Tool manufacturers face fierce competition. New products are created almost every day, and the changing needs of buyers means they have to regularly pivot to keep up with them.
Staying ahead of the competition is particularly hard, especially for established, traditional tool manufacturers who are used to old-fashioned marketing techniques and buyers who have been using the brand for years.
This is why innovation is so important. A new wave of millennial technicians and tool users requires manufacturers to switch up the way they do things, from their marketing techniques to product development and distribution.
These newer tool users are familiar with advanced technologies and regularly use diagnostics equipment. They know and love modern offerings, and are desperately looking for solutions that will make their jobs easier and save them time and money.
So how can tool manufacturers leverage groundbreaking ideas to expand their range of buyers and stay ahead of the competition?
Use Customer Trends to Drive Product Development
Your products are the core of your business. The demands of existing customers, as well as potential buyers, should fuel the kinds of products you offer.
For example, the switch to cordless power tools was a huge change for the manufacturing industry, but it was driven by the modern-day needs of tool users. They were specifically looking for solutions that were quick and easy to use.
Listen to what your customers are asking for and what’s trending in the tool world. This will guide you toward a product catalog full of solutions that people are actively looking for—not just what you think they want.
Innovation isn’t just related to the end product either.
The entire production process can be innovated to better align with customer desires. For example, incorporating energy saving, sustainable materials into the product design stages could reduce the requirements for non-renewable and hazardous materials that are difficult to source.
Align Marketing With the Needs of New Audiences
To attract new customers, tool manufacturers have to market their business. Traditional marketing may no longer work for millennial buyers, and there’s a growing divide between the old guard mechanics, construction workers, and manufacturers that tool companies have been marketing to for years and the new wave of technicians.
This was something high-end tool manufacturer Snap-on was quick to realize.
Research they carried out showed that their brand was becoming less relevant to younger, more progressive end users, and they needed to come up with new ways to target them if they wanted to attract and retain their business.
Elsewhere, new and inventive tool brands were popping up specifically for millennial technicians, which meant Snap-on was facing a time crunch to change the way they worked.
With the help of Elevation Marketing, the brand carried out on-site research to determine what this new breed of tool user was interested in and what they wanted from their tool supplier.
It quickly became clear that a lot of the traditional materials used were considered outdated.
Snap-on used this research and real-life feedback to incorporate materials that millennials considered cool, like carbon fiber and Kevlar. The traditional catalog of safety products was re-envisioned to reflect equipment featured in these users’ favorite activities, which included motocross, surfing and snowboarding.
Hone in On Key Steps in the Production Process
A key part of innovation is productivity.
For tool manufacturers, productivity means focusing energy only on products and processes that are needed and that provide value. Before innovation is considered in relation to the end product, manufacturers should take a look at their entire supply chain.
By identifying productive parts of the supply chain and optimizing those that are less productive, manufacturers can innovate the entire process from start to finish.
This will help generate value, minimize costs and increase operational stability. Usually, this means prioritizing four key stages of the production process:
- Product design
- Value recovery
- Supply chain management
Implement a Continuous Improvement Culture
Innovation isn’t a one-time thing. To consistently maintain a competitive edge, tool manufacturers must continue to innovate and strive to make regular improvements to all parts of their business.
Often known as operational excellence, this is the process of tracking and tweaking systems to consistently reduce operating costs, improve processes and work within a permanent culture of improvement.
It takes an entire team to innovate. A culture of improvement should foster growth in all employees throughout the production and supply chains. This means training team members in the principles, skills and tools of cutting-edge design and ideation through regular workshops, guides and mentoring sessions.
Embedding a company-wide improvement culture like this enhances the ability for tool manufacturers to discover insights, pinpoint new and exciting opportunities, and come up with novel business ideas.
It also helps to create a set of comprehensive metrics that are regularly measured to track the brand’s performance and its progress in embedding innovation as a core part of the business.
Don’t Fall Behind the Fierce Competition
Innovation is a crucial part of growth for tool manufacturers today. Without the skills and tools required to pivot and adapt to changing consumer wishes, brands will fall behind competitors that are taking the time to listen to what their buyers want.