Archive for category Marketing & Branding

Contract Manufacturers Need Sales And Marketing Too


Artwork courtesy Bob Tarzwell (

For many years now, too many that I want to count, I have been a real pain in the neck advocating that all board shops need marketing, they need to advertise, send out newsletters, hire and manage, measure, and motivate sales people, create forecasts, and account plans and pay attention to their customers’ needs. Interestingly enough, up to a few short years ago there were only a few tier two contract manufacturers who were doing the same things. I know, because I managed to work with the few of these rare companies who were willing to invest time and money into their own sales and marketing efforts.

I was never sure why there were son few CMs interested in sales and marketing? There are over eighteen hundred contract manufacturers out there and the vast majority of them and I mean a real vast majority of them are under fifteen million dollars in annual revenue, in fact, most of them are under ten million. So, I wondered what was the deal here? Why did so many contract manufacturers feel little or no need to pay the slightest attention to the sales and marketing end of their business?

One of the reasons was I came up with was that they didn’t really need to go out and find new business because it always came to them one way or another, they always had all the business they needed. So, I dug a little deeper, why did they have all the business they needed to stay busy and keep making a profit? It did not take long to discover that many of them started their business to service a larger company that needed them to produce a special unique assembly for them. Often the people who started their own contract manufacturing company had done so at the requests of a large company, often one they worked for. Often, the person who started the CM company had run the assembly department of that larger company, or they had been responsible for specific product line that the larger company was producing and that finally powers that be decided that it would be more economical for them to have those products built outside of their company by another smaller company they would help launch. It was amazing, how often this was the case.

And then, from that guaranteed base of business the new contract manufacturer grew by adding just one or two other customers a year to the level where they always had enough business. In fact the company that had originally helped launch them, did not want them to have too many other customers.

But now all of that has changed. These companies have grown where now they have to maintain a certain level of business just to handle their overhead costs. Often the original projects that had started them in business in the first place have disappeared. So now they find themselves in the position of having to get out there and find more business.

Unfortunately, this is proving to be a daunting task for a couple of reasons. The first one being that they do not have the sales and marketing infrastructure to grow their business. They need to hire sales people and develop and implement sales and marketing plans; and the second reason being that  the sales cycle, the time it takes to acquire a new customer, is a long one in their business. It can take from eight months to a year to find and win a new customer, and then in many cases it takes at least six months to scale that customer up to production levels. It is also much more difficult for contract manufacturer to handle a lot of customers.  By the very nature of their business, they are structured to handle only a few good customers at one time. At least most of them.

Because of these factors it is apparent that contract manufacturing companies need as much help with sales and marketing as the board shops always have. So, it’s with that in mind that I am going to focus my next two columns on contract manufacturers, helping them to develop sales and marketing programs that will help them kick start their sales efforts and started on the road to successfully filling their shops.

In next week’s column, I’ll be talking about how to find and hire the right sales people. And then how to manage, measure and motivate them. I’ll talk about incentive packages that assure results and how to keep sales people focused to success. I’ll also discuss the pros and cons of direct sales people versus independent sales reps.

The following week, I’ll talk about marketing, including creating and implementing great marketing and branding packages that will help contract manufacturers stand out in their marketplace. We’ll talk about social media, advertising, newsletters, and all other aspects of marketing your contract manufacturing company.

And sometime in the next few weeks, I’ll dedicate a column to how to select the best possible PCB vendors for your specific needs, something that is near and dear to my heart. Stick around it’s going to be fun, and good for you too. It’s only common sense.


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10 Great Marketing Tips

Dan 8In order to successfully market your company, you have to make sure that your company is marketable. You have to have something to market and that is the entire customer experience not just the product. Yes, you can have a great product but if you don’t treat your customers right when they are buying that product they will go somewhere else.

What good is it to have the best product on the market if your customers hate dealing with you so much that they will not buy it from you? The original Apple M3 player, the original IPod, was not the best on the or the first player on the market, but it was the easiest to use and Apple was the easiest company to deal with, not to mention, probably the most fun.

