Apply lean thinking to your sales and marketing efforts, reenergize your business.
BY DIANE CEDARBERG
In its most basic form, lean is about doing more with what you have--increasing customer value without increasing costs. Though lean is most commonly applied to production floor layout, organization and processes, it can be equally beneficial in every element of your business.
Our company's experience serves as proof.
In late 2008, the economic recession found Milltronics struggling to revitalize its sales and marketing efforts without increasing its budget. We are a CNC controls and machine tool manufacturer and our strength is customization, so our target market is extremely broad. We
wanted to create and implement a marketing strategy that would attract more potential customers, and a sales process that would turn more of those potential customers into paying customers. But we were also under tremendous budget constraints.
Lean thinking was the key to our success. In marketing, we switched from advertising focused on our products to advertising focused on the benefits we deliver to our customers. Many ads are case studies of customer successes with a link to the full story posted on our website.
We also established a cost-free social media presence on YouTube and Facebook. On YouTube, we created a series of short videos that demonstrate how our products work, and offer tips to customers on how to get the most out of our products. We developed an e-newsletter as well that is
sent regularly to current and prospective customers to keep them in the loop about our new product developments. Every ad, video, newsletter and social media page also includes links to our website. From there we offer visitors various opportunities to engage with us, depending on
their interests. Our web traffic is now at an all-time high, as is the number of qualified sales leads we receive from people who have discovered us through the Internet.
On the sales side, accountability was lacking in our process. We had no sales goals or forecasts and nothing to track the success of our sales team or channel partners. The sales team's role was transformed from order processing to being proactive, solution-based sales
partners for our dealers. We set up a distributor council and asked our dealers what other things we could improve upon. You must know what you want to tackle before you can start digging out the details, and the best way to do that is benchmarking.
A few lean-focused tweaks to our sales process have reaped major rewards. First, we assigned sales team members to specific dealers. Next, we developed sales targets, and asked that salespeople and dealers work together to establish and reach those targets. Now sales
opportunities generated are qualified by our sales team, captured in our CRM, and pulled-through our dealers so we can track progress. In addition, each sales/dealer team is held accountable for tracking opportunities, quotes, and orders won or lost.
If you are looking to improve your sales and marketing efforts, look first to GreenLeanSM principles as your guide. Ask how you can add value without adding costs. Most importantly, take action on your ideas and start the journey.
Diane Cedarberg is marketing manager for Milltronics, a U.S. manufacturer of CNC controls and machine tools serving industry worldwide since 1973. She has been involved in international sales and marketing management throughout her career. Cedarberg holds a degree in
Biochemistry and Analytical Psychology from Bethel University and serves on the Global Marketing and Sales Committee for The Association of Manufacturing Technology.