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20 The PCB Magazine • December 2016 positive (or negative!) customer experience is often transferred as employees move from one company to another. But as companies mature and are challenged to grow beyond a regional customer base, an expanded marketplace visibil- ity is necessary. This challenge is compounded as component suppliers are most often building custom products and selling customized engi- neering. As such, the supply base needs to make customers aware of capabilities, which differs from marketing to an end user. This presents a unique challenge (i.e., how to make potential customers aware of your capabilities rather than the end product you supply). Getting capability and visibility out to the world of design engineers can be done in a wide variety of ways. Several examples include: • Advertising in online trade magazines (like The PCB Design Magazine) and on the Internet • Exhibiting at trade shows • Attending industry events and joining professional organizations • Paying Google for position rank • Using SEO strategies to rank highly for organic search • Utilizing an outside sales function. Most times this is in the form of a manufacturer's rep paid on commission • Contacting prospective customers with an inside sales function • Distributing literature (design guides, datasheets, etc.) and mailing out sales samples • Content marketing (non-commercial technical information that is highly useful to your target market, such as blogs, published articles, white papers, etc.) These methods are intended to make a com- pany highly visible, hopefully during the design phase of a new project. Since the sale is intend- ed to take advantage of a supplier's capabilities, the earlier the involvement the better value the supplier can provide. Selection Once the opportunity has been collected, a determination about engagement occurs. This section of the customer acquisition process of- ten begins with a request for quotation (RFQ) from a p otential customer. Vetting the oppor- tunity requires consideration of several metrics such as size of the project, size of the customer, potential for future business, engineering re- source requirement, and estimated profit margin. These are measures of the desirability of the busi- ness and are considered as part of the selection process. Creating a checklist with these factors is a common practice for determining pricing. The multiple dimensions represented by this infor- mation are considered as a supplier decides if and how to generate a quotation. The offer of a price per various quantities is the final method used to select a customer. Most printed circuit fabricators employ a staff of applications engineers who are tasked with completing the selection function. This is truly the 'point of the arrow' as they try to balance customer needs and supplier capabil - ity. The applications engineering group is chal- lenged to have one foot in the factory and one foot representing the customer . Determining the Goldilocks ("just right") price means the suppli- er realizes a reasonable profit and the customer is pleased with the value received. Execution The execution phase describes how the project is managed after the customer's order is received. On time delivery and cycle time are key metrics during the execution phase. Sup- pliers that can consistently meet expectations will enjoy new part number opportunities. In the world of flexible circuitry, job set-up and CAD get the part ready for production and the operations team schedules and builds the part. Although building the initial prototype parts is often not considered part of the sales organi- zation, success at this phase can certainly have a lot to do with customer acquisition. Making the sale and prematurely assuming program re- sponsibility has been successfully transferred to operations is often a recipe for failure. Owner- ship of a project is best retained with a sales/ap- plications engineer at least until the initial parts are delivered successfully. In a world of time- based competition, fabricators focused on cycle time reduction are in step with customer's basic requirements. CUSTOMER ACQUISITION

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