MM 065 – Using LinkedIn for Business Development

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In this episode, we discuss the power and potential of LinkedIn for business development in manufacturing organizations. Bill Sterzenbach from Upward shares ideas, suggestions and real stories about how you, the manufacturing marketer, can and should use LinkedIn for business development; more qualified leads, higher conversion rates and a full sales pipeline.

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Guest: Bill Sterzenbach, Partner at Upward Brand Interactions


  • There seems to be a bias against social media, therein lies a huge opportunity for the industrial enlightened. [2:50]
  • LinkedIn is a place where professional go for growth. [5:50]
  • 62% of B2B marketers find LinkedIn to be the most effective way to engage with their target audiences. The people who get the most benefit are those who understand the people who make up their target audience. [7:00]
  • It’s about people talking to people more than a brand talking to an audience. [9:30]
  • Bill shares a case study about Parker Hannifin and Caterpillar are using LinkedIn well and having had great success on LinkedIn. [12:20]

  • Here are three things you can do right now to have better success with LinkedIn: [15:20]
    1. Put in a practice to get more followers and set an objective.
    2. Post at least weekly on a regular basis.
    3. Use your internal team to help promote the channel.
  • Learn about how paid or sponsored content works on LinkedIn. [19:10]
  • It’s a good practice to use both pay-per-click and LinkedIn sponsored content. [25:40]
  • Get out there and do it badly, don’t wait until it’s perfect to start. [26:50]

Interview Questions:

Question 1 – Let’s start of broadly and talk about social media in general. How should manufacturers view social media when it comes to their business development? Is it table stakes in this day and age? Is it a good way to grow awareness? Is it a waste of time?

Question 2 – Let’s zero in on LinkedIn. Rather than assume everyone knows what it is, would you first share, what is LinkedIn? How does it work? Real example of how a manufacturer might use LinkedIn…

Question 3 – Sounds like it could be a pretty powerful business development tool. Suppose there is a manufacturing marketer out there listening, they have a LinkedIn company page, but aren’t doing much with it. What are 3 things they could do right away towards using that page for business development?

Question 4– I know LinkedIn offers paid advertising. How does that work? A couple of examples would be great.

Is there one ad type you recommend over others? (which one and why that one?) Is it for everyone?

Challenge Question: Send in your challenge question!

This week our challenge question comes in from New York, a manufacturer of industrial gases. Here it is, “I’m the VP Sales and Marketing at a company that manufactures and delivers industrial gases. I listened to your podcast a couple of weeks ago about sharing content to differentiate. Would that work with a commodity like Nitrogen or Oxygen used in an industrial environment? If yes, could you throw out a couple of examples on your next podcast?”

  • Helpfulness is a great differentiator for commodity products. In a survey, purchasing and buyers will choose a company offering helpfulness over all others. The larger, more premier companies value helpfulness most. Better customers value service on the front lines and all around helpfulness. Use social media to prove your brand is helpful.
  • TOMA + credibility + reciprocity = differentiation and bigger market share


  • Set some goals for your social media program.
  • Get buy-in from stakeholders.

Offer from Bill and Upward – free lunch and learn in person or via webinar.  Prefer if you can bring at least 20 people. Fill out the form here and request to learn more about LinkedIn.


Bruce McDuffee: Welcome to Manufacturing Marketing Matters, the podcast produced by the Manufacturing Marketing Institute, the center of excellence for manufacturing marketers. I’m Bruce McDuffee. Thank you for listening.


Hello, manufacturing marketers. A quick reminder today, I’m still offering a free digital copy of my book. It’s called “The New Way to Market for Manufacturing.” You can get one with a short registration form at I’ll put that in the show notes, too. Now on to the show. Our guest expert today is Bill Sterzenbach. He’s a partner at Upward. Welcome Bill.


B. Sterzenbach: Pleasure to be here, Bruce.


Bruce McDuffee: Great to have you on the show today. Looking forward to it. Folks, the topic today is about how manufacturers can use social media. Mainly we’ll be talking about LinkedIn, how you can use it for business development. I saw Bill present this topic at FABTECH down in Los Vegas back in November, and I can tell you it’s powerful stuff. If you listen up, you can really learn how to use a tool that’s available in social media to really grow your business. Before we get in to the interview, Bill, could you please introduce yourself to the audience and a little bit about your expertise and experience around using LinkedIn or other social media to grow a manufacturing business?


