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Thinking Outside the Box…

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to marketing stratagem, says Mr. Loadlink.

These days folks want to put labels on stuff—and people. Do you blog? Do you Tweet? Do you podcast? We’ve all been asked those questions in recent years. Do you employ inbound or outbound marketing methods? Most have been quizzed about that too.

The digital age has given rise to much debate about inbound versus outbound marketing. As readers will know, most modern forms of promotion—SEO, blogs, video, social media—are now categorised as ‘inbound’ and more traditional methods—direct mail, advertisements, cold-calling—are in the box labelled ‘outbound’.

The wrangling over which is more powerful was the inspiration for this blog because in today’s world we can too readily reach for a labelled strategy as though it were a miracle formula on a shelf. Marketing doesn’t work like that. Bad application of the right strategy can be as damaging as choosing the wrong methodology to engage a target audience.

Take these two paragraphs, for example:

1. This is the best blog in the world, written by the finest blogger there ever was. He works at the best load cell manufacturer on the planet and manages a team of super humans who’ve never made a mistake in their lives. The blog is all about what it takes to be the best—like them.

2. This blog shares guidance about choosing the right equipment to safely and efficiently complete load tests on dockside cranes. It is written by an engineer who is a thought leader in the sector and has been completing such tests for 25 years.

Which would you click? Which blogger would you choose to spend your lunch hour with? Both are examples of blogging, a form of inbound marketing, but just because they carry that label doesn’t mean they will work.

The same theory can be applied to Tweets, white papers and LinkedIn posts; a commercial, self-serving approach never works. To be effective, inbound marketing has got to be educational and communicate a solution before it sells it. It’s not to be seen as the easy, cheap option.

Our audience is getting younger and more likely to buy a product online than they are order one at a material handling show, but the case to click the order button has got to be compelling. Really, it’s got to knock their socks off.


These buzzwords don’t always allow for interpretation either. At Straightpoint, we embrace inbound marketing concepts but our end goal is always engagement of a target audience. In the lifting business, a good old-fashioned paper document still carries a lot of clout, which is why we continue to invest in production of a printed catalogue. The latest 48-page document was launched in three languages last month (October) and positively thudded onto recipients’ desks.

straightpoint global product guide

An inbound marketing purist might not agree with its production, but I say it stands up as an educational, advisory piece of work in its own right. Who cares what label society might put on it?

As I said in the press release we sent to media, what gives the team the most satisfaction is that the document encapsulates innovative, technologically advanced load cells and other equipment, the application of which makes the lifting industry a safer place. It’s the education surrounding that application that fits with any digital inbound marketing strategy—it’s just on paper.

Actually, I should be referring to it as the global load monitoring product guide, which is what we’ve been calling it to avoid confusion with the US spelling of catalogue (catalog). Put it in a digital format (it is available as a PDF) and link to it from a Tweet and it’ll pass anyone’s inbound marketing criteria checklist!

We publish a catalogue every year but this is the first time we’ve combined metric and imperial measurements in a combined document, hence the reference to the global load monitoring product guide. Based on the early feedback we’ve had, I’d urge other companies with fragmented documentation to consider doing the same thing.

We set ourselves a target to make each version of the catalogue better than the last and I’m confident we’ve succeeded in providing distributors with our best one yet.

Centre stage

Key to continued improvement of product-based literature is quality of information and innovative solutions. Not only did we include wireless low headroom links; the Impact Block, which measures the shock load and weight of branches as they are cut during tree felling or maintenance; and our ATEX and IECEx range, but we also teased the upcoming launch of Stage Safe, a load cell for the entertainment industry.

One can tell a product guide that has been thrown together from one that might be published only once a year but is the culmination of year-round research, development, engineering and marketing. I’d encourage any business that has just published a catalogue to start planning the next one—today.

We have already staged a two-day design meeting about 2017 product launches and have a timeline in place that factors in their inclusion in the next global load monitoring product guide. We were mindful throughout of the end goal to educate audiences and give them everything they need to make informed purchasing decisions.

Telling the time

Since my last blog we’ve entered the final quarter of the year, which means we’re into another 90-day plan. We don’t do this for fun, although we did have a team curry upon the conclusion of the last meeting!

Seriously though, on 31 December we want to be able to look back on the successful implementation of the plan or at least have enough structure in place so we can analyse what went wrong. Holding ourselves accountable is key to continued improvement. If it’s difficult to judge the success of a plan, what’s the point of having one?

As I’ve blogged about before, every department at Straightpoint is scrutinised on an ongoing basis. That doesn’t mean we peer over people’s shoulders and restrict their decision making, but it does mean we’re always looking at ways to make the business more efficient. One recent initiative on time analysis has been eye opening and is worth sharing.

high skillWe’re using a tool whereby select members of staff are categorising their tasks into four blocks. The top one captures the highly-skilled, enjoyable, rewarding elements of their jobs, and the bottom one is reserved for the mundane parts that they might be guilty of putting off until Friday afternoon because they’re not as enriching. The blocks in between create a sense of scale.

