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By D'Arcy Jenish

One year can make a world of difference in the global economy, according to Tony Hoevenaars, president and chief executive officer of Brampton-based Mirus International Inc.

Tony realized that he had to focus on what many of his ­competitors were not — marketing — to gain new ­customers beyond Canadian shores. Mirus manufactures a ­comprehensive line of sophisticated power distribution systems designed to keep electronic equipment running smoothly and efficiently. The company's products can be found in offshore oil and gas platforms, large data processing centres, municipal waste treatment plants, commercial HVAC systems and many other installations.

But simple communication of the Mirus value proposition was, in essence, more complicated than developing a new, leading-edge product.

"We've been trying for years to really improve our ­marketing," says Hoevenaars, "but it's very difficult to simplify the message."

Why? Mirus-manufactured devices solve an ­especially complex problem, called harmonic distortion. In many industries today, electronic equipment is used to control the operation of pumps, motors and other mechanical contrivances. The power supplies in these and other ­electronic devices, such as computer equipment, tends to draw ­electricity from a power source in pulses rather than a smooth and ­consistent sine wave pattern. This results in harmonic ­distortion that can cause equipment malfunction, overheating or failure altogether. Mirus produces a variety of harmonic filters and transformers that are installed between a power source and the electronic devices to eliminate the distortions in ­electrical currents.

"Harmonic distortion is definitely a global issue and there are all kinds of different markets for our products," says Hoevenaars. "We tried to do our marketing internally for a long time, but we're spread thin, pressed for time, and we're engineers. We speak in engineering terms."

In 2011, Mirus decided to reach outside for help with its marketing — and not for the first time. But on this occasion, the company is getting results. Hoevenaars and his team are working with The Mezzanine Group, a Toronto-based company that offers what it calls an ‘outsourced marketing model.' A senior member of Mezzanine — in this case, Marketing Director, Tania Fioretti — spends at least one day a week working with Mirus at their Brampton headquarters.

"We often see small to medium-sized manufacturing companies that have great products, but don't know where to start in terms of their marketing program," says Fioretti. "We're their in-house marketing department. We provide the strategy, the planning and the implementation. We participate in meetings. We become part of their team."

In this case, she says, they shifted the focus of the marketing materials from a laundry list of technical specifications to a comprehensive benefits-focused solutions set.

That was the first step in a multifaceted program. Mezzanine has applied this strategy to new product launches and to various marketing materials, such as brochures, press releases, case studies and e-newsletters.

The second phase was to create a system for measuring the return on investment for the various campaigns and marketing tools. As Fioretti notes, many small- to medium-sized enterprises simply do not have anything in place to monitor leads, ­inquiries or other responses from the marketplace or to measure success. "You need to have a marketing foundation and infrastructure in order to understand what success means," she says. "You have to establish benchmarks."

The next move was to increase brand awareness among three core constituencies — the distributors who serve as sales representatives for Mirus products, the consulting engineers who specify that the company's products must be part of the systems they design for their clients, and original equipment manufacturers who require harmonic filters or transformers to ensure that their products function properly.

Mirus accomplished this goal by creating an e-newsletter, preparing case studies and through direct contact with the target groups. "These are world-class products that are being designed and built in Brampton and used by powerhouse companies around the world," she says. "Our job is to promote that and let the world know."

Thus far, the Mirus-Mezzanine partnership is achieving some harmony of its own. Hoevenaars says that the outsourced marketing model has worked for his company, because it gives Mirus all the advantages of having in-house expertise without incurring the costs associated with putting a full-time employee on the payroll. As well, an external expert who sits in on meetings and planning sessions often asks different questions and brings a fresh perspective, he says.

Furthermore, having someone from outside on the premises once a week has forced him and his management team to focus time and effort on marketing. And Hoevenaars has seen the results.

It's definitely led to a lot more activity," he says. "With the economy the way it is, it's been a challenge to maintain our sales. But there's no doubt a lot more people are aware of Mirus and what we do than there was a year ago."

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