As a manufacturer, what is on your menu?
What is your specialty? You know, your signature dish.
In other words, what are you known for that customers eagerly line up to get a taste?
For many manufacturers, this may come as a loaded question.
As you explore and consider Manufacturing eCommerce Strategies, defining your menu plays a critical role.
Especially for custom manufacturers that do not offer or possess a proprietary product.
Typically a custom manufacturer promotes its capabilities and services available.
They describe their facility, machinery, equipment, skills, experience, and talent.
However, they commonly find themselves treading into unchartered water when contacted by a new potential customer.
A customer submits a Request-for-Quote (RFQ) for a project that just doesn’t fit their business formula or “menu”.
Yet, how can you say No to a new prospective customer?
So you find yourself exhausting time and energy into a project that is not your “specialty dish”.
Most likely having been there before (I sure have), you know this can actually hurt your business and reputation.
Especially, when you are just starting out in business, there is a tendency to take on any business that comes your way.
Also, when a business plateaus or becomes stagnant is another scenario where businesses drift into unchartered water.
Accept any order. Keep cash flowing. Grab any sale to help cover overhead. Try to keep machines running and people working.
Even if the new order or customer takes you in an “out-of-the-way direction”. Off to a foreign land.
That is how you grow your business, right? By diversifying.
However, that’s what I always thought until I realized being too diversified is not a strength.
Related Article: “I’M DIVERSIFIED!” No, Actually You’re Doing Five Things Horribly
Manufacturer Playing Restaurateur
So if you are a manufacturer, let’s do an exercise.
Think about your business as a restaurant.
So what is on your menu?
Do you have a limited offering?
For example, do you offer just a few select items that you hit out of the park every day?
On the other hand, do you have a vast menu that includes a huge selection? Something for everyone?
Similar to a ubiquitous New Jersey diner with pages and pages of options that includes hundreds of items. (how on earth do these diner’s keep so much in inventory?)
Anyway, as you consider a plunge into eCommerce, is it better to offer a little bit of everything?
Something for everyone. Hoping that by luck or happenstance that someone stumbles on your website to view your broad inventory selection and makes a purchase.
Otherwise, would you achieve your goals quicker by focusing on your “signature dish”?
My suggestion and recommendation: Focus on what you are absolutely best at and give it everything you’ve got.
Let’s dig deeper.
Related Article: Two Options for Custom Manufacturers Implementing eCommerce
Your Favorite Lunch Spot
Do you have a favorite local lunch spot that offers just a handful of items?
Where they focus on their specialty or Bread & Butter (sorry I couldn’t help myself).
A gem that locals rant and rave about.
The restaurant that ex-pats must hit every time when they visit home for a holiday.
The place where Mom will send you a jar of their special sauce just to provide a taste from your favorite restaurant back home.
Every city seems to have one. The restaurant that represents the local flavor.
The place that leaves you with an amazing experience. Tourists travel miles just to get a taste of their deliciousness.
In some cases, the “hole in the wall” or local dive becomes so successful that they even scale and expand.
You know the type.
Something that you would see on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives with Guy Fieri pulling up to in his convertible.
The key to success for these incredible dining establishments?
A laser focus on delivering high value. An amazing food experience.
Think of some of the local favorites that find national recognition.
Here are a few that come to mind:
- If you are from Philly, Pat’s Steaks fits the bill (Sorry Geno’s).
- Chicken Wings at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo.
- The “Almost Famous” Sandwich at Primanti Brothers in Pittsburgh.
- Vodoo Doughnut in Portland, Oregon
As your mouth is probably watering right now, you most likely have several places in mind.
You know the type. A restaurant that just “kills it” every day with their signature dish.
Related Article: A Minimum Viable Product Helps You “Get in the Game”
Pat’s King of Steaks
So, let’s zero-in on what are you absolutely best at.
For example, let’s take a look at Pat’s Cheesesteaks in Philadelphia.
Actually, their trademarked name is “Pat’s King of Steaks”.
Additionally, the company domain name is PatsKingofSteaks.com (https://www.patskingofsteaks.com/).
This is how they brand themselves, as the world’s authority of cheesesteaks.
If Pat’s in Philly is the “King of Steaks”, does it make sense to start selling chicken wings or pizza for the sake to diversify?
Pat’s has a system. It doesn’t matter if it is the middle of January with temperatures below freezing.
You will still find a long line of raving fans lined up waiting for the best cheesesteak of their lives.
However, the line moves quickly.
Once you find yourself at the “gates of heaven” for your cheesesteak, a handful of deliciousness is yours in just a matter of moments.
Pat’s is laser focused on what they do best.
They are fast and efficient.
They take advantage of economies of scale by selling a high volume with a limited menu.
Pat’s delivers incredible value as well as superior quality.
I am fully aware that locals may disagree with me and say Pat’s is strictly for tourists and there are better cheesesteak options (my college roommate reminds of this every time I visit him).
However, since I am a tourist when visiting Philly, I have stuck with Pat’s for over 35 years and they have never failed me yet.
Heavenly each and every time!
By the way, when you visit, make sure you are ready to order your cheesesteak “wit or wit-out”.
What is Your Cheesesteak?
How can you create an environment where customers line up for your product?
Can you narrow your menu down to a handful of items?
Does your business model allow you to put everything in your corner to be the best at that particular product?
Build the highest quality?
Deliver the best value?
Offer the most competitive price? (Note: not necessarily the cheapest)
Within your market, is there a particular item, product or process that you have built a unique opportunity?
Efficiency expert, Max Krug calls it, capturing your “Decisive Competitive Advantage”.
What needs to be done to separate yourself from the competition?
Can you start buying raw material, components or parts in larger quantities to lower the cost of goods?
Does the opportunity exist with acquiring specialized knowledge through training?
Can you and your staff gain certification to become recognized experts?
Is there equipment and machinery available that drastically improves efficiency, quality and lead times?
Related Article: 3 Step Approach To Scaling eCommerce for Manufacturers
eCommerce Helps Narrow Your Menu
Let’s say you have every asset in your corner to become that “specialty” restaurant with the killer signature dish.
Now how do you market yourself?
Could eCommerce be your savior?
Offer your signature dish and limited menu on an eCommerce store.
Attack your keywords to let the market aware that there is no competitor that equals your level of efficiency and quality.
Allow the customer to view the product details on your eCommerce store.
In addition, consider offering the opportunity where they can custom build their own product.
As a custom manufacturer, you always wait or hope that a customer contacts you to make the product that you are known for.
Either through word-of-mouth or with a sales rep.
With eCommerce, you now can offer your limited menu on an international basis. 24/7.
eCommerce is an extremely inexpensive way to explore, connect and find new customers.
Additionally, utilize eCommerce as your R&D to help determine what customers are seeking.
With eCommerce, find the markets and customers that are searching for solutions to the problems you solve.
Discover cracks in the market that you can exploit.
Broadcast the processes and products that you offer.
Especially for that customer who can’t find these solutions elsewhere. Not domestically. Not overseas from a cheap labor country. From you!
If you find eCommerce or technology daunting, let’s break through these concerns.
eCommerce is simply a new revenue source for you.
Start small. Try a limited menu. Get your feet wet.
Choose the few items that you find yourself as a master chef.
Once you select your products to launch, contact your web designer to share your thoughts and vision.
Ask them how can you enter this venture as inexpensively and effectively as possible.
Then, go for it!
Related Article: eCommerce Checklist: Manufacturing eCommerce Strategies
Wrapping It Up
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