​5 common mistakes manufacturing businesses make with developing channel partners

​5 common mistakes manufacturing businesses make with developing channel partners

With the continual lifting of lockdown restrictions many businesses are initiating a return to work for those who were unable carry out their responsibilities at home meaning they are having to pick up from where they left off when they do eventually make it back.

Whether there were any elements of business continuity in terms of setting up remote working or not one thing is clear, there is no getting away from the stark reality that this situation has hit many of us hard and will continue to do so for some time to come.

As reported in the Guardian, “A survey by the manufacturers’ lobby group, Make UK, found that 25% of companies are already drawing up plans to cut jobs in the next six months. A further 45% say they are considering redundancies. Only 30% said they expect to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic with all their staff on the payroll.”

It will come as no surprise that the industries hit hardest are hospitality, retail and leisure but the impacts felt will not stop there. Although there are a great many factors we cannot control there are some we can influence to limit the extent of the damage endured.

Below I’ve listed the predominant mistakes being made by many manufacturing businesses. Not all will apply but by addressing them we can take action to turn our businesses around.

1. No customer persona

  • Why it’s a mistake
You know the saying? “If you try to be all things to everyone then you end up being nothing to no one.”

By not fully understanding the customer you serve you will fail to communicate why your product will either remove a pain they are experiencing or enhance their lives in some way so your messaging will be lost. This means whatever you invest in your sales or marketing efforts will at worst be wasted and at best not reach its full potential.
  • What to do about it?
Do some soul searching and develop insights about your customers. At least engage in conversation with those representing your market and / or conduct some observational research.

Look beyond the obvious and focus on the “job” your product performs. The answers may surprise you and therefore you may well find ways to open your market up. You could potentially find multiple personas your product serves which will inform your outreach strategy going forward. This nicely leads us on to the following mistake which is...

2. A uniform business development approach

  • Why it’s a mistake
Now that we have developed some customer insights or at least a best guess we can now go out and start having conversations. The problem is that many businesses seem to think that one size fits all.

With an ever more competitive commercial environment we are now all competing for a limited amount of attention that’s available so when we actually get it we may not prize it highly enough. If the framing does not align with the buyers’ situation the outreach misfires and therefore the opportunity is wasted.
  • What to do about it?
There is no silver bullet to this so testing different approaches may be required to find a winning formula.

To enable this, implementing some form of business development process will help. There are many great free and inexpensive CRM tools to support you so you can cluster your buyers into groups based on common behaviours. From there you can design a campaign around each.

Analyse performance and measure what works and more importantly what does not. This is a great way to build a scalable sales engine for your business.

3. Deal Structure - No transparency or consistency

  • Why it’s a mistake
We’ve all been there, made a purchase and felt great about it to then discover a friend or neighbour got a much better deal. We’re not feeling so great about it now!

Buyers remorse is commonly felt post purchase and it increases significantly the more expensive the purchase is. The manner the vendor behaves post sale will impact on the level of buyer remorse experienced. At best this could block any potential of repeat purchases being made and at worst could damage the reputation of the vendor from the resulting negative word of mouth. 

Put this in a B2B context, the problems are amplified with there typically being a narrower customer base (depending on industry). Make no mistake, businesses talk and contacts move around so if someone feels unfairly treated then it is unlikely you will ever do business with them again.
  • What to do about it?
Put a pricing structure in place that is consistent according to the size and market your business operates in. Of course there will always be elements of negotiation but as long as there is a framework in place then it can be defended.

This can factor in the different channels you support but avoid scenarios where you compete with your customers for a similar market. Believe it or not, I have heard many stories where that has happened and it does not end well for either business or their channel partners.

Finally be in a position to advise on RRPs (recommended retail price) to ensure that consistency and transparency applies throughout the whole supply chain.

4. Little post sale customer support

  • Why it’s a mistake
Ok, you got the deal and are very excited which is understandable but that is not the end point...in fact it’s just the beginning.

The work is not complete once the order has been shipped and invoice paid. The reality is that you’ve actually created a new problem for your channel partner. How are they supported in reselling your product?

This ties in with another commonly made mistake which is to focus too much on new business at the detriment of existing clients. We have all heard countless times that retaining customers is less expensive than finding new ones yet many businesses are not addressing this in any meaningful way.

You want your hard won customers to come back so what are you doing about it?
  • What to do about it?
So what does your sales infrastructure look like? Actually what does your business infrastructure look like? Everyone within an organisation has a role to play here so what systems are in place to ensure the whole business is pulling in the same direction?

Have you appointed any customer success specialists to hand over new clients to? Even in small businesses where resources are limited there are measures that can be taken to deliver a programme of customer onboarding and development to get the relationship on the right foot from the very start.

Is there a marketing pack in place to support your channel partners in selling your product? What merchandising support can you implement? The levels of sophistication will vary according to the resources available but every business should at least have some rudimentary process in place.

5. Disregard of industry standards

  • Why it’s a mistake
Ignore innovations to your industry at your peril.

History is a wash with examples of businesses that have closed their doors permanently due to failure in identifying trends, remember Blockbuster Videos? Kodak? The culmination of not understanding the customer along with developments in technology has effectively sealed their fate.

Ensure this does not happen to you.
  • What to do about it?
Keep innovating! This does not have to be in terms of huge game changing developments but rather looking for opportunities to better serve your customer.

A great rule of thumb is to be easy to do business with. Can any points of friction in terms of trading be removed?

What is your competition doing? If everyone else is doing same day delivery then can you? Think about how you can disrupt disruption from your business. Engage with your community and especially your team who speak to your customers regularly to develop initiatives that not only reverse the negative impacts of the current situation but can put you in the driving seat going forward. Consider what will not only put you on the road to recovery but more importantly will increase your chance of future prosperity in business.

I hope this gives you some food for thought and a level of optimism to keep you going through the challenging times ahead.

If there is anything I have missed, you would like to add or other general observations then please share them.

Should you wish to discuss any of the above in relation to your business then please get in touch by clicking here to schedule a conversation.

Thank you for reading.