By Matt Stefanski, KLH Industries, Inc., www.klhindustries.com
Manufacturing for the aerospace industry is not an easy task. Parts and components that end up in the sky are full of complexities, including ultra-precise tolerances, exotic materials and tight schedules. All of which can lead to very expensive mistakes that the customer will not pay for.
In the aerospace world, it's about risk management. The big name companies minimize their risk by requiring documentation that details where the materials come from, what machining processes are used and who managed the project. Risk management ensures parts are to print and schedules are met. Without risk management, aerospace is a frightening industry, especially if you're a frequent flyer.
Cultivating leads and nurturing customers in the industry can also present itself with some frightening challenges. Take your time in properly researching companies that you believe your shop will be a good fit with. Be detailed and specific about your services and capabilities as you develop your marketing plan. Qualify your newly gathered leads in a preferred Customer Relationship Management System (CRM). If you do not have an organized CRM tool, I suggest you look into an add-on for your current system that will allow you to become more organized in your marketing efforts.
Aerospace companies can be intimidating while trying to present your company's services. You will be one of many companies trying to earn a spot on their supplier list. The good thing is if your shop has the capabilities, certifications and willingness to run with these types of companies then the first obstacle has already been overcome. When qualifying leads in the aerospace industry you will want to make sure that the company is in good financial standing, has good communication with their suppliers and is in need of the parts that you are capable of manufacturing. It is important that you have qualified leads to work with as you could spend a lot of wasted time trying to fit in somewhere where you are not needed.
Developing a Marketing Strategy
Let your company be seen. You will want to look into advertising, sales literature and most importantly develop a plan of attack once you have a database of qualified leads. Marketing to these companies will determine your success in landing work. From personal experience, aerospace buyers do not have a lot of time on their hands and are typically in search of a shop that can meet crucial deadlines while not sacrificing quality.
I also recommend using social media and other networks to get your brand across. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and those of the like are very effective tools that allow you to become more noticeable without digging too deep into your budget. Get creative and test different strategies that drive results. Make sure to track your findings so that you can replicate success and eliminate less desirable results.
Institute a CRM system
You can't measure success unless you can prove it. Which is why most companies have some variation of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to help answer the difficult questions. Can you currently track what month's gross sales are either up or down? Do you know what your sales pipeline looks like? Do you know how many new RFQ's your company has received last week, last month, in the last ten years? How about the number of quotes sent? All of these results can be tracked and analyzed given the right tools.
Organization of a CRM is just as important as having one. Given clear and organized data you would be able to project sales, run email and/or fax marketing campaigns, sort and categorize customers and prevent communication problems. In the aerospace industry you must have a system that clearly identifies even the minute details, including shipping method, packaging requirements and quality procedures.
I encourage you to become involved in as much marketing related activity as possible. There are numerous sources out there that provide free webinars and workshops that help gain insight on best marketing techniques in the aerospace industry. Also, if you have the time and devotion, continuously check out the large aerospace company's websites. Boeing, NASA, Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics are always publishing useful articles that can help you keep up with industry standards and best practices.