B. Sterzenbach: Sure. I’m a partner at Upward Brand Interactions. We’ve been doing online marketing primarily for about 10 years. I’ve been at the online marketing business for about 15 years myself. I primarily focus at our place on business growth for global industrial brands. We tend to look at tool systems and processes that can grow the business without respect to channels so much. That’s kind of how LinkedIn made its way into our world. We were just looking at the different channels that are available objectively that may help businesses grow their pipeline.


Bruce McDuffee: Great, thanks for background. Bill, I know a lot of manufacturers have put up pages on social media. Probably the most common are Facebook and LinkedIn. I don’t hear of too many manufacturers or industrial companies who are on Instagram or Pinterest or Snapchat, for example. Before we can get in to the questions, are you seeing the same type of thing? Or what do you see as far as adoption of social media by industrial companies?


B. Sterzenbach: I do see a strong sentiment or a bias against social media by a lot of the especially industrial B2B folks out there. I see that as a great opportunity for the enlightened marketers …


Bruce McDuffee: There you go.


B. Sterzenbach: … because there is quite a bit of opportunity out there. A great example, we’ll talk to clients or I’ll even talk to guys I know in the space, and they’ll say, “Well, okay. Maybe I can do something on LinkedIn, but I’m certainly not going to be on Instagram.” I’ll say, “I personally just bought a $2,000-tool because of a company I follow on Instagram.


Bruce McDuffee: No kidding.


B. Sterzenbach: It was a B2B tool. So Instagram is a powerful channel as well. I would be hard pressed to name a channel that I wouldn’t recommend. People say, “Is this the answer?” I say, “Well, we just need to help you with the question. The answer’s always, ‘Yes.’ You just need to know what’s my question. Each channel has its fit in your mix.”


Bruce McDuffee: Got it. Good. That’s interesting. Frankly, I didn’t expect that answer, so we’re already off to a great start here.


B. Sterzenbach: Good.


Bruce McDuffee: Let’s start broadly and go more into that topic and talk about social media in general and develop [begin 00:03:50] what we were just talking about. How should manufacturers view social media when it comes to business development? For example, is it table stakes this day and age, or is it a good way to grow awareness? Is it a waste of time? Where is it on the spectrum?


B. Sterzenbach: I think it’s table stakes if you have a pretty well rounded platform for your marketing. I think the companies that are out there doing it well today are in all the spaces. So I would say if you’re playing in a space where they’re doing it well, it’s table stakes. If you’re in, I’ll pick on somebody, powder coating, for example, you look at powder coaters, a lot of those guys are working for OEMs and they don’t really need to do a lot of marketing, and so it really isn’t table stakes for those guys. They’re getting most of their business right from two or three large OEM clients, and they’re just chugging right along. But if you’re in a space where you need to find those new clients, it’s a must have. It really is. I think a lot of the folks that are out there doing it but they’re doing it so badly that it doesn’t really even count as doing it at this point.


Bruce McDuffee: Yeah, I see the same thing. That’s interesting. You mentioned earlier that there’s a big opportunity here, and I agree with you. It’s like everything in manufacturing, not everything but a lot of things in manufacturing marketing, there’s so much bad practice out there that there’s an opportunity for those, what did you call them, Bill, enlightened.


B. Sterzenbach: That’s right.


Bruce McDuffee: A huge opportunity. In this show, folks, we’re going to talk about how you can capitalize on that opportunity. Let’s zero in on LinkedIn because I know that’s a specialty of yours, Bill. I guess we probably shouldn’t assume that everybody knows what LinkedIn is, so maybe, Bill, give a good, quick description of what is LinkedIn.


B. Sterzenbach: It’s broad. It’s a social network for professionals. I used to say it’s Facebook for grownups, but now everybody on Facebook is a grownup.


Bruce McDuffee: That’s true.


B. Sterzenbach: It is a social network for professionals, but more importantly in terms of how we would look at LinkedIn as industrial marketers it’s a place where professionals participate for growth. They might be growing their career, growing their business, or just trying to grow knowledge around the industry, but typically people that are out on LinkedIn participating are trying to grow in some way. If you keep that in mind and everything you do in LinkedIn, you’re going to find a much higher success rate as opposed to just yelling at everybody on LinkedIn. If you know they’re there to grow, you can tailor what you’re putting out there to meet the needs of someone who’s trying to grow in one of those three … or some other way I haven’t thought of but primarily in one of those three ways.


The crazy thing about the social media and the LinkedIn space is the greater majority, probably three quarters of B2B buyers are halfway done with their buying process before you hear from them. If they’re out there making more than half of the decision before you talk to them, you have to ask what percentage of that decision is being made in the LinkedIn space? Without exception, when you stack LinkedIn up to all the other platforms, it’s not even close. I think the latest statistic I looked at said 62% of marketers find it to be the most effective social channel for B2B marketing.


