Jake Jevric joins The Kula Ring this week to discuss how deep relationships and technical know-how are incredibly important in industries where customers have options when it comes to picking suppliers. We get into what it takes to be a leader in technical sales and marketing. We also get into how both a top-down and bottom-up approach can be employed to ensure a unified customer experience.
Building Trust in Technically-Driven Marketing 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. Joining me today is Carman Pirie. Carman, how are you doing, sir?
Carman Pirie: I’m doing all right. I’m dangerously close to ordering takeout.
Jeff White: Yeah, we are racked and stacked for recordings today.
Carman Pirie: I don’t know how it’s going to work. Eating while recording. I apologize in advance. Hopefully, it doesn’t come through.
Jeff White: It probably won’t. Yeah, it’s it’s a rainy day in Halifax. There’s, there’s no way that’s arriving before we finish recording. Yeah, Yeah, but this is probably the last episode we’re going to record in 2023, I think.
Carman Pirie: Yes. So let’s not mess it up.
Jeff White: But I do think what we’re chatting about today is an interesting topic that probably doesn’t come into play for all manufacturers to the degree it does for this manufacturer. But when it does come into play, it’s essential.
Carman Pirie: Yeah, Yeah. And you know, we don’t want to speak in code too much. So I guess, folks, what we’re talking about is like this notion of, you know, when when you work in a space where your customers have a huge, huge kind of cost of switching providers. Now, here at Kula Partners, we see that a lot in the flexible packaging space. We work and we have a number of clients that work in flexible packaging, as many of you know, and you know, when you know a big frozen food manufacturer as an example, decides they’re going to switch over to packaging for a product line, they’ve got to make make sure, you know, they’ve got to be damn sure that that’s going to work. The brand needs to present beautifully on the new film. You know, there’s lots of considerations from printing to does it work on the equipment, on and on and on. So it can be a very, very long process. It’s fraught with potential hiccups and dangers along the way. And therefore, you know, it can be a tough sell to try to convince somebody to switch suppliers. And there are other categories like that. And that’s what today’s guest is going to help illuminate.
Jeff White: Yeah, absolutely. So joining us today is Jake Jevric. Jake is the Senior Vice President at LBB Specialties. Welcome to The Kula Ring, Jake.
Jake Jevric: Thank you, gentlemen. Nice to be with you. And I just had a, I’m here in Brampton, Ontario. And there’s a large Portuguese population here so I had a nice Portuguese tart, egg tart. So I’m not I’m not hungry. I’m satiated for now so I won’t be chewing while you guys talk.
Carman Pirie: That was, that was entirely unfair. To bring that up.
Jeff White: That does sound delicious.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. Yeah, that’s not helping my situation at all. But I guess I’m somewhat happy for you, but I’m not that nice. Jake, I wonder if you could introduce our listeners to you and LBB a bit if you would.
Jake Jevric: Yeah. So, myself, my background is, despite being quite involved in marketing and sales, I’m actually a chemical engineer by education. I took an MBA to sort of round off my, engineering sort of focus, so sort of broaden myself out in the business world. But I’m an engineer, so it’s this whole concept of marketing and sales was foreign to me when I got into the distribution business and there’s there’s an entire industry that if your listeners don’t know of it, it’s fair because even as a chemical engineer, I was not aware of it. No one teaches it to you in school, but there’s an entire chemical distribution world out there that exists and there are chemical distributors no different than distributors of packaged goods or electronics. You know, you send the chemicals into a central warehouse and then you use that as a hub and spoke model to get it out to the customers because the suppliers, the manufactured, the chemicals just just can’t handle the volume of customer needs. They’re much more situated for larger transactions, singular transactions. So there’s an entire world out there of, you know, in the chemical space that many folks don’t see or even feel that is involved in everything from making the food that you eat, the processed food that you consume, the cosmetics, the cleaners, the paint that you buy at the store, all those industries are serviced by this chemical distribution side. And, and that’s where LBB and others play a role. And LBB has, the last S the specialties because we are a chemical specialty. So we don’t we don’t chase large commodity transactions. We are more interested in the smaller transactions where we are of value, not just to our customers, but also to our suppliers, where we help the suppliers service a very disaggregated market with a lot of different needs. You know, you could call on, let’s say, ten nail polish manufacturers out there and each nail polish manufacturer will want a different colour or a different sparkle look, a different resin, a different binder, etc., etc. And that’s where the chemical engineering chemistry background comes in. A lot of the folks in this industry are actually technically focused, technically based or background. A lot of people come out of labs, things like that, because the level of the industry is so disaggregated at this level that you need to be technical and you need to be able to walk in and basically act as a consultant at almost every account, because every account will have different needs. So that’s that’s basically the space that I’m in.