Thinking about marketing, and making yourself an attractive company to your customers and would be customers, here are ten things that will help you develop and implement the best marketing plan in your industry:

  1. Make sure you are customer focused. Business is not about you it’s about your customers. Always work at figuring out their needs and then meeting or exceeding those needs.
  2. Digging deeper, define exactly who your target customers are and what it will take to win them, develop an ideal customer plan.
  3. Check out what your competitors are doing. The best place to find what is going on in your marketplace is to monitor what your competitors are doing. You don’t have to imitate them but you can study them in terms of what is working and what is not. This is a also a good time to discover what solutions are not being provided and provide them.
  4. Marketing is all about planning., You have to plan for the future, not just today, but next week and the month after that and the year after that. You should develop an ongoing live marketing plan and live with it every day, making adjustments, as needed.
  5. Make sure that all of your company’s policies are customer friendly. Go over them and make sure that in all cases they are not offensive to your customers.
  6. Develop your company’s story and make sure that not only everyone in your company knows it but that everyone in your market knows it as well.
  7. From this story develop your brand and from your brand develop your advertising.
  8. Pay attention to your advertising, yes I know you think you do but most of the time all you’re really doing is talking about how much you spend on advertising. Let me give you a hint, whatever you are spending on advertising is not enough, you should be spending more. If you truly intend to be the leading company in your industry then you have to make sure that everyone in that industry knows what you do and why you are the best at it.
  9. Always be selling and always be marketing. Without customers, you will have no sales and without sales you will have no company. That is all there is to it. You can buy all the equipment you want, you can have all the technology you think you need but what good are those things if you don’t have any customers?
  10. Use any tool you can to help your sales and marketing team. This includes social media, value content newsletters, lunch and learns, seminars and webinars and whatever other new thing comes down the road. Do anything, learn anything, buy anything that will give you an edge over your competition when it comes to getting your name out there.

And one more, always under promise and over deliver. Make sure that everyone in your company is on board with your marketing effort. That everyone knows and respects your customers and considers the customer in everything they do. Empower your customer service people to be on the customers’ side. Give them some latitude to make the right decisions when they are dealing with customer issues. In short, have everyone ready to put the customer first at all times.

Great marketing, great customer service and great sales service are all key ingredients in developing and sustaining a great customer focused company. Pay attention to this and make sure you are always purposely driven in your sales and marketing efforts, and in the end, you will have an industry leading company.

It’s only common sense.Dan 8

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Marketing is a Mosaic


One Ad is not Marketing

Marketing is important. If you want people to know who you are and what you do you have to market your company. Think about it, if people don’t know your name, if they don’t know what you do, if they don’t know how to reach you, how are you going to get any business?

Would you open a store on a busy street and not put up a sign?

Would you start selling sweaters on line without a web site?

Would you open up a new medical practice without an announcement in the local paper?

Would you start making PCB boards and not tell anyone? Oh, wait a minute that is exactly what you are doing if you don’t market your company.

And yes, unfortunately one ad is not a marketing campaign, in fact it is not marketing at all.

Marketing is telling your story and then communicating it to your marketplace, people who can use your product.

A good friend of mine Keith Robbins uses a perfect example of the difference between sales and marketing. Selling is putting your line in the water and hoping you will catch a fish; marketing is getting the fish to jump into the boat.

Marketing is telling and communicating your story in such a compelling way that people are going to want to do business with you.

Marketing is defining your business, your company and your product in a manner that not only explains who you are and what you do, but also why people should want to buy from you.

And most of all marketing is a mosaic. A good and effective marketing plan is made up of many parts all of them synergistically connected.

The message conveyed by your advertising is connected to the message on your web site which is connected to the message relayed by your newsletter which is connected to the message conveyed by your press releases, articles, white papers, interviews, trade show booth graphics, brochures and literature, signage and yes even your business cards.

