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, Market Intelligence Analyst Jason Cappiello describes how Kanthal (and its parent company, Sandvik) approaches hiring and developing skilled talent—including marketers with technical backgrounds—for a complex B2B business. He discusses his own journey, which took him from an engineering degree to a sales role to his current manufacturing marketing position.
Engineering a Manufacturing Marketing Skill Set 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, an agency made for manufacturers. My name is Jeff White, and I’m your co-host, and joining me today is Carman Pirie. Carman, how’re you doing, sir?
Carman Pirie: I am doing well, sir. Thank you for asking.
Jeff White: Well, I’m excited about our show today. It’s a bit of an interesting journey we’re gonna talk about.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. I think a lot of particularly more senior manufacturing marketers, the conversation that you hear a lot is just one of how do we really find and nurture tomorrow’s marketing talent? They kind of, I think instinctively understand it has a more diverse skill set requirement than perhaps what we were used to 20 years ago or what have you. I think today’s guest is gonna give us an interesting inside glimpse into marketing leadership development in a very unique way.
Jeff White: Yeah. It’s a very unique program and path that he’s followed, so joining us today is Jason Cappiello. Jason is a market intelligence analyst at Kanthal. Thanks for joining us on The Kula Ring, Jason.
Jason Cappiello: Hey Jeff, hey Carman, thanks for having me.
Carman Pirie: Jason, real pleasure to be chatting, and look, I know that Kanthal’s part of the Sandvik Group overall as well, so maybe just give us a bit of an introduction to the group and tell us a bit more about yourself as we get underway.
Jason Cappiello: Sure, sure. Yeah, so where to begin? I guess starting with Sandvik, so first of all, they’re a Swedish engineering company, about 40,000-plus people globally, and they focus on, really, three different areas. First would be mining and construction, so they have drills, trucks, shovels, also automated mining systems now. And then the second would be the machining solutions, so looking at tooling technologies, really that subtractive manufacturing that we know and love. And then third is Sandvik’s materials technology business area. That’s actually where Kanthal sits, so it’s focused on steel products. It’s basically founded with that technology over 150 years ago, and we graduated into this specific brand of Kanthal, which focuses on heating technology, so it’s some heating products, some insulation, really working with industrial processes.
Carman Pirie: Very cool, and I guess give our listeners a bit of an introduction to you.
Jason Cappiello: Yeah, so my background from education is actually mining and minerals engineering, so I went to school at Virginia Tech, and then I did a study abroad program in Europe focused on resource engineering. And so, that kind of introduced me to the manufacturing side of things, when we were understanding, “Okay, this is how engineering works, but in order to get there, you have to have the machines, you have to have the tooling required to drill, blast, load and haul a bunch of rock.” And that was really my introduction to Sandvik overall.
And so, when I was graduating, I was looking into different programs there, and really one thing that stuck out to me was the Sandvik Global Graduate program, and so that really was an 18-month program targeting graduates internationally. This year, they just started their fourth program. They’ve got people from India, China, U.S., Sweden, Finland, really their… the target markets for them in terms of attracting talent. And so, it was a really good three-project course, where we went into starting with local projects in our home country for six months, focusing on… For me it was on the mining side, so kind of my background traditionally.
And then moving to the second rotation was an international project, so the graduates get an opportunity to look into what the international market looks like, what it’s like dealing across cultures, and then a little bit of travel involved, as well. And then finally wrapping it up with a last six-month project kind of aimed at transitioning, I would say, from the graduate program into the line organization, and then we have the opportunity really in between each of those projects for hard skills training, soft skills training, networking within the organization, and meeting leaders who have really shaped manufacturing to where it is today.
So, it was a really unique opportunity to start in my career in the working world, and it gave me some experience and some opportunities to get to know marketing better, as well.
Carman Pirie: Total number of people enrolled in that program overall?
Jason Cappiello: Each year… They recruit every year and a half, since it’s an 18-month program, so sort of on a two-year cycle, and there are 10 people for each “class.”
