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Feb 20, 2013
Case Study

B2B Marketing: Manufacturer's "Cheaper than China" branding campaign increases sales 33%

SUMMARY: When a strongly held perception about a marketplace doesn’t match reality, it can be difficult to push facts through those beliefs.

The Rodon Group is a manufacturer of small plastic components and had lost customers to China-based manufacturers due to cost savings. When those manufacturers began competing with Rodon in the U.S. marketplace, armed with the perception U.S. firms couldn’t compete on price, the marketing team knew it needed to cut through the fog of mislaid marketplace perceptions.

The result was a completely revamped marketing strategy resulting in a 450% increase in organic website traffic and a 33% lift in sales.
by David Kirkpatrick, Senior Reporter

CHALLENGE

Perception in a marketplace can trump reality in some situations. The Rodon Group, a manufacturer of high-volume plastic injection molded components, faced that marketing pain point.

The perception was sourcing small components from Chinese manufacturers was cheaper than sourcing through U.S.-based companies.

The first pain point, according to Kevin McGrath, VP of Sales and Marketing, The Rodon Group, was the reality that customers and potential customers were moving their business to Chinese companies on a turnkey basis.

This involved Rodon's prospects moving the entire process overseas, manufacturing a finished product using components supplied by Chinese companies competing with Rodon and "cartoning" — an industry term for packing parts in shipping cartons — for shipment back to the U.S. consumer market. McGrath explained those customers were essentially lost because a U.S. company wouldn’t buy a relatively inexpensive component in the United States to be shipped to China for assembly.

The second pain point hit when Chinese component manufacturers began competing with Rodon in the U.S. marketplace on price for components used in products manufactured in U.S. plants. They succeeded based on the perception that overseas components automatically out compete U.S. manufactured parts on price.

He said through innovation and automation, Rodon could compete with Chinese manufacturers on price in the U.S. marketplace. The problem was not every company sourcing these plastic components realized this when deciding where to source the parts.

The result was a marketing campaign with the tagline, "Cheaper than China," which involved a variety of marketing channels and became part of a completely new Rodon marketing strategy.

Read on to find out how, over the two years of the campaign, Rodon's sales rose by 33%, website visits 120% and organic traffic grew 450%.

CAMPAIGN

Founded in 1956, Rodon's corporate culture has always included automating its factories, taking advantage of robotics and utilizing the latest in manufacturing methodology, according to McGrath. This approach allowed Rodon to compete with China-based plastic component manufacturers.

"The perception out there was if you wanted low-cost parts, you had to go to China. We knew that we had to become more aggressive getting that message [that Rodon also was a low-cost supplier] out there," he stated.

Step #1. Make the marketing message clear and concise

McGrath said informal research at trade shows and in speaking with people in Rodon's marketplace uncovered potential customers were automatically, and incorrectly, assuming Rodon couldn’t compete with Chinese manufacturers.

This led to a decision to educate the marketplace with very direct messaging.

McGrath explained, "We said, if we are going to do this, let's 'A' be honest, and 'B' let's say what we feel. And what we felt was we can not only match, but we can beat China prices."

He added that part of the message on Rodon’s low-cost parts was reminding prospects the company was also an ISO 9000 registered firm and delivered quality products at the lower price, along with laying out a case explaining the benefits of sourcing from a U.S.-based company.

Step #2. Retool the website strategy

The website strategy involved two parts: the company's website on its own domain and a presence on the ThomasNet website.

For 30 years, Rodon's marketing strategy included being listed in the physical Thomas Registry volumes as a parts source. When the organization quit publishing the "green book" and went electronic, McGrath said Rodon followed the Thomas Registry as it transitioned to the Thomas Industrial Network and an online-only presence.

McGrath stated ThomasNet was Rodon's best source for lead generation.

The previous website on Rodon's domain focused on the company’s capabilities with what McGrath described as "pretty pictures," but no emphasis for anyone visiting the site under pricing pressure when looking for plastic components.

Jill Worth, Web Communication and Marketing Specialist, Rodon, said the Thomas Industrial Network worked with the marketing team to redesign and rebrand the Rodon website. The team decided to make "Cheaper than China" the key element in the company’s online presentation with multiple mentions on the homepage.

The Rodon website included pages for custom manufacturing, catalogs of standard parts, a newly created blog and offers based on the "Cheaper than China" campaign.

The catalogs of Rodon's standard parts were also located on the ThomasNet website, linking back to Rodon so prospects sourcing for a parts manufacturer on the ThomasNet site would find Rodon’s products.

Rodon also advertised on the ThomasNet news site on the "material processing" news category, purchasing a banner ad on the top of that category page on a two-year contract.

During that time, Worth said the team tested different messaging on the ad, including: "Top 10 Crucial Factors To Know When Looking For A Custom Molder," "Learn How You Can Save And Support Manufacturing In The U.S.!" and a third version with the same "learn how you can save" message with a different design.

