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Commercial Concepts

The checkup

By Chip Burnham

This series of articles offers ways to improve the commercial engine of small to mid-sized manufacturing companies.

FFJ 0718 commercial lead2October 2018 - You would think providing great products and services would be enough to grow your business. After all, you do good work and, as a result, you add a few new customers each year through positive word of mouth and a website. Unfortunately, you also lose customers as they change their products or move to lower priced competitors.

Most manufacturers find reputation alone barely enough to sustain business, let alone grow it.

It’s not that manufacturers never invest. The shop floor gets new equipment and tools every couple years. Continuous improvement is a mainstay. However, annual investments are not as common on the commercial side; too many questions abound. Manufacturers often ask, Will I get a return on the money I spend trying to get more leads? Is a CRM system going to give us more business or more aggravation? If we add salespeople, will they bring in enough business to even pay for themselves? How do I know what to do first?

The answer to all these questions? Conduct a business health checkup of your commercial engine.

To assess your commercial engine, evaluate your company performance in 10 key areas shown to have significant impact on business performance. Future articles in this series will address:

1. Finding your best end markets

2. Discovering the customer’s voice

3. Creating great messaging

4. Generating more leads

5. Nurturing your existing leads

6. Building a great sales team

7. Creating customer loyalty

8. Rightsizing the marketing budget

9. Making your current offerings more attractive

10. Hitting your profit goals

These topics are about fundamental performance. You can employ technology as needed, but only as a means of improving the area you’ve identified as a weakness.

Getting started

Gather a group of employees from all departments and discuss performance by ranking areas from weakest to strongest, taking care that each person in the group shares in the conversation. Another approach is using an outside resource to conduct analysis. A word of caution, though.  Using outside sources can take a lot of time and they tend to regurgitate what you already know.

Or, you can analyze your commercial engine by taking the Business Health Checkup. An online questionnaire allows you to perform the checkup yourself. It takes just a few minutes to complete, is free, and requires no commitment. The more members of your company who complete the checkup, the more accurate results you will get.

The self-assessment advantage

Nothing beats self-assessment. No one knows your business like you do. No one understands your markets or your customers as well.

Be objective. Too often manufacturers find themselves addressing the most recent hot issue or responding to a recent incident. “Fix this problem right away” is heard from the president’s office. When your team steps back to assess the entire commercial engine before jumping into action, you have a better chance of addressing the areas that will deliver the best ROI. No sense greasing the squeaky wheel if the axle is broken.

Conducting a cross functional self-assessment allows for input from multiple perspectives. By including a cross section of peers and leaders you have an opportunity to build consensus and create focus. These are necessary ingredients when it comes time to execute on your target area.

Real-world example

A manufacturing company with revenue of $100 million per year suddenly forecasts a business downturn. The company will need to land new business just to sustain current levels. They need new leads and customers—fast.

Much of the company’s reputation is built upon their performance and sales team networking. To identify where to strengthen its commercial engine, management decides to gather a few people and rate the their company on the 10 key areas. The vice president of sales, CEO, service manager, product manager, an experienced salesperson, and the vice president of marketing are involved.

After working through some disagreements with frank discussions, they were able to come away with a solid prioritized list. The five weakest of the 10 priorities were.

• Nurture existing leads

• Generate new leads

• Discover voice of customer

• Create messaging

• Create customer loyalty

Because the greatest weakness is lead nurturing, should management simply launch into addressing this issue first? No, not yet because the manufacturer should first discover the voice of the customer to get a clear set of needs; create messaging that will resonate with this target audience; then use this information for lead generation and lead nurturing.

The top four issues were reordered to ensure foundational items are addressed first. Reordering priorities is common. Employing best practices to improve weak areas is the next step. The rest of this series will provide real-world examples and best practices to improve each of the 10 areas. All suggestions and solutions can be executed in weeks, not years. After all, when your commercial engine is failing there is no time to waste. FFJ

Chip Burnham is author of “MarketMD Your Manufacturing Business” and is co-founder of Fairmont Concepts, which helps manufacturers maximize the performance of their commercial engine. Fairmont Concepts, Maple Valley, Washington, 833/667-7889, www.fairmontconcepts.com.

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Company Profiles

AIR FILTRATION

IRONWORKERS

NESTING SOFTWARE

SERVICE CENTERS

Camfil APC - Equipment Trilogy Machinery Inc. Metamation Inc. Admiral Steel
Camfil APC - Replacement Filters

LASER TECHNOLOGY

PLASMA TECHNOLOGY

Alliance Steel
Donaldson Company Inc. AMADA AMERICA, INC. Messer Cutting Systems Inc.

SOFTWARE

BENDING/FOLDING

Mazak Optonics Corp.

PLATE

Enmark Systems Inc.
MetalForming Inc. MC Machinery Systems Inc. Peddinghaus Lantek Systems Inc.
RAS Systems LLC Murata Machinery, USA, Inc.

PLATE & ANGLE ROLLS

SigmaTEK Systems LLC

BEVELING

TRUMPF Inc. Davi Inc. Striker Systems
Steelmax Tools LLC

LINEAR POSITION SENSORS

Trilogy Machinery Inc.

STAMPING/PRESSES

COIL PROCESSING

MTS Sensors

PRESS BRAKE TOOLING

AIDA-America Corp.
Bradbury Group

MATERIAL HANDLING

Mate Precision Tooling

STEEL

Burghardt + Schmidt Group Fehr Warehouse Solutions Inc. Rolleri USA Alliance Steel
Butech Bliss UFP Industrial

PRESS BRAKES

TUBE & PIPE

Red Bud Industries

MEASUREMENT & QUALITY CONTROL

AMADA AMERICA, INC. BLM Group
Tishken Advanced Gauging Technologies Automec Inc. Prudential Stainless & Alloys

CONVEYOR SYSTEMS

METAL FABRICATION MACHINERY

MC Machinery Systems Inc.

WATERJET

Mayfran International Cincinnati Inc. SafanDarley Barton International

DEBURRING/FINISHING

LVD Strippit

PUNCHING

Flow International Corporation
ATI Industrial Automation Scotchman Industries Inc. Hougen Manufacturing Jet Edge Waterjet Systems
Lissmac Corp. Trilogy Machinery Inc.

SAWING

WELDING

Osborn

METAL FORMING

Behringer Saws Inc. American Weldquip
SuperMax Tools FAGOR Arrasate USA Inc. Cosen Saws Strong Hand Tools
Timesavers MetalForming Inc. DoALL Sawing T. J. Snow Company

HYDRAULIC PRESSES

MICROFINISHING TOOLS

HE&M Saw

 

Beckwood Press Co. Titan Tool Supply Inc. Savage Saws

 

Triform

 

 

 


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