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Social Capital

Welcome to Social Capital, a weekly podcast where we dive into social relationships and how the investment you put into them establishes trust, reciprocity, and value within your network. Your host, Lori Highby, will connect with top business professionals to dive into their best techniques and stories to share with you!
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Now displaying: January, 2022
Jan 26, 2022

Meet Ben

Ben has been helping his clients communicate for the last quarter of a century.

He is the author of two books on personal branding and leadership, the host of the 5 year and syndicated YourLIVINGBrand.live show and the executive producer of the Communicate Your Why program.

Ben's mission is to help companies, and the people within them communicate more effectively internally.

To create opportunities for people to listen, understand and act in ways that drive culture, goals, and profitability

Jan 19, 2022

Meet Jennifer

Jennifer Shaheen is the founder and President of The Technology Therapy Group. She is recognized as an expert in planning, implementing, and translating digital marketing and technology. Over her twenty-year career, Jennifer has worked in a myriad of industries as a digital advisor: finance, banking, manufacturing, design, construction, luxury, retail, and travel. Jennifer is a digital transformation expert, user experience enthusiast, and data insights specialist.

How important is mindset when we think about digital marketing and today's technologies?

I love this question because mindset has a big thing to do with being successful today. As you probably know, Lori, doing what you do, it's gotten more difficult to do certain things. Why I say that is because oftentimes we're looking at being much more personalized in our digital marketing and mindset is important to get you into that headspace of saying, "I am trying to do the best thing for my customer or client who's trying to reach me, and not always the easiest things for us, as marketers," and I think that's a really important part of talking about digital marketing today.

Is it important to be on all digital marketing channels today?

Being on all of them can be somewhat overwhelming! I do think it's important that you protect your brand and reserve your names, and oftentimes, depending upon the size of your company, I think it's important that we are very specific about understanding the return on investment per channel. To be on all of them may mean that you're on none of them, right? It's kind of like if you spread all your money around, you don't often have an opportunity to focus it. So depending upon what your budget is, you always want to look at protecting your brand, but you may want to think a little bit about how you're putting your efforts into the channel based on who your audience is, and what success or return you're getting. As you said it right at the beginning, Lori, you're most active on LinkedIn and I would guess you're probably most active on LinkedIn because that's probably where you get the most return from your activity.

How can you know if your digital marketing channels are working?

One of the things that I think you need to look at is the metrics for those channels. So if you understand your audience, then if you look at that particular channel, let's go ahead and use Instagram for a moment. If your account is set up as a business account, you will be able to see information about the demographics of your followers. The same is true for Facebook and the same is true for LinkedIn so looking at that information is extremely important to understanding if that the audience that you said you wanted to be talking to, if you are getting those followers there, and then what I often do is have people follow that through and see if it's coming through any inquiries or outreach.

Can you share with our listeners your most successful or favorite networking experience that you've had?

So I used to teach a networking class and I had four keys to being a successful networker. The first was to listen and how we translate that into the digital world now is by reading the comments and the actual posts that people put in there. That is what I now call digital listening. Years ago, when I taught that class, we would listen to someone speaking verbally but it still works! The second tip is to ask thoughtful questions and the third is to give. What I mean by that is to give something of value or feedback, it doesn't always have to be a lead with networking, but a tip, a direction, something that shows that you as the listener and the person looking to grow that conversation is engaged and paying attention. My fourth tip is always to record. Why that is so important is because when I started my business in the late 90s, I was very into keeping a record of all of my conversations and everyone I met in a CRM or customer relationship management database. That record portion was so important because it helped me connect the dots between the people I met and the referrals I received and I believe that those four tips are still really important today.

How do you stay in front of and best nurture your network and your community?

Right now I have to be honest because, after the holidays, you sort of feel like you're in that holiday haze. But one of the best ways, for me, is digital listening as I mentioned before. So going down and thoughtfully looking through what people are talking about and adding that commentary for relationships. But the other thing is making time to at least reach out and build those one on one relationships. I do think that's always important as well because I think we get so caught up in what we're doing that we need to make that time to step back and say I need to be connecting with and spending time one on one with people.

What advice would you offer to business professionals looking to grow their network?

I think that growing your network means growing it intelligently. I want to go back to something we were just talking about a little while ago, which is our audience. So if you're growing your network, be honest with yourself about what you need to grow your business and also those kinds of partners that you feel not only will give value to you, but you can give value to them. So you cannot be all things to all people which is why I think it's really important and growing your network to be reaching out and working with those where you do see really strong reciprocal relationships.

If you could go back to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell yourself to do more or less than or differently with regards to your professional career?

It's interesting because I had those four rules and I had a really good process for networking, but what I noticed as I grew my team is that I somehow lost that process-driven mindset and that is something I wish I had not lost because when I was working by myself, I had this idea of being very focused and disciplined and process-oriented. Then as I started to bring on more team members, I sort of let go and I do find that it is so important when you're growing an organization and you're bringing on team members, that you need to be very clear about your process, which will then dictate your expectations.

What final words of advice would you like to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?

So I think in general, I want to go to something which is really important for growing and supporting your network and you really want to be mindful of what you're putting out there and the message you're trying to spread. I think that's really important because you attract what you're putting out there! Be yourself and you will attract those that come to you and that's really how you're going to build a loyal network and a great business!

 

Connect with Jennifer

 

Website: https://technologytherapy.com/ 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jennifershaheen/ 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TechnologyTherapy

Jan 13, 2022

Competition Is Better Served As Co-opetition

 

Lori: Hello everyone, welcome back to the third Episode in our Manufacturing Mavens Podcast Mini-Series! Let’s get started by introducing my co-hosts for the series, Kristina (Kris) Harrington and Erin Courtenay.  

