What kind of a marketing strategy does your business have? What do you budget to support your sales efforts? What value do you place on this area of your business? In the 80s and the 90s, the call for engineered steel seemed bottomless and North American tool shops flourished. I knew several shops that had but one customer—for example, a large OEM that was able to keep several tool shops busy and profitable. Most shops didn’t need a marketing plan and dedicated sales personnel. They did what they did best and the work kept coming.
The last 10 years have been decidedly different. Surviving, and more importantly, growing with just one customer (or market) is an improbability. Tool shops—injection mold builders, in particular—must be proactive in acquiring continuous work from existing customers and in soliciting opportunities from new ones. The methods of doing so have evolved with the constant improvement and widening of communication channels, but the basics of getting your name out there and opening doors for your sales force have been with us for many years:
- Collateral Material
- Print Advertising
- Trade Events
- Press Releases/Published Articles
- Speaking Engagements
- Outside/Inside Sales Representation
- Industry Association
While it would be advantageous to employ every possible technique of publicizing the services your company provides, the ability to pay for such an aggressive campaign are beyond the means of an independent tool shop. The key is to identify which channels are both affordable and effective for you. To do so requires an understanding of your customers—those you have and those you want.
What do you do for your customers that keeps them coming back? Don’t answer that question! Instead, ask your customers. Have them name the top three reasons for their decision to engage your company instead of another shop. Let them tell you what makes you so special that they prefer to work with you. Getting that information from four or five of your customers gives you some great marketing bullets for your sales gun.
Don’t be surprised if what you hear surprises you. Many tooling customers (especially the good ones) have positioned price and quality as a given. They’ve done their homework with regard to qualified mold sourcing and you’ve made the cut—you have the capability to hit their numbers, in the steel and in their wallet.
Ask your customers how they first heard of you—what generated that first RFQ? Did they ask an associate in the industry for a recommendation? Did they search the Web? Did they see your ad? Did your salesperson get their foot in the door and remain in contact? Did they meet you for the first time at a trade event? Ask how they search and have searched for new vendors. In future articles, we will continue reviewing the marketing options available to tool shops and determining which to choose, when to deploy and how to evaluate ROI.