers, and refining your sales, channels and go-to-market strategies and programs. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 650-224-6295 and review our expertise at http://www.highlandteam.com.