Step #3. Perform keyword optimization

Rodon used knowledge from ThomasNet to uncover longer-tail keyphrases prospects were using. This was initially part of optimizing the product catalogs in the ThomasNet portion of Rodon’s Web strategy; however, the team was also able to apply this knowledge across all of its online content including webpages and blog posts.

McGrath said a good example was the keyphrase, "injection molding." Previous research uncovered prospects searching in Rodon's marketplace were using more highly refined terms such as:
  • High volume injection molded components

  • High volume custom molding

  • High volume injection molding

  • Plastic injection molding

Using more detailed search terms drew website visitors deeper into the site from the initial search and more likely to the page addressing their particular product sourcing needs.

Worth said the team also applied the keyword research to using specific keyphrases targeted to different industries served by Rodon, such as windows and doors, pharmaceuticals, and food and beverage.

The keyword research went into online advertising decisions as well, McGrath stated.

"There is a lot of science behind identifying these keywords," he said. "Then, depending on how aggressive we want to be, we can decide how much money we want to throw at owning those keywords."

Step #4. Generate leads through landing page registration forms

Traffic would get to Rodon's landing pages through pay-per-click campaigns, links through the ThomasNet Web presence, and organic traffic from search or blog posts.

The landing pages included an incentive in the form of PDF content or an offer gated behind a registration form.

Using dedicated landing pages as a squeeze page barrier for the offer or additional content was a lead generation strategy first implemented with the entire "Cheaper than China" campaign and the marketing overhaul of how Rodon approached the Internet.

Step #5. Place non-qualified leads into a nurturing program

Worth said all leads generated by the landing page lead capture effort are essentially "sales qualified" because they were passed along to the sales manager. Each lead received a personal touch in the form of a phone call or an email based on the information provided.

The purpose of that initial touch point was to provide additional information on, and the advantages of, Rodon's products and services. Also, it determined if the prospect was just seeking information or if they were actually close to making a purchase.

Anyone who was not ready to become an immediate customer was handed back to Marketing for a lead nurturing email program. The nurturing cycle included around eight emails sent over 90 days.

The content of the nurturing email included videos, such as a factory tour, links to Rodon's capability webpages and offers the prospect may not have downloaded on the website.

The team would also continue to track the prospect's online behavior, such as additional material downloaded from the website.

Step #6. Include social media in the overall strategy

Worth said the marketing team was active in multiple social media platforms:
"Twitter has been a great social media outlet for us, probably better than any others we are currently using," she explained. "It’s allowed us to reach out to other B2B companies in our industry in a very targeted way. Plus, we’ve used it to connect with American-made organizations and media outlets [and] reporters."

Worth added Rodon's Twitter following grew 48% in three months, and she feels Rodon "got a bit of to a head start" because the company began using social media before other firms in its marketplace.

Another important use for Twitter was for public relations where the team would reach out to industry journalists on Twitter and send press releases and blog posts the journalist might find interesting.



RESULTS

The "Cheaper than China" effort has been in place at Rodon for a couple of years, and combining that specific rebranding with an increased marketing strategy across many channels and tactics has provided solid results for the marketing team:
  • 95% of one toy manufacturer's parts (several billion parts) are now produced in the United States

  • 33% increase in Rodon's sales over three years

  • 120% increase in website visits

  • 450% increase in organic website traffic

The impetus for the campaign — actively marketing that Rodon could meet, or beat, the prices of Chinese parts manufacturers — was a bold declaration by the marketing team. McGrath said that attitude was the key takeaway for the effort.

He explained, "If you truly believe in something, and you believe it to be true, it's not arrogant."

He said early in campaign, the team knew it was ruffling feathers, even to the point that Chinese manufacturers would contact Rodon and challenge that the company could actually compete on price.

McGrath stated the campaign will influence future branding and marketing decisions.

"I won't hesitate next time that if I truly believe that [the marketing message] is a fact, it needs to be expressed," he said.

Creative Samples

  1. Rodon homepage

  2. Rodon on the ThomasNet website

  3. Banner ad version one

  4. Banner ad version two

  5. Banner ad version three

  6. Online PDF offer and registration form

  7. Rodon on Twitter

Sources

The Rodon Group

ThomasNet

Related Resources

B2B E-commerce: Revamped online branding and cross-linked site search drives 17% of B2B revenue

Branding: Online-focused rebranding increases website traffic 20%, Facebook fans 1,000%, YouTube subscribers 70%

E-commerce: Manufacturer’s revamped website strategy leads to 26.3% lift in sales

Branding and Interactive Media: What is the role of a brand on interactive media? How does branding relate to direct response?

Branding Strategies - 4 Factors to Get More From Online Ads




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