MM 066 – The Power of Agility for Small & Medium Manufacturers

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In this episode, we discuss the advantages that are available to small and medium size manufacturing companies because of their innate ability to make quick marketing decisions and relatively quick strategic or tactical changes. Adam is a practitioner who has proven this idea as a marketing manager working with and marketing to manufacturers.

Guest: Adam Robinson, Marketing Manager at Cerasis


  • The reason that SMB manufacturers have an advantage is, simply, there is less bureaucracy and fewer people to approve content. You can also spread the word internally faster and easier. Take advantage of this difference. [6:00]
  • LinkedIn Groups are a great place to share your message, knowledge or expertise with a target audience.  Choose a group and share knowledge. Ask a question and post answers. [11:00]
  • Action Items – build a content plan to create content that your audience wants to consume; distribute content on a regular schedule; get the sales team and leadership involved with your content marketing strategy and execution. [14:30]
  • Adam shares ideas how to get over the perception that marketing is a servant to sales. Show sales that marketing can be a powerful force to help sales achieve their goals. [20:00]

  • Real life case study featuring Covington Aircraft and an image-oriented content marketing strategy. [22:00]
  • The people in your target audience love experts. You can win in your market by becoming an expert in a subject that your audience cares about. [26:30]
  • When you talk to manufacturing leadership about the role marketing can play in the business, talk about business fundamentals and answer their question “what’s in it for me?” [29:15]

Interview Questions:

Question 1 –  First question, why is there an opportunity in this day and age for smaller manufacturers to compete and even overtake larger direct competitors?

Question 2 –  Could you share a few specifics for our manufacturing marketing listeners out there. What are 3 to 5 action items they can take right away to begin taking advantage of the opportunity?

Question 3 –  Could you share a real-life example where you were able to help a company achieve an advantage yourself by using this type of strategy and associated tactics?

Question 4 – This all sounds great and I bet a lot of our listeners are really excited. But, the reality is, they can’t or won’t invest in marketing whether it’s new people or outsourcing. Usually, because the leadership won’t get on board.  What advice could you offer folks who find themselves in this situation?

Challenge Question – Send in your own challenge question!

This week our challenge question comes from a plastics manufacturer in Upstate New York. Here it is. “We’re a mid-size injection molding company and we’re having a tough time competing with the low-price production out of China. We keep getting underbid and I can’t reduce my prices any lower than the already are. I read your book (The New Way to Market for Manufacturing) and I’m interested in how I can grow by sharing expertise and not pitching our service. My concern is that it might take up to a year to start seeing results. Is that true? Is there a way to get faster results?”

  • The fact is that it will take some time to establish yourself and your company as an expert. But, the sooner you get started, the sooner you will gain that expert position. Advertising and sponsoring content can help speed up the results.
  • There are a couple of tactics where you can get faster results. Educational webinars are great for quick lead generation. eNewsletters are another tactic that can show relatively quick results.


  • Be human. People want to deal with people. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Put it out there.

Learn More About 'New Way' Marketing



Bruce McDuffee: Welcome to Manufacturing Marketing Matters, a 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. Say, if you like the ideas and the strategy and the tactics we talk about here on the podcast, consider signing up for our free New Way to Market phone consultation with me. It’s about 30 minutes long. We learn about each other and our businesses. I’ll share a couple of fresh, innovative ideas specifically for your company. Just go to and fill out that form, and we’ll set it up. Now, on to the show. Our guest expert today is Adam Robinson. Adam is the marketing manager at Cerasis. Welcome, Adam.
Adam Robinson: Thank you for having me, Bruce. Pleasure to be here.
Bruce McDuffee: Yeah. It’s great to have you on the podcast today. I’m looking forward to our discussion. Folks, today, our topic, it’s about the big opportunity for small and medium-sized manufacturers. What’s that opportunity, you may be wondering. Well, the fact that smaller companies and medium companies can be more agile. This can be reflected immediately in their ability to leverage modern digital marketing strategy and tactics. There may be days where you’re out there feeling like the big guys, just, they have all the money and all the power, and all the resources, and they just dominate that market place. That can be true to some extent, but today, small and medium guys have an advantage. A small company can reach the same customers, same prospects that the big guys can, not for a lot of money.
Today, we’re going to discuss the why and the how. Before we get into the interview, Adam, would you please introduce yourself to the audience with a little bit about your expertise and experience around the idea that agility can be a huge advantage for small and medium-sized businesses.
Adam Robinson: Yeah. Sure. My name is Adam Robinson, like you said earlier. I work here at Cerasis, a third party logistics company as the director of marketing. I’ve worked in sales and marketing since I graduated from college in 2003, so for about 14 years. I’ve worked in digital marketing for about 10 years. If you’ve been in digital marketing for 10 years, that pretty much makes you an industry veteran because a lot of those practices have not been around.
I mean, one of the first things that I did was work at a startup and instantly saw the value of digital practices by implementing an online form to take away the fax paper registration. It allowed us to decrease time for our customers to sign up, and we found that that was the biggest paying point. I really started to see how digital things, things that were less cost-intensive, less paper, if you will, improved process and helped you connect with your customers a lot quickly. Those fundamentals, back in 2004 when I did that with that company are no different than today. Just like you eluded to small companies can really take on the big guys because they have the ability to use something like digital marketing to reach them.
Really found a passion for helping businesses in digital marketing, really got into social media in 2010, especially in LinkedIn. I think what I really was attracted to was goal-oriented marketing. When people told me, “Adam,” when I first worked at a social media agency about eight years ago, “We want to achieve this. We could then develop strategies and use very inexpensive tools to go out and accomplish those goals.”
We do that today here at Cerasis. We use digital marketing to compete with the big guys. We are not the largest 3PL in the game, but I guarantee you, if you Google search anything around what we do in the way of logistics or transportation management, we’re out there beating the big guys. We continue to get a lot of good leads, and we’ve been growing our business. It’s a lot of fun to see results when you put it into play and it just keeps getting better and better. As you go after that, you have a lot more fun doing it.


