New product cycles and technology adoption by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have been expedited thanks to pressure from technology-savvy fleets, Silcon Valley tech disrupters and increased demand from equipment operators trying to maximize profitability. Long gone are the days when regional industry trade shows dominated the landscape of new equipment and technology reveals. Today, manufacturers are taking new product reveals to intimate, behind-the-scenes events to directly engage with current and prospective customers.
This trend has roots reaching back to 2007, when PACCAR brands exited the Mid-America Trucking Show for one year to reinvest their show expenditure into taking products and services directly to their customers—leading to the creation of Product and Technology Showcases on their campuses in Denton, Texas, and Renton, Wash., respectively. Thousands of customers—both retained and prospected—visited Peterbilt’s and Kenworth’s campuses, which provided a more effective ROI for the brands than multi-million dollar trade show endeavors. Add in ride and drives at private tracks at PACCAR Technical and at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, and you had an extremely effective powerful technology showcase, and a prelude to the future of commercial vehicle marketing.
Fast forward a decade, and now you witness similar playbooks from all the manufacturers. When I recently talked with Nick Smith, manager of public relations at Peterbilt Motors Co., he explained that Peterbilt’s approach to showcasing new technologies continues to evolve.
“At Peterbilt we try to magnify our efforts by showcasing current and future technologies to the industry through the commercial vehicle media to maintain a transparent and ongoing dialogue pertaining to technology developments and hurdles in this complex market,” Smith explained. “Peterbilt is putting a greater emphasis on our social media channels and try to publish engaging and up to date information that gives the public a look at what innovation means to Peterbilt.”
Peruse Peterbilt’s social media channels—YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook—and you’ll see what he means. I was captured not only by the beauty of their products, but also by amount of behind-the-scenes work that is being shown on these channels on innovations in new technology.
Direct-to-customer communications have also enabled International Trucks to reinvent the way it communicates product technology to the market, and, in my opinion, much credit is due to the basic blocking and tackling strategy.
“International had to prove to our current and prospective customers that our products were reliable, durable, fuel efficient and supported by a dealer network that delivers maximum uptime,” said Mark Johnson, vice president of strategic marketing at Navistar Inc. “We found that our customers were seeking intimate technology discussions, and wanted face-to-face conversations to evaluate what we were promising and provide a reality check on the future.”
Presently, International has a tremendous amount of momentum and I believe this has been expedited by a back-to-business communication and ongoing engagement with customers and prospects about current and future commercial vehicle technologies.
As a fleet manager, how do you keep track of today’s equipment trends and get in on these private one-to-one conversations? I would recommend a simple approach.
First, I would reach out to the sales staff at an OEM and inquire about attending their next product and technology showcase. Second, follow the manufacturers’ social media pages to keep abreast of the latest information. Third, I would plan on attending trade shows where manufacturers feature their newest innovations, such as TMC’s Annual Meeting and Technology Exhibition held every spring and the bi-annual North American Commercial Vehicle (NACV) show. In today’s global world, it’s also worth keeping an eye on IAA, which is held in Hanover in alternating years with NACV. Lastly, make sure you keep up your subscriptions to your favorite industry publication covering new technologies. I prefer Fleet Equipment, but several do a wonderful job keeping up to speed on technologies in the rapidly evolving commercial vehicle industry.