When marketers launch their careers, the engineering industry isn’t usually the first to jump to mind. Yet it’s this industry that builds the infrastructure that we take for granted – roads, bridges, apartment blocks, houses; without the engineering equipment, the world as we know it simply wouldn’t exist. With the spread of COVID-19 in 2020, the engineering industry has had to undergo a digital transformation to overcome the challenges presented by the pandemic.

Join us in this issue of the Marketing Expert Series as we talk with one of the most experienced marketing professionals in the South-East Asian engineering industry. Mei Huang Loh is the head of marketing for the industrial equipment division of Konecranes APAC. With more than fifteen years of experience, Mei Huang entered the engineering industry by accident, finding a niche for which she developed not only a passion but a keen interest in marketing industrial equipment.

Welcome, Mei Huang! Excited for you to join us on this issue of the Marketing Expert Series. Let’s start with something easy. Tell us a bit about yourself! How did you get to where you are today?

Based in Malaysia, I am currently leading the marketing for the industrial equipment division of Konecranes in the APAC region. Before being appointed to the role, for four years I was the regional marketing manager of MHE-Demag (a member of the Konecranes Group) for Southeast Asia, Australia and Taiwan. I have been in marketing for 15 years, since 2005. Starting with zero marketing knowledge and skills, I was fortunate to have great marketing and career mentors at different stages of my career. Without their generous guidance and opportunities given, I would not be where I am today. 

You’ve been working as a marketer in the engineering and construction sector for quite some time now. Was there something that attracted you to this industry in particular?

I did not choose this industry in the beginning. It was a job opportunity with Monier Malaysia (Lafarge Roofing back then) referred by a friend. I took a four-hour bus ride, went for the interview, got the job, and returned home by bus on the same day. This marketing role then led me to BlueScope and AkzoNobel, which are also related to the construction and building material industries. 

Back then marketing in the engineering and construction sectors was limited to B2B marketing, which I would say less interesting compared to F&B, beauty, and other FMCG marketing. However, times are different now. I personally think there is no boundary between B2B and B2C marketing. A CEO of a development company browses Facebook every day, a director of an engineering consultant uses Instagram too, so when doing strategic marketing, why should we define our target audience as B2B or B2C? 

The most interesting thing with marketing in engineering-related businesses is that there is so much more to do because our marketing is not as advanced and vibrant as the consumer industry yet. Introducing a new way of marketing and ensuring it works in supporting the business growth keeps me excited and motivated. 

Another interesting factor is the people. It is very fulfilling to grow marketers in the engineering industry and equip them with relevant digital marketing knowledge and skills. The appreciation received from my coworker is another reason why I love this industry. Little did they know, I’m only paying it forward, just like how my bosses guided me in the past. 

Now, I have to ask, how does one go about marketing large equipment like cranes or diggers? 

In the past, marketing for large equipment, specifically engineering equipment like cranes and diggers, mainly involved in the “conventional” way of marketing such as exhibitions, brochures, billboards, etc. While these methods still work to a certain extent, digital transformation and digital marketing introduce new mechanisms, new tools, new processes and so on to the way we do marketing now. Webinars, live demo, e-commerce, mobile apps, you name it. 10 years ago who would have thought we could sell excavators or demonstrate crane maintenance services on Facebook live? Nobody expected to rent a wheel loader via a webshop too. And it actually works. 

On top of the tools and platforms, data analytics also play an important role in increasing the effectiveness of our marketing initiatives. There are fewer trials and errors, the accuracy of data helps us to offer the right solution to the right audience via the most effective channels. 

At the moment, of course, you’re with Konecranes, leading marketing initiatives. Can you tell us about the work Konecranes does? 

“Lifting Businesses™” is not just a beautiful slogan but a mission that everyone at Konecranes truly believes in. We have real-time knowledge of how millions of lifting devices perform, and we use this knowledge, around the clock, to make our customers’ operations safer and more productive.

The business is divided into three business areas, Service, Port Solutions and Industrial Equipment, where I am attached. 

Konecranes Industrial Equipment provides an extensive range of industrial cranes, from components and light duty applications to demanding process use and solutions – serving general manufacturing and various process industries. We are the world’s largest supplier of industrial cranes and wire rope hoists and a technology leader with digital controls, software and automation. serving a broad range of customers including manufacturing and process industries, shipyards, ports and terminals.

With the acquisition of MHE-Demag in January 2020, the Industrial Equipment portfolio is now expanded, especially in Southeast Asia. On top of cranes and hoist, we engineer, manufacture and maintain a comprehensive range of warehousing equipment such as lift trucks and dock levellers, aerial work platforms, building maintenance units for safe working at heights, compact construction, as well as automated car parking systems. 

