When Emerson Bearing was established more than 50 years ago in Boston, Massachusetts, where it’s still headquartered, it was a wholesale arm of Action Bearing. “My father, Justin Katz, co-founded Action Bearing with Edward Green in 1957,” according to Steven Katz, the current president of both companies, “and since we were such a big importer it made sense to establish a separate business entity to offer our ball and roller bearings to OEM and MRO clients on a wholesale basis.”
Times have changed, however, resulting in a restructuring of the roles the two sister companies play about 15 years ago. While Action Bearing continues focusing on its longtime customers in the New England area, Emerson Bearing has become an international supplier providing solutions to 16 industry sectors including machine tools, metal processing, power generation, transportation, robotics and automation, and electric motor repair. Targeting these markets also required a realignment of the company’s strategy, according to Katz.
“Prior to that our sales staff spent more time simply taking orders than actively marketing the company,” Katz says, “so we first had to make sure we understood the difference between the two. To me, sales involves fulfilling a customer’s request for the products found in our extensive inventory. Marketing, on the other hand, means reaching out to the customer in order to gain a deep understanding of their needs so that we’re better positioned to meet them. So that was our challenge, and it’s one that we’ve addressed in a number of different ways.”
Beyond redefining the role of sales to a more proactive model, Katz conducted in-depth research into the 16 target markets, both in terms of identifying what they would be as well as learning about the challenges they face, and the solutions that Emerson Bearing can provide. On the company’s Web site—newly redesigned to include more resources, and streamlined to ease navigation—each industry is listed along with a brief description of what Emerson has to offer it. In the machine tools category, for instance, the passage reads “applications require bearings that are designed for rigid, high speed, high precision machine tool spindles.” Special solutions are then listed, saying that “as machine centers operate at higher speeds and demand greater levels of precision, we recommend the new generation of bearings made from advanced steels.” Available brands are then listed, along with links to related products such as super precision bearings, linear motion, timing belts, adhesives and sealants, ball bearings, and cylindrical roller bearings.
“The point, of course, is to provide our customers with valuable information,” Katz says, “but it’s also evidence that we’re taking our marketing outreach seriously, learning about these various industries and paying attention to their requirements.”
Another valuable online resource the company provides is called the “Bearing Detective,” which allows those who are uncertain about the exact bearing they need to answer a list of questions that will allow Emerson specialists to respond with an answer within a single business day. Another feature is the “Technical Toolbox,” which provides a wealth of information including technical definitions, conversion charts, and detailed examinations of failure modes such as flaking, peeling, spalling, chipping, creeping, and much more. Again, says Katz, it’s about becoming a partner with its customers, helping them overcome challenges and get the bearings and other parts they need when they need them, even overnight in most cases.
It’s proven to be an invaluable sales tool, as well. “I spend a great deal of time traveling the country meeting with our customers, because I want to thank them personally for their business,” Katz says. “During these visits I’m always hearing about how much our customers enjoy working with our sales staff, and how much more helpful they can now be in answering questions and solving problems with the Web site as an aid. They can ask the customer to pull up the site on their computer and direct them to exactly what they’re looking for while they’re on the phone together. It may sound trite, but it really is our people who make this company work. They make me successful, not the other way around.”