Posts Tagged ‘ Branding ’

Do you need a reference list of #Twitter #Hastags for #Mfg?

As more and more people join Twitter and other social media outlets they are finding a rather steep learning curve for all of the nomenclature used.  This is particularly true with regard to #Hashtags.

Short messages on services such as Twitter or identi.ca may be tagged by including one or more hash tags: words or phrases prefixed with a hash symbol (#), with multiple words concatenated… These hash tags also show up in a number of trending topicswebsites, including Twitter’s own front page. One phenomenon specific to the Twitter ecosystem are micro-memes, which are emergent topics for which a hash tag is created, used widely for a few days, then disappears. – Wikipedia

Again, with the massive influx of people from the manufacturing sector entering Twitter, it’s become very hard to search for or decide what the various common hashtags mean. But never fear, there’s an app for that! Well, sort of, it’s actually a website called TagDef.  Short of going there, you can check out the following is a list of commonly used hastags in the twitterverse and, in particular, the manufacturing & metalcutting industry.

Common #hashtags:

#Aero – Topics related to the aerospace & defense industry

#Aerospace – Typically the term is used to refer to the industry that researches, designs, manufactures, operates, and maintains vehicles moving through air and space. Aerospace is a very diverse field, with a multitude of commercial, industrial and military applications. This hashtag covers a great many topics. Please see the above hashtag “#aero” which appears to be more manufacturing industry specific.

#AMT – refers to Alternative Minimum Tax which has the most volume.  Although it has been used for The Association For Manufacturing Technology the larger population already on Twitter uses the first definition. Organizations should select Hastags and post their definitions sooner rather than later.

#AMTDA – American Machine Tool Distributors’ Association is a Trade Association dedicated to lead distributors of manufacturing technology. Found at http://www.amtda.org and http://amtdanetwork.org

#AutoMfg – Topics related to the automotive industry as it pertains to design & manufacture of automotive components.
Defined by the following NAICS codes:

  • 336111 Automobile Manufacturing
  • 336112 Light Truck and Utility Vehicle Mfg
  • 336120 Heavy Duty Truck Manufacturing
  • 336211 Motor Vehicle Body Manufacturing
  • 336212 Truck Trailer Manufacturing
  • 336213 Motor Home Manufacturing
  • 336214 Travel Trailer and Camper Manufacturing
  • 336311 Carburetor, Piston, Piston Ring, and Valve
  • 336312 Gasoline Engine and Engine Parts Mfg
  • 336321 Vehicular Lighting Equipment Mfg
  • 336322 Other Motor Vehicle Electrical and Electronic Equipment Manufacturing
  • 336330 Motor Vehicle Steering and Suspension Components (except Spring) Manufacturing
  • 336340 Motor Vehicle Brake System Mfg336350 Motor Vehicle Transmission &Power Train
  • 336360 Motor Vehicle Seating and Interior Trim
  • 336370 Motor Vehicle Metal Stamping
  • 336391 Motor Vehicle Air-Conditioning Mfg
  • 336399 All Other Motor Vehicle Parts Mfg

#cadcam – Topics related to CAD/CAM: Computer-Aided Design and Computer-Aided Manufacturing. Often associated with Computer-Aided technologies #CAx, Product Lifecycle Management #PLM

#CMTS – Although it does not appear as a hashtag per se, as it often appears in the form #CMTs as an alternative version of #CMT for what appears to be Country Music Television. It does not refer to Canadian Manufacturing Technology Show although, as that show gets closer, the folks  @SocMfgEng should select an appropriate hashtag

#CNC – Computer Numerical Controlled (CNC) machine tools. CNC-like systems are now used for any process that can be described as a series of movements and operations. These include laser cutting, welding, friction stir welding, ultrasonic welding, flame and plasma cutting, bending, spinning, pinning, gluing, fabric cutting, sewing, tape and fiber placement, routing, picking and placing (PnP), and sawing.

#CTD – Cutting Tool Distributor.

