Construction doesn't just mean contractors...
We have a number of manufacturing & engineering clients. These range from manufacturers of lighting equipment and carpets, which have consumer markets, to fans, partitions, ceilings and pipe joints, which have other trade markets.
They operate in a competitive and global environment. So, these successful companies are aware of what their customers and markets want and expect. They research what features and benefits their markets want. Then they develop new products and deliver them in the most timely, efficient and expected manner.
Predicting future trends in design
One client asked us to investigate interior design and lifestyle trends. They needed to understand how these might affect their future product range. They also wanted to identify specific areas where they could develop new products that would meet consumer demand. This is a tricky area to research.
We started by identifying opinion formers, who could provide real insight. They told us about the specialist needs of each possible market sector, such as the softer issues affecting interior design. The results produced several ideas that were made into product concepts, where our clients knowledge and expertise could be used. We replayed these to our client in a workshop format. This enabled the sales and marketing teams to buy-in to the findings and prompted them to adopt the best concepts. They then made product mock-ups to check them out with the opinion formers, before committing to major investment.
Establishing a products commercial viability
A recent client of ours had developed a unique product concept. It was for an interactive, searchable, 'digital library' of terminology, specific to their industry. This could be put on CD-ROM or web enabled. But before they put more money into its development, they asked us to test its viability in the market.
This involved finding out the likely market demand and devising a suitable pricing structure. Then they could decide whether they could justify the cost of further development to bring it to market. We discovered that there was a relationship between how the product would be used, and the price that customers were prepared to pay for it. Their interest and need depended not so much on their sector of the industry, but on their position on the experience curve, and their attitude towards knowledge. For example, the newer entrants to a market who needed to learn fast and to train their employees would pay more. The product was also viable at these prices and volumes.
Re-structuring the salesforce to be more efficient & effective
Several of our clients have asked us to provide a structure for their sales teams. Keeping salesmen on the road is expensive. Some customers still want to see a representative, but many are happy to do their ordering by telephone or electronically. For example, we worked with an aluminium extrusions' manufacturer who wanted to restructure their sales force to be more efficient and effective. They wanted the sales teams to develop specialist knowledge, rather than having generalists serving all types of customers. This would provide customers with added value, which would help differentiate the companys offering.
We started by segmenting customers according to their service need. This highlighted the level of expertise that the sales team needed and the number of visits and telephone calls necessary. This gave a structure for the external and internal sales teams to provide the right level of technical and marketing support to each group of customers.
It became clear that commodity customers could be serviced by the new call-centre. Specialist customers could be offered value engineering by technical representatives, rather than having generalist salespeople calling on them The management team accepted the recommendations, and they were implemented successfully.
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