How to Win More Job Shop Business in 2022
After two years of wild swings in both demand and raw material supply, most job shop owners are looking forward to a more normal year in 2022. The promise of calmer waters ahead has many of them thinking about how to grow their business and find new customers.
The good news is that consumer demand is strong, a new federal infrastructure plan is ramping up, and many industries are forecasting strong sales in 2022, making now a perfect time to find new partners or win new business from existing ones.
While many of the general sales and marketing ideas out in the world will work for job shop owners to some extent, here are five of the best tips we’ve found that are specific to the unique needs of job shops.
1. Be Specific About What Kind of Business Works Best for You
There’s a huge temptation to approach the search for new customers with an “all jobs are good jobs” mindset. As we all know: Beggars can’t be choosers.
But that’s really only true if you’re trying to keep a business afloat. If you have a strong base of customers and what you’re really looking for is growth, taking a job that ties up machine and operator capacity, but doesn’t offer much upside, may actually do more harm than good in the long run.
There are lots of reasons a job could be a good one for your shop: a high profit margin, a tight fit with your team’s unique skills, an entry into a desirable industry, etc. The important thing is to understand what value each new job brings and lean into that.
If you’re taking a low margin job so you can break into a new industry, be sure to get a customer quote about how happy they are so you can use it in your marketing. If the job is a great fit for your team’s skills, get a picture of the part — assuming the work isn’t classified, of course — so that your sales team can show prospects how talented your shop is.
Whatever the job is, be thoughtful about why you’re taking it and remember that you can get more out of it than just money.
2. Think about Trigger Events
Take the time to put yourself in your ideal customer’s shoes and think hard about what might need to happen in their business that would force them to look for someone to take on some of their work.
Things like machine breakage are hard to predict, of course, but increased demand from your customer’s customers isn’t nearly as random. For example, if your ideal customers are aerospace suppliers and Southwest Airlines orders 114 new planes from Boeing, chances are they’re going to see some of that trickle down in the form of increased demand for their products. At the very least, it’s a good reason to reach out and touch base with them.
Other triggers can be seasonal, related to changes in federal regulations, a result of a big merger, etc. Exactly what to look for will depend on the industry you’re trying to sell into, but every industry has big trends you can use to your advantage if you’re ready to act quickly.
3. Be Where Your Customers Are
Once you’ve established the kinds of jobs you want and the kind of customers that have an excess of those jobs, it’s time to fish where the fish are.
Industry associations and networking organizations have lost some of the importance they had in previous generations, but they’re still a great way to meet potential customers, especially in certain industries like precision machining. Reputations take time to build, but showing up, engaging with customers, and showing that you care about their industry is a powerful way to be top-of-mind when they have a need your shop can fulfill.
In terms of digital marketing, this means being active on ThomasNet as well as LinkedIn. You don’t need to buy ads there, but do have a complete profile and be part of the community by posting and interacting with others’ posts. 3D hubs like Xometry are growing in popularity as well if your shop does additive manufacturing.
The key to social media is being, well, social. Simply making an account and expecting leads to come rolling is the way a lot of people do it, and the next person it works for will be the first. If you went to a networking event and hid in the bathroom the whole time, you wouldn’t expect to meet a lot of people, so don’t do the digital equivalent either.
4. Don't Focus on the People in Procurement
Willie Sutton, the famous bank robber and original member of the FBI’s Most Wanted list, was once asked why he robbed banks, to which he reportedly answered “because that’s where the money is.” Far too many people take this approach when it comes to sales and marketing when they should be looking for an inside champion.
Procurement departments are often given checklists by the people who will use the product, detailing what to look for, what questions to ask, and sometimes even a general price range to expect. This isn’t to say that they don’t care about other factors, but knowing the intimate details of thousands of parts is asking too much of one person.
So, instead of hoping you fit a predetermined checklist, reach out to someone like a mechanical engineering supervisor or production manager that will actually use your product, that knows the details of the production inside and out, and that really cares about what makes you better than your competition and arm them with those details.
Not only are they going to be better able to see why they should go with you instead of someone else, even if they need to go through procurement, they’ll be able to draw up the specs in such a way that your shop is the clear winner.
5. Develop a Strong Outbound Sales Program
Now that you have a good sense of the jobs you want and the kind of people that have them, take their key characteristics and look for other businesses that fit the same pattern and let them know you’re eager to serve them.
There’s no shortcut here: Research companies, email the key people you’ve identified with your offer, and keep doing it as long as it takes. Show images of your work, provide testimonials from your best customers to stand out from the crowd — this is where having a familiar name from networking can be a huge help as well — and be ready to answer questions on short notice.
There is simply no replacement for good outbound sales. This doesn’t mean being spammy or using abrasive sales techniques, it means targeting the right people at the companies you can serve best. It will take some time for the program to pay dividends, but the hustle will be worth it when you’re growing and getting the kinds of jobs that make work satisfying and rewarding.
There is business to be won in 2022, but it isn’t likely to just fall into your lap. The shops that look back on 2022 as a year their business really took off will be the ones that make a focused plan and execute on it relentlessly. Starting on that plan now gives your shop the best chance of being among the winners this time next year.