I always like stories of the little guys who take on the 800# gorilla and win the battle. One of the benefits of social media is you don’t have to be an 800# gorilla to succeed. In my opinion, it’s the one who is consistent on providing good content and responding in a timely matter that really counts.
All too often larger companies need to go through a “process” that is very time-consuming for both posting content and answering questions.
Madison Electrical Products is a small, privately held manufacturer that services the electrical contractor marketplace and is one example of doing social media correctly. The family business was purchased a few years ago by an individual that thought there was some opportunity to grow and build value in the company. When he bought the business, Madison was considered a third-tier player that competed on price. Bringing in industry experts, they identified opportunities that they thought a company of their size could take advantage of.
According to Rob Fisher, Director of Marketing for Madison, what he found out was he couldn’t outspend his competitors, but he could outmarket them by using social.
“We started off slow, initially created basic Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. The first few months, we did a lot of monitoring and listening to discover what electrical contractors and distributors were discussing. Once we began participating, we kept the focus on addressing industry issues and trends.
We keep the self-promotion to a minimum. For us, we’re much more interested in using social media to learn from and talk with our industry peers. We also want to be a resource to help others in the industry, which is why we began blogging.”
Realizing that a “commodity product” approach would limit potential growth, Madison launched the Sparks Innovation Center, the industry’s first crowdsourced approach to product development. Contractors and electricians can submit product ideas for consideration through the Sparks page on Madison’s website. To date, Madison has received more than 120 submissions, with six products already launched and several more in the pipeline.
What a unique concept: Listen to what your customer wants and give it to him/her. Thanks to Madison’s commitment to online engagement and listening, coupled with their increased involvement in industry associations, they have become known as thought leaders and are currently making new products that aren’t commodities. Now, when Madison attends regional distributor meetings, they don’t have any problem filling up their dance card.
This is just one example of what a smaller company can do if they are committed to an ongoing program using social media. (By the way, these guys aren’t clients of ours.)