Industrial Marketing Summit Recap 

Three leading companies in the industrial manufacturing space put on a conference in Austin, Texas called the Industrial Marketing Summit. TREW Marketing, Gorilla 76, and CADENAS PARTsolutions partnered up to put on the event. They successfully drew a great crowd of growth-minded, inquisitive, and engaged industrial marketing professionals.

In this episode, Scott Hutcheson and I talk about what we learned from our visit to Austin.

Full Transcript

[Music] Welcome to the Solspace Podcast. Thanks for listening.

Mitchell: Hey everybody. Welcome back to the Solspace Podcast. Guess what? It's video. This time we are realizing that the video medium is a really good way to, to run a podcast. So you'll have access to this in the old school audio like we've always done, and now you should be able to see it on YouTube and LinkedIn. So this will be our first of these. With me is Scott Hutchison. Scott, you've been working with me on Strategy for Solspace for a number of years now. Every single conversation we've ever had has made me a better person, made the company better. So just wanted to take a minute to thank you for all the work you've done.

You and I met in person last week for the first time in the many years been working together. We went to Austin where there was a first time conference, a spinoff of another set of conferences. It was called the Industrial Marketing Summit. And this was put on by two marketing agencies and another sort of service software provider. Yeah, true marketing Gorilla 76 and Kadena Part Solutions, I believe is what they're called. So this was a summit, a conference, maybe 200 some odd people in Austin for marketing professionals in the industrial manufacturing space. It was perfect for us because that's our vertical. And these marketing directors need the help of a business like Solspace Web development company.

We can take care of these websites that these poor marketing directors are struggling to maintain in this industry. So you and I thought, what if we did a podcast where we summarized some of the things that we took away from that conference, some of the things that came out of that. So that's where we're headed today.

Scott: Yeah, sounds good.

Mitchell: So we, we made a little list of some of the insights we came away with, and the first one on our list, not in any particular order, was the question of the transition from boomers to millennials. So one of the things we've been seeing in the industry, and it really came out of a sort of an interview I did with one of our one of our clients who came to us first from the industrial manufacturing space. They found us because of our expertise on craft CMS, knew that we could build a pretty complicated website that could do a lot of the sales process for this business. I'm not allowed to name 'em unfortunately, but outta that conversation, I learned that our client was a millennial. He and his brother took the business over from their father, who as a baby boomer started the company. And as they're taking it over, they're transitioning it. They're responding to the incoming new type of customer, which is a millennial customer.

The millennial buyer is a really different buyer than what those businesses have experienced before. But what I'm seeing is that it's a tsunami. There's this wave of change coming over the industry. So maybe you could talk a little bit about what your insights were from those conversations where this tended to come up.

Scott: Yeah, this was something that I know we, we've talked about it and we were, we noticed it anecdotally, and it was more of a hypothesis on our part. Hey, does this client that we're talking about, that you mentioned, are they, are they the exception? Are they the rule? How, prominent is this?

And first I'll acknowledge that we've got two Gen Xers here talking about the generation that came before us.

Mitchell: The invisible cracks people.

Scott: Do not perceive us. We are Gen Xers. We have the millennials taking over and entering into this market space. And it's something that, when were at the event, they kicked it off on that Thursday morning with a keynote and Wendy Covey, who's with True Marketing, she's co-founder of True Marketing. And they were one of the not just sponsors, they were of the producers of this event. During her keynote, she brought this topic up. And when she did she said we all know that boomers are retiring. They're moving maybe even to leadership positions where this other work is going to be done by millennials. And I looked, and everyone else in the audience was like, there's lots of nodding and agreeing with that.

And I could see that also just from the people who were attending. This is an industry when we're working with, this industrial set, I think it can be easy to think that it's gonna be yeah, folks our age and up, but I saw a lot of younger faces and it's something that they talked about pretty often. It was, it came up not just in those, that keynote and in other presentations, but it came up in just conversations we were having with people. And we saw that disparity between if we talked to someone who had been in the industry longer they're being a bit mystified by how some of their customers were reacting. And it really comes down to, I think, anyone, even if they're technically savvy and they're in, late forties, early fifties, maybe into their sixties, digital is something that they learned. We picked up digital websites were a thing that showed up when I was in college.

