Connecting With Customers

Your customers are using social media. What are you waiting for?  

Connecting With CustonmersCompanies across all industries spend large amounts of money on advertising in hopes of convincing customers to buy their product. But there is an advertising avenue that has a global reach greater than any other marketing avenue. Social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube are free marketing opportunities that can aid in acquiring sales leads. 

Facebook boasts more than 600 million users, with almost 150 million of those users coming from the United States. YouTube has 490 million visitors a month who generate 92 billion page views. Twitter reaches another 300 million people globally, and LinkedIn has over 100 million members worldwide. Each of these users is a potential customer. 

And it is not only high school and college kids using these services. According to a study done by iStrategyLabs, a social media marketing firm, 60 percent of all U.S. Facebook users, nearly 90 million people, are over the age of 24. As a matter of fact, the over-55 demographic saw the second-highest percentage of new Facebook users in 2010, increasing by more than 58 percent to 15.5 million users. 

Social Media for Business
While some executives think social networking sites are only useful for getting back in touch with old friends, such platforms are also a veritable gold mine for businesses. Every company in the Fortune 500 has an executive presence on LinkedIn. According to the American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor, 40 percent of small business owners use some form of social networking to increase marketing efforts. Social media sites can be vital tools because they invite a direct link to customers who will provide companies with unfiltered feedback and critique. They are also free to use. Social media can be valuable for the same reason that networking events are valuable—they build connections and relationships. Think of these platforms as professional networking, rather than social interaction. 

Social Media Statistics

• Facebook has more than 600 million active users. Twitter has 300 million and LinkedIn has 100 million. (Twitter adds 9.1 accounts per second!)

• There are 150 million Facebook users in the United States. 90 million of them are over the age of 24.

• More than 15.5 million Facebook users are over the age of 55.

• Every company in the Fortune 500 has an executive presence on LinkedIn.

• Dell has made more than $7 million in sales via Twitter.

• Facebook surpassed Google as the most-visited website in 2010.

• About 40 percent of small businesses use social media for marketing purposes.

Statistics as of June 1, 2011.

One of the biggest advantages of using online networking platforms is that they are free. They do not require a costly investment to use, unlike other forms of marketing. Television advertisements are expensive and, according to a study done by Nielsen, generate a positive ROI only 18 percent of the time. That number may be declining with the advent of TiVo and other digital video recorders. According to the same survey, 90 percent of TiVo users opt to fast-forward through commercials altogether. Online networking sites don’t require the same investment and are becoming a more effective way to generate sales leads. reports that 24 percent of social media leads convert to sales opportunities. Dell has made over $7 million in sales via Twitter. Customers in all industries are increasingly turning to social media sites to inform their buying decisions. 

On sites like Facebook and Twitter, people are given the option to “like” or “follow” a company. They do so of their own volition, and anytime a company sends a message out to its followers on social media, they are sending it out to a targeted audience. The audience signs up specifically to hear what a company has to say and, therefore, is much more likely to be receptive of the message. Social media is an excellent place to publicize, but at its core, it is about creating and maintaining relationships. 

Gases and Welding Meets Social Media
Some GAWDA members have begun to see results from the implementation of online networking strategies. Each member interviewed for this story stressed the importance of relationship building, rather than strict promotion. These distributors were able to generate sales leads through online networking platforms in some very creative ways. As the stories on the following pages demonstrate, social media are having a real, tangible effect on businesses and their bottom lines. Like the Internet and email when they first came out, there are those who have resisted change; however, eventually social networking will become the standard and will have to be adopted. Gases and welding distributors who wisely embrace these tools can profit as well. 


ILMO Blog Engages a Community

 Blair DialILMO Products Company, headquartered in Jacksonville, Illinois, uses social media to connect with its customers on a personal level. “Whenever a customer shares a little piece of their personal life with you, it results in a stronger relationship,” says Blair Dial, marketing director. A perfect example of this is a 2010 blog entry that was met with strong customer response. “I wrote about our Branch Director Gay Cornell who traveled to Haiti on a mission trip. She taught welding skills to the local community so that they could make repairs,” says Dial. 

District Sales Manager Jim Brown sent around a link to the blog to his contacts and heard back from a prospective customer who was also involved with a project in Haiti. “He saw that we are active in the community and that we support the same causes he does. It gave us some common ground and a reason to talk,” explains Brown. The individual turned out to be a purchasing agent at a local fabrication plant. He recently told Brown about an upcoming project at the plant that he will ask ILMO to bid on. “The blog created leads for us and opened a lot of doors.” 


Gold Medal Facebook Sale for Cyberweld

 J.W. Goodliffe & Son’s online store, Cyberweld, has been on the Web for more than ten years, but it was not until last year that the Linden, New Jersey, company broke onto the Facebook scene. In that time, the company has made several sales thanks to social media. One particular sale came as a result of customer interaction on Facebook shortly after Canada took home the gold medal for hockey in the Winter Olympics.

