Machinery and engine manufacturer Caterpillar Inc. acquired mining-equipment manufacturer Bucyrus International in 2011. The move rounded out the Caterpillar lineup of surface mining products and expanded the company into the underground mining-equipment market.
It also completely altered the company's presence at MINExpo International, an event sponsored by the National Mining Association and held every four years. Caterpillar grew its presence to match its new slogan: “Wherever there's mining, we're there.”
“We're not known as a big marketer,” said Tony Johnson, marketing manager at Caterpillar Global Mining. “We realized we had a big opportunity.”
Caterpillar expanded its footprint at the event by 30%, staking out a central location that measured 52,000 square feet—roughly the size of a football field. The company hauled 65 tractor-trailer loads of equipment to a Las Vegas parking lot and spent months assembling the heavy machinery that would eventually migrate to the show floor.
With the addition of the new product lines, almost every one of the attendees who walked into the expo hall would be a Caterpillar prospect, said Barry Littlejohn, account manager at marketing company Simantel Group?, which worked with Caterpillar on the event. “The focus for the show is now geared toward every major audience category,” he said.
Caterpillar set up a media center visible from the central mezzanine, building a high-definition video wall with a production studio tucked into the back. The production team prerecorded some staples, but every hour roving Caterpillar-employees-turned-reporters filled the screen. They delivered live interviews with engineers and company executives who were visiting the show floor.
The format helped Caterpillar introduce the breadth of its products in one place while also giving a face to the company as it reached out to new customers, Johnson said. Caterpillar staffed its booth exclusively with its own employees and members of its trained dealer network. “It gives us an authenticity,” he said.
The digital content that the company created has enjoyed an afterlife, becoming part of email marketing and social media campaigns. The Caterpillar YouTube channel features everything from technical product demos recorded on the show floor to general interest content such as a series of time-lapse photos captured as the company moved a locomotive down Las Vegas Boulevard.
Caterpillar also developed virtual renderings of its mining products, placing 65-inch touch screens on the show floor so that attendees could interact with the media. Those screens will now make the rounds at regional shows where Caterpillar may not have heavy equipment on hand.
Johnson declined to share specific numbers but said that the event provided substantial return on investment. The company deployed a three-month email campaign that targeted the attendee list, netting about 2,000 opt-in requests—a small coup in a world where buyers pay more than $5 million for a truck and may purchase a fleet of 100, he said. Social media channels grew and, most important, Caterpillar representatives conducted more than 300 off-site meetings with expo attendees during the event.
“We drove business in new areas, for example in China,” Johnson said. MINExpo assets will be leveraged at exhibitions in such markets as China and Latin America, he said.