Jeff White: What drew you from chemical Engineering to want to be more on the marketing side of the business? Like was there something interesting there or did you just find that you had an aptitude for it?
Jake Jevric: There was a recruiter that I met when I was out of university and he said, Look, buddy, you speak well, you present well. You should probably try to get into sales. I thought he was crazy. I wanted to get, a process engineering job at that point. So this is back in 2000 and they just weren’t around. Really, If you were a chemical engineer back in 2000, you’d probably have to travel to the U.S. or the oil patch or some other areas. It was hard to get a job. It was and just I went into a technical service and sales role at a large company called PPG. And from there I just jumped into, I really didn’t want to get into it. It was almost it almost felt like I was betraying my chemical engineering side because you don’t really think about technical service on the sales side. But on the technical sales side, I mean, it’s all technical service. It’s, it’s I so I did not get in here willingly. I sort of fell into it and, then when I fell into it and saw the breadth and depth of manufacturing out there and how I could come in and assist, it just, it just became a love affair. And then the marketing side, that was really the psychology aspect of it. I really enjoy psychology and philosophy and the marketing aspect of it. At its core, really, marketing is psychology, especially if you’re going to do ethical marketing. You have to have that psychological background to understand, you know, where to draw the line, if you will. But I just tripped into it, quite frankly.
Carman Pirie: It’s nice to have you over on the dark side. Nevertheless.
Jake Jevric: Yeah, Yeah. You know, I mean, marketing I’ve said it before and I think we discussed it in the past. It’s, proper marketing is education. Improper marketing, let’s just call it marketing, right? So I, we really in this industry, all of us are LBB specialties and even our competitive distributors, we all try, I think at our best is, our attempt is to educate the market, align the market in terms of what is out there, what is possible with the new developments. There’s constant new developments. So there’s this constant push to reinterpret new chemistries that are coming out to the sort of the old paradigm of how are you going to fit this widget into your system, Even though it’s a chemical widget, it can give you great improvements into what you’re producing. But how do I explain it to you in a way that makes sense and doesn’t raise alarms, unnecessary alarms? You really want to have a partnership with your client where you are trying to elucidate to them the aspects of this chemistry where if there is a legitimate alarm, you want to raise it. You actually want them to say, No, no, no, I, you know, I can’t use that because it’s going to do this. And then you can have a technical conversation around that. So really in this industry on the marketing side, it’s one of the having seen other industries, this industry on the marketing side is really one of the best that I’ve seen because what I’ve seen is a consistent push to that alignment and education side that then when it’s done properly, builds deep trust and really allows you to come back in the door of the customer because really what we’re doing is we’re walking into, you know, hypothetically, you’re walking into somebody’s kitchen and trying to tell them how to how to make a better, you know, baked Alaska, let’s say. And there has to be trust there. And communication and openness for them to let you back in the kitchen, you know, a month from now when you have something else that’s new and exciting to discuss.
Carman Pirie: So first of all, it’s a fascinating industry. And it and what you’re saying resonates with me, this notion that it was sort of trust-based marketing that we, you know, there’s the stakes are pretty high here and you’ve got to earn your way in. I guess can we peel that back a bit? How are you doing that? And how are you finding the, you know, yes, building trust may be a number of year-long endeavours, but how does it start in your view?
