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Small details make big impressions

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While stopping to fill up on my way home from doing a job story for a client, I got a tip from a trucker for a “greasy spoon.” The little truck-stop diner was tucked out of site behind a one-strip airport, so it was also a popular cross-country waypoint for private pilots chasing “$100-hamburgers.” He’d just eaten there himself. He promised large portions of the best-tasting diner food I’d ever find.

After the waitress took my order, I realized the buzzing noise I heard wasn’t from the flickering lights. A fly was trapped inside my sugar shaker. I set it free to join some others that were buzzing around another table. I wouldn’t need sugar for a burger and some fries, thank goodness, but it had turned my attention to noticing stains on the broken-tile floor and hazy light of a dust-covered window.

The little distractions didn’t stop my mouth from watering when my order finally arrived: beautifully crisped home-cut fries piled high next to a giant burger overfilled with lettuce, cheese, grilled onion and tomato. A bite of each, and I agreed with the trucker. This diner was a hidden treasure – but then a large gray mat of dust flew off a ceiling fan’s blade slapped me on the head, exploding across my plate and table.

A satisfied trucker still recommended the restaurant. So, do these little details really matter to its brand? That depends entirely upon the promise of the brand.

When your brand represents the smartest, most innovative solutions for your customers’ challenges, you can’t afford any distracting mistakes – flies and dust bombs – in your marketing material. And you shouldn’t have to do it yourself. You can keep your focus on what you do best while letting content specialists like Ellcom (or a marketing communications expert on-staff) handle those tasks for you.

We immerse ourselves in the applications of the industry itself, not just the product line you offer. That’s why we so easily collaborate with sales reps, customers, product end-users, environmental scientists and engineers – we learn and speak their language. This kind of industry fluency tends to make us a fussier about details than those who can rely only on their Ethernet connections, repeating text they merely Googled.

The Web is a very handy source of information, but it’s missing the warning math teachers give their students: You must understand the problem, or your calculator will give you the wrong answer.

Take for example just how wrong basic metric conversions can be. These are tiny, tiny little details that, overlooked, betray ignorance of the concept. Specifications often come in metric values only. They can be copy-pasted straight from the monitor into a document. To get U.S. Customary (“standard”) equivalents that are more convenient for American customers, you could use the same Google browser you found them on to get a quick conversion. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll be putting flies in your sugar shaker.

The following online errors were unfortunately approved by someone else’s clients and published without correction. Our industry-fluent Ellcom editors would have cleaned up details like these in an instant.

– A machine part’s 87 mm diameter was converted to 3 3/7” (What ruler reads in 1/7th inches?)
– A 9 mm fitting was changed to 0.354331” (Why?)
– Nominal class sizes were converted to thousandths of a kilogram (1 kg = 0.035 oz.)
o < 0.6 tons (<544.311 kg)

One hard-copy brochure showed inches converted into metric “fractions” – 16” (41/100 m). That’s just funny! – unless, of course, you paid for that brochure.

Each little mistake above shows the writer had no clue what the figures represented. I bet your customers do. Will you lose a rig sale for a nonsense conversion on a sales sheet? Probably not. But don’t they have to wonder, if you permit your dining room to be this messy, what’s your kitchen like?

We offer you far more than just keeping your brand distraction-free. Our knowledge of your industry provides you with professional, full-spectrum content generation. We’ll take care of your social media management, ad copy, press releases and case studies for magazines, brochures and sales sheets, white papers and technical papers – all prepared and edited by our highly trained, professional staff with boots-on-the-ground industry experience.

The result? Content that is to the point. Professional. Distraction free. On-message.

Joe Bradfield is senior writer for Ellenbecker Communications

 

“Cautious optimism” follows CONEXPO enthusiasm

CECA-2017-RGBConstruction’s big party, CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2017, wrapped up in Vegas about a month ago, and I am only now getting around to writing about the experience. From the perspective of our agency, it was a great show. And the reason it was a great show for us was that our clients, new and old, told us that it was a great show for them. Enthusiasm was high—the mood was totally unlike the funereal tone in 2014 and 2011. People were buying what the exhibitors were selling and that is good for the industry and the national economy.

There were more than 2,500 exhibitors splashed over 2.5 million square feet of exhibit space. During three full days at the expo I walked every single aisle in every single lot and hall in the show, and I talked to hundreds of people. I spent significant time in 36 booths, but I really focused the bulk of my time in 15 of them. Eight are current clients, and the other seven are not yet clients, though I hope they soon will be. Of those 15, only one was even a little bit disappointed with the show. The other 14 were on the spectrum that began at “Wow, we’re getting serious interest here!” to “Our problem in 2017 is now going to be manufacturing enough to keep up with orders.”

xHHconexpo xtradeshow 2Almost all of these companies are manufacturers of heavy equipment of one kind or another, and many of them reported that they sold all the units in their booth, and took orders for additional units. And that does not even begin to tell the story of the quality leads that sales and marketing managers took back with them to the office to sort through and act on after the show.

When asked why they thought buyers were so optimistic, everyone I spoke to mentioned the forecast of more federal money to support national infrastructure as well as regulation relief. New construction stats have been trending up but are still not great, so most of the optimism was based on future expectations. But as one industry veteran told me, “A depressed man doesn’t spend money. On the other hand, one who is feeling good about the future opens his pockets.”

A couple of weeks after the show, I polled several of the marketing managers I had spoken to earlier to see if their outlook had changed. Again, almost everyone said that their primary feeling about business was one of cautious optimism. Some of the Vegas enthusiasm had faded, but the overall feeling was still very positive. It appears that marketing budgets may be opening up a bit, a trend I expect to accelerate if this year ends up in positive territory.

 

Matt5

Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer. He believes in the intersection between Sales and Marketing.