We're all like, what are these websites? But if you're a millennial, it is native. This is something that you've thought of pretty much your whole life. And that just it sets up a really different expectation, I think, for what, these folks, even in a business to business setting are expecting that a brand will offer them on a website because it is not something is a bonus. It's something that is just, it's just expected.

Mitchell: This is expected. Now, you and I both met Jake Hall, who's who's built a brand around this. He's the manufacturing millennial brand. I'm gonna reach out to him and have some more conversations and try to ask him to get on the Solspace Podcast so that we can talk about this intersection between manufacturing the millennial transition and websites.

So that's someone we wanna really tap into. This thing was like this it was kinda like the ground we were walking on. It was it was this pervasive reality that everybody's dealing with. And it's not just a marketing and business and sales problem it's actually an even an operations problem a lot of these manufacturing companies are grappling with. Okay, what happens when all of our knowledge currently in these these people who are ready to retire, what happens when they leave? How are we gonna transition this to a new set of people? How are we gonna attract millennials to this industry? How are we gonna get 'em fired up about it? So there's a lot of concern about this. But none of these people that we talk to are quitters. Like these are resilient people who are ready to tackle a really big problem like this and really throw themselves at it.

I think there's another pattern that we saw that you and I were noting in our list. We were consistently talking to marketing directors at these manufacturing firms. So these are firms that are building complicated, configurable, customizable products that are used in the supply chain in the industrial space. I'm talking about like plastic connectors specialty screws, even servo units for robotic arms. All sorts of stuff that's invisible, that nobody ever hears about. That is pervasive in our daily lives that just we don't even know about. We were talking to marketing directors. The consistent pattern was that they were solo, they were by themselves, they were isolated. The marketing team was one, they were all joking about it. We probably met two exceptions to that, where the marketing team was seven people, but the company was multinational.

Like it needs to be really big to, to see a different pattern other than the single marketing director struggling to get everything together. One thing we noticed was those marketing directors working solo, like juggling a bunch of stuff, spinning plates. There's two types. There's the type that has the backing of leadership of the c-suite of the management, upper like leadership management team, and those that don't. And you saw a lot of those marketing directors talking to people who did have support and they're like maybe I should get a different job because I just cannot continue to push this thing up the hill with no help, with no support.

So what did you see in that regard?

Scott: We talked to someone, I believe her name was Julie, and she worked for a brand that had recently acquired three other smaller manufacturing brands, and they did not manufacture the same product that her company did. But they were still within that supply chain manufacturing base and these three brands together probably equaled the annual revenue of the brand that she worked for. The sort of the holding company, the original company. So there were smaller brands for sure, but then she realized that they have no marketing people. So they didn't, so she was one marketing person for this band and then three others are now connected into it. And now she became the one marketing person for four different product sets. And they just didn't have it. And this it I think one of the better, they were all really good sessions these sessions we went to, but one of the ones that I connected with the most was a session by a presenter named Mary Keough, and she's the director of Product and content Marketing at CoLab Software.

And she gave a talk about this idea of the alignment between marketing and sales. And while her talk was certainly positive and she was talking about how we can achieve this in order to do that, she was of course exposing the fact that there is this great disparity between marketing activities and the people who do it in sales activities.

And what I saw in this sort of, this of two different camps, if we're gonna really put people into these sort of, binary listings. Is that the idea of sales was something that was established with these companies. You've gotta have these salespeople. The idea of marketing was something that felt like it's fine, we'll, I get it, but really it's where sales is at. And if they had someone, the marketing person said over here, maybe they dealt with a website, every once in a while they did, they, they supported sales. When sales says, hey, I need a lead sheet or something. I need this kind of work.

But they weren't really connected together. And that was something that I saw that, other industries particularly say the SaaS industries, so software as a service industry I have seen a change over the past few years in which that industry has started really combining these disciplines of marketing and sales in a way that I'm not yet seeing in manufacturing, which they see them as oh, these are our revenue generating professionals.

They're gonna bring business in to our brand. And sales has tactics and activities that they do to accomplish that. Marketing has different ones, but if they're not connected together you're not gonna get as much out of it. And so SaaS industry seems to have really connected into that, hey, these are all revenue generating personalities and activities. Whereas when it came to, industrials, it is still I think a a great divide in many of those businesses between marketing and sales.