Jake Jevric: Yeah, you know, and I’ll step back one more. Just one more thing to add to that to clarify the situation in this industry, a lot of the specialty distributors, chemical distributors. Will also have at least the best ones out there and will have a very transparent business partnership with their suppliers. So if I’m buying, let’s say hypothetically, salt and I’m going to distribute that salt to all the bakeries in Canada, I will have very close conversations with my supplier that says, look, you know, we’re selling to 300 bakeries across Canada. It’s it’s you know, here, here are all the bakeries. Here’s what they’re doing with it, too. You know, one is making bread, one is making cookies. You know, we’ll have that discussion so that that salt supplier understands what we’re doing, you know, without breaking customer confidentiality so that that customer that supplier can say, hey, I created a new salt, which is not good for bread, but it’s really good for baked goods. So then they know to bring that to us. They’re, you know, they’re not blind to the market. So we do give some transparency to those suppliers and at the same time, we’re trying to give as much transparency and technical service to the customer base as well. So that’s you’re sort of sandwiched between these these two entities and the value chain the way you build trust is one, you basically treat yourself almost like a consultant or a doctor. Whatever is said in in the customer’s office is really, they have to feel that it’s confidential or else you know, we’ll sign NDAs. But most of the time you’re just sitting down, you’re having a discussion. So that level of confidentiality, that level of sensitivity to what customers say, and that has to be disseminated throughout a company overall, we are very sensitive. I’m very sensitive to even if there’s a shortage in the market, let’s say, and we know that one customer has an excess stock of a certain raw material that other customers might need. We will not tell those other customers in need. Well, call up Customer X, We will act as the intermediary where we will call up Customer X, ask for the volume and then disseminate that to the others if they’re willing to give it up. So it’s it’s it’s a culture that you’re trying to build to drive that trust. You really cannot telegraph that through phrases or jingles or statements. It really has to be in the way you go to market, how you work, the things that you do and the things that you say you will do and how you execute against them. And in this industry, at least, the way I’ve always worked is that that’s really bottom, bottom-up and top-down, top down. The executive team has to echo those key aspects. Bottom up. We hire against those key aspects. So we hire individuals and promote them, that are trustworthy, technical, and understand the sensitivity of the market. It really is a holistic approach. There really isn’t. You’re not going to do a LinkedIn campaign to build trust. It’s going to be something where the way that you hire, the way that you promote, the way that you go to market, the way that you communicate, and the way that you correct mistakes when they inevitably do occur. All of that plays into this fostering of a community that builds that trust over time. So it’s really it’s inherent in all the people that work for us and all of the suppliers that we choose to work with.
Jeff White: I think in a lot of the situations where, you know, the kinds of products that LBB sells and the sorts of industries that you work with, you know, you’re not often, you know, especially at the scale that we’re talking about, you’re not often kind of selling into somebody entirely net new, although I’m sure that does occur. In a lot of these situations, you’re trying to get someone to switch suppliers of a particular particular chemical or something like that. How does that change the dynamic of how you go to market and how you educate and keep the client and their customer up to speed on it?
Jake Jevric: Yeah, Well, in terms of switching that, that is it the thousands of SKUs that that any chemical distributor has at least the larger ones that’ll have a pretty much a full basket of you know if for example if you’re a food distributor, you’ll have a full basket. If you’re sizable, where you have everything from the starch, the wheat right down to the, the salt, the yeast, you have all the products and maybe you want your bakery to switch to your leavening agents, your yeast. It’s hard for the bakery because maybe they’re used to that specific yeast that has a certain rate of, of, of, you know, rising and there is there can be flavour profile issues. There are all these things that customers really have to consider when they’re making a switch, even if it’s somewhat of a commodity apple to apple you know yeast to yeast, there are still differences. Generally speaking, what you’re trying to do in any marketplace is you’re trying to really get an understanding of who’s out there in terms of the customer base. And then you are reliant on that customer’s needs and the need, as they always say, behind the need, which is maybe there’s something different about your competitor, the way they package, the way they service, maybe there’s something that you can offer that is enough of a motivation to have them even evaluate a switch. But what really happens more often than not is that there is some kind of operational inefficiency your competitor can’t supply because they’re sold out. Your competitor has a hiccup, a host of issues that can occur that you as a competitive distributor and supplier would have to have enough insight to see those potentials occurring and then bolster your business so that when that issue does occur, you are ready to pounce and to offer that value-added service. And really it does come down to A) having the trust which allows you to have the relationship to understand first and foremost what the customer base is doing. That’s a challenge in and of itself. I, I challenge any, any sales manager to tell me that, you know, all of their salespeople have, you know, the top five projects for their customers laid out that they understand where their customers are going in the next two years, three years, four years, five years. I mean, that’s a challenge in and of itself. But it does come down to that sort of alignment aspect of being ready to make a change when the customer sees that need. Otherwise, it really does come down to the same aspect of driving value at some level, and that value can be price. But more often than not, the price is the competition that makes for an honest, honest fellow. So the competition out there, I mean, I’m one distributor carrying one product line. There’s ten other distributors, each of them carrying ten other product lines. And then there’s a smorgasbord of other agents out there. So there’s a lot of competition. The pricing is pretty much competitive no matter where you go. So a lot of the time what’s happening is it’s really service. It’s service. And if I’m buying yeast from you or salt from you, I mean, it’s it’s an additive. I don’t want to think I don’t want to spend any time as a bakery thinking that I could run out of salt and yeast. But it just, it’,s so I need to trust you. I need to know that you’re fully aligned. And all of that has an entire strategy that, that, that, that, that lies behind it in terms of how you as a distributor will make sure that you are in a good position where you have a critical existing mass of sales that you can pounce on any changes in the market And at the same time that you have those relationships and you’re constantly communicating with the customer base of what is happening in the market and what am I missing in terms of my value proposition and what are the competitors missing that I can maybe capitalize on? So it’s a very nebulous, very active. You have thousands of product lines. Each of them has dozens of competitors. So you have to have a system by which you can catalogue all of that and make sense of it in real-time and have a sales team that is highly trusted, not just trusted, but highly trusted, highly beloved by the customer base to then execute against that. You know, we always want to be the first phone call you make when you have a problem.
