- Partnerships: One of the fastest ways to get noticed is to ride the "coattails" of someone already successful in the market. Existing friendships and business relationships is a good start and can be a valuable resource for introductions and referrals. Another idea would be to partner with a company that has synergy with your product or service. In my past, I have successfully introduced two suppliers to one another that have been able to offer an assembly operation of their two products to the customer, thus alleviating the need for the customer's assembly operation and ultimately saving the customer money.
3. Value Add: The idea here is to offer up an additional service or product that would benefit your customer. Some examples would be "vendor managed inventory", "specialized packaging", "educational seminars", or even "engineering assistance". The objective is to make yourself more valuable than your competition by having a better "total solution" that benefits the customer.
4. Sweet Spot: I often see suppliers chase after difficult or marginal business just to please the customer, or chase the cash flow. Not only do these projects sometimes lose money, but they tend to potentially upset the normal flow of your "bread and butter" core business. Stay focused and prospect within your core competency and you won't have this problem. This may involve analyzing your production and sales history over the past few years to determine your "sweet spot", but in the long run you will be better off.
5. Performance: I still see suppliers that have not embraced nor attempted any Continuous Improvement activities to improve efficiency and performance. This is a big mistake. From basic 5S, Lean, Set up Reduction, Kaizens, Six Sigma, to Value Stream Mapping, there is a plethora of tools, training and consultants to help you take advantage of these activities. All of these will help you become more efficient and desirable to your customers. Also, you should leverage this in your marketing and sales.
6. New Technology: Don't be afraid to try new technology to save operating or production costs. Most new technology is meant to save time and money. From automated pallets to solar panels, it makes sense to explore this area carefully.
7. System for Marketing and Sales: It is very important to have a marketing and sales system in place to manage prospecting activity and potential customers as they move through the sales funnel. Without a system or process in place, this activity is inefficient and ineffective in that you don't know where to spend your time and effort. In most cases, the sales and marketing process is an 80/20 exercise; meaning that 20% of the prospects will produce 80% of the new business and that's where you need to spend your time and effort. To do otherwise would a waste of time.
8. Referrals: Referrals are still a valuable resource for new business. These can be from current customers or partners. Either way, it is a good source of new leads and coming in from a strong referral gives you an edge, and shortens the prospecting cycle.
9. Digital Footprint: In today's world your digital footprint is becoming more important with each passing year. The internet has empowered everyone (including buyers) to research and investigate new suppliers and providers on the web. If they don't find you or there is only a company webpage you're at a significant disadvantage. Using LinkedIN, Facebook, Youtube, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. is commonplace and improves your visibility to your market. In addition, it is extremely important that you have a process in place for building a "Target Email List" of prospects so that you can communicate with them and stay "top of mind".
10. Testimonials: It is very rare that I see a supplier with testimonials. Frankly "word of mouth" is one of the absolute best marketing tools we have. People trust people, and a testimonial or review is pure gold. If you don't have any, you should start asking for them asap.
I hope you find this short list helpful. I know there are many more tips I could list, but I only had so much room and wanted to give you the ones that have been the most successful with my clients. Here's to your success!!!