In the last article you were encouraged to make a flow chart of the various marketing methods or strategies deployed by your company. A flow chart provides a visual reference for identifying continuous improvement opportunities and for applying Extreme 5S thinking. If you are uncertain how to construct a flow chart, refer to the last article for guidance and direction.
Once the flow chart is complete the continuous improvement team can begin to apply Extreme 5S thinking by Sorting value-adding steps from non value-adding steps with the objective of eliminating the ones that consume resources but don’t add value. There may also be value-adding steps that can be improved to be more user-friendly or less cumbersome and thus enhance the customer’s experience. From a global perspective, the team can review all of the marketing strategies to determine which ones are accomplishing their intended objective and which ones have run their course and are no longer effective.
This is a critical first step that ensures the team isn’t spending time in areas that won’t have a positive effect on the end results of the 5S process. The team will need to have access to data regarding the motivation for a customer’s selection of your company’s products or services. If that data is not being captured the team will have to rely on insider’s interpolation of feedback from the field and their perceptions of how current strategies are working. The latter means of data collection is not the most desired and may lead to flawed conclusions. Developing a means of capturing that data for future use is highly recommended.
Make sure the flow chart captures all of the interactions and communications that take place in the internal and external customer/supplier relationships. Once non value-adding steps have been pared from the process the team can Set-in-Order those that have been deemed necessary for achieving consistency and continuity in deploying a successful marketing strategy.
Analyzing the interactions of internal customers and suppliers will help the team Set-in-Order the layout of workstations and supporting equipment to eliminate or minimize a number of the Seven Deadly Wastes. As with any 5S implementation, the Set-in-Order phase is predicated on ensuring that those things that a person interacts with most often are closest to the point of use and those that are used infrequently can be farther away. The same criteria are applied to interactions between people as well. For example, excellent customer service should be part of any good marketing plan. Providing excellent customer service requires that representatives have the ability to access accurate and up-to-date information quickly and to also have ready access to decision-makers if necessary. The proximity of customer service representatives and other marketing personnel to the things and people they access most is a key to achieving world-class status in customer relations.
Review value-adding tasks
A thorough review of all of the value-adding tasks will help the team Shine the ones that may be outdated or in need of editing for clarity and better understanding. For instance, part of my marketing plan for soliciting a potential client includes a review of the targeted company’s website. I often find errors that make me curious how often the website administrator proofreads the material or updates images and video. I also wonder if any member of the executive team periodically checks the site to keep it new, interesting, informative, and complete. What perception is your website leaving potential customers with?
Sometimes websites have video or pictures of the manufacturing process that are especially interesting and revealing to me because I look for things that other people might not recognize such as waste, clutter, disconnected processes, excessive WIP, and other indicators of a need for lean thinking. Even though that may seem odd to the ordinary viewer, a number of your potential customers might view your company’s site in a similar way. The attributes I look for can be considered indicators of the quality of output that the customer could expect to receive. If a manager isn’t paying attention to how the company is represented on the World Wide Web, is s/he paying attention to how the company is represented in their output of goods or services?
Take time to Shine the site and other marketing materials so the best image is being presented to the customer. If your site has an interactive ordering option the team should conduct a test to see how user-friendly the process is and whether that too needs to be included in the Shine phase.
As I was preparing this article, the CEO of a cabinet manufacturing company in Florida sent me a copy of his year-end State of the Company report. I will share some of his Standardization comments regarding the company’s marketing strategy. Note the references to establishing consistency and continuity throughout the sales organization which are necessary in order to Standardize good sales and marketing practices. In his words:
"Let’s examine our process from the first contact of our potential client to the final official visit from our sales and/or service staff, where we hopefully have a very pleased customer. But even beyond that to lifetime service.
"Many of our clients have personally seen our product in friends’ homes, and that prompts a call to us. Increasingly, however, clients are discovering us through the internet and by browsing our website. Often if a website is not user friendly, or out of date, a potential client will surmise that is likely the condition of our entire company.
"When the first call comes in, hopefully they are greeted by a friendly voice that seems genuinely interested in helping. Each of our potential phone greeters should be educated in the use of the potential client interview sheet we have, not just our receptionist.
"Next, the client arranges a meeting with our one of our sales staff. Usually this meeting is in one of our showrooms, but could also be in their home.
"Our most successful sales staff individuals demonstrate to our client that they are in fact someone who can give them exactly what they want, how they want it, when they want it, all at an acceptable price. This salesperson is adept at walking the client through the process early on so the client knows exactly what to expect. It is made clear from the start what their responsibilities are, and how the salesperson will assist them. The best salespeople make it evident that they are their agent to get the best [our company] has to offer.
In all our showrooms clients are able to see enough of a variety of product on display to be convinced of our quality. Comfortable meeting spaces offer our sales staff and clients a good environment for this sometimes lengthy process. In our showrooms our clients are able to clearly discover what finishes and doors styles we offer, and be able to take samples with them. This is an important marketing tool for the sales staff.
Manufacturing is constantly looking at our finishes, door styles, moldings, and architectural features to determine if we are staying ahead of the curve in this “fashion” industry. We strongly encourage sales to be a part of this. Creating a clear path for sales on how they can be involved in this process is something we will be continually improving upon.
"Nearly all of our clients know they are buying a quality product from us, what you must show is that you are very capable of creating the design of their dreams. I feel that it may be a good idea for each salesperson to have some sort of a personal portfolio. Something that shows what you have done in the past. A combination of hand drawings, cad drawings and finished photos in your personal portfolio would be advisable. Early in the process selling yourself to the client is of paramount importance.
"I suggest using our design survey forms more than we currently do, every time I give these to a client it is obvious they appreciate the intent. Take notes at length, I have found if you miss a detail in a follow up meeting, you lose a great deal of the client’s confidence. Be professional, have a meeting agenda prepared, and hand out copies at the beginning of the meeting."
To Sustain a good marketing strategy into the foreseeable future requires that business owners and sales managers regularly review the previous Sort, Set-in-Order, Shine, and Standardize steps. Marketing to a continually evolving customer base is not a one-time event. Only companies managed by visionary executives who routinely employ Extreme 5S thinking throughout the entire enterprise will remain competitive in the ever flattening global marketplace.
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