Engineering companies by nature tend to work in niche markets and are often already well known in their particular market. Do these companies really need marketing?
We often speak to companies in niche markets and engineering is certainly one of these. Often these will be companies that generate components for completed products and, for the most part, they are well known to their customers – what is known as a closed customer base.
The rule of thumb for marketing is: where there is competition there is marketing. If you are not the only option in your market, regardless of the industry, there is a need to stand out from your competitors. Marketing is the tool to help you do this.
In short, marketing gives customers and clients a reason to do business with you. It is not just about converting new clients – certainly that is an important aspect – but equally about retaining existing clients. Many businesses find that effective marketing has the potential to convert even contented customers from their competitors simply through increased brand exposure and communication of a key point of difference.
Innovative industries such as engineering and manufacturing are starting to realise the need for a strong marketing component in their business and increasingly generating successful campaigns.
How does the marketing for consumer products compare to that of, say, a single component for a piece of heavy machinery?
The marketing mix we identify for clients with consumer offerings is vastly different to that of our engineering and manufacturing clients, and for the most part this comes down to the targeting of the message.
Because you are targeting the end user with business to consumer marketing, the message can be more easily distributed through mass media channels such as newspapers, television and even the online space. This approach is of little use to a company with a B2B offering, which requires its message targeted more towards specific influencers – CIOs, CFOs and buyers for example. The role of marketing in this case is to figure out how to best influence these people, generally through very personal activations/interactions. Media placement can also be effective in industry specific publications (you just happen to be reading one of your most relevant industry specific magazines now!)
Are there any common marketing pitfalls engineering firms tend to run into?
A lot of companies that deal with a less consumer, more business to business offering consider marketing to be an activity that can be channelled through non marketing staff such as a PA or a sales person. In our experience, this is particularly true of engineering and manufacturing companies which tend to focus more on the doing than the communicating.
Unfortunately this approach to marketing often lacks the strategy and planning required to make sure your marketing investment properly supports your business goals, which may see the budget wasted.
If your company plans to manage its own marketing, we recommend first compiling a detailed marketing plan and calendar for the coming year. This should outline the company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, it should align with business objectives and tie in with sales targets. Also taken into account should be any market research, particularly around customer behaviour, competitor marketing and your company’s point of difference.
When most people think of marketing they tend to think of product brochures and the like. What other marketing tools are available and which are best suited to engineering companies?
The perception that marketing is all brochures and newspaper adverts is certainly not a new one. It is important for companies to understand the breadth that marketing encompasses to ensure they not only make the most of the opportunities available to them, but also that they do not hamstring the marketing efforts they do undertake.
For companies in small or niche markets that are planning on managing their own marketing, a good starting point is to review each element of your existing customer interactions with the goal of creating consistency.
Sit down as a team and review the customer process, giving an evaluation against each interaction. Ask yourself, what does the customer see, feel, do and find when they interact with your business?
Are you easy to contact? Are you communicating in the right places? When contacted, how is your phone manner? Does the website provide the right information? Is the product packaged professionally? Are all outgoing communications, including emails, direct mail and invoices, consistently branded? And, crucially, are each of these elements communicating the same message?
Of course, these are all aspects that should tie into a comprehensive marketing plan, and no changes should take place until they are weighed up against the marketing strategy and business goals.
How important is the online space for engineering companies?
In a word, crucial. The internet is often the first place clients and customers go to find out more about you, so managing the online space will form a large part of your customer’s perception of your business and brand.
With the growth of blogs, forums and rating sites, the internet is seldom an aspect of marketing you can control. It pays to Google your company name frequently to find out what people are saying about you and, where possible, respond to both positive and negative feedback. Setting up Google Alerts to give a free daily report on your company’s web mentions is a good way to stay on top of this, or even capitalise on a competitor’s dissatisfied customers.
What is under your control is your own website. All companies need a well presented website, whether it offers everything from online registrations to selling on line or just an online version of the company’s profile. These days, people expect a lot from a website, so it is important that yours deliver what your customers need. If you do not know what your customers want from your site, ask them.
Lots of companies have started to use social media for their organisation – is this a trend across all industries and, if so, is it the right fit for all industries?
While social media can be an extremely powerful marketing tool for some companies, it is not for everyone. Generally, consumer brands and those organisations looking to target the youth market have an easier path towards utilising the likes of Facebook and Twitter.
The key is to know where your current and potential customers hold conversations about your particular product. Yes, most will use social media personally, but this is not to say they use it to talk about your product or service. This is where marketing and market research can play a vital role in establishing whether your customers wish to hear from you in this space.
Each case is different, and while generally we wouldn’t recommend things like Facebook and Twitter for most engineering companies, there will always be the odd exception. Also, Linked In can be incredibly effective in developing working relationships with business influencers and we frequently put in place strategies for B2B companies that use this social media tool to its potential.
Nicole Crump is the director of Tactix Marketing Plans, specialists in fixed price marketing strategy planning.
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