Mitchell: What I see among our client base in the industrial sector, is that digital is the driver for that for that merging of those disciplines. The strange thing about our work is with a website if you do web development if you, if a business takes it seriously, the needs of the website and the customer coming to the business for, at the digital level on the web those needs change the business. The first company I was talking about who is undergoing the millennial transition, they changed their product offering, their product line so it was more palatable to sell on a website. So digital compelled the change. And so some of this transition that we're seeing, some of the, this convergence of the marketing and sales disciplines into one unified whole, I feel like digital is one of the big drivers of that. If you get it right. Then the digital aspect of of your business and how you're driving growth using that set of channels. The marketing and sales activity are working together, and they must in order to achieve that.

Scott: Another example, I won't mention the name of the brand, but it is one of our clients and I won't mention it just because they're in the middle of this shift but they also have a complicated, configurable product that is more aligned in the healthcare industry.

But I see the same thing happening with them the way that they deliver their services can easily be arranged in a package. You get these three to four services and then you will find some sort of a savings, of course. And, without, the other way would be getting all of those services a la carte, I would like this and this.

And they said, okay, we've created a package of these services. Most of their work has been done traditionally outside of the website of the work of selling. So they have salespeople just like these other industries do. Someone's gonna call in, they're gonna build that relationship. They're gonna go through, however many weeks or months it takes to move these deals through. And that's what they're used to. And it's a lot of what their client base is used to. We, Solspace, recently conducted some testing for them and did, and interviewed their customers in an online experience.

One of the surprises we found was that these customers are much more interested in that package arrangement when they're purchasing something and when they're reviewing these products and services online, that package was something that they could mentally contain. They understood it better. Whereas with the salespeople, they seem to be more likely to be interested in a single service or a customized package that what, just for them, which of course takes more work. And so now this client is doing that same thing. They're thinking, do we need to adjust our product set and even simplify it.

They're still selling the same service, but do they need to arrange it in such a way that they have defined packages? 'cause that is something that sells well online and they realize that this user base and this is a big, this is, one of the other takeaways we have about this millennial mindset is that they expect to get a lot of information about what they're gonna purchase online before ever talking to a salesperson.

And they do expect to have e-commerce transactions on this site. But they also know that some of these people will go 70% through their sort of buyer's journey. And then they'll get to a point where they think the last mile of this, I need to talk to a person. But they'll show up with that expectation of what they've seen on the website.

They wanna be educated about it, and they know that those people are gonna be primed for these packages as opposed to breaking those down and going into something that's, that's more customized. They're gonna be set up for this. And so it really has gotten them thinking about do we need to adjust how we arrange what we offer just because of the way that online users are expecting it.

Mitchell: One of the, one of the other things that I think you and I saw as far as a pattern or trend at this conference, the industrial marketing summit, was that those who showed up were ready to, they had a growth mindset.

They were ready to grow and advance their skills and their abilities in their profession. A handful of the marketing directors and marketing disciplined people there. They were networking and they were ready to consider a move and talk to another company and consider, is I want to go work somewhere where they understand the reality of what's happening in this digital age. And they're ready to embrace some of these changes, like this convergence of sales and marketing that the millennial demands on a business. They wanna work somewhere that they can actually do their work. So I think we, we met quite a few people who just by virtue of being there, they were forward looking and sort of growth oriented.

Scott: That's something that Mary Keough mentioned in her, not in the address she gave, but she took some questions after her talk and someone in the audience who when I saw them asking the question they certainly seemed to be a millennial to me. And they asked about something she'd mentioned about this convergence of sales and marketing and collaboration between them and essentially said, hey, what, if, what if I were to find myself in a situation to where the C-suite just had no interest in that. And no matter what we did, the c-suite just didn't seem like they were going to be accepting of this higher collaboration level between marketing and sales, which would, potentially hamper that marketing professional's ability to do their job. And she was pretty blunt about it.

She said, yeah I'd start looking for a job and give, give your notice. And he, the questioner thought that's pretty drastic. And she said, look if you're a marketing professional and you're driven in the way that you just described people being at this conference, the fact that they showed up is an example that they're serious about this.

He said, you need to look for somewhere who's going to give you the opportunities to do the work in the way that you know it should be done. And if they're not going to then you should probably find an opportunity to move on to, and she even mentioned, said, hey, if you're going to this conference, you're automatically gonna be at the top of the list of other people at this conference.

They already know that you're serious about what you're doing, which just told me the other side of that is, if you're not willing to connect into what digital can offer, not just selling something on your website, but allowing your website to be this revenue generator, to be something that benefits your operations.

