Whether or not you're a supply-side member of MFG.com, successfully marketing your manufacturing business online takes a combination of patience, persistence and knowing what to expect. Like any other project, working smart sure beats the alternative.
Every day, we see small- and medium-sized manufacturers succeed at beginning and developing strong relationships with new customers. But we also see some that don't, and they are almost always making critical online marketing mistakes.
This list of "ways to fail" includes good advice for any of your online efforts to market your shop, plant or business - be it through your own Web site, on MFG.com, via social media, or any combination of them.
1. Don't Attend an Orientation
Each new member of the MFG.com marketplace is scheduled for an orientation session before joining the MFG.com marketplace. But some members choose to jump right in unarmed and with skewed perspectives. An orientation offers tips, advice and opportunities that transcend navigation, materials pricing and parts libraries.
2. Don't Update or Complete Your MFG.com Profile
Your MFG.com profile (and your own Web site) is a reflection of your business. It should accurately portray your strengths, experience, capabilities and why you would make a good partner for the types of businesses you want to work with. But just as important, it must differentiate you from your competitors. Imagine your MFG.com profile being viewed side-by-side with others that have the same expertise as you. Your profile is the window to your company and your own Web site. You can't over-state your complete value proposition to Buyers online.
3. Focus on the RFQ, Not the Buyer
Successful manufacturers on MFG.com look for companies and prospects that match their own business objectives and capabilities. A "bad" prospect can post a great RFQ, and a "great" prospect can post an RFQ that isn't in your wheelhouse. Ask yourself this question: "What was the first job I got from my best customer?" Odds are, it was a low-quantity, low-risk order to qualify you as an acceptable source for product before establishing a stronger relationship and increasing orders. An RFQ is an opportunity to begin that relationship - or not.
4. Quote & Hope (Every Job is a Good Job)
Selectivity is important when choosing RFQs or jobs to quote. Quoting on every single job looks like desperation or incompetence to Buyers. They're looking for knowledge, chops and expertise with their products and the processes needed to make them. Quoting everything makes it look like you're an expert at nothing.
5. Don't Communicate
Call or directly contact each buyer you encounter online. Don't rely on MFG.com messaging or e-mail alone to establish contact. Would you even consider switching from Kennametal to Sandvik or Carboloy if those reps sent you one e-mail and nothing else?
6. Don't Follow Up with Prospects or Buyers
When you quote a job or project and don't win the work - or when you "meet" a prospect online via your Web site - it's still an opportunity to forge a relationship. It's how you develop business in the actual world, and that's how it's done online. Develop processes for communicating with your prospects on a regular basis, and you'll get more business.
7. Complain to Prospects & Buyers
Complaining about economics, low-cost countries, markets and pricing to prospects or Buyers isn't helpful, and leaves a bad impression. Instead, offering solutions - like the total costs of Buyers' products and how you can make their products better - shows you're a solutions-focused partner. Buyers remember that when they look for alternative Suppliers.
8. Low-Ball Your Quotes
Quoting unrealistically low on jobs more often than not backfires on companies that are looking to just get work in the door. Buyers are aware of market conditions, and the products they are chasing lower price points for are likely not worth the effort to quote, much less take on. Ask yourself first: "Is this really someone I want to work with - someone that only looks at cost, and not quality?"
9. Give Up
Rewriting CNC code, changing tooling, introducing a pallet-changer or improving set-up times give immediate, tangible results. But marketing doesn't. Results often come after the act of communication, and at the leisure of the prospect. It can be frustrating when the world doesn't beat a path to your door after you turn on that new Web site or MFG.com profile. The key is to continue, communicate and not give up. Buyers that are looking for you will find you.
As a small- and medium-sized manufacturer, discrete parts manufacturer or other contract manufacturing business that serves as a node in a supply chain, you're at a distinct disadvantage. Marketing was never your strong suit to begin with. Add to that the remarkable shifts over the past 10 years in how engineers and other technology-focused prospects research and digest information, and it's likely that you're feeling passed by or leaving money on the table.
Revisiting or focusing on developing your expectations and strategies will help ensure that you get back what you deserve for your online investment.