The Kula Ring podcast is essential listening for manufacturing marketers who want to grow their digital presence and compete online.
Sponsored by Kula Partners—an agency committed to helping leading B2B manufacturers craft digital experiences that transform how they engage buyers, serve customers, and outpace their competition—The Kula Ring podcast features conversations about marketing, sales, and technology with top manufacturing executives from across North America.
The Kula Ring podcast is co-hosted by Kula Partners principals, Carman Pirie and Jeff W. White, both of whom are frequently sought after for their digitally-focused B2B expertise. They regularly share their insights with audiences including conferences like B2B Online and HubSpot’s INBOUND, the Gardner Manufacturing Marketer blog, and other podcasts focused on B2B marketing and technology.
In this episode of The Kula Ring, Jeff and Carman talk with Nick Goellner, Marketing Director of Advanced Machine & Engineering and Partner and Managing Director of MakingChips podcast. Nick shares his experience selling modern marketing techniques to a third generation manufacturing business, how authenticity (or the lack thereof) contributes to the success of content marketing, and how manufacturers can benefit from offering unique kinds of content.
Content and Community for Manufacturing Marketers 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. My name is Jeff White, and joining me is Carman Pirie. How are you, Carman?
Carman Pirie: I am doing well. I’m doing well. It’s like we’re getting into the throes of fall now, and it feels like winter is knocking on the door.
Jeff White: I don’t even want to think about it.
Carman Pirie: I don’t know. That kind of sucks, but it’s still I don’t know why. I find winter when you’re in the pre-Christmas thing, you can kind of look forward to the holidays a little bit.
Jeff White: Sure. Then-
Carman Pirie: It feels like you’re going into the frozen hell that we have up here in Canada.
Jeff White: Slush for months. Yeah. No, that part is depressing, but the rest of fall is pretty nice.
Carman Pirie: Our guest isn’t depressing today.
Jeff White: No. And also not in the throes of winter-ish things I guess.
Carman Pirie: I don’t know about that. Is it Chicago area?
Nick Goellner: It gets pretty nasty in Chicago.
Carman Pirie: I don’t think we want to be sending people there for a beach vacation anytime soon. Let’s get gas and then we can maybe get into the tourism promotion afterward.
Jeff White: We’ve got Nick Goellner with us today from MakingChips Podcast and agency based out of the Chicago area, as you said. Really pleased to have you on the show today, Nick. Thanks for joining us.
Nick Goellner: Hey, thanks for having me guys.
Carman Pirie: Nick, I’m just going to say, this is one of the more unique kind of business situations that I have encountered in that you’ve got this, you’ve got a fairly unique professional life and structure here that you’ve set up. So, why don’t you tell us a little bit, tell our listeners about MakingChips for those who haven’t tuned in and even about kind of what brings you to this.
Nick Goellner: MakingChips is most known for being a podcast with a mission to equip and inspire manufacturing leaders. It was started by my two partners, Jason Zenger and Jim Carr. I just recently became a part of MakingChips through joint venture, but my background is third generation manufacturing company called Advanced Machine and Engineering. I was an artist growing up, so engineering and manufacturing wasn’t really my thing, but the company grew to a point where marketing became a big priority and being a creative myself, it was my niche right from the get go.
Basically, my experience as a marketing director for a manufacturing company brought me to the podcast world where I was listening to MakingChips quite often, just to learn more about the challenges going on in the industry and understanding my audience a little bit better. Jason and Jim asked me to be a guest on the podcast about, I think like three years ago. That’s where the relationship started.
Carman Pirie: Very cool. Very cool. Third generation manufacturing business turned podcast entrepreneur slash agency.
Jeff White: Media magnate.
Carman Pirie: Yes.
Nick Goellner: Yeah. It is a little bit confusing, but there’s actually quite a bit of strategy behind why we made this move here. Maybe can dive into that a little bit.
Carman Pirie: Why don’t we?
