Flex Talk: Invited Guests to the Party

Hanging on the wall in my office is this quote from Jeff Bezos: “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”

For this column, following the theme of “Who is my customer?”, I am going to use this quote to explain my thoughts on how we define who our customers are and how we interact with our customers. I am sure the people that know me well and have attended one of our Geek-A-Palooza events are shaking their heads and thinking, “Of course she is going to talk about a party!”

Invited Guests

Isn’t it interesting to think of our customers as invited guests? As someone in PCB sales, I have a quick answer to the question “Who is my customer?” My reply is anyone who is using printed circuit boards.

From there it is traditional to break that down by industry sector, or company size, or technology. Once that scope is narrowed down, marketing and sales craft their message to best reach those defined segments. Sales people identify a list of target companies, find prospects at those companies, and work hard to differentiate their technology or services to purchasers of printed circuit boards.

But what if “who is my customer?” was broken down using the criteria/framework of invited guest? Wouldn’t this change the traditional model of salesperson trying to win over the prospect to one of two people, or two companies, working together in a mutually beneficial relationship? While we are ruminating over this, lets expand the definition of customer to people that can influence the customer’s decisions and expand our guest list and invite them to the party also.

When you plan an event, whom do you invite? People whom you enjoy being around, people whom you trust, people whom you respect? And in our industry, isn’t that who you would want to buy from and sell to? I cannot think of one customer whom I would not “invite to the party.” I don’t know if it has been a conscious or subconscious effort, but my customers are people I truly enjoy working with. There is mutual respect and trust between us.

Working with custom products that often push the limits of technology, we are always going to have difficulties and issues that come up, but working with people whom you like, trust and respect goes a long way to resolving those issues quickly and easily.

Instead of targeting customers based on industry sector, company size or technology, what if we targeted potential customers based on how they like to do business and how they fit in with how we like to do business? Some customers like detailed negotiations, and salespeople who thrive on negotiating price and terms. Some customers don’t spend time on those details and want to work with someone they can trust to run with the program and handle the details; there are salespeople who prefer being a trusted resource and not having to negotiate all the finer points. There are customers who view business transaction ally, and suppliers who do the same. There are customers who build long-term relationships, and suppliers who see beyond short-term /issues and operate with the long-term goals in mind.

Hosting a Party

The host of a party is ultimately responsible for making sure that their guests are enjoying themselves. Isn’t that what we want for our customers too? We want them to have a favorable, positive experience and do business with us again. Have you ever hosted a party hoping your guests would think it was average? Of course not!

Have you ever used a football party as a reason to go get that big-screen TV? How about serving your guests fancy hors d’oeuvres butler-style instead of a traditional buffet? Maybe have live music at the party as a treat when people aren’t expecting it? For all of you GeekA-Palooza attendees, how about the ring toss as an unexpected party game? Aren’t these added touches similar to the added value services we like to provide to our customers? Do the added-value services we provide add to the overall customer experience? How can we do better?

In the PCB industry, how do we ensure our customers have an unexpectedly positive experience? It is very easy to focus on product, but for this discussion, let’s take that out of the equation and assume that high-quality product is delivered on time. What are the other intangible things that are important to our customers that could make their job a little easier and provide a chance to really wow them?

The success of any event lies in the details. Do we take enough time to dig into the details with our customers? What are the different touchpoints that our customers have with us? What is important to them? What is the message that we send? Do we make it easy for our customers to share the things that are important to them? Do we put the same level of thought and planning into our customers’ experience that we would into hosting and planning an event?

Isn’t our marketing program similar to inviting them to the party? All our communication, from advertising to our website, to customer service, should be consistent and engaging, exactly like an event invitation would be. Working in an industry that manufactures custom products, we naturally place the focus on the product and technology. But, we can’t forget the people and that business is built by people interacting with each other. The next time your customer places an order will they experience “the beer is in the fridge, help yourself, I’ll be on the couch watching the game” or will they have an unexpectedly positive experience that they talk about for days to come?

Tara Dunn is the president of Omni PCB, a manufacturer’s rep firm specializing in the printed circuit board industry. To read past columns, or to contact Dunn, click here.

To read the February 2018 issue of The PCB Magazine, click here.

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2018

Flex Talk: Invited Guests to the Party

04-16-2018

Hanging on the wall in my office is this quote from Jeff Bezos: “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”

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2017

FlexFactor: Faith in the Future

11-27-2017

Take just a minute and read through this list of new product ideas. Can you identify the common thread? Yes, they are all enabled by advanced technology, but would you believe that these products were all pitched in the last year by high school students?