#defense – There is no definition for this category as it encompasses topics from defense in football, defense (#military) policy and economics.  For topics related to defense manufacturing please see the above hashtag #aero

#DOD – Tweets regarding the U.S. Department of Defense carry this tag. This tag is used by various gamers as well

#ERP – Topics about Enterprise Resource Planning, a system that is used to manage and coordinate all the resources, information, and functions of a business

#FB – This tag is used by people who have installed the Selective Twitter Update application on Facebook. Tweets ending in #fb are automatically imported to Facebook, all others are ignored. Just a note, if #fb appears anywhere other than at the end of the tweet, it will not sync with Facebook.

#FF – #ff is the same as (short for) #followfriday: Every friday you can use #followfriday (#FF) to suggest people to follow.

#green – Tweets related to sustainable and environmentally friendly ways of living.

#IMTS – International Manufacturing Technology Show found at http://www.imts.com

#inshoring = “#reshoring” and “#inshoring” may be thought of as the ‘opposite’ of Offshoring. It is the business process outsourcing work domestically within a given country

#ISO – Refers to the International Organization for Standardization http://www.iso.org/iso/home.html

#ISO-P – An #ISO category that includes carbide cutting tools best suited for machining a variety of #steels.

#ISO-M – An #ISO category that includes carbide cutting tools best suited for machining ductile irons, harder steels, stainless steels, and high-temperature alloys.

#ISO-K – An #ISO category that includes carbide cutting tools best suited for machining cast irons.

#ISO-N – An #ISO category that includes carbide cutting tools best suited for machining a variety of Aluminum wrought and Aluminum cast alloys, copper, copper alloys, non metal materials

#ISO-S – An #ISO category that includes carbide cutting tools best suited for machining a variety heat-resistant alloys like Nickel/Cobalt-base alloys & Titanium alloys

#ISO-H – An #ISO category that includes carbide cutting tools best suited for machining a variety Hard materials such as Hardened steels (>35-45 HRC), chilled castings, hard cast irons

#JIMTOF – Topics related to the Japan International Machine Tool Fair. More details at http://www.jimtof.org

#JobShop – Topics that relate to Job shops which are typically small manufacturing businesses that handle job production, that is, custom/bespoke or semi-custom/bespoke manufacturing processes such as small to medium-size customer orders or batch jobs.

#Lathe – Topics related to lathe: a machine tool which spins the workpiece to perform various operations such as cutting, sanding, knurling, drilling, or deformation with tools that are applied to the workpiece to create an object which has symmetry about an axis of rotation.Lathes are used in woodturning, metalworking, metal spinning, and glassworking.

#Lean – Noun: the name given to the philosophy of delivering maximum value to stakeholders with the least possible waste. Predominantly associated with the Toyota Production System and Toyota Product Development System, derived from the works of Taiichi Ohno and Shigeo Shingo amongst others.

#Logistics – Logistics topics are about the management of the flow of the goods, information and other resources in a repair cycle between the point of origin and the point of consumption in order to meet the requirements of customers

#Materials – Topics related to Materials: anything made of matter, constituted of one or more substances. Metal, Wood, cement, etc. Sometimes the term “material” is used more narrowly to refer to substances or components with certain physical properties that are used as inputs to production or manufacturing.

#materialhandling – Topics in Material Handling are about the movement, storage, control and protection of materials, goods and products throughout the process of manufacturing, distribution, consumption and disposal

#medicaldevice – A medical device is a product which is used for medical purposes in patients, in diagnosis, therapy or surgery.

#Milling – Topics related to milling machines, CNC milling, cutting tools, milling problems, milling products, End Mills, Face Mill, Shell Mills. etc

#Metalcutting – Topics related to the metalcutting manufacturing industry using lathes and mills in the production of components in SIC 33-39, NAICS 31-33

#Metrology – Topics related to the science of measurement.

#MFG – “MFG” is used to reference topics that relate to global manufacturing and the use of machines, tools and labor to produce goods for use or sale. The term may refer to a range of human activity, from handicraft to high tech, but is most commonly applied to industrial production, in which raw materials are transformed into finished goods on a large scale. Be aware that an alternative definition is posted from the folks at #NAM (see below)

#Moldmaking – Topics related to moldmaking: Anyone who produces molds for the injection molding (plastics), die casting (e.g. aluminium, magnesium) and ceramics industries.

