In todays hyper-competitive business environment, the temptation is great for companies to cast a wide net and go after any customer that has money to spend. That is especially true for those with ties to manufacturing, as the industry fights to recover from the recession.
However, the experts agree it is best to resist taking just any customer because their demands could drag you down and divert your resources from more profitable ones.
Successful companies carefully target the customers that will be better long-term partners.
Here are some of the better samples we found.
Ashley Ward Inc. is a nationwide ISO certified custom manufacturer of precision screw machined parts. Its primary focus is multi-spindle and Hydromat machining, but it also has CNC and gear hobbing equipment. Ashley Ward is always looking to add new customers, but doesnt look to take on every new job it can find.
It has to be a win-win for both parties, said Brian Scalf, vice president of Ashley Ward. There needs to be a fit between need and capability.
A client who will be a good partner also has a willingness to communicate and cooperate.
We must keep our focus on our top current customers while looking to add new customers to that list. The process doesnt happen overnight, so there needs to be a balance, Scalf said. And if things come up, say quality or design problems, it needs to be addressed, and corrected, between both parties.
In addition, Scalf finds that the best long-term customers are reasonable and have an understanding towards the process.
Sometimes things can be out of our hands, like material or plating lead times, he said. Plus, these are all custom jobs so it takes time to setup and there is a learning curve involved with every new project.
It is our job to make sure both parties fully understand the process, Scalf added.
Dayton, Ohio-based Acculube, a supplier of lubricants and metalworking fluids, company divides its customers into two categories: transactional and partnerships.
Transactional is simply when a customer has a need and Acculube has the product at the correct price point. This is a one time commitment to buy without any future commitments or value for either side.
Christopher Fisk, vice president and general manager of Acculube, sees the problem with transactional deals is that solving this customers problem leads to unpaid consulting and needs to be avoided.
We look for customers who wish to develop a long-term business relationship, Fisk said. We operate with the total cost of ownership versus priced-based solutions.
That process begins by establishing trust.
Acculube begins with upfront contracts. The idea is that the art of human interaction beginning with small commitments leading to larger ones.
Being able to ask questions freely stimulates thinking on both sides and identifies issues correctly.
The customer needs to be honest and communicated need or pain, Fisk said. The company needs to understand and be able to communicate its ability to deliver. Our goal is to be trusted partner bringing solutions and not a company selling features and benefits.