We got a chance to chat with Ashlei Urwiller from Norland International this week on the show. Which led to a few first on The Kula Ring! Ashlei and Norland are doing some interesting work in their marketing efforts that include broadening what their customers can do. We also talked about how Norland puts their own products to work for themselves, leading to a fantastic understanding of what their customers need in the field. This is a good one folks!
Brewing up Change: Teaching Your Customer Base How to Diversify Transcript:
Announcer: You’re listening to The Kula Ring, a podcast made for manufacturing marketers. Here are Carman Pirie and Jeff White.
Jeff White: Welcome to The Kula Ring, a podcast for manufacturing marketers brought to you by Kula Partners. My name is Jeff White and joining me today is Carman Pirie. Carman, how you doing, sir?
Carman Pirie: I’m doing well. Doing well. Look, I was gonna try not to talk about weather, but I can’t help but complain about the cold summer that’s underway here.
Jeff White: Unfolding?
Carman Pirie: In Atlantic Canada. But other than that, look, I’m good.
Jeff White: Well, I mean last time we recorded I think the place was on fire, so a little bit of rain isn’t bad.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. Now it’s like a month of rain or something.
Jeff White: Locusts are next. Yeah. It’s definitely changed a lot but it’s a very Canadian thing to discuss the weather.
Carman Pirie: I know. I know. I need to move somewhere else and just break the habit.
Jeff White: Well, think that’ll change the complaining about the weather part? Or just the location of the complaining about the weather?
Carman Pirie: Well, I think if I move someplace that had weather that was less “complainy” in general, then I may complain less. Yeah. But look, we’re not here to complain about the weather.
Jeff White: We’re not here to complain about anything, really.
Carman Pirie: No. I’m really excited to get today’s conversation underway. You know, a topic that I think a lot of marketers, particularly marketers in kind of midsized manufacturers… I wouldn’t say struggle with, but they encounter, and for a lot of these manufacturers marketing and sales is pretty easy for 20 or 30 years, and then all of a sudden some more rigor needs to be applied. There needs to be a foundation built. And that can be an interesting journey, so I’m excited to unpack it today.
Jeff White: Yeah. I think so. And it often… You start to see additional sophistication in a category amongst your competitors, new technologies becoming available, people doing things a bit differently, and yeah, like you’re saying, it doesn’t necessarily work as well as it once did. Or maybe you want to grow.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. Well, let’s get into it.
Jeff White: Absolutely. So, joining us today is Ashlei Urwiller. Ashlei is the Marketing Manager at Norland. Welcome to The Kula Ring, Ashlei.
Ashlei Urwiller: Thank you for having me. I’m thrilled to be speaking with you both today.
Carman Pirie: Ashlei, it’s… Everybody says that at the start of the show. It’s really whether you’re thrilled at the end that I’m curious about.
Ashlei Urwiller: I’m sure I’ll have the same attitude.
Carman Pirie: Well, look. Introduce us to yourself. Our listeners want to know more about you and how you found yourself at Norland.
Ashlei Urwiller: Sure. So, I’ve been pretty much in marketing my entire life. When I was in high school, I took an HTML coding class, so I’ve been building websites ever since I was in high school, and that just kind of evolved into when I decided what I wanted to do with my life. I just noticed I was always noticing what companies were doing and what… I was always just very curious about how they were attracting customers, and I just kind of developed a passion for marketing, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to work in a lot of different industries, and with a lot of different products, and in B2B, and B2C, and I’ve just had a good history of learning how to do everything I guess that the world of marketing incorporates.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. It’s easy, I think, when you’re first getting into marketing especially, to that jack of all trades, master of none type of scenario. Although I’m always reminded of the last part of that, which is jack of all trades, master of none is oftentimes better than a master of one. So, people don’t always take appreciation for the second half of that, but that is I think the nature of marketing, and tell our listeners what Norland does, if you would.
Ashlei Urwiller: Sure. So, Norland International is a water equipment manufacturer, so we design and assemble everything from water treatment equipment, to blow molders, to water filling lines for either small, 16-ounce bottles, all the way up to three to five gallon bottles. We also have a couple of subsidiaries. ABE Equipment is one that’s been around since 2013. I guess I should jump back. Norland, we’re actually ending our 30th year of business here at the end of June, so yeah, so we’ve been around for 30 years. But back to ABE Equipment, they basically specialize in anything for the craft beverage maker. So, from brew houses, to distillery equipment, to canning lines, and really everything in between, we try and say that we’re a one-stop shop that if you need an entire water bottle plant, or an entire brewery or anything, we really have all the equipment you need from A to Z.
