Breaking the Maufacturing Mold
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Breaking the Maufacturing Mold

What do you do if you’re a major association whose member companies are just starting to engage in e-commerce activities, have a variety of options to choose from and will most likely bypass your site if it isn’t cutting-edge?

Paul Holmes

 

What do you do if you’re a major association whose member companies are just starting to engage in e-commerce activities, have a variety of options to choose from and will most likely bypass your site if it isn’t cutting-edge?  If you’re the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), you turn to PepperCom to create a unique positioning, capitalize on a partnership with a progressive business-to-business technology venture and identify the ideal strategy and time to launch your next service.

NAM and Unibex, NAM’s technology platform builder, approached PepperCom to launch ManufacturingCentral.com, a co-branded Web site designed to enable NAM member companies to transact e-business.  Because Ariba, CommerceOne, VerticalNet and other major e-commerce sites were already up and running, it was critical to attract the thousands of small and medium-sized manufacturing companies that belonged to NAM and convince them to spend their e-commerce dollars “within the family.” Because of these intense competitive pressures, NAM and Unibex wanted to launch the site as soon as possible and generate maximum business press.

CHALLENGE/OPPORTUNITY:

  • To gain the attention of top-tier national business media when the client is a latecomer in the overcrowded B2B e-marketplace space.
  • To set the client apart and establish an online presence when it is one of many organizations that has formed an e-commerce partnership.
  • To launch with a splash within an extremely limited timeframe.
  • Lastly, to get attention when the client is not only one of many trade associations, but also in the less-than-glamorous manufacturing industry.

OBJECTIVES:

  • Differentiate Manufacturing Central from every other B2B technology platform.
  • Build brand awareness and garner maximum publicity among target audiences.
  • Position NAM and Unibex executives as thought leaders on e-business within the manufacturing industry.
  • To build brand awareness within the target audience of small and medium-sized manufacturing companies, the national business press and the manufacturing trade press.

STRATEGY:

To differentiate Manufacturing Central from its competition, PepperCom conducted a detailed positioning audit involving one-on-one interviews with executives from NAM and Unibex, NAM advisory board members and executives of small manufacturing companies.

PepperCom also conducted a brief, but thorough, competitive positioning landscape to determine not only how competitive sites were positioning themselves but, critically, to glean how the media were reporting the positionings (i.e. had someone already staked a claim to a space NAM and Unibex could own?).

Based upon our findings, PepperCom recommended the following positioning: “Manufacturing Central: Enabling manufacturing companies to choose the e-business relationship that’s right for their needs.” This positioning line not only differentiated Manufacturing Central from every other technology platform (i.e. it was extremely user friendly and enabled manufacturing executives to do as little or as much as they thought appropriate), it also enabled PepperCom to devise specific strategies that reinforced the positioning.  Additionally, NAM’s partnership with Unibex further strengthened its unique position in the world of trade associations.

EXECUTION/TACTICS:  

To break through the clutter and generate maximum publicity for Manufacturing Central, PepperCom recommended establishing a quantifiable need in the marketplace for the new e-business Web site. We accomplished this by counseling NAM to add two questions to an upcoming quarterly survey of member companies. The questions: do you have an e-business strategy now? If not, do you plan on having an e-business strategy within a year?

The results confirmed our client’s suspicion: three-fourths of the manufacturing companies surveyed said they had yet to adopt the Web for e-business purposes. Nonetheless, 75 percent said they planned on implementing an e-business strategy within the next year. So, we were able to leverage Manufacturing Central’s positioning to explain that it, and it alone, was the solution to ease laggard manufacturing companies into the e-business revolution.  Also, the numbers proved that manufacturers were looking to move into e-business and would need a user-friendly site in the very near future.

Now that we had a compelling problem and solution with which to introduce Manufacturing Central, the agency needed to find a timely news hook. Facing intense pressure to launch the site as soon as possible, PepperCom resisted and, instead, counseled the client to wait three weeks and time the announcement to the first day of National Manufacturing Week (Monday, March 10, 2000).

PepperCom’s final plan was to approach the Chicago bureau of The Wall Street Journal to offer exclusive access to the survey results, advance access to the Manufacturing Central Web site and one-on-one interview opportunities with Jerry Jasinowski, NAM’s president, and Mady Jalinous, CEO of Unibex. Once The Wall Street Journal story ran, the agency would arrange as many one-on-one interviews as possible with trade and business press attending the show.

RESULTS:
The Wall Street Journal ran a major story about Manufacturing Central on the first day of National Manufacturing Week. Additional articles appeared that very same week in such major publications as Interactive Week, ComputerWorld, InformationWeek and eWeek. National Public Radio aired a segment, and both Reuters and Knight-Ridder published syndicated articles on the new site. Total impressions for the launch were over 6,251,990. In each placement, NAM was positioned as being a forward-looking association with an e-business Web site that enables member companies to transact e-business at their own pace.

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