Redefine your business strategy and product placement
The world has changed, accept it. Get clear, realign your manufacturing, your target customer, your marketing with a firm focussed vision and allocate all your resources to it. Be proactive rather than reactive. Remember your customer is there to buy some machines, he is not responsible for your costs or volumes. It will be easier to find your price point, the features of your product and the service levels you need to offer and match it with the customers needs. Best and most expensive is not the only way to be successful.
I would strongly suggest getting on board external experts to evaluate your organisation’s goals, strengths, weakness. Reorganise your team to rework with your vision of becoming a major domestic and global player.
I usually refrain from names, and there are of course many many high level professionals in this field. Yet, I would specifically refer Mr Gurudas Aras, ex ATE. He, according to me, is a legend in the textile machinery marketing field and that of aligning an organisation to its customers. Seek out mentors like him for your organisation.
Provide solutions not products
We are quick to point fingers for the so-called fascination of our technicians with foreign equipment. Please ask the question why. They back their machines to perform, and it’s rare to find those that are successfully capturing market share, saying, look I sold you the machine, I don’t know about your fabric problem. Not that they solve all, still, they will come, attend, tap their network, this gives a lot of confidence to the users on the shopfloor. As opposed to this, this is what I’ve observed with 80% of the Indian suppliers – if a call is made to customer support, they have one question – Is there a problem in my machine mechanically? No. Then its your problem.
What we forget is, users are not buying machines to run them mechanically, they are buying machines to make something. So, work on providing solutions to the manufacturers of the item, followed by what role your products can play in the same. This will get you more incremental sales than just offering heaving discounts on price.
An old adage goes, having a good product without efficient marketing is like winking at someone in a dark room, you know you did but they don’t. We need to be more aggressive in our marketing efforts. Primarily to make the potential buyers aware of what benefits we offer, create leads and then have sales convert them to orders.
Speaking of which, I wonder how many of our textile machine manufacturers actually have a separate marketing and sales department in the first place. Check your setup, if you don’t, get that basic into place.
Yes, the SME size of many machine manufacturers can be a challenge financially and resource wise to set up full fledged marketing and sales departments. Probably best for them would be to tie up with specialised marketing agencies to sell their products and / or solutions. The high commissions seem an unreasonable cost upfront, but if worked out in context of sharing a larger pie that both manufacturer and the agency can create, it would eventually be reasonable.
It goes without saying the selection of the associating agency is crucial. They should be people of integrity, drive and work in a mutually beneficial relationship rather than an exploitative one.
One of the commonest phrases we hear on the shopfloor from service engineers, “We have changed the vendor of this assembly, so it is no longer serviced by us”. You sold us a machine built by you, not an association of vendors, payment was made to you, not the vendor. You changed the design / vendor for better, great. This does not absolve you of responsibility of a machine ordered on the basis of your goodwill and / or performance demonstrated with the original vendor’s equipment installed.
Experimenting with vendors and designs on the shoulders of the buyer is something far too common in the domestic textile machine manufacturing industry, barring a few exceptions.
It’s time for change of mindset and approach, short term pains are required for long term gains.
Service and training
The most underrated yet the most influencing of steps that can generate repeat sales, customer stickiness and create an industry wide reputation. This reputation has more often than not tipped the scale towards a sale won when the competition is very close on other parameters.
Your service team are people who will make or lose you sales without you ever realising it. Having a qualified, highly motivated service team can do wonders.
It’s a radical thought but machine suppliers would benefit tremendously by imparting sales training to their service team.
I don’t know how many machine suppliers know that the service team more often than not tells the buyer to run machines at upto 20% lower speeds or loading against what was promised in presentations, with the proverbial smirk and mumbled under breath statement : “That was sales you know, reality I will tell you.”
The most over-uttered and under-served word in the industry today is, training. We all swear by it, but neither the buyer nor the seller seems to have any interest in it, to be honest. We have a number of seminars on skill development, ISO implementations. Reality? Sad fractional percentage of it actually being imparted and taken. If at all it is done, it’s on the mechanical functions of the machine or breakdowns.
Train your buyers staff / shopfloor users on how to utilise the machines, the best SOPs that will result in a better product. Focus and teach them what quality your machine can deliver, not just quantity. The logic is simple, help your customers make money and it will find its way to your pocket.
Making a machine will get buyers, marketing and sales will get you growth. Thinking solutions to customers’ problems will get you the stickiness. Of course, fundamentally, if you want things to change, start with changing yourself. Attitude and mindset is what will propel you to growth, just cutting prices will eventually neither make any one happier or richer.