#MTD – Machine Tool Dealer

#NAM – The NAM – Advocacy for U.S. Manufacturing.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Association_of_Manufacturers The NAM is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers create jobs and growth, visit nam.org.  Be aware that the more common usage of the hashtag “#NAM” is by Viet Nam veterans and National Adoption Month.

#Plastics – Topics related to plastic materials is any of a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic solids used in the manufacture of industrial products

#reshoring – “#reshoring” and “#inshoring” may be thought of as the ‘opposite’ of Offshoring. It is the business process outsourcing work domestically within a given country

#SocialMedia – Social Media is an emerging form of news and information distribution that may soon replace traditional media like newspapers, magazines, tv and radio

#SM – Social Media

#SMD – Social Media Design

#SMI – Social Media Implementation

#SMM – Social Media Monitoring

#SMO – Social Media Optimization

#SMT – Social Media Training

#STEM – Refers to topics related to he acronym S.T.E.M. which stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education.In many forums (including political/governmental and academic) the strength of the STEM workforce is viewed as an indicator of a nation’s ability to sustain itself.

#subtweet – It’s the shortening of “subliminal tweet” which is directly referring to a particular person without mentioning their name or directly mentioning them and it basically indicates that the tweet in which the hashtag is used is a subliminal tweet.

#sustainability – is in use by several different interest groups. Use at your own risk as it relates to manufacturing.

#USMTC – United States Manufacturing Technology Consumption found at https://www.usmtc.com/Detailed Manufacturing Technology Market DataTimely, Comprehensive, ConfidentialAvailable to Builders and Distributors180 Manufacturing Technology Product CategoriesNational and State Time Series Orders DataGeographic Sales Territory Orders DataMachine Orders by End User Industry

#workforce – Topics related to the workforce: The labour pool in employment. It is generally used to describe those working for a single company or industry, but can also apply to a geographic region like a city, country, state, etc

#Workholding – Broad category of Topics related to workholding and fixturing in lathes & mills in the production of components in SIC 33-39; NIACS 31-33.

#WW – is either Worth Watching, Writing Wednesday, Wine Wednesday or Wedding Wednesday depending upon the context used.  A rather good example of why researching hastags is important in your business, organization or event.

#xmas (#cmas) – short for Christmas

For more definitions on hashtags be sure to visit TagDef

If you know of more hashtags that should be on the list be sure to leave a comment below and I’ll add them.

If you want to learn more about Social Media marketing in the industrial sector please contact us at:

Rapid Production Marketing

www.rpmconsultants.us

bernie@rpmconsultants.us

tel: 412.996.5700


Industrial Equipment Sales via Social Media

A shorter version of this article appeared in the American Machine Tool Distributor’s AssociationToolTalk” newsletter in October 2010 starting on Page 4

This article on social media is going to be a bit different than previous articles that have appeared in Tool Talk.  We’re going to address some of the core questions that the AMTDA membership has been asking:

  • “Is this just a fad? Should I just wait until the dust settles to get in?”
  • “What are the best Social Media places to be? Where are my customers?”
  • “I don’t have enough time to respond to emails, how am I going to manage these marketing efforts”
  • “How do I know what my ROI is? How do I measure it?”

Flashback 1993:

Q: “What’s your email address?”

A: “We don’t have one. We do everything by fax, That’s too new. We’re going to wait and see if people use it”

Is it a Fad?

Pew Study US Internet Users 2010

Social media is generating the same conversations today.  The big difference is that the “tools” to use and manage social media are expanding exponentially and will continue to expand.  The pace of change in the last 18 months in Social Media would be like moving from NC Tape Machines to full integration of MT Connect in the same time period.

“While social media use has grown dramatically across all age groups, older users have been especially enthusiastic over the past year about embracing new networking tools. Social networking use among internet users ages 50 and older nearly doubled—from 22% in April 2009 to 42% in May 2010.

