We often focus on North America’s shrinking PCB fabricator landscape, which is are now down to less than 200 shops. But there are well over 1,000 contract electronics manufacturers in existence, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Everyone knows about the big guys like Celestica, Flextronics, Sanmina and Plexus. These companies do hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars, but what about all the others? Most of them have revenue of less than $20 million, and many of those are under $10 million. Most of these companies are very good, well-run companies.
But the true problem lies in the sheer numbers; there are so many CEMs that it’s hard to tell one from the other. Very few of these companies can be identified by more than a handful of companies who work directly with them, which is the very reason that today’s contract manufacturers need to develop and implement their own ongoing marketing and branding plans.
I say “implement,” because implementation is really the key to any good plan, especially a marketing plan. Here are some of the more basic steps to developing and implementing your own customized marketing and branding plan:
- Tell your story. This is where it all starts. What is your company’s story, when you did you get started? Who started the business and why was it started? What is the company’s mission and vision? Talk about some of the history. This will be the foundation of all your marketing. It is also helpful for your own team to have a good understanding of the company that are part of.
- What are you good at? What separates your company from the rest of the pack? This is sometimes called your unique value proposition. What is your forte? What do your customers like about you? Why do they keep coming back?
- Who is your ideal customer and why? Speaking of customers, who is your best customer? Why are they your best customer? What markets are they in? Develop an ideal customer profile and use it as a template when going after other customers. These are the customers and markets you should pursue.
- Getting the word out.Now we get down to it. You know what your company is good at, you know what customers and markets you want to pursue, now it’s time to put your marketing together and get your message out there to the right companies. Done right, this can be very effective and will not cost you much money at all, in fact, you can do it yourself if you want. The first thing to know is that marketing is a mosaic and all the marketing options listed below are the tiles making up the mosaic. It’s up to you to decide what you want your marketing mosaic to look like based on which of these “tiles” you decide to use. Here are three of the most important tiles to use in your marketing mosaic.
- Interviews: This is your chance to tell your story. You can be interviewed by one of the trade publications like this one, which offers all types of interviews. For instance, I-Connect007 will give you the opportunity to talk about yourself and your company. Your story makes a great cornerstone for your marketing plan, because I-Connect007 will put your story in front of thousands of readers. Once it has been published, you can use it for your own marketing and social media. You can put the interview on your web site and in your newsletters. You can send the link to your customers. You can give it to your sales team to send to customers. You can have the interview reprinted in a glossy magazine format with photos and use that as a hand-out during meetings and presentations. All of these are very effective and powerful ways to market your company.
- Press releases: Please send out press releases about everything that happens at your company. Have you hired a new staff member? Have you purchased (“invested in”) a new piece of equipment? Have you expanded your facility? Press releases are a great way to keep your name out there. And just like everything else, you can re-purpose your press releases through your own marketing and social media once they have been published in the trades.
- Newsletters/ technical bulletins: This is the very best way to get your name out there to the right people. But this is not a “It’s Sally’s birthday!” newsletter. The best newsletters are filled with content that is valuable and appealing to your customers. Each newsletter should contain:
- A president’s message that highlights what has been going on at the company as well as what is contained in this issue.
- Anything you had had published since the last newsletter.
- Some helpful technology tips that will help your customers
- A special call to action
The newsletter will go out to your entire customer base and will serve as a valuable “touch” to those customers once again keeping your company’s name and services in front of the right people.
And yes, in the spirit of underpromising and overdelivering, there is one more tile: social media. Don’t groan! It’s about time you embraced social media. LinkedIn and Twitter are the most useful and powerful forms of business social media right now. Stop bragging about the fact that you don’t even know what Twitter is; it’s no longer cool to do that, and you’re showing your age. There are many books and seminars on social media today so it’s for you to get on board very quickly. My friend Bruce Johnston is one of the world’s leaders in LinkedIn, and he offers excellent training courses on how to use LinkedIn effectively. The good news is that everything you do as part of your marketing plan can be repurposed via social media reaching many more people and reaching them very quickly.
One last thing to remember: Marketing is a mosaic, and you should develop a complete annual schedule of the marketing you are going to be doing for the next year, month by month, quarter by quarter so that you will always know where you are going by following this time-lined roadmap. And by the way, I have a great sample marketing plan that I can send you.
So please, start working at getting your name out there. You are competing with over 1,000 other contract manufacturers, and in the end, the true winners are going to be those who marketed the smartest and the loudest. It’s only common sense.