Archive for category Marketing & Branding
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
The good news is that more companies then ever in our industry are finally figuring out that they need some marketing. I have seen this trend rise in the past few years, where once it was a rare EMS or PCB company that did marketing, to now where we are seeing more companies than ever getting involved.
Some companies are going to advertising route, while others are using social media, and others are writing white papers and hosting lunch and learns and some, the more inspired ones, understand that marketing is a mosaic and doing all the above.
And so, I applaud those companies who have seen the light and are now jumping in and investing time and money into publicizing their companies. But, there are a few things, secrets, as my favorite business writer likes to call them, that you should know as you enter the marketing arena.
Let me stop here for a brief minute, and talk about this man Seth Godin. He is literally the best marketing guru out there today. I have read, and re-read all of Mr. Godin’s books numerous times and even then, I find myself constantly going back to his books to get some ideas, and yes, to get inspired by his work to help the companies I work with. I would urge all of you to go to Amazon right now and pick up every book this man has written. Sounds crazy, but I mean it. Reading and studying his work will make you a better marketing manager putting out better marketing media.
That being said, here from Seth’s book Watcha Gonna Do with That Duck? And Other Provocations, here are the Top 10 Secrets of the Marketing Process:
- Don’t run out of money. It always takes longer, and costs more than you expect to spread your idea. You can budget for it or you can fail.
- You won’t get it right the first time. Your campaign will need to be reinvented, adjusted, or scrapped. Count on it.
- Convenient choices are not the best choices. Just because an agency, an asset, or a biz deal is easy to do, doesn’t mean that it is your best choice.
- Irrational, strongly held beliefs of close advisors should be ignored. It doesn’t matter if they like or don’t like your logo.
- If it makes you nervous, it’s probably a good idea. If you’re sure you’re right, you probably aren’t.
- Focusing obsessively on one niche. Or one feature, and one market is almost always a better idea than trying to satisfy everyone.
- At one point, you’re going to have to stick to your convictions or do what the market tells you. It’s hard to do both.
- Compromise in marketing is almost always a bad idea. Extreme A could work. Extreme B could work. The average of A and B will almost never work.
- Test, measure, and optimize. Figure out what’s working, and do it more.
- Read and learn. There are a million clues, case studies, books, and proven tactics out there. You can’t profitably ignore them until you know them, and you don’t have the time or the money to make the same mistake someone else made last week. It’s cheaper and faster to read about it that it is to do it.
And now a few of my own: Here are ten stupid things you should never say about your marketing program:
- If we place this ad and it works, we might not have enough time to build all the orders that are going to come in.
- We can’t start the advertising campaign yet; the product will not be ready for 30 days.
- Okay, we will try one ad and see what happens
- My wife does not like this ad, we had better change it.
- What if everyone wants this and we can’t keep up…they could sue us.
- Let’s see if we can get some business coming in and then we’ll have the funds to advertise.
- I hate getting those email newsletters, so I’m not going to be sending any.
- We sent this newsletter to 17,000 people. 3 people did not like it, so we won’t do that again! And of yes, only 10% of those 17,000-people responded to the newsletter.
- We’ve never used marketing before, why should we start now?
- I’m not placing this ad until I know that everything in the company is operating perfectly.
And one more as always to under promise and over-deliver and my all-time personal favorite. We don’t want to advertise because the competition will know what we’re doing!
Look, it all boils down to this. It is a big world out there, it is a big market and people have a lot of choices. so you have to use marketing to get your name out there in front of that market, in front of people who need your products. But you have to do it because without marketing, no one will even know your name, no one will even know you exist. And how are they going to buy from you if they don’t even know who you are or what you do? Get with it, get going on your marketing, get out there and shout to the rafters about who you are, what you do and why you are better then everyone else. It’s only common sense.
Does anybody know your name?
Unlike PCB shops where there are now less than 200 left in North America, there are well over 1000 contract manufacturers of all shapes and sizes. Everyone knows the big guys from Celestica, to Flextronics, to Sanmina to Plexus all of them doing hundreds of millions to billions of dollars, but what about all the others? Most of them are under twenty million dollars and many of those are under ten million. There is nothing wrong with this, most of these companies are very good, very well-run companies.
