Despite the rejuvenating wave of manufacturing thanks to robotics and automation, the fun isn’t anticipated to last long. By 2022, manufacturing jobs are expected to drop significantly, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. To remain competitive and survive the coming dry spell, manufacturers need to adapt and use technology to their advantage. For those manufacturing companies already embracing technology, it seems to be working: 79% of those included in PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Annual Manufacturing Report said technology is allowing them to widen their customer bases through service-based offerings—a strong and compelling advantage to have in a narrowing market.
To adapt to the increasingly technologically-driven economy, manufacturing companies need to adopt a “crawl, walk, run, and sprint” program trajectory for their CRM technology growth. Using this model will help manufacturers drive the digital transformation of customer engagement for greater business profitability.
Crawl: Account hierarchy, Salesforce automation, and marketing lead automation
The crawl stage is entirely focused on setting up your ever-important technology foundation. There is a certain path manufacturers will want to take to establish that foundation, however, in order to create structure around who their customers are and their operational insights: it starts with account hierarchy.
Account hierarchy means you have accounts and contacts and you know all about them: you know who they are, what they have, how they’re structured. If you don’t have this information and data as a base for your business, the rest of the technology automation has nothing to work with.
Salesforce automation comes in and works with all your account hierarchy information. It enables your reps to sell, manage leads and opportunities, understand customer lifecycles, and gain new insights—all around the accounts you set up beforehand. Additionally, with Salesforce CPQ added later on, it can also know how to structure price sheets and how to sell your products. Ultimately, the Salesforce automation stage of crawl is all about enabling your sales team to execute whether in the office or in the field.
Finally, the crawl stage should end with marketing lead automation. This step is focused on creating a funnel of new interest in your business. By automating outreach into the market, cross-sell and upsell opportunities, and more, you can generate a constantly flowing source of revenue for your business. Make sure this is done across multiple channels, including web, email, and social media.
Walk: Partner/distributor management, CPQ, customer service
Walk is the stage where a business can really drill down into technology maturity. From here, a manufacturing business turns towards partner management, CPQ, and customer service as ways to really establish themselves as a force in the market.
Manufacturing partners and distributors are really extensions of the sales team, so it’s important they be treated as such within your processes. For example, think of Apple: they go through partners such as Verizon, AT&T, and Amazon to distribute the products of their business. Deliveries of Apple products actually make it to the customers via a number of partner channels. Same for automobile manufacturers—they work through a dealership (the partner) and not through Ford or Toyota directly. This same pattern of final products reaching end customers through partner channels is very prevalent in business, but—ironically enough—a solidified technological process to manage partners is not so widespread. Think of your own manufacturing business: what partner channels are your products going through but they actually reach end customers? Are you using those partners as sales tools?
There needs to be an infrastructure that enables your partners to be part of the sales team, to do the same things your internal sales are doing. Partners have the capacity to manage and distribute leads, opening the doors for co-sell and collaboration between you and your partner. Once you recognize the value in these partner channels, you can begin better management of them by delivering marketing development funds, community portals, and more, all to provide that visibility and collaboration between you and your partner.
Next, you will want to look seriously into CPQ services and implementation for your manufacturing organization. There are many elements in a manufacturing business, from warranties and replacement parts to the formal trademark products. It’s vital that your business manages all of that in CPQ. CPQ enables you to track different products, bundle as appropriate, and increase your sales maturity—in addition to your technology maturity.
As you’re building up partners and a CPQ system, you’ll also want to complete the walk stage with a newly focused customer service lens. Customer service done right is central to your success strategy—it creates stickiness and loyalty to your company, saving you from copious amounts of time spent finding new customers. Instead, you’re fostering repeat customers in less time. The most common customer interaction post-sale is with service organizations. So it’s important to empower your service reps with 360-views of the customer base, automated support tools, and omnichannel access to customers. This type of digital transformation makes it easier for both your customers to connect with you and for you to connect with customers.
Run: Field service
The run stage is entirely made up of one step: field service. Once you’re able to sell your product (based on the foundation laid in crawl) and serve your customers and partners (using the tools from walk), you’ve already reached a pretty good level of maturity. But optimizing your manufacturing company’s field service in the run stage extends your maturity and increases growth even further.
Field service is about being able to support your product in the field. Take a look at these manufacturing examples of instances when good, streamlined field service can both affirm and grow your company’s maturity:
The red light camera at an intersection starts to malfunction. You need to have a team ready to go in and address it.
A personal home cable box begins to falter. Do you have the ability to dispatch routing and a team to fix it?
In order to both reduce field service costs and build brand trust, use the run stage to optimize your field service operations. In the long-run, the benefits will solidify your business on a greater tier of the market.
Sprint: IoT and eCommerce
Finally, the sprint stage. At this point, you technological setup as a manufacturing company is already exceptional. To add the final graces of maturity to your program, it’s time to turn towards IoT and eCommerce with your business.
The internet of things (IoT) is about connecting your physical product back to your business. This will empower your business with the intelligence and insights into the customer value of your product. Usage patterns can show you what is or is not used by your customers and how the product can be improved, alert your HQ about critical failure and service issues on individual products so you can address them quickly and maximize uptime. Take these hypothetical examples as illustrations of IoT improving product use:
At the soda kiosk, you can get multiple types of soda with various flavor shot options added in. But what happens when one flavor is about to run out? Either the next unlucky customer gets to walk away saying “Oh man, I can’t get my favorite drink,” or, with IoT enabled, the flavor supplies could be connected to sensors. This way, a low flavor supply would send a signal to the home office, increasing uptime and ensuring more end customer satisfaction. Ultimately, this creates a better reputation for your manufacturer’s soda kiosk product and the company itself.
On an oil rig, a lot can go wrong and the stakes are high. If something fails and there’s not enough notice, the manufacturer can lose a lot of money—not to mention the lost reputation of product failure on such a critical device. On the other hand, an IoT-enabled oil rig can include sensors that alert the appropriate team members about potential gas failures, bursts, etc. By avoiding and minimizing these incidents with IoT technology, the company avoids lost money and instead raises its reputation to new heights and increases productivity.
Ultimately, IoT is all about making sure your product is working most optimally and delivering value.
Finally, there is eCommerce. Essentially, eCommerce is another avenue for making more money for the business. eCommerce enables your customers to easily transact and get the products or service they need, both now and in the future. Amazon has built an entire corporation based on the ease of eCommerce. You can take a little bit of that success and apply it to your own business for additional revenue through replacement parts and additional products.
Manufacturing companies can adapt and even thrive in the new technology era. Taking your technology program through these four stages—the foundation of crawl, the sales ability of walk, the field service optimization of run, and the extra revenue sources from sprint—will digitally transform your enterprise and make your manufacturing business ready for the future.