When Ken Kemerer looks at the 80 percent revenue growth SilMix Ohio has achieved since 2001 when it was purchased by Wacker Chemical Corp., he gives a lot of credit to getting involved in industry associations.
Not that it was the only factor ― a rebranding effort three years ago was also part of the mix ― but being an active member of industry groups was a must.
“That’s where the networking is huge,” says Kemerer, director of SilMix Ohio, a manufacturer of custom silicone compounds. “We have added 50 customers since 2009, and we truly believe this branding and networking has resulted in the new customers.”
To get going with industry group networking, you need to research the organizations through universities, libraries or the Internet.
“In the rubber industry for instance, the American Chemical Society is an umbrella group that has a rubber division and a subset for regional and local groups,” Kemerer says. “You want to support financially and technically through manpower and participation all those groups. We support basically all those groups in North America now.”
In terms of support, it means more than paying membership fees.
“You can sponsor their websites, sponsor their fundraising, their golf outings and donate to their scholarship funds,” he says. “The regional groups have technical meetings. You can give technical presentations at their meetings. The technical service is important because other companies may not have an expert on site and you can provide that technical side of the industry.”
The fact that you are at a regional conference giving a presentation and answering questions about your specialty goes far in establishing your brand.
“It’s all about the networking in getting the name out, so that if people are not familiar with your specialty, and they have questions, yours will be the first name they think of,” Kemerer says.
One thing that obviously helps the initiative is encouragement from company ownership.
“Our owner is a corporate citizen, which means we have a responsibility to the industry,” he says.
This attitude should underlie your involvement in the industry groups ― you are not just giving a presentation as a sales pitch for your company.
“The industry groups had been the only place to get knowledge unless you hired somebody who had been trained by somebody else,” Kemerer says. “As the Internet has come along, and online training, they have changed, so the industry groups are really providing networking opportunities on a high level. It’s almost more of an awareness than technical training. These opportunities are out there.”
With your interaction in the industry groups, you are advancing your knowledge throughout the sector.
“There are not that many technical experts out there if you are in a niche,” he says. “Yes, it’s self-serving when you present, you may get your name known as somebody who has the answers, but it is not just about that. It’s also about corporate citizenship.
“There are many opportunities to present new and innovative things if you can in particular areas such as the medical field. That’s on the cutting edge as is helping customers in the industry become aware of new ways to do things or new developments.”
One other fact to keep in mind while attending or presenting at a conference is that your competition may be present, and while it is wise to guard what may be trade secrets, with care, you can still deliver an effective presentation. Don’t use it as a soapbox to show your differentiation.
“We do see competitors, but we see them more on a regional level,” Kemerer says. “We all have the same general purpose products. Some competitors may also be your customers ― so you want to keep good relationships, a good working knowledge and make sure you don’t cross any of them.”
How to reach: SilMix Ohio, a division of Wacker Chemical Corp., (330) 628-5017 or www.wacker.com/silmix
Formula for rebranding
If your company can’t decide where your rebranding should start, do what Ken Kemerer did at SilMix Ohio: look to your “Pillars of Success.”
“We identified our ‘Pillars of Success,’ that’s what we call them ― our customer service, our technical service and our flexibility, and we made them our focus,” says, Kemerer, director of the custom silicone compound manufacturer.
With that simplified mission statement, it gives you a basis to build a branding and marketing effort that will represent your company well.
“We built three different advertising ― let’s say modules ― based on those,” he says.
“Identify your pillars of success, and then customize your advertising both visually and verbally along those lines so you can publish it in different media ― magazine, newsletter and website. Have a variety of pictures, so they don’t get stale. Use text that describes each pillar of success.”
Then to help support the industry groups, use the same collateral to expand your brand to that outlet as well.
“It worked out real well for us for the past three years, and now it is a good time to have a new angle and still build off the same things ― and more as video opens new opportunities,” Kemerer says.