Strategic Planning. Training. Market Positioning.

SMTMay2017_selected-pages_Page_1I wrote an article that focused on TeligentEMS’ teaming efforts with Tallahassee Community College (TCC) to develop an educational program for SMT operators in SMT Magazine in May. I really enjoyed writing this article for two reasons. First, as much as the Gator alum in me hates praising anything in Tallahassee, TCC really has its act together. It is helping to change lives as well as provide an education to folks who either don’t have the time or the money to spend on a four-year degree. Second, I was able to interview a production worker who had changed her life by taking advantage of SMT training at TCC and then going to work at TeligentEMS. Much of that interview is in her own words and I think in many ways she reflects the sentiments of many 30-something workers who are trapped in service sector jobs and looking for a path to a job with advancement potential that doesn’t involve a long period of unemployment and retraining in order to make the switch. For EMS companies facing challenges in recruiting production employees, this article highlights a formula that seems to be working.

One of the ways companies mistakenly think they are saving money is to allocate marketing budget to one or two activities with the idea that if sales increase they will up their marketing budget. This is false economy for two reasons. First, it often results in money spent on activities that never reach their full potential. Second, it often results in money spent inefficiently.

For the first example, let’s look at a trade show. I’ve lost count of the number of companies that tell me trade shows don’t work. The truth is that some shows don’t work for some companies. Years ago, McGraw-Hill ran an ad that had a mean-looking decision maker sitting in a chair saying: I don’t know you. I don’t know your company. I don’t know your product. Why should I talk to you? Trade shows are networking activity. If you do one or two shows a year and just show up with a pop-up booth and no other prep, a trade show is unlikely to achieve your lead generation goals. Worse, if you a pick a show because someone called and had a last minute corner booth, you may be at the wrong show.

In the second example, let’s look at marketing materials. When marketing materials are done as one-off projects all of the creative activities typically must be repeated for each project. That means a photographer may be brought in for several project-specific shoots instead of one slightly longer shoot designed to provide needed imagery for the next 12 months. Graphic design may not reflect a common theme (particularly if different firms are handling different projects). And, pricing discounts achieved by coordinating all printed collateral at one time may be missed.

An integrated marketing plan is a roadmap that ties everything together. Core messaging strategy is evaluated and the best mix of no/low cost activities is paired with higher cost activities to ensure an effective promotional strategy that aligns with budget. Activities are done on a schedule which helps ensure that periods of high sales activity don’t automatically mean lack of marketing activity. And because a plan normally looks at a 12-18 month schedule, outside service utilization can be planned more efficiently.  However, the best part of this marketing approach is that it helps ensure that full value is achieved from higher cost activities.

Let’s get back to the question of why trade shows don’t work. The main reason is because even when the right show is chosen attendees are often focused on the companies who did the best job of telling them who they are and why it is worth an attendee’s time to learn more before the show. This is where an integrated marketing plan really shines. A person needs to see a message 3-7 times before he/she remembers seeing it. One pre-show mailing may not be enough. An integrated marketing plan that times social media outreach, industry articles, pre-show mailings, conference presentations and/or advertising to align with key shows delivers the message consistency needed to attract qualified attendees. And, most of that promotion effort is low or no cost. It also provides for mindshare maintenance of prospects who come in as leads, but aren’t in a ready-to-buy mode yet. These prospects often get thrown away when marketing is done in an less organized fashion.

This year, in particular, is an important year to look at utilizing an integrated marketing plan because there is uncertainty in U.S. policies toward manufacturing and a lot of decision teams are looking at new options. Electronics industry trade shows traditionally have greater attendance when there is uncertainty in the market. Having consistent and timely messaging being distributed on regular basis is the best way to get more value for the marketing dollars spent in this year’s trade show activity.

Not sure how to implement a good integrated marketing plan? Powell-Mucha Consulting, Inc. can help. Visit us at www.powell-muchaconsulting.com.

 

March 2017_Page_1My latest article in Circuits Assembly looks at the conversation many contract manufacturers and Mexican shelter companies are having with their customers: what happens if a border tax is implemented? From a sales and marketing standpoint there are definitely steps to reassure customers and formulate contingency plans that should be taken now. Read more here.

A new report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) indicates that manufacturing job loss is not due to automation, but instead due to the activities of countries who incentivize transfer of manufacturing jobs through their policies. Those of us who work in manufacturing already know this. Yes, automation is a factor, but not everything can be automated cost effectively.

The good news is that folks who grew up in the service sector now have a little “data” to influence their opinions about the relevance of domestic manufacturing jobs. I’m not a proponent of protectionism. However, I do believe that countries with strong manufacturing sectors prosper. I also believe that manufacturing regionally (vs. perpetually chasing the lowest cost manufacturing market) is more cost effective for many products. Back when I was teaching leadership and marketing classes at a couple of local universities, I frequently brought up the example of Henry Ford because his choices apply to both curriculums. He was criticized by his peers for the above market wages he paid his employees. He pointed out that his production lines could build more cars than the rich could buy and that he needed a middle class capable of buying cars. We need transformative manufacturing jobs to sustain a middle class. By transformative, I mean jobs with a path to higher compensation as an employee’s skills increase. The service sector doesn’t have enough of those. A manufacturing resurgence floats all boats by increasing consumption, lowering governmental “welfare” costs associated with underemployment and creating a growth driver for the middle class that isn’t paid for by our taxes. To me, the middle class is the conscience of the country and also its biggest engine of consumption. When trade is balanced that is good thing globally and well as domestically.

