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RIA is a Common Sense Investment in Any Economy
by Richard O. Litt, President, RIA
Robotic Industries Association Posted 07/05/2009
In a few years we will be looking at a strong, resurgent economy, but will you be ready before that happens?
The trick for all of us will be to recognize the bottom of the economic cycle and position ourselves to outpace our competitors in capitalizing on renewed customer demand. In the meantime, all of us have to make defensive business decisions that protect and preserve our businesses. The key is to balance the harsh realities of market contraction with the certain opportunities that will come with recovery.
Some companies will be tempted to craft a business strategy that over-emphasizes new customer growth. It is true that we need new customers as others go away or become dormant, but if we tell our sales people they must increase new accounts by 50 percent we may set them up for failure and lose our connection with our historical accounts. If anything, now is the time to make special efforts to connect with the customers that already do business with us. Those of us who are preparing for the future will be cautious about the balance of new business we generate and the care we give to the best customers we already have.
Let’s suppose for a moment that business gets better in the later stages of 2009. None of us will hear or read about that until months after the fact because most economic indicators are lagging. If we are tuned into our existing customers, however, we will have a jump on the competition. Now might be the time to improve your customer database and how you interact with them. Can you send a letter, postcard or direct mail piece to your customers easily, or are most of those contacts stored in your sales people’s heads and PDAs?
Tell your customers how you can help them survive in the downturn and prepare for the recovery. Be specific. Talk about emerging technologies and techniques, asset reconditioning and/or redeployment, training and skills development opportunities. Offer to supplement their dwindling pools of human capital. Demonstrate that you are a critical and reliable business partner. Write and publish white papers to keep your company visible and well regarded as an industry expert. Generate case studies and look for ways to publicize them.
Of course you have a website where you can talk about your company and it is a great place for your sales and marketing materials, but if you are an RIA member you can create even more impact. Members of Robotic Industries Association have a brand new site that allows them to post unlimited content. The Association probably does far more to promote its site than you do so take advantage of it. Any product, service or editorial on your site can have a page on Robotics Online.
Robotic Industries Association has a tremendous database and is primarily focused on connecting its members with real prospects. You can network with peers and qualified members can even use the database free once per year for direct mailings. You have a marketing partner in RIA and can use it to tell your business story.
Systems integrators face a tough time in today’s economy. Few have dedicated marketing departments and many simply rely on repeat business and customer referrals. Engineers are usually the driving force behind management at these companies and most have a natural bias toward handling business on a technical basis. This makes them strong at the product level, but common sense says there must be some element of marketing and public relations.
|”Millions of pounds of excessive (filler) material are generated in manual welding processes every year. A green manufacturing approach seeks to conserve resources. Robots weld to exact specifications every time and keep the environment free of excessive waste.”
See page 130 of the 2009 Robotics Industry Directory for more comments from industry leaders about green manufacturing. Order your free copy.
If you are a systems integrator you don’t need to change your business philosophy, but you can let Robotic Industries Association help you make the most of the marketing you do. RIA offers a classic marketing funnel structure to help you find and retain customers. Visitors to Robotics Online are guided toward your company when they find your content. RIA training seminars enable networking and exposure for your products and expertise. Take advantage of their events as a speaker, attendee or exhibitor so you can connect with customers with a specific interest in robotic automation.
Membership in RIA is not an expensive proposition. It is an investment in sales and marketing efforts that you may not be able to do yourself. It is a networking channel dedicated to the robotics industry and people you can do business with. It is a pipeline to industry trends and can help you be ready for renewed customer demand if you make it part of your business strategy. RIA can give a lot back for a small investment, so if you are looking for a wise use of your shrinking budget, I hope you will include membership as a way to bolster your sales and marketing efforts while you stay better connected with your existing customers.
It is rare for a trade association to have users as members, but RIA has more than 50 companies that belong in this category. Some 200 members are suppliers or integrators. Others are consultants, universities and researchers. All of them share a common interest in being successful with robotics. RIA can help you gain standing among current customers and even find new ones. Our pledge is to work for you in good times and bad, and now more than ever. Call RIA (734/994-6088, www.robotics.org) and see what we can do for you.