​How Caterpillar revived an untapped market segment

The construction brand’s marketing manager reveals how it reconnected with its small equipment customer base to boost sales and engagement

Leveraging data has been key to building Caterpillar’s brand in the compact and small equipment market segment and reviving its customer engagement strategy in a way that boosts revenue.

While the 90-year old global company is known for its large construction equipment and ‘Cat’ boots, marketing communications manager and certified brand advocate, Connie LaFlamme, said a lot of people didn’t know the company also sells small, compact equipment.

“We’ve only been doing compact equipment for 15 years, so the challenge was to try and market a product that not a lot of customers knew about,” LaFlamme told attendees at the ADMA Global Forum 2016 in Sydney.

The brand’s customers mainly work in sectors such as commercial and residential construction, landscaping and agriculture and are usually business owners and operators.

“What we found was we had 58 per cent unknown customers in the small equipment segment, a sort of big black hole in the market,” she said. “It was my job to find these folks.”

Caterpillar’s marketing communications manager and certified brand advocate, Connie LaFlamme
Caterpillar’s marketing communications manager and certified brand advocate, Connie LaFlamme


To do this, the brand leveraged rich data sources in the US and Canada, along with third-party data and external sources, to find those unknown customers, LaFlamme claimed.

“Through the data, we looked at standard industry codes where these customers may be involved in and also see how many of these customers were purchasing equipment, the types of equipment and quantity of machines,” she said. “We could also see whether they were financing or paying cash, so there was a lot of data out there.”

But given Caterpillar’s traditional business model of not directly selling to the customer but via dealers, LaFlamme said the challenge was to essentially leapfrog the distributor.

“I had to get to those customers and create pull for the dealers,” she said. “I almost had to play matchmaker.”

Another challenge was that while customers already saw the Cat brand as aspirational and conveying success, those just starting out felt they couldn’t afford the products.

“The new guy with the dirty vest and shoes isn’t comfortable with going into the ‘Taj Mahal’ of a dealership to buy Cat products,” LaFlamme explained. “And we felt the dealers aren’t going out to reach to these customers, we’ll find a way to do it for them.”

With most Cat customers onsite and not using mobile or email as much as other industries, LaFlamme organised physical letters delivered to their mailboxes.

“I sent mail to either their home or business address and what I incentivised them to do was to go on that ‘first date’ with their Cat dealer,” she said. “I offered them to have a sales consultation with their Cat dealer and receive a pair of Cat boots. And I tell you, a pair of Cat Boots will get the customer moving to pick up the call and call their respective Cat sales representative.”

LaFlamme then wanted to pave the way for customers to establish long-term relationships with dealers so that they purchased the right machines, rented equipment or purchased parts. But if the dealer doesn’t follow up, then all of these efforts would be of no value, she said.

“The next challenge was to push dealer engagement with customers,” she said. “I had to create a turn-key solution for the dealers, and make them believe that they will success with this. I needed to ignite competition between all these independently owned businesses - and a lot of work goes into these sort of conquest campaigns.”

As a result of her team’s efforts, Cat saw an increased reach to more than 510,000 customers, yielded over 4200 sales consultations and leads, saw an average sales close rate of 33 per cent and achieved $53 million in revenue.

“We continue to learn and debrief to see what worked, what didn’t work and what we can do better,” she added.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+: google.com/+CmoAu

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Latest Videos

Conversations over a cuppa with CMO: Microsoft's Pip Arthur

​In this latest episode of our conversations over a cuppa with CMO, we catch up with the delightful Pip Arthur, Microsoft Australia's chief marketing officer and communications director, to talk about thinking differently, delivering on B2B connection in the crisis, brand purpose and marketing transformation.

More Videos

Hey there! Very interesting article, thank you for your input! I found particularly interesting the part where you mentioned that certain...

Martin Valovič

Companies don’t have policies to disrupt traditional business models: Forrester’s McQuivey

Read more

I too am regularly surprised at how little care a large swathe of consumers take over the sharing and use of their personal data. As a m...

Catherine Stenson

Have customers really changed? - Marketing edge - CMO Australia

Read more

The biggest concern is the lack of awareness among marketers and the most important thing is the transparency and consent.

Joe Hawks

Data privacy 2021: What should be front and centre for the CMO right now

Read more

Thanks for giving these awesome suggestions. It's very in-depth and informative!sell property online

Joe Hawks

The new rules of Millennial marketing in 2021

Read more

In these tough times finding an earning opportunity that can be weaved into your lifestyle is hard. Doordash fits the bill nicely until y...

Fred Lawrence

DoorDash launches in Australia

Read more

Blog Posts

Highlights of 2020 deliver necessity for Circular Economies

The lessons emerging from a year like 2020 are what make the highlights, not necessarily what we gained. One of these is renewed emphasis on sustainability, and by this, I mean complete circular sustainability.

Katja Forbes

Managing director of Designit, Australia and New Zealand

Have customers really changed?

The past 12 months have been a confronting time for marketers, with each week seemingly bringing a new challenge. Some of the more notable impacts have been customer-centric, driven by shifting priorities, new consumption habits and expectation transfer.

Emilie Tan

Marketing strategist, Alpha Digital

Cultivating engaging content in Account-based Marketing (ABM)

ABM has been the buzzword in digital marketing for a while now, but I feel many companies are yet to really harness its power. The most important elements of ABM are to: Identify the right accounts; listen to these tracked accounts; and hyper-personalise your content to these accounts to truly engage them. It’s this third step where most companies struggle.

Joana Inch

Co-founder and head of digital, Hat Media Australia

Sign in