SENNEBOGEN, a leading German material handling manufacturer, was faced with the challenge of penetrating the North America market with a brand new product and a brand new target market that's never seen a machine like the 718 in the industry.
On top of that, SENNEBOGEN was trying to accomplish this goal by selling directly to the end-customer vs. their usual strategy of selling through a dealer network.
In other words, SENNEBOGEN had big goals and real challenges ahead of them.
However, by the end of 2018, SENNEBOGEN was able to generate great brand recognition in the tree service industry, bring roughly 80 prospects to a live equipment demo event, and sell 17 out of the 18 machines they made available for 2018.
This generated $9.3 million worth of new revenue to fuel even bigger goals for 2019. On top of that, SENNEBOGEN now has a direct channel to communicate with prospects and customers in a way that they have never done before.
Let’s dive into the details on how all this was accomplished with the help of the digitalJ2 marketing team.
About the Client
Established in America in the year 2000, SENNEBOGEN LLC has become a leader in specialized equipment solutions for recycling and scrap metal yards, demolition, barge, and port operations, log-handling, transfer stations and waste facilities, and most recently the urban forestry industry.
A growing network of SENNEBOGEN distributors throughout the Americas provides expert support in material handler applications and ongoing maintenance, repairs, parts and service support.
SENNEBOGEN’s newest industry of focus is the tree service industry, in particular, large-scale tree trimming, dismantling, and removal. SENNEBOGEN’s engineers have purpose-built a machine to serve the needs and challenges of urban forestry professionals, providing a much safer, faster, and more efficient working environment.
This is particularly helpful due to tree work being one of the most dangerous professions in America, with 10x the death and injury rates compared to most industry standards. The stored energy in trees can be unpredictable under certain situations, rendering it hazardous to even the most skilled of tree workers.
The SENNEBOGEN 718 tree-handler was designed to encase the operator inside a protected cab while giving him/her control, precision, and speed to cut, grab, hold and stack trees.
Since much of urban tree removal is still done with bucket trucks, climbers, and hand-held chainsaws, this equipment is certainly a disruptive technology.
SENNEBOGEN faced several challenges in bringing its new product to market.
- “New kid on the block” - unknown in the tree service industry
- Search challenges - there isn’t any equipment like this in America; people aren’t searching for a machine like the 718
- SENNEBOGEN has never gone direct before - always sold through a dealer network
The New Kid On The Block
As a German manufacturer, SENNEBOGEN was virtually unheard of in the tree care industry here in the States. To add another obstacle, many in the tree service industry are skeptical of European products due to the typical lack of customer and equipment uptime support. This is why many European companies have a hard time successfully penetrating the North American market.
Because SENNEBOGEN did not have any brand presence in the tree care industry, many simply dismissed the idea of investing in this equipment. During the first expo we heard many questions like this:
“Who is SENNEBOGEN? Never heard of this company before...they sound foreign.”
“I’m not sure how I would use this equipment out on the field.”
“This equipment is expensive! I don’t see how to justify the price tag.”
Although the equipment piqued the interest of the attendees at the first expo, most remained skeptical and did not take further action.
We knew we had a LOT of product education ahead of us if we were to help our audience understand the real value of the equipment and how much it would benefit their businesses.
The other obstacle in our way was the lack of search volume for this equipment.
Because their 718 tree-handler was unlike any existing equipment in the market, people were not searching for this category of equipment. They were also not searching based on their familiarity with the brand because SENNEBOGEN was a new player in the game.
Thus, there was a great deal of product education that needed to be done to get prospects to understand the advantages and potential of the equipment to their business.
In addition, we put a lot of effort into building brand awareness. Our goal was to associate the ‘SENNEBOGEN 718 tree-handler’ with ‘urban tree removal,’ similar to how ‘Kleenex’ became the go-to word for ‘tissues.’
Going Direct For The Very First Time
So what do we mean by “going direct?”
Well, in the manufacturing world, it is the industry standard to sell products through a dealer or distributor network, who then sell to the end customer.
For SENNEBOGEN, each dealer had their territory and would both sell and service SENNEBOGEN’s machines.
SENNEBOGEN did not sell directly to the end-user before. Nor did they have the infrastructure to accomplish such a feat. But they were willing to take on this challenge with openness to make the needed pivots in their sales process.
For our digitalJ2 team, this would mean we had to create more bridges between SENNEBOGEN and their potential customers and ensure that the marketing and sales teams worked closely to create a seamless experience for the customer.
This image displays an overview of how we found, connected with, and nurtured leads down our sales cycle.
- Going all-in on inbound
- Hosting demos of the 718 tree-handler at SENNEBOGEN N. America’s headquarters
- Aligning the marketing & sales departments
- Implementing the HubSpot CRM
- Creating clarity with full-funnel reporting from marketing data to sales data
All in on Inbound
The first objective was to create brand awareness - increase recognition, familiarity & trust with the brand. We strived to make SENNEBOGEN a ‘household name’ and top of mind with anyone in the tree service industry.
With this goal, we had to go all-in on inbound. Since no one knew anything about this equipment, we had to create a ton of educational content to educate the market. We created webinars, videos, blogs, social posts, press releases, downloadable assets, nurturing email sequences to show the audience a simple solution to their significant problems.
