By Mario Winterstein, International Business Development Group Inc. April 2, 2020
Right now, no matter where in the world you do business, the most important thing you can do is stay close to your customers, partners, suppliers, representatives, distributors, and service providers. Below, we have listed ways to keep you engaged with them. Remember: all crises create opportunities. While not all recommendations will apply to you, pursuing one or more may net you unexpected, positive results.
1. Create a message that shows you care and want to find ways to jointly address the downturn.
Collaboration. Consider working with competitors to complement each other’s offerings and provide value to your common customers.
Integration. Look differently at your market segment’s supply chain and expand your services. This may mean creating new (temporary?) partnerships with suppliers and customers to provide a wider range of services.
Open access. Share non-proprietary knowledge with customers. While you may not see immediate financial results, customers will remember who supported them through meager times.
Communications. Make sure you keep in constant contact with all stakeholders so that new ideas are not lost.
2. Create domestic and international sales contingency plans.
“A plan by itself is nothing; planning is everything.”
Contact all of your best customers – the 20% that represent 80% of your revenue.
Find out what they need to bridge the downturn and continue buying your products.
Get input from your salesforce about unconventional methods they feel could work while maintaining afloat.
3. Work with your distributors and brainstorm ways to keep business flowing. Find out what is happening in their territory that may create opportunities unique to their location.
4. Seek new applications for your products:
Assess your manufacturing technology equipment, tools, etc. and make a list of products used to address the COVID-19 pandemic that you could help support or build.
Medical equipment, safety gear, and more are being manufactured by both conventional companies for these products (Johnson & Johnson, Honeywell, 3M, GE, etc.) and unconventional ones (GM, Ford, FCA, Boeing, etc.). Make sure they and their suppliers have what they need.
Companies around the world are supplying their region with the same equipment. Make sure your international representatives build lists of potential customers working on these types of equipment.
Several industries are actively pursuing opportunities in these emergency products: 3D-printed masks; die and mold for medical plastic parts; safety packaging products; mechanical parts for respirators; and more.
For lists of COVID-19 equipment manufacturers and suppliers, see the Resource Hub published by Thomas Net: https://blog.thomasnet.com/covid-19-response
Transform your operation. In Brazil, several sugarcane alcohol producers that normally produce ethanol fuel or liquor are converting their production to produce hand sanitizers. The same is happening at Oakland Spirits in California.
5. Replace imported products with your products.
All of a sudden, the supply chain is upside down. Lower-cost products from abroad may no longer be your competitor.
Find and supply key qualified products that are usually imported but are now difficult to obtain.
All these ideas and more may be further discussed by contacting AMT staff in the United States or the AMT Tech Centers in Shanghai, Chennai, Monterrey, Sao Paulo, and Warsaw.