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Eight Ways Manufacturers Can Attract & Retain Customers–Part 1

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Plastics processors face a daunting challenge in retaining and attracting new customers while juggling supply-chain disruptions, ongoing labor shortages, price increases, and quickly changing customer requirements. Yet, amid all the challenges of running a manufacturing business, the time and effort invested in cultivating customer relationships and creating new ones deliver the most value.

Customers should be viewed as strategic collaborators whose insights can help to improve manufacturing operations, products, and services. They offer invaluable feedback on how easy or difficult it is to work with a manufacturer. They’re also a significant source of new product ideas and process improvements.

Plastics manufacturers who excel at attracting new customers and retaining existing ones know their customers’ challenges, pains, and problems in detail. That involves a commitment from senior management to invest the time in talking with customers regularly and become experts in the challenges and problems they face.

This three-part series examines eight ways to attract and retain customers by better understanding their needs and acting on them. Let’s look at the first two.

  1. Start a customer success program with dedicated managers owning every account: Helping customers solve their unique challenges while achieving their goals is the essence of an effective customer success program. This goes beyond account management, which tends to be reactive and only provide support when customers request it. Instead, customer success programs aim to anticipate customer problems and needs before they become more significant issues.

The best customer success programs have proven track records of helping customers achieve their goals and objectives while overcoming increasingly complex problems. According to a North Highland survey of 700 executives, 87% say customer experience is their main growth engine.

Plastics manufacturers with programs have developed teams of specialists and customer success managers dedicated to each account. These managers are always looking for how their business goals can align with and support their customers’ goals. The metrics that reflect an effective customer success program include lower customer churn, lower acquisition costs, more upsell opportunities, and more significant lifetime customer value measured in cumulative sales.

  1. Conduct customer advisory councils every 90 days: By definition, a customer advisory council or customer advisory board (CAB) is a cross-section of customers that meet quarterly to provide insights on a manufacturer’s roadmap, future product strategies, and product and service quality. Additionally, larger companies often have two or three CABs dedicated to their customers’ specific vertical markets. Through CABs, plastics manufacturers can coordinate with their largest customers, providing them greater ownership of shared outcomes.

“Our CAB has increased our customer centricity and made our organization more in-tune with our industry,” one executive noted. “Our senior executives now have much more awareness of customer interests, which has helped shape our product direction.”

Plastics manufacturers who similarly adopt CABs can obtain insights that lead to greater customer collaboration and loyalty.

Part 2 of this series will look at ways to step in customers’ shoes, track their satisfaction, and leverage data for up-selling and cross-selling.

About the Author: Louis Columbus is principal of DELMIAWorks. Previous positions include product management at Ingram Cloud, product marketing at iBASEt, Plex Systems, senior analyst at AMR Research (now Gartner), marketing and business development at Cincom Systems, Ingram Micro, a SaaS start-up and at hardware companies. He’s also a member of the Enterprise Irregulars. Professional experience includes marketing, product management, sales and industry analyst roles in the enterprise software and IT industries. He teaches MBA courses in international business, global competitive strategies, international market research, and capstone courses in strategic planning and market research. Contact: @LouisColumbus on Twitter.

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