Thursday, April 29, 2010

IMTS 2010 - Make or Break?

by Leslie Galbreath, Executive Vice President/CMO

Believe it or not, another IMTS is just around the corner. It seems as if it was just yesterday that the machine tool industry gathered at McCormick Place in Chicago for the International Manufacturing Technology Show. In fact, it’s been almost two years since IMTS 2008, and a lot has changed. I mean, a LOT.

In the last two years we’ve seen a recession unlike anything this generation’s global economy has ever experienced. According to Gardner Publication’s Capital Spending Survey & Forecast, the machine tool industry overall was down 47% in 2009 from 2008. In terms of units, it was down 54%. As a result, in addition to dismal sales, we saw the demise of multiple publications, the merger of seemingly strange bedfellows in the interest of survival, the failing of several iconic companies, a decrease in marketing budgets, reduced production and countless lost jobs. Needless to say, it was a tough year for everyone.

That said, things are on the upswing.

Now, I use the term ‘upswing’ loosely. Sales are improving for many builders and some jobs are coming back to the US, but we have a long way to go.

Enter IMTS. First held in Cleveland, Ohio in 1927, IMTS is the largest manufacturing technology trade show in North America, and has served as the launching pad for many a technological innovation. The show has taken place every two years in good times and bad, and has always been considered the premier event for the industry. But with things so very different now, the entire industry is eager to learn what the show will bring this year.

In the last few weeks, I’ve read several editorials published by key editors in our industry urging capital equipment builders and accessories and peripherals manufacturers alike to make this the best IMTS yet. In fact, it’s been suggested that it MUST be. That this show will be a (not the, but a) deciding factor in the success or failure of the US manufacturing industry going forward. I’m not usually one to believe that the outcome of a given situation results from the last shot of the game per se, but I’m beginning to wonder if they might be right this time.

I think IMTS 2010 will set the tone at the very least.

Our clients are already gearing up for a big show. We’ve been fortunate to have clients that have remained relatively strong during the recession, and most are looking at IMTS as the time to pounce on the competition. These companies are heeding the urgency of the IMTS message this year – to connect global technology and re-inspire the industry. They have developed new technology and are prepared to demonstrate it in an interesting way. They have upped their marketing budgets to ensure they reach their audiences and drive them to the booths. They have planned an interactive experience for their visitors. They are using social media and capitalizing on public relations and advertising. In short, they are serious. And this is a good thing.

Only time will tell if IMTS is the restart button the industry needs. I hope that as we’re all icing our aching feet on September 18, we can look back and celebrate a show that did indeed re-inspire and, perhaps more importantly, reinvigorate US manufacturing.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The ‘Science’ Of Branding In The World Of Industrial Marketing

by Marc Diebold, President & CEO

I ran into an interesting guy once a few years ago. I had just walked into a banquet room – a bit early for once – to attend a marketing association meeting. I’m not the most outgoing networker in the world, but I try to make an effort at these things to meet some new people, so I walked up to the first person I saw and introduced myself. It turned out this guy was the guest speaker, a branding research expert from a high profile brand consultancy out of the Chicago area. At first, he was politely going through the motions, making small talk with me while he glanced at anyone new that walked in the room. But that changed when I answered his question about what kind of clients we work with, and what kind of people they sell to. “Engineers! I am fascinated by them,” he said.

He went on to tell me about one of the intense exercises they do with target audience subjects on behalf of the clients they work for. One aspect of this particular exercise, he said, was boring for their researchers because it almost always yielded the same results, regardless of the type of people being observed. What they do is sit a person down in a chair, tell them to close their eyes, and proceed to ask a series of ‘what comes to mind’ type questions. When they get to a question that asks the subject to describe a situation that sets their mind at ease, most everyone answers with something like ‘sitting on a beach listening to the ocean.’ However, he explained excitedly, if the subject is an engineer, they will often answer with something like ‘the sound of one of their machines running smoothly.’ Imagine that. Sounds a bit geeky doesn’t it?

This story illustrates a simple but unique reality we have to consider everyday here at dgs. Technically minded people process information (and make purchase decisions) differently than the rest of us.

