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.
How can manufacturing marketers apply inbound methodology to the point where multiple departments rely on it? In this episode of The Kula Ring, Yazz Krdzalic, VP of Marketing at Trenton Systems, who is a self-described Hubspot fanatic, talks about how HubSpot has helped align the marketing, sales, and service teams at his organization to grow their customer pipeline, and serve customers better.
How a Manufacturing Marketer Leverages HubSpot to Unite Teams 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: All is well. I can’t complain. You?
Jeff White: I’m doing great, thanks.
Carman Pirie: Nice. And look, you know, I feel like we almost need to have a bit of a disclaimer at the beginning of today’s show, because… I mean, it’s one thing that HubSpot’s done very well, is that they’ve basically owned the world of inbound and the term inbound. And it’s awfully difficult to have a conversation with somebody who’s all in on inbound and all in on HubSpot when the words don’t kind of get used interchangeably. So, I’m just gonna offer it up that if this sounds like a HubSpot ad at any point, I assure you it isn’t. We’re not being paid by Brian and Dharmesh to chat about HubSpot in any way.
But you know, I think today’s conversation is really interesting to me because I think so many manufacturers find themselves moving from a path of basically very bottom-of-funnel conversion focus and then into a world of inbound, harnessing the inbound lead potential of their digital presence, and it’s still uncharted territory for a lot, so I think today’s guest will offer a lot of insight.
Jeff White: For sure. And I mean, it is certainly a platform we’re very familiar with, which is why some people might think that this is a bit of a HubSpot ad, just given that we’ve been with HubSpot for quite a long time, but we are certainly very agnostic towards platforms and see value in all of them. But our next guest has truly brought HubSpot to the organization writ large, not just marketing and sales where some might expect to find it.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. Let’s get it going.
Jeff White: Yeah. Indeed. So, joining us today is Yazz Krdzalic. Yazz is the VP of Marketing at Trenton Systems. Welcome to The Kula Ring.
Yazz Krdzalic: Thank you. Thank you, Jeff and Carman. Glad to be here with you all.
Carman Pirie: It’s an absolute pleasure to have you on the show. How did Jeff do on the pronunciation of the last name, actually?
Yazz Krdzalic: I would say 90% success rate.
Carman Pirie: Nice.
Jeff White: Perfect. I’ll take it. It’s better than I did in high school, I’ll tell you that.
Carman Pirie: You stole my line there. I was a terrible high school student. It’s like things got better as university went on. But nevertheless… Well, look. Great to have you on the show. Let’s start off by getting an introduction to you and the organization more broadly, because Trenton makes some really cool stuff that I could probably geek out about just for the next half hour, so maybe get some of that groundwork laid.
Yazz Krdzalic: Yeah, of course. Be happy to. So, I’m Yazz Krdzalic, VP of Marketing as mentioned before, Trenton Systems, and so I am in charge of all things marketing at Trenton Systems and also, I get into kind of the business development, sales, and support side, as well. And on support, you also tend to branch out into a little bit of engineering, so I will not get into the tech specs, I promise. I do not know that much about it. I will just stay at the 50,000-foot level view if I can.
But Trenton Systems, we do make some cool products. We specialize in developing, designing, manufacturing the high-performance computing solutions for the military, industrial, and commercial sectors. And mainly focused on the military first and then industrial second, and what that entails is you’ll find our computers really on anything from theme park rides, some of the big names that you’re familiar with that I cannot mention, and then of course some of the military vehicles that I can also not mention at the moment, but we power a lot of these critical applications around the globe, and we make these high-performance computers in various form factors, shapes, and sizes, that can withstand the harsh environments that they are placed in. So, it is not your everyday computer.
These systems are designed to serve a purpose.
Carman Pirie: And American made, so there’s that kind of security aspect.
Yazz Krdzalic: Correct. Yes. As far as security, I’m sure you’ve read the news recently. It seems to be that there’s a hack almost every week or every other week. Most recently in the state that we are in, which is Georgia, the pipeline was hacked, so we’ve almost had the eastern coast of the U.S. as far as the gas pipeline shut down for a bit, and so, it’s these things that we are preventing from happening with the U.S. design manufacturer process. Meaning we put in a lot of cybersecurity efforts from a holistic approach. That’s hardware, software, firmware, and anything kind of outside of that scope, including the environment. You start talking about counterfeit parts protection programs that we have in place, strict revision control, end of life notices, surveys for our suppliers to ensure that we are sourcing components from trusted sources.