Carman Pirie: Okay, so it’s a fairly rare air. So, I guess congratulations at least at the start of that, for being chosen, let alone what’s happened since. It’s interesting to me as you talk about your background, because it’s clear to me as well as our listeners, I’m sure, this is not a typical background for somebody in a marketing or sales function. Somebody with market intelligence analyst in their title. So, is that kind of, as you look around at your colleagues at Kanthal, is that kind of par for the course, if you will? Do you find that a lot of the backgrounds are increasingly technical?
Jason Cappiello: Yeah. I’d say that’s fair, a fair assessment. Really, when we look at differentiating ourselves from sticking out in the industry, there really is this stress on technical knowledge of what you’re working with. So, I mean we have people who have chemistry backgrounds, material science, environmental engineering, who kind of come together into different roles. And certainly in marketing, I’d say half of our marketing team comes with a very technical background, really.
Carman Pirie: I’d be curious, as you kind of started dipping your toe in the world of marketing, what was the biggest surprise coming from an engineering background?
Jason Cappiello: You know, it’s interesting, because you learn everything theoretically when you’re studying engineering, and I mean, when you’re taking a thermodynamics class, you never think like, “How am I gonna get a furnace?” You always are handed a calculator and some paper, and they say, “All right, what are gonna be the operating efficiencies of this furnace?”
So, I would say the biggest surprise for me was really just the exposure to the manufacturing industry, and the process. When you’re an engineer, you’re looking at designing things, and finding out information, reaching out to these suppliers, getting a quote, and getting an order. And so, maybe I was a bit naïve, but coming into the marketing position, I always thought it was kind of more of a B2C process, where you just click to buy, and you’ve got your parts, and you put together a furnace like a Lego kit. So, really when I stepped into the line organization with sales, I was surprised to find out that sometimes these processes can be a two-year buying cycle, and that really, there is a lot that goes into it, and the importance of marketing is really, really relevant there.
Carman Pirie: I think it’s really interesting that that was your entry point into the line organization, coming out of the leadership program, was that your first role was a sales role. Can you tell us a little bit more about that, and kind of exactly what you were selling, and how long you were in that role?
Jason Cappiello: Yeah, so that was I guess starting in 2017, I stepped into the role of Business Development Manager for the Western U.S. territory. And the products that I was selling at the time was resistor and capacitor components, which was a product set that we had with Kanthal at the time. And really, these were components that went into larger electrical systems, so really, we were dealing with buyers and purchasers, along with design engineers. And so, when I started, that was when I began meeting with customers, understanding decision makers in an organization, and getting to know better what the buying process was.
And in addition to the sales side, I was working with some of the marketing in terms of improving the website, in terms of our visibility, and we’re really reducing the number of clicks that it took for our buyers to find out what they were looking for. And so, that’s kind of what gave me the taste for the marketing side is you know, we’d be going into customers who had to buy 3,000 different components for, for example a hot tub control panel. And so, when I met with the purchaser for that specific company, he says, “I don’t have time to spend five minutes digging on your website to find the part that I’m looking for. I need to get in contact with you, and I need to get my job underway.”
It was a surprise, but it really showed me that there needs to be a little bit more customer focus when it comes to sales from the marketing side.
Carman Pirie: You know, I mean it’s somewhat easy I think for me to imagine, maybe it is because I have a sales background myself, but how that can influence your approach to thinking about marketing, and how it just informs your world view. I often wonder about this in reverse, so I guess I’m gonna challenge you with answering my own question. I guess I kind of wonder sometimes if that makes an almost… because you said yourself, you started in that role in 2017, so you have a couple of years’ experience in it. Is there a caution about maybe letting your world view from a marketing perspective be too informed by that limited slice of sales experience? Kind of turn it on its head a bit, and I kind of wonder that about that about myself, I suppose. I kind of wonder, “Are my instincts on this maybe just too informed by a very narrow slice of experience that I’ve had?”
