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Farming machinery isn’t necessarily the coolest product on the planet, so it’s good to see a B2B like Massey Ferguson doing interesting things with content, especially when compared to rivals like John Deere, which arguably has wider recognition.

I’ve been taking a look at the tractor company’s website and social feeds to get a feel for how it uses content to engage with a particularly niche market.

Incidentally, you wouldn’t believe how hard I’ve struggled to avoid using the phrase ‘content farm' in this article...

And for more on this topic, download Econsultancy's B2B Content Marketing Trends Briefing 2014.

Now, let’s start with MF’s website, which is a classy affair, albeit slightly busy. This can be forgiven as it accomplishes a huge variety of functions with aplomb, as well as delivering information on upcoming events, social awareness campaigns, new products and more in an interesting and engaging way.

While carousels aren’t always the best choice, here the selection of highlighted articles works well and is a good way to keep the site updated.

As we’ve noted before, it’s unfortunate that you can’t actually kit yourself up with a combine harvester directly from the site, but the related products feature underneath each article is great at showcasing the range of machines on offer.

Massey obviously realises that farming machinery is a major purchase, often with a very long lead time, so rather than encouraging you to part with several hundred thousand in cash, it has taken the more sensible route of providing clear information about key features and related products, while gently nudging users towards financing and hire purchase options, together with a handy dealership locator tool. 

The whole site feels quick and slick despite the abundance of features and images, and is tied together with some lovely photography, making heavy use of hero images but also clear product shots. 

It does also just about qualify for an ecommerce badge as you can stock up on furry hats, boots and other assorted memorabilia.

If any readers fancy buying me a Christmas present, I’ll take this:

 

Deep, relevant content

So, what about the content itself? 

Massey is making a clear effort to put important campaigns front and centre. The punningly titled ‘Campaign for Real Bales’ for example, involves user case studies and some very clear copy to advertise balers, with some nice little details about the company heritage and a themed competition thrown in.

Likewise, the Future of Farming conference ‘Vision of the Future’ could be a very dry industry event, but an effort has been made to underline the social importance of the subject matter. 

In short, there’s a lot of selling-without-really-selling going on. There are no ‘buy it now’ calls-to-action, just clear prompts to gather more information. 

In addition, there’s also a little Uberflip plugin for Massey’s in-house news magazine, which contains some good stuff but is let down a bit by the presentation. Still, points for trying:

It’s also interesting to switch location for a moment and compare the international sites to the US site, which is quite different and a lot more old school in terms of presentation:

 

There are still some juicy content nuggets buried here but it’s far less engaging and user friendly – whether this is a case of a staged rollout or simply serving the needs of a different market isn’t entirely clear, but it would be nice to see the US site catch up with its international counterparts soon. 

Social Media

Next up, let’s journey off-site and see how the company is reaching out across its social channels. These are limited to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, but frankly you don’t often see muck-spreaders going viral on Instagram, so these are the solid choices and they are used well. 

Facebook 

Massey’s global Facebook page has just under 140,000 followers, which is a little on the low side when compared to rival John Deere’s 2m+ fans, but there are some good attempts at engagement on the page that go beyond its rivals ‘here’s a stunning pic of a big green tractor’ approach (although there are a few of these too).

Although it’s listed as ’Massey Ferguson Global’, the page is targeted primarily at the UK and European markets, with competitions to win tickets to events in the UK, and images from Cambridgeshire and Devon rather than the wide open fields of Kansas. 

It’s good that Massey Ferguson is trying to appeal to a range of markets, but this would be helped immensely if the company applied the same kind of targeting to its Facebook Posts as it does on the website. Here the mix of languages is a little confusing.

Likewise, while attempts are being made to include the audience, the page is a little heavy on product shots so would benefit from some more deep content. 

Twitter

Over on Twitter things aren’t looking quite so healthy, with the same content being repurposed from Facebook for the feed, and a lacklustre 335 followers for MF’s EMEA account (The US account actually directs you to AGCO’s account ).

It’s a sign of a company not sure what to do with the channel, and does beg the question: How many farmers actually use Twitter?

That said, numbers aren’t everything, so it could be a valuable channel if used to communicate with the right people (300 people buying an expensive product like a baler is not to be sniffed at), but it seems that a bit of a rethink and some investment in a community manager would pay dividends here. 

It’s a gap that’s highlighted if we again look at John Deere’s account, which is clearly being used as a PR channel.