As I’ve written before, a U.S. manufacturing resurgence is also good for EMS companies. Reports such as this signal changing attitudes. It is the right time to invest in marketing strategy. PMCI can help. Learn more here.

ems-selling-workbookonsitebackup2013_page_01Some electronics manufacturing services (EMS) companies do a great job of differentiating themselves, but many don’t. If your company copied what your nearest competitors have on their websites, touts its equipment as its primary advantage, tells everyone it is the industry’s best kept secret or says it is customer-centric; it is really just screaming me too.

The reality is that within a specific size class most EMS companies have the same equipment and industry-standard processes. What makes a difference is the expertise of the team and the home-grown systems and processes that solve customer problems.

Yes, I used the word problems instead of the nicer euphemism, challenges. Companies rarely outsource manufacturing projects that have perfect design and quality metrics, well-understood demand trends and no surprises. When things run that well, they normally want to keep it in-house. Instead, they either outsource because they don’t want to be in the business of manufacturing or because that product doesn’t fit well into the mix of manufacturing they want to keep in-house. The end result is that EMS companies are in the business of managing controlled chaos. Outsourcing decision teams understand that and are looking for companies most likely to make them look good. When all competitors look the same, their safe choice is to make the decision on price. When one appears to have a better ability to address the issues that keep them up at night (and will get them fired if the contract manufacturer fails), that EMS company will likely get coached into meeting a reasonable target price.

So how do you package the secret sauce that makes your customers think your company is the best but isn’t obvious until they become your customers? There are two key steps. The first is understanding enough about your secret sauce to sell it (and yes, PMCI has tools for doing that), and the second is building a strong team sell. Prospects won’t understand that your team (engineering, production, program management, purchasing) has a superior solution, if they aren’t exposed to your team until after they are customers. Companies that successfully differentiate understand that and selectively engage team members with prospects throughout the sales cycle. Prospects aren’t sold on capabilities, they are exposed to the expertise of team members who discuss how the problems that keep them up at night are going to get solved if they select that EMS provider.

How do you turn your entire staff into that powerful a salesforce secret weapon? PMCI’s EMS Concentric Selling™ one-day onsite seminar can help. The course is designed for sales, program management and key staff members in engineering, manufacturing and purchasing. The goal is to provide a common framework of industry and selling process understanding to the members of your team who interact with customers and prospects. Case study breakout sessions are designed to help team members learn to develop specific account strategies and work together to close the sale. These sessions also help break down the disconnect that often occurs between sales and the technical staff in terms of what ideal projects look like. Request an informational brochure here.

 

As I write this at the beginning of February, President Trump is establishing himself as a man who follows through on campaign promises. Assuming that trend continues and there is a clear path to tax and regulatory reform, there will also be changes in OEM sourcing strategy. It may even be the level of shift seen when China devalued the yuan.

What does this trend mean for US regional electronics manufacturing services (EMS) providers? Beyond the immediate benefit of regulatory and tax reforms that has many of the EMS CEOs I know practically dancing in the streets, I think it will open the door to significant opportunities across the board. When OEMs outsource offshore, they tend to bundle all their projects. There are two reasons for this. First, a smaller supply chain is easier to manage at a distance and second, low cost labor markets typically have a higher percentage of “one size fits all” EMS providers. When OEMs outsource in the US, they tend to look more closely at the value of tailoring their outsourcing strategy. Niche projects may go to suppliers better interested in those volumes or technology associated with those projects. There may be interest in keeping new product manufacturing in close proximity to the engineering team. There may also be a desire to keep some manufacturing in-house and source production that is not a fit in close proximity. While these scenarios already exist today, tax and regulatory policies which incentivize re-shoring will ultimately increase the number of available opportunities.

The challenge is that if your company is the EMS world’s best kept secret you may not be on the bid list. So, from a marketing perspective, this is the right time to be developing a marketing strategy that will get your company’s name more widely known. It is also the right time to be reviewing existing accounts and looking for additional business opportunities either within the account or other divisions of that customer. The bottom line is that if the Trump Effect continues companies that weren’t on your company’s radar screen as prospects may be ready to buy your services. But they won’t be talking with you if they don’t know who you are. EMS providers that are upping their networking and marketing activities now, will benefit when those companies start re-evaluating strategy.

Powell-Mucha Consulting, Inc. specializes in helping companies develop marketing strategies that build market mindshare and highlight each client’s unique capabilities. This differentiation can be especially important in attracting OEMs pursuing niche outsourcing strategies.We also offer sales and program management analysis, coaching and training services, which can help your team quickly broaden their focus.  Contact us if you’d like additional information.

Happy New Year

Like many folks who consult in the marketing realm, I put client needs ahead of my own marketing efforts (hence, my habit of clustering blog updates a few times a year). That said, I have kept up with writing and publishing articles over the last few months, so there are several new posts that link to those articles.

I’m proud to say that I kept all my New Year’s Resolutions in 2016. One particularly challenging one was participating in every challenge my Concept2 Rower manufacturer ran that year. I’ve logged over a million meters keeping that one and am in much better shape for having done it. That said, this year my resolutions are back to a business focus. The most relevant one being post more frequently in this blog (ideally a few times per month rather than once a quarter). So, if you enjoy the articles, expect to see new material much more frequently and feel free to add comments on topics you’d like to see covered.

What is your stretch goal for the New Year?

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