Jeff White: Yeah, please, tell us about it.
Nick Goellner: A lot of your guests are probably constantly hearing about how marketing is this unfortunate evil, this expense, this cost, and that’s pretty much what I grew up with. It’s like okay, well why do we need to be at this trade show? What do you mean the website is going to cost this much money to redesign? Why would we do that? We just need to sell machines, or just sell more of our product.
It’s always been frustrating for me that people saw marketing as an expense instead of an investment or an asset. My dream has always been to have a metalworking marketing agency. When I saw MakingChips as a very successful content marketing platform, I immediately was drawn to Jason and Jim, just to talk to them more about it, because they really didn’t build the business with any intentions of creating a big media company or marketing agency. Their mission was just to equip and inspire the metalworking leader and to create a community of metalworking leaders that could talk about the biggest challenges in the space and what their dreams are, where the industry’s headed, you know things that in the metalworking world don’t often get talked about because people kind of keep things pretty close to the chest.
They asked me to be on the podcast to talk a little bit about what we were doing in the family business which was something called quick response manufacturing. It’s all focused on lead time reduction. My older brother is a continuous improvement guy, so he was kind of the main guest and I was there to support him and we were going to talk about the family business.
After we recorded our episode, Jason was like “I think this could be an eight figure business someday.” I was like “Yeah, I know.” Content marketing is so underrated. Right now you’ve got this audience and it’s really starting to grow. Where could we take this thing? Fast forward two years. We were generating a lot of sponsorship revenue. We were thinking okay, what do we need to do now, because you can only scale sponsorship so much before you’ve just inundated your audience with advertisements and you’ve kind of watered down the original mission which was to equip and inspire.
Some of the episodes that were the most impactful to our audience from the feedback we were getting, were the episodes on sales and marketing and digital marketing and inbound marketing and all the things that have changed in terms of how people buy and sell products.
My goal was always to have a marketing agency, but I was stuck as a marketing department with a five person team. Their goal was to scale this business beyond just the podcast, but they didn’t necessarily know how to do it. So we were able to kind of put our heads together and combine resources. Now they have my whole team as resources for the media side and I have access to their audience and a brand name besides Advance Machines and Engineering’s marketing department, which we were able to build and inbound and content marketing agency off of.
Carman Pirie: I’ve got to say, both Jeff and I actually, are members of separate agency round table groups. That collection of fairly odd ball marketing agencies from around North America. About 10 in each group. Most of the time, it just feels like more of a support group than anything else, where people are in therapy. But I can tell you that everybody comes to the agency business in a very different way, but I’ve never heard anything remotely similar to this. I think it’s a fascinating path to the agency business.
That’s why I was so excited about today’s conversation because it feels like we have kind of one foot on each side of it, you know? I think a lot of people in the pure marketing space struggle to understand a lot of dynamics that the manufacturing enterprise has to deal with. They struggle to understand why manufacturers are so laggard in adopting marketing technology as an example. They’ve served other industries. They think the writing has been on the wall for so long and how come people aren’t with religion, in essence now.
I think you can really help shed light on this because again, you kind of have one foot on either side, you know what I mean?
Nick Goellner: Yeah, absolutely. I think usually it happens the opposite way, where maybe an agency starts by serving a couple manufacturing clients and they’re trying to figure out, okay how do I scale? How do we create content that’s more interesting to the leaders in the vertical industry that I’m serving?
Then they say, okay, maybe we can launch a podcast or a blog or some sort of content marketing platform that would be interesting to their target audience. Where as in our case, that was first. We already had a successful, thriving content marketing platform and we were able to build a services model into that with this joint venture. So it’s kind of a backwards approach.
Carman Pirie: Yeah, but a successful one nonetheless it would appear. So let’s dive into it a little bit. Talk to me about the work that you’re doing at MakingChips, because my guess is that your entering into this space informs the how and the what you do. It probably changes the types of things you deliver to clients.
