Golden Opportunities in eCommerce for Manufacturers

Episode 213

December 6, 2022

eCommerce expert, Curt Anderson from B2Btail, discusses common challenges manufacturers face when it comes to launching an online store, how to best overcome those challenges to boost online sales, and why certain manufacturers can gain a competitive advantage by simply selling online.

Golden Opportunities in eCommerce for Manufacturers 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 am delighted to be here. Good to be chatting once again. 

Jeff White: Yeah. Good to chat with you, as well, and looking forward… We’ve been recording a lot of episodes just you and I chatting. I’m sure that our listeners are keen to get some alternative voices brought-

Carman Pirie: Could we hear another voice, please? Yeah, like we thought it was good to do that because it helped us get people on the show that agree with us, but here we go. 

Jeff White: But I am excited for today’s guest. We’ve talked a bit about eCommerce on this show, but I think it’s still a very relevant topic even in 2022. It’s still sometimes something net new for manufacturers from a technology perspective, and there’s a lot of different considerations that have to go into it. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. I think that’s fair to say. I think a lot of manufacturers are… The ones that aren’t into eCom, which I would say is the majority, certainly, still at this stage, there are a lot of open questions, like is there a place for us to play there? Is what we sell the kind of thing that customers will buy online? 

And I think sometimes we maybe get trapped a little bit in the consumer mind frame of eCommerce, right? Whereas, of course, in B2B manufacturing, to use the old… I’m gonna really date myself now. It’s gonna be like from the ‘90s or something. But remember, who was it? Was it IBM or something that instead of saying eCommerce, whatever, it was just eBusiness. 

Jeff White: Yeah. I think that was an IBM thing. 

Carman Pirie: Was supposed to sound cool or something. And of course, it didn’t if IBM did it. But I guess there’s a gem in that, right? Because it’s like you can be doing business online, doing commerce electronically, but not just it always being about a shopping cart experience or what have you. 

Jeff White: Yeah. 

Carman Pirie: I’m thinking about digital customer service initiatives and things of that sort. 

Jeff White: There’s a lot of that that can be brought to life online, for sure. And you know, money can be transacted in those ways that is not, like you say, a traditional shopping cart. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. We’re getting more and more comfortable, I think, with big numbers in that checkout in a business context. 

Jeff White: Absolutely. I love sending digital invoices that are for huge numbers. I don’t know about you. 

Carman Pirie: “It is my favorite thing,” Jeff says. 

Jeff White: In fact, when we’re done with this recording, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. So, joining us today is Curt Anderson, and Curt is an eCommerce Evangelist for Manufacturers with B2BTail. Welcome to The Kula Ring, Curt. 

Curt Anderson: Jeff, Carman, thank you guys. What an absolute honor, privilege. I’ve actually been a big fan following you guys for many years, and ironically… I need to find it. I did a blog post years ago on top podcasts for manufacturers and you guys are on that list, and so I’ve been a big fan, following you from a distance, and of course, thanks to LinkedIn we’re here today. So, I just can’t express my thanks and gratitude to you two. 

Carman Pirie: Curt, it’s wonderful to have you on the show. I mean, we took an extra minute or two there to introduce you just so we could bask in the glow of us agreeing with ourselves, but it is lovely to have you on the show and I do hope at some point along the way we will disagree, because of course that’s always where the juice is. 

But in all seriousness, Curt, if you could maybe introduce our listeners to you a little bit. Who are you? What are you up to these days in helping manufacturers go online?

Curt Anderson: Sure. Well, you know, you threw out the ‘90s comment, so Carman, I’m right there with you as far as going back to… So, I had a wholesale business in the ‘90s and I was a total disaster, trainwreck. My accountant said I was the biggest disaster that she had ever encountered. And so, running out of options, running out of ideas how to keep a business afloat, this little eCommerce thing came along 1995, and so that began my journey with eCommerce. I’m not a young guy, of course. That was 27 years ago. 

So, I had an eCommerce business, built it up, and then was blessed, fortunate, sold it, and since that time I’ve been working with manufacturers trying to figure out this whole little eCommerce thing, and trying to make that digital transformation. And as you said, a lot of manufacturers, God bless them, in the past they haven’t needed that digital transformation or eCommerce. COVID really sped things up. And so, that’s the drum that I’m beating right now, is just really trying to hit the masses, and trying to help manufacturers make that digital transformation with eCommerce just to be more competitive. 