 

Kris Harrington is the President and COO for GenAlpha Technologies. During her time with OEMs in the mining industry, Kris and the other founders of GenAlpha saw a need to find a better way for B2B manufacturers to do business. This led to the development of Equip, an eCommerce, eCatalog, and Analytics solution for manufacturers and distributors who want to grow their business online.

 

Erin Courtenay is VP of Digital Services at Earthling Interactive. Erin loves watching programmers work their magic, opening up the possibilities of the internet to small and medium businesses with powerful websites and custom software. Calling herself a “digital empathy practitioner”, Erin is determined to help clients move thoughtfully and compassionately into their digital future.

 

I’m going to start today’s episode by leading with a bit of a story of what I learned over my years of running my business. When I started, I was ignorant and thought that I had to do it all on my own and figure everything out by myself even though I truly had no idea what I was doing! For some reason, I had the belief that when I figured something out, I shouldn’t share it with others because they should have to figure it out on their own as well. As I have developed in my professional career, my thoughts around that have evolved and I actually feel the opposite way now! A couple of years ago I attended a networking event and met a new agency owner. She was in the same mindset as I was when I first started my business so I offered to connect with her and I just shared everything I learned in the 10 years I had been running my business. She was amazed that I would be so open with my experiences and from that connection, we now have such an amazing relationship where we share wins and send opportunities to each other. That brings us to today’s topic which is cooperating with your competition. 

 

Lori: Let’s dive into it! How would you two describe competition and co-opetition? 

 

Erin: When we're looking for definitions of competition, I think the good thing that competition does is it drives us to do better! Ultimately, competition is about the drive to achieve. There are a bunch of unhealthy things that can go with that, but that's the part that we need to keep alive and we need to kindle in our business and throughout our business. But co-opetition is a behavior and it's the behavior that helps you do better, and that helps you be better. So who or what is a better resource for achieving greatness than other folks doing what you do? So the co-opetition is really about achieving with your peers.

 

Kris: When it comes to I guess the definition, I like to think of a pie and when it's competition, one company gets the whole pie and oftentimes there's a winner, and there's a loser because someone gets 100% of the pie and the other gets zero. But when it's co-opetition, there could be some sharing of the pie, and often, when we think about it in terms of business and going after a business deal and being rewarded and earning the business of a customer, my hope is that when we are cooperating with our peers to solve a problem for a customer, maybe the circumference of the pie can grow. Now, you might not get 100% like you were in competition, but if you're doing well for the customer, the customer wins and we win in helping to bring our strengths together to solve the problem for the customer. 

 

Lori: At what point did you start to think differently about your competition?

 

Kris: I've always been an athlete, and I have been in individual sports like I ran cross country, and while there's a team aspect to cross country, there's also that individual aspect. I also played basketball and soccer where you need a team in order to succeed. I always loved team sports, and I loved bringing out the best in everyone that was competing and I feel like I learned that early on. Now, as I've grown and come to be a professional and I'm in my career and I'm going after business and running a company, I realize that we have strengths in our niche where we play and other friends and competitors out there who are competing for the dollars available inside a manufacturer, let's say, in a particular time period and they have dollars available. So we're kind of competing for those dollars, but to solve the problem for the customer, we can bring our strengths, but our strengths don't always meet the full needs of what the customer is looking for. So that's when I started to realize that if we bring these other people in who have these great resources and ideas, and the strengths and the gap areas that we don't fit, we could actually be stronger together!

 

Erin: When I began my endeavor in manufacturing, I was very wary and I wasn't sure who was okay to talk to. I was introduced to another E-commerce expert and I felt shocked, first of all, that they would want to have a conversation with me. Second of all, their transparency, their absolute delight and excitement for me that I was out there and I was going to be doing this took me aback. It wasn't very long after that, that I became part of this amazing network of other experts in our field, and it just transformed our attitude in our approach to business at Earthling, because we understood better after getting to know these folks what we were good at, and what wasn't necessarily our best specialty and where we should refine and where we should turn to others to get the benefit of their expertise. So I think a lot of it goes back to LinkedIn and the social selling experience that illuminated for me why co-opetition is such a healthy and productive way of doing business.

Lori: What are the risks and rewards of co-opetition and do you two have any specific examples you can share?  

 

Erin: This is a good question because it gets into the uncomfortable parts of co-opetition. The risk is about the vulnerability that you have to bring to co-opetition and that vulnerability is the good part, but if there's any lingering anxiety, fear, insecurity behind that, it can damage relationships and impact your performance. So when you move into a cooperative relationship with someone, you need to do some self-reflection and know that that's where you want to be and what you really want to do. So the risk is that you don't do that self-reflection, you get into the relationship and you start having those sort of yucky territorial situations. Thankfully, there are a lot of advantages in terms of co-opetition. You asked me about an example so we had an opportunity that was an RFP which came into Earthling, and there were a couple of other agencies who specialized in different areas than we did, who we had worked with in the past on similar projects. They both approached me when I was new in my role and had the thought that I was gonna win at all so I said, "No thank you," which was naive and dumb on my part, because had we worked together even though we did win the project, we still ended turning to them to get help. But I had done exactly what I described before where it sort of poisoned the well with my competitive thinking and was unable to make the best of the relationship. We did very well with the client, but the relationship was tense the whole time. After that, what I gained was knowing what our specialty was. When we respond to these RFPs, sticking to our specialty and are very comfortable reaching out to other folks for their specialties so that we can deliver the best product for the client.

