Update your marketing tool kit.
We began the assignment by looking at the OEM's casting requirements and then identifying potential foundry suppliers who could meet all or a focused part of those needs. Next, we collected promotional literature from more than 25 selected North American metalcasters. That experience proved to be one of the many eye openers we encountered during the project and prompted me to write this column.
I'd like to say that foundry sales promotional literature - one of the most important items in the modern industrial marketing tool kit - has come a long way, but I can't. First of all, not every foundry had material to send, and others refused outright to send the material they had. The information we did receive from the remaining well-known and respected foundries ranged from obviously over-duplicated pages of plain text that hadn't been updated in years to highly professional marketing information packages that, needless to say, would make a terrific impression on the neophyte casting buyer.
Several of the foundries we contacted also led us to their Internet web pages, but these were, for the most part, merely "digital brochures." Despite booming usage by the purchasing community, this medium is still vastly underutilized by the foundry industry. These web sites possessed the same weaknesses as the foundry's printed material.
So, should a foundry spend $20,000 or more on printed sales literature? In my opinion, the answer is clearly no. But does this mean that this material is unnecessary? The answer again is no. While entirely non-functional (it will not sell a single casting), sales literature is essential; it's a key awareness-building tool and, as such, a stepping stone to the four higher levels in the customer development process - familiarity, interest, trial purchase and, finally, relationship.
What Do You Really Need?
Like everything these days, the best sales literature is both inexpensive and highly effective. On the cost side, I tell my clients to stay away from traditional four-color glossy brochures as well as just about anything recommended and designed entirely by an ad agency. Save the photos of smiling employees and sparking furnaces for magazine ads; they don't add value to the sales literature package.
In terms of appearance, the most effective sales literature packages combine a universal, pre-printed folder with customizable inserts. The inserts can be a combination of generic four-color printed pieces and specific, highly flexible desktop published material. For example, you could pre-print cast product or market-specific inserts and continuously update facilities and employee contact information as equipment and personnel change. By the way, invest in a color printer and some graphics design help in putting your desktop-published material together. Both are inexpensive and well worth the investment.
When it comes to content, the best sales literature packages focus on organizational capabilities and, especially, what makes your foundry different from or better than the competition. But make sure what you tout as "distinctive' is market research-based fact rather than merely what is new or the opinion of your managers, employees or sales reps.
Note that the previous paragraph reads organizational capabilities - not manufacturing capabilities. Organizational capabilities consist, at a minimum, of the following:
* key strategic capabilities (one stop shopping, optimum efficiency, etc.);
* whom your company can serve most effectively (customer types, end use industries, etc.);
* what your foundry can produce (casting types and sizes, volume levels, alloys, etc.);
* how it manufactures and supports those products (facilities and equipment);
* distinctive manufacturing competencies (highly complex cores, wide alloy flexibility, etc.);
* distinctive service competencies (quality administration, NDT, design engineering, pattern storage, etc.);
* how your foundry manages customer relationships (philosophy, key contacts and their roles, etc.).
Customize Your Literature
Please keep in mind that, regardless of specific appearance and content issues, the best literature packages are customized to the reader's interests. In theory, that could mean a different package for engineers and purchasing types, for each end use industry, for sophisticated and unsophisticated customers, and so on. Pulling this off requires careful up-front promotional planning, intelligent application of desktop publishing technology, and attention to detail by the sales force throughout the prospecting and targeting processes.
That kind of flexibility also points to the Internet as the ultimate source for inexpensive and highly effective promotional information. That's because web sites are low-cost to create and maintain and offer unmatched flexibility in page design and information presentation. The Internet also can provide a highly engaging and customizable interactive experience - a big advantage in the race to build and maintain awareness and familiarity. Finally, the Internet also offers the potential for "connectivity," a key potential competitive advantage and a subject that has been covered in this column several times in the past.
CEOs need to provide leadership to move their organizations beyond the conventional wisdom and create winning information support for their sales forces. Today's marketing tool kit can and should be a lot of things, but certainly not be what it used to be.
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|Title Annotation:||foundries marketing|
|Date:||Jun 1, 1998|
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