Jeff White: As someone who was building websites in 1994, I’d love to spend the rest of this show diving into exactly what the hell you used to build an eCom store in the ‘90s, because the technology was not what it is today. That’s for sure. But that’s not really why we’re here. 

Curt Anderson: What’s funny, Jeff, in 2008 social media was kind of brand new. YouTube and Twitter were just still relatively fresh. In my eCom business we started a little social networking site. I completely forgot about it, and somebody just texted me a couple screenshots from 2007, 2008, of this little social media site that we were trying to create, and it was just absolutely hysterical in how it looks prehistoric now. And that was only 2008, let alone what was going on in 1994, right? So, yeah, we could totally geek out on that. 

Jeff White: This is where Carman brings up the Ning site he built. 

Curt Anderson: Dreamweaver, and I think maybe we were using DOS, and who knows what else, right? 

Carman Pirie: I think I was still kind of in denial. I was trying not to even turn on a computer or something at that stage. 

Curt Anderson: That’s right. 

Carman Pirie: Maybe I can get through life without it. I don’t know what it was. I was not an early adopter like you two, it seems. 

Curt Anderson: I tell you, when you look at what you guys are doing now, your podcast, you guys have… Carman, you’re doing a great job being a pioneer and a leader on this content drive, so my hat’s off.

Carman Pirie: Well, that’s because of that Ning site, my friend. But anyway, look. Let’s jump in. 

My understanding, Curt, is that a lot of the manufacturers you work with maybe tend to be a bit more on the smaller to midsize kind of range in the manufacturing spectrum. And of course, actually often that’s the category that is a little more willing to take a risk or two, and may not have as much things holding them back in the past. You mentioned the pandemic kind of speeding things up. I guess, are you seeing a demonstrable shift in interest surrounding the B2B manufacturing eCommerce at this stage? What are you… It’s almost like the reporter question, it’s like what are you seeing out there? 

Curt Anderson: Great question, Carman. So, the thing is, so I’ve been beating this drum for a long time and you’re hitting it right on the head. The smaller manufacturers that were more agile, or maybe more adaptive to new technologies, new opportunities, they were embracing eCommerce prior to COVID. When COVID hit, obviously manufacturers… Trade shows vanished. Sales reps couldn’t go on the road. They were no longer welcome to visit customers. And so, now eCommerce became… It was no longer a ‘nice to have.’ It was a ‘must to have.’ And so, for those manufacturers like, “Hey, this is how we’ve always done it,” or as you guys were describing earlier, “Hey, we make really complicated B2B parts, and so we’re not Amazon, and we’re not selling consumer goods, so this really isn’t a good fit.” Man, I would love folks to get away from that myth or that mindset where eCommerce really is so critical to their strategy. 

You guys do a great job. I’ve caught a number of your guests on your show. You do an amazing job bringing on people with content strategy. Your gentleman recently, Ross Simmonds, you guys were talking about pay-per-click ads are going for like 50 bucks a click. My goodness. So, Jeff, I’ve been doing this for so long, instead of saying like, “Hey, I remember when milk was 50 cents,” I remember when clicks were like a nickel. How’s that? I remember when clicks 20 years ago were like five or ten cents. Now you guys on your podcast with Ross, you’re talking about how they’re $50 a click. With eCommerce, now that can create your SEO strategy by niching down and going after those parts and processes that these manufacturers manufacture every day. 

Carman Pirie: I think that’s a bit of some hidden gold, if you will, in the rock pile for manufacturers, is that a lot of the categories that have seen those dramatically increasing PPC bids, et cetera, are a bit more on the consumer… If you’re gonna find a cheap golden keyword in PPC, it’s a lot more likely to happen in a very niche B2B manufacturing category than it is if you’re selling footwear. Good luck. But that opportunity I think kind of still exists, because you know, for B2B manufacturers, they’re often selling things that if you’re not in this very small space, you’re not at all searching for… You’re just not using the terminology. 

Jeff White: Could be a part number. Could be anything. And the lovely thing about that, too, is that you can create this really beautiful, seamless PPC ad-to landing page-to purchase, all in one shot if you, kind of, build those pages properly and provide the appropriate proof that’ll make people decide to buy.