 

Kris: For me, it's that disbelief that you might give away your secret sauce, that there's something special your organization is doing, and you have a way of doing it. I loved what Erin said about vulnerability and I also think that the dollar value change is something that is a risk, depending on how you might have planned for something as you've thought about it. When you asked for examples, I was just speaking to another woman yesterday and she's covering the aviation industry and the aviation industry is the industry that we would be a great fit for, but we just don't have a lot of experience. As I was speaking to her, I thought, "Wow, what an introduction and an opportunity for us," because she has credentials that we don't have, but would certainly be required, that could help us actually participate in a space where those credentials are required, and where there's a high level of regulation and other things happening. So it was just a great example of when you meet other people, and you think about places where you would like to take your business, some people may already be there, and they have the strengths around that area. Your product, your solution, your teams, may bring some very valuable aspects to that as well, but you need a way to get in because you don't have all of the experience that's needed. That's just a relevant example that came up with discussions yesterday and I think it just shows you that co-opetition can bring you into new markets or new places that your company can participate in if you're open to it!

 

Lori: How do you think the outside world perceives co-opetition? 

 

Kris: Speaking about manufacturers as the target customer group for this conversation, I think they think they're winning when companies come together. I think that when they have a problem and need help, oftentimes, it's very difficult to evaluate and come to one conclusion that this vendor can do it all for us because more times than not they can't because there's a list of requirements, a list of needs and services that need to be provided and maybe the manufacturer doesn't have the experience or the capacity to do it themselves. So they are reaching out to others to help solve the problem and I think that they're going to expect more of that from vendors to be able to come together and collaboratively help them with their solution. I think it makes their job a bit easier because then they don't have to identify one and in the end, they're winning! 

 

Erin: I think it's a good look because it just demonstrates skill and competence. Willingness to engage with your competition means that you understand the value to the customer and that that's your priority. In the conversation I had yesterday, we were talking about the transactional nature of business and how that can lead to a client or a customer feeling like they're just a transaction and not a person or a company. When you bring yourself, your competition, and your co-opetition partner to the relationship, that client knows that the value of what you're bringing is the priority, not just the transaction that you're trying to engage in with them. I also have a great example of just evidence that people love it. I don't know if anybody's on Twitter and has seen this sort of Twitter roasting wars that the fast-food restaurants do each other? First of all, it's hilarious and entertaining, but second of all, I think it's just a good look for all the brands because they are competing in a cooperative way which makes it a win-win for everyone. So I think it's a wise choice when you think about the customer perspective.

 

Lori: Heading into the future, what do you think will change in relation to competition and co-opetition?

 

Kris: It feels to me like more and more businesses are getting specialized and as we get specialized and focus on what we do well, we're going to need other organizations to help complement us to solve the big problems that come up in the world. So I think that this isn't going anywhere, in fact, it's going to be something that we're going to continue to see in the future.

 

Erin: I agree. You've heard of these two big news breakups recently with GE and Johnson and Johnson, these monolithic companies who it's not working out to do at all and be at all. That's sort of the inverse of what we're talking about today where somebody is trying to capture all of it, but it just can't hold. So as Kris mentioned, the specialization becoming the forefront of so many business models is going to drive a need for co-opetition, but then on top of that, we're going to have to develop the skills to do that.



This wraps up our 3-part mini-series.  If you are joining us at the tail-end, I highly recommend you take a listen to Part 1 and Part 2.  Part 1 we dove into Social Selling and Part 2 we discussed manufacturing and digital transformation. Reach out to Lori if you’re interested more about strategic digital marketing, reach out to Kris if you want to learn more about manufacturing eCommerce solutions, and reach out to Erin if you’re interested in learning more about manufacturing consulting services.

 

Head to keystoneclick.com/mavens to learn more about your hosts and their exclusive offerings available for Mavens listeners! 

Jan 12, 2022

Manufacturing Mavens Episode 2: Digital Transformation In The Manufacturing Industry

 

Today’s episode is Part 2 of our 3-part Manufacturing Mavens - a BROADcast Mini Series. I’ve got 2 guest hosts with me for this mini-series! Kristina (Kris) Harrington and Erin Courtenay. Part 2 is going to be Guest Hosted by Kris Harrington. Kris is the President and COO for GenAlpha Technologies. During her time with OEMs in the mining industry, Kris and the other founders of GenAlpha saw a need to find a better way for B2B manufacturers to do business. This led to the development of Equip, an eCommerce, eCatalog, and Analytics solution for manufacturers and distributors who want to grow their business online. Take it away, Kris! 

 

Kris: Thanks, Lori! Happy to be here. Let’s start this show with a quick introduction to our hosts.

 

Erin Courtenay is VP of Digital Services at Earthling Interactive. Erin loves watching programmers work their magic, opening up the possibilities of the internet to small and medium businesses with powerful websites and custom software. Calling herself a “digital empathy practitioner”, Erin is determined to help clients move thoughtfully and compassionately into their digital future.

 

Lori Highby is a podcast host, speaker, educator, and founder of Keystone Click, a strategic digital marketing agency. Using her vast multi-industry knowledge - gained from experience and education, She can see the potential of greatness within the already established good of a business. Through strategic actionable moves, she has worked with Fortune 500 companies such as ABB and Syngenta to micro-business owners, to achieve their marketing goals. Lori carries her energy and drives into her professional engagements in order to empower and educate other fellow life-long learners.

 

Thank you, mavens, it is such a pleasure to be here with you both today.

As a former leader in a global manufacturing organization responsible for growing equipment and aftermarket sales, and now a leader of a digital eCommerce company, I am often reminded how much things have changed in just the past twenty years. I mean, I can remember when I was so excited to get a Blackberry phone (remember those?) so that when I was traveling to remote mining areas and arrived at my hotel, I wouldn’t have to hook up my laptop to the dial-up hotel internet connection just to check my emails to make sure I didn’t miss anything important before going in to visit my customer the next day. It was so much faster to check them from my Blackberry, and for me, this was roughly 2007.

