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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.
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.
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.
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.
And a good day to you too. Fan photo from Mandi M. pic.twitter.com/Zyjk7qbfaN— John Deere (@JohnDeere) August 4, 2014
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.