So, a lot of these things are at play to then when you go and visit our website and look at this product, it’s just a final product that any customer that is depending on running a critical application can purchase with that trust already built into this machine that it will prevent from unauthorized access to being an issue later down the road.
Carman Pirie: That’s really cool. And man, are you making a right product at the right time, too.
Yazz Krdzalic: Yes, indeed. So, it seems like that the stars, and the planets, and the moon and everything is aligning in our favor, but we’ve really been saying the same exact message for years. We’ve been in business since the late ‘80s, so a little over three decades right now, and we’re the only U.S. board manufacturer that still manufactures their boards in house, right here in Atlanta, Georgia, so we have mechanical, software, and electrical engineering all under one roof, and so now with that engineering team, you have the support team here, as well. So, they work shoulder to shoulder with the same engineers who have literally whiteboarded this design, and then put it into kind of an actual product and it’s here, and it then goes to the customer, leaves our facility, and we get to support it there on out.
And that’s why we boast about our life cycle. The industry average is three-to-five years. For us, it’s just north of 11 years. So, it really speaks for itself.
Jeff White: That is really cool. I have to imagine too, with that, with local production, or made in the USA production and manufacturing, and having your support team kind of co-located with those engineers, that really is… and I think there’s an awful lot of people that don’t necessarily know that HubSpot kind of plays into that support side of the equation, as well. Let’s come back to that, but maybe start at how you’ve implemented it and where you started with the platform, and then how it’s helped to enable all of these different components of the business.
Carman Pirie: And our listeners should know that Yazz is a self-described HubSpot fanatic on his LinkedIn profile and wears this methodology as a bit of a badge, so you know, now he needs to explain why.
Yazz Krdzalic: First, I’ll say I do bleed orange, so that will be my HubSpot little tagline. I am a HubSpot fanatic. And I say that honestly, and I think in the beginning we’ve said we’re not getting paid for this. I’m actually paying HubSpot to use their services, so… But I say this with pride because it truly has infused into every department and every process within our business. And the way I implemented it, to answer your question, Jeff, is when we first started, we really needed something to upgrade the company digitally, if you will. We needed a platform that understands the pain points but adds zero complexity to that process of changing CRMs. And as we all know if you’ve been part of a CRM switch, data will get lost, data will get misused, data will be somehow translated incorrectly, and then you spend months on end thereafter trying to dedupe and clear the data.
And so, HubSpot, really what stood out, the how easy it is to use right out of the box. It truly just made a gigantic impact on marketing, but it also had almost immediate sales buy-in, and we really started from the ground floor. We said, “We don’t have this capability that HubSpot brings, and so let’s use that.” And this inbound methodology was foreign at the time at Trenton Systems, and we said, “Let’s also change our process, the way we think about sales, as well.” And not only inbound sales, but inbound marketing, inbound everything.
And I always like to say we finally—it took us a couple of months to learn, to study, to train—but we finally got inbounded. And it made such a huge impact to where prior to HubSpot and prior to my arrival here at Trenton Systems, it was known as the marketing team, and the sales team, and then the support team, just like many other companies. Now, we consider ourselves the smarketing team, and now that we have support and engineering buy-in, we’re starting to hashtag this new term called #smarketeering. And so, we call ourselves the three smarketeers, if you will, between the three departments.
And it’s really anybody that jumps on HubSpot, it’s like you’re expecting this learning curve but there is none. And that’s… Hopefully that answers your question. So, we started from the ground up and we’ve started at marketing and expanded into the other departments.
Carman Pirie: And that has been much the evolution of the platform itself. I think they’ve… It’s interesting that they’ve now kind of… I think they’re starting to see themselves a bit more as a CRM-centric platform versus marketing, which for those of us who have been around it for a while, that’s gonna be a bit of a reorientation.
Jeff White: It kind of makes sense though. I mean, it always really was about the contact record. You know, starting from there as a base, and now I think the one thing the CRM focus allows them to do is to get more of an account focus on that and kind of bring… So, it’s not just personas anymore. And I think they’ve seen the writing on the wall about account focus within a lot of organizations. The move to CRM is there.