Nick Goellner: For us, understanding the buyer persona really isn’t a massive challenge because we are the buyer persona. My grandfather invented a machine tool. My father’s a CEO of a manufacturing company all over the world. The other two partners, one of them is a contract manufacturing precision machining shop. The third partner, Jason, is an industrial tooling and supply business owner. So, you know, we’re kind of metalworking leaders ourselves, but we’re the few that really believe like look, marketing is changing. Inbound marketing is so necessary. The old strategy of just doing trade shows and picking up the phone and cold calling and saying “Hey do you want to buy parts?” or going to the Thomas Registry, or whatever, you know, those are the way of the dinosaurs.
For us, it was like okay, we know that our peers have this challenge where they know that things have changed but they just don’t know how to go about it. They don’t know how to go about digital marketing or inbound marketing or, God forbid, content marketing.
So that’s why we built the agency this way because we’re kind of an example of how to to do it. Advanced Machine and Engineering about three years ago, launched a brand new website and it completely changed our business. Where before we had all these regional territory guys all over the United States and Canada, now the vast majority of our opportunities are driven from our website and we have about half as many regional guys as we used to, because we handle most of the stuff in house.
I think that’s something that a lot of other manufacturers kind of know they need to get to, but they just don’t really know how. With my experience in digital marketing and inbound marketing, we’re able to offer these services to Metalworking Nation.
Carman Pirie: I’m kind of torn about asking this question because I feel like I don’t know that I could answer it myself.
Nick Goellner: Give it a shot. I’ll do my best.
Carman Pirie: I just wonder, well I guess one of the … I’ve been in the agency business for far too long and there’s too many gray hairs to show for it and all those things. One thing I think as marketers that we need to be cognizant of is how self-reference criteria can bubble up into your work. When you said that understanding the buyer persona isn’t difficult because you are the buyer persona, I mean on the one had, I mean, I’m nodding with that violently and really agreeing with you. I’m actually saying, well that’s the depth that you’re able to bring to it and the insight into that vertical.
But I guess, is there a Jekyll to that Hyde? What do you do to make sure you’re not too far down the road of self-reference criteria as you explore the work that you do on behalf of others?
Nick Goellner: I think there is a Jekyll to that Hyde because sometimes I find myself like too in the marketing weeds to, just because I’ve been doing this for so long. You know, people just want leads. I’ll start talking about building backlinks and technical SEO terms and stuff like that and they get lost. I have to remember where I was at when I was first trying to convince my dad to give me the budget to do some things differently from a digital marketing perspective for our company and take myself all the way back to those early stages so that I can speak to where our prospects would be at today.
Is that answering your question at all, or am I missing it?
Carman Pirie: Yeah, no, it’s getting there. I am curious, too, just how, like in the course of doing the work, when we’re thinking about okay, we’re creating this, marketing execution and it’s for this target buyer persona, I just find it sometimes it can be challenging when you associate yourself with that persona so strongly. Sometimes, maybe you being assuming too much. Almost like if you’re a car enthusiast and you happen to have the Mercedes Benz account or something. Then all of a sudden, the reason why you like that brand or whatever now plays into it almost a little too much. Does that make sense?
Nick Goellner: Yeah, like sometimes when you’re in the bottle, you can’t read the label.
Carman Pirie: Yeah.
Jeff White: For sure. I want to go back to something else you said as you were talking about the buyer persona. You mentioned that the new website that you guys produced for Advanced really helped to change how you dealt with sales and you know kind of stripping away that regional model and going more, it sounds like, to an inside sales model and using the website to support that is certainly something that we’ve seen with our clients.
Talk to us a bit more about kind of what that’s meant and how the inbound marketing and content marketing has helped to power that or not.
Nick Goellner: For me, the biggest challenge was one, getting the budget, because our site was pretty comprehensive. Advanced Machine and Engineering is kind of like an umbrella company with like six businesses all inside of it. You know, business units that maybe target different verticals within the metalworking industry.