  • Between April 2009 and May 2010, social networking use among internet users ages 50-64 grew by 88%–from 25% to 47%.
  • During the same period, use among those ages 65 and older grew 100%–from 13% to 26%.
  • By comparison, social networking use among users ages 18-29 grew by 13%—from 76% to 86%.”

-“Older Adults & Social Media”, Mary Madden, PEW Internet, August 27, 2010

….It’s not a fad.

Should I just wait to “get in?”

Customer: “Ok, So our first new 6 pallet Horizontal CNC hits my floor in 5 days, That’s going to be perfect. We want to move our two families of 10,000 parts/month onto them and ship 20,000 at the end of the month in 15 days before our competitor gets the work”

You already know that that is not realistic.  But that is the same kind of thinking that is taking place in Social Media.

“Hey, we can just set up a Twitter account in a few minutes”

Well, yes you can, but, just like the first time buyer of a machine tool, there’s still an awful lot to learn. The sooner you start learning, the farther in front of your competitors you’ll be.  This is a pro-active approach.  Too many b-to-b companies, particularly exhibitors at IMTS, took a reactive approach. They jumped in and created their “social media brand names” without first having personal accounts so they understood how it works.

So the best way to learn is to set up some social media personal accounts.

Start with your LinkedIn Profile.

  1. Does your profile web link say “My Company”  or contain your actual company name?
  2. Create a Company Page – it’s that little document icon next some people’s company name.

…get in now. Be Sure to read the article Social Media 101 for Mfg, part 1: LinkedIn for more details.

What are the best Social Media places to be as a Machine Tool Distributor?

  1. YouTube – It’s the simplest way to enable your sales force to have all of their product videos in one place.  You don’t need to re-create the wheel or even upload any videos.  You can go in and “favorite” your builder’s videos after you create your own channel.
  2. Twitter “Twitter’s like snack food: it tastes good, it’s fun to eat but there’s no nutritional value” In some sense, the above statement is true.  But with two  BIG caveats: It’s all in what you make of it, and, most importantly, it s FOUNDATION level application.  Without going into a lot of detail about API’s and tech jargon, what you need to know is that Twitter connects to almost everything. It’s like the junction box in an electrical system.
  3. 43% of U.S. companies will be blogging by 2012

    Blog“I don’t know what to write about, I don’t have content” Press releases, news articles, technical information…. Cut and paste.  There is lots of content available. Obviously, clear all of this with the content owners.  Actually a Blog is one of the very best things you can create. Think about this for a moment. When you type a search into Google, you don’t type just “CNC” you type what you are looking for: “cnc swiss screw machine multi axis.” You have learned over the years that by typing more information you are more likely to find exactly what you are looking for in a topic.  This is called a “long tail search.” That’s very important to know because it’s how your customers find out about your company and your products. It becomes even more important because the new algorithms used by search engines are location based.  You’ve probably noticed that when you use a “long tail search” and you’re in Chicago you don’t get listings for many places in Europe.  That’s not because there aren’t places in Europe it’s because they are NOT near Chicago.

  4. Facebook“That’s for kids.” Step back from any preconceived notions and think about this from a business standpoint.  There is a war going on.  Two data collection monoliths, Facebook & Google, are each trying to outdo each other.  In April 2010 Facebook announced at their annual “F8” conference the “Open Graph”: That’s why you are seeing the “LIKE” button appear everywhere. Here’s why that’s important:  If you recall the first time you got a day planner you learned that you should not only put your business appointments down but also soccer games, weddings and personal events. Time management 101. Your life is 24 hours a day. Facebook at it’s core is personal. But your personal life affects your business and vice-versa. Facebook collects personal data and associates it with your interests. If your title is “CNC machinist,” it permits advertisers to target that. Although Google has a massive database, they have not “aggregated” demographics as deep down as Facebook. They are both competing for ad space. If you were at IMTS in Chicago and logged into Facebook, you may have seen some ads running.  But you would have only seen them if you were with in 5 miles of McCormick Place, between 7pm -10pm, were male, between 35-55, and had some keyword in your profile indicating you were in our industry. The “pay-per-click” cost .60 cents each and had a cap on the amount spent by the advertiser. Yes, you can do that level of targeted advertising. Creating a Facebook Page is a way to become “engaged’ and be in front of your customer when they get home from work.  The busiest time on Facebook is Wednesday and Friday evening, but we’ll talk about that more later…

Where are my Customers?

