Marketing alliance helps B2B co. post 317% sales increase

Jaded after being repeatedly burned by manufacturing software that didn't live up to expectations, some of the biggest corporations in the world are having a change of heart courtesy of Executive Manufacturing Technologies' (EMT) product VisualPlant.

Jaded after being repeatedly burned by manufacturing software that didn’t live up to expectations, some of the biggest corporations in the world are having a change of heart courtesy of Executive Manufacturing Technologies’ (EMT) product VisualPlant.

The London-based company posted a 317% increase in sales in the last year by peddling its flagship software to the likes of Ford, DaimlerChrysler, Nissan, Magna and Boeing.

VisualPlant allows manufacturers to automatically collect, display and analyse all production activity on any desktop. The off-the-shelf product, which sells for a starting price of $50,000, is an alternative to costly custom programs or manual data entry.

In terms of marketing, EMT, founded in 1998, quickly realized that shooting wide without deep pockets wasn’t the best strategy. The company chose to go vertical and focus exclusively on auto manufacturers, initially marketing its products in auto trade magazine and by word of mouth. ‘This afforded us the best and quickest opportunities for success,’ says John Dyck, vice-president of marketing and business development. ‘Auto manufacturers were looking to make fast changes that would result in immediate production savings.’

Next, EMT created the Manufacturing Intelligence Alliance (MIA), a partnership with high-profile technology companies, to give EMT third-party credibility and greater access to clients.

EMT defines MIA as both a marketing and application alliance. In the past, companies had to look at disparate suppliers to see who could best address their individual concerns. However, Dyck says VisualPlant and the alliance partners can put together exactly what a customer needs using one, a few or all members of the alliance.

Once in place, the alliance launched VisualPlant at National Manufacturing Week in Chicago – one of the world’s biggest trade shows. ‘The manufacturing crowd is a sceptical group – they have zero tolerance for fluff,’ says Dyck of the successful uphill PR push. ‘We interviewed with 14 or 15 different outlets. Conservatively, that’s probably $2.5 million worth of media.’ Dyck credits the presence of the MIA partners, such as Siemens Canada, for much of the buzz created at the show.

But it is not just the partners that are willing to hail the benefits of VisualPlant. ‘A huge part of any sale is the ability to visit other sites,’ says Dyck. ‘They all want to see the product at work. They want to see it proven somewhere else.’ Incredibly, many existing clients are willing. ‘Ford visits DaimlerChrysler, they visit someone else – clients are less proprietary than you would expect. They anticipate that the product will improve with each installation.’

In addition to actual visits, marketing efforts include more conventional and direct approaches. Handwritten invitations are going to 2,000 auto executives to be followed up with an industrial-looking CD case with a metallic brochure inside. The execs are invited to attend call-to-action seminars where current clients showcase the usefulness of the software and share best practices. EMT expects to spend about $50,000 on the scheme.

Amazingly, EMT continues to raise venture capital at a time when 98% of North American attempts fail. Dyck says that the latest round for $10 million was the easiest to raise in the history of the company and that all the cash will be used for marketing.

‘We are also doing direct mail for ‘webinars’ every month where potential clients can take 45 minutes out at their desks to learn about VisualPlant – it’s low risk and convenient,’ says Dyck.

What participants learn is that the VisualPlant platform works with all the different partners’ technology, which can improve other aspects of the manufacturing process. VisualPlant can page people instantly about potential problems as well as monitor the stresses of any part. From huge and specific amounts of data that the system collects, manufacturers can pick and choose the applications they want. Later, they can add to or modify the program.

EMT’s sales staff is North America-wide but concentrated in the industrial North East and, in conjunction with the partners in the alliance, the company has global reach. Over 25 companies in five countries are now using VisualPlant, which reportedly pays for itself in the first 12 months.