We can then separate and analyse the blocks to try to expand on the contents of the top block and eliminate the bottom one. We’ve found that the exercise has not only taught us a lot about the people who fulfill existing roles, but it’s demonstrated where we need more personnel, resources or support. In some cases, the bottom block has created a ready-made job description for a new member of staff, for example.

That’s not to say the new role will be altogether unenjoyable; it might mean those tasks were burdening an experienced member of staff who has carried certain jobs with them throughout their progression at the company. A new employee will be challenged and uplifted by the same tasks, which creates a positive outcome for the individuals involved—and an exciting new opportunity for someone to join the business.

A bite to eat

Regular readers know there’s always room for a travel story or two in my blogs and this month’s entry is no different. I took another opportunity to visit distributor General Lifting Engineering (GLE) SKIP Lifting, which is based in Zhangjiakou City, Hebei Province, China.

It’s worth mentioning how energised it made me feel to watch them making notes and asking questions during my product presentation. It served as a timely reminder how important it is to pay attention to conference speakers and those delivering messages, in whatever format and to any size audience.

It’s demotivating to spend time on content only for the audience to sit thumbing their mobile phones. GLE showed great interest in the products and how they make the lifting industry a safer place. As a result, they probably got even more out of the session that I’d planned at the outset.

They also took me for some traditional local food called shouba yangrou or Zhangjiakou dining boiled lamb. The meat tasted fantastic but it was slightly unnerving to see the entire animal, complete with teeth, staring at me from the table!

I had planned to travel from there to Korea but I missed a connecting flight due to local weather and returned to the UK earlier than scheduled. It gave me an opportunity to give my congratulations to Dave Mullard, our business development manager, who celebrated the birth of his first child, Freya Amelia, with wife Kat. I wish them health, happiness and lots of adventures together as a young family.

That’s all for another month. Follow us on Twitter at @LoadCell and use the hashtags #loadcell and #belowthehook to engage.

Mr. Loadlink

Brexit Strategy…

Amid the most turbulent chapter of modern history in the UK, somehow it’s got to be business as usual, says Mr Loadlink.

I’m not the only blogger to have sat down of late and wondered where to start.

Europe… no, the world, is in a spin after the staggering Brexit vote last month (June), which means the UK will leave the European Union. In the wake of the referendum result, our Prime Minister resigned, having led the flawed Remain campaign, while many of the protagonists from team Leave disappeared into the night, shunning political opportunities that the circumstances presented.

Now, we have a new Prime Minister and the opposition party is in turmoil of its own as another leadership race looks certain to reinstate the leader whose unpopularity (among parliamentary members, that is) caused the re-election in the first place. The UK economy is reeling. We don’t even know when we’re actually coming out of the EU. Throughout it all, terrorism, gun crime, Oscar Pistorius, military coups, and more have been ever-present in the headlines. Oh, and the English football team has found itself at an all time low ebb. The manager was sacked and we’ve just named a new one, but that’s so far down the list of talking points nobody even cares.

This isn’t a political blog, but it is an honest one. I’m quite open about that fact that I voted to Remain in the EU. I didn’t hear robust reasons for leaving. For me, there were good reasons to stay. Yes, I understand Europe’s top table wasn’t as efficient as it could have been but my attitude has always been, if you’re not happy with the rules of a club, get on the committee and change it—don’t give up and walk away. I’m also a believer of making the best of a hand of cards, however, so we must look forward, which is really the crux of this blog. In the short term we do so as an exporter with slightly more favourably exchange rates, and while I think the longer term impact will be much harder felt, Leave and Remain campers have got to share the same fire to keep warm.

Double blow

The referendum result was still sinking in when, just four days later, England were knocked out of the European Championships in France by Iceland. Yes, ICELAND. Withered, droopy-eyed manager Roy Hodgson understandably took a lot of the blame. It’s destroyed his career and he’s barely been seen or heard from since. Albeit a millionaire as a result of having the job, he’ll probably never be the same again. But I wonder if too much of the responsibility was placed upon his increasing sunken shoulders.

Ok, he didn’t know what his best team was (inexplicable), but that was partly down to injuries and the terrible form of some of the players he put his faith in. And therein lies my point. I back myself as a reasonable business leader, or at least a student of business, but I’m only as good as my staff and their willingness to give 100% in quest of the goals they are set. Think how helpless a manager is on the sidelines of a football pitch. They shout and point but other than giving an inspiring half-time team-talk, if players are disinterested and already on their summer holidays mentally, as England’s ‘stars’ clearly were, what can a manager do?

