You’re on the cutting edge. You’re innovative. You want to stay a step or two ahead of the competition—and that’s hard to do in manufacturing as technological advancements and IoT make it easier than ever to join the industry. 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 isn’t going away any time soon. And to win, you’re going to have to start looking the part.
To differentiate yourself from competitors, keep your customers happy and turn leads into new business, your brand—what customers experience across all touchpoints—always needs to demonstrate what makes you a trusted leader. This can be anything from a customer’s confidence in using one of your products to a positive, beneficial experience during a meeting.
Your existing customers should already know about your originality, leadership and inventiveness, not because you tell them but because you show them using a variety of methods. The same goes for new or potential customers. Telling prospects what you can do is good but showing them what you can do and setting up positive interactions with your brand separates you from the pack.
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. Eliminating any shortcomings between your abilities and your brand instills confidence, trust and reliability in your customers’ minds—both new and existing. They begin to feel like they can not only trust you but count on you to help their business grow.
The perceived confidence a customer or prospect has in your ability to meet their expectations is half the battle in earning business. When you earn a customer’s trust and connect with them by looking the part, you give them the opportunity to make the right decision and choose you.
If you don’t look the part, you could be setting your company up to lose. And lose big! Not just a few orders here and there. We’re 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. You’re not entitled to customers you’ve done business with before. Think about it. As competition moves into your territory, what are you doing to look the part?
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 while others 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 build, 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 who see this. Your existing customers and employees are taking notice as well. If, by now, you find your company falling into this category, it’s time to do the hard work and fix the foundation.
If you lack more than a few touchpoints, the more your business is at risk.
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 naturally 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 can 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. Here’s an exercise. From your company’s perspective, read each one of these and note how you check the box or miss the mark. If you are giving yourself poor marks, imagine what others are experiencing and saying.
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 be discouraged. You have work to do and a way forward!
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. If you do it right, your prospects will trust you, your customers will evangelize you and you can fend off competitors.
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