So, trying to figure out how I was going combine all of these into one domain so that we were able to keep the domain authority of AME.com without it looking like we are like a distributor house or like a rep that’s trying to rep all these separate companies was probably the biggest challenge.
Jeff White: Right.
Nick Goellner: I was torn between do I build out like six different sites or do I build subdirectories into the AME.com site? We ended up going the subdirectory route. Sometimes I really glad that we did because all of the business units get to benefit from the traffic and the domain authority, and other times, people visit our site and they’re just like okay, well, I’m looking for a high production sawing machine. Why do you also sell these like work hauling components? Is this really the right place? The first thing that we had to do was design the site in a way that it equally presented each of those business units without it looking like kind of this jack of all trades, master of none type company.
That was a big challenge and I’m not sure that we’ve totally accomplished that but to me, its still better than kind of starting from scratch with six different sites. The other big challenge was, what we did is we digitized our catalog and we made it more of an Amazon type experience where you can like download CAD models for your products and compare different models with each other and try to choose what’s best for you. We’ve even built some selection tool configurator type things into the site.
So there’s kind of a high level of development and some integrations with some other companies. One of them is a company called Catalog Data Solutions. Kind of helps manufacturers get to a more of an Amazon or Grainger type experience on their site. That made a big impact, too, just making it from like, where it used to be, people would visit our site, they would go, they would download our PDF catalog and then they would call and order things, too.
Now they visit our site, they click the request for quote button, they fill out exactly what they need, or the visit our site and they go through our catalog, check a couple boxes and request a quote for some products that are straight out of the catalog for more of a standard offering.
We found that like the most valuable piece of content for an engineer is a CAD model. I don’t know if you consider that content marketing our not, but when you’re serving up valuable content for free and you’re making it easy to access, for us, the biggest thing that made the biggest difference was just like making really easy to find the CAD models. Because if our buyers are designing those products into their assemblies, you know, we have more than a foot in the door.
Jeff White: It’s funny, too, because I mean a lot of people would try and hold that very close to the chest you know, concerned about competitors and things like that. I mean, those types of things.
Carman Pirie: Foolishly concerned.
Jeff White: Yeah.
Carman Pirie: In almost every instance, you can explain how somebody could get that information anyway and it’s an artificial sense of security they have in not sharing. Not to say you are completely unique in your approach here, but I would say its somewhat unique in that you’ve chosen to do that kind of openness.
Jeff White: Yeah.
Announcer: You’re listening to the Kula Ring, conversations on manufacturing marketing. Don’t forget to subscribe now at Kulapartners.com/thekularing. That’s K-U-L-A partners.com/thekularing.
Nick Goellner: Instead of just having like one AME blog where we like divided the content with like tags for content for one business unit versus the other, we built out these internal micro sites. So for example, for our AMSAW Sawing Machines, we built SawingAcademy.com. So if you visit SawingAcademy.com, it redirects you to AME.com/sawingacademy. It almost appears as a completely different site. That’s where it’s less about why you should buy our products and the features and benefits of our products and just more about what the audience needs to understand as far as how to calculate your cost per cut or should you buy this type of machine versus this type of machine. It’s more educational in nature than you know, please request a quote for a product. There is no request a quote button on the Sawing Academy part of our site. There’s just “Would you like to speak with a sawing expert.”
Carman Pirie: So talk to me about the Sawing Academy’s role as the gateway drug for Advanced Machine and Engineering. Many people have tried this across a variety of sectors and they have had different levels of success quite candidly, whether or not that kind of content first approach opens up a decent on ramp of traffic. Other instances, it’s another needle in the largest haystack of information ever invented called the world wide web. How does that work?
Nick Goellner: We made a decision that we weren’t going to make Sawing Academy all about AMSAW. We’re welcoming other companies, maybe even competitors if they have something that explains a challenge for the high production sawing world, we’ll publish that on Sawing Academy, assuming they want to give us the ability to do that.