We sought to help them imagine what their life and business would be like with the help of this innovative equipment.
How We Leveraged Social Media
Since there was a limited search volume for this type of machine, we set out to target our persona on social media channels through paid advertisements.
We strategized three total paid campaigns: awareness, consideration, decision. As our persona interacted with each ad, they were then retargeted with the next stage advertisement for their nurturing process.
Awareness Ad - A Video Introducing the 718
We worked with an industry influencer, Ken Palmer to create a video that would introduce the 718 to the tree service industry.
The video showcased the functions and applications of the equipment and described the benefits & advantages.
The main focus and goal of this ad was brand impressions and ad engagement.
Consideration & Decision Ads - Demo Event & Customer Testimonial Videos
Of those who saw or engaged in the awareness ad, we retargeted those prospects with a free demo event to see this machine in action.
The demo event provided an excellent opportunity to educate prospects interested in growing their tree service business.
Leveraged Industry Associations
SENNEBOGEN became a Pact Partner with the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA), who helped spread brand awareness for SENNEBOGEN to their audience via their social channels, their email blasts, trade magazines, and conferences.
Having participated in TCIA’s annual Expo, SENNEBOGEN was able to increase exposure to new prospects and further connect with interested prospects who have already engaged with us digitally.
Hosted Demo Events
The second objective was to get SENNEBOGEN’s ideal customer to attend a live demo event that showcased the equipment in action and allowed for a more hands-on experience.
Our rationale for putting on live demonstrations to interested prospects at SENNEBOGEN’s headquarters in Stanley, NC was the following:
- Witnessing the equipment in real-life action was truly impressive; also not many people would invest into a half a million-dollar machine without seeing it
- Sennebogen gave a tour of their 100,000 sq. ft. facility with a robust parts and service network. This is critical to decision-makers; lack of customer support - no matter how good the equipment - was usually a deal-breaker. Therefore, showing SENNEBOGEN’s commitment to customer service & equipment uptime would sway prospects to purchase
- Prospects were able to get key questions answered (while we learned what was really important to them & repurposed it in later content)
- The Demo created an opportunity for SENNEBOGEN to create a personal connection with prospective buyers. After all, people do business with people at the end of the day.
For an event that required an expense and time commitment, we had a total of 78 attendees show up between 3 events. For a brand that was totally new to the marketplace, we considered that a big success!
Marketing & Sales Alignment
The third objective was to ensure there was seamless alignment between the marketing and sales department.
- Provide sales team with industry & product education
- Create transparency with marketing to sales pass off
Creating marketing & sales alignment was extremely important for several reasons.
- We needed to unite toward a common goal and understand how we would work together to create a great experience for a prospect.
- We needed to make sure sales were taking advantage of all of the leads marketing was bringing in order to close them.
- Feedback from sales would help adjust messaging to improve both the quantity and the quality of leads.
By understanding when and how sales would follow up on marketing qualified leads, we ensured no opportunities were dropping through the cracks and that we were maximizing results and investment in marketing efforts.
Closing the ‘feedback loop’ was also crucial for taking smart pivots in messaging.
While marketing was able to get general feedback by monitoring social media, sales were able to relay very useful feedback to marketing once they connected with a prospect or customer.
Aligning on a Persona
Both marketing and sales teams had to learn about the tree service industry and the product itself - in order to effectively talk to potential customers about what was important to them and how this equipment applied to their business specifically.
This was accomplished with the help of a strategic partnership with Ken Palmer, a well-known and respected arborist, who provides training on safe tree management with the latest techniques and equipment.
He became a brand ambassador for SENNEBOGEN and spread the word to his own following about what he enthusiastically dubbed as “the future of tree care.” To him, this equipment meant saving lives, by paving the way to much safer tree management.
Ken knows trees, he knows the equipment, and he knows the way other “tree people” think and what they value. This helped our team construct a detailed persona and start with a good idea of where and how to speak to our key audience.
The Last Step to Improve the Customer Experience
The fourth and final objective was to create a customer delight experience.
We created a strategy with SENNEBOGEN on how we could reduce the sales friction and delight post-purchase customers. The common sales barrier was, “would I have enough work to service this new machine?”
With that common sales objection, a new product was born. Growth Kits.
All purchasers of the 718 would receive a complimentary 6-month marketing kit to increase the business volume for the 718 with the objective of having the customer repurchase another 718.
This would ensure that their equipment was making money and helping them win the bids on new contracts.
Our goal was to make their equipment so busy, that they gladly invest in another within 12 months.
A win for the customer and a win for SENNEBOGEN.
Here are the results of the hard work and they speak for themselves!
By developing social presence, engaging with prospects in online conversations, and developing educational content, we were able to generate a lot of buzz, interest, and excitement around SENNEBOGEN’s new revolutionary product.
SENNEBOGEN only made 18 machines in 2018. In the first year, with so many odds against us, we were still able to sell 17 of them and make 2018 a very profitable and successful break into the market!
We can’t wait to see what this next year will look like!
“digitalJ2’s most significant selling point is that they care about our growth just as much as their own growth and they know by being a trusted partner to us, it will help ignite their own business.”
Constantino Lannes | President | Sennebogen LLC
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