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Understand Your Customers Better: Four Tips From Caterpillar


A guest post by Tim Altier of Bridgz.

Your marketing efforts are more successful when you focus on the customer—not the product—even when you sell machines large enough to move mountains.

When heavy-equipment manufacturer Caterpillar began selling smaller-scale machines to the landscape, construction, and agriculture markets, the company made a strategic decision to sharpen its customer-centric focus.

“Traditionally, Cat and our dealers personally know the buyers for our large-scale equipment,” says Connie LaFlamme, Cat’s marketing consultant for its Building & Construction Products Group in Cary, NC. “But for our equipment sized for use by small to medium construction firms, landscapers, and agricultural producers, we found that we had to stretch to find the right communication channels and messaging because of the expansive customer universe and a tougher competitive environment.”

LaFlamme and marketing consultant Stephanie Hetzel chose to work with Minneapolis-based Bridgz Marketing Group because our stock in trade is helping clients use data to connect directly to their customers’ feelings, attitudes, and buying intentions. The firm specializes in customer-centric marketing that builds the bridge between client and customer.

“We turned up the intensity in our data analysis to uncover more and better information about customers’ buying patterns and cycles,” says LaFlamme. “We refined our marketing metrics to measure right down to sales results. Around Cat, the tolerance for non-measurable marketing strategies is zero.”

The chief objective was to team with Caterpillar to understand its customers at a new, deeper level—and in the process improve the relevancy of customer interaction with the brand.

Here are four lessons we learned from Caterpillar’s success that can help any organization take a customer-centric approach.

1. Combine data sources. Caterpillar and Bridgz blended proprietary warranty data and dealer intelligence—plus public data from a variety of sources—to get closer to the customer. Combining these data sources let the team create a holistic view of the customer. A social media strategy also emerged from the data analysis, which revealed that small contractors are highly active on social media.

2. Customize. Armed with that detailed information, Caterpillar can anticipate when target customers in a given industry are likely to be looking for a new piece of equipment and then initiate a conversation with the target at the right time—with customized messaging modeled to each situation. “We try to address what’s on that particular customer’s mind, including how our value proposition fits with their business philosophy, such as business productivity, total cost of ownership, quality, and dealer support,” LaFlamme says.

3. Use competitive positioning. According to Hetzel, if the customer is using another brand now, Caterpillar’s messaging speaks to its brand’s specific strengths vis-à-vis the competitor. And the communications are integrated and multidimensional; they use the most effective channel, such as events, advertising, direct mail, online or communication, that the situation demands.

4. Measure. Because Caterpillar tracks sales data linked directly to marketing expenditures, ROI data is available. The results have been impressive. Sales to targeted companies yielded a 6:1 ratio of ROI from marketing expenditures in a recent measurement period. Bridgz National Account Manager Andrew Galarneault says, “The detailed metrics we are able to generate also give Caterpillar the predictive tools they need to build successful marketing programs in the future by evaluating each aspect of every marketing campaign.”

The customer segmentation work performed by the marketing team has helped Caterpillar improve its ability to develop machines that are right for each market.

“Marketing and engineering work together to analyze our competitive position, which results in products that we know our customers want,” Hetzel says.

Tim Altier is director of business analytics and insight at Bridgz.

Tags: customer experience, customers, Marketing, Strategy and Tactics

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How to Tell Your Company’s Story [infodoodle]


Telling your company’s story can be a little like going on a first date. You might be all gussied up and at the right place—but you need to think about the art of conversation, too. How can you make sure you don’t bore your date to tears? How can you share information about yourself that engages the listener?

As in dating, telling your company’s story requires a little planning, talking, and listening. You can unearth the good stories about your company by asking yourself (or others in your company) the right questions.

To get your creativity flowing, Ann Handley, MarketingProfs chief content officer and co-author of Content Rules, suggests companies ask themselves specific questions.

We’ve put them in this colorful infodoodle slideshow.  (You also can find the questions at the end of this post.)

Companies should ask themselves these questions.

1. What is unique about your business?
2. What is interesting about how your business was founded? About your founder?
3. What problem is your company trying to solve?
4. What inspired your business?
5. What aha moments has your company had?
6. How has your business evolved?
7. What’s an unobvious way to tell your story?
8. What do you consider normal and boring that other folks would think is cool?

Tags: brand, Branding, Content, Content Marketing, Marketing, MarketingProfs

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Is Your Marketing Out of Shape? Back Up Your Goals With Actions

I have a secret. I’ve kept it from most of my colleagues and coworkers for some time now.

The sad truth is this: Seven years ago, I weighed close to 205 pounds. And I stand all of 5 feet, 9 inches. So, when you weigh that much, are of limited stature, and don’t have “NFL Running Back” in your job title, you are officially in the “obese” category. I never planned to be that out of shape by the time I was in my early 30s. It just kind of happened.

Once I realized how out of shape I was, I attempted to do something about the excess weight. The problem was I only did some of the things necessary to achieve weight loss. For example, I would go for a run—but only every so often. I would join a gym, but I didn’t go consistently. I would go on healthy-eating kicks and stay away from fatty foods. That would last only until I traveled again. Then I’d inevitably opt for the bacon burger and fries instead of a chicken garden salad.

Even though I said I wanted to get in better shape and lose weight, I did not back up my words with actions. Not until I made consistent changes to my lifestyle did I see the difference. Once I committed to actionable change, the weight started to come off, and I eventually shed 40 pounds.

Was getting in shape easy? No. But all that work was worth it.

My weight-loss journey may serve as a lesson for marketing and sales organizations. Marketers and salespeople talk a lot about the desire to improve, to be more effective, and to “get in better shape.” However, the key components of commitment and action are not there.

The resistance to change was highlighted for me during a recent conversation with a senior director of marketing at a large enterprise company. The conversation focused on training personnel on demand generation and lead management best practices and on developing process for the organization.

Soon in our conversation, such phrases as “Well, we don’t do it that way here” and “That won’t be possible with us” began to come out. What the person was really saying was “We want to change, but we’re not all that committed to it.” That was just like my talking about my plans for weight loss while downing a heaping bowl of ice cream.

The action of change was not there to back up the words of change.

There is no doubt that marketers need to change. Recent studies by The Marketing Automation Institute, Focus and The Fournaise Group have shown that, although buyers have changed, marketers are still far behind in terms of skills and the knowledge needed to succeed.

So, despite a lot of talk about change, it won’t happen until commitment and action are part of the equation. Until that occurs, our marketing and sales groups will continue to be out of shape.

(Photo courtesy of Bigstock: Weight Loss)

Tags: B2B, b2b marketing, b2b sales, change management, eduction, Marketing, marketing training, Sales, sales training

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