The Value of Using Marketing to Help a Precision Machining Company Stand Out
They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. One might imagine, as a precision CNC machining company our priority has always been about our customers and the product quality they need. We’re highly technical people, so it’s in our nature to assume that the products and our honorable reputation will speak for themselves. Further, as a company celebrating our 40th year in business, it could be argued that keeping the focus on the work has not only provided scores of great first impressions, it has helped us weather some very turbulent times.
But to say product performance and reputation alone have gotten Rathburn Tool & Manufacturing to where we are today would be missing a key element of our recent success: our marketing.
My father and founder of our company, Jerry Rathburn, didn’t put a lot of stock into marketing and public relations. He viewed these two areas as self-promotion. However, his thinking began to change when his personal attorney and friend (now a local judge) advised him of the value of having a positive image in the community. His friend stated, “You don’t want the first time anyone hears about your company to be on the front page of the local paper when a random drug bust happens in your parking lot during off-hours.” It was a valid point since the company’s parking lot was accessible after hours by people not always looking for machined parts. My father’s friend advised him that sharing the good stories about the positive impact the company and employees were having in the community from time to time was reasonable and balanced. Rathburn Too & Manufacturing began doing some marketing and communication, but it wasn’t a focused activity for anyone in the company.
When I took over the company as President in 2019, long after my father retired, I assessed our branding, marketing, and web presence. The results showed that we needed some help. Our original logo had been designed in the early 1980s and though it had been slightly adjusted over the years, wasn’t the brand presence we wanted. Our web presence was minimal, and our marketing materials were dated, unprofessional, and even had misspellings.
Our key strategic goals for the company were focused on sales growth and portfolio diversification. To achieve those two goals, I knew we had to make some major changes to make sure our image matched the level of quality we were delivering every day. Our goal was to help potential customers to easily find us (and remember us), quickly assess our capabilities, and request a quote.Accordingly, our list of improvements needed included:
- Updating the original logo (circa 1983)
- Establishing a presence on social media
- Building a new, dynamic website structure to differentiate Rathburn from the competition and to maximize SEO results
- Building timeless marketing brochures that we can update inserts as necessary to reflect new developments and/or to customize for target audiences
- Developing a library of images and video (including b-roll footage) that we mix-and-match for various needs and applications, from social media to trade shows to hiring events
Rathburn didn’t have the expertise to do this kind of overhaul on our own (at the level of quality we needed to implement). As a small business, it takes a measured and committed approach to embark on the effort and expense of a multi-year communication strategy aimed at sharing with the world what your company represents and what it can deliver. After nearly 3½ years into this effort, the results include:
- Increased web traffic by over 115%
- Three times the customer base and unique production part numbers
- Featured in local newspapers 11 times in the last year
- Received both state and local business awards in 2022
- Featured in regional and national magazines in the last year
If you are looking to jump-start your branding and marketing efforts, Rathburn has found success with the following tactics:
- Find a marketing and branding partner who:
1. Has a vision of how all the pieces fit together
2. Can demonstrate results with companies of similar size and industry
3. Works with you on budget and teaches you how to do it yourself
- Make sure you stay true to what your company represents and build a strategy around the unique values you deliver
- Maintain a broad view and strategy across all forms of media to ensure consistency of messaging, imagery, etc.
- Use a phased approach to keep costs manageable and continuously improve as time progresses (e.g., start with stock images until you can afford a professional photographer)
- Make sure you retain full ownership of any images that you purchase
- Build in flexibility and cost-effective strategies by managing some of your own content including:
1. Managing your own social media
2. Purchasing a low-cost app to take your own images for web or social media updates
3. Learn to update basic web content
4. Write your own press releases and learn how to distribute them
Making progress on your branding and marketing goals can begin to help your company shine in a new light and bring awareness to your positive impacts within your community. Rathburn’s priority will always be providing quality products and meeting or exceeding the needs of our customers. We will remain focused on having state-of-the-art equipment, and talented people to make it all happen. We will leverage our marketing to help us recruit the right kinds of people, and help others see how Rathburn Tool & Manufacturing is a great fit for customers looking for precision machined parts made here in Indiana.
About Rathburn Tool & Manufacturing
Established in 1983, Rathburn Tool & Manufacturing delivers precision-machined, manufacturable solutions made possible by a combination of technology and experienced teams for companies that need their products and equipment to work well every time.