Bruce McDuffee: Great. Thanks for that background. I pronounced the company name wrong? I said Cerasis, but it’s Cerasis?


Adam Robinson: Yeah, that’s interesting. It’s a challenge. Phonetically, and about 100% of the time, people do say Cerasis because I think phonetically, that’s exactly how you should say it. One of the biggest challenges we had was name recognition and people saying it correctly. I think we’re always going to have that challenge, but more people know about our name more than ever. I’m happy that people are just saying it, no matter how they say it. Our sales people love now when they call up people are like, “I’ve heard of Cerasis.” We quickly say, “Well, it’s Cerasis.” They’re like, “I don’t really care, because that means you’ve heard of us.”


Bruce McDuffee: That’s a great way to look at it. Adam, you have a lot of experience with digital marketing. I would say you’re probably a pioneer. If you’ve been doing digital marketing for 10 years, you’re a pioneer. Even more important, you’re a practitioner.


Adam Robinson: Yeah, I do it every day.


Bruce McDuffee: Yeah, and that … who’s had success. Folks out there listening, Adam’s not just set talking theory or ideas here, he’s done it, he’s proven it. This is going to be good content. First, let’s get some context. Adam, a lot of our listeners are manufacturers and marketers working for manufacturers. A lot of them struggle to use modern marketing and digital marketing strategies, you know, things like SEO, even email marketing, paper-click, or content marketing. It’s hard. It’s hard to compete with the big guys when it comes to resources, people, and money. They don’t have a lot of slack. They don’t have time to step back and reassess and revamp their whole machine. Of course, they know about the tactics, they want to use them, and that’s where we want to start.


The first question, why is there an opportunity in this day and age for smaller and medium-sized manufacturers to compete, and even overtake larger direct competitors? Why is that?


Adam Robinson: The easiest answer is you have less bureaucracy, and therefore you have less people to convince within your organization that digital marketing is valuable. Imagine if you were to go to a company and tried to execute new programs, or get content approved by a myriad of layers. In my years of doing this, I would say that the number one reason that marketers fail to get digital marketing off the ground is the inability to explain the value of digital marketing and blogs, and Tweeting, and sharing on Facebook to your bosses. Now, in a big company, imagine having to go to your boss, and his boss having to go to his boss, or his boss going to his boss to convince them to even get started.


Secondly, as you start to put content out into the wild, and people start to engage with it, and let’s say someone disagrees with what you’ve written. Imagine the CEO sending you an email saying, “What is this all about?” Then, 18 other bosses piling on top of you? It’s called “Paralysis by analysis.” I think we’re all familiar with that. That happens a lot.


I say, but the next big advantage, however, in a small organization, or small company, is that you have the ability to touch every single department a lot more quickly than a huge organization. At the heart of good content marketing is simply telling the story of your company, telling your potential customers, and your readers what makes you different, informing them and educating them on the things that your company is already an expert on. I guarantee you that at a small or mid-sized manufacturer, you know the exact person who’s machining your product. You know the subject matter experts by name. You may have known them for years. As simple as this is, you just have to sit in front of them and ask them, “What do you hear out there in the marketplace? What are your challenges? What do you think our customers would like to be educated about that is also a value proposition for our company?”