Now, officially, you’ve only been with Konecranes since November 2020. Before that you were working as the Regional Marketing Manager for SEA, Australia and Taiwan at MHE-Demag, which I understand is a member of the Konecranes Group? What was the experience like, shifting within the same company group?

Cultural difference was the first thing I experienced when Konecranes acquired MHE-Demag in January 2020. Headquartered in Singapore, MHE-Demag operated almost like a family enterprise which is completely different if compared to Konecranes, a public listed global company with headquarter in Hyvinkää, Finland. However, we are lucky to have a group of Integration Management Team consisting of colleagues from both the legacies who lead the integration processes and change management in a professional way. My boss always talks about stages of change. I must say the whole structure and the leadership help us to move on from the denial stage fast and effectively. 

Before taking up the new role of APAC marketing, I was heavily involved in the integration projects, so the transition was quite smooth. The biggest difference is I now have a bigger product portfolio and more responsibilities. The fundamental of marketing remains unchanged. 

Is there something you enjoy most about your work in the sector or at Konecranes in particular?

Interestingly the integration that gave me culture shock also became the reason I enjoy working in Konecranes. It enables me to meet new colleagues from various backgrounds and functions. I like meeting new friends and hearing their work and life stories, which certainly open my mind and enable me to see things from new perspectives. 

As a successful global business, there are many things I learned in Konecranes including new technology, new tools, new processes, way of doing business, resources management, etc. What better way to understand a business than to be part of it? New knowledge is also acquired by learning and working with new colleagues who have different skill sets and experiences, which are valuable to the business.

It’s clear that the sector you work in has been impacted by the pandemic, how have you and Konecranes worked to overcome the challenges presented by COVID-19?

It is not easy. Everyone in the company plays a role and puts in tremendous effort in the area of their responsibilities to ensure “business as usual”, and “usual” means adapting to the new norm. One of the examples is the lockdown in many countries that prevented our sales team from meeting their customers. Activities such as seminars, roadshows, exhibitions, test drives, demonstrations, launches, training, etc. can no longer be conducted in ways they used to be done. Thanks to management with the foresight to invest in digitization and digital marketing, our processes, platforms and tools were put to good use during the pandemic.

What impressed me the most is how fast the employees accepted and coped with the change. Webinars, Facebook live, campaigns that incorporate social distancing, etc, our employees did their best to reduce the business impact by ensuring our products and services to customers are not affected. In some countries, our e-commerce business improves significantly during the pandemic. 

One thing the pandemic did was transform the way many industries and individuals think about their online presence. How do you see marketing evolving as a result of these difficult times? What do you think will be the biggest impacts faced by B2B and B2C companies in the region?

Customer acquisition, customer retention and value creation remain the basics of marketing. Speed to market gives a business a competitive edge over their competition. On top of technology, material planning, after-sales service and a few more key areas, businesses cannot run away from digitisation and digital marketing. Sadly, many still do not see the importance or are confused between the two. I have met people who told me they do digital marketing for their businesses, and what they meant is by registering a Facebook account and LinkedIn account for their companies. 

Digitalisation and digital marketing are new to many of us, including myself. Companies should start investing in these two if they have not done so, and most importantly, get the right people to lead and to execute the much-needed change. 

How about when the pandemic is finally behind us and we can safely go into the ‘new normal’, do you have any big plans?

Travelling and scuba diving! 

I don’t think we will ever go back to the old days but yes, we can always adapt to the “new normal”. The pandemic has changed the lives of many and “online” is another new norm that we are now used to, and is proven effective and efficient in many areas. The business will continue to grow with the right people, strategy, products, processes, etc. However, when we are back to the new norm, what I want to do the most is to connect with people, face to face. As much as we try, technology can never replace human touch. As a marketer, I want to create opportunities for people to get connected, in a fun and safe way.

Any advice you’d give to young and aspiring marketers, particularly those with an interest in engineering or construction? 

Marketing in the engineering or construction industry may not be as glamorous as beauty, F&B, or entertainment industries, but it is people from this industry who built the houses we live in, the roads in our neighborhood, the train we took, etc. I personally find marketing in the engineering industry meaningful, not only because it lifts businesses like the Konecranes mission wants, it improves the lives of many.

If you are keen to do marketing for engineering, never let the “industry norm” or the old-timers like me stop your creativity. Work in a company and with a boss who allows your imagination to run wild and turn your creativity into reality. 

Thanks for taking part in this Series, Mei, and for sharing your experiences with us! How can people connect with you if they’d like to know more about you

Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn!

The Marketing Expert Series features marketing and communications experts from across every industry. Every month, 2Stallions will showcase the stories and expertise of marketing experts from around the world, join us as we explore how marketers navigate the challenges of the regions and industries they work in. If you’d like to be featured in a next issue of the Marketing Expert Series. Please reach out to us via email.

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