Carman Pirie: And one of the maybe challenges as a marketer, as you look at this kind of a situation is it can really seem like it all is just coming down to hand-to-hand combat right?
Jake Jevric: Yeah.
Carman Pirie: You know, almost as a marketer, it doesn’t really matter what you do. It’s just up to whether or not the salesperson is any good, then if they’re not well, well, you’re screwed. And if they’re good, well then you’re going to succeed, which maybe that’s just the honest reflection of it, but it doesn’t seem particularly empowering. I’m trying, if I’m trying to look for what is the where’s the scale here now, you know, how can we, how can marketers be part of that equation of a driving trust in advance of sales contact? Or alternatively, is the role really does it come down to what you provide sales to use that helps create more speed to trust, shall we say, is there a way that you can feed the sales organization, collateral materials, processes, etc. that help accelerate that speed to trust? Is that I guess, the way you think about it kind of impacting the sales side? And then I’m kind of curious if, on the pure marketing side, there’s anything that can be done.
Jake Jevric: That’s exactly the way we think of it. And in this situation, the marketing role really does get, it becomes disaggregated. Where to some extent everyone is involved in that marketing aspect, right from the CEO right down to the product managers that manage each product and the sales team. So to your point, is it sales-focused? It is. Some of the tools as a marketer that you can offer is if I was a pure marketer and I had no idea what this industry was about and I get parachuted in, but I’m really good at human psychology, is every good marketer who can jump from industry to industry should be then what you would put on as you would put on your psychology hat and you would say, okay, I have an industry that’s highly disaggregated. I have salespeople running around. Those salespeople need to understand, the products that they’re selling and how they’re selling them, which means that your suppliers now become this focus because it’s the suppliers that have the technical knowledge. The sales teams should be technically competent to digest that knowledge and then regurgitate it back properly to each customer in each customer’s language and depending on the industry. So as a marketer, what ends up happening is you stop. You know, B2C, you’re very out there in the open, you’re advertising to the customer base. Here, The first step is you’re going to have to start advertising and marketing to the internal organization to make sure that the channels of communication are open to make sure that those channels of communication are constantly being fostered. And, you know, it’s almost like a seed. You got to keep it watered and keep it healthy and make sure that it grows into a big oak. And then when it’s a big oak, you’re trimming the dead branches. So the marketing group, yes, they still do brochures and those brochures have to be evaluated so that they’re clear and concise. Otherwise, with hundreds of products, you can get very, very convoluted in your marketing brochures. But at the same time, the marketing team is looking at things and saying, How do I help the supplier bridge that gap with my sales team in a way that it doesn’t inconvenience the supplier? Because not only are we trying to help the customer and be of convenience and ease for the customer, but we’re also trying to be of ease and convenience for the supplier so that there’s that effortless bridge. So all of the aspects of either a learning module or a continuous education module, like I said, it goes back to that education front. I mean, a marketer in this industry almost becomes a pedagogue like a teacher. You become this master philosopher of, you know, how do I, how do I keep people engaged? How do I keep people aligned? And you’re working with all of the managers and the executives to ensure that that the best marketing tools that are available out there, which continue to pop up due to the brain analytics that they’re performing on us these days with MRIs, that that we are taking those really pedagogical lessons and applying them to, to our marketing efforts, which again, it just goes back to, to education. You can make sure that all the collateral has the right look, the right colour, and the right feel, so that you know, that, the brand is bringing trust. You make sure that the positioning again you’re selling hundreds to thousands of different products so you’re not positioning each product. You’re positioning the company itself in the market. The company itself needs its own positioning, and its own branding so that it stands out and that it stands for what you say it will stand for. It’s a very, it’s, to your point, nebulous and challenging role for any marketer to accomplish. And you have to leverage other business managers to do it. A lot of them are going to be people like me, chemical engineers that hopefully took up marketing and understand what you’re doing and maybe did not take up marketing and have no idea what you’re doing and sort of shake their head and think it’s all fluff, but it’s a very challenging role. And and the sales side, to your point, it is key is making sure and there’s a lot of coaching with sales management involved but making sure that that you’re working with the sales manager now on the sales side to ensure that you are applying best practices in terms of, again, the pedagogical approach and and how we are branding the company as well as the products to some extent and positioning them. And what tools do you need, you know, what makes it easy for you so that information is at your fingertips, not just from the ERP or the CRM, but also just in terms of is there anything I can give you that stands out? What are the competitors doing? It’s, to your point, I’d love to give one aspect of it, but unfortunately this industry, as a marketer, if you come in and you’re not aware of the industry, you’ll be pushed into the deep end and you’ll have to tread water and you’ll have to tread water in an industry that is a little conservative because we don’t want to be too outlandish. At least that’s what I’ve seen from the other competitors. There, there isn’t this desire to go viral. There is a desire to establish deep, meaningful relationships at every level.
