There is an old Chinese proverb that advises, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

The same could be said about diversifying your customer base. The best time to do so is some point in the past, but the second best time is right now.

A friend of mine learned this lesson the hard way. He worked for, and then bought, an established machine shop from an owner who was looking to retire.  The business was profitable, had talented and loyal employees, and a decades’ long relationship with a prestigious OEM that provided the majority of its work.  The present and foreseeable future looked bright.

But within a year of taking over, the OEM decided to consolidate operations out of state, which meant my friend’s business was in jeopardy.

I am sure many of you know people who have gone through something similar, or have experienced it yourself.

Finding new markets and customers is a desirable goal for most manufacturers. Being overly reliant on one or a small number of clients can lead to a bumpy road in demand and delivery.  In contrast, working with a steady but expanding number of customers and markets can help stabilize earnings and lead to growth, innovation, and production efficiencies.

But finding new markets and customers is a challenging task for most small and medium- size manufacturers. The WMEP, working together with the Wisconsin Innovation Service Center (WISC) and Ady Voltedge, a Madison firm that provides strategic business strategies, has put together a surprisingly affordable new program that helps manufacturers achieve their customer diversification goals.

Our free November Lunch N Learn program will focus on sharing the key steps to successful customer diversification programs.

WMEP Senior Manufacturing Specialist Joe Brown will talk about readiness for customer diversification and will help you identify the key factors to make your diversification program a success.  WISC Executive Director, “Bud” Gayhart, will share the key steps needed to identify target industries, markets and prospects, and evaluate their potential for your organization.  Janet Ady, President of Ady Voltedge, will then discuss the steps required in putting together a successful “go-to-market” strategy to turn the identified leads into customers.

To learn more, please join us at one of our Lunch N Learn programs in Appleton on Nov. 12 or Pewaukee on Nov. 13, or contact WMEP Manufacturing Specialist Joe Brown for more information.

John Stampen, Director of Marketing, WMEP