Please Don’t Read This!

by Charles Ingram,  VP of Sales & Marketing, Eriez Magnetics

If, by chance, you happen to manufacture any products similar to what my company does or you’re a rep that sells competitive equipment to ours, please stop reading this article immediately. For the rest of you, there’s a little secret to winning more orders, building brand awareness and gaining market share which our company and our reps have employed during each and every economic downturn and unstable marketplace we’ve all experienced.

Ready? It’s called “promotion.” That’s right. Website development, advertising, public relations, direct communication with customers — those types of promotion. Right now you’re saying to yourself, “I’ve heard all that before, but marketing is expensive!” The fact of the matter is that it’s more expensive not to market and promote during these days of economic slowness.

When times are tough, the “low-hanging fruit” in a manufacturer and rep company’s budget is often marketing expenses. This means that companies pull back on promoting their attributes to potential and existing customers — little or no advertising, discontinued development of promotional materials, those kinds of things.

What we’ve learned at our company, and our reps also agree, is that customers want to do business with suppliers they perceive to be strong, stable, and sticking around to support them, especially through difficult economic periods. When times are good, every company advertises and promotes themselves, making it tougher for anyone to stand out in the crowd.

During a downturn, however, since so many manufacturers and reps cut marketing programs, those who continue to make these investments benefit from better exposure, clearer messages, and increased brand awareness. The key here is to not simply implement cost cutting, but rather cost optimization. Review all your existing initiatives, discontinue those no longer useful or that are underutilized, and reprioritize and focus on the investments with value and return. Manufacturers and reps who partner in these strategic initiatives will succeed where others fail. This is a major contributing factor in why our company has six rep agencies who have represented us for well over 50 years — together through a lot of these down periods.

The combined efforts of our company and our reps have resulted in a bigger bang for our promotional buck in a slow economy, resulting in more new customers, better retention of existing customers, and an overall softer landing in our level of business. We also experience a faster recovery in our order book as the industries and markets we serve improve.

So, if you’ve read this far, please do my company and our reps a favor. Go ahead and implement these ideas at your company or agency, but please don’t tell our little secret to any of our competitors!

Charles H. Ingram, in a career spanning over 37 years, has served in management at several leading tool manufacturers as well as led factory-direct, distribution and independent manufacturers’ representative selling organizations throughout North America and abroad. Ingram is executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Eriez Magnetics, which designs, develops, manufactures and markets advanced technology equipment for magnetic separation, vibratory applications, metal detection, and materials conveying and controlling applications from 11 manufacturing operations worldwide. He is the first manufacturer elected to the MANA Board of Directors. He received a bachelor’s degree in political science and history at Denison University, Granville, Ohio, and completed advanced management studies at the University of Tennessee.