Bruce McDuffee: LinkedIn?


B. Sterzenbach: Yeah.


Bruce McDuffee: Wow.


B. Sterzenbach: There’s numbers that are even more telling than that, but LinkedIn is an extremely powerful network. Again, the people that are getting the most benefit from it are the people that understand their target. I tell people sometimes that if you were going to go deer hunting, it’s so much more convenient to do it in a Walmart parking lot. You could get your little chair and you could put it in the parking lot. You could have your little cooler and just sit there and be comfortable all day, but that’s not where the deer are.


It’s a little like LinkedIn. If you’re not in it, you have to go in the woods to get the deer, and these people are in LinkedIn. You have to go in to LinkedIn. You have to actively participate. Then one thing I recommend to people all the time is don’t be in such a hurry to drag them out of the woods. If you can engage them in LinkedIn and stay in LinkedIn, you’re going to find that the engagement’s going to be longer and more meaningful as opposed to immediately trying to pull them to your website.


Bruce McDuffee: Interesting. That’s a great metaphor: the LinkedIn forest.


B. Sterzenbach: Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Bruce McDuffee: Love that. What about, Bill, LinkedIn versus Facebook? Let my share my impression and tell me if you think it’s right or wrong. I feel like Facebook is where people go for … share pictures of their grandkids or their kids. They do family things and talk about vacations and non-professional things. Whereas I see LinkedIn as where you educate yourself on professional aspects. You improve your career. You make professional connections. Is that a clear separation? How do you see it?


B. Sterzenbach: Yeah.


Bruce McDuffee: Yeah?


B. Sterzenbach: I think you’re right. I think when you’re prioritizing or you’re triaging your marketing efforts, you have to start with the most obvious things. If you’re just getting started in a social space or you have a limited set of resources, I would definitely start with LinkedIn. But once you’ve played out the LinkedIn space, once you feel like, “I think we’re doing everything we can do on LinkedIn,” then I think it does make sense to have a look at Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter. I should have changed the order. Twitter would have been number two and then the rest of the guys. I’m not saying that I feel like your position is this way, but I don’t think Facebook is without merit for the B2B.


There’s a guy, I think he works at [Etón 00:09:20]. He has this … I don’t know if he came up with it or if he just shared it with me, but he calls it B2I. He says it’s business to individual. You have to stop looking at … No one wants to be talked to by a brand, and nobody wants to talk to a brand. His point is as a brand let’s stop talking to demographics and let’s stop talking to categories. Let’s just understand that people are on all these networks, and it’s a matter of using the network in way that’s comfortable for the person. If you are going to market on Facebook, you just need to craft your message to fit within that ecosystem. But there is still a place, even on Facebook, for industrial B2B activity.


Bruce McDuffee: You’ve seen some industrial folks have success on Facebook then?


B. Sterzenbach: I certainly have, yeah. They’ve been … I guess the word would be sophisticated in their use. Again, it’s an enormous channel. You just have to understand what the audience is there for and what they’re after, and there’s use there, for sure.


Bruce McDuffee: I guess that’s the key. If someone says, “Which channel should I be on?” You should ask, like you said, the people who are in your target audience where are they, and what are they doing on the channels? Is that fair?


B. Sterzenbach: Yeah, that’s right. I would start with if a person said to me, “Which channel should I participate in?” I would say all of them starting with LinkedIn, then Twitter, then Instagram, then everything else. You’re not probably going to attack them all simultaneously at least not with the same fervor that you would one. A case could be made for going after them all cohesively, but I think it’s a little like to go to someone who’s just getting into social and say, “Yes, you need to be on LinkedIn, but you also need to be in these other spaces, and let me start telling you about all the work it’s going to talk to get there.”


It’s a little like advertising a Caribbean vacation by showing the guy sitting next to you coughing in the airplane the whole way there. Nobody is going to get excited about the trip. They’re going to get excited about the destination. It’s nice if they can get in one of the platforms. LinkedIn, obviously, being probably the most immediately effective and they get to sample the destination a little bit without going in to all of that background work that it would take to approach all of the channels simultaneously. While that might be academically a better approach, I just don’t think you’re going to influence people to do it by having them go through all of those fundamental steps just to prepare for approaching all channels.


Bruce McDuffee: That makes sense. That’s good advice. Let’s get back to LinkedIn. I strayed a little bit on that. I got excited about you sharing that information. On LinkedIn, could you share a real-life example of a manufacturer or industrial company who’s having great success on LinkedIn and how they’re getting that?