Carman Pirie: I’ve gotta say, Jeff, you said beautiful in that sentence as though you were looking out at a vast, gorgeous sunset, you know? On a beach or something. You meant it. This is like… Only a marketer could really…

Jeff White: It’s so closed-loop, it’s amazing. 

Carman Pirie: Good thing this is a marketing podcast and not a dating podcast, but-

Jeff White: Yeah. That’s true. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. But then again, that ship’s sailed. It’s not like we’re looking to date. 

Jeff White: Well, how are you… You talked about niching down, and anybody that knows us knows we love niches, and we love talking about the riches in the niches and all that. What are you doing specifically with manufacturers to help them kind of find those niches and really exploit them from an eCom perspective?

Curt Anderson: Yeah. Great question and I’m right there with you, Jeff. Dude, we’re on the exact same page. I call it, “Hey, guys. We need to niche down till it hurts, you know?” And so, you guys work with manufacturers, B2B space, and so say there’s a manufacturer, they do… I bend metal. I cut steel. I do CNC machining, circuit boards, 3D printing. Those keywords are so broad. They’re like, “Hey, I want to come up on first page for CNC.” I’m like, “Dude, you have a better chance of seeing me with hair. It’s not gonna happen.” I know this is a podcast, so just… I have no hair, right? So, on those real broad terms, but when you talk to that manufacturer long enough, I’m like, “Okay, you do CNC. Who do you do it for?” Well, we could do it for anybody. “I hear you, but who do you do it for?” You talk to them long enough and I have a perfect example. There’s a manufacturer I’m talking with in Indiana. They’re like, “Well, we do CNC parts. We do CNC parts in aerospace. We do CNC parts for turbine engines on Tuesdays.” 

You know, so now they niche it down. Now they’ve created that keyword. And so, now all of a sudden, now manufacturers are reaching out and they’re saying, “Hey, I make a ton of these parts for this one client, and it’s not proprietary, I’m not violating anything. It’s not their drawing. But I make these parts and we do really well at this part.” I’m like, “All right, let’s go and look at some searches.” We look at those searches and like you’re saying, Jeff, I call it Google 2005. Carman, like you were saying, if we did a search for shoes, it’s just like pictures, images, videos, you’re never gonna come up on that first page of Google. But when you’re looking at that very specific part, and boy, that engineer at Boeing is absolutely gonna type, “I need that part. I need this part number. I need this certification, or I need something very specific.” I call it 2005 Google, where you have a great chance—and I do these exercises where I do these things where we can get them… It’s so unique and it’s so niche and so longtail, using our SEO term, that a lot of times we have experiments where they’ll be on first page within days or a week. 

Now, again, there’s not a ton of traffic, but they’re looking for that one golden opportunity with that engineer, or somebody in procurement, that today they come into work and they’re like, “Man, I need that such-and-such part on that turbine engine. Where do I find it?” And now that client’s coming up. As you said, Carman, the costs are much cheaper. If they go the pay-per-click route, they can get in the game immediately. But from an SEO standpoint, or if they do a video, throw it up on YouTube, get their keyword in the headline, we could geek out on more detailed strategies, but with eCommerce now you have landing pages that are driven towards that product specific. That can be your SEO strategy. So, it’s just very powerful tackling eCommerce for custom manufacturers. 

Jeff White: A lot of this, you talk about just how specific it can get with that particular part, or that particular certification or whatever. I think back to the episode we had with Cynthia Kellam from TE Connectivity a couple years ago and her entire reason to be at that point was to standardize the quality of the data that they had on their products, especially as they were used in their eCommerce platform and their eCom store. And just the massive lift in traffic it brings to own that part number as a keyword… It may be a generic part number that you can buy from any number of manufacturers, but if you’re the one who is thinking ahead enough, and there still are opportunities to be a pioneer in your very specific niche that there aren’t necessarily in larger, more competitive eCommerce situations. 

Curt Anderson: Yeah. That’s a great example. And for a shameless plug, I do a LinkedIn live show two days a week. It’s called Manufacturing eCommerce Success. We just had a guest on Friday where a manufacturer in Ohio, they had over a million SKUs. A million SKUs. And what they did is they aligned with an eCommerce firm called Cadenas PARTsolutions out of Cincinnati, Ohio, and what they did is they took those million SKUs, they put it down to 300,000. 70% cut down on waste. They just said they had so many parts and so many SKUs that were just either legacy parts, or they just didn’t… Really, they didn’t exist anymore or just weren’t relevant. It was just like they have 40 different locations, and it was just really hard managing everything. 