So, on top of that we also have a local water delivery company as one of our companies that delivers water to Lincoln and the surrounding area, so…
Carman Pirie: Yes. Proudly located in Lincoln, Nebraska, for our listeners, I believe. Yes.
Ashlei Urwiller: We are. So, speaking about weather, this is one place you do not want to move.
Jeff White: We’ve heard that. We’ve heard that. But there’s solidarity, for sure. I think that’s really interesting, though, that you have this water delivery company that uses the products that, parent company manufactures. There aren’t a lot of manufacturers who get to experience kind of the end consumer part of the use of their products and that interaction. I don’t want to spend a whole lot of time here because it is a small part of it, but is that something that you find that you learn unique things from that can be applied to the business more broadly?
Ashlei Urwiller: Oh, definitely. I mean, it’s been great. Obviously, the water side, having that insight into… Because we’re essentially our own customer, you know? I mean, we understand, again, what all you need to be a successful water bottling plant, and I think the owners did a really good job at that from the inception of the company, was really understanding how difficult it is to get into this industry, and how are we gonna make that really easy for people? And then we’ve also gone as far as to create our own beverage products, so we’ve created a cold brew coffee, we’ve created a tea, we’ve dipped our toes into some different alcohols, and so yeah, so we’ve really, like you said, just gotten into trying to understand exactly what our customers, people that we’re building this equipment for, go through. So, it has helped us a lot, I think.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. I mean, the mind wanders imagining all the different ways that that would impact it, you know? That you could really instill a level of empathy for customers that is pretty rare. Because I don’t think it can… I’m trying to think of how you would replicate it otherwise, right?
Jeff White: We’ve had 200 people on this show, and I think this is the first time this has ever happened.
Ashlei Urwiller: That’s awesome.
Carman Pirie: Yeah.
Ashlei Urwiller: So, and that’s a big part of too, we have such just brilliant people that work here, and our customer service team travels and helps install the equipment, and go through the whole startup process, and we really try and… Our range is mostly mid to large, but we have started catering to the smaller entrepreneurs, and so it’s helpful when we are dealing with people that are kind of just getting into it, because just our staff is so experienced that we can really just point people in the right direction. This is what you’re gonna need. We can customize our equipment to fit their space and meet their production capacity, so there is just a lot of-
Carman Pirie: It’s just embedded understanding, really, of that end user, it sounds like.
Ashlei Urwiller: Definitely.
Jeff White: Is it used as a closing tool at all? Do you ever bring in prospects to show them kind of your machines in operation within your owned properties?
Ashlei Urwiller: Definitely. We invite tours, and so we constantly have people that are coming to tour our campus. We have a 140,000 square foot campus. It’s across four buildings. So, we have a very large campus. We always have equipment that we’re obviously making, testing, so people can really get the understanding of what we do here, so we definitely encourage people to come take tours and meet everybody and meet faces of who they’re gonna be working with. So…
Carman Pirie: That’s really cool. Look, I want to kind of understand the evolution of the marketing team of one four years ago, and you’re staring down the barrel of really looking to… I don’t know if it’s reinvent or invent from scratch in some way the go-to-market approach here. Talk to me. Take me through that path that you’ve taken in terms of setting the foundation and growing your team as a result.
Ashlei Urwiller: Sure. So, I’ve been with the company almost four years. When I came onto the company, it was just me. I’ve actually had that experience in a lot of other companies that I’ve worked for as I’ve been the main person that’s handled the websites, handled the social media, handled the newsletters, handled just all that, and so I came on and it was just… We’d gone so long without having really anyone that was in marketing, and so we had 20-year-old materials, everything was very outdated, we just really needed to step into the 21st century. And a lot of that was just because the company was just on the upward. I mean, ever since it began. And so, they didn’t really have to work hard at marketing, and I feel like we kind of hit this pivotal time, and then obviously COVID happened and all that, where it was just things were changing, you know? And we really needed just to grow those marketing efforts.
And so, with my expertise, and just things that I noticed, I was able to kind of just start obviously shaping what our priorities should be, and just kind of pointing out where we needed more of a workforce, obviously, to support all of these efforts that we were then needing to expand into. And so, we tried to hire… When I had came on, we actually were working with an agency, and we continued to work with them for about a year, and we just didn’t have the control that we needed, and it’s just you really need to be in the buildings, and in our business to really understand kind of everything, and so I just kind of had led that by saying we really need a web developer, graphic designer, social media person, blah, blah, blah.
