This week we got the chance to reunite with some fast friends from MODEX 2018 and then Promat 2019: Waypoint Robotics. Their co-founder and CEO, Jason Walker, sat down with us to discuss how their startup company has rapidly expanded in a matter of a few years.
In short, aside from the actual products they create, Waypoint has found success because they’ve made it a priority to build brand equity. Other companies, be they other startups or longstanding powerhouses in their industries, would do well to take note.
1. BUILD BRAND EQUITY BY PUTTING PEOPLE FIRST
As is common for most robotics companies, Waypoint entered the industry knowing that many people would oppose their products on principle. It’s a valid and far-reaching concern that robots could replace human beings in the workforce. How do you combat the belief that your business could enable “job-stealers”?
For Jason and the rest of his team, they made a distinct decision from the start. They create robots that would aid, rather than replace, the existing workforce.
Nowadays there may be workers who have to perform excess manual labor, loading materials or moving assets between locations. Waypoint’s goal is to essentially provide those employees with “assistants.” They’re still getting the same work done, but in less time, with less effort. Not to mention they likely hold their heads a little higher– having started as a freight loader but now working as a roboticist.
“If we can empower the workforce with great tools, they can be the ones that create that extra efficiency and increase their own capabilities, get involved in industry 4.0, and help their companies be competitive in a very dynamic global market.
“We care about the workforce. We don’t want them to be left behind or not included. That’s a big part of what drove us to do this.”
The data worldwide shows that automated robots can increase a company’s productivity and opportunities. Waypoint’s goal is for those companies to use the employees they already have, and whom they’ve already trained and invested in; rather than go looking for a roboticist elsewhere.
Waypoint also designed their AMRs with the warehouse and machine shop owners in mind. They wanted to provide an automated vehicle that wouldn’t require companies to reconfigure their existing facilities. Especially if their projects tend to change every few days or weeks.
There’s no laying down expensive track. No rearranging their existing system. No tearing down or rebuilding just to accommodate a new robot. They don’t even need to set up wifi if they don’t have it there already.
Waypoint’s products and applications make their mission abundantly clear from the start. They care about people– not just business owners, but also their employees. And a brand with a creed worth believing in is a brand that people will willingly stand behind.
2. BUILD BRAND EQUITY BY MAKING DECISIONS WITH THE LONG-TERM IN MIND
Beside the conflict surrounding “job-stealing” robots, Waypoint’s other challenge is that they’re a privately-funded startup company within an emerging market. So first off, it’s difficult just getting the word out to people that they exist. Secondly, working in an emergency market means there really aren’t any established standards within your own field that you can model your business off of. And third, it’s difficult for investors to put their trust in startups.
New companies can take a while to show ROI; to establish their own system of doing business; and figuring out how to build a solid foundation to grow steadily. Silicon Valley culture has shown many blossoming companies to burn fast and bright, only to die out before half a decade is up.
“We do and always have done a lot of inbound marketing. We’ve always been exceptionally brand conscious, and brand equity is built through consistency and through commitment and dedication. And so we put that into the recipe for the company from day one, and into the products.”
Just like Waypoint is focused on human beings when they create their products, they also focus on human beings when making decisions about their marketing; or about the future of the company. They build brand equity by focusing not on the next quarter or their next round of funding, but by focusing on what can best help their customers and partners– especially over the long term.
Long-term vision and planning also applies to marketing, too. Waypoint uses inbound marketing, digital tools, and SEO to expand their reach. Many of those techniques are not short-term plays. They can take months or even years to start generating returns. But as we’ve discussed in previous episodes, those resources eventually have an accumulative snowball effect.
Waypoint’s website, for example, isn’t always where people first encounter them. We ourselves had never heard of them before we encountered them at MODEX at their trade show booth.
However, once people depart from expos and events, Waypoint’s website has the resources to answer their questions when they come looking. People are growing more and more accustomed to consuming information on their own terms, and Waypoint’s digital marketing has built a library of information that users can engage once they are ready.
3. BUILD BRAND EQUITY BY EDUCATING BUYERS WITH YOUR CONTENT
Another major impact upon Waypoint’s general reputation and their audience trust is that their content is not focused on themselves. A lot of industrial companies fall into the trap of turning their own product manuals and press releases into blog articles or vlog posts. That’s not always a bad thing, but it definitely shouldn’t be the majority or the focus of your content marketing.
Companies like Waypoint build brand equity by educating their buyers on the market in general. They might use their own robots as examples (because hey, it’s relevant) but they do point out that their solutions may not be the best fit for everybody. They trust their audience’s ability to make discerning buyer decisions; and they give them the resources to do so.
Modern audiences are already jaded into assuming that corporate content is going to be biased. They expect it. But they’re more likely to trust in a business that communicates honestly with them, and that gives them the information they need to make a decision. Even if that decision means they won’t buy from that particular company.
“Even if somebody’s not going to buy a robot from me, ultimately if I can help them out and in doing so help out the robotics community and help out the customers that are being served, then that’s good for everyone.”
The robotics industry is small enough that many businesses are fairly differentiated. So, at the moment, their transactions aren’t as cutthroat as in other industries. If anything, they can actually be pretty collaborative. That means every company has a healthy opportunity to direct prospects to whomever might actually be a better fit for their needs.
“I feel like the more people know, the more likely they are to choose our product. And if we educate them really well and they don’t choose our products then that means it wasn’t the right fit. And I’d rather have a happy customer I didn’t get than an unhappy customer I did get.”
So, for any companies are looking to build brand equity, Jason’s advice is simple. “Get your brand in order, and then get your SEO house in order,” he explained to us.
Whether you hire an outside agency to help with your digital marketing or not, inbound is a far less abrasive way of reaching prospects and enticing leads to choose you amongst their many options. Even if your business is very face-to-face and relational, the next thing your prospects will do is leave ad look you up to learn more. And if they can’t find enough about you or materials that show them you know your way around the industry, it’s going to be tough for them to believe you to be as much of an expert as you are.
“You’ve got to empower people with the tools they need to help themselves. And so that’s our philosophy in marketing, as well as building robots.”
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