But the true problem lies in the sheer numbers, there are so many of them that it’s hard to tell one from the other. There are very few of these companies that can be identified by more than a handful of companies who, work directly with them, which is the very reason today’s contract manufacturers need to develop and implement their own ongoing marketing and branding plan.
I say “implement”, because that really is the key to any good plan, especially a marketing plan. Here are the more basic steps to developing and implementing your own customized marketing and branding plan:
- Tell your story: This is where it all starts. What is your company’s story, when you did you get started? Who started the business and why was it started? What is the company’s mission and vision? Talk about some of the history. This will be the foundation of all your marketing. It is also helpful for your own team to have a good understanding of the company that are part of.
- What are you good at? What separates your company from the rest of the pack? This is sometimes called your unique value proposition. What is your forte? What do your customers like about you? Why do they keep coming back?
- Who is your ideal customer and why? Speaking of customers, who is your best customer? Why are they your best customer? What markets are they in? Develop an ideal customer profile and use it as a template when going after other customers. These are the customers and markets you should pursue.
- Getting the word out: Now we get down to it. You know what your company is good at, you know what customers and markets you want to pursue, now it’s time to put your marketing together and get your message out there to the right companies. Done right, this can be very effective and will not cost you much money at all, in fact, you can do it yourself if you want. The first thing to know is that marketing is a mosaic and all the marketing options listed below are the tiles making up the mosaic. It’s up to you to decide what you want your marketing mosaic to look like based on which of these, “tiles” you decide to use. Here are three of the most important “tiles” to use in your marketing mosaic.
- Interviews: This is your chance to tell your story. You can be interviewed by one of the trade magazines like this one I-Connect 007, which offers all types of interviews from print, to audio, to even video. They will give you the opportunity to talk about our self and your company. Your story makes a great cornerstone for your marketing because as in the case of I-Connect your story is put in front of their thousands of readers, and once it has been published, you can use it for your own marketing and social media. You can put the interview on your web site and your newsletters. You can send the link to your customers. You give it to your sales team for them to send it to customers. If its print interview, you can have it reprinted in a glossy magazine style format complete with photos and use it as a hand out. All very effective and powerful ways to market your company.
- Press releases: Please send out press releases about everything that happens at your company; from hiring a new sales person, or general manager to buying a new piece of equipment, to updating your technology. Press releases are a great way to keep your name out there. And just like everything else you can re-purpose your press releases through your own marketing and social media once they have been published in the trades.
- Newsletters/ technical bulletins: This is the very best way to get your name out there to the right people. But this is not a “It’s Sally’s birthday!” newsletter. The best newsletters are filled with content that is valuable and appealing to your customers. Each newsletter should contain:
- A president’s message that highlights what has been going on at the company as well as what is contained in this issue.
- Anything you had had published since the last newsletter.
- Some helpful technology tips that will help your customers
- A special call to action
The newsletter will go out to your entire customer base and will serve as a valuable “touch” to those customers once again keeping your company’s name and services in front of the right people.
And yes, in the spirit of under promising and over delivering, there is one more “tile”,and that’s social media. Don’t groan! It’s about time you went there. Linkedin and Twitter are the most useful and powerful forms of business social media right now. Stop bragging about the fact that you don’t even know what Twitter is anymore, it’s no longer cool to do that and sorry but you’re showing your age. There are many books and seminars on social media today so it’s for you to get on board very quickly. My friend Bruce Johnston (firstname.lastname@example.org) is one of the world’s leaders in LinkedIn and he offers excellent training courses for you and your team to learn how to use LinkedIn effectively. The good news is that everything you do as part of your marketing plan can be re-purposed via social media reaching many more people and reaching them very quickly
One last thing to remember, and it’s worth restating, marketing is a mosaic and you should develop a complete annual schedule of the marketing you are going to be doing for the next year, month by month, quarter by quarter so that you will always know where you are going by following this time-lined road map. And by the way I have a great sample marketing plan I can send you if you contact me.
So please, start working at getting your name out there. You are competing with over one thousand other companies and in the end the true winners are going to be those who marketed the smartest and yes, the loudest. It’s only common sense.
Artwork courtesy Bob Tarzwell (gallerydeboer.ca/portfolio/tarzwell-robert/)
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.
In 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:
- 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.
- Digging deeper, define exactly who your target customers are and what it will take to win them, develop an ideal customer plan.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- From this story develop your brand and from your brand develop your advertising.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
When 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