All these things are ingredients of your overall corporate marketing plan, and it all boils down to the impression you want to deliver to your marketplace

So, you see one ad does not make a marketing plan. Anyone who puts one ad in a magazine and then expects to get business is fooling himself.

Here are five steps you must take to develop a good and effective marketing plan:

  1. Tell that story. This is the basis of all your marketing. Who started the company? Why did they start the company? What need does the company fill? Who needs the company? What makes the company outstanding? Why should people buy from the company and what company characteristics make the company distinctive? Use all of this information to draw up your company’s unique story. Make sure the story is compelling. Remember your goal is to get people to want to buy from you. As examples think of Tiffany’s, Nordstrom’s, L.L. Bean, Disney, and the best of them all Apple.
  2. Develop the ideal customers. This means you need to know who will benefit from your products and services? What kind of people and companies will like what you are selling? In short who will see value in what you are selling.
  3. Find out where these people go for thier information. What magazines do they read? What web sites do they visit? What trade shows do they attend? What other forms of media do they habituate to learn about products like yours. Once you establish this then use these venues for communicating your story.
  4. Develop a communication plan that will send your story out to all the right people using the information you learned in step 3. Make up a budget that will effectively and economical get your story out to the right people at the right time.
  5. Consistency is the key. Your message should be consistent and you should deliver it consistently. Marketing is a long-term ordeal. It is not something you do for a couple of months and then walk away. You should be constantly spreading the word about your company and your products and services. You should also study the results. Decide what media best suits you. What facet of your story gets the best results? Always be analyzing what works and what does not work and spend your time and money on what works.

And one more, in the spirit of under promise and over deliver. Establish a following, a tribe as Seth Godin calls it. Publish a value-added newsletter to your customers and your potential customers. Ask everyone you meet if they would be interested in receiving your newsletter and then make the newsletters compelling enough that these people, your tribe, will read every one of them. And, once you have their attention, one you get your readership up, you can start educating your readers first-hand on what you do and how it will benefit them. This is called “permission marketing” where your customers and potential customers are actually giving you permission to send them information about your company on a regular basis. Now that is marketing.

There is one simple rule of marketing and that is: people need to to know who you are if they are going to buy from you. It’s only common sense.

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Is Your Company Customer-centric?

dan-3When was the last time you sat around with your team talking about how you could produce better products and services for your customers? I mean doing things better, making the customers experience extraordinary and putting the “wow” factor in your products.

I would guess never. We are all so busy just trying to meet our customers’ expectations that we spend very little or maybe no time thinking about exceeding those expectations. We are only focused on getting the job done…just getting the job done and over with that we are much more reactive than we are proactive.

Just think how much fun it would be to think up ways to blow your customers’ minds when it comes to your products. Think how great it would be if you thought up ways to make your customers, customers for life.

Think about your own life, think about the times that a company has surprised you to the point of delight; How about the flight attendant who came up to you on the plane to thank you for your loyalty to their airline. That felt pretty good didn’t it? Or how great it is when the host at your favorite restaurant calls you by name and asks if you want your favorite table? Or how about when your car dealer’s service department’s representative advises you on what’s best for your car even if the parts or tires they recommend for your car costs less than the ones you were going to buy? That feels great. That feels like the person is looking out for you right? It feels like that person knows you so well, understand so clearly what your needs are that they are taking responsibility for your welfare. They care so much about you that they are actually your experts when it comes to what you are buying from them.

Now think about how great it would be if actually spent time thinking about our customers, learning their needs and how our products can exceed those needs.

That is what a customer purposed company does. They make it their business to know everything about their customers, they put themselves in their customer’s shoes so deeply that they can sense not only what the customer needs today but what she is going to need tomorrow as well.