 

Fast forward to today, now if a manufacturer were to roll out an eCommerce solution like Equip, if I were still that same sales leader visiting my customer, I would be able to stand next to their machine in the pit and pull up full product bills of materials, identify the products from a 3D interactive drawing, add them to a shopping cart and send them a quotation all from a smartphone or tablet. The customer experience opportunities are incredibly different today for those manufacturers who are ready to make the leap into digital self-service. And this is just one example of the type of digital services available. This takes us to today’s topic - Manufacturing and Digital Transformation where we’re going to talk about manufacturers and their journey toward digital transformation.

 

Let’s get into it. To set the stage, Erin and Lori, I would like to hear how each of you define digital transformation for the manufacturing industry?

 

Erin: One thing it always goes back to his business goals. Your business goals should define your approach to digital transformation. In manufacturing, I see a couple of things that define digital transformation. The first is digital transformation as cultural transformation. So opening the business culture to digital tools, be in sales, operations production is a cultural change. And so the digital transformation has an impact on everyone, and how they identify as part of the organization. The next component of digital transformation is maintenance or growth strategy for your business. So tools like eCommerce, ERP, automation are becoming sort of the oxygen of all businesses, and manufacturing is no different. So to breathe, to grow, it can't be ignored, digital transformation is going to be foundational.

 

Lori: I resonate with everything you said, and especially the cultural component because regardless of any transformation that you are incorporating into your business, you've got to get everyone on board and it's sometimes very challenging to do that if this is the way we've always been doing it for the last 40 years and you're trying to teach an old dog new tricks. I like to compare it to what manufacturing has been doing already with regards to automation, robotics, and creating efficiencies in their business, I think it's no different when you're looking at other segments of the business such as marketing, sales, and the communications and that relationship and that nurturing and it's just taking that transformation or that evolution of what's happening, and applying it to different segments of the business. You mentioned ERP systems, which are taking all elements of your business and combining them into one extremely useful digital tool and resource. But the critical component of that is the adoption of getting all components together and then getting all of the business on board with how to use that component. If you're looking at marketing automation, you need the sales and the marketing team working together on the same page and it's all about maximizing the relationships. COVID taught us real quickly that you can have relationships that aren't in person shaking hands, and that you can still nurture and create new connections.

 

Kris: I know there have been numerous articles written about this, but I am curious, based on each of your experiences, what do you think are the three most important reasons why manufacturers need to be prioritizing digital transformation?

 

Lori: It's hard to pick only three. I'll start with something that carries over from the last question, which is that efficiencies are there. Just like in the machines and the equipment at the plants, there are efficiencies in leveraging the digital tools and resources out there. We're all in that marketing and sales side of things, but we really focus on maximizing and shortening that lifecycle and making it easier to have those conversations with your clients or your potential clients. The second one, I would say is this next generation, the current generation is online. That's where your next client is hanging out. They're not going to answer the phone, they're not always going to show up at a trade show because I think trade shows are more of that nurturing opportunity. Using SEO making sure your websites getting found online, leveraging social media to tell your brand story, and creating efficiencies around that is going to help you to continue to find that next client. The third thing that I think is the most important actually out of all these three, is what your customers are expecting. They're expecting to have a conversation on your website using a chat feature, they're expecting to log in to place an order online and just repeat that order and not have to have a conversation or get an instant quote, or whatever it is. If your customers are expecting this, you have to make this transformation.

 

Erin: My response to three reasons that digital transformation is more of a big picture kind of thought. First is attracting and retaining a workforce. Younger generations, like Lori, pointed out, expect and anticipate a digital forward work environment. If you can't provide that, that's not going to be appealing to younger people. We all have heard about how workforce attraction and retention is a big issue in manufacturing so digital transformation, not only for the functional parts but going back to that cultural idea, demonstrating that your digital forward as a company or as an organization. Next is modernization. I mean, we don't leave our baskets anymore. We're not horse-drawn carriages, we're digital so it's time to get there. Then the last one, I think this is not spoken about enough is pleasure and freedom. I just was in a webinar the other day which talked about the future and technology and what it can do for us. If we can lean more heavily on digital tools to do sort of the mundane things for us, it can open up all these possibilities of creativity, of moving ahead, of offering us time to do the things that we really love and care about, and value. If we're going to get there, that means we all have to participate and contribute to digital transformation, not just wait for it to happen, because then that's something that's happening to us, not something that's happening with us.

 

Kris: The world is a bit of a crazy place right now, what do you think are some of the biggest challenges manufacturers are facing today that may be preventing them from moving forward with their digital journey?

 

Erin: This is where I may get a little controversial. I think one of the biggest challenges is rigid industry leadership that is not helping lead us into the next era with digital transformation. I see people like Matt Goose and Eddie Saunders doing much of the heavy lifting. These are folks that are getting young kids excited about manufacturing by meeting them where they are and they are doing that heavy lifting. I'd like to see more of that from industry leadership. So it's a little bit of a prescription and also a diagnosis mixed in together.

 

Lori: Erin, I just have to say that I love your perspective. My answer is from a bit different perspective in that I think part of the challenge is that to some extent, it's cluttered. There's a lot of information coming from a lot of different directions and you don't know where to start. I think there's also this fear of the unknown because it can be a big investment. I know that these manufacturing organizations, when they invest in a new piece of machinery, they have so much confidence that it's going to produce a certain volume of new business for them, and they can get so much work done. But when they're making this investment into this unknown territory, where they don't have their historical references for themselves to have confidence on how it's going to improve their business, they're really just trusting kind of someone else's opinions, but there are opinions on all different spectrums and there are all different ways to tackle this. So I think that's where there's a lot of hesitation and reservation to move forward.

 

Kris: If you could offer one piece of advice on how digital can help solve the challenges preventing companies from moving forward, what would it be?