Carman Pirie: But you mentioned the competitors, and that’s an interesting point because, of course, they’re all playing the same game. I’m curious, have you seen what kind of kind of competitive differences have you seen in the way people in this space are presenting their brand and their position? Or is it a sea of sameness or are you seeing some differences?
Jake Jevric: There are differences. I think that there’s a big divide, the two large differences are either I’m a very large distributor and I will leverage, my network and my size and scope. So if I’m a large distributor, I will tell you I, you know, I have X number of salespeople and there’s a transactional efficiency that I can employ to you Mr. Supplier. So they’re often they’re on the larger side, they are advertising to their suppliers that dealing with me has transactional efficiency and, and I’m large enough that you can trust that I’m turning over every stone that’s out there, whereas on the smaller mid-size regional side. So distributors might only be in a couple of states, for example, or maybe, you know, just covering eastern Canada, not all of Canada or just the east coast of the U.S., those distributors, at least in this industry, are trying to telegraph the more sort of hands-on personal touch that that, yes, we are smaller, but we are regionally smaller. So even though you might look at a larger distributor where you have that transactional efficiency, you’re going to have the same transactional efficiency with us. But we are smaller and we are sort of the local guys here that everybody likes and you know, and we never stop working. And you don’t have to worry about employee turnover or maybe being lost in the shuffle of other product lines that a larger distributor would have. So you do see that type of differentiation. And on the customer side, I think really what customers want to see and it’s more difficult perhaps on the customer side because customers really want to see technical salespeople, they really want to see inventory being held for them. They want to see a responsiveness to their problems and issues. When they do arise, either be it something that involves you or involves one of your competitors. But there is a divide between the large and the small. Now, some of the large guys or the mid-sized guys are trying to tread water in that midrange where they’re trying to telegraph look how big we are. But at the same time, we have that regional touch and then there’s hits and misses there in terms of their ability to to enact that sort of marketing campaign because you’ll have you’ll have suppliers, I mean, suppliers will talk to customers as well. They’ll, they’ll ask customers, would you like as a distributor, I’m thinking of making a change. And that change can be transformational to whoever they make a change to because they’ll take their book business with them and customers will tell them, Well, I like this guy, I don’t like that guy. He never has inventory. It’s it’s again, a very disaggregated industry. But there is that divide of, I’m big I’m transactional the efficient versus, I’m smaller I’m still going to be efficient, but you’re going to be a lot more important to me, Mr. Supplier if you come with me because I am smaller and I care more.
Carman Pirie: Jake, this has been a fascinating conversation. I think we could keep going here. I feel like there are as many questions as there are answers in this kind of nuanced space, but I really thank you for sharing your experience and expertise with us and it’s been lovely to have you on the show.
Jake Jevric: Well, I was happy to be a part of it. Thank you so much for the invite.
Jeff White: Great to chat with you Jake, Cheers.
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Jake JevricSenior Vice President at Lorama Group
Jake has a wealth of experience with over 22 years in the B2B specialty chemicals and ingredients industry as well as consulting in the B2C personal care markets.
For the last eight years, Jake served as the Corporate Vice President, Head of Global Marketing and Distribution at Lorama Group Inc., where he oversaw US-based subsidiaries, distributors, sales, and principal relationships. Before that, Jake spent over 13 years in the specialty chemical distribution industry gaining extensive knowledge in industrial and fine chemicals through various sales and principal management roles. Jake holds a Bachelor of Engineering in Chemical Engineering and an MBA from the University of Toronto – Rotman School of Management. Today Jake is the Senior Vice President of LBB Specialties distribution, a world class B2B chemical and ingredient supplier serving a diverse customer base across a multitude of manufacturing industries.
Jake’s technical expertise and commercial acumen served as his launching pad for his Marketing journey. Coupling foundational insights in organizational behavior, human psychology and change management Jake developed a deep understanding of marketing. Leveraging a pedagogical approach has allowed Jake to develop a trust based Marketing and Educational approach for optimal sales execution.