The Endless Referral System: cultivating new prospects and referrals (pt.3)

In part two of this series, we discussed meeting with new prospects to build referrals. But how do we go about looking for those referrals?

As mentioned before, it’s important not to come off as desperate. It takes time for prospects to get to know you and be comfortable with you. According to Bob, you can sense if people like you and it’s possible that you may not get that delightful feeling for a while. He describes the relationship building as a funnel.

The AIDA (Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action) funnel acts as good representation for this scenario. The first step, of course, is to get the prospect to acknowledge you (i.e. Hello, my name is…). The second step is to get their interest by making conversation, which we mentioned in part one. The third step is to create ‘desire’ in to do business with you or help you in some fashion, which I touched lightly on and will now expand.

After a few lunch meetings and some generous phone calls, lets say you and your prospect have bonded. It is now time to ask for a referral. Whether you meet with them in person or call them, here’s how you could  “pop the question”:

“[Name], I’m in the process of expanding my business/referrals. I find it helpful to partner with colleagues, such as yourself. Can we take a few minutes to run past names of people I might be able to help?”

It is likely that if your prospect knows you, likes you, trusts you and wants to see you succeed. If this happens, then you have yourself a “walking ambassador” for you and your business. Note, initially this may be an overwhelming process for them, so be sure to help “funnel down their world” to narrow down their group of people to ask. You can frame your questions by creating visuals for your colleague. For example, have them think about who they socialize with, play golf or associations they participate in such as Rotary, professional groups or even their children’s’ activities.  Your newly acquired prospects are absolutely important during this stage, so be sure to guide them into finding potential referrals. They don’t have to do this favor for you though, so remember to always give them an out. You can always preface, “John, as long as you are comfortable, can we run through a few groups that you are involved in?” A variation of this approach that we at Felber PR & Marketing have found helpful is to create lists of companies you would like an introduction.

Once they trust and like you, you can provide a short list of companies in your target market. This works especially well, since the company names trigger your colleague’s memory on who they may know at that company. Simply providing a “type of company” without a specific name often draws a blank. How many people can come up with names of contacts when you say “know anyone at a 10-100 million dollar, privately held business-to-business manufacturer?” We know, sounds precise, but it just does not generate referrals.

After you and your partner have finished the list, it is then time to contact these potential clients and/or new set of influencers! So in the next section, I will explain how to effectively communicate with this new group by emphasizing what value you can provide for to them.

The Power of Storytelling

Felber PR & Marketing, “Adventures in Marketing” –
Storytelling is a powerful tool that all manufacturing companies should adopt in order to engage its audience. Rather than presenting news and facts, a leader or a representative of the company can “present important organizational information in a way that resonates with people, engages their imagination and stimulates commitment and enthusiasm.” Do you have a story to share? Check out this story’s seven rules for telling good stories.

Miguel Ferrer – Manufacturing Executive member

Storytelling is the art of creating or delivering a narrative—a description of events that people can relate to, learn from, and remember. Stories are powerful tools because they do more than merely convey information: They are a meaningful and enjoyable way to share ideas, lessons, and values. Good stories are persuasive, appealing, and a good way to shape an organization’s culture. Leaders throughout history have relied on storytelling as an effective means of motivating others, especially during times of uncertainty and rapid change. Stories are far more persuasive and effective than abstract concepts.

Rather than presenting sterile, mundane data, a manager or leader can present important organizational information in a way that resonates with people, that engages their imagination and stimulates commitment and enthusiasm. This is because emotional content is inherent in stories, which adds another dimension to the communication process. Stories capture our imaginations. They evoke sights, sounds, smells, and other sensory experiences that the presentation of abstract concepts or data simply cannot. Storytelling is one of the ways to handle the principal—and most difficult—challenges of leadership: sparking action, getting people to work together, and leading people into the future.

The right story at the right time can help an organization get ready for a new idea and course of action. Storytelling doesn’t replace analytical thinking; it supplements it by enabling us to imagine new perspectives and new worlds.
But just how does one tell a good story? Here is a list of some basic rules that any storyteller can follow to achieve maximum effect with his or her story:

1. The story should be about a real person. Using a real person makes the story more credible to your audience.

2. The story should have a strong sense of time and place. This puts the story into a context that people can relate to and will remember: “Two years ago when I was manager of Snuffy’s Restaurant in Toledo, Ohio. . . .”