There’s a mix of images, hashtags (#LinkedToTheLand) and user interaction that’s grown an audience of 76,000 fans for the company. It may not have a direct return, but it’s a good approach that’s creating a lot of positive sentiment.

YouTube

Finally, let’s check out YouTube.

Here there’s a surfeit of content including live events, previews and walkthroughs of new technology, all nicely tied into the core brand messaging, and Massey has been rewarded with an impressive, if not overwhelming 8,700 subscribers.

There’s also a more balanced split between PR pieces and sales-driven content which is nice to see, although it would be good to see more of this appearing on other social channels. 

Once again, there is a language barrier but it's been somewhat mitigated by organising language regions into playlists.

Overall Massey has a solid social base but it really does need to utilise the content expertise shown on its website across external channels as well. 

While it has some work to do on social, Massey Ferguson’s website is a triumph of B2B content marketing. Full of relevant, interesting content that drives sales without coming across as pushy.

Massey knows it is playing the long game and it’s great to see investment in content and a plain, sensible and useful approach from a company that could all too easily slip into boring technical jargon. 

B2B is one of the central themes at Econsultancy's Festival of Marketing event in November. It's a two day celebration of the modern marketing industry, featuring speakers from brands including LEGO, Tesco, Barclays, FT.com and more. 

Matt Owen

Published 7 August, 2014 by Matt Owen

Matt Owen was formerly Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or hook up on LinkedIn.

203 more posts from this author

Comments (7)

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Joy

Great article, thanks!

I follow all of MF's digital channels & happen to know that the MF EAME Twitter account has only been set up for a few weeks, hence the low (but rising) number of followers.

I also believe that most of MF's Facebook content is geotargeted which could be why the posts you see seem to be mainly UK driven.

Hopefully they'll continue to post great content on all their channels!

about 2 years ago

Paul North

Paul North, Head of Content and Strategy at Mediarun

Those are some of the sexiest product images I've ever seen. I haven't wanted a tractor so badly since I was five.

about 2 years ago

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TheShrub

I am appalled that you chose an example of excellent B2B marketing that shows a very sexist image of a women with a small wait, large chest, long blond hair and two beers in her hand.

I understand that most farmers are men but in this day and age, we need to move away from this stereotype and I think it reflects really badly on econsultancy that you chose to highlight this as good practice. I am very disappointed.

about 2 years ago

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Maggie

I think they were being jokey and ironic, a tongue in cheek reference to the era of the campaign for real ale, though I would have preferred a young farmer with his shirt off, but then I'm not in the market for a combine harvester.

about 2 years ago

Matt Owen

Matt Owen, Head of Social at Econsultancy

Hi all, thanks for your comments.

@Joy - I hope so, I did notice several posts in various languages there though so it did feel as though the geotargeting could be tightened up a bit, although it can be tough if there isn't enough international content to go around.

@TheShrub - very sorry you feel that way, as @magpie mentions, it is supposed to be a jokey 'Oktoberfest' image rather than a general marketing technique that the company uses, it just happened to be the first hero image on the page, so it wasn't really a concious decision - if you take a look at Massey's site you'll see a wide range of imagery is displayed on the home page.

about 2 years ago

Phil Borge

Phil Borge, B2B Director at Threepipe

This is a fantastic example of a B2B brand thinking about its audience in a human, emotional way. The passion people have for the brand is captured perfectly, and it uses a lovely blend of humour and audience participation really well.

What's most interesting is how this helps to redefine what 'professional' means in B2B. We seem to have defaulted to a definition of professional as boring and safe, whereas the word actually means the presence of expertise and experience. Massey manages to showcase its heritage and expertise, and the quality of its product range, in a professional yet hugely engaging manner.

Who doesn't want a tractor now?!

about 2 years ago

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GB

That's a nice overview of what they are doing, but nothing on results. The title mentions selling - this is something relevant to so many high ticket B2B products and services. This FB and Twitter activity is all well and good, but how to they know what effect it has on dealer enquiries and ultimately sales? The friend/followers/likes numbers are almost irrelevant as the sector will appeal to enthusiasts (see 9 year old's FB post) as well as purchasers and the US have 'a lot' of John Deere enthusiasts. Having worked in the similar construction equipment sector, making the case for resource around social is a tough call. I'm not so sure that this is any more than a solid example of how B2B can tackle social content. So for me, I'm afraid the article let the headline down.

about 2 years ago

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