People who build saw blades can write for Sawing Academy. Our engineers write for Sawing Academy. Things that may tell the audience, hey this is not the right saw for you. What we’re trying to do is just make it an educational place where people can learn about high production sawing. It’s not like the most trendy content marketing topic, so we figured, why don’t we cover it with AME?
Carman Pirie: Yeah, no, it’s not the most trendy at all, but you might be the only ones covering it, which it was makes it highly valuable to the target, I would think. What kind of lift did we see in traffic there? How big of gateway is it percentage wise?
Nick Goellner: So one thing I think we need to do is, we need to do a better job … So we want it to seem a little bit separate, but we need to do a better job of connecting it to the actual sawing pages of our site if in fact they are looking to make a purchase or to speak with someone about a potential purchase, because we do find that we get a lot of entry traffic from the blog posts from Sawing Academy. But often times, they read one or two pages and they never actually make it to our site.
So the business goal was educate the audience but realistically, it’s to sell more saws. I think we can do certain things in the design of Sawing Academy to kind of convert more of the Sawing Academy traffic into lead for AMSAW. But it’s that fine line, you know what I mean? Like with MakingChips, we all have our separate businesses and we mention them from here to here, but really the point isn’t to make sure CARR Machine and Tool gets more work, or make sure Advanced Machine and Engineering gets more sales, or make sure ZENGER’s sells more tools.
For MakingChips, it’s more of an authentic, content marketing platform where the mission really is just to equip and inspire the metalworking leader. And MakingChips has a super big audience. Sawing Academy has been, I would say, successful, but I wouldn’t say it’s been it’s been wildly successful.
Carman Pirie: I love this hinge here. Kind of almost can you fake authenticity, right? You hit the nail on the head. I think that’s the reason MakingChips is so successful is because there wasn’t really a lot of selfish motivation at the start of it. It’s easy maybe when you don’t have to fake it.
Nick Goellner: Right. Because I think if we were really trying to be 100% altruistic with Sawing Academy, we would have built it as its own blog site. We wouldn’t have built it as a subdirectory of AME.
Carman Pirie: There’s this-
Nick Goellner: It would have completely stood alone.
Carman Pirie: And builds that tension between do you … The more direct you are, I mean you can probably build things into Sawing Academy tomorrow that would be considerably more direct and sales focused, tie it closer to Advanced Machine and Engineering and in the next quarter, see an uplift because of that. In doing so, you may well be limiting the overall growth potential of Sawing Academy, because you’re-
Nick Goellner: Yeah, that’s a really good way to look at it. It’s like, if a content marketing platform works, the sky is the limit. But if you just make like a knowledge based blog to help sell more products, you’re really kind of limiting how far it can go.
Jeff White: For sure. I think you touched on something in your last comment there about the scale of the audience for MakingChips. I’d like to chat a little bit about kind of how you’ve grown that audience. We talked a little bit about, in the kind of pre-show time, about the importance of building that audience and creating content for it. If you wouldn’t mind, I’d love to hear kind of your philosophy and methodology for growing MakingChips and what that’s meant.
Nick Goellner: I was reading this book Content, Inc. when I first reached out to Jason and Jim. Are you guys familiar with the book?
Jeff White: Yep.
Nick Goellner: So it’s how to build a business audience first. That’s exactly what MakingChips was doing. So when I first met Jason and Jim, I assumed that they were taking this really strategic approach to building a business and I was just like wanting to learn from them as content marketers.
The guys were like–Jason was like “I get it. That is the intention here.” Jim was like “What the heck is content marketing?” Because they’re not professional marketers. They’re just metalworking leaders that wanted to build a community. So I think that’s really why it worked. They had knowledge as metalworking leaders. They had expertise in the area. So, when they’re speaking on metalworking topics, its very authentic and real and insightful. And they had a passion for leadership and community development.
