Every business wants to build good working relationships with current and potential customers. The goal in building these relationships is for sales conversion. With a good growth strategy, business principles can make use of customer information to begin the process of building these positive relationships. It involves establishing trust and credibility within your business community and with potential and current customers.
Parin Mody of StratMg led a discussion on USA Manufacturing Hour Chat on Twitter about ways to build relationships that convert to sales. The goal of this discussion was to share strategies for growth and for building trust and credibility with potential customers.
The chat started off with a discussion about each participant’s growth strategy for their respective businesses.
Rebecca Prox from DSI/Dynamatic in Wisconsin said, “A loaded question right out of the gate! We have several based on each dept., but in general, it's to drum up new business in any way we can. That might mean doing more exporting, generating new leads, or communicated with existing customers.”
Sue Nordman from Obsidian Manufacturing Industries in Illinois said, “I take the approach of tomorrow being better than yesterday. It applies to processes within our walls, customer growth, employee growth, team growth, etc. If you would have asked me this a year ago, my answer would have been to survive the pandemic.”
Dan Bigger from Custom Profile in Michigan said, “Expanding the work with do with our current customers while finding new one to bring and and grow with.”
Go Hourly in California said, “It's a matter of reaching our target audience. We hope to connect with small business owners that work in the trades and insurance agents. Social media has been a great resource!”
Jeanette Stevens from GenEdge Alliance in Virginia said, “Our growth strategy is to increase our brand equity to reach our target audiences in the manufacturing community. To not be the best kept secret, instead become the best resource for manufacturing growth and economic development in Virginia
Bigger added, “I'd be happy to help you with that.”
Jen Wegman, a Marketing Supporter from Pennsylvania answered, “Expanding my network and building community. Clients will follow.”
John Buglino of Optessa Inc in New Jersey said, “Continuous improvement & over delivery for our clients.”
“Great question, “said Manufacturers’ News Inc in Illinois, “and one that's hard to boil down. Generally speaking, being agile is a big part of our strategy. As business conditions shift, so do the needs of our customers. We examine those needs and make adjustments to our data accordingly.”
Erin Courtenay from Earthling Interactive in Wisconsin said, “Not sure it is about "growth" for us - but nurturing clients and projects that are a good fit over "finding work" is our lead goal.“
Nigel T Packer from PelaTis Online in Wales, UK said, “Publish my latest book and start running training courses deliver at speaking events online and in person.”
Val W from Monofrax in New York said, “Get our name out there. Too many people in our target industries have never heard of us or think we no longer exist.”
Chase Bodnar from Plastics Plus Technology in California said, “Our growth strategy is as follows: 1. Identify our current ideal customer within the organization 2. Pattern match their profile with similar companies in the market 3. Identify the messaging that resonates with them 4. Go shake some hands and find a fit!’
Ruby Rusine from Social Success Marketing in California said, “ Optimized content has been our growth drivers since we focused on SEO, including historical SEO. So the bulk of our hot leads are coming from that for a year now.”
Charli K. Matthews from Empowering Pumps in Alabama said, “I look at my team's strengths and personal development goals! Then, we see how we can apply those to addressing gaps in the industry. “
We Shield in New York said, “The pandemic has been determining our Growth Strategy, as that has been a big urgency in the marketplace. Where there are an influx of cases, we will help the community in that area obtain the proper PPE supplies.”
Kelley Pernicone from North American Coating Laboratories in Ohio said, “We take a "they ask, we answer" strategy. We want to be problem solvers and to do that we have to be nimble, curious, and ready to change with the needs of our customers (and potential customers)!”
Val W commented to Pernicone, “Love that approach.”
Pernicone added, “We're positioning ourselves as solution providers rather than sellers. Our goal is to educate consumers to build trust.”
Sam Gupta from ElevatIQ in Canada said, “Our growth strategy is based on proven channels that have been working for us in the past and are working as of today. Double down on what's working and take off what's not.”
Ben Nordman from Obsidian Manufacturing Industries in Illinois said, “We have goals that we set each new year in terms of analytics. So sales, web traffic, lead numbers, etc. It helps with accountability and helps motivate!”
