Part 2 of the “State of the Mill Industry” series
The lead-to-cash business scenario may be one of the most critical functions for mill products operations, but it is often oversimplified into three primary steps: brand promotion, order taking, and payment processing. Subscribing to this mindset misses the whole point of what customers expect from their experience – increasingly dynamic and personalized relationships, not just another product.
Let’s face it – ordering a $20 Buzz Lightyear toy from Amazon is infinitely more convenient, intuitive, transparent, and rapid than procuring a $10,000 steel beam. But guess what? Mill products customers demand that Buzz Lightyear kind of transaction.
Now, this doesn’t mean that they have to compete with Amazon-like experiences that provide personalized recommendations, same-day shipping, and transparent delivery processes. The real advantage is found in becoming a one-stop shop for consumers, distributors, retailers, and contractors. And every participant in the lead-to-cash process – from marketing and sales to fulfillment, logistics, customer service, and finance – plays a critical role in this new reality.
Connected lead-to-cash insights drive better customer experiences
For most businesses, fulfilling a range of customer requests means creating a nearly infinite number of variations of a product. While we wouldn’t say that brands are customizing their orders every time, this strategy is undoubtedly complex and requires fast action based on a challenging workflow.
Unfortunately, the overall industry does not have the infrastructure to take on such a tremendous growth opportunity. For the most part, businesses are struggling to capitalize on emerging market trends, support omnichannel marketing seamlessly, and incorporate their entire ecosystem in planning processes.
Mill products companies that do successfully deliver this much-desired customer experience are positioned to achieve considerable revenue gains. They can formulate the exact and appropriate product configuration and pass it through the supply chain and manufacturing process to get the right end product expeditiously. This approach allows brands to not only integrate themselves into their customers’ value chain, but also predict emerging requirements; anticipate demand; and ultimately, create interactions that delight, deliver outcomes, and encourage long-term loyalty.
This new perspective on the customer experience evolves best with intelligent technology that informs suggestive selling, new levels of intimacy, and flexible product structures. Access to good, trusted data about customers at a fairly granular level can help decision-makers understand what’s going on in the background of interactions and transactions. With these insights, brands can engage customers while empathizing with their challenges and connecting the dots to offer the right product.
For example, a steel supplier that serves wholesale distributors can use this model to upsell or cross-sell with related products or upgrades. By using an intelligent sales suite that ties together data from marketing, sales, inventory, supply chain, and customer service systems to target customers that fit a particular profile, the company can determine the grand and add-ons those customers most likely will purchase.
Mill products business can even take a boutique-like approach, selling customized and personalized products at a premium and then passing that higher margin down through the supply chain. The production process is fast, and logistics can ensure the order will be delivered by a particular date – all of which meet customer expectations.
Intelligent customer experiences future-proof mill products businesses
One of the greatest dangers mill product companies face is the inability to ingrain themselves into their customers’ processes.
Consider suppliers that are offering light fabrication in addition to producing metal blocks. By owning the inventory and throwing scrap or unused product into the furnace to re-melt and repurpose it, they can promise lower costs, faster delivery times, and no-waste production practices. But traditional fabricators cannot provide the same benefits because their operational setup forces them to consume loss from scrap and over-produced inventory.
The ability to solve problems with empathy makes brands an indispensable part of the customers’ value chain. And the more enmeshed and collaborative both parties become, the more secure the relationship and the more protected they are from their competition.
For more insight on how the right data strategy can drive business growth, see 3 Ways Analytics Can Drive Better Customer Experiences.