Historically, marketing has been the domain of the consumer products industry. However, alongside the advances in valve technology, social media marketing is permeating the valve industry today.
By Bob Donnelly, Vice President – Flo-Tite Valves & Controls
When users attend any significant valve industry trade show, video monitors in almost every exhibit space display sophisticated graphics, demonstrating exploded views of a company’s product offering and applications. Flash drives and other devices have replaced the old, heavy binders full of technical literature. Attendees now utilize smartphones to interact with a diverse range of images and hyperlinks, which seamlessly redirects users to the company’s official website. Online platforms offer access to videos featuring product applications, demonstrations, solutions, and a wide variety of other online company marketing materials.
Social media platforms such as Constant Contact and LinkedIn are also being used throughout the industry to frequently broadcast news about the company, new valve products, and major accomplishments, such as current projects, new customers, changes in management, and so on.
The constant coverage of news and events about the company and its activities are part of an overall marketing strategy. This enables the growth of brand equity in the minds of customers and effectively positions the company in the valve market.
Social media marketing has brought a great deal of change to the valve industry, especially in social selling. Historically, valve sales professionals would visit customers and prospects with display cases, presenting valve products to clients in person. Each salesperson would have a unique approach to selling and individual techniques that could vary significantly. Additionally, there was the routine ‘telephone tag’ in trying to set up these in-person meetings and presentations, on top of the ongoing travel expenses to meet the customers.
Today, most of the sales activities in the valve industry are happening over the internet via Zoom and other video conferencing mediums. While in-person sales are still taking place, they are becoming less common throughout the industry. The ability to demonstrate the functionality and applications for different valve products is significantly enhanced because of technology.
Now, valve salespeople can run standardized presentations on their laptops and no longer need to personally explain the function of the valves, as the industry once did with sample cases and varying levels of knowledge.
As a matter of fact, many of the valve product presentations can now be accessed on company websites and do not require initial human involvement.
One can Google a valve product and be led to a variety of sophisticated virtual presentations. In many cases, these presentations consist of application examples for specific process control operations. Likewise, the interface and communications with customers have been made more virtually accessible through e-mail and text messages. This nearly eliminates wait times on correspondence and eradicates the frustrating telephone tag of previous years. Now, the selling process is completely managed virtually with minimal human intervention.
Another significant development is the innovation of the online ‘Configurator’ – a software that enables the customization of a product’s features and benefits for specific applications.
Process control engineers are now using configurators to build and buy valves and valve automation packages. These complete valve assemblies, including accessories like solenoid valves, limit switches, and positioners, come with computer-aided design (CAD) fi les and data sheets on all the components.
In addition to providing all the technical data on valves and valve automation components, many of the companies offering configurators also provide ‘live chat’ options. This is so engineers can instantly access valving experts online to ensure the proper solution for specific applications. Valve companies also provide video tutorials on all products that are offered.
Since technology is advancing faster than ever imagined and most young process control engineers at major end users grew up on the internet, this type of online interface is second nature to engineers and the preferred way to do business in the industry.
Another very effective advantage of social media marketing is online cases of applications; videos and voice-over explanations of actual solutions to end users’ problems, using the company’s valve and valve automation packages, have proven to be a revolutionary technique. This technique, in combination with the social selling and configurators, further reinforces the quality and value of valve manufacturers’ products. Additionally, this emphasizes and grows the company’s brand equity in the mind of end users.
Often, case histories represent the same challenges that other end users and process control engineers are looking to overcome. When companies offer a detailed explanation of the solution to an issue, in addition to explaining the functionality of the valve and valve automation packages used, the strategies shared in the video effectively add to the overall brand equity of the valve manufacturer.
Valve manufacturers and suppliers with a sharp understanding of social media marketing are now adopting and enhancing effective strategies, that were once long employed by successful manufacturers to develop brand reputation.
Today, the social selling process has transitioned almost completely to online strategies in the valve industry. Not only is this a very cost-effective process, but it also allows for the standardization of presentations and a more effective display of the digitized product specifications that successful manufacturers have developed. Social media has allowed valve sales professionals to interact with customers over the internet, by sharing quality products through sophisticated videos and case history examples, making them virtual practitioners of social media marketing.