Bob Goodliffe

On March 7, a customer wrote on Cyberweld’s Facebook page, “I noticed that you do not carry the new Canadian hockey welding hood. Will this item be available any time in the near future?” On March 8, Cyberweld added the helmet to its offering. “Fans, you asked for it and now you’ve got it,” reads the company’s post. “When somebody engages us on Facebook and gives us a suggestion, we listen,” says President Bob Goodliffe. “Even if it’s just one customer, we have found that there are a lot more looking for the same thing.” Goodliffe’s intuition turned out to be accurate, and the company has since added the helmet to its regular inventory to keep up with demand.

The kicker? The customer who made the special request stumbled on Cyberweld through the company’s Facebook ads. Through Facebook’s advertising platform, companies can target users based on an individual’s demographic, location, interests or even based on words appearing in that user’s status updates. For Cyberweld’s pay-per-click campaign, Goodliffe targets American Facebook users in the 18-plus demographic who list welding as an interest. In 2010, that population represented 25,000 users, according to Goodliffe. A year later, that number is now 40,000. “Pay-per-click advertising has been effective in building our followers. There are a lot of people on Facebook talking about welding and welding products,” he says. “It’s legit.” As of press time, Cyberweld boasts more than 3,500 followers on Facebook.


Norco Rewrites the Curriculum

“People on YouTube have questions,” says Norco Marketing Coordinator Chad Mendenhall. “They are looking to troubleshoot, and even looking to buy.” The Boise, Idaho-based company established a YouTube channel for its industrial customers with an eye toward education. Those looking for answers are finding them on Norco’s channel. “A lot of people want to know which gases to use for different applications, so we put up videos to provide general gas instructions.”

Chad Mendenhall

To guide users through its channel, Norco organizes its videos into playlists. “If you’re trying to troubleshoot a MIG machine, then you would go to our ‘MIG welding’ playlist,” says Mendenhall. Norco’s “welding and cutting safety” playlist has proven particularly popular. One video about oxy-fuel equipment safety has garnered over 5,000 views since it was posted in 2010. Customer response echoes the value of these videos. “We’ve received emails and phone calls thanking us for putting the videos on YouTube. I talked to a welding instructor who says he has incorporated our safety videos into his curriculum.”

Periodically, Mendenhall runs reports on YouTube to see how the videos are performing. Together with the vice president of sales and the company’s sales managers, he looks over the trends to determine if it would be appropriate to do a promotion or a workshop. “Last year, I noticed that our TIG videos were getting a lot of views. We looked at that and saw an opportunity to answer questions about TIG.” The trend convinced the company that the time was ripe to conduct a series of TIG workshops. Thanks to YouTube and the ensuing success of these seminars, the company has seen a boost in TIG-related sales.


Facebook Win-Win for rockford Industrial

Rockford Industrial Welding Supply, located in Rockford, Illinois, knows well the adage that the best things in life are free. That’s why Mark Bergstedt, corporate marketing manager, is using giveaways to build a following on the company’s Facebook page. “What do these acronyms stand for: SMAW, GTAW, GMAW?” reads one trivia question on Rockford Industrial’s page. The winner received a Rockford Industrial Welding Supply coffee mug. Says Bergstedt, “All of his co-workers ask him where he got the mug. He tells them he won it on Rockford Industrial’s Facebook page.”

Mark BergstedtThe simple interaction, explains Bergstedt, develops goodwill between the customer and the distributor. Several winners have continued to interact with the company’s posts on Facebook after winning. Bergstedt researches these followers and passes the leads on to Rockford’s salespeople. “Customers are more responsive when we have a relationship. They remember a simple thing like a coffee mug or a pair of safety glasses.”

There is no question about the popularity of the giveaways. A typical post for Rockford receives around 150 impressions, according to Facebook’s data. Giveaways have garnered more than 700 views. “People are talking to people, forwarding it on. We want people to keep us in the forefront of their minds.”

Getting You on YouTube

You don’t need a director and a high-budget studio to create a YouTube video. Here are a few ways to generate content.

• Get on the news. Local news outlets often cover events, community involvement and seasonal bits. You will enjoy TV exposure, and these segments are often available for purchase. Post them on YouTube to live your 15 minutes of fame over and over.

• Do it yourself. Shoot your video with a camcorder or using the video mode on a digital camera, throw in some still shots from your digital camera, then add finishing touches with a free editor like Windows Movie Maker or YouTube Video Editor (

• Partner with suppliers. Why recreate a video that’s already been made? Many suppliers are more than willing to provide product and safety videos free of charge.



nexAir Makes the News 

Patrick Galphin

In May, Memphis, Tennessee, turns its attention to grilling, and that means thousands of local residents dusting off and hooking up propane cylinders. To take advantage of the onset of grill season in its home town, nexAir partnered with a local news station to create a segment on propane safety, which it subsequently published on YouTube. “YouTube is the second largest search engine behind Google,” says Patrick Galphin, marketing & public relations at nexAir. “We want to be a part of that.”

After posting the video, nexAir received inquiries not only from grillers, but from industrial users as well. One caller wanted to know if the company supplied propane for forklifts. “That’s our biggest market for propane. The customer didn’t even know we carried propane until they saw our video.” Although sales leads are a nice perk, Galphin says the goal of the videos is to cement nexAir’s reputation. “We want to be known as the gas experts.” By adding contact information to the end of videos, end-users know where to turn with all their questions.

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Gases and Welding Distributors Association