If you’re trying to get a handle on the advertising climate, the best source to look is advertisers themselves. Talk to them, talk to their agencies, find out their priorities and look at how they see their markets.
This is something Fox Tales has been doing from the beginnings of this newsletter and will continue going forward. As part of our ongoing series, we’re pleased this month to present a Q&A with Michael Blake, the marketing director of North Branch, Michigan-based KM International, a manufacturer of asphalt maintenance equipment. Here, Blake describes his market, his company’s USP and lots more.
Fox Tales: Describe your market in terms of overall size, numbers of your competitors, and other metrics.
Michael Blake: KMI’s target market in the municipal sector is public-works departments, road and highway commissions, and state level DOTs. KMI also markets and sells to private companies that include asphalt pavers and maintainers, utility companies, line stripers, and more. Competition in our space is relatively low compared to some markets and comprises of about 8-10 companies.
Fox Tales: What is KM International’s unique selling proposition?
Blake: Two answers to this question. First the quality, longevity, and reliability of our equipment is well known in the industry and is what we feel sets us apart from our competitors. We often say you get what you pay for. We will rarely be the cheapest in the market but in terms of equipment uptime, maintenance costs, and lifespan, we far surpass our competitors.
Second is the expertise and knowledge that we offer our customers. Our products in a sense are niche products, meaning they have a somewhat singular purpose. Oftentimes someone doesn’t know they need a product until they actually need it. In general, most manufacturers care about one thing: sales. On the other hand, we want to not only sell a piece of equipment, we want to educate the end user on the uses, benefits, and best practices so they are knowledgeable and informed and can successfully implement it into their organization.
Fox Tales: What is American Public Works Association’s (the association is a key marketing channel for KM International) USP and what drives you to use them?
Blake: The APWA first and foremost is an educational authority when it comes to public works departments, specifically their problems and how to fix them. We use the APWA as a media partner because they are continually publishing relevant content that audience members engage with and seem genuinely interested in reading. The APWA’s reach and distribution methods make it easy for us to reach the right audience with the right message, at the right time.
Fox Tales: What are your marketing priorities?
Blake: Obviously our end goal is always to increase leads/sales, but often times we do this through education and thought leadership. In our niche industry we are considered experts when it comes not only to the equipment side, but the processes that our equipment supports. Half of our job as a manufacturer is to produce and build the industry’s best equipment. The other half is educating our customers on why they need our products and how those products can benefit their organizations and the problems they face on a daily basis.
Fox Tales: How does Fox Associates help bridge the gap between your objectives and the solutions offered by APWA’s The Reporter?
Blake: Our account rep, Tina Riley, has really customized our marketing plan to achieve our optimal audience reach. At one point our campaign was just running a few ½ page ads, but now it has transformed into both print and digital, and the results have far exceeded my expectations. I attribute a lot of our success in the public works marketplace to the work I have done with Tina over the past several years.