For example, when I first came to Cerasis, the first thing I did, and I recommend any marketer do this, is I sat down with the leadership, and every department head, and then every single employee afterwards. I gave them all the exact same five to 10 questions. I said, “What do you think the goals of the company are? Who do you think our target audience is? What do you think they’re going to care about? What’s your value to this company, or to a customer, when they become a customer?”


If you sit down … say you have 30 to 50 people in your organization, and you ask those same 30 to 50 people those questions, and you write them down or record them … You can go back and review those notes, but just even psychologically, when you’re done with that process, in your brain, you have already heard 50 versions of what the company needs to market. You get a very big picture of that. Then you go, “All right. I’ve already got a million ideas for content that I can start putting together, because I know all these subject matter experts’ thoughts, needs, and desires, and what they think the customer wants to hear.”


You can then put all that together and start creating content. Guess what you’ve already done, you’ve already gotten buy-in from every single one of those people, because you’re telling their story. You’re not telling your story, or what you think as a marketer. If you get siloed in what you think about, and you start applying all of these digital marketing … “I need to do these tactical things because I’ll write an SEO article. I need to construct it this way.” Well then you’re not really doing what people want to read. Human beings need to be brought to the forefront of content marketing. If you’re creating content that your subject matter experts inside have said that they might read, well I guarantee you, the target audience is going to want to read that. Guess what, Google’s not going to think you’re trying to game their system and their algorithm. They’re going to go, “They’re creating good content for human beings,” and they’re going to favor you in the long-run.


Bruce McDuffee: I think what you’re saying here, as far as reason it’s easier for small and medium companies, there’s a couple of reasons. One is you don’t have to deal with bureaucracy, and you probably have access to the leadership, so you can talk to them about it, get their buy-in. One of the things, though, Adam, is do you think there’s a big reason because of the modern way we get information? Mean, 20, 30 years ago, you had to have a lot of money to get your message out, because it was TV, radio, print. Now, a small guy can get out a better message than a big guy because of the internet and social media. Yeah, sometimes you’ll still have to pay, but it’s more of a level playing field. How does that play into the advantage?


Adam Robinson: Yeah, that’s right. I mean, you can go in and you can install WordPress on to your website. A WordPress is just a simple content management system. There’s a number of content management systems out there. You start publishing your content. You can establish your own social media platforms. For example, in a manufacturing community. I know it because I live and breathe it, been doing it for five straight years, but there are hundreds of LinkedIn groups. Unlike places like Facebook, or Twitter … not that those don’t have value. I’ll talk a little bit about those two platforms specifically. A place like LinkedIn, you don’t have to build followers for people to start seeing your content when you join LinkedIn groups. You’re already joining a built in community where as soon as you post a discussion, you’re reaching potentially tens of thousands, to hundreds of thousands of professionals around a single relevant idea.


If you’re a manufacturer who’s manufacturing oil and gas products, there’s an oil and gas group of 200,000 people. If you build content that educates and informs those people, where they actually want to read it, and you’ve powered it through interviews from subject matter experts within your organization, you’re going to start seeing in your own analytics and your own traffic people from the oil and gas industry come to your website. If you construct those with good calls-to-action, and it’s easy for people to get in touch with you, then an interesting thing starts to happen, they start getting in touch with you, you start to generate that magic currency that your boss wants to see, and that’s a lead, right? A qualified lead.


I think that’s why it’s such a level playing field. Anybody can do that. It requires zero money to have a LinkedIn account, zero money to join a group, except for your time and a little bit of research using a search function.


Bruce McDuffee: You’ve had good success with LinkedIn groups then, growing your business through that type of sharing?


Adam Robinson: Yeah, absolutely. It does take a little bit of your time. For example two and a half years ago, there was a LinkedIn group API. There were a number of social media management tools that allowed you to more easily distribute your content into specific groups. Now, they’ve taken away that API because of spam abuse. There are a few people out there who make it worse for us good guys, who are really trying to create content that engages and informs. LinkedIn took away that API. That’s fine. I’m okay with that, because I’m disciplined to record all the names of my groups, to put them into categories in a spreadsheet. If I create a piece of content that talks about the application of the internet of things as it applies to the manufacturing community, I’m only going to put that group discussion into those groups where that might be relevant. Oh yeah, I’m also not just going post a link, I’m going to ask a question around that idea to try and engage the audience. I’m also not just going to post my content, I’m going to be an active member of that community.


