Finding (and Keeping) New Machine Shop Customers

By Kip Hanson

Part of Machining For Dummies Cheat Sheet

As with many businesses, one of the most challenging aspects to launching a machine shop is finding enough work to stay afloat. Making your customers happy will keep them coming back, but it’s important to maintain a disparate customer base to get you through the lean times and grow the company when times are good. Here are a few ideas to point you in the right direction.

  • If you can run a computer numerical control (CNC) machine, you can set up a corporate website. And if you’re too busy making parts to do so, then hire someone to take care of it for you. Even a single web page telling potential customers what you do and how to find you is a good start.
  • Similarly, Facebook is becoming a great way to share photos of your shop and its employees and get the word out about the vibrant, customer-focused company you’re operating.
  • If a trade magazine calls and wants to write a profile on your business, or asks you to participate in a case study, by all means say “Yes, how can we help?”
  • Do you, a family member, or one of your employees like to write? Start a blog as part of your website. It’s a great way to boast about your machining capabilities and get others interested in what you do there.
  • YouTube videos are also a necessary part of social media. Showing off your new CNC lathe installation or recording a part being machined using a special cutter (or maybe even starting your own YouTube channel) is an increasingly popular way to share information.
  • Make sure you and your business are on LinkedIn, then connect with customers and suppliers.
  • Too busy to take on more work? It’s tough to say no to customers, especially when you’re just getting started. Be prepared for some long nights. If you decide to subcontract some of your work, that’s fine, but be sure your supplier has been well-vetted and can deliver as promised.
  • A number of online part brokers and manufacturer representatives are out there and capable of bringing in all the work you can handle. Tread carefully so that you don’t take on so much that your existing customers suffer.
  • One of the cardinal sins in any manufacturing business is becoming married to a single customer. It’s really easy to take the ball and run with your first big-break aerospace or medical company and let them become your sole source of work. Don’t be a captive supplier, or risk going out of business when your customer is acquired by a giant European conglomerate.