Hu-Friedy is a mouthful of a brand name which may or may not have been on the mind of Hugo Friedman when he founded his dental instrument company back in 1908. More than a century later, Hu-Friedy is a global leader in its category and yet, quite remarkably still completes 80% of the manufacturing process by hand. According to their website, “they meticulously mold, treat, and sharpen instruments to perfection, which is why we call them artisans.” And while their dedication to craftsmanship may be old school, their marketing is anything but.
Led by CMO Patrick Bernardi, Hu-Friedy has been on the cutting edge for some time now especially in the area of content marketing. That’s why I was so pleased Patrick could join one of my panels at Incite’s Content Marketing Summit AND that The CMO Club recognized him with their Content Engagement Award. Our interview below is definitely something you can sink your teeth into, helping to flesh out these bite-sized nuggets of content marketing wisdom:
- Take a campaign approach;
- Empathize with your target;
- Measure more than leads & sales generated;
- Get your employees involved;
- Keep it simple, smiley!
Drew: What was your overall content strategy in 2015? What role does it play in your marketing mix?
Hu-Friedy casts a wide net in terms of the functional areas of dentistry we play in, so to support our broad portfolio, we have instituted a content calendar format that we like to call the “Thud Factor.” Our approach here is that during each quarter we focus on a specific area of our business, anchor it with a significant piece of content and execute a series of integrated campaign elements to drive maximum impact.
Hu-Friedy is a world leader in dental products and instrument manufacturing, and while our brand has a tremendous amount of affinity, the fact that we sell through distribution presents certain challenges in terms of developing direct relationships with our customers. We have fantastic distribution partners, and they support us extremely well, but it really is our job to drive demand for our products. So, we have been working on getting closer to our customers over the last few years by improving our web site experience, our social media platforms, and this year we really focused on delivering utility by creating and distributing value-add content. And in terms of the marketing mix, content plays a vital role, as it is a critical part of our overall inbound marketing strategy.
Drew: What motivated you to launch the #ShowUsYourPurple campaign? Has it been successful?
Hu-Friedy has many different product lines and customer segments, but a group that has always been near and dear to our hearts are Dental Hygienists. Think about the experience you have with your own dental hygienist when you go to the dentist. Can you describe that person’s personality? What is so interesting is that these folks are all kind of described the same way. Friendly, gentle, smart, caring, fun, passionate…the list goes on. At Hu-Friedy we feel that the Dental Hygienist is really the heart of the dental practice and should be celebrated for all they do. So, that is why we created the #ShowUsYourPurple campaign – to express our gratitude and to deliver a rallying cry for this special group to celebrate one another. And it has been very successful, as we’ve had more social sharing and engagement tied back to this campaign than anything else we have done this year.
Drew: How do you measure the success of your content efforts?
We measure success in a number of ways. First, as we are trying develop stronger and more direct relationships with our customers, data collection is very important. It has been gratifying to see how many new emails we have been able to collect this year based on engagement actions like ebook digital asset downloads and email newsletter registrations. The other success metric we look at is new members added to our online dental hygiene community, Friends of Hu-Friedy – www.friendsofhu-friedy.com
We have over 40,000 dental hygienists as members and our content marketing efforts are designed to deliver information to this group so that they can perform at their best clinically, in addition to how they can take care of their overall health to ensure career longevity.
Drew: So many brands have started cranking out content. How do you make sure your content really stands out from the pack? Is there such a thing as too much content?
Not sure if there is such a thing as too much content, but for sure there is such a thing as poor content. Any maybe that is really the issue, because I am a firm believer in quality over quantity as it relates to content. I say that because I know from personal experience that the second a brand “jumps the shark” by delivering content that is not relevant or valuable, then I will be more judicious in my engagement going forward. There is nothing worse than being hooked by a subject line like “the top ten things a marketer should never do,” and the come to realize the content is of limited value. So, at Hu-Friedy we ask a lot of questions to customers which informs our content creation. We also do our homework on industry trends. For example, general practice dentists are doing more and more specialty procedures themselves instead of referring those cases out. To address that trend, we developed an eBook designed specifically to deliver education on this topic.
Drew: On the topic of championing your employees, let’s talk about your Apprenticeship Program – Hu-Friedy University. This idea of taking training back to a fundamental level and creating ‘apprentices’ out of your best employees is a huge internal investment on the part of the company. What have been some of the outcomes of this project so far? With such a long-sided vision of success, how do you project that this will prepare your newest team members for future challenges?
One thing that maybe we should have realized, but didn’t, is the amount of pride this program generated internally – especially when the story got picked-up the Wall Street Journal and leading dental publications. Externally, it has played an important role in our employee recruitment efforts. But more than anything, it is an example of a brand really walking-the-walk to ensure that its’s value proposition continues well into the future. Long term, the art of instrument making is being passed to the next generation, who will then ensure that the craftsmanship of our instruments, and the high-quality reputation that our artisans have made legendary, will continue on for years to come.
Drew: Where does content rank in your marketing priorities and why?
It ranks as a very top priority. The bottom line is this – relationships are the vehicle for brand advocacy and that vehicle requires fuel in the form of value-add content, loyalty experiences and simple ways to engage with our brand.
Drew: Looking ahead to 2016, what is the single biggest challenge that you’d like to overcome?
Simplifying customer experiences. I am inspired here by the point of view of Margaret Malloy, who is the Global CMO for Siegel+Gale. She has stated that winning brands consistently deliver clear, useful and beautiful experiences for their customers. At the heart of this lies the concept of simplicity. An ambitious goal for sure, but one that is no longer optional for brands who want great relationships with their customers.