Carman Pirie: So, you began to build out that team as you’ve basically reshaped the digital assets? I’m guessing launched a new website from the sounds of things if you brought a developer in house. What have been some of the major shifts in that? What have been some of the major changes in how you’re messaging the company as a result?
Ashlei Urwiller: Yeah. So, we’ve gone through, we’ve been going through quite a discovery phase in the last couple years, trying to understand obviously the best way to portray our products, and so we’ve done a couple different websites, and we just launched two revised ones, two brand new ones for Norland and ABE. And two years ago… Well, we also have gone through some rebranding. ABE Equipment was American Beer Equipment prior to 2020. 2020, we renamed it to ABE Beverage Equipment, and then here in 2022 we dropped the beverage and now it’s just ABE Equipment.
So, originally when we made our “new” websites in 2020, they were very industry focused. Basically, it was kind of a messy user experience, so we decided to… Obviously, it’s normal for companies to do a new website every two to three years, and so it’s kind of like as soon as we got done with one, we started looking at how we could make it better, and almost working on the next one. And so, we basically just kind of took a focus on what solutions our customers were looking for, and equipment is very specific by nature. People know what they’re looking for. They know what their electrical hookups are. They know what their limitations of their space are. They know what product they want to produce. And so, it was really like instead of being very industry specific, we decided to just focus on the core of our products and what category that fits into.
So, is it a filling line? Is it a canning line? Is it a brew house? And there’s also been in the last couple years a lot of crossover in industries for us. You know, breweries are starting to make their own liquors, brandies. You can use a mash from your beer to turn it into a brandy, and so we really started noticing that that wasn’t really working for us. We don’t want to say, “Here’s the only equipment you should be interested in if you’re a brewer.” We want to obviously open that door to, “Here’s the other equipment that you might want to look into.”
Carman Pirie: Yeah. That’s an interesting point. I mean, you see a lot of brewers moving into non-alcoholic is a huge category. Seltzers. Even I know of some brewers that brew soft drinks and things of that sort. So, they think of themselves, yeah, quite in an oddly multi-industry kind of worldview. That’s an interesting shift. I would say most often I’ve seen manufacturers move from product centricity to industry or solution centric selling. This is one of the few examples, I think, Jeff, where I’ve seen it in reverse. Would you agree with that?
Jeff White: Yeah. I do. And it is really interesting, and I wonder what were the triggers that you saw there, Ashlei? Were you seeing search terms on your site? Were you seeing traffic? Was it customers and prospects telling you that they were kind of looking for specific products and not necessarily beer focused categorical things?
Carman Pirie: Yeah. It’s an interesting question. Were there digital signals?
Ashlei Urwiller: There was. So, all of those things you mentioned. So, as far as analyzing our website traffic, when we would, and we had our AdWords obviously were very industry focused, and I just was noticing we had a lot of drop-offs. A lot of bounces on those pages that we built. The beginning of our website, you’d come to a picture, and then you’d come to pictures, and you’d have to pick which industry, and then that landing page would then kind of list all the equipment used in that industry, and then we’d have product pages, but it seemed like people wouldn’t go onto visit the product pages. They would just drop off at the industry pages.
And so, that to me was kind of a red flag, like why are they not wanting to learn more about the products themselves? Same way with our keywords that we use. People were not… You know, if you were looking for a canning line for soda, you’re already in, you already know that your product is soda, so you’re not typing in canning line for soda. You’re just typing in canning line, you know? And especially with SEO, that’s probably what I have my expertise the most in, is that you only have such a limited amount of copy that you can put on a page, and you really need to understand what your top keywords are. I mean, we did have that outsourced, and at one time we had like 3,000 keywords, and then at… I don’t know, this whole Google Beta thing had dumped, at one point we had 12,000 keywords, which was a nightmare.
Jeff White: No kidding. Wow.
Ashlei Urwiller: Yeah. And so, it’s just not possible to really have consistent and good traffic if you have that much that you’re… And that’s also, anyone that does SEO I feel like does it differently, so that’s just my expertise is less is more.