Practice, plan, train, prepare and then practice again, I hear you say. Well, it should have helped and it’s something we believe in at Straightpoint (the plan and train parts anyway). As much of the carnage outlined in my opening paragraph was exploding around us, Wayne Wille, our new North American technical sales manager, was here in the UK to meet the team, learn about our products and participate in planning meetings.

I’ll remember his raised eyebrows as the breaking news stories kept scrolling along the bottom of television screens. I’ll also recall with much amusement his comments as what was supposed to be a routine England victory turned into such a debacle. “This isn’t going to plan, is it?” he asked, as the clock ticked down and Hodgson cowered in the corner of his dugout as though he had been released from a year in solitary confinement only an hour earlier. “No, Wayne, it isn’t!”

Recent history tells us that Straightpoint is more effective at executing plans and has a stronger team ethic than the England football squad. Wayne contributed to our latest 90-day plans and will hopefully prove that our team selection is pretty good too. As Wayne himself told trade media in our press release announcing the recruitment, what separates our range is the breadth and diversity of product. It was important for him to meet our engineers and start to understand the intricacies of that force measurement innovation.

Wayne’s visit provided a great sense of perspective. The world was changing around us, tilting even further maybe, but it wasn’t ending. With only a week or so at our disposal before he returned back to the states, we had no choice but to focus on the job in hand. Businesses need to be careful to stay focussed when getting distracted has become so easy. Bemoaning Brexit and the ensuing chaos will only steer a ship towards even choppier waters. It could even run it aground.

Take five

It’s now more important than ever to balance the stresses of the workplace and heated debates of the boardroom with leisure and downtime. I particularly enjoyed a George Benson concert right in the midst of the turmoil. I went with Bridger Howes director Mark Bridger who has a relationship with the great man having spent time in his hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona, so we got to meet the musician, guitarist and singer-songwriter backstage! Take Five, as he sang in 1974.

Mark Bridger, of Bridger Howes, and I with the great George Benson backstage at a recent gig at the O2 in London.

Mark Bridger, of Bridger Howes, and I with the great George Benson backstage at a recent gig at the O2 in London.

I hope to always retain my ability to laugh at my own downfall, which was key to getting through the early stages of the South Korea leg of my latest business trip. I had an appointment with Gaylin in Busan, but I booked a flight to Incheon, which is about four hours northeast on a train. I know I strive to strike an advisory tone in these blogs but I’m not sure I dare be patronising enough to suggest readers double check their travel itineraries before booking flights! After experiencing the (very efficient) Korea Train eXpress (KTX), I eventually arrived in the southern port for productive meetings.

The local Gaylin team was in good form in Busan, South Korea.

The local Gaylin team was in good form in Busan, South Korea.

Having got the KTX back to Incheon, it was onto Narita on the eastern outskirts of Tokyo, Japan to catch up with RUD Lifting Japan Co. Ltd., who were exhibiting at the Live Entertainment & Event Expo, where we’d staged the launch of our new wireless load shackle at the same trade show last year. The Japanese subsidiary of the chain and lifting component specialist had arranged a fantastic stand position and the quality of visitors was once again high.

It’s always fascinating to see how different regions and cultures market their products. There, a lot of emphasis is placed on impact and colour. One can imagine the extent to which this ethos was taken at a trade fair that catered for the stage and live events sector! It served as a timely reminder of the importance of always considering an audience when planning a marketing or any other campaign. In Europe (pre or post Brexit), the states, Africa or elsewhere, product literature and other content must be tailored accordingly.

Déjà vu

I got to enjoy the last day of the working week twice after the trade show. Having boarded a flight to California mid-afternoon, I crossed the International Date Line—the wiggly line in the time zone map that marks the divide where the date changes by one day—and had to do Friday again on American soil. If keeping perspective despite upheaval is to be a theme of this blog, I suppose time, time zones and the monotony of travel serves to emphasise the point. Brexit won’t make jet lag disappear, that’s for sure.

My business partner, Peter McGreal, joined me for the final leg of the trip, participating in meetings at American headquarters in Camarillo. Regular readers of this blog already know what goes into these periodic top-level sessions, but it was the first time we brainstormed with Wayne on board and his ideas on pricing strategy, among other things, added much value. It was also opportune to break the news to general manager John Molidor that he will be guest blogging as Mr Loadlink next month!

It is a fabulous part of the world and, during the downtime, we enjoyed the Camarillo annual town fare, where beer, burritos, hotdogs and culture were abundant; a trip up the California State Route 1; and devoured some seafood at Monteray Bay. We also wanted to take a trip to Alcatraz Island but such is the popularity of The Rock that all excursions were fully booked. I’d urge anyone with his or her heart set on a trip to the famous prison to book prior to arrival in San Francisco. That slight disappointment aside, it was another successful, enjoyable trip and I appreciated the opportunity to travel out of Europe to get a global perspective.

Look out for John’s debut blog next month and follow us on Twitter at @loadcell, where a 2,000-strong load cell legion forms our growing community.

Mr Loadlink