B. Sterzenbach: I would go straight to Parker Hannifin. They’re a pretty large company. They’re probably a, I don’t know, $9 billion manufacturer. You don’t get as industrial as Parker. They are in there. They are doing the stuff in the industrial space in a big way. They’ve a great brand, and they’ve got phenomenal products. Their presence on LinkedIn is staggering in a word. I mean they really have done a phenomenal job. They’ve got … I haven’t looked recently, but a shocking number of followers for their company page, and they get a very high level of engagement from their followers. They’re really, really thoughtful in how they use LinkedIn.


We don’t do Parker’s LinkedIn stuff so this isn’t a plug, but when they put something on LinkedIn, you can see the thoughtfulness and the care that they put in to the post. I believe that the readers see that, too. People respect your organization if you show some respect for them and what you put in their feed. They’ll tend to stay with you a lot longer if you’re putting quality things. Maybe not every single post that you put out there is directly applicable to their need, but if every single post looks like you put some effort into it and you respected their time, they won’t unfollow you, so to speak. So I think Parker does a really nice job of working LinkedIn. I’m trying to think if there was another manufacturer that I saw out there. I think Caterpillar actually does a really nice job. I don’t know how …


Bruce McDuffee: Yeah, I’ve seen that.


B. Sterzenbach: I don’t know how orchestrated it is. I don’t really follow them too closely but I see them in my feed. Just anecdotally, I’ve always had a pretty positive impression of what they were doing out there. I don’t know what kind of results they’re getting, but I feel that there’s a couple of companies that are really capitalizing on LinkedIn well.


Bruce McDuffee: Is it fair to say that Parker Hannifin … are they not pitching their products so much in their feeds and they’re more sharing helpful information? Is that one way they’re being more thoughtful and engaging?


B. Sterzenbach: Yeah. It’s a little bit of a mix. Every now and then you’ll see something pop in there that is pretty directly tied to a valve or an assembly or a product, but it’s always, not always, but most often when I see it, it’s couched in some sort of usefulness or at least plausibly objective usefulness to the reader.


Bruce McDuffee: Fair enough.


B. Sterzenbach: I think that’s the key is not being overly pitchy.


Bruce McDuffee: I’ve heard folks talk about a formula where you share four to one or three to one where four posts for helpful information and then one pitch for your product. I do that with some of my clients. It’s pretty effective.


B. Sterzenbach: Then we’ll talk a little bit about paid advertising. There’s a whole nother channel within LinkedIn there that’s even more directly and quantifiably effective. But I know I’m jumping ahead of you a little bit as far as …


Bruce McDuffee: That’s okay. That’s okay. It sounds like LinkedIn could be a pretty powerful business development tool. Let’s imagine there’s a manufacturing marketer out there listening, which I hope there are a lot of them, and they have a LinkedIn company page. They put up the information; they’re not doing much with it. Maybe they haven’t even posted much at all. What are three things that that person, that manufacturing marketer with a LinkedIn company page could do right away to start leveraging it for business development?


B. Sterzenbach: I would say if you’re directly approaching how do we build our company presence on LinkedIn, the first thing would be to start building a list of followers so think about what activity should you be engaging in to just get more followers. Because if you have followers, people are going to see your posts and engagement’s going to increase so creating some sort of an objective around building followers.


Now the second thing would be post at least weekly to get started. If you’re not posting regularly, habits can’t be formed. That’s where number three comes in, which is promoting your LinkedIn presence internally. I tell a lot of our clients support starts at home. What often happens is you’ll have these marketing groups start a LinkedIn presence and the members of the marketing team aren’t even supporting the posts they’re putting out there.


Bruce McDuffee: Yeah, I’ve seen [crosstalk 00:16:12].


B. Sterzenbach: It’s not out of some desire to be malicious. It’s just everybody’s so busy and you can’t mandate it. If you tell your team, “You’re required; your review will include how many times you’ve liked our posts,” that’s not going to work. But you can influence the behavior, and there’s things you can do to incentivize your team to participate in your company’s presence on LinkedIn without making it feel like some sort of fundatory activity, because nobody wants to participate on a social media platform from a mandatory perspective.


Bruce McDuffee: Fundatory. That’s a good word.


B. Sterzenbach: That’s right. That’s right. It’s fundatory.


Bruce McDuffee: So you just got a company page. The three things are, number one, make an objective to get more followers.


B. Sterzenbach: That’s right.


Bruce McDuffee: Number two, at least a weekly post on a regular schedule.