Now, just even internally, the benefit there of what that brought to the table for these guys. So, again, it’s just endless the amount of opportunities that eCommerce can offer not just internally, or I’m sorry, not just externally, but what it can also do internally for those companies. Again, you guys do a great job with content creation, inbound marketing. When you get in eCommerce, that just opens up the floodgates of content opportunity, whether product videos, product descriptions, what is this part? What is this product? How does it work? So on and so forth, and that’s where your superpowers come into play, and it’s just… It’s a great marriage. 

Carman Pirie: Something I think Jeff, you mentioned the competitive kind of dynamics in some of these search strategies, and I think that sometimes oddly gets lost when we just kind of look at the bright, shiny light of low cost clicks, right? But the fact is the value of these clicks is way higher than you’re having to pay. I mean, we’re often talking about a paid search conversion that could lead to a lifetime value of customer into the millions. So, you know, frankly if you had to pay 100,000 for the click, you probably would if you could guarantee getting it all the way through the line. And I guess that is the kind of the secret charm in it, is that not only is it lower cost, but for B2B manufacturers who want to explore these strategies, it’s also lower competition. The chance… And especially for the smaller or mid-sized manufacturers in say legacy categories where maybe some of the competitors are… If you look around and all of your competitors are 60-year-old family business manufacturers, I can pretty much guarantee you that whatever category you’re in, if you were to employ the strategies we’re talking about you’d be leapfrogging most of the competition who just aren’t there and aren’t thinking that way. 

And I think all across North America, and frankly, probably globally, this is the reality. I mean, those opportunities exist for those manufacturers. 

Curt Anderson: Fantastic point, Carman. I agree 100%. And another thing that, I’d love to hear your feedback on this from your perspective, is we’re constantly hearing a little bit of a disconnect where the manufacturer is so focused on their solution, the proprietary process, that they’re not thinking about the problem. And so, I was running through a quick little example. I don’t know what you guys… Are you guys coffee drinkers? I don’t know. I know it’s your midmorning. Do you guys have your cup of coffee? You know that little piece of cardboard that goes around that little coffee cup you’ve probably touched a million times in your lifetime, right? Do you guys know the name of that little cardboard thingy that goes around a coffee cup? 

Carman Pirie: Like a coffee sleeve, you mean?

Curt Anderson: Do you know the name of it? 

Jeff White: The brand name? Or the product name? No. I don’t know that I do. 

Curt Anderson: Here’s a product you’ve probably touched, whether you’ve driven through Canada, probably Tim Hortons, or Starbucks, or whatever your favorite coffee, Dunkin’ Donuts, wherever you’re listening to this. You’ve probably touched that coffee little cardboard thing a million times. Nobody knows the name of it. You know what? It’s called a Zarf. Z-A-R-F. The guy that founded it in 1991… Man, I wish I was that guy. Probably made a bazillion dollars, maybe just fractions of a penny on every single little piece of cardboard. He called it the Java Jacket. So, Carman, like you said, “Well, it’s a sleeve. A coffee sleeve. The cardboard thingy.” Whatever. The example I give to manufacturers internally, are we saying to ourselves, “Man, guys. This thing is a Zarf. I know the whole world calls this a Zarf.” No, they call it the Java Jacket. We’re like, “Here nobody uses Java Jacket. Nobody knows that it’s a Zarf.” So, again, the consumer, if they wanted to buy these things, what are they typing? They’re typing, “I don’t want to burn my fingers today, what’s that cardboard thingy that goes around a coffee cup?” 

That’s a pretty long keyword right there, right? But the thing, so the concept, I’m constantly challenging, and I can’t tell you how many lightbulbs go off with manufacturers. They’re like, “Oh my goodness. We do forging. We do 3D printing.” They’re not thinking 3D printing—they’re thinking I need a part that goes in this engine. This is my problem. This is what I’m typing. So, I’m trying to help, and again, that’s what eCommerce does for these folks is we can marry that combination. Take the problem and combine it with the solution and that’s gonna help the manufacturer exactly as you’re describing, Carman. And those niche keywords are just… Man, it’s just so much opportunity in those keywords.

