The Web’s purpose—regardless of the application, market or industry—is to enable behavior, not to control it. This is a more important distinction than you might think, particularly for the complexities of the manufacturing ecosystem.
Think of your own behaviors when using the Web to research a purchase, technology or partner: you’re free to pursue whatever motives you bring to a session. Interested in finding lower prices? Then that’s what grabs your attention. Are you looking for closer sources of materials? Customers in other markets? Better quality tools? A used turning center? Your premeditated interests influence what—and who—you choose to engage.
It’s the same with your buyers and prospects these days. The Web—or any form of communication—is a tool for them to pursue their interests. If their motive is to find lower costs, a better or closer source for tooling, or price/market analysis for a new project, that’s what they’ll go for.
Put another way, the Web is a mirror—it offers a reflection of the marketplace of products, services and information based on whatever we think is important right now.
But what about discovery? What about when you’ve been looking for what you thought was a solution to your problem, only to discover an alternative you hadn’t considered? When that happens, it’s usually because someone went to the trouble to explain how a product or service offers seemingly unrelated or unexpected benefits.
Rather than asking “What Do Buyers Want?” it makes more sense to target the “pain points” that buyers in manufacturing and industrial markets are feeling these days and model your messaging and tactics to define your business as “pain relief.”
Here are some suggestions for positioning your company to speak to the issues that your prospects are finding most important in 2010, and give them reasons to engage you that they may not have considered:
Established extended supply chains are being found by many buyers to have unforeseen costs. Economic health, training, and maintaining quality and consistency are difficult to monitor across cultures and vast distances. Defining your value proposition for buyers in the context of stable currency valuation, domestic/political stability, longevity as a business, and economic stability will position you as a solution to the instability buyers under duress are experiencing.
Location is the new “price.” Many studies of supply chain managers and procurement professionals from the past year show that they are looking to reduce overall costs and improving value by bringing manufacturing closer to their customers, R&D and engineering centers. Defining the benefits your proximity brings to the table—language, familiarity with the market/industry, reduced logistics costs, rapid response and corrective action to design adjustments—may offer the perfect solution to a buyer looking to lower overall costs.
Buyers looking for lower costs may not have considered the overall value, savings and innovation that a strong technology partner brings to product lifecycles. Defining your value in terms of ongoing design improvements, technology upgrades and expertise—and how those qualities have improved costs for previous customers—will be seen as an advantage for many cost-conscious prospects.
Similar to a “Technology Partner” message, embracing and enunciating how continuous improvement is applied by your business to your customers’ products shows long-term, serious commitment in ways that will enhance your value as a clear alternative to a mere “product vendor.”
More Important: What Do You Want in a Buyer?
This may be the most important question of all. Since Buyers and OEMs are likely in the same mode you are—contracting at worst, holding steady at best—you must determine what types of buyers are an acceptable partner for you and construct your messaging and tactics accordingly. This is the essence of any strategy you are defining for your business and the buyer behaviors that matter most in 2010. Why is this so important?
Your message will attract a particular type of buyer based on what you say, or what you don’t say. By the same token, a strong message and strategy can filter out those with whom you may not want to associate—like one that’s only motivated by low-cost or minimal concerns for quality.
If you don’t tell them why you’re good, you’re leaving it up to them to decide. And that may not be the best solution for either of you.
This article is the fourth of a five-part series on business developments affecting North American moldmakers and manufacturers, and how best to capitalize on emerging trends to grow and redefine manufacturing businesses.