Mody said, “When choosing between prioritizing New Customer Acquisition v. Current Customer Cross-Selling or Up-selling, the priority, often, should be current customer cross-sell or up-sell because it is the shortest sales cycle.
Knowing Your Prospects and Customers
The discussion then turned to how much everyone knows about their prospects and customers. Knowing a lot of information about prospects and customers can be an important part of growth strategies for businesses.
Prox said, “We try to know as much as we can! We're always looking for that "why." Why do they buy from us, why would they choose a different technology over ours. Why have they stayed with us or left us?”
Bodnar said, “This is SO important. And it shows you're actually interested in what makes them.” successful. He added, “Depends on the acct. Some we know very well, even information that is non-business related (aka birthdays, kids graduations, life events).”
Matthews answered, “We don’t know enough about our prospects and customers.”
Go Hourly in California said, “I think this is where developing relationships and research come together.”
Courtnenay answered, “Knowing about prospects and customers is my biggest challenge.”
Bigger said, “I know as much as I can find out before contacting them. It takes time and you cannot always find everything, but we do what we can.”
Kati McDermith, a Manufacturing Supporter in Illinois said, “I think I know a lot about my prospects and customers, I make it my goal to know them well.”
Pernicone said, “We know a fair amount. Over the past two years we've dedicated a lot of time to determining our target: who there are, where they are, how to reach them, etc”
Paul Kiesche of Aviate Creative in New Jersey said, “We make a big effort to learn about our customers with interviews, being involved in the community, events, and education. It's been very helpful and although we have a lot to learn, we've learned a lot so far.”
Ben Nordman added, “We have a long list of customers with literally hundreds of years of manufacturing experience combined throughout our brands so that helps us with a lot of knowledge regarding customers and prospects.”
Pernicone said, “Generational knowledge is an amazing resource!”
We Shield said, “We are highly in-tune with our customers. We are actively communicating with them, hearing their needs, and helping them. While PPE and Medical Supplies are in high-demand due to Covid19, we ensure all of our customers can receive the products they need.”
Gupta said, “Every single detail of the last conversations. What they are up to, depending up how important they are. Every detail about their business and expected priorities.”
Packer added, “Everyone thinks marketing is advertising and trade shows. 90% of marketing is research and understanding your customers. We have spent years working on this for our clients.”
Mike Womack from NJMEP in New Jersey said, “We pride ourselves on taking the time to truly understand our clients. Most of our team were prospects/clients at one time, too! Their needs are unique, but through our process, we take the time to listen, learn, and add value.”
Sue Nordman said, “We know enough, but we’re always willing to learn more. I'm a lifetime learner and I like to instill that idea in my employees. "Educate yourself" is something that I say often. To sum up, there's always more to learn about our customers.”
Prox answered, “That's more than most can say! Great answer!”
Janice Mckee from Burger & Brown Engineering, Inc. in Missouri said, “There's room for improvement here. We've not made time to strategize with the sales staff.”
Wegman said, “I stalk them on social media so I know everything....”
Stevens said, “We are working hard to learn as much as possible, in order to connect with them.”
Buglino said, “We know A LOT. We are always learning and listening.”
Mody shared that Information such as demographics including job function and firmagraphics including employee size and annual revenue can be important information to have. Other important information to note is typical buyer criteria per stage in a buying cycle and typical objections faced by sales teams. Knowing objections can help marketing communications be pre-emptive. For current customers, do they know the full capabilities of your operation? Can they give you a referral? These are all important ways to get to know prospects and customers and gain sales. Creating content based on the information obtained monthly can keep information up to date. Things like Title, Pain Points, Motivators, Influencers, Typical Objections, Firmographics like annual revenues, Employee Size can be used to personalize the relationship.
Trust or Credibility First?
Establishing trust and credibility with current customers and prospects was the next topic of discussion. Which is more of a priority: establishing trust or establishing credibility?
Prox said, “I say credibility first. Build that through proper marketing and you'll have people coming to you to find out how trustworthy you are.”
McDermith said, “Is it possible that trust is built through credibility?”
Mckee said, “Credibility comes first and the trust follows. Seems like a natural progression. When someone you don't know is talking to you, why do you trust them if they're not credible? Think Content Marketing.”