When you ask your own questions that don’t include a link to your content, or you engage and provide thoughtful insight to someone else’s discussion, and you do that with discipline over time, you better believe that when you post content and links to your blog or to your website, it’ll be not seen as spam, or not adding value to the community, it will be seen as, “Hey, that’s old Bob. He always likes to start discussions, and he’s an active poster, but he also likes to give me thoughts on my stuff.” The managers, the other members, they really value that community-driven aspect. By joining LinkedIn groups, you’re already tapping into existing communities without you having to build them yourself, unlike Facebook and Twitter.


Bruce McDuffee: That’s a great tip. Let’s dig into it a little more, some specifics, Adam. For our manufacturing marketing listeners out there, maybe you could say three to five action items they could take right away to start getting advantage about this opportunity we’re talking about.


Adam Robinson: Sure. I think a big tactic that I would apply is to, especially when you’re creating content, is to build yourself a content plan that is backed by categories. Those categories should be driven primarily by what your target audience might want to read. If we go back to the oil and gas industry, and we think about all the decision makers in the oil and gas industry of your specific product, and you’re going to know that best, and I recommend you determine that beforehand, but I’m sure you know that already. You might say that they’re interested in X, Y and Z, and so you want to record those categories beforehand, and you want to make sure that you write a good amount of those different types of categories.


If I take it back to Cerasis, for example, our target audience are North American industrial manufacturers and distributors, primarily in the automotive aftermarket industry. Now, in the manufacturing side of things, there are a number of things that manufacturers care about. For example, technology in manufacturing, or the internet of things, or reshoring, because we serve the United States market, and reshoring or taking warehouses from abroad, bringing them back to the USA, is a big idea.


Now, we’ve gotten flack from some people who just don’t get it, and they go, “Why are you writing about reshoring when you’re a transportation, management, and logistics company?” I say, “Well, I’m writing about that because I may not care about that for my business, but I guarantee you, the manufacturing executive, who will ultimately make the decision on our product, does care about that. For him or her to become aware of us, I need to reach them with that content, so wherever, it be a LinkedIn group, a LinkedIn profile post, a LinkedIn company page post, a Tweet, a search engine result on a search engine page, I need them to go, “That’s interesting to me.”


We become a hub of information for those people, but I can’t write about those things unless I do my work of recording the categories of the things that my target audience might care about. That requires a little bit of research to put those categories down.


Another tactic that I would give somebody, especially when it applies to content marketing distribution, is that you have to distribute your content. One of the things that I always say is … I kind of … a little twist on content is king, right? Content is king. You have to have the currency by which to entice your target audience to come back and speak to you, the goods, the where’s. That’s the content. If you’re not distributing that … and this is where I say content is king, and distribution rules the land. If you’re not distributing that content regularly in Twitter, or in these LinkedIn groups that are relevant, then no one’s going to see it. Before you have the big payoff, which we’ll talk about in a little bit, search engine optimization, as you’re creating this content, you have to start getting people to engage with your content, to come back and leave comments. Don’t forget about social media distribution.


The third tactic I would employ is, there’s a sales element to any marketer, right? There’s always going to be a sales executive in this. You have to get them involved in your vision and mission for your marketing. You cannot operate in a silo. There can be no walls between you and your sales manager, as a marketer, because that content that you’re creating is chuck full of juicy nuggets that are great things to send to a prospect. That’s how you sell today. I guarantee you that in the sales process, there will be a problem as you’re talking to your target audience, that if you’ve done your categories right, and you’ve listened to what your target audience wants from your internal interviews with your subject matter experts, there’s going to be something that you’ve written that can be put in the sales person’s email, or in the sales person’s conversation that will empower them to create a more relevant conversation with that sales prospect. If your marketing strategy, and the consultative, informed, educated approach that you have in that content marketing strategy doesn’t align in that sales process, it’s going to be broken.


Don’t just look at it as just generating leads, look at it as truly empowering your sales staff with really good content and information that will help them continue to peel back the layers it takes to close a deal.


Bruce McDuffee: This is challenging, because you know as well as I do, Adam, a lot of manufacturing companies have a long history, maybe 50, 80 years where sales rules. There’s also, on top of that, many times with manufacturers, there’s an internal cultural perception that marketing is setting up trade shows and placing adds, and maybe editing the webpages. To marketers I talk to, and manufacturing, they know, they get it, everything we’ve been saying, but to get over that hurdle is so important. I want to emphasize to that audience, you’ve got to get that alignment, like Adam was saying. You’ve got to show them how powerful marketing can be. Any tips on how they could do that, Adam? I mean, how does a marketer get over that hurdle?


