Last year Merson Group celebrated its 75th year of trading with record results. The company has grown a staggering 500% since a management buyout in 2005 that included Gavin McMurray, Merson Group’s Sales & Marketing Director. Today we talk to Gavin about how effective use of marketing has helped the business achieve its long-term growth objectives.
Q. What has been the most successful marketing tool or tactic Merson has used in the past year?
A. We have been using Google AdWords in a very targeted and controlled manner over the past 12 months and I’ve been really impressed with the results. We have been targeting English language keywords in a foreign territory where we are trying to engage with architects, main contractors and business end-users for what is really quite a niche service. When you couple the fact that this is a niche service that attracts low search traffic with the fact that there isn’t a huge amount of online competition advertising in the same regional territory, it means that we are only paying a small amount for each highly-relevant click to our website. It's the best of both worlds and very rare when using AdWords, which can often be highly expensive.
Q. What’s the biggest or most important change you have seen in the marketing landscape recently?
A. We’ve known for a long-time that the web is growing in importance but over the past 18-months or so the use of digital marketing has really taken over from traditional marketing methods and become a more mature, professional marketplace. For us, moving fully towards web-based marketing has given Merson much more effective tools to monitor how effective our campaigns really are; if something is working well then we can do more of it, if something is not working then we can tweak it or change it altogether. This kind of visibility is what was always lacking with more traditional marketing and it’s what gives me the confidence to make better marketing decisions for the business.
Q. How is Merson adapting to this?
A. One of the biggest changes has been ensuring we have the best marketing team and resources available to generate fresh and meaningful content that we can distribute across our website, social media channels, email marketing campaigns and out to some of the more traditional trade publications. We have allocated our spend away from trade advertising and printed marketing material and towards these areas. We’ve also invested heavily in our online presence and have recently launched a suite of responsive websites for each of our business divisions. Our marketing spend is broadly the same but I do feel we are able to get a lot more from the budget now than we did in the past.
Q. Content marketing is playing an increasingly important role in marketing but many commercial/industrial businesses like Merson find it difficult to produce content that engages their audience. What’s the secret?
A. I do think certain types of businesses; particularly those operating in the technology sector for example are more inherently newsworthy and interesting to a larger audience than a business like Merson who provides a service to a smaller captive audience. I think as a result of this many commercial/industrial businesses struggle with knowing what content to produce and end up producing bad content or no content at all, which of course isn’t the answer. The best bit of advice I can give is to understand who your audience are and think about the kind of content that would interest them. You don’t need the whole world to read your content – just the people that you want to resonate with. However when you do need to produce content with a wider appeal, we have found there are so many common themes that interest a wider business and public audience. For example, we often get our CEO Roddy Angus to produce editorial pieces about the journey the business has taken to get to where it is today. We have also created content about our dedication to sustainability and some of the recent environmental initiatives Merson has undertaken. This kind of material has more universal appeal and is always well received.
Q. In the world of marketing, we can be guilty of overplaying the importance of new tools and tactics that come along. Is there anything in marketing that you think is overrated?
A. That’s an interesting question – I’m not sure one tool or tactic in particular is overrated but I do think that every new piece of technology to come along is inevitably hailed as the ‘saviour of marketing’ or as an ‘absolute must’ in any promotional strategy. Of course it’s never as simple as that – a robust strategy relies on using a mix of tools and tactics for best effect and that’s different for each business depending on the industry it operates in, who they are trying to target and what they are trying to achieve. For instance I’ve had many cold calls and emails over the years telling me that my business needs to be on Facebook to survive - even though it is not relevant to our business at all. Of course this may change as the Facebook platform develops but it just goes to show that a blanket approach to marketing success just isn’t practical.
Q. Marketing is a fast-moving field but the core principles always stay the same. Which core principles are most important to how Merson promotes itself? Can you ever see this changing?
A. In our case I think it is what we are trying to get across that won’t change even if the marketing tools and tactics we use to get the message out inevitably will. We have two core elements that we always try to get across in our marketing:
Firstly it is about our point of differentiation, which is all about our processes and service delivery. We are a full-service business meaning we can deliver every element of signing and facades projects including the design, manufacture, installation and management of the project. It’s how we are able to pull all of these services together into a robust and cohesive full-service offer that sets us apart from our competitors. We get this across in our marketing wherever possible including in our content strategy where we often talk about what the business is doing to add to our current capability or to invest in new machinery and technology.
Secondly it is about showing off some of the fantastic projects we have helped deliver. One of the best things about what we do as a business is that it’s so visual. Some of the signage projects we’ve been a part of with the likes of Lloyds Bank, John Lewis Partnership, Tesco and Crossrail are so visually striking and recognisable. Showing off these projects instantly builds trust and credibility with our potential customer base and tells a story in a split-second in a way that words couldn’t.
If you have an interesting business story and would like to take part in an interview with Brinn Marketing you can get in touch today.