When I proposed to a capital goods manufacturer of packaging machines to go beyond functional, quality & price matrix to market the machines, they could not understand how would it lead to a fat order book. Subsequently when it was recommended to improve aesthetics of the damn machine, they laughed loud. Gentlemen! Why can’t we have sexy machines that dance equally well?
Finding new customers remains one single most important challenge facing SME sector in India. More so in B2B sector the problem is terrible. You would come across number of manufacturers who have created a product or have the knowledge to produce but do not have the way to get it across to the buyers in time. You may also meet entrepreneurs who boldly tell you that they have got a million dollar product, market plan but don't have the execution muscles. Simply put they lack trained motivated professionals.
Recently i got to advise a wrapping machine manufacturer who is in business for almost twenty years. This particular company faced a major crisis when one of their key people walked out to set up a parallel company. And this person approached the existing customers of his employer. He offered a similar product ‘an equally good machine’ at a lower price. Some customers diverted their new orders to him. What can you do in such a scenario besides taking legal steps to handle such challenges?
First if you are a B2B organization with almost finite demand over small to medium term go for CRM immediately. Identify & segment your customers on various criteria and appoint dedicated Relationship Managers. To organize this function in a better way you may employ some CRM tool from a wide range of applications available in the market. The relationship managers would do well by meeting the customer end teams at a suitable frequency backed by more intense offsite contacts. The aim of this exercise is to build top of mind recall so that every time the customer may include your name in their buying plans.
Secondly service teams should be encouraged to communicate through RMs. Since service teams are not fully trained in Sales activity they may not be able to influence the sale beyond discussing ‘quality’ aspects of the product. I have noticed in many companies services engineers tend to assume the role of generating sales. Though there could be some exceptional individuals in service, who could influence the customer but the in normal circumstances, the sales job should be delegated to the crack sales team only.
Since most machine tools and intermediaries are closely linked to the sale of other equipment also it would be necessary for the manufacturers to carefully leverage the meta marketing variables. A wrapping machine buyer would be buying other machines to complete production line therefore it would be appropriate for the manufacturers to tie up with other suppliers. Packaging machine suppliers need to sell their machines to the manufacturer of plant machinery and the project consultants before marketing the same to the actual buyers.
Generally major trade fairs remain the mainstay of promotion for the B2B segment. It would be appropriate if you take services of some marketing Adviser to package & present your products at such shows. You may have noticed that smart presentation at the trade show could multiply the possibility of generating orders and satisfy existing and potential customers. Try doing something unique next time during your trade show presentation.
Some engineers & manufacturers in B2B segment find it difficult to adopt sophisticated marketing techniques. Because marketing is treated as a post-production function rather an orientation of the business. How often have you come across sellers comfortable with maintaining their price in negotiations? Why can’t they learn from the success of leading true blue engineering companies that embraced marketing to become world best like Microsoft, GE and the old IBM.
Strategic Marketing communications separate a successful SME from the rest. How do you identify, engage, persuade, delight your customers would determine your topline. Why do some SME owners forget to leverage media & technology surprises me? If you have not used Direct Marketing and CRM, you are taking a risk in the medium to long term.
Come on shed that old mindset of treating marketing as a post-production function and give a total market orientation to your business. Focus on the customer, not what you want to sell you shall succeed