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Customer Manufacturing Update )
Creating Competitive Advantage Through Marketing/Sales Process Improvement

March 2008
in this issue
  • Marketing in a Down Economy
  • Would you invest 1/20 of 1% of revenue to know what to do to increase your top line?
  • It's not about the people, it's about the process
  • Learning to interview your customers
  • Closing Thoughts
  • Dear Mitchell,

    Here is your March Customer Manufacturing Update. We had planned to do something else this month, but since the media seems determined to scare us into a recession, we thought we better give you some tips on marketing in a down economy. They work in a good economy too, so you can really use them any time.

    If you have friends or colleagues who would appreciate receiving this e-zine, feel free to forward a copy to them using the "Forward e-mail" link at the bottom of the e-zine.



    Marketing in a Down Economy

    When your industry, or the entire economy turns down, what actions should you take to make the most of the situation. Since there isn't much you can do to change the economy, what are the most appropriate things to do in this situation?

    This month's white paper, written by our Western Massachusetts based principal, Ralph Mroz, looks at what we think you should do. And, by the way, these 11 tips work in good times too.

    Would you invest 1/20 of 1% of revenue to know what to do to increase your top line?

    If you're like most executives you would be happy to make that small investment (.0005 of revenue) to know what to do. The questions are:

    1. 1. What do you have to do to know, and
    2. 2. How can you know you really do know this time

    Haven't all of your prior attempts to increase sales been based on a belief that they would work? We assume so, because it is unlikely you would make an investment based purely on hope or guesswork. However, if much of the time those actions haven't worked to increase revenue; why is that?

    And, why should you believe our solution to increasing sales is right and will work?

    Because we aren't trying to sell you a particular solution, we are going to use our Sales ThruPut Accelerator tool to help you know what to do to increase sales. This revolutionary service is designed to use the knowledge of your people and our expertise to quickly discover what you need to do to increase sales.

    It's not about the people, it's about the process

    As we teach in our Lean Marketing Workshops, lack of results is usually a failure of process not people. Deming reported that fact many years ago.

    We have been reading Hard Facts, Dangerous Half- Truths, & Total Nonsense and found the authors have identified additional research that further supports this truth.

    One example they cite is the old General Motors plant in Fremont, CA. That plant was closed in 1982 because it was one of the worst GM plants in the country as measured by defects per car built and cost per car built. The plant also suffered from wildcat strikes and "rampant drug and alcohol abuse."

    The plant was re-opened in 1985 as a joint venture between GM and Toyota, but it instituted the Toyota Production System (called Lean Manufacturing or Lean Thinking outside of Toyota). 85% of the initial workforce consisted of rehired former GM employees.

    The first year the plant produced cars, its output was among the highest quality and lowest cost cars produced in any plant in the U.S. Same people, new process, better results.

    And least our senior management readers get too smug, the authors also note that Toyota is the ONLY automobile company where changing the CEO has had NO impact on company performance. In other words, the processes the company uses are so robust, there is little noticeable effect on the company due to any single person change ... even the CEO.

    They just keep relentlessly moving to #1 in revenue and profit.

    Learning to interview your customers


    Qualitative, non-sales focused, in-depth conversations with customers can help you understand your business from the customer's viewpoint. It reminds you how to "think like a customer." Some keys to success with these interviews include:


    1. Asking open-ended questions and then being quiet to really hear the answer
    2. Asking appropriate follow-up questions based on the answers you get
    3. Using a structured interview approach rather than a rigid questionnaire
    4. Taking the time to do them in person whenever possible
    5. Not trying to sell anything or have an "agenda" during the interview
    6. Understanding who in your company is best suited for this type of interview as not everyone can "listen between the lines."

    Successful interviews require skill and practice. Our in-house interview guru, Bayard Bookman, has coached many people to be successful customer interviewers, written an e-book on the topic, and is conducting a tele-seminar on interviewing customers. In addition, he is looking to learn more about what you'd like to know about conducting successful interviews so he can create even better tools to help you.

    You can "ask Bayard" a question about customer interviews to help him learn what people would like to know. If you'd like to do that, use the link below. He is going to use these questions to form the basis of the tele-seminar and other learning materials he puts together.

    Closing Thoughts

    We appreciate any feedback you can provide to help us make sure these Updates give you value each month. Feel free to respond to this e-mail with any comments or suggestions for future topics or ways we can make these Customer Manufacturing Updates more valuable to you.

    Thank you for your interest, and if we can provide any additional assistance in sales, marketing, strategy, or innovation to help you increase your sales, let us know.

    Our mission is to help you improve the performance of your System to Manufacture Customers.

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