How to Find New Customers

What to do when “word of mouth” no longer works to earn new accounts.


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Moldmakers currently sell and market in a different world than five to seven years ago. Customers and prospects knew which toolmakers satisfied various needs and they were generally loyal and consistent. In the past few years, the world marketplace has become significantly smaller and subsequently competition is much more intense. As well, procurement departments have their own set of needs and desires adding to the new global marketplace. Word of mouth is a passive activity and although it is quite effective it is nonetheless, uncontrollable. So what should be executed to earn new customers?


Methods for Obtaining New Customers

A number of Chicago area Tooling & Manufacturing Association member shops are using both traditional and unique methods to earn new accounts.

Manufacturers Representative
MET Plastics, Inc. (Elk Grove Village, IL) has success with a local (adjacent state) manufacturers representative who has a close relationship with the management team. The rep has an excellent understanding of the niche industry that MET targets and frequently meets in person to review projects, prospects and customers. The key with manufacturers reps is to partner with an individual who has contacts in the industry that you serve or wish to serve. The rep’s industry contacts are what should be measured.

Internet/Web Page Marketing
As industry decision makers increasingly use the World Wide Web to locate suppliers, the importance of a Web presence becomes paramount. Optimization of a Web page is most effective when the niche served is very narrow.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a tactic where key words are chosen based on core competencies. These are best when they are unique words such as “multi-cavity” or “thermoforming” versus “plastic mold” or “tooling”. Younger generations of engineers and purchasing employees are very clear that the Web is the critical source for new suppliers.

Direct Mail
Direct mail and follow up can yield excellent targeted results. After significant time and energy researching various industries, select 20 to 40 very targeted prospects to receive a mailing of a molded component along with a flyer carefully designed for that industry.

Within three weeks, phone call(s) are made to follow up on the mailing to determine interest level. This activity could be named “cold calling” but actually, it’s a warm call after the mailing.

The final method is the use of surveys to contact the customer base. The hidden agenda of the survey is to place your company in the mind of the customer on a consistent basis—the survey being once per year.

In addition, the survey is designed to gather useful information on delivery or first shot quality levels or where to improve customer service. Finally, once the surveys are gathered, they then communicate—to only those who completed the one-page form—what had been learned and what will be changed. This additional communication is of course another touch point, placing the supplier top of mind with the customer.

Direct Salesperson
Pro Mold & Die (Roselle, IL) has earned new customers using a direct salesperson. This creates a trade-off of salary and expenses for control and focus. This is the most expensive approach, but potentially returns the largest ROI. Again, the salesperson is very targeted into a key industry, is well known and stands behind a strong company brand.

Trade Shows
Additionally, Pro Mold has had success with the National Plastics Exposition (NPE) over the recent years where they have met with prospects ready to make purchasing decisions when a decade ago, many attending were not decision makers. The three keys to success with trade shows are:

  1. Choose a show that matches the toolmaking strengths
  2. Display professionally
  3. Follow up and work the lead list generated

Often time spent at the show takes the management team away from the shop where they return and focus on everything else other than the prospect list just earned. Plan for the time needed upon returning.

Vice President David Long notes of his salesman, “He is confident he’ll get one or two new accounts from NPE this year.”

Customer Service
Chuck Klingler, vice president of Janler Corporation (Chicago, IL) has found success looking for opportunities to illustrate the specialties of his company. Due to Janler’s broad production experience within the eyes of his customer, he was asked to solve a molding problem on tooling that was not Janler’s. Klingler’s strategy was to help his customer for all the obvious reasons and not expect compensation.

Being successful in solving the prob-lem, the Janler team had the opportunity to work side by side with yet another prospect. Unknowingly his customers’ customer was involved and was so im-pressed that Janler was asked to bid and subsequently awarded significant future business.

“He was particularly impressed that we had our key personnel present on the production floor immediately attempting to solve a problem,” Klingler explains.


Illustrate Your Shop’s Core Competencies

Always look for opportunities to illustrate needed core competencies. Other tactics to employ that allow promotion of your brand, include speaking engagements at industry trade events; participation in appropriate association events and committees; and, testimonials—upon receiving a positive comment from a customer, ask the person to forward the comment onto others.

There are hundreds of commercial efforts to choose from to secure new customers, choosing the most efficient use of the sales and marketing budget is the key.