Where that knowledge and passion intersects is MakingChips. Then the second thing that I think that they did that allowed the podcast to grow and become so popular is it’s different then what you would expect from a manufacturing podcast. It’s not boring at all. They’re constantly joking around with each other. They don’t take each other too seriously. It’s like an interesting radio show where they do dive into really important topics but you think, metalworking podcast. It’s going to be a bunch of mechanical engineers discussing tolerances and things like that, where you could just put it on to go to sleep.
With MakingChips, it’s really fun to listen to. I mean I found myself cracking up when I was on the mower listening to it, just listen to Jason and Jim go back and forth. So, the first thing they did is, they were very authentic, they had expertise, and they had a passion. I think if you don’t have expertise, or if you don’t have a passion, then don’t start a content marketing platform on the topic because it’s not going to be that interesting.
The second thing is they made it a point to be really different and to be really entertaining and to kind of be a little bit funny on the podcast. I think that’s part of the reason why people resonate with their personality so much is you just kind of feel like you’re in a conversation with friends.
Carman Pirie: I feel like what Nick is trying to say is that we need to up our entertainment game.
Jeff White: I don’t think we’re really hitting it.
Carman Pirie: Basically what he is saying is he’s been listening to it for a while and it’s really not that great.
Jeff White: And it’s just not that funny.
Nick Goellner: I am not at all saying that.
Carman Pirie: I don’t know. Well you know …
Nick Goellner: I think you guys are wonderful.
Carman Pirie: It has been a fascinating conversation and I feel like we’re, here we are, approaching the end of our chat and I could probably feel like it could continue to go on for quite a while yet, so perhaps we will try to do that live and in person the next time we are in Chicago.
Nick Goellner: That would be excellent. It would be great to kind of continue this conversation, maybe on MakingChips.
Jeff White: For sure. That would be really cool. Nick, we’re also coming of course into 2019 and being, obviously, a content marketer with some vision about where things are going. What do you think is coming next in terms of content marketing or media production or what have you?
Nick Goellner: Everything is moving more towards this connected world of industry 4.0. I think connecting your content to the actual products in manufacturing is going to be a big deal. What I mean is, if you have a machine tool, why shouldn’t people be able to access your knowledge base from the HMI or the PLC of the machine tool? Why can’t you put QR codes on your products that send people back to the helpful information that will help people get more out of the product.
So, I think content marketing is really a big part of industry 4.0 and I think that we’re going to see products differentiate themselves from other products by the content that their company produces.
Carman Pirie: Fascinating, because you know, I bet if you were to get a group of non-manufacturing marketers together, let’s just say SAAS marketers, and ask them what 2019 holds, in no way would they be saying content marketing is the-
Jeff White: Well, it’s in the integration with a physical product–
Carman Pirie: Yeah, well, it’s because of that that they wouldn’t be thinking that. Yeah. So, it’s almost like new life for content marketing on the manufacturing side of the house.
Nick Goellner: Right. And the other thing is like, you never hear of a content marketing format of delivering CAD models for free and promoting that. People don’t call that content marketing, but why isn’t it content marketing? What type of content does an engineer want? They want a CAD model. So give it to them.
Jeff White: Absolutely. Carman, I think we just need to figure out how to make CAD models of what the hell we do. Oh no, that’s not going to work.
Nick Goellner: I know it’s a little bit out there, but if your customers are selling standard products that can be purchased out of a catalog and if their buyer persona is like a design engineer who needs to design that into something, maybe we could consider how can we make it really easy for them to get the CAD model. Put it behind a gate and have that be your lead generation resource.
Carman Pirie: Yeah, absolutely. That’s great parting advice. Let’s end it there. I feel like we’ve given folks lots to think about. Thanks so much for joining us on the Kula Ring today, Nick.
Nick Goellner: Hey, thanks a lot guys. I had a great time and hopefully we can do this again on MakingChips.
Carman Pirie: We’re going to hold you to it. Looking forward to it.
Nick Goellner: Alright. Alright, guys.
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-A partners.com/thekularing.