They are “IN” all for the above digital spaces and probably another 1,000 more.

Have you ever purchased something online?  Have you looked down at the product reviews and decided against the purchase of something because of the reviews?  Then, did you think  “Wow, I wonder why that manufacturer isn’t reading that and fixing it? They’re getting really bad press”  The problem is that the manufacturer may not even know about the comments to address them. But B-to-B  consumers ARE researching and engaging each other.

There are a number of free products out there to use to search for who’s talking about what.  I would recommend going to Social Mention and type in your company name and brands and see what appears.  You will find that you can drill down and drill down more and then drill down even more into exactly who is talking about what where.

“How do I manage all of these marketing efforts?”

“There’s an APP for that!”  Well, actually, there are a multitude of application dashboards so that you can see ALL of your social media sites.

Realize that the heavy users of Social Media are NOT online every minute.  They have done several things, which are very important to be aware of, as you ponder social media marketing:

1. They have “wired” their social media sites together.  In all reality you can only be in one place at a time.  Different users will be using different channels at the same moment.  You notice that when you channel surf on TV that you see the same commercials sometimes?  It’s just like that. In order to maximize your exposure you “connect” the sites to each other so you don’t have to post the same thing over and over again.

Remember when I explained that Twitter was a “junction box”? This is how it “connects” Twitter

permits the sharing between sites better than most any other social media site.

Here are a couple of examples of dashboard app’s:

2. They have Pre-programmed “Tweets” and announcements. If you already do a newsletter email or product announcements electronically, you have content to use.

Two very good examples of how this can be done is to take a look at Criterion Machine Works or TechniksUSA Blog sites.  Once a blog is posted it is automatically tweeted, posted on their Facebook page and appears in a number of social media outlets.

………………Automatically

The Blogs can be programmed to post at a given time and, once the switch is flipped on the timer, everything else happens seamlessly.

That however, is not where it ends.  Unlike just sending it out there and hoping people read it, now your customer can interact back with you.

Think of social media like your cell phone. You should check it a couple times a day with your dashboard application and see if you have messages, comments, or questions and then “engage” the customer in some “conversation.”

Measuring ROI

Just as there are a number of dashboard app’s there are an innumerable number of “analytics” to gage and measure success in real time.

In fact, some of the dashboard applications I mentioned earlier have the measurement tools built right into them. Measuring is actually pretty easy.

Without going into a tremendous amount of detail on measurement tools, be aware that the list of measurement tools practically exceeds the number of social media outlets that exist.  Just for Twitter there are sites like Analytic.lyTwifficiency and Twitteranalyzer. Facebook has built-in analysis tools for their Page.  Your ROI is really going to be determined by what you put into the effort.  Just like a salesperson, the more you engage, the more return.  If you sit in the office and just send out emails and don’t follow up to engage into the conversation not much is going to happen.  “Engaging” is the key to ROI and the analysis tool sets are all going to measure this kind of activity and report on it.

Where to Start

“I’ve gotta interpolate down and then ramp into this corner with a ½” tool at an 8 thou chip load and I need a 32 finish. Which is better Linear guides vs. box ways? How’s your look ahead on that?”

Learn by Doing (National Training Laboratories)

The first time you heard that it would have been like a foreign language.  Social Media also has it’s own language:

“I put the hashtag in the summary blog post & the metatag to increase my SEO”

So where do you start?  You can’t arrive in our industry green and expect to know everything. Same thing applies for social media.

Start with a personal account on:

  • Twitter –  Set up Twitter account and follow some people. You can follow @RPMconsultants where we tweet about social media or my personal Twitter account, @bernardtmartin where I tweet about Education, STEM, F1, Economics and Foreign Affairs. You can then check out who we follow, learn some basics, ask some questions.
  • Facebook – Set up a personal account, be sure to set your account settings to “friends only” across all categories and then search for “International Manufacturing Technology Show” or “AMTDA” on Facebook.  Look at whom they have made favorites on their Company page.  Hit the “LIKE” button.

