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The Content Council

Q&A: Brian Stokoe, Social Media Strategist, Caterpillar Inc.

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How is Caterpillar (and independent Cat Dealers) employing custom content as a marketing strategy?
Between Caterpillar and the Cat Dealers, we have the most coveted collection of industry thought leaders and application experts in the world. Content comes into play when we consider how to best share insights and best practices with our customers. We want to extend the value our customers receive from Caterpillar and the Cat Dealers by providing relevant content that helps them become more successful. The result of our custom content efforts drives our blogs, magazines, and microsites.

How have you incorporated new media platforms into your strategy?
Since 2008, Caterpillar has had an active presence in several new media platforms. In every campaign and initiative, we take a multichannel approach that  ensures that the right content is delivered to the right customer at the right time. From a social media perspective, we are getting closer to our customers by focusing on their specific industries, providing relevant material that helps them become more successful, and starting conversations that help strengthen the relationship they have with Caterpillar.

Do you find that print or digital is more effective in reaching your audience? 
For several years now, we have been watching the transition of preferred media. Currently, there is a range of preferences by our customers. While many people are happy to receive their information via printed magazines and mailers, a growing population is relying on RSS feeds, Facebook, Twitter, and industry forums to stay in touch with the market. There is not currently a “more” successful outlet. We must continue to use all of the media that our customers prefer, but there will likely be a time in the future where the two planes will cross and print will be less preferred. We are waiting for our customers to tell us when.

How is the organization structured to deliver custom content?
Caterpillar is organized into customer segments that focus specifically on understanding and responding to the needs of targeted industries and applications around the world. This enables each group to have greater control over the tactics used to connect with their customer group. We have specific market professionals who understand the details of the industry, and they play an important role in defining both the message and the approach for communicating to their audience. In many cases, these groups create content independently, but we also work with key external partners, such as High Velocity Communications, to assist in content creation.

How effectively do you feel your custom content program is performing in terms of communicating with your audience? 
Both our customers and the industry are telling us that our approach to providing tailored content is effective at strengthening both loyalty and brand perception. In 2011, we were singled out by Mark Schaefer and his blog “Grow” as one of the top 10 corporate blogs, alongside GE, Starbucks, and Southwest Airlines. We were also recognized by Chief Content Officer by being listed No. 12 on their “Fab 15” of Content Innovation Efforts. These recognitions, in addition to the daily interactions and results we see from our customers, help reinforce our choice of direction.

Would you recommend custom content to other marketers? 
In order to connect a customer to your brand and maintain the relationship long term, it is important to provide a continuous flow of relevant information. The advent of new media outlets and the consumer’s desire to interact are pressuring businesses and brands to become their own publishing houses. Effectively managing a content and engagement strategy is a must.