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Foundry Marketing in the Information Age

Oct. 28, 2008
Metalcasting companies that survive in the Information Age will be the ones that can attract and retain business with the most consistency.
Google indicates that 4,800,000 searches are conducted each year for “Foundries,” 200,000 for “Investment Castings,” 45,000 for “Casting Foundries” and 325,000 for “Die Casting.” What would be the impact to your business if your Web site were one of the 10 Web sites shown on the first page? This question and the favorable results have driven many industrial companies to make considerable investments in search-engine marketing and optimization.

Metalcasting companies that survive in the Information Age will be the ones that can attract and retain business with the most consistency. Too many operations today depend on the ebb and flow of work coming from existing customers. Now more than ever, thriving foundries are using next-generation marketing strategies to keep contract opportunities consistently coming in, no matter what the economic climate looks like. What metalcasters require is a formal marketing game plan, time to execute the strategies and tactics their plan calls for, and a commitment to procure all the resources and expertise to pull it off successfully. In a market where most metalcasters have no marketing plan, there are two choices: to live by traditional sales mechanisms and the inconsistency it can bring; or, to implement a modernized and Internet- centric marketing approach.

Today’s technical buyers, now more than ever, are in control of the buying process. Enter the Internet with extensive resources for design, materials and manufacturing engineers, purchasing agents, and others looking for a new foundry. Being found by a changing demographic of specifiers and buyers who are using the Internet as the primary tool to find suppliers is the challenge confronting metalcasters of all sizes and capabilities.

When buyers are new to the market, are dissatisfied or evaluating suppliers, over 50% of them go online to begin the process of looking for a new supplier. Even more interesting is when they don’t start online, 9 out of 10 of them go to the Internet at some point during the selection process.

A formal marketing plan builds from your business growth objectives as well as from your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT). The plan takes these into consideration to establish and budget for a number of strategies and marketing tactics — the marketing stuff you do and what you spend on it.

Exasperating the challenge of foundries’ capability to attract new customers in today’s market is the stunning reality that over 90% of them have no formal marketing plan in place. Furthermore, the vast majority has no Internet marketing established. In a recent phone survey of foundry executives conducted by Industrial Strength Marketing (ISM), 55% responded that their operations outside of direct sales, “do not market effectively, if at all.”

So, while buyers are going to the Internet literally at the point of sale, the majority of foundries are absolutely invisible. The reality is that even if a potential buyer did manage to find these foundries, their Web sites are inadequate in terms of establishing compelling ways and reasons to contact your organization.

Realize, however, that the Internet is not the panacea of marketing. A successful marketing plan must consider all aspects of promotion, including offline lead generation channels. Executives must track offline trade and industry advertising down to the phone call generated, who the call was from, and what advertising source generated it. Offline marketing, when executed and tracked properly, demonstrates very good results. A modern industrial marketing plan must have both a robust online as well as offline marketing strategy.

One of the big mistakes first-time marketers make is to put all their eggs in one basket. The ranks of failed Google and Industrial Directory marketing campaigns are astounding. These are important tactics but should never be an entire marketing plan, or for that matter dominate the marketing budget. Take into consideration that 80% of industrial businesses surveyed by ISM do not market to past customers or to prospective buyers who have previously requested a quote on a new cast part. Win or lose the bid, this prospective buyer is many times the person who must be contacted on a regular basis for future project opportunities.

Marketing tactics such as combined email and direct mail marketing are very effective ways to convey messages to past customers such as ’have you seen us lately?’. Most important, foundries have worked hard to earn the business they have and cannot afford to take it for granted. Marketing to existing customers should always be a key component of the big picture marketing plan. As an industrial marketer, you must make sure your business remains top of mind with your customers.

Looking at the industry as a whole, the same person responsible for the bottom line growth of the organization many times is the person responsible for operations, human resources, customer service and sales. Amazingly, I often see 2 and even 20 million dollar organizations with just one person dedicated to marketing. Unfortunately for many organizations, these same people have combined titles such as sales / marketing. It’s not surprise which responsibility gets the most attention.

In looking at the small minority of operations who do have a marketing plan and even make the time to move forward, we often find companies who simply don’t have the resources in people, technology, and design to execute it. There is nothing worse than putting a plan together that does not get implemented.

Foundries of all sizes face the challenge of not having muchneeded marketing expertise available to them. American workers are resourceful and willing to take on challenges, like marketing, with little understanding of what makes a marketing initiative successful. For example, many IT staffs have been tasked to take on a Web design project. Unfortunately, technicians most times don’t make for good online marketers. Web design combines messaging, audience, and conversion (contact us) strategies before technology is even considered.

Compounding this challenge is the fact that even ad agencies have not yet adjusted their model to address the unique marketing challenges industrial businesses face. Thus, even a decision to turn to a traditional agency for expertise may not bear fruit.

Finally, hiring a dedicated marketing person is many times not viable for a smaller organization, while others who have the resources must take a lot into consideration. Any marketer coming into an organization will require resources to do their job. The fact is that most of them will need to source for vendors of key marketing functions, such as design and Web development. They also will need the technology software and suppliers to fulfill their marketing plans.

So the question is, what resources and expertise are required? For some companies that have the financial resources to hire marketing specialists, the answer is to bring on key marketing, Web, and creative personnel. A lower overhead answer is to outsource marketing specialists as a number of industrial marketing- focused organizations are popping up to serve specific needs, including search engine marketing and optimization, trade and direct marketing. The complexity of executing online and offline marketing strategies has made the decision to build a team or outsource to marketing specialists an interesting one.

The challenges facing today’s foundries puts them in a position where they must decide how marketing will or won’t play a role in their business. Those who make the decision to have a marketing game plan and effectively execute it will see results and will sleep well knowing they have established mechanisms to consistently position their organizations to attract new business. Once metalcasting executives have determined to make marketing a core component of their business will they see the tremendous sourcing opportunities that are available.