Matthew Figgie and Rick Solon: Field intelligence

Matthew Figgie, Chairman, Clark-Reliance

There are a multitude of options available to you when looking to raise awareness of your company or products through marketing and advertising. Advertising is simply one of the tools that can be used in a marketing campaign. Advertising can include a company image ad or an ad that calls for action based on your marketing plan. It is a way to reach your objectives and your goals through telling your audience about what you want them to know through a controlled messaging platform.

Marketing to the industrial markets is a very specific practice and covers a huge array of diverse industries — from power generation stations to pharmaceutical manufacturing. At Clark-Reliance, we use advertising as a tool to generate a response by the target — the potential customer.

So what is an effective marketing program and how do you go about developing one? We’ve divided the process into a few steps — no answers, but a guide to help you find yours.

1. What do you want to accomplish?

Whether you are introducing a new product, expanding your present customer base or penetrating new markets, a defined goal needs to be established before you can plan your marketing program. These goals can be easily measured, such as the number of leads generated from a direct mail campaign. Or they can be more difficult to measure if you are entering a new market.

Rick Solon, President and CEO, Clark Reliance

Some industrial marketing programs may take longer to see the results, as the industrial sales cycles are much longer than those in the consumer market.

2. Understand your company’s capabilities, structures and operations.

Is there a budget for the marketing program? Does the program “fit” your sales and distribution structures? Do you have the capabilities to handle or respond to the desired results? Decisions on where or how you want the customers to respond should meet your available resources whether they are direct or through any outside sales channels.

At Clark-Reliance, most of our marketing programs are designed to handle direct replies from the program recipients, qualified and then fed into the sales channels, direct or through our representative networks. As our sales resources continue to expand with our growth, the lead qualification is being transferred directly to the sales channels. All current marketing programs have been designed for this change.

3. Know your customers more than they know themselves.

There is nothing more important and valuable than field intelligence. Know how your target market or customers’ purchasing process works. You may need a marketing program to get a potential clients’ “AML” (approved manufacturers list). Customers want to be assured of performance, product life and dependability. Getting on that list is vital in obtaining the opportunity to “sell” your products.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, many companies now require an invitation for a sales appointment. Clark-Reliance designed a very successful and creative marketing program aimed at product purchasing managers and product specifiers. We sent a box of creative marketing materials, which grabbed their attention and resulted in appointments and ultimately sales. Marketing programs that are targeted can be done very economically and produce exceptional results.

4. Channels to market — the many ways to reach your customers.

The industrial market has defined options: trade magazines, paper mail, trade shows, email and phones. When your marketing plan is developed, the channel to use may be crystal clear. Make sure it is to your customers. Of course, your budget may restrict those options.

One very effective and very economical means to continually expose the industry with news of new products and application solutions is to partner with a public relations firm that specializes in these markets. They are a critical partner in marketing planning, advertising and press releases. Their experience and contacts they have developed over the years continue to make inroads beyond our expectations.

5. Plan and develop your strategy to meet your objective.

Now the fun starts. Developing your plan — the message, the target, the channel and the desired response — is not a solo task. Use your available assets in areas such as engineering, field service and sales. Make sure to include your company’s advantages and your product “differentiators” in your message.

Use anything that will help the target respond and take the desired action per your plan. Prior to finalizing the marketing program, test it. A current customer with a good relationship works well. Make sure to ask them to be critical in their critique.

6. Launch and educate.

Launching is executing your plan. Communicating to your sales channel and internal departments that will be involved with customer responses is very important. What is the plan and what is their role? All employees like to see that their company is active in promoting themselves and their products, solutions and services. Everyone wants to be on a winning team.

7. Measure performance results and evaluate.

So how did you do? Try to get some feedback — ask the target customers that did respond what prompted them to respond, and what their specific likes and dislikes were to your approach. Keep in mind the results may take time to evaluate. Some industrial products have sales cycles over a year. Use these results when planning your next marketing plan and see your sales soar.


Matthew P. Figgie is chairman of Clark-Reliance, a global, multi-divisional manufacturing company with sales in more than 80 countries, serving the power generation petroleum, refining and chemical processing industries. He is also chairman of Figgie Capital and the Figgie Foundation and a member of the University Hospitals Board of Directors.

Rick Solon is president and CEO of Clark-Reliance and has more than 35 years of experience in manufacturing and operating companies. He is also the chairman of the National Kidney Foundation Golf Outing.