Adam Robinson: Be explicit in your intentions, and clearly state that I am here as a marketer, to support your mission of being successful. I am completely bought in to your sales approach. Any good sales manager today, I think, would say, “Hey, my goal is to further the sales process, and I need collateral sometimes to do that,” or “I need something that I can share to them that will make them think,” or “Gosh, I have not been able to reengage this prospect. They’re just not returning my calls. They’re not returning my emails.” I go, “Hey, have you tried sending them this blog post instead of, “I haven’t heard from you lately,” or leaving the 14th voicemail.


Sales is going from a tactical approach, just like marketing was for a while, to a very strategic, nuanced approach that requires a lot of context. When you create content, and you can point to thought leadership pieces, or that somebody picked up your publication, then that empowers sales to be more successful. My sales manager always calls me Oz, right? Like the Wizard of Oz. I’m the man behind the curtain for him, because I don’t want to be the superstar. I think marketers, for a really long time, have tried to be the superstar, but we aren’t. I think we’re the fuel that powers the engine of sales. The more aligned you are to be explicit with your vision and your mission, that it’s just … We’re just a part of their successful, then I think you get that buy-in.


Bruce McDuffee: Good. I think that’s great advice. Let’s talk about a real life example, Adam. Can you share with our audience a real life example where you were able to get a company into a position to take advantage of … with their agility, to take advantage of this type of strategy and these types of tactics?


Adam Robinson: Yeah. I’ve helped a lot of companies breakthrough where … I think when I do help companies, they never want to stop, because they may have had hesitations at first of putting themselves out there. For example, I had this client back in the day that I still keep in touch with called, [“Cubbington 00:22:03] Aircraft.” They sold turbine aircraft engines, and maintained turbine aircraft engines a specific engine made by Pratt & Whitney called, “The PT6A.” It powers a lot of turboprop engines. They also serviced the agriculture aviation market, and they did the old [Warbird 00:22:21] Radial engines, as well, the R-985, and the R-1340. They were looking to reach pilots who piloted those aircrafts and needed that engine maintained, of if they wanted to buy a new engine, they could sell that, and they needed to reach fleet managers.


There are a number of competitors in this space, but I think a lot of those engine guys, they’re kind of like … Think of a car shop. Imagine a car shop sitting there going, “All right, guys. We know this social media and this content is pretty important for us to do, but we have no idea how to do it.” With them, we knew that they wanted to reach these pilots, and what we’ve found in our research is that these pilots have been asking people around the company … They’re very social in nature by what they do. Pilots love talking shot to each other about airplanes. They love showing pictures of each other, and so we’ve developed a strategy. It was very image-oriented, and we got them on Instagram … There are 139 aircraft that had these engines that they support. Therefore, we said, “Okay, if the pilots care about the aircraft, but they are powered by these engines, if they’re pilots of these aircraft, then they’re going to need somebody to help them with the engines in order to keep it flying.”


We said, “All right. We could sit here and talk about how to fix an engine, the ins and outs of the details of the engine, but at the end of the day, pilots might know about that. When you take your car in to get fixed, do you want to sit there and have your mechanic talk about how he fixed the engine, or do you want him to talk about maybe what you care about, and that he got the engine fixed?” All you care about is getting the engine fixed. You don’t really care about the ins and outs of how it happened.


A lot of companies, they want to talk about how you do things. There’s some aspect to that, but if that’s all you’re talking about, your audience is going to tune out. We started talking about the aircraft. We shared images of the aircraft. We talked about the history of those aircraft, but we always mentioned, “Oh yeah, they’re powered by these engines. Oh yeah …” at the end, with a call-to-action of any piece of content. “Book an appointment, so we can take care of that engine for you.” We made it about the pilot community around those 139 aircraft. If you go on Instagram and you look up Cubbington Aircraft, they’re at almost 20,000 Instagram followers, they have people liking their post. When you Google search the history of any of those aircraft, guess who’s number one on Google?


It’s less about the company, and more about the target audience. We just did that by following the process of interview the subject matter of expertise, people inside. Keep the target audience in mind, and create content that mirrors their real life behavior. Then, don’t forget to ask for the business with a call-to-action.


Bruce McDuffee: Really, it comes down to what [inaudible 00:25:04] to mind, my mind is it comes down to knowing your audience, knowing their pain or … Like the description you just gave, knowing their passion. When you know that, you share a content, relevant content, it’s going to work, it’s going to engage. It’s really important. I mean, how many manufacturers out there are sharing content about features of their product and their boring stuff like accuracy, or speed? Audience doesn’t care, right?