Carman Pirie: I would say to you I think that’s a fair point, that the more sophisticated marketers that you encounter in this space will have made the shift around thinking, even around their product development work or what have you, is like problems to solve, and so that is a common… Or not common, but that the more sophisticated marketers will get there and they’re thinking about it through the lens of problems to solve, whereas the folks that maybe are needing more help tend to get… They stop at that process level. I think that’s an interesting observation. 

Often they want to tell the world about their process, which inevitably is not proprietary in any way. And even if it is, it’s not proprietary in a way that is meaningful or relevant to the end customer in the way that they will cause purchase preference to emerge, right?

Curt Anderson: Yeah. 

Carman Pirie: Fascinating. 

Curt Anderson: Yeah, and it’s kind of… It’s fun, and it’s fascinating seeing the epiphany of like, “Oh my goodness. We’re so stuck on CNC machine. I have this CNC machine.” Does your ideal customer even know that that machine exists, let alone that they’re Googling that machine? They’re not looking for the machine. They’re looking for the process. 

Like right now, you guys have wonderful backgrounds. I know we’re on audio, but you guys have wonderful backgrounds. I have this plain, boring wall. It’s a famous line of like, “When I go to the hardware store, if I want to hang something on my wall behind me, my problem is I need a hole. The solution is I’m going to the store to buy a drill.” And so, the thing is for manufacturers, we’re like, “Well, it’s CNC machining. It’s I bend metal.” It’s like, “No, I’m taking this part and I’m putting it in an automobile. I’m taking a part and we’re helping build a…” I was talking to a steel manufacturer, and they sell parts for bridges. So, we have to get inside the mind of the engineer. 

And Carman, you’re making a fantastic point. The sophisticated marketer, that’s what they do. That’s what they’re paid for. That’s what you guys do. For these small manufacturers that have 20, 30 employees, they’re putting out fires all day, every day. They’re their own HR department one minute, their own finance department. The last thing, they’re not marketers at heart. This is out of their comfort zone. 

So, again, they’re still so caught in their process, so anyway, that was a great point that you made. 

Jeff White: Well, I think what’s really great about that, you talk about how these small manufacturers that are doing metal work, and plastic, and thermoforming, and all of those kinds of things that are contract manufacturing, you’re right. They’re putting out fires all day, every day, and meanwhile they have this warehouse full of parts that they’ve made that they’re waiting for somebody to call and order, and it’s way easier for them to produce those things over and over again at good margin and just have a pipeline of customers coming to them than constantly fighting that custom order fire that they’re probably doing through the week. 

So, it even has the potential to allow them to pivot their operations to be more effective and to make the things that are actually going to make them money. But I think the one where this starts to get more complex is when you get into products that are not just off the shelf. You know, very customizable, that type of thing. You feel that those should be able to be sold through eCom as well. How do you help people approach that?

Curt Anderson: Yeah. Phenomenal question, Jeff. Thank you. 

Two ways. So, number one, everybody, you’re familiar with the Pareto Principle, right? The 80-20 rule. And so, 20% of your products, 20% of your sales, 20% of your profits typically come from… I’m sorry, 80% comes from your 20%. I said that backwards, right? 80% of your profit, sales, typically come from the 20%. What I encourage, welcome, invite those custom contract manufacturers, focus on what you’re best at. Focus on that 20%. And right in there, Carman, like you were saying, those are like those golden nuggets. Those are your proprietary processes, so though you don’t have a proprietary product, per se, or a finished good, you have proprietary processes that maybe you’ve been doing it for generations. Grandma and Grandpa did it 50, 60 years ago, or whatever that looks like, and so you own that process. You have such… You have economies of scale. You have a competitive advantage. 

And when you look at those processes that you do, that’s the opportunity. And constantly when you talk to that manufacturer, “Oh, well, we do have some standard parts. We do have some standard units that we’ll keep in stock.” I’m like, “Bam. Okay. That’s your eCommerce opportunity.” We have sheets of metal. A gentleman reached out to me. He was like, “We make these little parts for specific pieces of machinery that all these other contract manufacturers use, and they constantly break down. We can whip those out and put those on the shelf.” Okay, bam. There’s an eCommerce opportunity. That’s your potential SEO and keyword strategy right there. And now—and what that does is it is great lead flow. If someone… Say if I go after CNC machining and somebody comes after me from aerospace, and I’ve never done anything in aerospace, and I need an ITAR certificate, or I need this. How many of us have received really bad leads? 

