Ep. 117 | Creating a Competitive Advantage for Manufacturing Marketers

This week, we chat with Peter Hoffman, vice president of marketing at Motion Solutions, about the evolution of marketing in the manufacturing industry, and how adopting a marketing automation platform can be a competitive advantage.

Both Motion Solutions and RM Hoffman, which Peter’s father founded and that Motion Solutions acquired in 2016, are more than 60-years old.

Peter talks about the customer’s evolution in that time, from having a scarcity of information about product solutions to having information readily available via a quick search on Google and how that’s played out for sales teams and businesses in the manufacturing industry.

Nathan: Can you tell me more about yourself and Motion Solutions?

Peter: I’d be happy to. My role at Motion Solutions is I’m the vice president of marketing. And Motion Solutions is a 60-year old company. It’s headquartered in Aliso Viejo, Southern California, with a sales office in Fremont, California, Northern California. And we primarily serve the California marketplace, but in some cases extend beyond that.

We serve the semiconductor, the medical equipment, and the automation and robotics industries, as well as some others. And we do it by representing some exceptional partners that manufacture electromechanical type components typically involved in motion. And we add value by having an exceptional group of over 20 plus degreed engineers who work with our customers to help in close sort of a working relationship. We do design of subassemblies and other parts of machines typically for an OEM.

And so we’re a part of sort of the automation industry. And we’re involved with things that rotate and things that have a linear motion. And typically our machines are making other sorts of equipment.

Picture of Peter Hoffman who talks on the Rethink Marketing podcast about manufacturing marketing

How has manufacturing marketing evolved over the last 60 years?

Nathan: Interesting. You and I met about a year ago when you were with your family business, R.M. Hoffman., which Motion Solutions acquired late last year. R.M. Hoffman and Motion Solutions, as you just mentioned, have been around 60 years.

I’m curious just what was marketing back in the day for these companies and the manufacturing industry in general?

Peter: Yeah, very different. In the early days of our industry, it was salesmen with a briefcase filled with brochures, with hard copy brochures, with catalogs, that were often from the companies that we represent. And they would be knocking on doors. And information was hard to get. If you were a — our typical customer is a design engineer, a mechanical or electrical engineer. And in the early days when they wanted information, I’d say information was scarce. And they needed to go through a company like ours to get information about products that they needed for what they were building.

And so they would go through the sales rep who had the access to the manufacturer and the information, typically in the form of again printed pieces of paper. This is of course pre-internet, pre-email. And in this scarcity of information world, the salesman was king, and would spend a lot of time providing information directly to customers. So we also went to trade shows. And again that’s a different world today. We also were — in the back of magazines there were tear sheets where customers would say, hey, I’m interesting in this particular manufacturer of a product. And the manufacturer would send to us, hey here’s some people from a magazine who said that they’re interested in knowing more about your product.

Well that world that I’m describing is very different. And the reason it’s different is because of course the internet. And information is no longer scarce. Information is readily available through a very simple search on a browser. And so an engineer now who wants information doesn’t need a piece of paper from one of our salesmen. They can go to the internet, and they can do a search, and they can find exceptionally large amount of resources and data.

Now do they necessarily — are they necessarily an expert in that? No, not necessarily. They’re an expert in their area. And do they have time to perhaps do the kind of design work they need to do? Well not necessarily. So we’ve had to sort of change the way that we deliver our products and services. And the whole world of marketing, it just doesn’t look anything like it used to look. And for us, we know that there are competitors that we have that haven’t moved very quickly. They’re more living in a world of salesmen with more limited information about who their customers are.

It’s our belief that marketing is a strategic advantage for us. The way that we have — we use our website, that we use Act-On, as a way to better understand the specific needs of our customers, and tie that into our CRM. It creates a world that looks nothing like it used to be for us. And the sooner we can effectively integrate software and best practices, business practices, to take advantage of today’s capability, gives us a huge advantage. But it also allows us to better serve our customers. So it’s quite an extraordinary shift since when we started 60 years ago.

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Act-On for Manufacturing

What is the importance of marketing automation and a CRM

Nathan: You mentioned two things there that I want to double back on. Can you talk about the importance of marketing automation in how you do your job? And then a follow up question is the importance of a CRM system and having the two integrate with each other.

Peter: We looked at our marketing platform as an integration of a number of different pieces that all have to work. And any one of them in isolation of the others is a stool without a leg. And you have to sort of have the whole package. For instance, people spend a lot of money on AdWords or Bing ads, which can be very effective. We know our customers are searching. But if we don’t have an effective way on our website to have content that’s of interest, and if we can’t understand who is on our website, and we can’t track them with lead scoring, it becomes a missed opportunity and I would say a waste of resources.

