Every year, I chair the ISA Marketing and Sales Summit, which this year will be in lovely downtown Boston in splendid September...go to www.isa.org for more information. The reason I do this is that, frankly, in the automation industry, as a colleague of mine recently noted, "The bar is set pretty low."
He's right, and this isn't a good thing, especially if we want to continue to gain respect for the absolutely essential work we do.
So, vendors, here's some unsolicited marketing advice. End-users, it wouldn't hurt for you to put on your listening ears, too. Some of this applies to marketing yourself, your career and your projects inside your company, as well. So listen up, y'all!
Proper use of public relations, both in traditional format and in the newer Web 2.0 formats is now essential for your continued success as a company. If you don't know how to do Web 2.0, call me and I'll give you a quick tutorial and send you where you can learn.
Look at our news. There are only a few companies who take advantage of the fact that if you send us a newsworthy information item about a big order you've gotten, or a new alliance or partnership you've entered, we will probably use it, either online or in the magazine, or both. So why do more vendors not send us interesting news?
We get lots of new product releases. Most of them consist of a statement of features, and a picture. Thank God we don't have to wade through paper releases anymore. I put the kibosh on that years ago. So, what is wrong with that? Well, it isn't valuable to the end users unless you also include why the product is useful to the potential market and some specific applications. Just listing features because it is gee-whiz is for Jimmy Neutron not good automation marketing.
One of the essential things vendor companies can do to get their message to the end users is to communicate regularly to the editor community-- there aren't a lot of us, it is relatively easy, and we don't hide our phone numbers and email addresses. Most of us don't have nasty habits, and I haven't bitten anybody in at least a couple of weeks. Of course, it is early yet this morning. [evil grin]
And I'm not talking about PR people contacts who send press releases and then call a week later, "I sent you a release last week, did you get it?" If you sent it, it was one of a bunch I got. I read every release everyone sends me, and I decide what action is appropriate. I guarantee I took the appropriate action on your release.
No, I am talking about product managers, marketing managers, and subject matter experts. I regularly hold hour-long or longer conference calls with vendors who have gotten this down. These are some of the most valuable things I do-- and information flows both ways. We all learn something, and I get a sense of who knows what, which is essential when we're looking for quotes for stories. This is easy to do, and I don't know a single editor who won't spend time talking to you about what you do.
And for some reason, it seems to be more common not to respond to our requests for help with stories. What's up with that, folks? Don't vendors want to have input to stories? Of course they do-- just let us leave a major vendor out of a multisource feature, and see the fur fly. But it would be nice if when we send you an email three months before the story is due, that you'd respond with help.
And finally...and frankly I hesitate to mention it...our advertising studies show that many advertisements aren't as well thought out as they might could be. Emerson's Jane Lansing gave a marvelously hysterical description of this kind of advertising at the first ISA Marketing and Sales Summit, and it is too bad that we couldn't have recorded it-- because although it lampooned automation advertising, it did so in a way that the audience learned greatly. I can never see a "hero product" ad without seeing "Mt. Everest" in the background, even if it is a picture of a refinery.
So, If you want, I'll start running some tutorials in this space. Let me know how many of you are interested...and you can always come to the ISA Marketing and Sales Summit this fall in Boston, where you can get taught by your peers.