Adam Robinson: No, they don’t. If you become a thought leader, right? Let’s go back to the car mechanic as an example. If a car mechanic takes care of my problem that I came in for, but then at the end of the day, he also said, “Hey, Adam, I fixed your broken carburetor, but there’s a line from the carburetor to this part …” Forgive me, I don’t know car engines too well, that’s why I hire people. If he tells me, “Hey, the carburetor is all fixed, but I just wanted to inform you that if you continue to drive 97 miles an hour, it’s going to put pressure on your transmission because this carburetor still needs to be broken in, and that could happen.”


Every time I go to this mechanic, or every time he sends me an email reminder, he’s given me information about my car and how I can do things to make it run better, and how if it gets worse, I need to make sure I call him. Well, first of all, he’s staying top of mind with me. Second of all, he’s building trust with education. People love experts. They love experts. They want to hear what makes you good, what makes you so smart, and you’re talking about things that are relative to me and that I care about. When I have a problem, or I need something, or I’m looking to finally hire, I’m going to go to that company.


That’s kind of the vision that we have a Cerasis. We think of ourselves in the marketing side of things, at least, and the sales process, much more as a publication than a company blog. We look at ourselves much more as a community, the manufacturing and distribution community at large, than we do as just trying to market to people. You have to really believe your own vision of that. You can’t just be doing it because, “I’m in marketing. I’m tasked with this. My goal is to drive awareness. My goal is to drive leads.” I’m not saying that’s not what you’re trying to do. Of course, that’s your goal. You’re driven by a vision of truly caring about creating a community, built and underlined by passion of your target audience.


Bruce McDuffee: Good. Makes sense. I imagine at this point in the podcast, there’s probably some folks out there saying to themselves, “Well, this all sounds great.” They’re probably a little excited about it, and they want to do some of these things we’re talking about to get the awareness, and the credibility, and the positioning as an expert, but the reality is they can’t, or don’t want to invest in marketing as a function, and with whether it’s people or budget. Usually, it goes back to what we talked about earlier, that the leadership won’t get on board. If a guy out there or a girl out there listening today, has a boss or a VP sales, whoever it is, that just doesn’t understand it, what can they do today to start the conversation rolling?


Adam Robinson: You know, that’s a really good question. I don’t think you’re going to be well served saying, “We really got to be Tweeting. We really got to be doing these tactical things.” For example, my bosses, when they hired me, they hired a bunch … The company never marketed before. They interviewed a whole bunch of people who were probably looking at doing more traditional things like newspaper ads, and magazine ads, and a bunch of trade shows, and those kinds of things. I came in, and I think I got the job because I didn’t focus on necessarily, “We’re going to be Tweeting or distributing in LinkedIn groups.” I focused on the value and the outcome of what this could do, or what the purpose of it is.” I became more strategic.


Just because we’re using new tools for marketing, content marketing, social media, digital marketing, retargeting and advertising through digital means or email marketing, doesn’t mean that a business owner who is an entrepreneur at heart, can’t understand marketing and business fundamentals. You have to keep it fundamental. You have to tell them the purpose of why we’re engaging in digital marketing. It’s as simple as this, “Hey, boss, you told me your goal for the company was to grow by twenty million. Okay, great. You told me your marketing goals was to increase our brand awareness, and we hope that you can generate more inbound leads and more people coming to us instead of our sales reps having to cold call. Well, that’s fantastic. I’ve developed a plan that is both going to benefit us in the short-term and the long-term. In the short-term, we’re going to make sure we continue to reach this target audience.”


You have to speak in those fundamental languages, and those fundamental words that people can understand. When you start coming out there with industry jargon, maybe they understand it, but what it the value of search engine optimization, right? What is the value of that long-term payoff? What is the value of going into these LinkedIn groups? If your boss asked those questions, you have to be willing to answer those fundamental questions.


“Well, I’m going to go into LinkedIn groups because this oil and gas group has 200,000 people, and I’m going to be able to reach a potential of 200,000 decision makers with our content that educates them. Boss, you and I both know that people love experts, and they want to be educated. I want to make us look like the authority, so that when they think of somebody to help them out with oil and gas manufacturing product, they’re going to think of us. Oh yeah, while we’re putting out this content that they’re going to trust and engage with in the short term as we distribute that to get their eyeballs on it, I’m going to be doing search engine optimization tactics.” The boss goes, “What the heck did you just say to me?”


I say, “Okay, boss, all that really means is, when’s the last time you went to to search for a product or service. I guarantee you he goes, “This morning.” I’m like, “Exactly, because you’re searching for an answer. We’re going to create content that answers our target audience’s questions, whether it’s about X, Y, or Z they care about, or even the things that we specifically do. Well, boss, it’s going to take a long time. Search engine take a while for you to build up authority, and we just don’t have it yet. In the short term, we’re going to be doing these tactical things to bring eyeballs and awareness to us of our target audience.” Speak in their language. Don’t go too jargony with it, and focus on value.


