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

November 2010
in this issue
  • Social Media: Is it right for you?
  • How they buy can be more important than what they buy
  • Modern Sales Training
  • Profitability in trailing-edge markets
  • Closing Thoughts
  • Dear Mitchell,

    Here is your November Customer Manufacturing Update. This month we're looking at social media and if and how you should participate. This paper was written by our newest member and social media maven, Natalia Locatelli.

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

    Social Media: Is it right for you?

    New marketing communications technology and methods occur periodically. Radio and TV were new in their day, as was the Internet. And social media, or so-called Web 2.0 is the latest new, new thing you need to consider as part of your arsenal for communicating with current and would be customers.

    This month's white paper looks at the major social media approaches available today and, more importantly, asks you to consider your overall strategy before jumping in.

    How they buy can be more important than what they buy

    The original Xerox machine, the 914 copier, was not particularly successful until the company allowed people to have the machine and buy copies as needed. People did not feel they would use the machine enough to justify its purchase, but were willing to have it on-site to use for copies if they could pay for it per copy. This breakthrough in understanding that "how the customer wanted to buy" was critical, helped assure the success of Xerox.

    Today countless solar energy companies are working to get consumers to buy solar panels for their houses. Government rebates are helping to off-set the limited ROI in most systems, but the process of buying is still complex. Some companies are looking to offer their solar panels at Lowes or Home Depot as a way to change how customers buy, but that is likely to have limited success. The real breakthrough may be coming from Sungevity.

    While Sungevity offers many of the same value propositions as their competitors, the real difference is in how you can buy from them. If you visit their website and enter your address they will use satellite imaging to view your house and surrounding area and give you a firm fixed price quote within 24 hours. No home visit required.

    Is this a breakthrough? We think so. Will it make a difference? We'll see. In every event it is a process innovation that has the potential to help the company differentiate in a way that matters.

    Modern Sales Training

    We don't usually talk about other consulting or training firms in our posts unless it is positive. However, we have been spam e-mailed by the local Sandler Training person pushing his latest sales 3-hour executive workshop on Executive Revenue so you can stop selling on price.

    Since Mitch wrote a book on the subject of how to stop selling on price, these workshops get our attention. However, there is something in his promotional copy that just hit us the wrong way. He states that "telling is not selling." Agreed. He then goes on to state that "Amateur sales people talk about the product. Professional sales people talk about the prospect." He then asks "What are your sales people talking about?"

    We have problems with this, and feel free to rip us if you think we have it wrong. First, skilled sales people don't talk, they ask questions and listen. Secondly, properly prepared sales people, after listening, know what makes their offering unique, or at least different, from other potential solutions the prospect may be considering. This allows them to help the prospect make the right decision for themselves. Thirdly, they have learned to use Facilitative Questions to help the prospect work through the other issues which may prevent them from buying at all.

    As you can see, we clearly think this guy has it wrong. As do many others, which is at least one reason sales people are not getting better as fast as they could.

    Profitability in trailing-edge markets

    While most companies slug it out to be the leader in the "next new thing," or work to be fast followers, a few companies profit on the trailing edge. When products fade away, they rarely disappear. They just aren't in the mainstream anymore. Transistors and integrated circuits long ago displaced vacuum tubes in virtually all electronics. However, vacuum tubes are still made and bought. Probably over $500 million per year. Not a huge market by most measures but large enough to make a few companies a lot of money because they are the last suppliers in this dying market. The price they can charge is truly "value-based."

    There are many examples like this of companies becoming the "last supplier" standing and making a good business doing this. This is common with government or military products, and one of Mitch's Teledyne divisions specialized in trailing-edge products ... quite profitably.

    The AP reported recently about a group of engineers and enthusiasts who had leased an old Polaroid factory in the Netherlands with a plan to manufacture Polaroid film for older model Polaroid cameras such as the SX-70, as well as some of the "newer" Polaroid models that used 600-series film. Using online distribution the company expects to be able to reach their niche market efficiently.

    The difficulty for them in producing this old film was not the market need, but rather the fact that some of the key materials used in the original film are no longer available, so they had to find a "work-around." Their project was code-named the Impossible Project.

    Apparently not.

    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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