You Have To Stay In Touch

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Why don't most small- and mid-sized manufacturers (SMMs) follow-up with prospects encountered online? It almost seems like a myth - we encounter so many shops and plants with no e-mail or newsletter marketing plans. So many that I've met that had them in the past abandoned them too soon, thinking that there will be an immediate return.

Well, guess what? Marketing doesn't work that way. Sales does (or at least can), but marketing rarely does. And whether you're quoting a Buyer's RFQ on, being visited on your Web site by a stealth prospect, or even getting a lead at a show, that's the beginning of a relationship. Or, at least it should be. That's marketing 101, and it's especially true for manufacturers.

Let's say you've recognized a prospect as attractive to you and you approach them. And they turn you down cold - they don't accept your quote, they won't respond to your calls or e-mails, and you just write them off and move to the next thing.

But what happens next is where e-mail and a consistent plan for contacting prospects is most important. Often - and I mean OFTEN - a Buyer will get hit with an emergency, a supply chain disruption - like a failed supplier, quality breakdowns, logistics failures, design changes, or changed schedules.

You know - like stuff you deal with all the time.

Wellsir, that Buyer that passed you by 3 months ago needs those parts NOW. No low-cost labor will help this guy now. The clock has been ticking, and he's frantically looking for a solution. Who's going to be at the top of his mind? The SMM that hasn't said a word since the RFQ was initially awarded, or the company whose e-mail he got 2 days ago?

This is a simplistic description to describe events we see here every day. To help you understand how prevalent it is, we've just conducted our latest MFGWatch survey of North American manufacturers. For the second quarter, over 1/3 of both buy- and supply-side manufacturers say that they or their customers have experienced a serious supply chain disruption.

33 percent. That's a lot. Think of it this way - if you knew 1/3 of your current business was jeopardy, would you call those customers? Exactly.

To take advantage of these Buyer pain points and capitalize, construct a plan to contact the prospects you've encountered through or your Web site. When you "meet" a prospect, put their contact info in a spreadsheet. Or a Word document. Or write it on a Denny's napkin. I don't care. Every 3 months or so, construct a brief e-mail that talks about what your business is up to. Maybe you've completed a cool or challenging part or piece. Maybe you've done work for an interesting industry. Maybe you've hired someone with mad skills. Or maybe you've gotten training or a new accreditation or a new piece of equipment.

Put a few, brief, salient points in an e-mail and send one out regularly, but not too frequently. Stay in touch with the people you know value the kind of work you do, so when they need you they'll know where to find you.

ConstantContactOk, ok ... I know what you're saying. "We know how to run Mazaks, we don't know much about running marketing campaigns." Well, here are a couple of resources that can help you. They're relatively easy, inexpensive, and they can help you maintain contact with your leads.

Constant Contact - This site helps small business build and maintain professional, effective lead development programs for not much dough. Not only does CC help to create the e-mail program you need, it also allows you to create and manage surveys and events marketing (like open houses). Two things I really like about CC: it actually acknowledges manufacturing, and I've personally worked with small shops and plants that have used it with great success.

EmmaEmma - This platform is simple and effective. Small and large businesses use Emma for e-mail marketing, but it's hard to spot small manufacturers that are using it. Still, it offers this type of program management and polling, and may be the right choice for your business.

Meeting and driving potential business and Buyers to your Web site is why you're on the Web in the first place. Staying in touch with them can lead to more success (re: business) if you stay in touch with them.

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