Bruce McDuffee: Exactly. The boss is asking himself, “What’s in it for me” when he’s interviewing you or asking you these questions. Tell him what’s in it for him, just like Adam just explained. Good. That brings us to the next part of the show, Adam, which is the challenge question. Folks out there listening, send in your question, keep them coming, email them to me, or go to the website, and just find the menu for podcast challenge, fill out the form, send them in. I’ll pose the question to one of our guest experts.


Today, our question comes from a plastics manufacturers in upstate New York. By the way, they’re usually anonymous, or white-labeled like this. Here’s the question, Adam, “We’re a mid-sized injection molding company. We’re having a tough time competing with the low price production out of China. We keep getting underbid, and I can’t reduce my prices any lower than they already are. I read your book, the New Way to Market for Manufacturing, and I’m interested in how I can grow by sharing my expertise, and not pitching our service. My concern is that it might take up to a year to start seeing results. Is that true? Is there a way to get fast results? What do you think, Adam? What would you advise?


Adam Robinson: Sure. I think there’s a couple of key parts to that question, three parts that I’m going to specifically address. You talk about low price, and the worry of China displacing you, because everybody’s so cost-centric. That’s true. That’s reality. That happens. I think I would tell that person, “I bet you tell your sales people to focus on value.” You said it yourself, expertise, you want to show them your expertise. If you’ve heard everything that we said today in this podcast, you know one thing that I think is important, that people still want to do business with people, and that you have to show your expertise. You have the expertise and the value, so create that content plan and start creating content with that.


Now, I’m not here to promise that the moment you start creating that content, that you’re going to start getting leads and new customers, because that’s not reality, and you have to set that expectation with yourself, because if you master some of these things and you start creating content and distributing in these things like LinkedIn groups, or you start building up your Twitter followers, it’s going to take a while before people start building trust in your expertise. You don’t just come out of the womb as an expert, you build that trust with whatever community you are, but every single day you don’t do that, is a day wasted to start building it, so I would say don’t be hesitant to start.


Now, after a while, if you continue to create content that human beings and your target audience actually care about, and you make sure that you’re doing some really good on-page search engine optimization practices, and frankly that’s just making sure that every piece of content you write is centered around a pretty centralized idea, Google will start [inaudible 00:34:34] your content, and start putting you in search engines. That might take a year to pay off, it depends on your market and your niche, and how well people are receiving your content, or sharing it or picking it up on other sites, those always super charge your search engine results.


What can you do in the short-term? Well, you can always advertise in social media and sponsor your content. You can always start distributing it into those groups, and that will help, but it’s amazing that what Facebook ads and LinkedIn sponsored updates can do for you. It’s also amazing that you can take possibly an email prospect list, or maybe you went to a trade show and you gathered email marketing, or emails from people that you talk to. You can give it for like constant contact that is as cheap as, I think, $79 a month. As you grow your list, that price increases, but you can email people any new content that you put out there. That’s a good way to get people back to your website. I would say, you have to make sure that when you’re targeting with these ads, or email marketing, that you want to make sure that it’s relevant. When you’re gathering email addresses, or anything like that, you want to make sure that you categorize them properly.


If you’re talking like for example at Cerasis, I probably wouldn’t email something regarding to how the internet of things affects manufacturing companies to my distribution lists, my distribution companies list, people who are distributors. You want to make sure that matches up. Do your due diligence whenever you’re advertising to set your targeting to the appropriate people. Those are some short-term things that you can do, advertise, social media distribution, and email marketing to power that content that you’re creating.


I think a lot of people often waste the effort that they put into one blog by publishing it and moving in. They forget to distribute it more than once. They forget to advertise it. They forget to use it in the sales process. They forget to blast it out through email marketing. Work that content until the search engine results start coming in. That is going to take anywhere from 90 to more days before you start seeing that traffic.


Bruce McDuffee: Okay. Good answer. Thanks, Adam. My two cents would be yes, it does take time to position your brand or your company as a go-to expert, as it takes time to get that top of mind awareness and that credibility in the market place, and you do that just like you’re starting out asking the question about sharing expertise. Find that paying point that’s common among your target audience, create content that addresses the paying point. That gets you to that position. Yes, that can take six months to a year.


