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Manufacturing: the UK market needs you now

Manufacturing: the UK market needs you now If you’re a manufacturer or engineering firm, I bet you’ve got stories about UK-based customers and prospects who found it cheaper to import from, say, Italy or India rather than buy ‘locally’ from firms like yours. How times have changed! Some of these prospects would probably welcome a call from you because, right now, they’re grappling with higher costs and bracing themselves for further pressure as Brexit drags the pound down even more. Ramping up the price of imports to the UK is set to continue so now’s the time to have the confidence in your ability and start spreading the word that you can compete favorably. This blog is the 3rd in my series on how manufacturing businesses can take advantage of the growth that their industry is undoubtedly experiencing, at home and abroad. Here, I outline how to tackle the UK market and benefit from both the low exchange rate and Toyota-type investment. Time to position yourself as the more economical option, and highlight the value of your local support and solid infrastructure. In short, tell them why you are best placed to respond to their needs and save them the hassle (and embarrassment) of trying to absorb/pass on an inevitable increase in costs. The chances are that you can supply the same spec and (maybe better) quality components for a more competitive price than any international competitor – perhaps adding value by assembling and delivering them direct to end users. UK market: get planning As a business adviser, and experienced interim manager, my first step is always a strategic one: to create a process that helps me determine the required sales revenue and monitor progress against a set of criteria. Activity would involve identifying where 80% of your business comes from and closing in on the sector that’s doing well (i.e. not suffering a lack of investment). If, say, 20-30 are in oil and gas supplying equipment for drilling exploration, you might want to play it safe and diversify a bit. Look at adjacent or related markets such as medical, aerospace or nuclear energy, where you could apply your core skills and expertise: tight tolerance, high spec and mission critical specialism. It’s all about ensuring you fully understand your target market, so, carry out a thorough segmentation analysis. For example by: • Turnover • End product/application • Location (region/counties) Then you can build a target list of accounts, safe in the knowledge that robust data lies behind it all. Some of these may be relatively easy to win, others may require more time so be prepared to create short/medium/long term target lists. Segmentation, segmentation segmentation: the key to finding profitable customers and focusing on what will work for you both. And if you’ve been in touch before (e.g. when imports were cheaper), then you already have a relationship to build upon. UK market: get ready Before you actually approach your target audience, be sure everything is in place behind the scenes: what do you need to adjust or introduce to the firm? Look closely at your competitors – what hints and tips can you glean and adopt? Here’s a sample checklist: • What accreditation or compliance do you need (Fit4nucler, NEDCAP, SC21 etc)? • Should you have lean/six sigma process in place? • Are your cost structures lean and mean – e.g., low labour, low overheads? • Do you have a workforce and management team able to deliver the very necessary high performance: from shop floor, right through to the sales team? • Are your products fit for purpose (preferably exceeding expectations)? • Are your production facilities working like clockwork? • Is your service spot on – after care, customer support? • Is your marketing up to scratch: showcasing your capabilities, demonstrating skills and solutions through website, site visits, brochures, exhibition stands, case studies? You may not need to make all of these changes in one go. Researching your target list and fully understanding their needs will allow you to focus on the items critical to winning over your new prospects. UK market: get out there You’re armed with your plan (x number of demos, xx customer visits, xxx samples, x seminars, etc). You’re confident that the company’s ready to welcome new customers. You’ve created a sales/marketing team to work alongside a leadership line-up both of which are totally focused on getting the right results for the firm. Start your approaches to the target list, monitor progress and adjust as you go along. If the data indicates you should change direction, be prepared to do so – the entrepreneur in you should be constantly looking for opportunities to improve your position. Do your best to get a quick win under your belt. Psychologically, this will do wonders for your reputation and will motivate the firm behind you and your approach. Keep assessing and reviewing performance – what’s working well, what needs improvement. If you’re not winning it – you need to be strategic and brave enough to change your focus. Get feedback on your products, service, costs, set up, logistics – everything. Keep learning, keep networking and keep getting the company name out there. Just be sure to have the processes in place to help you make the right decisions and put the data in place that tells you what’s needed in order to achieve the sales revenue you’re after. And, finally, get help from a business adviser – or hire an interim manager who can help you put strategy, structure and process in place. I’m here to help.
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