Courtenay said, “Maybe we are all defining credibility slightly differently. I think of it as "reputation". There are activities you can do to build that kind of credibility but if those rank over trust-building activities... well then you've got issues. “
Pernicone said, “This feels a very chicken and egg to us. Credibility is important to establishing trust, but at the same time credibility is based on trust. Both are important, but we'll say trust first to build relationships and establish yourself as a problem solver!”
Courtenay added, “You can't control what the customer takes away but you should prioritize trust, with credibility as an indicator of trustworthiness. I could give two hoots about a company with a great reputation that I don't trust (there are many!) but if I trust you...”
Bigger said, “For me Trust opens the door and through that you can build your credibility. “
He added, “Trust first. You have to build the trust to earn the business and as you take care of them your credibility will grow and the relationship will grow.”
Mckee said, “The two are so closely related, they support each other.”
Stevens answered, “Credibility because the business (product/service) is what attracted the prospect, your credibility will help to establish the trust in the company to be fair and get the job done.”
Kiesche said, “It's certainly much more effective to build trust and credibility first. It makes sales much easier and there is less of a concern of price.”
Buglino said, “This is established through their own research and engagement with you. They will not do or continue business if they no longer trust you.”
Wegman said, “That sounds like a "Which came first, the chicken or the egg" question for manufacturers.... When you have credibility, you build trust. But you can't build credibility without inherent trust. So, is this a trick question?”
Val W added, “I swear you're reading my mind, or else we both have chickens on the brain.”
Mody answered, “It's not a trick question. Trust definitely comes before credibility. Before people buy from you, they have to buy into you!”
Go Hourly said, “This is tricky, because I feel like trust is built in part through credibility. But if you don't have trust, you don't have customers or prospects.”
Matthews said, “Credibility... Trust takes more time to grow and prove.”
We Shield said, “Credibility, as with proper credibility and proof behind your Value Statements, you'll earn your customers trust organically.”
Shannon Simpson from DuraTech Industries in Wisconsin said, “Without credibility, how to people trust you though?”
Ben Nordman said, “It can turn them into returning customers and then also can turn into referrals. While sales is always the end goal, trust and credibility is the first thing that should be established.”
Gupta said, “Brand is your differentiator. It's very hard for buyers to identify the companies that are going to deliver on their promises. But at least they can look at the brand and research about them and see how credible they are in public forums etc.”
Bodnar added, “Here's a saying that I've heard a bunch: People do business with you if... 1) They like you 2) They know you 3) They TRUST you. For me, these go hand in hand. If you aren't a credible resource, then a customer has no business trusting you.”
Mody said, “Good points! People have to buy into you before they buy from you.”
Packer added, “Trust is built from "First contact" how you conduct yourself or the business improves the trust or diminishes it. Other factors include: How where they introduced? Who introduced them. What are their testimonials like?”
Simpson said, “Experience, Years in the business, education, etc are all examples of credibility. Credibility is a characteristic of trust. You need to build your credibility to earn the trust. Right?”
Mody said, “Trust before credibility.” He added, “ALWAYS ESTABLISH TRUST FIRST. Before people buy FROM you, they have to buy INTO you. Anatomy of decision-making suggests that emotions make one act while logic makes one think.”
Ways to Establish Trust
The discussion turned to the best ways to establish trust with prospects and customers.
Bigger said, “Through Q & A and listening to what they actually need not we want to sell. Providing information on who we are and what we are. Getting personal as to who I am and why I want to work with them. Show that you care and not just words, but actually care.”
Wegman said, “Give value on the front end and follow through on the backend.”
Go Hourly said, “Be transparent and deliver!”
Stevens said, “Being helpful, attentive, accessible and solution oriented.”
Ben Nordman said, “With integrity, ethics, solid work, finding out what the customers needs are instead of only worrying about selling them something.
Prox said, “Constant, but not annoying communication, on-time delivery, keeping their concerns to a minimum, reassuring them along the way, reaching out on holidays, checking in on their product from time to time... just a few.”
Manufacturers’ News Inc said, “1) Be transparent. 2) Be knowledgeable about the needs of customers & prospects (e.g. not push one-size fits all). 3) Be willing to provide custom solutions. 4) Be there when they need you. 5) Be generous with resources & content that helps them succeed.”