 

Lori: To solve the problem based on how I answered the last question, I would say manufacturers need to start having the conversations with those that are doing it right now and start asking some intelligent questions to build their confidence and really just get that conversation going, which is what we're doing right now. They have to have true curiosity into this topic in order to have any movement going forward and helping them solve some of these bigger issues where digital can do so much and solve so many problems. Yeah, it is a time and financial investment on the front end, but the long end return significantly outweighs any current hurdles that someone may be having right now. So my very simple answer is to start talking about it and start asking questions.

 

Erin: A challenge that keeps folks from moving forward and I think I'm going to name that challenge as thinking that you're locked in a rigid mindset. Whether that's before you get started with the technology, or you might even be mid-technology and so that brings to mind this example of somebody that we worked with. They had a transportation management system platform that they were using and it just kept not being the right solution for them. Over and over again, they were running into roadblocks and barriers and they asked us how we could help them. We suggested to them that they should make their own because it could fit their needs and might even save them money. They decided to try it and not only did they save money, but they also ended up making six figures from that platform, because they were able to then sort of rent it out to some other folks as well. So just knowing that one of the great things about digital transformation is flexibility is the ability to name your own solution. It can be daunting, I totally get it, but if you keep that in mind, that you should ask for what you want, you should know what you want and ask for it and not be let alone by the no's, that will help you really move forward.

 

Kris: What services do each of you offer that support the manufacturing industry?

 

Erin: At Earthling Interactive, we do take that consultative approach. Yes, can seem off-putting at first, but what that allows us to do is though, is we are adept at starting where you are, where our clients are. For example, so many manufacturing websites are, frankly terrible, and they're out of date. But you can actually accomplish a lot with just a website refresh, and not just because of how it looks, but it can function and be a very powerful tool for you and your business. We can start there, let's just get you a new website. But we're also great at modifications and fixes. For example, if you're running a technology that's falling short of your expectations, like that example that I mentioned before with the TMS system, or let's say you've got a time tracking system that isn't conforming to your business model, we can help it get there, we can help do those tweaks in those modifications so that you have a tool that really works with your business, and helps you accomplish your goals.

 

Lori: At Keystone Click, we brand ourselves as a strategic digital marketing agency. What we're doing is really focusing on our clients' customers. So you the manufacturer, you're trying to get new customers, and we get inside the head of your customer and really figure out what is that customer journey? What is the pain that they initially have? How are they searching for that pain? Because people don't know what the solution is the right way they know what the challenge is that they're facing. Then how do we position you and tell your brand story in the digital space so that you are positioned as the expert to solve the problem that they have? We do that by conducting research on your customer and then building a full strategic plan that's focused on helping you achieve your business goals. Then we support the implementation and we do websites as well. We manage your social paid initiatives, and really anything under that digital umbrella with your business end goal in mind. What about you, Kris?

 

Kris: I think the best way to describe what the Gen Alpha team does is really equip manufacturers and distributors with the tools, services, and advice that they need to sell their products online. So we come with real-world experience, the founding members of Gen Alpha all worked in manufacturing and we truly believe that there was an easier way of doing business with a manufacturer. So we've been in the shoes of our customers, trying to satisfy their customers and grow business at the same time. We believe that in coordination with our clients. We keep building upon our already solid foundation of helping them to keep delivering better solutions year after year. So we truly love working with the manufacturing industry and we want these people to be relevant and successful in the future. I think what I would say about all of us and all of our companies is that we do care so much. If you were to work with any one of us, you're going to have a trusted relationship where we're going, to be honest with you about your business, how we believe we can help you, we're going to offer you alternative solutions, but the true intention around everything we're doing is for the greater good. 

 

Thank you for listening to part 2 of our 3-part series. If you’ve enjoyed what you heard, definitely chime in for part 3, and if you didn’t get a chance to listen to Part 1 - you’ll want to take a listen as we dove into Social Selling. In Part 3 we will be talking about co-opetition vs competition. Reach out to Lori if you’re interested more about strategic digital marketing, reach out to Kris if you want to learn more about manufacturing eCommerce solutions, and reach out to Erin if you’re interested in learning more about manufacturing consulting services.

 

Head to keystoneclick.com/mavens to learn more about your hosts and their exclusive offerings available for Mavens listeners!

Jan 11, 2022

Social Selling In Manufacturing

 

Today’s episode is Part 1 of our 3-part Manufacturing Mavens - a BROADcast Mini Series.  I’ve got 2 guest hosts with me for this mini-series!  Kristina (Kris) Harrington and Erin Courtenay.  Part 1 is going to be Guest Hosted by Erin Courtenay.  

 

Erin Courtenay is VP of Digital Services at Earthling Interactive. Erin loves watching programmers work their magic, opening up the possibilities of the internet to small and medium businesses with powerful websites and custom software. Calling herself a “digital empathy practitioner”, Erin is determined to help clients move thoughtfully and compassionately into their digital future.

 

Erin: Let’s start this show with a quick introduction to our hosts.

 

Kris Harrington is the President and COO for GenAlpha Technologies. During her time with OEMs in the mining industry, Kris and the other founders of GenAlpha saw a need to find a better way for B2B manufacturers to do business.  This led to the development of Equip, an eCommerce, eCatalog, and Analytics solution for manufacturers and distributors who want to grow their business online.  

 

Lori Highby is a podcast host, speaker, educator, and founder of Keystone Click, a strategic digital marketing agency.  Using her vast multi-industry knowledge - gained from experience and education, She has the ability to see the potential of greatness within the already established good of a business. Through strategic actionable moves, she has worked with Fortune 500 companies such as ABB and Syngenta to micro-business owners, to achieve their marketing goals.  Lori carries her energy and drives into her professional engagements to empower and educate other fellow life-long learners.