B. Sterzenbach: Correct.


Bruce McDuffee: Number three, use your internal people, your employees, and encourage them to share without making it mandatory.


B. Sterzenbach: Exactly. That’s why number two comes in to play because if you’re not posting regularly, you’ll never get your internal teams into a habit of supporting it. If you’re only posting once every quarter or once every blue moon, they’re not going to get in the habit of jumping out and looking for your posts so they can support them. So the consistency allows them to develop habits as well.


Bruce McDuffee: Makes sense. Can I ask on number one, in addition to posting on a regular basis, are there any other tricks you could share about getting more followers?


B. Sterzenbach: A big one is having folks in your organization that have an existing network to participate. For example, if you have a couple of people on your sales team and they have a pretty good LinkedIn network, going out to them and evangelizing your LinkedIn activities a little bit and asking them, “Could I ask you as a favor to help support our LinkedIn presence? It’s going to bring you new leads. It’s going to grow our business.” So you’re generating that activity.


There’s a couple of just tactical things you can do. One of them is there’s a button that you can download from LinkedIn. It’s just a little piece of java script code. You can place that on your webpages of your website, and it just can live anywhere on the page. If the viewer of your website if they’re logged into LinkedIn, the button’ll say, “Follow.” They can click it, and it’ll just automatically follow the company without too much fuss. There’s a couple of other things like that you can do to promote follows, but the idea is that first you have to start engaging in some activities that could even create an interest.


Bruce McDuffee: Sure. Okay, great. Thanks for that. Finally, I know LinkedIn offers paid advertising. You alluded to it a little bit earlier when you were trying to jump ahead. Let’s talk about how does that work. I know a lot of the social channels now you have to pay to play when you’re a business to show up. How does the LinkedIn paid advertising work? Maybe a couple of examples would be great.


B. Sterzenbach: I’m a big advocate of the sponsored content campaigns. There’s a couple of ways you can use LinkedIn. You can do essentially display advertising, which are the ads that live across the top and down the right side. You can use their InMail platform, which is essentially sending mail. LinkedIn sends mail on your behalf to a list that you’ve created. Or you can do sponsored content, which essentially places a post in your followers’ feeds, and it looks very organic. Now, when you sponsor a post, they’re not your followers. They’re anyone that you’ve targeted with the post.


There’s some pretty funny stories about how specifically you can target … The story I like most is a guy who was trying to get a startup going and he was looking for investors. He had a specific investor that he wanted to attract. He went in to LinkedIn and he created a sponsored content campaign. I don’t remember the guy’s name. Let’s say it was Ted Phillips. He created an ad that said, “Ted Phillips, this is next your company. You should invest in it and here’s why” or something like that. In the targeting he said, “I want to target my ad to this company, this role, and some other criteria.” LinkedIn requires that your list be of a certain size, so it first said, “Your list isn’t big enough.” So he said, “Okay, also this role.” It was CEO and vice president. He had to add vice president. It added two more people to his list. Pretty soon, he was putting this ad right in that person’s feed regularly. He actually did secure funding. Ultimately, he said he spent $1.80 on the advertising.


Bruce McDuffee: That’s awesome.


B. Sterzenbach: That’s how he secured his funding. That’s how finitely you can target your advertising. We’ll run ads for clients that we say, “Engineers that have eight years of experience that work for companies that have 500 or more employees or 10,000 or more employees that are in these states.” I mean you can get really specific. That really is, in my opinion, probably the most powerful aspect of LinkedIn is how tightly you can control that filtering. You’re not getting the waste that you get on so many other platforms. You really are putting that ad right in front of the people you want to see it. You’re always going to have some people who either accidentally categorized themselves incorrectly or intentionally categorize themselves incorrectly, but by and large the majority of the people who see your LinkedIn ad are exactly the people you want to see it.


We see that evidence playing out time and time again in these campaigns where we’ll run a LinkedIn advertisement either for ourselves or on behalf of a client, and the people that arrive at whatever ultimate objective that we set for the program are exactly the kind of people we targeted with the ads. It is remarkably accurate in the targeting. It’s one of the things, I think, LinkedIn has done really well.


Bruce McDuffee: Yeah, I agree. I’ve done some sponsored ads myself, and it’s amazing how specific you can get.


B. Sterzenbach: That’s true, yeah.


Bruce McDuffee: It’s incredible. You’re right. That’s the real power of LinkedIn paid ads is that selection because I don’t think any other platforms get that granular.


