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Stop Pestering Your Customers About China

During this month’s Marketing and Selling of Castings Conference presented by the American Foundry Society, metalcasters had the opportunity to hear what casting customers want from their suppliers. After the presentations from the end-users, which typically were overviews of the customer’s markets, attendees could ask the speakers direct questions about what they wanted from their casting suppliers.

The speakers were pretty forthcoming about what they wanted out of a metalcaster—better lead times, lean manufacturing principles, minimal to zero defects rate and a good safety record. And most of the attendees’ questions were smart and forward-thinking.

But one question popped up on several occasions. Attendees asked, “Are you outsourcing?” followed by a question on whether the end-users were seeing castings sent to China or India coming back to the U.S.

They weren’t bad questions to ask, but in the context of the conference, they were bummer questions that signified a backwards way of looking at marketing North American castings. 

It is probably true that many companies sourcing castings overseas have learned that the money they thought they would be saving is not as much as hoped. But it is also probably true that the  majority of those castings still are not coming back. It’s time to accept the losses and focus marketing efforts on winning highly engineered and specialty jobs and keeping your current customers from moving anything else overseas.

Doing so will take more than attempting to fish out anecdotal proof from end-users that they have tried the low-cost country thing, failed and are returning jobs to North America.

Watching jobs leave the country knowing they won’t be made as well or for as cheap as expected is frustrating, but if you aren’t looking past that hurt, you’re standing in quicksand.

Suppliers don’t want to hear what’s *so awful* about China; they want to hear what you can do to improve their bottom line. Show them how you can save them money through value-added services and better customer service. Prove that you can and will deliver parts on time. Consider partnering with a Chinese metalcaster to become a one-source supplier. 

When a prospective customer is faced with a choice of two U.S. metalcasters—one whose sales pitch goes over the downfalls of sourcing overseas and the other whose sales pitch outlines how the metalcaster can answer the customer’s specific quality and cost challenges—who do you think will get the job?