Yazz Krdzalic: Exactly, and I don’t think they ever set out to be a direct competitor with some of these larger CRM platforms, but naturally, as you alluded to, Jeff, it almost was a requirement. The moment they released the marketing hub, it said, “Well, it makes sense that sales joins in, too.” And then before you know it, well, it makes sense that support joins in, too. Well, it makes sense to have ABM. It makes sense to have custom objects. And all of a sudden, just within the last four years, HubSpot, the actual platform has changed and evolved so much that it’s no longer just that marketing tool. It is truly a full-fledged CRM that started in marketing, which I think adds a lot of the bonuses that a lot of HubSpot customers appreciate.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. The fact that it started from a marketing perspective in some way… The pickle can’t be a cucumber again. It’ll always kind of in some ways that marketing DNA persists, which is I think something a lot of, like you say, people appreciate as they begin using the tool particularly from the marketing side. I’m curious, you’ve spoken about how it really helped bring the various aspects of the organization together, these three departments, and even bringing engineering into that, and the tool has been a bit of the catalyst for it. Have you seen a bit of a unification of the organizational KPIs between those departments now? Are you being measured more cohesively or collectively versus individually? Has any of that evolved?
Yazz Krdzalic: It has. Oh, it has evolved by a large margin, and I say that in a sense of the KPIs used to be split between the departments, and they used to be pretty much a brick wall in between the two. And now with what I consider inbounds, one of the key benefits of being inbounded is to create these roles for processes that bridge the gap between departments. And I think that’s key to take away here for anybody thinking about inbound and HubSpot, is if you have this line between departments and you want to delineate that, inbound naturally pushes you in that direction because you have interdependencies between individuals at the company. And just to answer your question directly for Trenton Systems, that’s exactly what it has done. Even to such a level as our KPIs, because marketing, we have our KPIs for let’s say we’re looking at clickthrough rates, open rates, you name it, but those have to translate to subscribers. Those have to translate to the different life cycle stages. And then eventually you’re going to butt up against an SQL or an opportunity.
And that information that you have worked on up until that point, the sales team depends on that, and so you having that natural, organic handoff, you immediately create this unified approach, this unified KPI. I have buy-in into what happens to the contact that I nurtured until that point, and I am hand in hand with sales to make sure it goes all the way to closed/won. And then what happens after closed/won, now you have marketing and sales holding hands already, going to the support team saying, “All right, come on. Grab my hand. We’re in this together. We want to make sure that this customer journey is constantly looked at and constantly optimized and improved.” So, that attract, convert, close, and delight phase, that’s really what we’re all about here. And when it gets to delight, it doesn’t end simply because you have a PO at the end of the day. It’s really almost where it begins for us now. It’s making sure that the customer is delighted even after that visitor, to conversion, to PO. We want to ensure that they are taken care of and then being brought back into the loop whether through a referral from that contact or they may be on another program or project.
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Jeff White: You mentioned that you didn’t even really have to sell the sales team on this, that they were all-in from the very beginning. I mean, this is not common in many organizations. There’s often resistance to adoption of new technology within a sales force, especially more outside-type sales forces, but do you have any thoughts or tips for people who are marketing organizations that are looking to get more buy-in from the sales team in order to kind of bring them into the fold and start to see themselves as a more of a synchronized swim than a medley relay?
Yazz Krdzalic: Yes, I do, and you know, I may have oversold it a little bit. Yes, there was some pushback. But it was immediate. It was almost that default answer by anybody expecting to go through a ton of change. And changing CRMs, again, I cannot stress it enough. If anybody’s been through it, it’s a large undertaking. But those headaches were removed with HubSpot. Usually, when you have that pushback of, “Why are we changing, fine, this tool works just fine, and we may not be utilizing it correctly, but that’s not your role. We’re sales, you’re marketing.” When you go from that perspective into this tool that you can then demo easily and say, “This is how you do it,” and let them kind of test it themselves and see just how easy it is, I think most of that pushback from sales is, “I have to learn a new tool and there’s going to be a learning curve.”
But with HubSpot, it’s almost like, “Well, how would I create a new contact?” I’m assuming I click on that orange button that says, “Create Contact.” Done. “Well, how in the world would I submit a quote?” I’m assuming I would go to this thing that says quote and create quote. So, it’s just very intuitive, and when you onboard them in that way, and then you provide this support that most sales teams are not used to from a marketing perspective, you almost have that authentic buy-in. It happens and it becomes, “I depend on you to help me grow my customer pipeline.” And then you immediately… It’s like that inbound methodology at work immediately. You have immediate buy-in, you have immediate depending on one another, and you have immediate teamwork that now you just went from sales versus marketing to smarketing without you even knowing it.
Carman Pirie: I tend to agree. I think that one of the things that HubSpot’s done fairly well is they’ve… Yes, the platform’s fairly easy to use, and the other thing is that there’s a number of the kind of sales enablement tools, even email open tracking and things of that sort, that are almost like little gateway drugs into the platform for a sales guy or girl, right? The salespeople love some of that functionality and if it integrates within their existing email platform and digital environment otherwise, it’s really easy to take advantage of it.
