Everyone is struggling to fill their factories these days, as the fight for more business heats up. It used to be that contract manufacturers had a good solid base of good customers, they could depend on year after year. Many of them were satisfied to pick up a couple of customers a year as their base remained stable, But, all of that has changed for a couple of reasons. The first being that attrition has set in, stuff happens, companies go out of business, or change direction, or have their products built overseas or they are acquired and somebody new and more powerful is making their contract manufacturing decisions.
So now my contract manufacturing friends have to find new and innovative way to capture more business. And, as we have been talking about, the last few week, finding new contract manufacturing opportunities is a much more intense process than selling bare boards, for example. Winning new EMS customers is a much longer and more arduous process, one that takes more planning, persistence, and yes, patience. This means that if you want to increase your business you have to start early, in most cases so early, that you won’t even feel you need new customers when you start in. Or, I have a better idea, never stop the first place.
Working with CM’s over the years, it has always surprised me that many of them managed to keep their companies full with little or even no real sales and marketing effort. When I’d asked them how they got their business they would tell me that it was word of mouth, or just a good reputation, or a good base of a few solid customers.
But now things have changed, and many CM’s are out there looking for new business, if you are one of them, here are five things you can do to kick start your sales and marketing effort going forward:
- Get your name out to the marketplace. No one is going to buy from you if they have never heard of you. Develop a good marketing and branding plan that includes social media, and implement it immediately. Tell your company’s story. What are you good at? Why do your customers like you? Why should potential customers work with you? Make sure you get some of your good, longstanding customers to vouch for you. Get their testimonials, these will be the most effective and powerful part of your marketing plan. Remember, you have over one thousand competitors out there and you have to be the one that is outstanding.
- Offer quick turn to new product introduction companies. Quick turn assembly services are in demand right now. You customers want to be able to get their initial products very quickly, and they are willing to pay for this service. Many times, they will provide you with the complete kit and you just have to assemble it ,I know that many of you don’t like to this because of lost revenue on the parts, but be patient, offering this service will pay off in the very near future. Your chances of getting the production business go up ten-fold if you have built the prototypes.
- Be willing to collaborate with other companies. There is always strength in partnerships. Instead of being limited by your own brick and mortar capabilities, be willing to extend a hand of partnership to other CMs who cannot do what you do and also CMs who can do what you cannot, because together you will be much stronger, and create a much stronger offering to your customers. There are many large CMs both domestic and offshore who are looking for smaller and more flexible CM’s to collaborate with to use as their new product introduction partners. Seek one of those and partner with them. It will be good for both companies.
- Find some good independent sales reps. And I mean good ones. Make sure they have business at hand that they can bring you. Let’s be get real, a good rep can bring you introductions. She can bring you RFPs but she cannot bring you the business. You are going to have to win the business yourself. But a good rep can bring you the opportunities and that is what he is paid to do. Find two or three very good reps and then treat them like part of the company, part of the family and they will deliver for you.
- And finally, pay attention to your customers. Go out of your way to always give them spectacular customer service and they will love you for it. They say I most businesses it costs about ten thousand dollars to acquire a new customer, but I would suspect that it takes even more of an investment to win a contract manufacturing customer so protect your investment at all cost. When you finally win that customer, do everything you can to keep him.
And finally, one more, always under promise and over deliver, right? Never stop, never ever stop your sales and marketing effort once you have started it. Keep it going, week after week month after month year after year and always be improving, getting better at it all the time and in the end, it will pay off. It’s only common sense.