Jeff White: Well, I think too, especially, that’s a recipe for waste in PPC. You know, a lot of extra spend. I wonder too, and this may be entirely self-reference criteria, I don’t know. But I know a number of brewers. They’re all know-it-alls. Every single one of them, they know their product. They know what they need. They have a really good understanding of how to produce it. And I wonder if maybe that kind of… Especially within the craft beverage industry, I think they do certainly identify as experts even before they’re coming in, so I wonder if that kind of draws them to be interested in a product.
Carman Pirie: So, you mean they may be less likely to then ask about the application of that product in a specific industry in their query?
Jeff White: Yeah. Exactly.
Carman Pirie: Maybe. Yeah.
Jeff White: I wonder. I don’t know. Like I said, entirely kind of self-reference criteria from the handful of brewers that I know personally.
Ashlei Urwiller: Well, we’ve incorporated that into our website and our sales sheets. It’s just we’re much more specific. We tell people just bam, here’s all the specs that you need. But again, we’re also very customizable, and so we try and make that very evident on everything that we put out there, just so that if you need something to be steam versus electric, like for a brew house, obviously we offer both. So, we try and not limit things too much, but explain to people exactly what the specs are of every piece of equipment.
Carman Pirie: I’m curious. What have been some of your biggest surprises as you’ve been growing this marketing foundation and really shaping the way Norland goes to market?
Ashlei Urwiller: Yeah, so again, kind of when I’d started we didn’t have a lot of background information. We kind of knew who we thought our customer base was, and again, after kind of diving into our different analytics, so diving into our social media followers, I discovered on a certain channel we had more Spanish-speaking followers than English. And we are an international company. We have distributors all across the globe. We have a partner in the United Kingdom, one over in Australia and New Zealand, one in Canada, so basically discovering this, we kind of decided… It was just kind of a lightbulb. We need to be making our materials and everything, and our presence in those regions of the world maybe more prominent.
And so, since then, obviously we changed a lot of our sales collateral to be in different languages, so we changed a lot of marketing materials to be in Spanish. We also found out we had a large representation of people that spoke Vietnamese, and so we had translated some of our materials to Vietnamese, and had sent that to our distributors, and then we also had formed a… Basically, we created a relationship with another distributor that specializes in South America, and so-
Carman Pirie: Yeah. That’s a huge batch of change out of one insight, you know?
Ashlei Urwiller: Right. And you know, one of our sales gentlemen is Spanish speaking, and so we already knew that we had Spanish-speaking customers. We just didn’t realize social media wise how many we had. And you know, that also has allowed us to up our representation at more trade shows in Central America and South America. Our salespeople travel all over and they’re in a ton of trade shows every year, so that’s obviously one of our business tools.
Carman Pirie: Weird bit of curiosity here, Ashlei. I’m just wondering. Is there a good size chunk of that Spanish interest that’s also just coming from the United States? I appreciate some of it is going to impact what you do in South America and the distribution relationships and things of that nature elsewhere in the world, but I would think in this category there might be a growing area just out of North America. Or just out of the U.S.
Ashlei Urwiller: Yeah. No, definitely. You obviously have to compare kind of bits of information from everywhere and then make a picture out of it, and so looking at actual website visitors, that’s a larger chunk of that. 60% of that is Americans. But the rest is really divided between… I mean, we have found exactly kind of Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, specific spots that those people are coming from. And obviously, state wise we know kind of where we get a lot of traffic, so we’ve done certain emails personalized to different regions based on what we have going on.
Carman Pirie: Right, right. I don’t want to hog up all the questions, Jeff.
Jeff White: Ashlei, I thought one of the things that we chatted about earlier was this idea that being… Even if you’re not organizing your content by industry, you do, of course, recognize that people are involved in these different product lines and different industries, and that’s a real opportunity for upsell to somebody who, as we were talking about earlier, is currently making craft beer but might want to move into vodka and things like that. But there are different industry sites and different content areas that you can be present so that they get a sense of what ABE and Norland have to offer. How are you tackling that upsell to let people know that you can help them with any sort of beverage category, no matter what it is?
Ashlei Urwiller: Sure. So, the biggest thing we probably do is in our digital ads with that. We have certain, obviously, advertisers, and publications that we continue to put our print ads and digital ads in. Those are obviously still based around brewing and distilling, but we’ve also dipped our toes into coffee and wine industries, and so we kind of use some of the… We obviously circulate them and have different campaigns that we do, but there are some that we do let’s say on the beer websites that have a still, and then we say, “Turn your mash into money.” You know, that was a recent one, so we kind of just visualize that, and just to kind of maybe plant a little nugget or resonate with what we already know customers are looking into, thinking about, and getting into.