So, I think I agree with you, there’s a technical change management that in some ways reduced. One of, I think, the changes that is sometimes underestimated, I’ve found, is the change in how you have to sell to people when you’re becoming aware of them much sooner. You know, often when a sales organization is only receiving leads that somebody’s typing in on a contact us form, please have sales call me, that’s pretty easy. But you know, when a salesperson is asked to maybe begin to engage with an MQL, that’s a different kind of sensibility often. I guess did you notice any shifts there? Was it a significant lift for the sales organization to get used to these new types of leads that weren’t maybe as bottom-of-funnel as they were used to, but there were more of them?
Yazz Krdzalic: Yes, and of course, it’s interesting you used bottom of the funnel. HubSpot focuses on the flywheel and it’s all about momentum, and it’s no longer the funnel, and it’s about consistently adding new ways and new innovations to this flywheel to keep the momentum spinning and your company is at the center of it. And you’re absolutely right. It took some time to get used to this new system of, “I have to be aware of what marketing is doing, what they are releasing, what they are posting, what resources I could use to send to this potential customer,” that you’re right, may be an MQL. It is no longer an opportunity that’s already, like you said, through a contact us form that says, “I would like to buy product A, quantity 10, at this price range. Can you send me a quote?”
In a perfect world, that would be great, but especially in our industry right now, our sales cycles are well over a year on average. And so, it takes a long time for you to nurture this contact, and how do you stay relevant for an entire year knowing that your competition is constantly pinging that potential customer and trying to pry them out of your hands? It’s really inbound, and for me, inbound truly means the absolute way of doing customer service. It really boils down to that. I’ve said Dharmesh and Brian have figured out a way how to take customer service, turn it into a tool, and then build a culture around it. It really is a customer-centric methodology at its core. And yes, it takes some changing on the sales part to get used to that way of selling, but once you get to that level it’s really difficult to go back, because you now realize it.
Everywhere I go… I’m currently looking to buy a car. Perfect example. Car salesmen. I walk onto a lot, and you get that immediate, “What are you looking to buy? When are you looking to buy it?” And it’s like, “Oh, my God. Goodness gracious. You never even asked me a question about why I’m looking at this specific vehicle and to learn about my needs, and wants, and desires, and to offer different things that I may not have even thought about it.” And so, again, it’s about that customer experience. The moment somebody gets it, that’s the first thing that I think of like, “Yep, they get the inbound way.” And for sales, it’s definitely a shift, but not only for sales. Marketing, as well.
Carman Pirie: Yeah, I think that’s… and I appreciate that, the HubSpot shift from funnel to flywheel. I could take a couple potshots at the flywheel methodology. I think in some ways that’s just more of a graphic design exercise, and I’ve taken my fair share of potshots at the funnel, as well, because I think in some ways if you’re taking an account-based approach, it’s not about weeding people out at different stages of a funnel. It’s understanding that that person can buy from you. They may not be in the market today, but it doesn’t mean you ignore them.
Yazz Krdzalic: Right. Yeah.
Carman Pirie: Sometimes I think that funnel thinking kind of almost suggests that there’s more at the top than at the bottom, so you’re taking people out, right?
Yazz Krdzalic: Yeah. I can definitely agree with that. It may be a graphic design team involved into saying, “Make the funnel look different and then we will think different.” And you may be right. I mean, some of it you can say they are very similar, but it’s just once you say that to somebody, to say it’s a constantly spinning wheel, that means you never stop.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. It’s a useful mental model that way. I see your point.
Yazz Krdzalic: Right. I mean, sales, they get excited twice. When they get the quote, when they send the quote, and when they get the PO. And so, how do you get them to be excited the whole time? Well, you take the funnel, and you say, “It’s a wheel!” And it keeps spinning, so you need to keep spinning, as well. So, you may have a point there, but I think that the theory behind the wheel is still… It’s always about engaging with the customer. Never letting go. We used to have a hashtag here in our company anytime we started talking to them, I recently had an example where they reached out seven months after we’ve sent something and they said, “Hey, I meant to talk about this email.” And we always, between each other we say, “#NeverLetGo.” This is why, because we are constantly seeing the emails that may say, “Oh, I was on a project. It took me forever. I’m finally coming up for some air and I keep seeing your emails. Hey, by the way, how’s that doing?”