B. Sterzenbach: No, they certainly do not. Again, if you’re targeting these ads in a way that speaks to someone who’s there for growth reasons, you not only target the people that you want to target but you get an actual response. So many platforms, their click-through rate … and in a lot areas, a 1%-click-through rate is phenomenal.


Bruce McDuffee: That’s great, yeah.


B. Sterzenbach: So you’re getting a great response rate and the type of people that you want to respond are responding. Another thing that’s interesting about LinkedIn, if you’re in a business where you would like to attract clients that are growth-oriented or that like to try new things or would like to learn or even if you target a demographic of prospect by the sheer fact that they’re active on LinkedIn …


Bruce McDuffee: Can you?


B. Sterzenbach: Oh, yeah. If they’re active on LinkedIn, they are probably interested in growth in some way.


Bruce McDuffee: That’s a good point, yeah.


B. Sterzenbach: Yeah. For example, I know a guy who advertises on LinkedIn. He doesn’t work through us. He just does it on his own. One of the reasons he uses LinkedIn is that he wants people who are working to better themselves in some way, and so it’s a perfect platform for him because most of the people on LinkedIn are there just to do that.


Bruce McDuffee: That’s a great point. I never even thought about that. But it does; it’s almost a self-selection segmentation.


B. Sterzenbach: It is, yeah.


Bruce McDuffee: That’s great. Is one ad better than another? You mentioned sponsored content, InMails, the ads. Is one better than the other have you found in your experience?


B. Sterzenbach: Yeah, sponsored content is head and shoulders above everything else. Now, I haven’t done much with the InMail yet. I just haven’t really found a good case for it. Not that there isn’t one. To be honest with you, we spend so much time on the sponsored content campaigns, we really haven’t had a reason to venture into the InMail yet. And people are a little uncomfortable with what they perceive as interrupting their prospects or their clients. So I suspect that InMail might be pretty effective. Personally, I haven’t used much of it. We’ve used it a little but not a lot.


The other thing on the sponsored content, you can choose whether you want to pay by click or by impression so CPM or CPC. Paying per click, at least in our experience, is much more effective. It just looks like you get more at bats when you pay per click because I think economically LinkedIn looks at it like, “Well, if I’m going to get paid every time somebody clicks this thing, I’m going to show up more.” It just seems like your ad gets shown a lot more when you go on the pay per click advertising basis.


Bruce McDuffee: I’ve seen the same thing.


B. Sterzenbach: Yeah, that’s funny.


Bruce McDuffee: I’ve heard also that LinkedIn cost per click is a lot higher on LinkedIn than it is, for example, on AdWords. Is that true?


B. Sterzenbach: It might depend on the company, but our experience has been that that is true. As a matter of fact, we ran a campaign for our company, a test campaign. I basically took on one of my AdWords guys. There’s a guy in …


Bruce McDuffee: Oh, yeah?


B. Sterzenbach: His name’s Jerrod, and he’s ridiculously competitive. I said, “I’m going to run this LinkedIn program against the AdWords program you’re running. I think I’m going to whip you.” He was like, “Let’s do it. Let’s see what happens.” He cleaned my clock.


Bruce McDuffee: He did?


B. Sterzenbach: Oh, yeah. The cost per click AdWords, it wasn’t significantly lower but it was lower. The difference being, though, that a lot of the clicks on LinkedIn, I still maintain, were probably more directly targeted to the people I would want to see, but I think you can get more looks for the same money on AdWords. I tell everybody it isn’t one or the other. It is not an either/or. If I were advising a manufacturer, I would say, “Don’t even go near LinkedIn if you don’t have a working AdWords program.” Start with AdWords because that’s just a good foundational advertising activity. Then go to LinkedIn but I wouldn’t try to replace AdWords or Bing or [Thomas 00:26:00] with LinkedIn. I would at it as one more channel that I’m using to promote my business.


Bruce McDuffee: Got it. That makes sense. It sounds like from our discussion here, Bill, that every manufacturer out there should be using social media and at least using LinkedIn. Is that fair?


B. Sterzenbach: I would agree with that statement, absolutely.


Bruce McDuffee: That’s what I’m getting here. I agree. This is the world we live in. This is the age we live in nowadays. Email’s still powerful. You got to still do your email marketing, but you got to be out where your audience is. They’re doing that investigation. They’re checking out options. You have to be there so they can find you in that 50% of their first part of the buying phase.


B. Sterzenbach: Yeah, I would agree. I would encourage, especially your manufacturing, your industrial marketers, just get out there and do it badly. We work with enormous global brands. It would be easy for us to say, “Don’t do it if you can’t do it well.” But quite honestly, so many things would never get started if that were the requirement.