3. The story should be focused, simple, and clear. Too much detail and rambling will cause your audience to lose interest.

4. The story should be told in colorful and animated language. This engages the audience’s imagination and captures interest.

5. A good story uses emotions carefully and powerfully. Empathy, surprise, meaningful insight, compassion and even tactful and controlled outrage will engage your audience’s attention. It is emotional content that separates raw, boring data from a good illustration of the story’s point.

6. Along with emotions, you can also use gestures to add emphasis and a touch of theatre. After all, storytelling is a performance art.

7. Be yourself. Be authentic and sincere. You want people to believe you.

Storytelling, when done right, is truly one of the most powerful and effective tools for engaging and inspiring people to get behind a vision or mission. Stories help create the culture that becomes the heart and soul of the organization.

The Power of Storytelling‘ was originally posted in the Manufacturing Executive community page.

Lean To Green: Manufacturing’s Biggest Innovation Opportunity?

Felber PR & Marketing, “Adventures in Marketing” –
Sustainability is an important and cost-saving practice. This popular trend is about “developing and deploying innovative new ideas for products and processes that help improve performance, maximize efficiency, reduce costs, slash waste and increase the bottom line.” Public relations and marketing is an effective tactic that can promote sustainability for organizations, their projects and perhaps on the recruitment of the next generation of employees.

Paul Tate – Research Director and Executive Editor for the Manufacturing Leadership Council

Still think sustainability doesn’t pay? Try telling that to Robert McDonald, chairman, president, and CEO of Procter & Gamble.

In P&G’s latest annual Sustainability Report, released last month, McDonald reveals that his company has saved nearly $1 billion in costs over the last 10 years directly due to its sustainability efforts, even as sales increased by $10 billion in the same period.

It’s an impressive record. Between 2002 and 2012, P&G’s energy use dropped by 52%, C02 emissions went down by 54%, water usage fell by 58%, and waste decreased by 74%. Today the company says that 99.2% of all the materials that come into its manufacturing plants are either used or recycled.

More goods with fewer resources? That’s an impressive Lean achievement in anyone’s book.

And this strategy is not just designed to give P&G’s consumers a warm and fuzzy feeling of environmental worthiness as they buy the company’s products around the world. Like the critical cost-saving Lean initiatives that kept many companies competitive in decades gone by, it’s all about developing and deploying innovative new ideas for products and processes that help improve performance, maximize efficiency, reduce costs, slash waste, and increase the bottom line.

“We believe most of the sustainability challenges the world faces can be solved with innovation,” says McDonald in the report’s opening statement, “and that this innovation can have a positive business impact.”

Manufacturing industry innovation, of course, often starts with the front-line engineers and designers who develop the next wave of products and manufacturing processes. So it’s interesting to note that a new survey by the ASME (formerly the American Society of Mechanical Engineers) and design-software company Autodesk found that 75% of professional engineers say they now work for companies involved in, or extremely involved in, sustainability in some way. That’s a significant rise from 66% last year.

The majority of the 4,500 professional engineers who responded to the “Sustainable Design Trend Watch Survey” said designs that use less energy or reduce emissions, followed by manufacturing processes that use fewer natural resources, are the two most important types of sustainability projects they work on. Well over 60% expect their company’s involvement in sustainable design specifications to increase in the next year.

Of course, money remains a key driver in many of these innovation efforts. About 27% of respondents said the organizations they work for invest in sustainable design practices only if these increase throughput and cut costs of existing products. A quarter of respondents said their organization will actively spend extra money to incorporate sustainable design specifications in most new products.

Those numbers may well change dramatically as the next generation of product designers and engineers enters the workforce. The survey asked 1,900 undergraduate, master’s, and Ph.D. engineering students for their views, and found that over 70% of new engineering students say they are already involved in studying or developing more sustainable technologies. They also believe that designs that use less energy or reduce emissions; that require less packaging; use renewable, recyclable, or recycled materials; and are supported by manufacturing processes that use less energy and natural resources are by far the most important to them and their future careers.

Perhaps most importantly for the manufacturing industry as a whole, over 90% of the next generation of young engineers surveyed firmly believes that designing sustainable and green products results in greater product innovation.

