Customers are looking for valuable products and services that meet their current and future needs. High-tech manufacturers are hoping to grow their business and increase revenue generation. What’s different today in this traditional dynamic?
Maybe customers should receive more credit for helping high-tech manufacturers evolve. Many of them are no longer satisfied with simple, transaction-based relationships. They are more interested in the overall value you can contribute to their businesses. The products you make are part of this, but they can’t stand alone. Customers may already be waiting for an opening from you because they hope to play a greater role, earlier in the value chain. To meet their own competitive and growth challenges, they need to be more nimble, innovative, collaborative, and efficient. They’re expecting the same from you and their other preferred suppliers.
Customers look for more enablement than products can offer
The high-tech manufacturers providing products that are components of other companies’ offerings are not always well known outside of their immediate networks. They play a critical, often underappreciated role in the engine room of the economy, but have seldom garnered the visibility of prominent brands. A lack of exposure to changing customer preferences may have shielded them from market volatility, but that has changed. High-tech manufacturing firms need to be ready to embrace those customers who want a more collaborative relationship built on shared goals and long-term value generation. In this changing relationship dynamic, even temporarily disengaging from your customers means you can easily lose them to the competitors who continue building connections with them.
If you make standardized, top-quality, exclusive products that are in high demand today, you might not immediately see the urgency in transforming customer relationships. But there are very few companies that fit that description anymore. Most high-tech manufacturers face some level of customer demand for individualized products that help them hone their competitive edge and increase their profitability. That means they need to adjust the way they communicate with prospects, sell to customers, and design and produce their products. Manufacturing processes and business management systems need to support these changes and not shut down any opportunities with customers who are willing to commit and collaborate.
Transforming customer relationships one at a time
Some high-tech manufacturers are already well on their way to becoming customer-centric solution providers more than product-driven companies. How do you get started on this transition?
First, you should identify those loyal customers who welcome a more productive, closer involvement with your company, and invite them to share their needs and ideas. Meet the requirements of these advocates first, and expand from there. Make and distribute the products customers ask for today, and provide them with a roadmap for the enhancements and innovations you are planning with their interests and emerging requirements at heart. You can customize these schedules to individual, strategic customers, iterate your offerings with additional capabilities, and thereby generate revenue that did not exist before.
At the same time, you can begin offering new services in response to your customers’ challenges. You can surround your products with proactive maintenance, asset management, or other services, opening other revenue streams.
A foundation for the customer-focused business
Nothing is automatic about the journey from a product company to a solution provider, but the right business management solutions combined with industry insight can help you lower the risk and achieve results you can build on. That business management technology needs to meet certain basic criteria. It has to support your current manufacturing operations, but it also needs to accommodate more flexible, customer-specific project manufacturing with control over costs, margins, quality, and schedules.
Business groups in your organization would use the same platform to manage the entire product lifecycle with flawless transparency, from presales on to engineering, manufacturing, testing, installation, site acceptance testing, and warranty and enhanced services. You would rely on the same technology to evaluate and manage suppliers for optimal performance, quality, and dependability. In-house or outsourced distribution and shipping operations would seamless take over from production. Finally, as you grow beyond traditional ways of serving your customers, market and customer analytics will be invaluable in driving incremental product and process improvements, when you launch a new product, or pursue a different vertical or region.
Many customers will look to you to share and represent the values of sustainability and corporate social responsibility that are important to them. They may also have data protection and compliance requirements that you need to consider in your communication and collaboration with them. On a versatile, scalable business software foundation, you can implement business rules and alert thresholds, and provide employees with role-specific guidance to make sure these mandates and values always receive due consideration.
Innovation without fear
The business-management capabilities high-tech manufacturers need are readily available. So is the expertise that can help you make the right decisions as you build your business case with meaningful metrics and go on to selecting and deploying a solution. Sikich consultants are old hands at this, seasoned in hundreds of successful projects. We know how to enable high-tech companies to achieve their top-priority goals, get close to their most valuable customers, and realize strategic, longer-term objectives. You can innovate your business model from traditional manufacturing to customer-driven production and services in a controlled, low-risk approach.
Key in this are process improvements and product or service enhancements you can implement in small, minimally disruptive steps. We can assist you in keeping this transformative effort manageable and flexible, so you can eventually take even your more hesitant customers along. Your Sikich team has partner relationships with several leading business software providers. Working with us, you don’t spend years implementing a software system. Your new business platform comes about in a streamlined, collaborative effort that never loses sight of your priorities, timeline, and budget. Contact us at any time.
Read the Series
Be sure to catch the rest of the series!