So, we also on all those websites, we have just kind of generic ones, where it just has whatever equipment, like maybe coffee, for example. The coffee industry. We’ll put canning lines on that, and then the thought is kind of once you have what you need, and then you might obviously come back for as your production grows more equipment, or different equipment, or then you might add on a labeler, or whatever. So, we try and I think more so is visually try and portray that to upsell.
Carman Pirie: I think it’s kind of a fascinating thing to imagine that the upsell being encouraged by the company that makes the equipment that packages the product, or that… Right? You know, in some way you would think the idea of turning your mash into money might be one that originates a little bit before you think about how you’re going to package it or bring it to market. But there’s a… I’m also thinking that it’s a cool bit of familiarity in some ways if you’re a brewer and you’re gonna get into making seltzers, or sodas, or whatever. Fact of the matter is you may need to make them a bit differently, but how you package them is probably largely the same.
Ashlei Urwiller: It is. Yep.
Carman Pirie: And there’d be a lot of comfort in that, to know that we already have that part sorted.
Ashlei Urwiller: Exactly. And that’s kind of something, again, that we’ve been seeing with the whole… I mean, a big portion of that is breweries that are getting into distilling. And so, we just… We understand that. And so, we just know that if they have that equipment, it’s just so much easier for them to get into different product lines, and therefore make more money, so we just really try and capitalize on that knowledge that we have of that.
Carman Pirie: The last question I would have on that, how far down the path of kind of providing advice or guidance on the business rationale behind that? How far do you get there on the marketing side? Do you actually… Like encouraging brewers, “Look, you can add 30% more profit if you also make sodas.” Are we getting to that level? Or is that a bridge too far?
Ashlei Urwiller: No. Are you trying to figure out kind of how we-
Carman Pirie: I’m thinking like almost the business modeling of that product expansion is something that you guys would know fairly well since you actually work as an end user of your own product in some instances, right?
Ashlei Urwiller: Right. So, we’ve even… We’re trying to create obviously more content around that. There’s still, I think, a lot of uncertainty in brewers. They still don’t understand the steps that you need to take to become because there are different regulations on the legal side of things and on the production side of things, so we even went onto create a small video series with one of our salespeople that specifically talked about here’s the things that you need to do. Here’s the TTB regulations you need to follow. Here’s the website. This is how you start. If your production is gonna be this, you need this. And again, trying to really bring in that expertise, whereas if you really don’t know we’re trying to help you, and if you’re really interested in it, we will get you there just by speaking with our sales and our techs and stuff. We can just really get you… We know how to do it, so just come with us and we’ll get you there.
So, we’ve tried to, like I said, start making content that really kind of dives into that more so that it’s becoming more of a understood thing how they can… You know.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. That’s very instructive. Yeah. Very cool. Look, Ashlei, thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. It’s been awesome having you on the show.
Ashlei Urwiller: It’s been great being part of the show. Thank you.
Jeff White: Thanks so much.
Ashlei Urwiller: All right. Y’all take care.
Announcer: Thanks for listening to The Kula Ring, with Carman Pirie and Jeff White. Don’t miss a single manufacturing marketing insight. Subscribe now at kulapartners.com/thekularing. That’s K-U-L-Apartners.com/thekularing.
Ashlei UrwillerMarketing Manager at Norland International
Ashlei (Howell) Urwiller is the Marketing Manager of Norland International and its
subsidiaries ABE Equipment & Norland Pure. Norland International is an
equipment manufacturer located in Lincoln, NE, backed by 30 years of rich
history. Ashlei is a multi-faceted marketing professional with 20 years of extensive
experience in marketing strategy, multi-channel marketing, digital media,
analytics, web interface design, and market research, with an emphasis on
rebranding. From her humble beginnings working on the production floor in a
manufacturing plant in high school to solely managing the marketing operations
for Universal Manufacturing Co. and Masport Inc. corporate headquarters, Ashlei
has a history of impressive experience in manufacturing and several other
industries. She owns Goldilocks Marketing Solutions and has worked as a
freelance Marketing Consultant for over eight years. Ashlei received a Bachelor of
Science in Marketing Management and an MBA with a Marketing Concentration
from Bellevue University. Proud newlywed & cat mom to 3 fur babies; in her
spare time, she enjoys camping, 4-wheeling, and restoring her 160-year-old
farmhouse with her husband.