Marketing is typically not on the top of most CNC machine shop owners’ minds. After all, each day is filled with myriad challenges, and the primary goal is to produce more and better parts and products. Unfortunately customers don’t stay around forever, no matter how well we treat them. Companies are bought and sold, go out of business, bring previously outsourced work inside, or simply no longer require the kind of work you provide. That’s why we must constantly add new customers. But where do we find them? And how can we do so cost-effectively? Fact is there are a number of ways you can seek new customers by substituting sweat equity for dollars. Here are 4 of them:
Referrals from satisfied customers are always welcome, and the person referred to us is already partially sold, because they trust the word of the referring colleague or friend. But you won’t see many of these referrals unless you continuously let your customers know how much you appreciate their business and their referrals. Every time you come in contact with a satisfied customer the last part of your conversation should include asking for a referral. Likewise, all email or other communications should include a brief referral reminder. Some companies provide incentives for these referrals, such as a modest gift, a lunch or dinner, or a discount on future services. Whatever approach you take, the key is to be consistent, rather than waiting until you need work to start asking for a referral. By the way, don’t forget to send a gracious “thank you” to the referring customer.
Networking means establishing mutually beneficial relationships with colleagues, friends, suppliers and others. By “mutually beneficial” we mean that simply asking for new customer leads is only part of the equation. Networking is most productive when you take the attitude of “giving to get.” This means you approach people to find out how you can help them in their search for new customers. Introducing them to those you know who are good prospects for what they do, sets up the opportunity for them to reciprocate. You particularly want to meet people who are well connected and respected by the kinds of customers you’re looking for. There are a number of books and online resources that can help you design a networking plan, and several networking organizations such as BNI (Business Networking International) that have chapters in virtually every city.
Social Media, may not yet be as widespread in manufacturing industries as in the consumer world, but for many companies it’s another way to build a network. LinkedIn.com, in particular, gives you the opportunity to expand your network online. It can also serve as a source of new customer inquiries when potential customers are searching for a trusted supplier. Other social media platforms may also be helpful, but be careful: They can also be extremely time-consuming for little result. Connext with Gosiger via LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter
Inbound Marketing is vitally important if you want new customers to find you. The core of this kind of marketing effort is a strong Internet presence. This means having a Web site that is continuously updated with content that is useful for your customers. Rather than simply displaying your capabilities, equipment and proud history, you should include information that can help your customers solve their problems, improve their businesses and make their lives better. Not only will this help build credibility with your customers and establish you as an expert in your field, it also boosts your ranking in search engine results.
Finding new customers is never an easy task, and these and other marketing tools require a dedicated, consistent effort if they are to bear fruit.