Jason Cappiello: You know, I think that’s a fair statement, to kind of take a step back and look at things from more of a traditional perspective, because at the end of the day, we look at things, and certainly myself growing up with technology, it’s more of an instant gratification. But looking at people who are still in the roles of manufacturing, and they’ve been in there for 30 years, sometimes traditional business is necessary, and I think we still see the relevancy of trade shows, and we still see the value of face-to-face meetings. I think maybe even the challenge becomes rather than if it’s necessary, more ‘what is the purpose’, and I think thinking about trade shows, that’s something I can be a bit cynical about, because people say, “Oh, well trade shows, they’re a dying breed.” I don’t think they’re a dying breed. I don’t think it’s a dying channel. I think the reason why we go and stick with these traditional marketing channels is changing.
So, yeah. I certainly can come in with that all-digital-now kind of mentality, but yeah, I guess that’s kind of what our organization is meant to challenge a little bit.
Announcer: Are your digital marketing efforts bringing in too many junk leads? Stop wasting time and distracting your sales team. Account-based marketing can help give your marketing strategy the laser focus on qualified buyers that you need to increase your pipeline velocity, close more deals, and grow your business faster. We’ve created a sample manufacturing ABM plan to help you get started. Download the sample manufacturing ABM plan at bit.ly/sampleabm. That’s bit.ly/sampleabm.
Carman Pirie: I mean, we’ve been on down the trade show tangent on this show a number of times.
Jeff White: Many times.
Carman Pirie: And you know, there’s something about it. I kind of can roll my eyes a bit sometimes, just because it’s so cliché, but so many businesses are relationship-built businesses, and it’s easier to do that in that kind of environment than it is in many others. And then of course, sometimes there’s… If you need to see it, touch it, feel it, whatever, in order to buy it, a trade show environment is somewhat efficient in that regard.
Jeff White: Yeah.
Carman Pirie: I don’t think that that format’s going away anytime soon, because I just think as humans, we have this kind of urge to be together. You know?
Jeff White: I think so. We were even speaking with somebody not that long ago on the podcast who actually sells equipment, like cash and carry, at their trade show booth, so you know, for large, 10,000-plus dollar machines.
Carman Pirie: But at the risk of turning this into episode four of our trade show series, let’s kind of… Well, I guess when you think of that formative role in sales, I guess just how do you think it has impacted your approach to your current job?
Jason Cappiello: Yeah. I think… I mean, there’s a lot of things that have influenced where I am today with looking at data as driving decisions for the organization, and if I look at the influence on… I guess there’s two main influences. The first is what you were asking about, which is the sales background, but then I also think that the… kind of the company culture that we have at Sandvik has also had an influence, so I’ll touch on that first. You know, I really feel working with a Swedish company, we’ve got this idea of an empathetic approach to things. Sweden is a very consensus-driven culture, and I think that that exposure from the leadership during my Global Graduate Program gave me really the understanding that we need to know what the customer is doing.
And that actually brings me to the second point, which is about sales, and understanding that people do certain things for specific goals. And that’s coming into data, we want to kind of assess what that means, and so for a buyer, for two-year behavior, when they reach out to us on our website and it’s the first that we’re hearing of it, we really don’t know what point they’re in the buying cycle. So, looking at things now, and trying to decode a little bit about the user behavior on our website, we want to be able to drill down a little bit deeper into saying, “Okay, we understand this degree of touch points. We’ve provided a little bit more of personalization in terms of what we’re showing people, and where.” And so, all about testing and making assessments on, “Okay, this worked. This didn’t work.” We understand a little bit more about the customer because of it.
I kind of walked around it a little bit, but at the end of the day, it’s just looking at, “Okay, how do we sell business to people using data?”
Jeff White: I find it interesting, going back to a point you made earlier about someone calling you and saying, “I don’t have five minutes to find this part on your website.” And yet we have a known two-year sales cycle with a lot of these products. Are you seeing any consistency in the data, in terms of when people are starting to reach out? Are you finding them further down the funnel now, with all of the information you’re providing on the Kanthal site? Or is it the kind of thing that it really does depend, some people are the top of the funnel, and some people are ready to make a purchase?