So AdWords without the effective marketing automation behind it is really a miss. And in order for it all to work, we also wanna be sending out emails. But we wanna send emails to the right people at the right time. That takes automation, marketing automation. For us Act-On has been a terrific way to do that. It also means that we have to tie it into the CRM. Our salesmen are incredibly busy. Some of our salesmen like technology and they’re really good at it. Others care more about the customer, and selling, and they’re not necessarily as technology savvy. I mean it’s a whole mix.

We have to have technology though that works for everyone, that we have to make information about who our leads are, and what they care about, what our potential customers are interested in. We have to make that as easily and readily available to our salespeople as possible. So when they’re gonna have a conversation on the phone or in person, they’re as prepared as possible to know exactly what the interest is of the customer. So the integration between all of this and the CRM is critical. And it’s got to be seamless and it’s got to be easy.

So again, any one of these pieces, a great website, a great AdWord campaign, a great CRM, in isolation with the rest of the — what’s today available to those of us in marketing, becomes a missed opportunity in some way.

What is the importance of having a website that is ready to serve visitors to the site?

Nathan: You mentioned the change in how marketers operate today compared to 30, 40 years ago, and how the internet has changed it. It seems like the internet has also opened up your marketplace, so that people that are buying your product aren’t working the same schedule that your salesmen are working. They could be — they’re up when people are sleeping. And having some sort of platform that’s able to respond to them 24 hours a day, you need to have that. Am I thinking about that in the right way, just sort of how it’s all become a global marketplace? And you really have to differentiate yourself in just how you bring value to your customers.

Peter: I guess I’d even broaden that further, that it’s our goal to do an exceptional job of listening to our customers and serving them when they want and in the way they want. We can’t dictate that. I mean our customers are gonna decide. And we have to be responsive. So we have to be able to listen to our customer in a way that they wanna talk to us. So we use a chat technology on our website. That chat technology becomes a part of our lead score in Act-On. And the results of that chat go into — in our case we’re using Microsoft Dynamics. We’ve recently moved to that. And the entire chat goes in as a lead into our CRM. If we’re not available, that chat is a question that comes to us and still gets entered into the CRM.

So however our customer wants to talk to us, whether it’s a lead form, whether it’s again a chat, whether it’s an email, we have to be able to listen to that customer and track it within a system that allows us to retain information. And it’s all really done in the spirit of better serving our customer, better listening. Our customers are busy people. They don’t have a lot of time. They wanna move fast. We also wanna move fast. So the better we can hear our customers and what they want, that we can understand the problem that we’re solving, and that we can work with them, the better it is for them and for us. And so we have to have the technology and the tools to allow us to meet the needs of our customers kind of when and where they are.

Image quote about the competitive advantage you get by adopting marketing automation

What challenges are Manufacturing Marketers facing when adopting new tech? 

Nathan: You mentioned some of your competitors are just — they’re lagging. And that’s always a good thing when it comes to being a better marketer. But just in general what do you think for marketers in manufacturing industry in general, what are some of the challenges they have in just learning about this stuff, or why they may be slow to adopt some of these new ways to better serve their audiences, whether they’re making cars or basketballs?

Peter: If we look at technology adoption, if you look at something like cell phone adoption in Africa, because they didn’t have the landlines, it necessitated moving much quicker. And sometimes the absence of technology, it allows people to leapfrog. The inverse of that is when an industry has been around for a lot longer, and they have their own ways of doing things that are historically bound, it’s sometimes harder to adopt new technologies.

And so we’re an industry that’s — we’ve been around for a long time. I mean again, R.M. Hoffman Company and Motion Solutions who acquired R.M. Hoffman, have been around over 60 years each. That’s pre-internet, pre-email, which is true of a lot of companies and industries. So there are set ways of doing things. Those ways of doing things have worked well. But times change. And I guess I would say that newer software companies, newer companies that were developed five, ten years ago as a part of the software boom, they haven’t been around 60 years. So they’ve had to jump into marketing today as it is, and they sort of take advantage of the latest and the greatest, which is why more information based newer companies are ahead of manufacturing, is because we’re an older industry used to doing things a certain way. And change doesn’t always happen as quickly.

So I guess I would put it in that context, is that because we’re more historically bound, done things certain ways. Our industry has always used a sales team, sales force. And we still use sales because our sales team allows us to understand our customer and get in. We’re a B2B type company. So they’re critical. But the way that salesmen work today is different. The information available is different. The way our customers wanna be served is different. And so yeah, we can do it the same old way, but companies who aren’t embracing today’s technology are I believe missing a huge strategic advantage.