SEO Basics: Write for Humans

SEO is a scary subject for some, and a lot of the “advice” and “conventional wisdom” we hear is based on misinformation from about 5 or 6 years ago. Or more.

I’d like to share a few tips which are really no more than generally accepted standard operating procedures for online writing provided by experts and Google’s own guides to SEO writing. (By the way, if you want to really dig into the nitty-gritty of SEO, I would recommend making Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide your first stop. Once you follow this link, just click on the link at the top of the new page to download the guide.) But all of these tips connect with the basic advice to write for humans, not bots.

Focus your writing on themes that interest your customers. Ask yourself what they would like to read about. This is a hard one sometimes—they don’t want to read an ad or a marketing “puff” piece or a vanity profile. That might be what we want to write, but put yourself in their shoes. What do they care about? What questions do they have? What expertise can you share that would make their life easier or their business more profitable?

Don’t trade a cheap by-the-word rate for quality content. Quality counts. There are content mills out there that will churn out 1,000 words that just regurgitate copy from your website or brochures, and will do it for almost nothing. Unfortunately, that’s about what it is worth. You want quality writing that is engaging and expert.

Don’t base your writing on keywords for robots and algorithms, but on what is interesting to, and easily read by, actual human readers. Google is getting better and better at rewarding that kind of writing.

You can learn a lot more about optimizing for search engines, and it can be helpful. But if you skip the above basic tips, it will be a waste of time—what good will it do to get to the top of search results, if the content, when clicked on, is sub-par and represents your company badly?

 

Matt5

Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer. He believes in the intersection between Sales and Marketing.

New Tier 4 update presents marketing opportunities

Tier 3, Interim Tier 4, Tier 4 Flex… the process of bringing off-road engines up to Tier 4 standards is a story that seems to go on and on like Scheherazade’s 1,001 nights. Except it’s been going on for a lot longer. So it’s normal when “Tier 4 fatigue” sets in. When you upgrade your engines you write a press release, you add a bullet point to a brochure, but maybe you just don’t feel like it matters anymore. It’s a thing that is happening; what more can you say?

There is a new report out now from EquipmentWatch, a world leader in data for the equipment industry, in partnership with the Association of Equipment Management Professionals (AEMP,) that digs into the cost of Tier 4 to the industry at large. The 2016 Tier 4 Benchmark Report cites key trends that you may be able to use to your advantage in marketing and PR efforts.

The entire report is basically a 10-page infographic, but a nice summary of key issues from the report was written up in Compact Equipment magazine. Both sources say that the number of Tier 4 compliant equipment in fleets is still actually very low, pointing to a sales opportunity. It also supports the notion that Tier 4 products are much more ubiquitous in ads, brochures and news releases than in the field. Which means that continued educational and promotional efforts are still required. The key will be to keep finding fresh and interesting ways to present this content to avoid getting your message tuned out.

However, the report also notes that rental companies are no longer charging a premium to rent Tier 4 equipment, which is good news for manufacturers and end users alike. This should lead to a greater familiarity with the equipment, and perhaps a need to educate those individual end users who may tend to look at Tier 4 as just another expense their businesses have to support. Fuel cost savings will likely be the most touted advantage to the nation’s growing Tier 4 fleet.

In fact, for manufacturers who are eager to overcome the negative perceptions of future “increases in purchase prices, maintenance costs and training costs,” job stories, application stories or case studies that focus on significant fuel savings would be a safe bet. If you have customers who are willing to go on the record regarding fuel savings, it would help you win over the roughly 3 in 5 polled who simply don’t believe that the supposedly more fuel-efficient Tier 4 equipment will actually drop their fuel costs. That is a significant number of potential customers that the right story would win over.

Did some other finding of the report stand out to you? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts—please send them to me at matt@ellcom.us.

Matt5

 

Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer. He believes in the intersection between Sales and Marketing.

 

Are improved equipment sales adding resources to marketing departments in 2015?

I was encouraged early on in 2014 by articles in the trade press forecasting slight improvements to the construction sector. But it really wasn’t until CONEXPO in March that I started hearing stories that made me believe we might be at a turning point.

One manufacturer told me that they had done more business on the first day of the show than they’d done in all five days of the last show, back in 2011. It’s not a surprise that business would be better in 2014, but it was the degree of difference that was surprising. And this wasn’t the only time I heard that kind of story.

A big part of my job entails talking to non-clients (or, as I prefer to say, “potential clients”) and recently a new narrative began to emerge. I started hearing very similar comments from a number of marketing managers of companies catering to the construction industry. They could be summed up as, “If sales can maintain the current pace, we’re going to be able to do more in 2015.” Depending on the company, that may mean more advertising dollars, or maybe a greater focus on content creation, perhaps more investment in social media or just catching up on all those brochures that need to be updated. Some companies without agencies now may consider signing an agency in 2015, some will add staff in-house, and some will turn to freelancers to help them keep up with the demand for more quality content.

For construction equipment manufacturers, there is certainly more reason for optimism than simple anecdotal evidence, though. Construction Equipment reported in its June issue on the results of their reader survey that indicated that almost two-thirds of respondents expected to replace some portion of their equipment fleet this year. In August Equipment Today reported on a study by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers that found “40 to 43 percent of companies with fewer than 1,000 employees indicate that they will increase fleet size over the next 12 months… and about 25 percent of companies with 1,000 or more employees are planning to expand their fleets.”

What about your department? Are you thinking about doing more next year? Have you been given more resources to support your 2015 action plan? And for those of you in other industries, how does your outlook for 2015 differ? Feel free to give me a call if you’d like to bounce some ideas off someone—no commitment necessary. There are incremental steps you can take to improve your content creation, for example, that are scalable and affordable.

 

 

 

 

 

Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer. He believes in the intersection between Sales and Marketing.