The first step is really about “learning” about how to use these tools for your business.

What NOT to do & Where to begin

  • DON”T go out and set up accounts in YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook for your company right this minute! That’s would be like a customer saying “I want to buy the CNC with the Green Paint, I like that color.”
  • Set up your personal accounts and then go to “Knowem” Search for some available names.  I’ve talked to many machinery distributor owners and employees over the years and heard “Yea, our website name is WAY too long, but it’s what we’re stuck with.”

Unlike registering your web address, your URL, with a service that reports to one central agency for verification, called ICANN, there is no single service registration of your “Social Media Brand name”

Places like Knowem allow you to search for brand names.

You want to use the same Brand name in ALL of your social media spaces.

There are several considerations in the selection of THAT name:

  • Shorter is better. Remember Twitter on permits 140 characters in “tweets” You don’t want to eat up half of it with your company name and be limited on your message.
  • Use the same name in all social media spaces. That bears worth repeating. Remember that long tail search discussion?

Comments and questions are always welcome.  If you would like more information on what we do at Rapid Production Marketing be sure and check out our website or you can drop us an email bernie@rpmconsultants.us



Social Media Marketing: Getting Started

There’s a big difference between watching Golf and playing Golf at a professional level. Social Media is no different that other professional efforts: Once you become in engaged in it you learn that it’s probably not as simple as you first thought.

In the course of talking to prospective clients I’ve found a mixed bag of comments that all go something like “I got plenty of people who are on Facebook all the time, you can create an account in 5 minutes”

Selecting your Social Media Brand NAME

Social Media Mess

Unlike when you registered your website with a registrar for your unique URL, which was all overseen via ICANN, there is NO single place that you can register all of your SOCIAL MEDIA brand name. The key to words there are “Brand NAME” and not “Brand NAMEs”.  You have to create a profile in each SM space you want to present your brand individually.

As a marketer you already know the importance of using consistent images and names.  It becomes even more important in social media because you want people to find you when they use a search engine.  If you have a mixed bag of names your message may not reach the people you want to reach and, like two ships passing in the night, you will never engage in conversation. One very good service to use to begin the process is Knowem. However, Knowem doesn’t help you establish your brand in your industry specific niche forums.

Read the “Terms of Service” (TOS)

I’ve talked to some very well-known major companies about their Social Media efforts.  When we sit and look at their SM spaces we discover that they’ve “jumped into” social media “Oh yea, we’re there!” But then we dig into it only to find that they have set up their company name as personal account and not created a COMPANY profile at all.  They at risk with not only with the loss of the SM account but also the loss of all of the conversations that they are engaged in already.

Just like entering a new foreign market there are cultural “rules” that should be followed.  By not showing respect for the local culture, and taking the time to understand it in advance, you risk creating a negative brand image that could take years to recover from to get back to zero.  Don’t burn your bridges and not even realize that you’re doing it.  Social Media spaces have their own culture. You are entering a cyber world.  Be sure to have a good understanding of how things work before you make the trip.

Linking your Social Media

Once you have selected a brand NAME in your various spaces, you will need to have a good understanding of how the various “Status Updates”, “Wall Posts”, “Tweets”, “Blog Posts”, etc all connect together.  The people you want to reach may be in one SM space while you’re posting, at that moment, in another. Determining which posts are shared and which are not becomes a very important decision.

There’s quite bit more to think about that I’ve put into the slide show below. Take a peek at it:

The above slideshow presentation should give you an overview of how to start your social media efforts.  It outlines the reach and scope of social media (SM) for those new to the space.

Getting in & Staying IN the Space

Once you have gotten into the new cyber world to market your brand, stay acutely aware that the landscape in social media is changing.  I’ve compared it to the 1849 Gold Rush in San Francisco.  Everyone is new, Everyone is from somewhere else.  What was the “best place” last week is not the “best space” this week.  That’s led some to say “Let’s wait, and not be on the bleeding edge”  The Bleeding Edge was several years ago and it was yesterday. The onslaught of new users hourly entering the social media cyber world is beyond compare.