Being a customer purposed company means understanding how your products add value to your customers companies’ purposes and goals. As Steve Jobs once said, “It isn’t the consumer’s job to know want they want.” Now it is our job to figure out what they want. Think about it. Why Apple is so successful is that they made it their purpose to know what their customers wanted, what they wanted and what would capture their imaginations and create ultimate customer loyalty.

Look Apple has done it why can’t we? Why can’t we think up ways to delight our customers? Why can’t we come up with processes and technologies that would exceed our customers’ needs? Apple has done it in retail, they had to invent products from scratch, often products that people had never heard of, products that people wondering why do would need them as all…that is until they tried them for a while and then wondered how they could ever have even thought of living without them.

And it should be easier for us in the board industry. We don’t have to invent a product, we don’t have to deal with a retail market. The fact that we are actually building someone else product, that we are in the job shop business should actually make things easier. There is already a product on the print, we just have to figure out how to make it better. We just have to figure out just what it is the customer is going to use our board for and then come up with a more appropriate way of processing it. We just have to concentrate on developing the very best process anyone has ever developed aimed at making the best boards that anyone has ever seen. Oh I know it’s not as simple as all of that, but still…we can try can’t we? And how about the way we deal with our customers? Why are we all quoting the same way? Why are we packing the boards the same way? Why are we all fabricating them the same way? Why aren’t we thinking about better way to do everything?

Look try it, all I ask is that you just give it a try. Set up a team of your smart people, your creative people your best customer oriented people and sit around for one hours each week…just one hour thinking about how you could provide more value to your customers. How you could be a true customer purposed company. I promise you that it will be the most valuable thing you do this week. It’s only common sense

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Seven Steps To Marketing Your Rep Company

Who are you and what are you doing here?

If you want to stand out as a rep company, you have to get your name out there. And that means getting involved in some good old marketing and branding. The good news, is that there are practically no rep companies paying any attention to marketing their companies, this means that the company that invests some time and a maybe a little money will be sure to stand out. And the even better news is that it’s not that hard to do.

Finding your company’s brand and then marketing that brand is one of the best things you can do to make your company stand out. But there is also another added feature to marketing your company is that the very first step of any marketing plan is deciding who you are, what you are going to do and who you are going to do it for. What niche are you going to fill? And why are you going to do it better than anyone else. The process of the self-examination it takes to answer these questions will make you a better company from the get go.

Here then, are seven steps to effectively building and implementing a successful marketing plan for your rep company.

  1. Whats in a name? Deciding what the name of your company is going to be is critical. You can go the easy route and just name it after yourself. Or, you can get a little creative and come up with a name that will not only mean something but be memorable as well. The name should mean something and represent not only who you are but what you do and the way you do it. Something like “Sales Sparks” will give the impression of a really hot and aggressive firm. While something like “Critical sales” will denote something a bit more serious and important. The important thing is to come up with a name that fits your company’s brand and conveys the image you want to get across.
  2. Getting your name out there. Once you have the name you must to come up with ways to get your name out to the marketplace, a way to make sure that you get noticed, a way that will lift your firm above all of the others. Come up with a plan to get your name out there.
  3. Traditional marketing is the first step to getting your name into the marketplace. This does not have to be expensive. Press releases for example are free and a great way to get exposure, write press releases for just about anything significant that you do from signing with a new principal to hiring a new sales person. Makes sure your press releases are professional in both appearance and content and make sure that they always carry your company’s message, your five-minute elevator talk if you will. Collect a list of all the publications pertinent to your market and send all of them each of your press release. Advertising is also good but expensive so spend your ad dollars very carefully. Make sure you are in the right trades, the ones with the right audience for your business. And make sure your ads carry your message.
  4. Content marketing is another important way to get your name and your message out there. Write all the time. Getting your writing published is the best way to get amplify your message. Writing a regular sales column in one of the trade magazines will get you well-known very quickly and will also establish you as an industry expert and leader. Articles on sales and marketing are also a wonderful way to establish your professional presence as an industry leading rep firm.
  5. Social media is here to stay so you might as well accept it and jump in with both feet. Whether you like it or not social media is here to stay. Please don’t say you don’t believe in social media it makes you sound old and out of touch. Instead get on it. If you are in fact old get your kids or your grand kids to show you how to do it. Linkedin is great, Twitter is fun and easy and blogging is really just a shorter social media column. One of the good things about content marketing and social media is that you can “repurpose” everything you write. Shorten that column and make it a blog. Post in on Linkedin and tweet about it on twitter you get a great deal of bang for the buck.
  6. Networking is important as well. Your goal should be to become the most famous sales representative in the best-known rep firm in your territory if not the country. Talk to everyone. Help as many people out as possible. Be the “go to” person when it comes to helping people out. Be as helpful as possible and people will start turning to you for help and advice. And most of the time they will return the favor.
  7. Speak up. Become the spokesperson of your industry. Take every opportunity you can to speak up. Join the right groups on Linkedin or start your own group or do both, Get involved in as many panel discussions as possible. Give talks, give webinars, present papers, these are all great ways to become the most famous rep in your business not to mention the fact that you will also become the best informed just by virtue of putting these talks and presentations together.