Bruce McDuffee: Absolutely.


B. Sterzenbach: A buddy of mine I worked with for years used to say … His parent company was in another country; I won’t say where because I’m sure it’s not true, but this is how he felt. He said, “They will start nothing perfectly.” He said they’re masters at planning and planning and planning until it’s not even important to do anymore. I think people get caught up in that sometimes. I’d said go out there and do LinkedIn badly for a couple of years. If your option is to do it perfectly or not do it at all, I would say take option three, which is just get out there and start doing it badly. It’s better than not doing it at all.


Bruce McDuffee: Absolutely. One of my favorite quotes was by Voltaire, I think in the 17th century, and it’s, “Perfect is the enemy of good.”


B. Sterzenbach: That’s right.


Bruce McDuffee: That’s one of my favorites.


B. Sterzenbach: I would agree with that.


Bruce McDuffee: Great. That takes us to the second part of the show here, Bill, and that’s the challenge question. Folks, send in your challenge questions. Email them to me: or hashtag them on Twitter @mfgmarketing. Any question you have about business development, marketing, even sales, send it in. I’ll pose it to one of our guest experts. This week our challenge question comes in from New York. He’s a manufacturer of industrial gases. By the way folks, these are usually anonymous. I just give a little bit of background. Here’s the question, Bill. “I’m the VP of sales and marketing at a company that manufactures and delivers industrial gases. I listened to your podcast a couple of weeks ago about sharing content to differentiate. Would that work with a commodity like nitrogen or oxygen used in an industrial environment? If yes, could you give me a couple of examples on your next podcast?” Bill, what do you think?


B. Sterzenbach: Absolutely. Every commodity still has differentiators. As the builder of your brand, you get to pick what those are. The one thing I would say that we see time and time again, especially in commodity-type spaces, is a big differentiator is going to be service, or more accurately what we call helpfulness. We recently interviewed a group of, I don’t know, I think 11 enormous B2B industrial buyers so procurement and purchasing folks from companies that buy things like valve seals and the components that make up products. One of our questions was, “What’s one of the top criteria you have for working with a discretionary partner?” so someone who isn’t on some list of ‘go here first.’ By and large, they said, “Helpfulness.”


Bruce McDuffee: Really?


B. Sterzenbach: Yeah. What we heard time and time again was the vendors that are able to help us solve problems and are helpful in walking through our decision process are the vendors that we’ll typically select. I was surprised. It isn’t surprising when you really think about, but I was surprised to learn the larger, more premier organizations tended to value helpfulness and service, and the smaller, what you might call your core customers, tended to value speed and price. There’s no crime in valuing speed and price. It’s just when there’s a lack of anything else, speed and price are important in a commodity, but if you can illustrate helpfulness or customer service, you are going to differentiate yourself from most of the people in the commodity space.


One of the things that we do with our program is we listen to all calls, and so we listen to literally thousands and thousands of calls every month. One of the things that we find is the evidence that we had … Actually this is what led us to do this study. We found that better customers typically value services. So you end up with the self-fulfilling prophecy situation where you have organizations that maybe they don’t value helpfulness or service and they don’t include it in their brand, they don’t talk about service, so when customers call, the customer doesn’t typically experience great service. So the customers that are wonderful move on, and the customers that are core stay. They end up getting more and more core customers, hiring more and more people who really don’t value service because they customers really value price and availability first.


Bruce McDuffee: Self-fulfilling.


B. Sterzenbach: It’s just a terrible cycle. It’s not a terrible cycle. Some companies really do want to serve those are only after price and availability. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if you want to move up that quality of customer ladder a little bit, the go-to is going to be service. It’s not easy either. The first thing that has to happen is your team has to understand that helpfulness and friendliness is part of who you are as a company. If they aren’t taught that regularly, they’re not going to demonstrate that day-to-day.


To circle back to your question, it feels like we’ve taken a big loop here, but my point is you can use social media to illustrate that a core component of your brand is helpfulness and service. It’s not so much talking about how helpful and what great service we provide, but talking about the things that support that element of your brand. If you say, “98% of our industrial customers have been with us for three years or longer,” that says that there’s something that’s keeping those customers. That’s the kind of you can share. Now, that might be a little salesy, but that’s the kind of thing you can share on social media where people can scan through, see that, log it away, and move on. You’re communicating something other than the typical commodity elements about your brand.


