The advent of the internet over the last two decades has fundamentally changed what American manufacturers need to do in order to survive. No longer is the quality of the goods an absolute in terms of how designers and businesses choose to work with you. Instead, the growth and success of a manufacturer now often depends more on their ability to market themselves to potential customers than it does the quality of the product they make.
So, while this doesn’t mean manufacturers can slouch in their focus on producing quality goods, it does signify that change is necessary to survive. And as an industry devoted solely to keeping up with changing tastes, styles, and fads, what better place to draw inspiration from than the service industry.
Here are four cues manufacturers can take from the service industry to keep their edge in an increasingly competitive and evolving marketplace:
1. Make Yourself Known
As a manufacturer of leathers goods, an old industry adage has been “the material sells itself.” And generally, the best marketing occurred when a potential customer had the physical product in hand and could feel the quality and craftsmanship of the material.
Today, however, that strategy is no longer enough for the average manufacturer. Branding has superseded physical goods as the essential marketing tool for successful companies. The ability to package ones capabilities and qualities into easily digestible snippets of information allows for potential customers to become acquainted with a business without ever needing to see a physical example of what a company can produce.
Manufacturers can – and should – leverage marketing and branding firms in a similar fashion to their service industry counterparts to put their name in front of potential customers.
2. Choose A Target Audience
Important as it is to curate your image as a manufacturer, it’s just as necessary to make sure that your branding actually reaches the customers you want to work with.
In the food and fashion industries, restaurants and clothing stores will gear marketing strategies towards specific demographics, aiming to attract customers based on taste, socio-economic status, location, or any slew of other criteria. Similarly, as a manufacturer, it’s imperative to impress upon potential clients the specific qualities you want to emphasize.
By choosing what aspects of your own business to highlight – such as capabilities, production speed, environmental or social benefits, work ethic, ingenuity, etc. – you are filtering out potential clients who are looking for just your kind of manufacturer.
3. Customer Relations Are Key
Perhaps the most significant lesson manufacturers can learn from the service industry is just how much focus should be placed on customer relations to drive interest and sales among current and potential partners.
Where many retailers find an edge over competition is often not in the quality or perceived value of the goods sold, but rather in the actual ease, simplicity, and thoroughness of the interaction itself. The same holds true for manufacturers; the ability to inform clients of project timeframes, make them aware of potential delays, or even just be available to answer questions about the production process, can frequently mean the difference between a customer choosing to work with you over a competitor.
Keeping in touch with your current or potential clients not only gives them the confidence in your honesty and work ethic – building trust and allowing them to depend on your capabilities – but also gives you a means to put out fires before problems in your process become disasters for them.
4. Manufacturing With A Modern Edge
First and foremost, a manufacturer should always be working to maintain and improve the quality, speed, and/or capacity of their facilities. But, in an economy where the production of almost everything has moved overseas or across the border, small manufacturers face an uphill battle just reaching potential customers, let alone remaining competitive with foreign companies that utilize lower wages or can circumvent regulations.
However, by using these four habits of the service industry, small manufacturers can offer a more succinct, targeted image to potential customers and maintain a stronger, more thorough connection to keep current clients informed.
Not only will these tactics set a manufacturer apart from its rivals, but it will also keep them viable and competitive in the current economy. Let us know in the comments how you stand out in the industry!