 

I’m super excited about today’s topic because social selling is really what brought the three of us together. Kris and I have been guests on Sam Gupta’s awesome eCommerce LinkedIn Live panel. That’s how we got to know each other and now we’ve become good friends. Lori, this podcast has been a favorite for a long time and I’ve really gotten to know you through your wonderful content. Together we’ve all utilized content and digital platforms to build relationships. We are able to move our prospects through the funnel in a way that is warm, genuine, and provides value - even though it all takes place online. That’s the beauty of social selling.

 

But social selling isn’t just about content and friendships, all social networks exist to provide content and relationships - the key part here is business development. Successful sales have always been inherently social, because as our friend Greg Mischio reminds us (frequently!) your prospects must know you, like you, and trust you to move forward with the sale. 

 

The pandemic era obviously drove a lot of selling online, both in B2B and B2C. As a result, so many more sales professionals are using the tools of social sales like LinkedIn, podcasting, video-sharing, and CRM-related applications. So there’s the social side, which I think all sales professionals are naturally gifted at, but the technical side can be a bit of a head-scratcher - so that’s what I’d like us to focus on a bit today. Sound good Ladies?

 

Lori: We’re ready! 

 

Erin: How do you guys use LinkedIn as a social selling tool? I mean, beyond the obvious - what are some of your special tips and tricks. Next, tell us about one other tool you use and why you think it is great.

 

Lori: Probably because I spend hours on it on a daily basis, actually, and people are surprised when they hear me say that. The first thing you want to look at on your LinkedIn is optimizing your profile. I know you both understand that word optimizing, but not everyone that is listening really understands what that means. It's just making sure that when someone is searching for something that you're the one that shows up as a resource. We've heard of optimizing your website for Google, it's the same philosophy and concept with LinkedIn so that when someone looks at your profile, they realize what your true expertise is. Oftentimes, people think a LinkedIn profile should be structured like your resume and that's actually wrong. It's a beautiful place to tell your story and showcase what you want to be known for, and help put some perspective in other people's eyes on your expertise, but also to be found for your expertise as well. So start with your profile first and then you have to look at creating connections. When I'm looking at the connections, I'm genuinely looking to create relationships, but also to be a resource. I've gotten to the level where I have a follow button, and not just a connect button, which is a fun space to be. But it's all about adding value, and not selling. I know we've talked about this before that social media is about being social, the selling is something that happens after the fact because you've created that relationship, you've established trust, and people are comfortable because you've provided so much information of value that then they're interested in having that conversation of potentially creating a business relationship. One of my favorite tips is when someone reaches out and connects with me that I do not know, I have a two-part question that I respond back with them. My first question is, what is it about my profile that intrigued you to want to connect with me? And the second question is, how can I best be a resource to you on LinkedIn? That then starts a conversation and it also easily identifies those who are going direct for the sales pitch that I'm not interested in actually fostering a relationship with. But it's really fascinating because sometimes people connect without saying a reason why, but they're actually interested in doing business with you. You'd be surprised how many people when I asked that question are like, "Oh, we're actually looking for a marketing company right now and I was interested in talking more." So they sent me a connection request, but then open with the ask, but I had initiated the conversation to do that. So I think it's a really powerful way to start that conversation when someone is reaching out to you.

 

Kris: What I do on LinkedIn is, I'm really using it to deepen a relationship with the connections that I may have just made. So if we just did a demo with a new company and there were new participants in the demonstration that I haven't met before, I might connect with them on LinkedIn to deepen that relationship. At the trade show, I was just recently at, there were a lot of people that I'm connecting with, that I already formed personal connections with and now I want to deepen that relationship. I'm not necessarily lead looking to sell, I'm looking to have that connection because my whole goal on LinkedIn is to share content that is of value. I would say that my biggest trick is just to be authentic. Sometimes it's challenging when you're in a place where there are professionals so you want to have that professional face, but in reality, you want people to get to know you and who you are. It's the challenge of being authentic to who you are, who your company is, and how you want people to understand how you can be helpful and useful. So that's really what I'm using LinkedIn for. Now, when it comes to some other social platforms, we have tried Twitter, and we've tried Facebook, but we find that those are really more personal, at least in the space that we're in. We're sharing information, but we're just not connecting with people as much on those platforms today as others.

 

Erin: One of my biggest challenges in social selling is tracking and accountability metrics. Digital behaviors are inherently trackable but I still find myself struggling to put together a useful dashboard of behaviors and outcomes. What are one or two of your most useful tracking methods?

 

Kris: Overall, any metrics related to marketing, I think are a little difficult for our organization to understand when they're working because we have a long sales cycle. But I will tell you the two metrics that I've found that will lead to conversions is we're really tracking our followers and we're watching the growth of our followers. That's really important because I hope that it means that people connected with something that we're doing enough to say, "I'm going to follow what they're doing and keep an eye on them." That gives us an opportunity when we're sharing great content that we're going to potentially come up in their feed and then they're going to look at us a bit further or at least read what we might be sharing or listen to the videos that we might be publishing. The other metric that we look at a lot is website sessions. So when people go from social media to our website, which is where we would hope that they would go if they're interested in learning more about Gen Alpha, or engaging with more content, because we have a lot more content on our website than we do on social media. So if we can get people to follow us and they start to see us repeatedly in their space, understanding their industry, what they do, if we're being useful, and then they move to the website and they continue to resonate with the materials that we're giving them, there's that potential that hopefully, they'll engage with us in some other way. Those are two that we've been really following. We have a lot of metrics and probably similar to both of you, we don't always know which ones are the best. But those two for us are indicators.