Here’s an example, when I started using Slideshare as an add-in app on my LinkedIn profile it was NOT a social network.  It was a place to put slideshows to pull up on customer & client computers.  NOW, it’s a social network…. and the added functionality is expanding weekly it seems.  Every social media site is doing the same.  As they grow, they are becoming more and more niche, more and more industry specific, more and more topic specific.  Getting IN is critical at this point so that you, and your company, can establish your brand as a thought leader and engage and develop relationships…. but, you MUST stay engaged and continue to drill down as the individual spaces evolve.

I recently had a conversation with a client about YouTube and how it has evolved.  I showed them Don Fitchett‘s YouTube Channel Business Industrial Network. Don has been in that space (and many many others) for some time. He has over 430,000 upload views, has 1500 subscribers staying current with his latest news and he has over 5,000 friends.  That didn’t happen overnight.  Don is continuously engaged with his clients and potential clients.  Now ask yourself two questions:

  • If I wait for the dust to settle how many customers might my competitors pick up and I won’t know about it?
  • If I jump into the space and don’t understand the culture, or have a plan, what will it cost me?

Conclusion and Take-Aways

The conclusion that should be drawn after reviewing this is that developing a structured Social Media Strategy and Tactical implementation plan is crucial to your company’s success.

Without a plan you may find yourself creating a negative brand image within the space and end up spending more money trying to undo what you created and start over.

I look forward to your comments and questions.

– Special Thanks to @RonDavies for blogging about “Knowem”
– “Social Mess” infographic by Tom Cuniff

Why Brand introductions FAIL in Channels Marketing

It took a long time for me to understand that there are some common denominators in why some fantastic brands fail while other, inferior products, are successful in channels marketing programs. Below you will find six key points to think about. Think of these six as cylinders in a car. If five of them are working but not six you’ve lost all forward momentum.

“Faulty execution of a winning combination has lost many a game on the very brink of victory. In such cases a player sees the winning idea, plays the winning sacrifice and then inverts the order of his fellow-up moves or misses the really clinching point of his combination.” – Fred Reinfeld , The Complete Chess Course

So, in my view, there are six core elements to any brand introduction in the eyes of distributors:

1. Marketing Materials – Are catalogs, price lists, flyers, trade show schedules, advertising schedules, lead processing all provided in a timely fashion? Does the vendor send in 25 catalogs for a sales meeting with a salesforce of 5 people and a customer base of 250? What is the package quantity of literature? Does the literature have a part number? Is there a literature request form? Who is that sent to? Are the marketing materials “intuitive”? (are all of the components needed to complete and order listed in the catalog? Is the catalog easy to use and find all related products? What about videos? Social media sites? Brand exposure?

2. Quality of Product – Does the product have “walk away reliability” or does it suffer from a myriad of quality issues. This goes beyond the product working as it was marketed to work and includes horseshoe nail problems (no torx screws in the box, partial shipment of all components. Is the distributor going to spend all the money that would have been made on the margin servicing the customer and trying NOT to get “egg on their face” in the process which will affect other product lines and the relationship with the customer?

3. Competitive Pricing – Does the product provide a good ratio of price to performance? Is the vendor adaptable and responsive to price corrections in a short time frame? Has the vendor provided all of the necessary sales information to “sell” the value added?

4. Availability – Is there stock? If so on what products? Many times distributors have heard on new product introductions that “there is plenty of inventory” only to find out that “Well, we have three pieces of everything”. If there is a stock out problem, is the vendor proactively responsive contacting the distributor on late deliveries before the distributor calls to expedite?

5. Customer Support – Is the field support and customer support team trained and up-to-speed on all of the products? Can they technically support the product line? Can they crossover competitive information? Do the support people say “I don’t know the answer to that” and end the conversation with “Are your happy with my your level of service today?” or do they say “I don’t know the answer let me find out and call you back in 10 minutes”. Are they responsive? Are they proactive? What is the SOP on quote turnaround ( 2 hours, 24 hours, 2 weeks)?
Customer service can take on many variations. I’ve listed a few for you to ponder.