And so, it’s just a different way of thinking.
Carman Pirie: And what’s interesting too is of course that delay in the sales process, or the start and stop, or I’m interested, I’m doing some research, and then I pause for whatever reason, that’s kind of always been there, but we didn’t see it because that part of that sales process was dark, of course. You know? But now that you’re getting that conversion much earlier on in the process, that’s one thing I always find fascinating about the methodology is I think you’re just turning a light on in some rooms of the sales process that you didn’t get to look in before. You didn’t know how people were thinking.
And so, some people would be like, “Oh my goodness, their sales cycles are getting longer.” Sometimes I wonder if what they really mean is, “We see more of the sales cycle.”
Yazz Krdzalic: Yes. No, you’re absolutely right, and the other thing is like when before inbound and before this became a thing, the top salespeople at an organization had this process where they were doing things that others were not. And I feel like inbound took all that secret sauce and said, “We’re gonna share it with everybody.” Not saying that it’s easy, but at least we’re going to give you a process to get there. And inbound in my humble opinion, it’s that bridge to getting to be that top salesperson, to be that top marketer, to be the top support member. And it always boils down to caring about the customer and doing kind of that team collaborative effort to make sure that they are always taken care of, and that unified approach between an organization and kind of tearing down those walls between departments is really what it does well.
Jeff White: You mentioned previously that a significant portion of Trenton is using HubSpot. I think more than half if my notes are to be believed. But is there any part of the organization that you think either could benefit from HubSpot but isn’t using it yet, or is there anywhere within the organization that you think HubSpot would not be effective?
Yazz Krdzalic: Got it. No, and a great question. I ask myself that question every time. Again, being the HubSpot fanatic here, I’m always trying to ask about what processes are outside of my department, just to see if HubSpot can help, and the reason I do that is also to again have insight into what other team members are doing within the organization. I feel like the moment they are in HubSpot, it’s like they are on everybody’s radar, and it helps everyone. They get to see what we’re doing. We get to see what they’re doing. And we get to help each other out.
Where HubSpot could be used inside our organization I would think… We have a quality department, as well. That would be another arena. So, operations, quality, getting into it would be an arena that would benefit. We’re slowly and surely getting some of the quality assurance engineers into HubSpot and then kind of getting major buy-in. And as far as where HubSpot would not make sense yet, I will bold and underline that term yet, would be production. So, meaning the product. HubSpot has a products tool but for a manufacturer such as Trenton Systems, we’re in such a niche category and industry that the way we look at our products isn’t default for everybody else. And so, the customization capabilities are still I would say geared towards the everyday manufacturer, everyday B2C, B2B company. If you have any sort of customizations within that realm, that’s where I would say HubSpot is still catching up, but talking to HubSpot almost on a weekly basis, I know they’re already working on something, and it’s not a secret. I think they’ve shared this publicly.
And so, they’re constantly updating, upgrading, improving, and expanding on their capabilities. They’ve recently announced the custom objects, which was a gamechanger for us, and so I know within a year or two, HubSpot, where I see them going is really the one-stop shop for everything B2B, B2C. I think we’re talking way past CRM capabilities.
Jeff White: I really like the notion that being a HubSpot ambassador within Trenton Systems has actually enabled you to see and shine lights into areas of the organization that you previously never would have understood or never would have asked questions about because you’re looking for opportunities to operationalize a platform and truly gain an understanding of the entire organization. I think that’s really interesting.
Yazz Krdzalic: Yeah. It has enabled me to really be involved and it may be a little weird for a director of engineering or quality assurance director to get an email from the marketing guy to say, “Hey, what do you do on a day-to-day basis? I think HubSpot may be able to help.” And you have that pushback that we’ve already discussed, but the moment they see the wealth of information that’s already stored in HubSpot from all the other departments that they have a dependency with, that’s exactly that aha moment, and that’s what I’m looking for. And the moment they are in HubSpot, as I’ve said, it’s only a benefit to the company and to that department, as well.
Carman Pirie: Yazz, this has been a fantastic conversation. I really thank you for sharing your experience with us. I’ve really enjoyed it.
Yazz Krdzalic: Yeah, likewise. No, this is great. Anytime you have me talking about HubSpot, yeah, I’ll definitely sign up. So-
Carman Pirie: All right, well, we need to… Maybe we’ll have to send those guys a bill after this. I don’t know, we’ll see. But again, thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure.
Yazz Krdzalic: Of course. Likewise. Thank you for having me.
Jeff White: Thank you.
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