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Look the Part or Risk Losing Valuable Market Share

By Rob Hawse

The competitive landscape for manufacturing continues to increase. Thanks to advancements in technology, barriers to entry are falling by the wayside. More and more hungry, competitive entrepreneurs are setting up shop…maybe even in your backyard. Look around. Are there any new competitors in your market? Is your sales team complaining about how tough it is getting out there? Are they talking more about the rise in competition than the rise in opportunities?

This challenge is not going away any time soon. And to win, you’re going to have to start “looking the part”.

What is Looking the Part?

There doesn’t appear to be many facts around the exact origin of “looking the part,” but we do know it dates back to the 1800s. And, according to some quick research, it got its start in theater where selling a particular character in advance of the show not only played a huge role in promotion, it was critical to the show delivering on its promise.

An actor that “looked the part,” along with his supporting cast, script, music, and props, all set the stage while prepping audiences in anticipation. The more the theatergoers bought into the pre-show drama and promotion, the more they believed it would deliver.

By this point you might be wondering what the heck theater has to do with manufacturing? Well, when it comes to luring customers away from the competition, “looking the part” just might be your secret weapon.

Stick with me.

When you “look the part,” you look like you can deliver on what you promise. It’s like a ticket past the gatekeeper. When you “look the part,” confidence, trust, and reliability are instilled in your potential customer’s mind. They begin to feel like they can not only trust you but count on you to help their business grow.

If You Don’t Look the Part, Bad Things Happen

If you don’t look the part, you could be setting you and your company up to lose. And lose big! Not just a few orders here and there. We could be talking about not even being at the table for consideration on projects you’ve typically won in the past, resulting in a loss of market share. Think about it…as competition moves into your territory, what is it you are doing to look the part?

How are you promoting your show?

You Don’t Look the Part Because You Lack a Brand Foundation

Why do most manufacturers fail to look the part? We’ve watched this closely over the years and found the reasoning typically falls in one of three buckets. Some are completely unaware of the concept where others are aware but don’t believe what’s at stake. The most common reason for not looking the part is a weak brand foundation.

Much like anything you are building, weak foundations create fractures in places you aren’t even aware of, allowing damage to happen with little notice. The same holds true here, and trust me, your prospects aren’t the only ones that see this. Your existing customers and employees are taking notice, as well. If, by now, you find your company falling in this category, it’s time to do the hard work and fix the foundation.

You Must Look the Part Across All Touchpoints

If you lack in even one touchpoint, you risk losing business.

The key to looking the part is to be consistent across all customer touchpoints. That consistency will drive the basis for looking the part while contributing to the brand experience your customer is having. This will come natural to manufacturers with a strong brand foundation as the brand will naturally inform your team’s decision making around any marketing, selling, or service initiative.

Do your customers evangelize your brand? What do you think they say about your company when you are not around? What do you think your prospects think of you? Do you look the part? Do you look like you could deliver on what your brand promises?

If you haven’t done so in a while, take the time to evaluate your own company. Just make sure you do it while walking in the shoes of your customers and prospects. You’ll get a different outcome that way.

Using the list below, rate your company on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being “we don’t look the part” and 5 being “we look the part”) in each of the 15 categories. If you are giving yourself poor marks, imagine what others are experiencing and saying.

  1. Lobby – While my customers are waiting, what they see, read, or hear reinforces that they are in the right place.

  2. Walking tour – Regardless of who on my team gives the tour, the consistency of the content, from one station to the next, creates confidence in the eyes of our customer.

  3. Packaging – The way we package our product reflects the quality of the product within.

  4. Uniforms – Our employees wear them in pride and our group photos look that way.

  5. Service and delivery trucks – Our customers can spot us a mile away.

  6. New customer onboarding process – Once sold, our customers feel like part of the family and are treated as such years down the road.

  7. Educating up and coming engineers – We are recognized for the way we inspire students to consider a career in manufacturing.

  8. Interviewing and hiring process – Our candidates and new employees know our core values well because of the role they play in the process.

  9. Evangelizing manufacturing – Our pride for manufacturing shows up all over our social media channels.

  10. Thought leadership – Our customers use the content we write to help their companies grow.

  11. Website – Our website is easy to navigate and positions us as experts in what we do.

  12. Tradeshow booth – The trade show experiences our customers have reminds them of our walking tour and lobby.

  13. Marketing process – Our marketing process looks and acts like it subscribes to the belief that our customers are doing almost 60% of the research before reaching out to our sales people.

  14. Sales process – Our sales process is rooted in helping the customer first and selling second.

  15. Service process – I enjoy reading our google reviews as our customers are our biggest fans and the way they evangelize our brand is proof of that.

How did you do? If you did well, you are way ahead of the game and, most likely, enjoying the benefits as a result. If not so good, don’t get discouraged. You have work to do and a way forward!

Drive a Stake in the Ground and Claim What Makes You Different

There has never been a more important time to drive a stake in the ground and claim what it is that makes you and your company different from your competitors. And, a great way to do that is to start looking the part. Looking the part is a sustainable way to fight back. And, if you do it right, prospects will trust you and customers will evangelize you; which will fend off competitors and pay dividends well into the future.

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