Branding can be a very important part of an integrated marketing program for companies that sell manufacturing equipment. That may seem counterintuitive to some marketing folks. Don’t technically minded people purchase things based solely on a detailed, process-oriented analysis, and therefore concern themselves only with the features and specs of a product? The short answer is ‘not exactly.’ There’s no question that their decision making process is more analytical than other business-to-business audiences advertising agencies may deal with. But we’ve learned from studying research and our own observations from years of doing this kind of work that technically minded people are in fact deeply affected by brand perceptions, and even emotions, much more than they might admit if the question is posed to them in a group setting.

Most of our clients sell a very expensive piece of high-tech manufacturing equipment. As a marketing service company for these types of clients, we do a lot of technical product marketing designed to inform and influence engineers, plant managers, scientists, and other industrial audiences. To do that effectively, you have to be able to get inside a technical person’s mind to understand how they think and what influences their brand perceptions. Besides traditional forms of marketing communications like print advertising, public relations, website development, direct mail and trade show marketing, the actual experiences a customer has using a piece of equipment, and the chemistry of their relationship with the people at the company making the product collectively contribute to that company’s brand image. So, at least for a technical audience, branding is much more than logos and slogans. To build a brand image, you better have your key messages right, and deliver them in a believable, creative, and, most importantly, compelling way.

There’s another interesting dynamic at play here, particularly for our clients. The machines they sell often run productively for 10, 15 or even 20 years before they are replaced. So, good or bad, the impression (read ‘brand image’) left with the user endures longer than most other company’s products. In many cases, that presents an opportunity. Through the life of the product, support services like applications engineering, training, parts and service, etc. can serve to enhance the brand image of our client, so we look for opportunities to include those things as part of our marketing communications approach. It’s all part of the science of branding in the world of industrial marketing.

I could go on and on about branding and technical marketing, but in the interest of keeping this blog post to a reasonable length, I’ll just close by offering to continue the conversation ‘offline’ with anyone that is interested. Please feel free to e-mail me at or call me at 317-813-2220 if you have any interesting thoughts on this subject.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Creating Technically

by Justin Brown, Senior Art Director

Let’s say we have a client who needs an ad or piece of literature focused on a new series of machines. After I understand the creative and marketing strategies, I start experimenting with layouts. For inspiration, I avoid looking at the typical B-to-B magazines and go straight for my car magazines. Car magazines are filled with very creative and technical ads for new car models and ads for safety innovations. That car is the focal point of the ad. I look at the advertisers’ use of space, color, tone, purpose, and whether or not it makes me excited like a 15yr old boy on a beach. I also explore social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook and blogs for the latest creative trends and dos and don’ts.

Keeping in mind that the copy often drives the design, I work with layout options that presents the information our clients want to get across most effectively. I’ll never go back to a copywriter and tell them that their copy doesn’t fit my design. I frequently make adjustments to my concepts in order to accommodate the size of content. The exciting part about this is that it keeps me on my toes creatively and allows me to continue producing unique looks for each project. I also like experimenting with page orientation. Vertical layouts are traditional. Horizontal layouts are rare. If I think the information presents better horizontally, I’m all over it like ugly on an ape. It’s unique and stands out from the other ads in the publication. However, I’m still waiting on a client approval for an upside ad. Waiting… still waiting… I should grab a Snickers®

Now that I have some layout options and I know the tone of the copy, I pull keywords from the copy and start researching images focused on the targeted audience. I’m looking for those digital, high tech, sophisticated images. Not the ones that are plain, dull and straightforward – I’m after the dramatic angles, abstract views and well-taken photography.

While images are key, I also explore new ways of incorporating color to prevent pieces from blending in with those template driven ads. Most of our clients have their main corporate color palettes but also include secondary color palettes. As much as possible, I try to work in these secondary colors to add more depth to the creative. Today’s consumer market color trends are very minimalistic. A lot of black, darker colors or whites, lighter colors are being used in printed materials to achieve that sleek, elegant look. I work from this in my own style to give each ad that high level sophistication that presents the product as if it’s the best of the best.