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Flex Talk: The Man Behind the Curtain

10-03-2017

“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” This famous quote from The Wizard of Oz conjures up the image of Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow discovering that the great Wizard of Oz isn’t as grand or as magical as he seems.

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Flex Talk: Knowledge is Power

08-31-2017

“What can I do to help drive cost from my design?” This is a question that I am asked routinely. That question is often followed by, “Can I get these faster?” Both questions are even more predominant when talking about flexible circuits or rigid-flex.

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Flex Talk: Mina—Trouble-Free Soldering to Aluminum

06-22-2017

Thinking about the RFID market and the significant growth projected in this market, I decided to do a little research on RFID tag manufacturing. During this research, I learned of a relatively new offering, Mina, an advanced surface treatment technology that addresses the common constraints of large scale manufacturing of aluminum on polyester (Al-PET) circuits.

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Flex Talk: Squink—Integrating Fabrication and Assembly in one Package

05-01-2017

When walking through trade show expos, I tend to be drawn into product demonstrations on the show floor. Recently, at the IPC APEX EXPO, I stopped in front of a piece of desktop printing equipment that was demonstrating with a flexible circuit.

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Flex Talk: Flex Material Handling—An Inside Peek

04-03-2017

As increasingly more designs move to flexible materials to take advantage of space, weight or packaging benefits, it has been clear that flexible circuits require a different set of rules than their rigid counterparts. We spend substantial time working through the design to ensure that he flex is as robust as possible.

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Flex Talk: Final Surface Finish—How Do You Choose?

01-26-2017

There are so many final surface finish options to choose from today. How do you decide which is best? HASL—both tin-lead and lead-free—immersion tin, immersion silver, ENIG, OSP, and ENIPIG are the primary finishes used in PCB fabrication.

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2016

Flex Talk: A Glimpse into PCB Sales

12-28-2016

Summarizing the feedback from both customers and manufacturers, the most successful PCB salespeople are organized, take a genuine interest in their customers’ needs and business challenges, have a better than average understanding of the PCB industry, fully understand the manufacturer’s strengths and capabilities and advocate for both to find the best solution.

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Flex Talk: Troubleshooting Flex Circuit Applications for Mil/Aero Projects

10-06-2016

I imagine that everyone has been in this position at one time or another: Despite everyone’s best attempt at creating the perfect design, PCB fabrication and assembly, something goes wrong and the troubleshooting begins.

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Flex Talk: Inaugural West Coast Geek-A-Palooza a Fun-filled Success

05-24-2016

Geek-A-Palooza kicked off the 2016 schedule May 12 in Irvine, California. Historically, Geek-A-Palooza has been held in Minneapolis but is expanding this year to include Orange County and Boston as well.

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Flex Talk: PCB Sourcing? One Size Does Not Fit All

04-18-2016

When analyzing a set of PCBs to improve yields and maximize profits, the first place to start is with a critical review of each PCB design. Are there any attributes that are pushing your manufacturer’s standard design rules? If so, is this necessary to the design or is there another approach that could improve the manufacturer’s yields, reduce cost, and ultimately increase profit?

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2015

Flex Talk: Thoughts on the IPC Flexible Circuits–HDI Forum

11-19-2015

As an attendee at the IPC Flexible Circuits–HDI Conference held October 28–30, I found myself in a room of people, all eager for technical information, with the opportunity to reconnect with industry friends and to make new connections. The audience was diverse with young people, new to our industry, sitting alongside industry veterans willingly sharing their knowledge and passion for HDI design and flexible circuit technology.

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Designing Flex Circuits for Domestic Prototyping

08-20-2015

Designing a flex circuit to be prototyped domestically? No problem. Designing a rigid-flex circuit for production offshore? Got it. Designing a part that will be prototyped domestically with a seamless transition to offshore production? That can be a little more challenging.

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Rigid Flex: Total Cost Comparison

07-09-2015

The transition to a rigid-flex design from the traditional approach of using cable assemblies to join two or more PCBs has obvious benefits—space, weight, packaging, reliability and increased currently carrying capabilities. Yet many times the perception that rigid-flex is a high-cost solution causes designers and engineers to hesitate.

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Primary Cost Drivers for Flex Circuit Designs

06-25-2015

Someone once told me that the potential applications for flexible circuits are really only limited by our imaginations. After pondering that a bit, I had to agree. In fact, one of the things I like best about what I do is that moment during a discussion when I can see the light bulb go off in a designer's head.

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The Flex-to-Fit Approach

06-04-2015

The flex-to-fit concept reminds us that creativity and engineering go hand-in-hand. When there is not ample space for a conventional approach, this process, which is the convergence of the mechanical world and the electronics world, results in the ability to design a flexible circuit along the contour of an existing, irregularly shaped structure.

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