However, there are a couple of tactics, just like Adam mentioned, a couple of tactics where you can get pretty fast results. One of them is, I’ve found is very effective for getting your qualified lead list, is an educational webinar. Create a webinar that shares expertise about that paying point, because people have to register for a webinar, they give you their information. If you have a pretty good sized internal data base, you could probably get a few hundred people right off just from that database, people who have forgotten about you, perhaps.


The second way to get quick results is set up an E-newsletter that also shares content. For the questioner, note that I didn’t say anything about pitching that product, because that’s not going to work, right, Adam?


Adam Robinson: Bruce, you probably get Cerasis’ newsletter every day when we put out a piece of new content.


Bruce McDuffee: Yeah. It’s good stuff. Absolutely. It’s like we’ve been saying all day, if you put out relevant, helpful, useful information, your audience is going to like it, and they’re going to start associating that with you and your brand. Then, when the day comes around and they’re ready to buy, you’re going to get the call.


Adam Robinson: You know what, when we go to conferences with UPS, FedEx, right, these are name-brand companies, multi-billion dollar companies, I can’t tell you …. The greatest feeling in the world is when their VP’s come up to you and go, “How many people do you have working in your marketing department, because every time we Google anything in this industry, Cerasis is beating us. Why are you beating us? You guys must have just a whole bunch of marketing budget and a whole bunch of people.” I said, “Now, up until last April, it was just me.” This is possible with one person. The reality is that you just have to put everything you can into it and hustle it, and you can compete with the big guys. There’s no greater feeling than to look at a guy from a company who’s worth a billion more dollars than your company, and you eat them for lunch when it comes to search engine optimization.


Bruce McDuffee: There you go. It’s doable, folks. It is doable.


Adam Robinson: Absolutely. Just Google freight class, and see who shows up when it comes to freight class. That’s all I’m saying.


Bruce McDuffee: Well, Adam, to close out, do you have … I always ask our guest experts to share one or two actionable takeaways. Is there one or two takeaways you’d like to leave with our audience? It could be a summary of something we’ve talked about, or a couple of nuggets they can do right away. What do you have for us?


Adam Robinson: When it comes to starting or venturing content and social media marketing, or trying to improve a program that you’ve already launched, I would say just don’t stress yourself out too much. What I mean by that is just be human. Think of yourself in human terms. Remind yourself that although this is the internet, that more than ever, people want to connect with other people, that people want to read information that brings them value, so give that to them, and don’t be afraid to give that to them. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes either. That’s what’s great about all of this, is that you have analytics at the back end of all of this stuff. When I did this type of content, how many people responded in social media? Did this drive enough lead? Let the data be your guide, and don’t be afraid to put it out there.


I’ve got to tell you, we write a blog post every day. We have a lot of planning in that content plan to achieve that. A lot of people go, “Well, how do you do that?” I go, “Because sometimes, I don’t have a blog post for that day,” but sometimes when I just kind of write out a post and put it out there in the world, I could tell you five times out of ten, those posts that I didn’t plan, that I just wrote passionately, thinking about my target audience to give them what they wanted, those are the best performing posts that I always have, because it’s devoid of paralysis by analysis, and it’s full of passion. Just don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, and meet your expectations, or don’t meet them, but use the data to continue to improve.


Bruce McDuffee: Great takeaway. Thanks. Finally, Adam, anything you’d like to share with our audience about yourself or your company?


Adam Robinson: Well, myself, I absolutely love this stuff. I think you will too if you just put the passion behind it, you’ll never work a day in your life. I never feel like I’m working, so I have the best job at my company. Speaking of my company, I’m really honored to be able to tell their story. I’m very lucky to have not to have convinced my bosses that this is important, they gave me that full autonomy. I know not everybody has that, but if you just simply are on the same page with your leadership, and you can get them to realize that there is value to this, and then you start to do it, and you prove it with your results, then it’s going to be a fun experience.


Cerasis is such a great company to think that way. They built one of the first web-based transportation management systems before Google was even a company, back in 1997. They’ve not been afraid to innovate and put themselves out there. It’s an extension to me. I feel a duty to my owners to tell their story. There’s nothing more fun in the world. I’m completely blessed to be doing it as a job.


Bruce McDuffee: Adam, thank you so much for being a guest today on Manufacturing Marketing Matters.


Adam Robinson: Thanks for having me, Bruce. I enjoyed it.


Bruce McDuffee: That was Adam Robinson, marketing manager at Cerasis. For more information about Adam and Cerasis, visit the Guest Bio page, and see the show notes at If you like what we’re talking about and other things we share in the podcast, and you want to take advantage of this type of opportunity in your market, at MMI, here we can help you. Take that first step. Go to the Contact page and we’ll set up a free 30-minute consultation.


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 on 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 market and manufacturing today.


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