 

Lori: I could probably resonate with Kris on what we're doing for ourselves is still a little bit of a mystery. Moreso, because I'm not the one looking at it, I've got a team behind me. But I can tell you what I talk about from an educational standpoint when we talk to our clients and when I'm out there speaking about measuring your ROI. What's very important, I think this is one of the biggest things that people don't get clear on is what is the goal that they're trying to achieve? There's so much data out there on the internet that you can get analysis paralysis because you're just kind of staring at it and you don't know if this is valuable or not valuable. So when I was teaching at the university, there were the three A's that I would look at. One is attainable which asks if the data that you're trying to capture is easy to get? Is it easy to analyze and then can you take action on it, why are you going to look at data that you can't even take action on? Is it going to tell you a story that's going to say, we're on the right track or the wrong track? Going back to what is it that you're trying to achieve and then figure out what is the tactics that we're putting in place to achieve this goal, and then align your measurements with those specific tactics. That's going to help you get clear on is this data actionable? Those are easy for the hard numbers, which are cost, profit revenue, the size of your pipeline. The hard analytics are actually what we refer to as the soft numbers. Those show that people know you, like you, and trust you, that you've increased engagement, that you have customer loyalty, that you're building relationships and rapport. That's what we're all trying to do in the digital space, but it's really hard to measure. There is no easy way to do that, but a couple of things that we look at from a brand awareness standpoint are if you have an increase in your website traffic, that means new visitors. Customer loyalty, then you're looking at repeat visitors or does your email subscriber list grow because people want to hear from you? Lead generation is an easy one, do you have more conversions on your forms or not? So it's just really taking a look at what is it that you're trying to achieve and what data points are going to be helpful and telling you if you're on the right track or the wrong track? 

 

Erin: Many of our listeners are probably in B2B sales, most likely in manufacturing and industry. We’ll be talking about digital transformation in an upcoming episode, but I’d like to touch on the topic of transitioning from a heavily trade-show, site visit-oriented sales strategy to incorporating more digital social selling techniques. Do you have any stories from the field of where this has gone well and where it has maybe not yet quite penetrated?

 

Kris: So I shared with you that I do think trade shows still have a lot of value for having that personal touch. But of course, we haven't had trade shows for the last 18 months and they're just kind of coming back. But I think it's taught us that there are other ways to connect with people as well. So I do think all of the social opportunities are really important. What we found can be helpful is sending a message through LinkedIn, because often, and I do think this is true, I mean, it's been 10 years since I worked as a manufacturer. But when I was a manufacturer, I was very busy with my job and I was not hanging out on LinkedIn like I am today as a vendor or service provider to a manufacturer. To even get their attention, I like the trigger of the message because if they have their notifications turned on that message typically will send them an email or some notification, and then there's a stronger likelihood that they're going to read it. So then they've been brought there and now we can at least have a conversation or deepen that relationship like I talked about earlier. The second thing that we've been doing is inviting people to follow us and that's how we've grown our followers. That simple invitation just to ask if they want to learn more industry-related content to follow up on LinkedIn is going to help. From doing that, each month, our followers are increasing. So the simple ask, which is something we just started doing, I would say five months ago, we've been building the followers every month thereafter. Now I will say that the actual conversation from social is slower to achieve. Even if they've accepted the connection request, and they followed us, it does not mean that they're ready for a conversation. So anybody out there, don't expect that that's going to happen quickly. Most people aren't ready yet to have that conversation, they still want to learn about you and your company, and that's where hopefully you get to really shine. They establish that connection with you over time and when they're ready, they will reach out to you. So the actual physical conversation takes a bit more time.

 

Lori: I love what Kris said about first creating the ask because so many people forget to do that snd that's the most important part. Everyone is running around crazy and has shiny objects in every direction so the simple ask to follow us is actually extremely beneficial, because they may have wanted to do that, but just forgot. So sometimes as the asker, just tell, go follow us. It's extremely powerful, but yet so simple and so many people are missing that opportunity. But what you're talking about, Kris is really what's changed in the whole selling process, actually, and the experience of, I'm going to meet you for the first time at a trade show, and you came to my booth because there was something that intrigued you and then we're going to start a conversation because you're really interested in that. But now what's happening, and I like to relate it to the old school newspaper about how every single newspaper had car ads in it every single week. The reason is that the car salespeople want to make sure that when you are ready to buy, their brand is in front of you. It’s the same thing with what's happening in the b2b, social selling space. It's not that I'm going to be a hard sales pitch, I'm going to constantly be knocking on your door, rather, I'm going to continue to be top of mind, and continue to provide valuable information and showcase my expertise so that when the time is ready, that you want to buy, or at least start that conversation, I've already proven myself so we're further along in the sales process than if we just had that conversation at that tradeshow booth because we've already done all of the information of proving expertise, and providing value. I've experienced this, and I've seen some of our clients experienced this and it's just fascinating to see. I'm going in thinking it's a discovery call, and I'm doing all my homework and they're like, "We're ready, tell us where to sign," and my mind just gets blown. It goes back to what Kris said about making sure that you have the right people following you and telling the people that you want to be learning from you following you so that you are establishing that trust so that when they are ready to buy, there's no doubt in their mind who they're reaching out to.

 

Erin: You can’t talk about social selling without also talking about content. Lori, this is your wheelhouse, and Kris, you’ve demonstrated a mastery of content production. Why do you think content is so important to social selling and how can our listeners up their content game?

 

Kris: We had decided that content would be an opportunity to share our thought leadership in the space. I do think that I think very simply, and I try to write very simply as well, I'm not trying to sound smart, just share my experience, and hopefully, that becomes the most useful. But the way we've been able to publish so much content is that we decided that we wanted to increase our brand awareness and lead generation, and we were going to do that through content. So what we did is we set goals on the amount of content that we would create each month, the number of posts that we would put on LinkedIn, the number of articles we would write, the number of blogs, the number of articles we would submit to publications and hope that they share for us as well, and video creation. So even if it's snippets of me participating with somebody else, we have accounts, and we're going to achieve that. What's happened is it's forced us to research, to explore different topics, to share our experiences, and for me, it's forced me to say yes to a lot of things that historically I probably would not have done because it would be outside my comfort zone. We really thought that this was important because if we were going to increase our brand awareness, people had to know how our employees thought about how we could help other manufacturers. I learned from my team, from our customer experiences, and then, of course, I have my own life experiences. So combining all of that together goes into that creation process and that's really how we've been able to do it. I have to tell you, we started it in 2020. We've been in business for 10 years and for eight of those years, we really did no marketing, it was word of mouth. Of course, we had a website, but we weren't trying to drive people to it, but in 2020, we sat down, we wrote our goals, and we have been achieving them consistently since. Thankfully, we had done that because the pandemic would have forced us to go there anyway. But then we already had a plan, we were already in the middle of it and we just kept going.