The message seems to be clear: Gone are the days when sustainability in manufacturing was simply about corporate tree-hugging and turning out the factory lights at night. It is now about the future of the business—from innovative product and process developments, to corporate-wide Lean operational efficiencies, to high-potential improvements in bottom-line financial performance.

Sustainability is probably the biggest innovation opportunity out there right now. And whether you’re already involved or not, it seems like your next generation of skilled employees, and your future customers, will certainly expect you to do things differently.

Manufacturing Executives: Victims of Groupthink

Felber PR & Marketing, “Adventures in Marketing” –
Over 20 years ago, many manufacturing executives contracted with oversea production believing offshoring was the new trend focusing mainly on the cost of labor. Little did they realize that they settled for the price of poor quality, the loss of intellectual property and the overnight competitors that sprang up as a result, the extension of lead times, the exposure supply of chains to new types of natural disasters and more. Are you a victim of groupthink?

Chris Chiappinelli – Manufacturing Executive member

Apple is the latest company to join the U.S. reshoring parade, with CEO Tim Cook announcing that the technology titan will manufacture one of its Mac computers in the country in 2013. It’s another small indication that the reshoring trend—which some people consider a PR ploy born of patriotic fervor and others call an unstoppable force in global manufacturing—has legs.

To understand what is happening today, we need to consider what happened more than 20 years ago, when manufacturing executives, almost en masse in some sectors, closed up shop and contracted with overseas production shops—the dawn of the offshoring boom. There’s a good line in a recent Atlantic article on the manufacturing reshoring trend that sums up why this might not have been the right medicine for manufacturers. Charles Fishman, the article’s author, writes that decades ago:

“Many offshoring decisions were based on a single preoccupation—cheap labor. The labor was so cheap, in fact, that it covered a multitude of sins in other areas. The [recent] approach to bringing jobs back has been much more thoughtful.”

As Fishman notes, manufacturing executives seem to be making more holistic calculations these days—assessing not just the individual components of the cost equation, but the totality of those line items. This interest in a more comprehensive view of manufacturing strategy might explain why a discussion from mid-2011, titled “What Are the Real Costs of Outsourcing,” remains one of the most visited pieces of content on the Manufacturing Executive website.

But what does this say about manufacturing executives? Were the corporate leaders of the 1990s prone to tunnel vision—focusing obsessively on the cost of labor—that today’s leaders aren’t? Not necessarily. But I do think that manufacturing executives, like the rest of us, can be susceptible to groupthink. Think about it: At the pinnacle of the corporate pyramid, the fear of a strategic misstep can be overwhelming. At public companies, activist investors and corporate boards are primed to depose wayward executives. At smaller companies, there’s little margin for misdirection when competitors are clambering to steal your lunch.

In the 1990s, executives who watched their competitors move production to China and other offshore locales felt compelled to chase the trend, lest they lose competitive advantage. And yet even then, with the price of contract labor so low, the holistic cost equation may have favored domestic manufacturing, had U.S. executives truly accounted for a myriad of other items: the price of poor quality, the loss of intellectual property and the overnight competitors that sprang up as a result, the extension of lead times as products steamed slowly across the ocean, the price to send personnel around the globe to manage far-flung operations, the exposure of supply chains to new types of natural disasters, and the loss of a beneficial exchange of ideas between the production floor and the design department.

At the time, some executives must have understood that those “other” elements would wipe out any cost savings on labor. But few had the courage to buck the trend and make their own destiny.

These days, we hear a similar charge of weakness leveled at our elected leaders, as the country faces ominous signs of a troubled future. But I believe the lack of courage we see in some lawmakers stems primarily from their self-interest—many are more interested in positioning themselves for reelection than in making tough decisions. I think manufacturing executives, by contrast, are desperately concerned with the future of their businesses, and fearful of making choices that contravene conventional wisdom, fearful of repercussions.

There’s no inoculation against group think. But choosing to perform a holistic evaluation of the business wisdom du jour is one way to reduce the symptoms. Exhibiting the courage necessary to chart an alternate course might just put this disease into remission.

Manufacturing Executives: Victims of Group Think‘ was originally posted in the Manufacturing Executive community page.