The small manufacturing world has undergone some major changes in the last few years, as more and more people have turned their hobbies into businesses. This has been part of a building trend which has brought consumers closer to the maker. Specialist makers are now the go-to for products spanning from clothing to handicrafts to electric bikes and more.
On the one hand, this has been great for makers, as they can now establish that personal connection by going direct to consumers. The flipside is that they are less reliant on trusted resellers to make those final sales for them. This means having to build a brand that people can trust.
Question is, where to start?
1. Personalize Your Engagement
When surveyed it was found that 40% of consumers have purchased something more expensive than they planned because their experience was personalized. And there’s no surprise that feeling close to the manufacturer of your product is so important in an age where a significant portion of shopping is done online.
But how do you make this connection?
The most obvious solution is to provide channels through which consumers can directly communicate with your team. Depending on the size of your operation this can mean different things.
Many small manufacturers have started using live chat options on their websites. This allows new customers to have any unanswered queries or hesitations addressed on demand. For example, by integrating Facebook Messenger live chat on your website your potential customers will not only receive the help they need but also make that all-important personal connection. They know that somebody is behind this faceless body of text and images, who cares about their experience.
Just make sure that you stay within your professional limits when implementing live chats and direct messaging customer services. Although customers want a personalized experience, they don’t want to feel like you’ve invaded their privacy.
So, keep it friendly, but to the point.
2. Build Trust Organically
Longevity is a key term to use when it comes to building trust with customers. People are more likely to trust a company if they believe they are in it for the long term and are taking their customers seriously.
There are a few ways you can do this:
1) Create a loyalty program that rewards repeat buyers
2) Ask for feedback whenever the opportunity arises
3) Offer real and valuable customer support
Now of course, these are only a few ideas to explore, but the point is that you need to be putting yourself in the shoes of the customer. Unless you have a brick-and-mortar store where people know you’re in it for the long run, the point is to show that you care about your long-term success. Loyalty programs are a great way to prove your commitment to the customer as well as getting return custom.
Feedback should always be ready to receive if you want to improve and engage with customers. In fact, it’s good practice to ask for opinions whenever you get the chance, especially in the context of customer support. It’s a brilliant way to show customers that you are committed. Making that support available on demand is a big part of this and using direct messaging apps like Facebook Messenger for customer service is a sure-fire place to start.
Just remember that these are not the “be all and end all” of building trust. This is a mind frame that needs to exist in all corners of your business model, and you need to use every opportunity to make sure it’s on the rise.
3. Become a Dependable Seller
Personal touch is one thing, but becoming a reliable brand requires a bit more than that. It’s important that when customers make an order, that you make sure products are in stock and get delivered on time.
This is where many product-making businesses have fallen short. They might have gotten the short-term benefits of a great product, but sales slow down due to lack of a solid production flow and raw materials inventory management. Late deliveries and unavailable stock are a slippery slope to climb up from.
The solutions to this will totally depend on the structure and processes of your business. But unless you are selling in micro amounts or have a very basic manufacturing flow then the likelihood is that your spreadsheets are what’s holding you back. Upgrading to a good MRP style software is likely to iron out your inefficiencies and allow you to have an efficient workshop.
Look for solutions that tackle:
1) Raw materials inventory management
2) Production scheduling
3) Purchasing planning
The bottom line here is that an efficient workshop means that you have stock on hand, ready to deliver on time. Back in the day these elements were more the responsibility of the retailer and so had little effect on you as a brand.
However, by going direct to consumers everything you do reflects on you. So, it’s important that you get these details right.
As you can imagine, building a reliable brand as a maker is not something that can be done overnight. This is a matter of persistence, determination and real commitment. If it’s anything less, then customers will pick up on your indifference and start to lose trust. And that’s the last thing you want in an age where a personal connection is paramount.
That’s why you want to focus on your customer’s experience and support them in whatever way possible. Whether that is in customer service with direct messaging apps or making sure that they get their deliveries on time with solid inventory management.
Just remember to engage with your customers on every level of your product-making business and you’ll be sure to find success.
About the author: Hello! I am Carlo and I am one of the co-founder at Callbell, the first communication platform designed to help sales and support teams to collaborate and communicate with customers through direct messaging applications such as WhatsApp, Messenger, Telegram and (soon) Instagram Direct