Bruce McDuffee: Great, great answer. I’m going to add in my two cents here, folks, is on that helpfulness aspect. The way you differentiate with content is to develop content that addresses a problem or a pain point that’s common to the people in your target audience.


B. Sterzenbach: That’s right.


Bruce McDuffee: We’ve been talking about that today. You’ve got one company out there that says, “We’ve got this feature, this feature, this feature. We’re low price, and we’re fast.” Then you come out and say, “Well, let’s understand our audience. Let’s understand a problem or a pain where we have expertise. We can help you. We’re going to help you solve that problem.” The problem, of course, is related to the thing you’re trying to sell, naturally.


Solve that problem and you get three things from your audience. You get credibility because they’re going to say, “These people know what they’re talking about.” You get top-of-mind awareness because they’re going to remember you. Just like Bill mentioned in the LinkedIn feed, you start to see a regular trickle of helpful content. They’re going to remember you. You’re going to be top of mind when the day comes and they’re ready to buy nitrogen or oxygen, you’re going to get the call. The third thing they get that you get is reciprocity. When you give a gift of knowledge, helpful content, useful content, the person who received it wants to reciprocate. The way they do that is by buying from you even if it’s at a higher price. That’s what I would look at. Anything to add there, Bill, before we move on?


B. Sterzenbach: No, I would agree with every bit of that. It’s one of those things you almost have to experience to truly believe.


Bruce McDuffee: You do. Once you experience it, boy, is it powerful.


B. Sterzenbach: Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Bruce McDuffee: The final part of the show, Bill, is takeaways. I always ask our guest expert to share one or two takeaways. It could be a summary of a couple of things we talked about, or it could be a couple of actionable nuggets to go forward. What do you have for our audience today, Bill?


B. Sterzenbach: I would say the first thing would be to set a goal today. It’s going to take five minutes. Sit down and say, “By July, I want to have posted this many posts and gained that many followers.” Even if you say, “By July, I’d like to have 10 posts and five followers,” set some goal. Then get buy-in from your internal team. You can’t force them to do it but you can influence them. Bribe them, beg them, do whatever you have to do to get them to participate in your efforts, but start by just setting a simple goal and move forward with it. I share this people and often they’ll say, “But it’s just something I write on paper.” I say, “Yeah, but it’s like a diet.” A diet is just an empty wish until we don’t eat the first thing. It goes the same way here. Until you do the first thing, which is write your first post, even if it’s terrible, you’re really not doing it. It isn’t that hard if you set out to just do something. Even if it’s wrong, just get started.


Bruce McDuffee: And give yourself permission to be bad at it, right?


B. Sterzenbach: That’s right. Because you’re not going to be as bad as the worst no matter how hard you try.


Bruce McDuffee: That’s right. That’s true. Great, two great takeaways. Thanks Bill. Before we sign off would you like to share anything about yourself or your company with our audience?


B. Sterzenbach: Sure. To your point of reciprocity, we are big on giving. If there’s anyone out there and they have a sales force of 20 people or more, that’s where it gets worth it for us to do these complementary lunch and learns, Upwards does offer … it’s a free lunch and learn if you can get 20 teammates to come to either the webinar or in person, and we’ll take you through specific things you can do tailored to your organization to grow your pipeline through LinkedIn. You can bring your sales guys into the call. You can bring them into the meeting, and we’ll give them actual activities they can start engaging in right away to build their personal pipelines. We’ve found that either in a webinar or in-person formats, the sales guys walk away feeling like it was a really, really effective use of their time. You can just go to our website at and you’ll see there’s a ‘Contact Us’ link and just say, “Hey, I’d be interested in having you guys talk to us about LinkedIn.”


Bruce McDuffee: Great. That’s a great offer. Thanks Bill. I’ll put that in the show notes as well, folks, so you can … I’ll put a direct link and you can go sign up if you feel the want. Bill, thank you so much for being a guest today on Manufacturing Marketing Matters. I know I learned a lot today. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience and just thank you.


B. Sterzenbach: Thank you, Bruce. It was great being here.


Bruce McDuffee: That was Bill Sterzenbach, partner at Upward. For more information about Bill and Upward, visit the guest bio page and check out the show notes at By the way, if you are subscriber on iTunes for this podcast, consider leaving us a review. It helps us get found and helps us spread the word to help manufacturers advance their practice of marketing.


Thanks for listening to Manufacturing Marketing Matters. If you find this podcast helpful and useful, please subscribe at iTunes or You can download this episode of MMMatters and get the show notes and learn more about the podcast at I’m Bruce McDuffee. Now let’s go out and advance the practice of marketing in manufacturing today.


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