 

Lori: For me, it's all about building a plan and I really liked that Kris and her team fleshed out the plan and defined some clear goals because at the end of the day, if you're just making assumptions, and just randomly throwing stuff out there, the location, the message, you don't know if it's actually going to be doing its job and serving its purpose. When it comes to what content and where to post it, you have to go deep into your customer and figure out what is that pain. This is something you both kind of addressed already in figuring out, not necessarily the pain that you're assuming that you have the solution that they're coming to you, it's understanding the pain and how they're thinking about it and using the same messaging across that space. Then, more importantly, fix the message, get it right, and then understand where to position it. So you can just put some stuff all over the place. A lot of people just jump in and assume that these are the platforms because they're the most popular platforms that they should be on there. But the reality is, you have to really understand your customer and figure out where are they hanging out online and then you decide do I want to go wide or do I want to go deep? Do I want to go deep in that platform and really own that platform and be the thought leader on that platform or do I want my message spread across a number of different platforms? We all know that time is money and you only have so many resources at the end of the day so I'm a fan of picking and starting with one platform and going deep on that and really building a strong following in that space. You guys talk about that you're on clubhouse and some other platforms right now and I love clubhouse and I was fascinated with it, but I realized I don't have the time to invest in that. I'm spreading myself way too thin, and I just can't do it. I'll jump on as guests on people's shows every once in a while but I know that there is value there and it's very powerful, but we've already invested in other channels and I think that's the mistake that a lot of people make is they're spreading themselves way too thin. Then there are lots of strategies around repurposing content. People are fearful that they're always having to think of something new to create, but at the end of the day, they didn't realize, well, you've been doing this for 10 years, you probably have emails that have content that you've written to just responding to someone's question and there's a blog post or a social media post in that email. You've already got it written, there's no reason to have to wreck your head and ask, what do I write about today? The answers are in front of you. It's simply the questions that people have asked you and if one person asked you it, there are likely 100 other people asking that same question looking for it online somewhere.

 

Erin: My favorite podcaster always asks his guests for three book recommendations at the end of every interview. I find the answers fascinating and helpful. So I’ll bring the same question to you: What are three books you think our listeners should know about?

 

Lori: Oh, this is such a fun question. I used to teach at the local university and on the last day there's a series of books that I would put out and I said, "No matter what, keep teaching yourself, keep learning, keep reading, and here are some books I highly recommend." So the top three: The One Thing by Gary Keller. I've actually re-read that one about three or four times now and it's all about, identifying your goal, and then asking yourself, what is the one thing that I can do today to help me achieve that goal? The next one is Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. He interviewed a ton of extremely successful individuals to identify their trends and what their morning routines were like and found six things that were consistent. Not necessarily all six per person, but he put those six and built a morning routine. There's an acronym for it which is SAVERS. So it's silence, which is meditation, affirmations, visualization, exercise, reading, and scribing, which is journaling. I implemented his philosophy and it changed so many different things, and my mental state and productivity. I don't do all six anymore, but I found what works for me. The last one is a business book geared towards either leadership teams or business owners called Traction by Gino Wickman. It's really about the philosophy of running what's called the entrepreneurial operating system. It serves as a way to really be strategic in your business and have some structure around it.

 

Kris: I have to tell you that I'm a learner by nature. So every test that I take, I just love to learn, and for 25 years of my career, I would say to people that you could find me in the Self Help section of the bookstore because that's where I always found the best books and then, of course, the business section. But I have to tell you, and since this is Manufacturing Mavens, I thought I would just touch on a few books because I've really been into the lives of women lately and I've either read or listened to a lot of memoirs. The first is Untamed by Glennon Doyle which is a must-read or must listen to book. Just As I Am by Cicely Tyson is another one. She just recently passed away at 96 years old and she is a phenomenal African American woman who really took care of her career in the movies that she participated and I didn't know her life, I didn't know her life story. It's encouraged me to study African American History in a different way than I ever wanted to participate in the past. So I really enjoyed listening to her book and I've gone back to listen or read it multiple times just because she just has beautiful stories that make you want to be a better human or take a real position on things as well. Right now, I am listening to All In by Billie Jean King and she is reading it herself. Obviously not a trained reader of books, but it's her life and her life story. I wasn't old enough to watch her play tennis and she was kind of winding down her career when I was born, but she's been a female activist for many years. I'm a sports person by nature and I love everything about participating and competing and in team sports, particularly, but I'm listening to her story and all the things that they overcame, and how they signed a contract for $1, it's pretty remarkable. So I won't give too many things away, but those are some really good ones that I've read recently or listened to that have changed me in some way!

 

Thank you for listening to part one of our 3-part series. In the next episode, the Manufacturing Mavens will dive into the digital transformation currently occurring in the manufacturing space. Reach out to Lori if you’re interested more about strategic digital marketing, reach out to Kris if you want to learn more about manufacturing eCommerce solutions, and reach out to Erin if you’re interested in learning more about manufacturing consulting services.

 

Head to keystoneclick.com/mavens to learn more about your hosts and their exclusive offerings available for Mavens listeners! 

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