And one more, always under promise and over deliver, be a joiner, participate in as many business- related organizations as possible; Chamber of commerce, ERA, IPC, SMTA and any other organization that will help your business. Then when you have joined these organizations take on leadership roles when they are available. Remember the better you are known in your own market the better known your firm will be and the more successful it will be. All of these things tie together to create a great brand image for your firm and that’s what it’s all about. It’s only common sense

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Are Your Customers Speaking For You?

Most people will tune out when you tell them how great your company is. The will even turn you off if you spend too much time talking about all of the great things your company can do for them. And they will practically throw you out of their office when you start to pull the dreaded Power Point presentation out of your bag! They expect you to tell them how great your company is, you are after all there to sell them on your company and its’ services they would be shocked if you did anything but that and that’s the problem. They don’t really care what you say when it comes to talking about your company to the point where it only becomes a bunch of blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada to them sort of like the parent talk in Peanuts.

So what are you supposed to do about it? How do you get your message across to them if they tune you out when you even come near talking about your company? Simple you get other people to talk about your company. You get your best customers to tell potential customers about your products and services. There is nothing more powerful that a customer’s testimonial or a customer’s service story.

Look, it’s pretty simple people like to hear what other people have to say about a product they are thinking of buying. We all do it right?

When you’re looking towards buying a new car you are going to talk to people who have the same brand and model of that car. Hell you’ll even stop a person in a super market parking lot and ask her about her new Lexus if you are thinking of buying one for yourself. And most importantly you could actually base your buying decision on what that person says to you in the three-minute conversation. You will take that person’s opinion much more seriously than all of the millions of dollars of advertising that Lexus has spent promoting their new model.

You’ll do the same thing with just about any other major purchase you are currently considering. We put much more weight on what the person who has used the product says that anything the manufacturer of that product has to say.

The same applies in our business today. We can tell our customers until we are blue in the face what a great product we have but it is not going to amount to a proverbial hill of beans when compared with what our current customers say about us.

Now I hope we all have some happy and satisfied customers…some “best customers.” If you don’t, or if you feel that none of your customers will want to say nice things about you then you have much more serious problems and you should go take care of those problems before you try to sell anything to anyone. The old “we’re no worse than anyone else” justification has no place in business and no place in the referral business.

Okay not that this is out of the way let’s get back to asking your good and satisfied customers for referrals. In his new book High Profit Prospecting, Mark Hunter gives is a four step plan for getting referrals from customers:

  1. Ask for referrals. Every time the customer sees value in what you’re selling is a time when you should ask for a referral.
  2. Connect with the referral. Ideally the person who gives you the name will connect the two of you through an email or phone call. Even if that is not the case, following up as soon as possible is showing respect to the person who referred you.
  3. Keep the person who gave you the referral in the loop. Don’t keep the person who gave you the referral in the dark. By keeping them in the loop you will encourage them to provide you with more referrals.
  4. Be appreciative each step along the way. Nothing you do will create more referrals along the way than showing appreciation to each person in the process.

