August 9, 2010
Having a strategic marketing plan that reaches your customer base via all media channels, both traditional and the newer social media, can help take your business to the next level.
Editor’s Note: This summary of a roundtable discussion among manufacturers about social media as a marketing tool is a companion piece to the article “Strategic marketing for manufacturers” by this author.
Recognizing the need for an integrated marketing plan is only the first step in strategic marketing. Implementation is often the stumbling block that prevents manufacturers from taking advantage of opportunities for exposure.
At The FABRICATOR®’s Leadership Summit, Metal Matters, in Orlando, Fla., in March, 2010, several manufacturers shared their experiences and best practices in the use of social media, a relatively new marketing medium underutilized by manufacturers. The roundtable format allowed attendees to learn the basic principles of social media and discuss with their peers how it can be applied to manufacturing. Participants comprised both original equipment manufacturers as well as the job shops that rely on their equipment.
Some attendees were skeptical of platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and their applicability in the manufacturing industry. A few of the concerns expressed were related to the availability of fresh content—a requisite for building a following on these platforms—the possibility of negative comments posted, and general time constraints to respond. While some found these issues too large to overcome, others embraced the challenges and have found success.
A welding equipment manufacturer found that using Facebook and Twitter has helped it act as an information resource for its fans and followers. It posts relevant industry information, such as new fume extraction standards and best practices in welding specialty metals. The company finds this helps to keep fans and followers interested, because not every post is promotional.
A software company that targets structural steel fabricators found that its Facebook page has created a support community among customers. A fan can post a general or application-specific question to the page. Often other users respond even before the company’s own support staff with troubleshooting ideas or feedback on how they found a solution.
All conference attendees agreed on the value of YouTube and LinkedIn. Most people retain information more effectively if a visual element is involved. YouTube video allows a job shop or equipment manufacturer to showcase its capabilities, regardless of physical location. The case for and how to use YouTube to promote your business can be found in YouTube 101 for Small Businesses on smallbiztrends.com.
LinkedIn is defined as the place for professional social networking on the Web today. It helps build horizontal connections and also brands you as a professional in the industry. Maintaining a profile on LinkedIn and other social media sites increases your Google page rank and makes it easier for others to find your products and services.
An example of a manufacturer embracing the integrated and social media concepts is Superior Joining Technologies Inc., Machesney Park, Ill. CEO Teresa Beach Shelow’s approach to marketing is as cutting-edge as the equipment she uses to serve her customers. At the Metal Matters conference, Shelow shared with the group how important it is to align the different platforms, so that when social media efforts generate additional interest and traffic to your Web site, you are prepared to handle it.
You can learn more about the company’s foray into social media and how it helped them earn business by listening to the Superior Joining Technologies podcast in the archived podcasts on thefabricator.com.
Just as technology advances within the ever-changing landscape of the manufacturing industry, methods to communicate must advance as well. Remember that your competitors most likely are using social media. Don’t be left behind.