Lean Process of Marketing to Toyota

I have to preface this saying that this is pure conjecture on how to sell to Toyota. I have no product or client at this time considering doing this. If you do have a product or service that would like to try this approach, please feel free to contact me. My door is open.

I would like to thank co-authors Jeffrey Liker and David Meir, co-authors of The Toyota Way Fieldbook where this material was derived from. The co-authors discussed the Supplier Partnering Hierarchy of Toyota that consisted of 7 steps:

One of the first steps in Lean Marketing is to understand the customers buying process. Mapping this out and detail and defining the resources, people, budget and marketing collateral to match each of these steps is imperative. This exercise can save you a tremendous amount of time and money in just determining if you are ready to attempt this undertaking. Selling to a company like Toyota could be a complete marketing channel in itself.

Toyota’s first step in the process is Mutual Understanding. They base this on the key elements of trust, mutual prosperity, respect for each others capability and Genchi gembutsu (actual part, actual place). Till we achieve this in our sales and marketing efforts there is little reason to proceed. We will stay in that first iterative PDCA loop till we achieve their respect and they invite us to the next step, interlocking structures.

Our sales and marketing efforts should go through the planning, do, check and act stages to achieve each of the key elements as defined. In the act stage we will arrive at a control to see if they are indications that Toyota is interested in initiating discussion about an alliance structure, interdependent processes and parallel sourcing. If there is no interest we must continue our efforts in another cycle of gaining mutual understanding. At some point and time, such as Seth Godin discussed in The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick) , you must decide to quit or continue on.

I hate to make it sound this simple. Of course understanding what Toyota means by trust may not be. But I think you would be surprised that it really is not that difficult as long as you do not get the cart ahead of the horse. The authors go on to lay out this chart describing the key elements of each partnering characteristic. I believe your marketing should facilitate the decision making process of the customer. As you create your material, presentations, etc. each one should fulfill the need of that step in process and nothing more. Using the thought process of MVP, minimum viable product will allow you to respond quicker and more accurately to their needs. More than this will complicate your message and may reduce the likelihood of gaining acceptance. More interactions, increase face time with a customer is a winning proposition.

Mimicking the customer buying process is at the heart of Lean Marketing and more specifically the Value Stream Marketing concepts. This marketing channel or Value Stream would equate to one of the pillars in the Lean Marketing House. The pillars are built with the iterative PDCA loops as depicted in the drawing above. As you build the relationship with the customer the cycles typically get smaller and faster. In Toyota’s and many others companies when you reach the top of the pyramid, you start sharing PDCA cycles.

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