Friday, December 11, 2015
In his first blog, Steve Hutin, the managing director of Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd, marks the launch of the company’s new content marketing programme and explains what rigging has taught him about engaging an audience.
My colleague Alan Varney (manager) and I were stuck in traffic during the near 200-mile drive from South Wales to Merseyside last month (November), where we attended LEEA’s LiftEx trade show at the Liverpool Exhibition Centre.
It prolonged the journey but gave us time to talk business without the distractions of the office, shop floor and job site. We spent much of it talking about Rope and Sling Specialists’ potential to join, or even surpass, the select group of companies in the UK’s lifting industry who educate and communicate with their audiences through content marketing. It’s something we have been thinking about for a while now but, on the cusp of a new year, it was time to act.
We have a fantastic team—we’ll start the New Year with 42 employees—who has experience and expertise that, combined with our product range, equips us to generate positive interest in our company, whilst interacting with industry and our target audiences. By the time we parked the car in Liverpool, we had decided to set the wheels in motion and took that intent onto the brightly coloured aisles of LiftEx and into our networking sessions.
I read a lot of the lifting industry’s trade journals and absorb as much online content as I can. I am familiar with the equipment manufacturers and suppliers that are the most effective marketeers. Our strategy is tailored to our ability to communicate with our audiences, but to see how others have succeeded—and failed—is of great advantage.
It is no coincidence that the busiest exhibition stands at LiftEx were occupied by the companies I see most often in trade magazines and other media. It was not by chance that a scrum of engaged, inquisitive visitors were huddled around the stand of a great blogger where his team of switched on representatives applied the product to attendees’ lifting problems. On the other hand, there was also a good reason for empty stands and disinterested exhibitors slumped in the corner catching up on emails. The power of marketing and content about a company, brand, product or individual was clear for all to see.
One word is more important than the other in Content Marketing. Since LiftEx, I’ve been writing it on my whiteboard CONTENT marketing if that gives you a clue as to which one. The savvy companies I reference above who were successful in driving traffic to their stands at LiftEx, and many other events before it, don’t saturate the marketplace with self-serving literature and advertisements. Yes, they promote their brand and products but the most powerful thing they do is educate, inform and engage. I’m setting out to do the same.
It’s why my blog posts will not be commercial. I know my customers and Rope and Sling Specialists’ audience are busy and frequently bombarded with average (often useless) information. I am equally aware they won’t read this far down a blog that is bland, boring, self-serving or confrontational. I must be doing ok if you’ve stuck with me to this point!
My blog is one component of a triangular content marketing strategy. Like a below-the-hook rigging arrangement, it’s been carefully planned and there’s only one way to get it right. The two other elements are invigorated social media activity and regular communication with trade magazine editors. It’s no secret that we have enlisted the support of the industrial lifting industry’s leading public relations consultants but, as they told us on a windy Wales morning in Bridgend recently, it’s a campaign that has to be powered from within the business.
The increased importance of social media was prevalent at LiftEx too. Again, those who are most active and post the most valuable content were often those welcoming visitors in the greatest number. It’s about commentary, engagement, interaction, collaboration and value. Expect high level social media posts on our Twitter account—@RopeandSling—where we’ve welcomed over 150 new followers this month alone.
Quality of audience once again is priority though. I’d take 1,000 engaged, relevant followers over 10,000 who are neither one of those all day long. Many misunderstand the opportunity social media presents, or at least the danger of pretending it isn’t relevant. Even if you haven’t got a smart phone, you’re involved. Consider that anyone can Tweet about a company, product or individual and send pictures to all four corners of the world in seconds. Building trust and integrity in this new world is vitally important.
We have already drafted our first press release about taking delivery of a new 1,000t Sahm Splice hydraulic press that will increase our machining capability and enable the business to manufacture 55t safe working load slings, with the oil, gas and crane rental markets in mind. As will be the case with all the press releases we write, it was important to answer the important questions that magazine editors look for: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? Answer those as quickly as you can in your own press announcements to gain maximum exposure. It’s simple but effective:
Who?: Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd
What?: New 1,000t Sahm Splice hydraulic press
Where?: Pyle, Bridgend, Wales
When?: It was delivered this month
Why?: To increase productivity and capacity
How?: It joins an older press already on site and can manufacture 55t safe working load slings
Content can be like rigging. Understanding the audience is as important as understanding the load. When you know the shape, size, capacity, delicacy and pick points available, you can tailor a solution accordingly.
We recognise that in South Wales our content should educate steel professionals, while in London, those working in infrastructure and construction require different information to our offshore contacts in Scotland and varied community in Rotherham. We have a physical presence in each of those regions and will expand further in 2016 and beyond. Engaging each audience with relevant, helpful content and information is key.
Good pictures help too, but I’m not sure the one of me with the new press will be making magazine front covers any time soon!
Tools of the trade
In summary, this blog will be the more expansive, discursive content marketing tool, while Twitter engages with our audience in 140 characters on a daily basis. Trade media editors, meanwhile, will help us reach professionals at contractors; infrastructure and construction projects; and other end users. Each time, our content will be tailored to the audience having asked ourselves the questions: Is it of value? What will they gain from it? Keep those questions in mind before pressing Send or Tweet.
There’s more to this content marketing strategy than generating positive interest and ultimately profit in Rope and Sling Specialists. I wouldn’t patronise my audience in my first blog and say I’m doing this purely for the love of the industry but that’s honestly a big part of it. One of the things I admire about my now fellow bloggers, Tweeters and media commentators, is the passion with which they champion the industry and promote it collectively.
We all have a role to play in better presenting the industry to young people completing education or those choosing career paths. Few planned to be in the lifting business, yet just as few leave it once they’re hooked. Retention is a selling point that we should make more of to schools, colleges, universities and other centres of excellence. We are hindered by the lack of dedicated apprenticeships but it’s one of the most uplifting industries in the world—in more ways than the obvious.
It does come with huge responsibility, however, and we will Tweet, commentate and communicate with the appropriate tone. We’re below-the-hook specialists by name and nature; we understand that a lift is only as safe as the rigging equipment that connects the load to a crane or lifting machine. It’s worth reminding oneself how few loads actually make direct contact with a hook, without some form of below-the-hook device or rigging arrangement. Bad rigging and bad content are as useless as each other.
That’s all for my first blog but there’s plenty more to come in 2016. Enjoy the holiday season in the meantime and follow us on Twitter—@RopeandSling.