With the layout structure, dramatic imagery, highly technical copy and sophisticated color scheme together, I feel we have developed an ad that presents the information effectively and also stands out in a magazine.

The Wrap

Looking back on the evolution of my design process over the last five and a half years, combined with the collaborative dgs approach, I feel we have been able to develop some highly effective and influential creative designs. No designer has it all figured out. We have to keep our eyes open and minds alert for new ways to help clients evolve, while remembering who we are marketing to – people. Even though B-to-B consumers rarely make spontaneous purchases like Apple enthusiasts do when the latest product is released, there is still an emotional element that should be acknowledged and respected.

A machine tool or a spindle will never obtain the same excitement for a buyer as the latest Corvette or iPhone, but emotions control much of what we do, and when communicating to a person whose purchases have the power to change the way his or her company does business, finding ways to engage, entice and persuade them is vital to any advertiser’s success.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

dgs Client, Harry Moser, Promotes Re-Shoring on CBS

Longtime dgs client, Harry Moser, chairman emeritus of GF AgieCharmilles, appeared on the CBS morning show, Monsters and Money in the Morning, on April 12, 2010.

Harry was promoting the upcoming Re-Shoring Fair, which will take place May 12, 2010 at the Hyatt Regency Irvine Hotel in Irvine, California. For more information, please visit

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Communication Chameleon

by Sarah Showalter, Account Manager

As the point person for clients, media reps and vendors it is necessary that I act as a communication chameleon; depending upon my surroundings I must adapt to fit in. This holds especially true when communicating with various clients throughout the day. Each client has their own preference for how they choose to do business and through what mode of communication. For the sake of discussion I will categorize them into: The Emailer, The Caller, The Follow Up, The Old School, and The Socializer.

The Emailer Client
As most of the population, this client communicates through email. They send you emails for everything- questions, requests, simple “oks” and this is what they prefer. As schedules vary and are unpredictable, this is a convenient method to get the communication out there and as they multi-task they wait for a response. I must adapt and be available through email and respond in a timely fashion. It is important to follow up and notify the client that you received the email and are working on their request. Professional tones, greetings, and thoroughness are key to email replies, as tone and sincerity can be lost in the translation in this type of interpersonal communication.

The Caller Client
The Caller Client seems like is a rarity with email around, but as one could guess, this client prefers to pick up the phone. They find it easier to get the answers they need to ask over the phone and this is certainly a benefit of phone calls in addition to being able to build a relationship and having the ability to gauge their tone. This style also allows for immediate gratification since waiting for an email reply is not a factor. The downfall of phone calls is that you take the chance of the person not being at their desk, relying on voicemails and trying to schedule time when all parties are available to talk. Phone calls also fail to provide a “paper trail” as opposed to email; one cannot go back and reference details or what the conversation entailed. When communicating with The Caller it is important to maintain expected phone etiquette: speak clearly at a reasonable volume, ask questions if you do not understand and follow up to voicemails.

The Follow Up Client
This client type lies between The Emailer and The Caller. They tend to use both methods equally and often will follow up one method with the other- hence The Follow Up Client. They may email you and then immediately call to ensure that you received the email or have any questions. This method allows for both the benefits and disadvantages of emailing and calling, but this also allows for twice the thoroughness and immediate access to the client if you have any questions. An additional benefit is efficiency as any questions get answered without the time delay of email or phone tag.

The Old School Client
The Old School Client tends to feel more comfortable using old school methods such as fax and snail mail. Overall, this is not the primary way of communication they use for everyday communication, but as clients still use it is it worth mentioning. The benefits of old school methods are that they are fairly easy to use and require little effort. On the other hand, these types of modes require more time to get to the intended party and they are behind in most technological aspects.

The Socializer Client
The Socializer is on the other side of the spectrum than The Old School. This client embraces new methods of communication and may elect to use this method over other options because it can be more convenient for them. For example, if a client uses BlackBerry Messenger, AIM (or another type of instant messaging), Facebook or Twitter and you use that method as well-they may send you a message while they are using that program or ask you a question while they see you online. These social media outlets are unarguably popular and growing so the odds of connecting via one of these modes is common. The benefits include instant gratification and accessibility, but all business formality is lost.

