It’s time for excellent engineering companies to become excellent communicators — and boost their business
I have been working with helping industrial and engineering companies with communications and brand building for over 20 years. It is not always a thankful task.
There are obviously exceptions such as Atlas Copco, Schneider Electric or GE, but the majority has a long way to go.
That’s because they still see communication as a niche to have the luxury to engage in on special occasions or when they have residuals in their budget. They are used to top-down allocation of slim budgets and rely on the safety of product presentations in the secluded spaces of industry fairs and similar events.
Ill equipped in dealing with our new and challenging communications landscape, their various units or subsidiaries across the world end up creating films under the brand name, opening far too many YouTube channels, and hijacking the brand. The end result is a lack of cohesiveness, inconsistent degrees of quality — and a disjointed brand story.
New Challenges, New Opportunities
Many are incapable of handling the hundreds of requests of content (ideally films) coming out of their multinational, multifaceted organisations every month. Central functions often become paralysed in the light of the dramatic growth in channels, versions, outputs and initiatives mushrooming across the world and functions. They witness mishandling of their brands, waste of resources, and duplications of effort with dismay — but often without a plan on how to deal with it. The odds are high that you are in the same situation. For a reality check, how many YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn channels are out there under your brand?
I believe that this new reality represents a huge opportunity for positive business impact for smart and innovative engineering companies. There are four excellent business reasons to take a more proactive grip on your group-wide communications strategies.
1. Your brand as value builder for your clients
Already in early 1990, Intel lost its monopoly position in manufacturing and selling the 386 MhZ processor, meaning they had to turn from pure product supremacy (the typical fall back strategy of engineering companies) to brand-driven supremacy. In 1991, as one of world’s B2B companies with B2C brand building efforts, they launched the now world-famous campaign of Intel Inside. 12 months later, Intel’s brand awareness increased from 24% to 80% and its stock price rose by over 50% (from US $1,87 to US $2,71) in the same period. Intel has been number one in semiconductors since then.
The lesson is clear and concise — your brand can add value to your products. If it is recognisable and attractive, your service or product will be too. If done right, complimenting your products with your brand will eventually lead to your customers’ positioning strategy. This does not replace the excellence of your solutions — it highlights and enhance them, with clear business and value impacts for both you and your clients.
2. Employee engagement
We are living in a world where McKinsey Global Institute predicts that the demand for college graduates in Europe and North America will exceed supply by 16 to 20 million (!) by 2020. Competition for talent in emerging markets is even fiercer due to competition from local champions and uneven educational standards. For engineering and IT talent, the discrepancies between needs and availability are even starker.
In such times, an attractive employer brand becomes as essential for business success as your sales force. Creating great business brands drives your employer attractiveness. To their credit, many engineering companies are realising this and increasing employer branding efforts. However, talent also seek to work for companies that are not only great employers, but also great businesses. The lack of a strong, clear, successful and attractive business brand often undercuts any employer branding efforts.
Your business brand and employer brand strategies must go hand in hand for maximum impact and efficiency.
3. Efficiency gains and boosting impact
According to Deloitte and a Fuqua Business School study published in WSJ, manufacturing companies spend 8% of their budgets on marketing. These translate into huge amounts and spending funds efficiently to drive optimal brand impact has a tangible bottom line impact.
We have been able to increase efficiencies of budget spending by enabling our clients to broaden outputs and impact by around 30%+ on average. This is done through managing content development based on strategic annual plans and recycling content for future productions, using different channels and versions tweaked for target group and markets. Just consider what a 30% increased impact from your budget can do to your brand.
4. Access to new clients
Historically, engineering companies have relied on identifying and physically visiting their clients — often through meetings at events. For a majority of these expensive sales methods there is a natural point of falling or even negative returns. But this could also mean missing out on as much as 70% of potential clients.
The long tail theory made Amazon — and they are doing pretty well. This basically means that there is a large number of prospective clients willing to buy products that are less familiar to the broad mass, and that this number is big enough to approach with communication.
Basically, you always had to find your clients — but digital communications enable a different strategy — let them find you!
Ensuring that your marketing is geared towards your prospective clients is just as relevant in B2B as in B2C if you want a larger share of clients to find you.
How to get there
You’re hopefully now convinced that efficient communications can drive your business, value profit and sustainability. The big challenge is not to believe it — it’s knowing how to get there. Below is a short check-list to make it happen.
- Set clear purposes and targets for your communications efforts — you do this for all your other business investments.
- Analyze your competition for attention — you are not operating in a vacuum, but the companies that compete for attention in your message might not be the same that compete for your customers.
- Define your target audiences clearly — you are not Nike, not everyone has to like you. You need to decide who should.
- Set your channel selection — your audience is out there, but where? Choosing the right channels will make or break your activation (campaign?).
- Establish a communications calendar supported by production, distribution plans and communication themes — avoid ad hoc projects and initiatives, these are expensive!
- Create a reusable library of content, easily accessible globally with clear guidelines. Recycling is the trend in society — why allow your production companies to own the source material? You paid for it.
- Measure and adjust continuously — no plan is perfect. Make sure to use analytics to measure what really works — and then make more of it.
Communications are a crucial business tool for industrial companies too — not a luxury niche.