Caterpillar’s massive global dealer network is filled with second-level small businesses that have limited resources and little marketing acumen. Incentivizing them to invest in digital marketing tactics is a huge challenge.
“For many of them, any sort of investment looks pretty significant especially if they don’t really understand its value,” says Dustin Childers, Global Marketing Manager at Caterpillar. “The first thing we have to do is demonstrate value—what is digital marketing, why it’s important and what we’re seeing.”
Tackling both limited resources and demonstration of value, Caterpillar might invest in a proof-of-concept pilot, Childers says. The pilot will introduce second-level dealers to customers in their territory and show a revenue pipeline. If the dealers like the results, Caterpillar will negotiate a percentage back.
In other cases, Caterpillar will supply local partners with digital content for use on their websites, social media feeds, programmatic advertising, etc. Caterpillar also has a distributor marketing support program, whereby local marketers can request matched-funding for both traditional and digital marketing campaigns.
The local partner channel is important to Caterpillar not just for revenue but data. In digital marketing, data is the new currency. Local partners participating in the matched-funds program have to agree to send Caterpillar valuable local market data, either by connecting their CRM systems or via a web portal for local partners to manually enter data into the CRM.
With the local partner channel, one of the main concerns is scale. How can a national company effectively serve many local partners, each with their own digital marketing challenges and marketing maturity? Is it worth the time and effort? Where’s the point of diminishing returns?
Many big companies shy away from the challenge, but Childers goes in the opposite direction. Consider doing the digital marketing work for local partners, he says. This will give a multi-national company more control over revenue flow at the local level and access to regional data that can be factored into better decision-making at the national level.
“It scales well if you end up taking on all of it, essentially becoming the marketing agency for your second-level dealers,” Childers says. “When we do it on their behalf, we can control the tracking and performance.”
“We will introduce dealers to customers they didn’t know existed in their territory and demonstrate a revenue pipeline. If they like the results, we’ll negotiate a percentage back.”
Dustin Childers, Global Marketing Manager, Caterpillar
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