Analysis and Commentary

Marketing for manufacturers: Let your customers be your marketers

Analysis and Commentary

In the last article of Marketing for manufacturers, Johanna Boland explains the importance of tapping into and celebrating the passion of customers.

When I moved into the Communications role at ANCA, an Australian manufacturing company, I anticipated our marketing activity would be straightforward, and, if anything, a little bit dull. 

I knew I would be working in the technology sector, and that was interesting, but I wasn’t sure how much creativity would be encouraged or needed in a B2B organisation. 

And to be honest that is what I found. We are a fully privately-owned Australian manufacturer running for over 45 years from Melbourne and export 99 per cent of our product overseas. ANCA is thriving with around 1,000 employees and is a world leading manufacturer of CNC grinding machines, motion controls, sheet metal solutions and components. 

We have customers in over 45 countries and facilities in the UK, Germany, China, Thailand, India, Japan, Brazil and the USA as well as a network of representatives and agents worldwide. 

So as a business ANCA was doing well.

My first job was to benchmark against our competitors, and we were easily meeting the same standards. We had a strong brand, advanced product management process, advertised, participated in the right exhibitions, produced good printed sales materials and had a passable website. All respectable, solid traditional marketing activities. 

But it wasn’t just traditional marketing that enabled us to take the top position in our market. We make a really great product with extraordinary technology backed up by a global sales and service infrastructure. It was a positive customer experience that saw us dominate our market.

We were successful and our customers loved us – so why break what wasn’t broken? Finding my feet, I realised the potential of this opportunity. 

With a more progressive marketing strategy we could offer greater customer value and stand out in our market. We wanted to be progressive in channels but also in our approach and content.

Firstly we considered the customer experience and from reviewing social media, I got a very strong sense of the people behind the machines. These cutting tool manufacturers considered themselves as craftspeople who made objects just as beautiful and refined as a guitar. 

Tapping into this passion and profiling the person as well as the technology has differentiated us compared to our competitors. Telling our users’ stories has helped us better engage and inform customers.

We also looked at our channels and digital was the one to tackle first. Our website was old and clunky – but again, against our sector we were not doing badly. 

The business wasn’t shouting for a new website, but with dated architecture and visuals the site wasn’t the perfect match for our brand. We boasted technology that could grind to an accuracy of <0.002 millimetres, yet our website was over ten years old, and looked it. 

In our new website we have a careers section to highlight how cool ANCA was to work for, video integration for highlighting new products, a news and media section to add value for our customers and it is integrated to our customer relationship management system (CRM) for lead generation and visibility. 

Our next step will be to launch an e-commerce platform in a few months – something I am sure our competitors are not ready for and which will further help position us as a progressive business and grow revenue. 

Our content marketing not only adds value to the customer but it also profiles our experienced technical experts and reinforces ANCA’s brand as the leader in its field. Social media has also provided important access to the voice of customer and our Product managers regularly use the global Cutting Tool Facebook Forum to seek customer insights and understand what the market is thinking.

We were the first in our industry to really have a go at social media and are now streaks ahead of our competition in both followers and engagement. In fact, our competitors are copying our campaigns in their own social feeds. Thankfully it is much easier to start in front than to catch up.

Posting regular content and engaging with customers’ posts has built a thriving community. We see tons of fantastic user generated content with customers sharing photos of the tools they have produced on our machines every day. Using the hashtag #MadeonANCA, we now have hundreds of mini customer testimonials that give meaningful credibility to our brand.

Going back to the people behind the machine, we prioritised activity to improve the customer experience, rather than selling the product. Our #ToolTipTuesday series has been a hit. 

We post a short informative video with tips on how to use our software. These videos have attracted almost 85,000 views on YouTube since launch. A sales person recently had a call from Boeing asking about a machine after seeing a tool tip which piqued their interest. 

Given our machines can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars, this was a cost-effective sales lead. Our #ANCAFlashBackFriday posts spark conversations about past achievements and memories to help reinforce our heritage and brand loyalty. We are also about to launch our own TV show — ANCA Academy — to host on our YouTube channel.

What I am most proud of is our Tool of the Year competition, which is now in its fourth year. 

The team built a campaign that has attracted over 100 entries from Turkey, India, Italy, France, Thailand, USA, Germany, Poland, China, Russia, Japan, Korea and Malaysia. We livestream the results at the major trade fair of the year and gain significant media coverage to boost our customers’ brands. 

Last year there were almost 30 entries received from across the world, achieving 70 media appearances seen by over 80,000 fans and generating over 200,000 engagements on social media.

Awards are not a new concept, but this format was for our industry, especially using social media as part of the campaign. We use our Facebook channel for the community to like the entries and select the finalists, helping grow our own Facebook page and reach a broader audience. 

We found an influencer, Alfred Lyon, and asked him to be a judge. Alfred is a customer in the USA who has over 45 thousand followers on Instagram – and I don’t imagine that many people would bother to follow if they weren’t interested in content featuring cutting tools. 

At a trade show in Germany when we announced the winner on the stand a customer came up to me and thanked me for giving their industry a platform to be recognised.

Four years into working for ANCA I have seen the value of thinking creatively and bringing new and different ways of building your brand to a business. Traditional marketing remains fundamental, but building a personality around our product, telling a story and considering the person behind the machine has helped us gain a more vibrant and open reputation. 

Pictures: supplied

Johanna Boland is Group Strategy and Communications Manager at ANCA CNC Machines.

@AuManufacturing’s Marketing for manufacturers series is brought to you through

the support of Whyte Public Relations and the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre.


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