This article is for owners and decision makers of equipment, material, and contracting companies who are not reaching their full potential, being taken advantage of by marketing agencies, or just ignoring marketing altogether. This article is a blunt, realistic guide for those who are serious about profiting in 2021, as well as the remainder of 2020.
I’ve wanted to write this article for a long time.
For those who aren’t familiar with me, I’ve been the managing editor and co-owner of Pile Buck (and now E&C) for over fifteen years now. What does that mean? It means I spend most of my time—sometimes weekends—emailing and speaking with equipment and material suppliers—contractors too.
By now, it’s fair to say that I have personally spoken with thousands of them. Some are highly successful and some failures. What is the difference between the two? Are there trends that we can learn from?
IS YOUR AGENCY SERVING YOU?
There are some fantastic marketing agencies out there. Fraley Construction Marketing, Construct Marketing, Cunningham Baron, Convey—just to name a few. But, these are few and far between.
I can comfortably say that 75 percent of agencies are not serving their clients. I wish the contrary were true—and I hesitate to take a cynical approach to this article—but it’s difficult for me to sit back and watch as multiple clients of mine pay agencies whose performance is dismal.
An example, you say?
A situation that happens all too frequently—when a client informs me that they have a new product that they need to promote. I’ll inform the agency that we’re—not only willing to publish the article into the magazine, blog, social media, and an email newsletter—but we’ll even offer one of our writers. No response.
Or how about an additional ad—no charge—if we can get this contract closed within the next ten days… Fourteen days later, the agency representative responses—“Thanks for your email. Going to discuss with the client sometime this week.”
Sadly, after the agency (or individual) is eventually terminated or replaced, I’ll discover that the owner was never even informed about our offer.
This is unacceptable, perhaps even unethical. And, believe me, I can cite plenty more examples, but my intention is not to discourage business owners from utilizing agencies. Out of respect, I would never approach the company owner regarding a negative experience with the agency that they’ve hired. I guess that’s why I’m writing this article.
You’re paying the agency. They work for you! So be sure that you’re asking the right questions. Here are a few crucial ones:
- How will your agency assist us with marketing in the heavy equipment (or materials) industry? Do you work with clients similar to us? Can you provide examples?
- How well do you know our products, our customers, and how the industry operates?
- Are you able to adjust your strategies to be in alignment with our budget?
- Who exactly will be handling my account? How much of the work will be outsourced?
- How will we measure “success?”
- How long will my contract be? Why?
- What will you offer us in terms of content marketing?
Hiring a marketing agency is a good idea, but don’t hand over the keys and walk away. Be sure to take a check under the hood on a regular basis.
WHY DOES A MARKETING STRATEGY NOT WORK?
WHO IS LISTENING?
“We’re going digital.”
If I had a nickel for every time I heard this… Yet, I’m not sure people know exactly what this means.
Yesterday, a representative from an agency had called me to discuss a digital package that I sent him a week prior. The package included digital magazine, email, and web ads. The gentleman’s response was—“I’m not really sure. The client is really looking to do digital right now.”
At this point, virtually every form of marketing is “digital”. “Going digital” isn’t even necessarily a strategy. And, remember, that digital will still cost you—often times even more than print—especially if you’re working with SEO and programmatic ads.
Go digital! Just understand that there are no shortcuts or secrets in marketing. The same rules still apply today as they did fifty years ago.
ARE WE THERE YET?
Effective marketing takes time. I think that some people believe “digital marketing” translates to instant results. (Believe me, I wish that were the case.) A study revealed that the average top ten results in Google searches needed two to six months to earn this ranking.
On that note, consistency is equally important—Whether your strategy is print or digital, a single ad won’t cut it. Consider how oversaturated markets are. Consider how many ads we see a day. Digital marketing experts estimate that most Americans are exposed to 4,000 to 10,000 ads in a single day.
MORE ELBOW GREASE
But, of course, fault does not always lie with the agency. I’ve spoken with plenty of owners who complain about poor sales. Meanwhile, they’re taking little to no action.
When it comes to marketing, “you reap what you sow” absolutely applies.
Regarding Covid-19, I understand that there are some elements completely beyond our control, but does that mean you should cease marketing completely? Before you say—“But Alex, you’re a media and marketing company—” I can assure you that we have clients who are equipment suppliers, material suppliers, and contractors who are embracing the current circumstances and profiting greatly.
Last week, I had one client tell me that it was the “best month that they’ve ever had in business,” and—in the same week—another client told me it was the “best quarter they’ve had in twenty-five years.”
And stats don’t lie. Last month, our website and digital issue stats were the highest that they’ve been since we launched the Pile Buck website in the 90’s.
What is the difference between one steel supplier, who had the best month they’ve ever had, and another, supplying the same steel, who is concerned about going out-of-business?
Now is the time to market. We’re experiencing Darwinism at its finest… survival of the fittest. You must adapt to survive.
SO, WHAT DOES WORK?
Whether you’re working with an agency or not, there are simple and affordable—yet still effective—marketing strategies that can be implemented on a regular basis. Some of these tactics include:
- Regularly adding content to social media, e.g. photos
- Commenting on other companies’ social media posts
- Commenting on industry-related blog articles
- Pick up a phone or cheap camera and record videos of your product or service
- Host a webinar to promote your equipment or service
Another technique that is worth more than a bullet on a list is content marketing—my personal favorite.
“Content marketing is a form of marketing focused on creating, publishing, and distributing content for a targeted audience online.” In short, it is storytelling. Examples include a blog article or photo on social media.
Taking it up a notch, evergreen content is content that continues to be relevant over a long period of time. This would not include a recent news article or current trend in the market. An ideal example would be ‘Repairing and Rebuilding vs. Replacing Augers.’ As the opening line of the article states, “Augers are a key component in the drilling industry.” They have and always will be relevant. Ever heard “fortune favors the bold?” Well, in this case, “Google favors the evergreen.”
You can create this content yourself! You don’t even need an agency or us! Right now, you can hire a freelance writer and start blogging about a recent project or your entire product line. What are you waiting for?
That being said, it absolutely helps to utilize third-party platforms to promote your content to appropriate audiences in the industry. That’s why media and marketing companies like us are so effective. Pile Buck promotes and even helps produce articles for dozens of our clients. This content is then promoted in our magazine, blog, social media, and email newsletters. (My one plug, I promise.)
Consider how a single article (average cost of $250) can be so effective.
BEST WAYS TO SPEND BUDGET RIGHT NOW?
In addition to cranking out content, as mentioned above, here are what I believe are the most effective means of marketing right now:
Magazine ads—Let’s assume a publication has—at least—a digital edition. You must not underestimate the longevity and influence of a single issue. In my experience, people typically assume that a digital issue is released, viewed for a couple of months, then goes into hibernation. Wrong. Digital editions of publications are viewed for months, even years.
Email ads—I’ve spoken to plenty of people who said that they’ve tried email ads, with no avail. Four out of five times, the data that they’re using is obsolete and/or the email contacts were not opted in correctly. Proper email marketing is an art form, in itself, and may require an entire article to cover. In the meantime, feel free to reach out to me with questions.
Programmatic ads—Ever see your competitor’s ad on a major website like ESPN when you’re browsing the web? Utilizing algorithms, programmatic advertising is the automated buying and selling of online advertising. Essentially, you are targeting who matters.
I’m happy to help. Just shoot me an email or phone call.
Managing Editor – Pile Buck
Managing Editor – Equipment & Contracting