We attended our first ever Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association (MHEDA) Convention last month and from that took away valuable information from some of the industry’s top performers and brands.
Following the MHEDA Convention, we had the chance to sit down with a few of our Capital Equipment Account Executives to discuss some of the marketing challenges facing the capital equipment and material handling industry.
Q: In material handling and capital equipment, there’s often a debate on digital marketing and its effectiveness in producing sales. Relationships and referrals have traditionally been the lifeblood of sales in this industry. Did this come up?
Maria Alauddin: Definitely. Dealers have been so dependent on past relationships. You pick up the phone, drive out to the business, and shake hands. But now that more young people have started in the industry, they’ve brought technology with them. Some dealers have not been open to the new tech, or able to learn to use these new technology solutions effectively due to lack of time. We also heard that they’re nervous about the business becoming more digital and less personal. We heard a lot of dealers speak about this concern. I think it’s important to clarify that there is a way to marry the traditional way with new solutions that makes for success all around. We definitely spoke to this idea during the convention.
Q: Are there any trends that you want MHEDA members and other capital equipment dealers to be aware of, that you don’t think wERE emphasized enough?
Rebecca Davis: The importance of familiarity and usability for equipment-based websites. It can be hard to engage customers with B2C expectations who visit a B2B website they don’t understand how to use. They’re expecting to be able to browse equipment, look at descriptions, filter inventory, and use reliable web technology to take them through the buying process before having to make a phone call or send an email.
Q: Did you hear about any new challenges coming up in the industry?
RD: I wouldn’t say we didn’t “know” this before, but hearing more information about the industry’s hiring and HR challenges was very interesting. They’re having a hard time hiring for positions like technicians or other specific roles. There’s just not enough people with the specific skill sets, so it’s very competitive when trying to find the right people to fill those positions. We spoke to people about how digital marketing can help with those challenges too. Reaching out to potential hires on social media, Glassdoor, Indeed, and other hiring platforms.
Parker Hutchins: I also found it encouraging hearing more people talk about digital. When we first started talking with capital equipment clients 8+ years ago, it took a lot of convincing to encourage them to get into digital branding and marketing, but now they are asking where to begin. They now know that it’s critical to be active online and in the digital space. Even two years ago, there was hesitation. But now dealers can’t wait to start. I’d say a lot of it is driven by competition, too.
Q: What advice do you have for material handling dealers you met who asked questions like, “Where do I start?” and “How much should I spend?”
PH: Most of the companies we met with at MHEDA, and the industry as a whole, don’t actually have a marketing contact. It’s the President or the CFO that has to come up with the marketing strategy, and they really don’t have the time. Because of this, marketing is never a priority. My advice would be to first, prioritize marketing, and second, set a budget. If there has traditionally not been a marketing person, there’s often no budget for digital marketing. In the beginning, it’s not really about how much money to spend, it’s just important to get started.
Q: Are there any future challenges you foresee as more equipment dealers work to adopt digital marketing?
MA: I think technology in general across the board is a challenge. These companies have Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, but they are not consistently using them due to a lack of education about the platforms.
PH: Or for those companies that don’t have a CRM, they should consider questions like, “What CRM should I use,” “My business system isn’t configured,” or “I don’t know if my leads are distributing properly.” When we received those questions at the convention, we talked them through some possible solutions.
Q: For equipment dealers who are looking to adopt new technology and a digital strategy, what are some first steps you’d recommend?
PH: Start with education. The root and purpose of our complimentary digital marketing analysis, is to answer questions like: How do my competitors rank digitally, and where do I stand against them? From an SEO perspective, what am I not doing and what’s my current state? From a larger perspective, what is digital advertising? What kind of work is involved to make it successful for my bottom line? What clear roadblocks are preventing me from gaining customers digitally? Is my website working for my business?
Q: Any final thoughts?
MA: In general, we thought the convention as a whole was put together very well, especially for newcomers. There were many new attendees and we felt welcome. It was easy to get to know people, and they set the event off on the right foot with the opening ceremony. We met many MHEDA members and everyone was very engaging and open. It was a good mix of fun and general sessions. Both Dave and Aaron’s sessions were full and we got great feedback about their presentations. We’re excited to be a part of the MHEDA member community.
How can we help?
We’re committed to educating equipment dealers on topics related to the industry and digital marketing. Ready to expand your digital marketing strategies? To understand where you stand against your competition in digital marketing and the first steps you can take to start using it to impact your bottom line with a digital analysis.