Every client may not neatly fit into one of these categories, but as the Communication Chameleon it is important to be able to adapt to client preferences while maintaining professionalism and follow through no matter what the mode. The communication that is relayed is more important than through what mode, but it is how you respond is what determines your success.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Determining The Social Media Vehicles That Fit Your Company – Part 2

by Jim May, PR Manager

After a couple weeks away from the blog, I’m back with our next installment on the use of social media. Let’s take a look at some more avenues you’ve heard about and may be considering.

How much do customers want to talk about your product?
With all the attention paid to the latest and greatest in social media trends, marketers often overlook one that’s been around for quite a while, relatively speaking. Message boards, aka discussion forums, gave birth to some of the first online communities. Now an everyday occurrence, it used to be revolutionary to consider that groups of people with a common interest could come together and interact without regard to geographic boundaries.

Message boards still hold the potential to offer companies significant value. Whether it’s to trash talk over last night’s game, compare side effects of a course of medical treatment or engage in political discourse, millions of people visit message boards everyday. If you haven’t already, spend some time looking for boards that are relevant to your products. If you’re a large company, chances are you’re already being discussed somewhere on the web. Those are conversations you’ll want to at least monitor, if not participate in.

In addition to looking for existing message boards, many companies could be well served by creating their own. If your customers would enjoy or benefit from the sharing of information among themselves, there’s a good chance you could build a message board community around your products.

How valuable is your expertise?
As of January 2009, over 133,000,000 blogs had been launched. That comes out to one blog for every 50 or so people in the world. Sure, the majority of those are personal efforts not intended for mass consumption, with individuals reaching out to small groups of family, friends or peers. Still, the blogosphere’s immense and if your company is thinking about starting a blog, you need to carefully consider who you’re trying to reach and how you’re going to stand out.

One way to quickly gauge the potential of a blog for your organization is to consider the degree to which customers value your expertise. If you are in a position to offer insight that will truly benefit them, a blog can be an excellent avenue for sharing that information. For instance, if effective use of your product relies on user expertise, you probably can offer a lot of data that customers will be grateful to have. The same holds true if you’re a company providing a knowledge-based service. You know, like a marketing agency for example.

For smaller companies that serve relatively limited groups of customers, a blog can also provide value by building and strengthening personal relationships. If you tend to think of clients, as opposed to customers, you’re likely operating in a realm where a blog can help those you do business with become better acquainted with the team they’re relying on.

Have a lot of videos lying around?
Over 100 million Americans visit YouTube every month. It’s all but guaranteed you have current and potential customers that use the site regularly. So you definitely want to have some videos posted, right? Maybe.

We’ve reached the point where 15 hours of video are being uploaded to YouTube every minute and, for the immediate future anyway, that number’s only going to increase. With such a heavy saturation of content, there’s a slim chance of posting a video that becomes an internet phenomenon and helps drive awareness of your brand. More likely, any value from the medium is going to come from establishing a channel and linking to it from your website and other social media profiles.

The choice of whether to use YouTube should rely heavily upon your company’s pre-existing video assets. If you have a library of professionally produced videos that are consistent with your brand messaging, it requires minimal effort to post them and there is little downside to doing so. More problematic is the issue of whether to create videos specifically for the medium. Video production can be a very expensive affair. Ask yourself if video will allow you to achieve something that could not be accomplished in a more convenient and cost-effective manner. Unless the answer is yes, you’ll likely see little benefit to producing videos specifically for YouTube.

Ok, that completes the round-up of the various social media vehicles. Please keep in mind that this series of blogs speaks to using these resources to build loyalty and communicate with customers. To maintain this focus, aspects such as search engine optimization have been intentionally left out. Hopefully, the last couple entries have at least stimulated you to think about social media in a new way. I’ll be posting one more write-up next week, with some tips specific to implementing the various tools. Thanks for reading.