Jason Cappiello: Yeah, I think it might be too early to tell for some industries, and we work… Each industry that we work in is different, so whether that’s with the semiconductor industry, or glass industry, or even aluminum smelters, it can really be dependent, and so to try to lump it together is I think the approach we’ve taken in the past, in terms of, “Oh, okay. We got an inquiry. That means that they’re gonna buy within a month.” But I think now, we’ll be able to use the data to make it a little bit more granular, and really answer those questions.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. I was kind of curious. Jeff, I think we’re kind of dancing around the same question. I was kind of wondering whether it’s maybe too much of an inside baseball question, of course, but I was kind of wondering what are the data triggers to help, that you’ve found to be useful in helping to ID where somebody is at in that buying cycle. I’ve often, as you’re trying to analyze those initial site behaviors, have you found anything that tends to be an interesting leading cue to letting you know roughly where somebody’s at?
Jason Cappiello: Yeah. You know, I was exploring this this week, and I think one thing that was interesting was the number of people from an organization that were involved, so kind of having that firmographic approach, and saying, “Okay, well, we have one touch point on this person, who might be an engineer,” but really looking at it from a bit of a higher approach, and saying, “Okay, we’ve got one touch point on the engineer, so we think that he’s ready to buy.” But really we look at, when we look at their whole organization, you’ve had the president involved, and he came to the website 10 times in a month. You’ve got a purchaser who downloaded a data sheet to try to find out if this part was compatible with an old part.
So, that’s something I’m trying to drill down, as well, is the number of people in an organization who have expressed interest, and then certainly the engagement metrics of if there was viewing of a product video, or number of returns to a website. It’s still a lot of data that we’re gathering, but I do think that there’s something to be said about that, in terms of number of people from a firm.
Carman Pirie: Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, once you start, you move from having a lead buyer who’s engaged to having a buying committee that’s engaged, that would make a lot of sense. I wonder if you think back to your time in the leadership program, as well as the roles at Kanthal since, have there been any other things, other than the early sales exposure, that you would say has been key to your success so far, or kind of critical components, you think, to your development?
Jason Cappiello: I think that the Global Graduate Program was probably the most influential, and really the ability to learn about manufacturing across several different cultures, that was probably one of the most influential things. Just to kind of take me back a second and ask, “Okay, who are you dealing with? Are you working with Eastern cultures, Western cultures? Are you dealing with kind of mom-and-pop organizations that are a key customer for us for decades? Or is it a multinational conglomerate that might do a lot of business with us, but we haven’t spoken to somebody in ages?” And I think the Global Graduate Program gave us that perspective, because we were able to really travel around and meet the people on the factory floor, and get their opinions, and their insight from exposure to customers.
I mean, I really feel like if you’re fortunate enough to have an international experience, then certainly take advantage of it. I think that was quite influential in where I am today.
Jeff White: Seems like it’s a bit of a… I mean, Sandvik being a Swedish company, having that kind of global perspective seems like a bit of that influence coming into play, and bringing that to new hires, and getting the global graduates to go through a program where you do get to travel to places you’ve probably never been or considered, and that is absolutely going to shape your perspective from a sales and marketing side of things.
Jason Cappiello: Yeah, exactly.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. I mean, Jeff, I guess in some ways, maybe we can share a little bit of connectivity with the folks in Sweden up here in Canada, and you know, you’re relatively small as an international player. And it probably causes you to almost, out of necessity, have a bit more of an international lens on things.
Jeff White: Yeah. For sure.
Carman Pirie: Jason, I really thank you for taking the time to take us through, just introduce us to the program, to Sandvik, and how they’re growing leadership talent. It’s been just an interesting glimpse into that, and it’s just fascinating to hear about your work at Kanthal. Thanks so much for sharing it with us.
Jason Cappiello: Yeah. Thank you.
Jeff White: All right. Thanks a lot.
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.