Back office stuff can be benefited by things that you do on your website. If you don't do that, a lot of talented people are gonna choose to work elsewhere.

Mitchell: This is this is another pattern that we saw that there is some pressure on these businesses to, to adopt digital and to really throw themselves into modern marketing. And for these marketers to find businesses who are ready, who are ready to hustle. This industry is underserved.

It’s adoption of digital, of the kinds of web development solutions that we've been providing for a number of years. It's, there, quite a few of these businesses are a bit behind the curve. Even the large ones are surprisingly unsophisticated in their adoption of digital. And a lot of these marketers that we were meeting these, some of these digital marketing professionals they were grappling with that fact.

They were grappling with, okay, which of the businesses in this industry are ready to engage with the realities that are facing all of us right now. There was some resistance among some of these businesses. We talked to a business owner who, he was pretty young to be called a boomer, but he was definitely ready to retire in five years. Really sharp individual. We had a couple of really good arguments with him. He was like that old school type where you're not really getting any work done unless you're fighting, and he was trying to convince us that he can't sell what he does on a website. He said, my customers are gonna come in, they're gonna choose the cheapest thing they find on the webpage, and that's probably the most expensive thing in the long run for them.

They need to talk to me. I need to understand what's going on in their factory so I can recommend the right solution for long-term savings, even if the cost upfront feels expensive. So these marketing professionals at this conference are dealing with businesses who did it the old way for so long and they can't even fathom a version of their company that could work online that could work on a website. So we were trying to convince this gentleman, you don't have to sell everything on the website. There's a subset of what you do that you sell on the website. You use the website to educate. Don't sell anything on the website if you feel like you can't, but you can educate your customer. They're demanding that you educate them digitally. So be there, meet 'em where they are. So a lot of these marketing professionals are grappling with the fact of the slow adoption in the industry.

Scott: I think that adoption goes back again I think to you get a muscle memory. I remember talking to this gentleman and he'd been doing this work for decades. You know, and this, this is the way this works. Any change maybe feels like a fad or it doesn't fit me.

It's fine for other people, but it doesn't fit my work. And in the end, that mentality was gonna is gonna end up being a challenge as the years go on because there will be that expectation that work has to find, you have to find some way to make that work in a digital presence. And, we're talking websites, but when we say this, we mean the web, we mean the entire ecosystem.

So we're talking the hub of your brand's website subdomains you might use whether it's marketing, lead gen, landing pages of your building, your social media presence the way your ERP is connected in from an inventory management system, the way your CRM is gonna behave with this all of these sort of digital connections or something that certainly are going to become not just more prevalent and not even just expected there. They're gonna become, I think, necessary and for a business to say when it becomes necessary, we'll do it then. This is something that I watched happen in an industry the healthcare industry still experiences this some, probably a decade or so ago they were dealing with this in a different way, and they had a mandate. Between HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which has a lot of different pieces to it, we think of it as consumers, as one that protects our, their private information.

But there's a lot of things in there about what the government says, here's what healthcare providers must do. And then they had a change in medical coding and a drive towards a mandate toward having electronic health records. This pushed the healthcare industry forced them to go towards a more digital offering. It was really difficult for them to adopt this. But they had to, because these other regulations were really painting them in a corner and they had no choice to but to do it. And I see that, manufacturers is in a similar space now in which, they're being, they're behind the times and they're just like healthcare.

They're in industry where the people who do this work are smart, educated people who work with complicated concepts, complicated machinery. And yet translating that over into a space where, how they're connecting with consumers and other businesses and providers there, there was this disconnect and I see that, we've got manufacturers who are setting up very complicated robotics in their shops.

And in some way are still think what do you mean automating inventory on my website? That sounds, why would I need to do that? You think you're automating your machine floor, right? You've been doing that for a long time. This is the same thing with your data that you're doing with your product development and your product manufacturing.

Mitchell: So we see this we see this resistance. But at the same time, there are companies in this space that are flourishing as they as they adopt. One of the things that we're trying to emphasize when we're talking to these companies, especially, our customer is the marketing director of businesses like this.