And then either A, we’ve wasted their time, wasted our time, and we even took it a next step further. We tried bidding on something that we know nothing about and then we completely underbid it. Now we’re upside down. Now we can’t deliver the product. 

So, again, like you were saying, Jeff, the magic is like when you niche down and you stay in your lane, now you can just really… That’s where the magic and the excitement happens. You can really propel it. And then we talked a little bit before, I want to be mindful of time, we talked about configurators and any manufacturer out there, gosh, I’m just such a huge, raving fan of configurators. There are tons of solutions out there. I’m having a tough time finding a manufacturer where a configurator isn’t applicable. 

And basically, you’re just letting a customer come on your site and start to create that product. And what you’re doing is you’re providing that digital, self-serve, 24-hour, seven day a week service to your customers that not only do they deserve, they now expect it. because that’s what they’re receiving on the consumer side and now as consumers, they expect it on the B2B side. 

Carman Pirie: So, I don’t know the extent to which you’ll agree or disagree with this, but I’m curious. It seems to me that an awful lot of folks, as they start to dip their toe into the eCommerce waters on the manufacturing side of things, they’ll often, especially on digital self-service initiatives, they’ll look at the area of the business that costs them a lot, maybe it’s more transactional. We were kind of knocking on the door of that when we talked about standard parts that they keep in stock, so therefore there’s the eCommerce opportunity to kind of, bolt on an eCom store in front of that standard SKU. I guess is that what you normally see, is people trying to look at that, in some ways almost decrease the transaction cost by introducing the eCom layer?

I guess to lead the witness a little bit, the contrast I would make is somebody taking an eCommerce initiative to say, “We’re gonna transform the buying process of our absolute best customers. The biggest ones. The highest LTV customers.” It seems to me that almost no manufacturer starts there. They start with where they think the risk is lower, which is over in the low LTV side. Does that make sense?

Curt Anderson: Phenomenal thought process. I love that, Carman. And so, again, hopefully I’m gonna take your lead. I love that line, leading the witness. That was a good one. So, hopefully I’ll take your lead, so yes, what are you most successful with? Let’s just keep it simple, right? KISS. Keep it super simple. Just what are your superpowers? What are you absolute best at? Where do you just crush it consistently over and over? That sweet spot as a manufacturer. Why I love eCommerce is here’s a scenario. Manufacturer, like you were saying, Jeff, maybe they have a website. Maybe it’s a WordPress website or whatever it looks like and it’s been sitting around for years and hasn’t been a top priority. If they want to dip their toe in eCommerce, they could take a half a dozen, a dozen of those SKUs. They could put some of those products on a WooCommerce site, but it’s just such a low risk strategy to try. 

I don’t mean to be frivolous, but it’s almost like senseless not to try it. eCommerce is such a low cost opportunity, and if your worst-case scenario it fails, it didn’t work, then you’re out a webpage and you’re out whatever… You drove some traffic with pay-per-click ads or what have you. So, if I’m following you correctly, yeah. I agree 100%. Take those SKUs, put them on a website and run with it. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. And spinning up a Shopify store or what have you, and kind of a standard theme, and running with it. I think that’s the way a lot of smaller manufacturers in particular would dip their toe. I guess where I’m kind of trying to push, I think, if I have an opinion on this, is I think the real win is when somebody has the courage to reinvent the business for the high LTV customers. When they say, “You know what? We’re gonna change the way this category actually buys. It’s not about the annoying people, like the ankle biters that we don’t really want to have. We’ll figure a way to service them with eCommerce and they can buy our stuff online.” But I’m more curious, especially for those smaller and mid-sized manufacturers who can move maybe a little bit faster than the big giants, seems to me that that’s… They’re not a playbook for it. This is where we’re talking about things that are a little bit more complex. But it feels to me like that’s where the real gold is. 

Curt Anderson: I’ll give you two quick examples. So, a manufacturer we’re working with — and you mentioned Shopify — so for any of your clients out there or any of your listeners out there thinking like, “Hey, this eCommerce thing.” You’ve got WooCommerce, Shopify is great direct-to-consumer. BigCommerce is fantastic for the B2B manufacturer space. Then you get more heavy duty. Magento/now they were purchased by Adobe, so that’s a great route to go. So, depending on budget, so for the customer, so we have a real nice, juicy project. We’re working with a dust collector manufacturer. So, when you go by a big manufacturer and outside they have these massive… They’re huge, six-figure dust collecting units. They’re going full blown eCommerce with Magento. They’re gonna do a configurator. So, that’s, if I’m following you correctly Carman, that’s a perfect example. 