The Customer Service Problem
I once spent 6 months trying to figure out why we weren’t getting more orders. The end-users loved it, the outside sales people loved it, the owners of the distributors loved it… then I found out that the inside sales person at the distributor HATED dealing with the manufacturer’s inside sales person who had a really poor attitude.

The Gun Shy Problem
Then there is the “gun shy” problem. The regional sales manager or agent has some “other” issue, typically some internal political issue with a POLICY of the manufacturer that is so out of the norm that the distributor can’t even grasp it. Want an example? At the end of a quarter every call made for an trial application is responded with “I’m not sure if that’s a good test” Even in cases where the promo video has almost the exact application featured! Finally, after much prompting you find out why:
“The accountants are really tightening up on trial applications/test tools”
“My boss is really riding me on any testing right now”
“I’ve gone over my trunk stock budget”

The New COST CENTER Problem
Sometimes, as companies grow they hire very well versed accounting and legal people. This can wreak havoc at the sales generation end of the business. In most cases, it’s good business, stuff the company should have been doing all along, but in others, it’s policies and procedures that, in my very humble opinion, (in deference to my need to keep accountants, lawyers and op’s people happy 😉 just create roadblocks to doing business. That being said, I was sent this video a couple years back by a very astute owner of a manufacturer.

The Young Gun Problem
I recently had a conversation with a “young gun” He called me after a week of us talking about a competitive opportunity and explained that he had not been in contact with me on my question because he was too busy handling all of the business at his BIGGEST distributor in another market. He had lost all of the notes from our conversation which I had not written down myself. He further explained that he had some health issues with his father with some medical testing. I explained that I fully understood, but I did not have time to talk about it at the moment as I was just walking into my Grandmother’s hospital room

6. Trust – Is there trust in the relationship? This is the “gut feeling” stuff. It comes out in the one-on-one conversations. Is something being held back? Are direct answers given? Is the manufacturer asking lots of questions as if he where going to handle the business directly or take it through a competing distributor? Is the manufacturer “throwing his weight around” and not really acknowledging that the distributor runs their own business? Does the agent or manufacturer call the end-user directly….and not tell the distributor or independent rep? Do they visit the end-user on their own?

The most successful brands are built on a foundation of trust and loyalty. Each party knows where the other stands. You can actually watch the relationships grow. In the early phases it may be that the distributor or the agent calls up the manufacturer and asks for something… The reprimanding parent response is “You know we can’t do that! We can do xxxx.” To which the smiling reply is “I know, but I had to ask.” Later, as the relationship evolves, when the distributor or agent calls up they say “Hey, we just promised this program and that promo with this product, I know I need you to approve it but I already quoted it while you where on vacation” and the response “Great Job, what else ya need?”

Perhaps, more than any other item on the list, this last one IS THE MOST IMPORTANT.

The “Agent” or “Regional Manager”
An agent or territory salesperson has a relationship with his customer: The distributor channel. It’s where they live, It’s where they put food on their table. Most of the smart independent agent, and even the factory guys, realize that the relationship is the most important aspect of their livelihood. Management comes and goes, manufacturers change gears, different managers come on-board with their own ideas and their own relationships, but the one consistent thing is the customers and that trust.

The Distributor
Distributors are even more protective of their turf. They have their territory marked and that is how they perceive it. When a distributor brings someone into their customer it is akin to bringing your first date to meet your parents. You are coming into their home, you are being extended the relationship that they enjoy. When anyone tells them “That’s MY customer” they are pretty offended and, like a dog, they’ll probably come back and bite you.

Brands are sold ONE person, ONE customer at a time until they tell two friends and so on, and so on, and so on, until it’s viral.

As a final thought, I’m reminded of a picture from the 1970’s that hung in the VP of Student Life’s office back when I was Student Senate President. It showed a picture of a HUGE Sit-In protest over some student issues. The caption read:

“Communication is the beginning of Understanding”

Good words to live by in your channels branding efforts