That's our primary contact. That's the one who reaches out. That's the one who is handed the task of dealing with the website there. It's always the marketing director who owns the website. And when we're talking to these people we're meeting, some of them who are embracing the change and who are really where the businesses are throwing themselves at the web and really giving it a go and those that are resisting it. And it's, some of these people are just gonna have to retire for some of this change to take place. But those that are adopting it. One of the clients that we've been talking about, he joked a little bit about how how he was allergic to his sales team. He he's got, I can't stand sales guys, like they, they make him crazy in certain ways. And he was moving onto the web so that he could mitigate that so that he didn't have to rely so much on like a human sales team. Now, I'm not saying you offload everything to the web. There's really, human contact is critical in this industry.

You really have to get the solution right, but you can offload a lot of that. And the digital experience can do a lot to support the educational path the configuration, custom customization path. And it can do a lot to get someone to reach out and contact you and make that human connection so that can bridge that gap. So we're seeing, there's resistance to adoption, but those who are really flourishing and they're taking off and they're really investing in building up an asset out of a website instead of just calling it an annoying marketing expense.

Scott: That mindset and you said, it's almost always a marketing director that is our client contact because they're the ones who are responsible for the website. And this goes back to that talk that I mentioned that said, hey, there's, a garden wall of sorts often between sales in between marketing and if the website lives in marketing, that means that the website is not seen as something that is connected into sales activities.

It is something that supports it from a messaging standpoint, but is not connected in whereas we've seen this, with some of our clients and when we were talking to people who were moving through this to start seeing the website as a sales tool, something that that salespeople can rely on.

To do work that just, they have to do the same work with every person who calls in if they've never been to the website about education and onboarding them. And it just, it takes time. And the idea that you could use something passive that works 24 hours a day for everyone that is relatively infinitely scalable to do that work for you and to, to, to get a contact or to get a lead that is far warmer and far more down that path the buyer's journey than they're used to being. That gives, salespeople the opportunity to really work on closing sales and really work on the relationship part of it, and not work on that. Just the on ramping of getting someone up to speed on, on, on what it is and what they do and what the implications are of that.

It should make work for salespeople easier. They should have a shorter sales cycle should be easier to close. They should have people that feel more informed and more comfortable with them by the time they first start talking to them. 'cause those, these millennials will feel more in control 'cause they have more data.

So that's another thing I would like really to see how sales departments and people in charge of that side of the revenue can start saying, okay, how can my team, my sales team, how can we make use of the website? How can, you know, even if it's the point of them actually using it with a prospect. Hey, we've got a configurator on the site, you know, this is gonna help me move you through this process, if we need to customize…

Mitchell: I see lot of conversation being supported. Like they'll be on a phone on a Zoom call to do a screenshot. They'll use the site to explain and make their point, and they'll send screen grabs and they'll send links to the site. So there is a lot of that activity taking place. It's interesting that a minute ago you brought up. Hey, you've been applying automation to your factory floor for many years. Why are you so uncomfortable automating part of your sales process? And one of the things that I saw at a trade show I attended this week in Anaheim where there was a lot of industry, but certainly automation, robotics was a component of it. A lot of the people walking around and talking, were talking about how robots don't take away jobs. They make the human jobs better. Those are more interesting, better paid more fruitful jobs.

And the same thing is happening on the sales side. When you adopt digital, just like you were saying we let computers do what they're good at. Which is provide information, educate, handle data streamline some of that process. And we let the human side that the humans are so good at of the sales process, let that flourish. And so some of these sales roles when they're embracing digital as a tool. They're making much better connections with their customers because the repetitive computer oriented stuff is taken out of the way when done well. So we definitely see that pattern emerging and it's a little bit slow in adoption, but I think there's a lot of opportunity there.

This could be a good place to end this podcast. We touched on a lot of the big patterns that we saw when we were there in Austin. This this overlap between industrial manufacturing and marketing and digital. There, there's a lot to discuss here, but some of those key points are some trends I think we're gonna continue to see and hopefully be able to do something about as things go on. Scott, thanks for coming on the podcast. This is our first video one. I hope it went well. Hope you enjoyed it.

Scott: Thanks for having me. And yeah, looking forward to seeing the videos of those talks from the Industrial Marketing Summit that they should be delivering out in just a few weeks here.

Mitchell: Every one of those would be worth seeing for those who are tuning into this, they'll be out in a few weeks according to the, according to true marketing who's putting that together. I'm looking forward to that too. There's some that I missed and some that I need to really repeat and go back through.

There's a lot of good information in there, so thank you, Scott.

Scott: All right, thanks. See y'all next time.

Mitchell: See you next time.

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