Courtenay added, “Our company core values build trust: - Be generous with our insight - Deliver on our commitments - Challenge with Respect - Listen, Notice & Respond - Enjoy the journey.”
We Shield said, “We establish trust by delivering on our promises, helping the community, and providing high-quality products in a timely manner. The proof's in the pudding!”
Rusine added, “Be true to your word. Be present. Listen and be ready to help when needed.”
Simpson said, “Do what you say you will do. Do what you say you can do.”
Matthews said, “I usually share myself with them... Let them know my story... the challenges and successes and what to see if they will share something about them with me. This helps builds trust. I usually give a little, see if they are responsive, and the give some more.”
McDermith said, “I do this by putting their needs and their business before my own. This might not result in the most "sales" but it sure puts me in a great position earning their trust. It just gives me the good feels!”
Sue Nordman said, “What they said above. It's almost like they work for me
Gwen Bradley from Momentum in Michigan said, “Provide value-added information and services. Be open to list to your Customer and keep they appraised throughout the process. Be Honest!”
Gupta added, “Demonstrate subject matter expertise on their business. Demonstrate how you are going to solve their problems. Demonstrate that you care for their time and money. Pitch but be super subtle, don't be salesy. Figure out how you can add value to their lives.”
Bodnar said, “Establish TRUST by providing value and delivering on that "promise". I see trust as a direct representation of what you can do and control as a company. “
Mody added that personalized conversations with prospects and customers with resonating content that maps to a buying cycle can be a great way to establish trust. Having the ability to frame the value proposition of your company within the context of a targeted job function will be very helpful in building trust. Anything that helps someone do their job better in every day life will provide value and build trust. Listen for their needs and be a dependable resource. Be Transparent – your prospect needs a predictable relationship and lastly, be easy to work with. Be a partner NOT a Vendor.
Establishing a level of credibility with prospects and customers is very important. The discussion turned to how to go about establishing credibility.
Wegman said, “Through the content you share. “
Prox added, “As I said earlier, marketing is a great place to start. Tell people who you are and what you do in ways that build credibility. Case studies, reviews, and testimonials are GREAT for this. Do you all use these?”
Mody said, “Great answer! We do use all of these as well! Video testimonials are even better.”
Courtenay said, “Nurture testimonials and referrals and deliver services in such a way as to earn both. Also, frankly - aligning ourselves with partners (clients and vendors) that also have strong credibility.”
Stevens said, “Testimonials, networking, having good solid relationships with customers.”
Bigger said, “History-what you have done in the past, how long, who do you work with already, expertise areas, what you can offer already that can help them with their situation.
Rusine said, “Stick to your word and be consistent.
Go Hourly said, “Provide value and deliver. Build relationships and make sure the needs of your prospects and customers are met. And as as a social media manager, I say don't underestimate the value of marketing!”
Val W said, “Focusing on education and information rather than being salesy.”
We Shield said, “Again, it all comes down to consistency and following through with your promises as a company. Keep up communication with your customers, and remain transparent.”
Manufacturers News Inc said, “Consistency. In everything. Consistent quality, consistent communications, consistent insights.”
Simpson said, “We've been starting to use Case Studies. We have a few published on our website now. We have a hard time getting testimonials or reviews. Even case studies can be tough when we cannot show the part or company name due to NDA's.”
Prox said, “Nice!!! We have a lot of NDAs as well. We often work around them when we can. Some info is better than NO info in our opinions.”
Gupta said, “Be a good listener about their problems. Marketing collateral is great but don't overwhelm with generic content. Demonstrate your subject matter expertise of their business by being super specific with stories and customer referrals.”
Ben Nordman said, “It could be from word of mouth, gathering reviews, and just providing solid customer service.”
Stevens said, “Testimonials, networking, having good solid relationships with customers.”
Sue Nordman said, “Transparency is key.”
McDermith said, “They say "under promise and over deliver" I say... just deliver! I am never unavailable and I am above no person or job.”
Mody added, “Provide proof of success to boost credibility. Use History-what you have done in the past, how long, who do you work with already, expertise areas, what you can offer already that can help them with their situation. Use Quantifiable facts like case studies, success stories, testimonials, and certifications. Things like case studies and quantifiable results resonate with future and current customers. These are very effective later in the buying cycle.”
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