I have another client; they’re going full-blown. They are a manufacturer of covert antennas. So they target like the FBI, military, the emergency services industry, and they’ve been around since the ‘60s. They’re going full-blown eCommerce. 

Jeff White: You know, we’ve talked a bit about configurators. We’ve talked about kind of the low-hanging fruit and the rapidity that you can have for deployment of a quick-and-easy solution to trial something. But what’s next, do you think? Where are you most excited to look for opportunity in eCom for manufacturers?

Curt Anderson: Yeah. Great question, Jeff. So, for your listeners, your friends in the States, there’s an agency called the Manufacturing Extension Partnerships. It’s the MEPs. And that’s where federal dollars are filtered through the Department of Commerce to manufacturers. There’s an MEP in all 50 states. And so, I’m honored, blessed, I work with a number of MEPs, and so if any of your listeners out there that are trying to make this digital transformation, strongly encourage, welcome, invite you to reach out to your local Manufacturing Extension Partnership. They are doing a ton of initiatives helping manufacturers with that digital transformation. And so, there’s federal… In many cases there are grant funds, there are federal dollars available to assist with manufacturers taking this risk, taking this chance. 

If you reach out to your local MEP, there is… I’m not guaranteeing it. There’s a possibility that they could help you with that transformation. And what they do is they would align themselves with experts like Jeff and Carman and help you with that transformation. So, I think the floodgates are open. I do a ton of webinars, workshops, trainings. I do work with different universities, these MEPs, and that’s our mission and our passion is trying- we want to educate the manufacturers on these opportunities, on why inbound marketing is so important, how these configurators work, how to provide that digital self-service experience that your engineers, your procurement folks expect and deserve. 

And I’ll wrap up on this, Jeff. I think Gartner came out with a study this year, came out in June. The number one complaint of B2B buyers, the number one complaint of B2B buyers is not enough information on your website. Align yourself with companies that are dedicated to helping manufacturers. And the big thing is, what I know about you guys, a lot of manufacturers, they reach out to a local marketing firm that is helping maybe retail, and service sectors, and they just don’t understand… They don’t speak manufacturing. They don’t understand that B2B side the way you guys do. And so, I really… If you’re a manufacturer out there, do your due diligence. I really encourage you. Number one, get off the sidelines. Get in the game, man. Just get on… We’re hockey fans here. Get on the ice. Get on the playing field. Get into the eCommerce or digital game. Find you’re not alone. You are absolutely not alone. Align yourself with guides and resources, trusted guides like these. Listen to the podcasts. Listen to the episodes. And just educate yourself. 

And you guys, man, you’re gonna go out there and just crush it. There’s so much opportunity for manufacturers. I’m just thrilled of what the future holds. 

Carman Pirie: That’s really good advice, but I think particularly for the smaller folks to be eyes wide open to those opportunities to spread the risk a little bit with a program through MEP or what have you. I think that’s great advice and I thank you for coming on the show today, Curt. It’s been a pleasure to have you. 

Curt Anderson: My honor, guys, and again, I have a LinkedIn live show. I need to have you guys on. And so, just an honor connecting with both of you. I love what you guys do for the manufacturing community. Keep it up. And thank you for what you guys do. 

Jeff White: Oh, thank you. We’ll certainly link that up in the transcript of the show too. Thanks again, Curt. 

Curt Anderson: Awesome. Thanks, 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 That’s

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Curt Anderson

eCommerce expert

Curt Anderson founded an eCommerce company in 1995 that was ranked 3X on the Internet Retailer Magazine Top 1000 eCommerce Companies. Curt is the author of “Stop Being the Best Kept Secret” and founder of, an eCommerce resource guide for manufacturers.

The Kula Ring is a podcast for manufacturing marketers who care about evolving their strategy to gain a competitive edge.

Listen to conversations with North America’s top manufacturing marketing executives and get actionable advice for success in a rapidly transforming industry.

About Kula

Kula Partners is an agency that specializes in maximizing revenue potential for B2B manufacturers.

Our clients sell within complex, technical environments and we help them take a more targeted, account-focused approach to drive revenue growth within niche markets.


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