Once again there is no better way to get new business than to have your current satisfied customers tell other customers about your products and services.

One final thing to remember and that is that good referrals are based on good service, actually outstanding service. You have to be good enough that your customers will be proud and happy to be giving out your contact information to others. You have to be good enough so that you’re customer actually feel so smart for using you products and services that they want to tell everyone about you and your company. Its only common sense.

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Don’t Give The Boards Away!

Look I know getting business is hard. I know that you’re biggest problem is always having enough business and I certainly know that most of our customers pride themselves in buying the cheapest circuit board that money can buy. But still that is no excuse to give away your boards. You have got to make a profit on what you build. It might be a razor thin profit but you have to make something on what you build otherwise you are falling to your customer’s suggestion that what you do has little or no value.

In fact I believe that one of the worst contributors to the near demise of the North American board industry has been price gauging. We have seen it and we have all felt it and we have all been victims of it. A shop will get so hungry that it will start practically giving boards away as prices that are even lower than their estimated costs. I have seen some cases where the price one of my competitors was offering was lower than the laminate that the boards were build out of.

A few weeks ago we talked about the lack of respect that our customers have for our industry; well on the same token “giving” boards away at a price lower than costs is a pure and evident example of a lack of self-respect.

Now I know that it is not always easy to hold your prices especially when you need the business. This becomes especially difficult when some of your competitors especially the ones who are on the brink of dissolution to the point of desperation will lower their prices just to get business in the door and keep the last of their people employed ugh, not a pretty picture!

Here are a few suggestion to follow instead of getting into the price game with desperate competitors:

  1. Don’t play that game. You will know if the competitors’ price is too low and don’t meet it. By the way when was the last time a buyer told you you’re priced was too low? When was the last time a buyer showed you the other guy’s prices when they were higher than yours? Just will not happen so be wary of buyers showing you ridiculously low pricing.
  2. Explain to that buyer, you know the one showing you that ridiculously low price that value of going with your company. Ask him what the true costs are for the low priced guy versus your company. Point out that in his world the lowest price does not always mean the lowest cost.
  3. Ask him to think about what it cost his company if he doesn’t get a board on time; or if the board is no good; or if worst of all if a defective board is put in his system and fails in the field. These are all things the buyer should be considering if he insists on buying the cheapest boards money can buy.
  4. Ask the buyer how much trouble she will have replacing a vendor if that vendor goes out of business?
  5. Show that buyer what the laminate costs are for that board. For the most part everyone is paying about the same for laminate so that is a great comparison factor when comparing prices.
  6. Be prepared to walk away. Sorry as touch at that sounds you are not in the business of making boards you are the in business of making money and you can’t make any money selling boards that have no profit margin.
  7. And finally get rid of that ridiculous adage that goes “we’ll make it up in volume” because you won’t. I have never understood that line of reasoning. Look if the unit price of one board is below cost the volume price will also be below cost. Zero profit times one hundred boards is still duh …zero profit or worse. Actually it is worse because you are using up valuable production time not to mention chemicals and laminates and manpower to build boards for nothing. You are better off not having the order than building it a losing prices. That’s not rocket science either.

So look in the end there is just no sense in playing the price game. Now there are some worthy competitors and you should be aware of those guys. They’re the ones who you have been competing with for years. They are the ones who are on a par with you. You know that their capabilities are good and that their Quality is good and that in the end their pricing is usually very similar to yours. They are what I call “worthy opponents. They are to be respected and their pricing is to be respected. Be confident that when you compete against them you are playing on a level playing field, that’s a good and fair game.

But those other guys, those desperados, don’t play their game because they are playing a losers game with bankruptcy being the ultimate outcome. It’s only common sense

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