By Dan Hebert, PE, Senior Technical Editor
BRANDING IS A familiar concept because of consumer goods marketing, but it often is a foreign topic to technical professionals who work for machine builders, skid builders and system integrators. We all know the value of a good industry reputation, but many engineers and technicians tend to think brand building is best left to sales and marketing.
Thatís just not so. Technical professionals are, in fact, the most important group to help establish and maintain a brand name. Sales and marketing folks provide critical assistance, but you must lead the charge if the performance advantages of your machines are to develop into solid ďstreet props.Ē
Branding is necessary because the marketplace will form an opinion of your company and its products--in effect, your ďbrandĒ--with or without your active participation. Itís clearly better to spend time and effort on branding instead of just taking what the market dishes out.
Most sales in this industry occur through face-to-face meetings between your firmís sales reps and your customersí engineering staff. Branding can help your firm establish the initial contact between sales staff and customer decision makers. Potential customers are more likely to return a call or an e-mail from someone connected with a familiar brand name than from an unknown.
Branding also can help with pricing. If your equipment is being compared to that of an unknown or lesser-known company, some customers might be willing to pay a price premium for the more well-known name, or choose the better-known firm if price is comparable.
"Brand building is too important to be left to sales and marketing types. You must be an active particpant in this area or your brand will decline along with your company's long-term viability."
Finally, branding also can help with collection of that final, often elusive, 10%. Customers are more apt to pay the final 10% to a trusted name as opposed to holding back the final payment to ensure support.
Most of your suppliers spend time and money to establish their brand name. They do this through advertising and generating publicity in trade magazines, holding industry events, maintaining web sites, sending out direct mail promotions and exercising similar marketing tactics. But brand building for machine builders and the system integrators who serve them is different.
The most important component to brand building simply is the performance of your machines at customer sites. A close second is support. No amount of marketing can overcome sub-standard machine performance and support.
If machine performance and support are in order, you can take other steps to build favorable brand recognition. For you, the two main avenues for brand building are trade magazines and events.
This magazine and this web site are vehicles for machine automation, instrumentation, and electrical component and system builders to build their brands with you.
But for machine builders, Control Design magazine is not the place to build a brand through advertising or PR. This would be better accomplished through vertical market publications read exclusively by potential buyers of your machines.
Control Design, or our web site ControlDesign.com, however, are great venues to build and sustain your brand through participation in feature articles, case studies, and authoring an OEM Insight guest column. This is a no-cost way to build brand and establish a reputation as an innovative leader. Articles that feature your machineís performance capabilities can be especially effective marketing tools.
The other main avenue for brand building is events. General automation shows such as NMW and ISA are more suited to your vendors in the areas of automation, instrumentation, and electrical components and systems. Vertical market shows, Interphex for the pharmaceutical industry, PackExpo, IMTS, Semicon West, etc., generally are the preferred avenue for machine and skid builder brand building.
The cost of these branding efforts is obvious, primarily monetary in the case of advertising and both monetary and time in the case of events. But, there really is little downside--brand promotion can only be beneficial.
Branding usually isnít seen as a function of technical professionals, but this view is incorrect. The strongest components of brand building in this industry are the performance and support of machines, and technical professionals are the key contributors in these efforts. Technical professionals also are essential resources when it comes to contributing input to trade magazines that genuinely value it above supplier input. That would be us.
Brand building is too important to be left to sales and marketing types. You must be an active participant in this area or your brand will decline along with your companyís long-term viability.