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.
Industrial marketers eager to provide useful content to prospects can only get so far with lunch-and-learns and coffee mugs. This week on The Kula Ring, Adam Beck, Director of Marketing at CADENAS PARTsolutions shares how the company’s tool for creating 3D CAD models enables engineers and other stakeholders to create content marketing assets that improve lead generation.
How an Industrial Marketer Creates Customized Content 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 are you doing, mate?
Carman Pirie: Well, you know Jeff, I was doing a little bit better a few moments ago, but-
Jeff White: Podcasting recording difficulties.
Carman Pirie: Well, there’s that, but what our listeners don’t know is that we had some recording difficulties getting the session underway, and I found myself drinking a little bit more water than normal in that moment, and I may have even encountered a kernel of peppercorn or something in the process of doing that, so now I’m wondering how this is going to work. Can I make it through the whole episode without having to get up and try to find more water? I guess if our listeners can bear with us, I think it will be fun. We’ll see if I can live or die through this.
Jeff White: It’s just like the hot sauce challenge or something. The peppercorn edition.
Carman Pirie: But look, I think today’s show is just fantastic. I’m really excited to have today’s guest with us and to be able to introduce, frankly, the technology that his company brings to bear to other manufacturing industrial marketers. I think our listeners are gonna be excited to learn about the tool and its applications.
Jeff White: It certainly is, and you’re right, it is a fascinating technology and really interesting, and certainly not something I was aware of before we started talking to our guest. So, joining us today is Adam Beck. Adam is the Director of Marketing at CADENAS PARTsolutions. Welcome to The Kula Ring, Adam.
Adam Beck: Thank you. Glad to be here.
Carman Pirie: Adam, it’s a pleasure to have you on the show, and let’s just jump right into it. I’d love to hear a bit about your background and what led you to the current role, and then we can get into what the company actually does, perhaps.
Adam Beck: Okay. Yeah, so my name is Adam Beck. I have been an industrial marketer for almost 20 years. I’ve worked for manufacturers and different products over the years, and over the last eight, I’ve been with this company called CADENAS PARTsolutions. We provide a tool for industrial manufacturers commonly. It can also have a lot of applications for architectural manufacturers. Anyone that sells a thing that goes on another thing, we have a tool for them to hopefully help increase their sales and get specified more.
Carman Pirie: I love the incredibly broad definition of what PARTsolutions does, so let’s just peel back the label a little bit. How is it that you help these folks go to market, and just talk about the service more specifically and how it comes to…
Adam Beck: Yeah, so really in the B2B space or in the manufacturing space, there’s engineers and architects out there every day looking for parts, and components, and products to put into their design, that they don’t make these products themselves. They’re making a larger machine. They need a bearing, or a motor, or a waste receptacle, or a bench for their facility. It doesn’t make sense for these designers to model that product, so they’re on the Internet looking for solutions, and we help manufacturers meet that need. We help them put a representation of their product on their website, which provides a 3D preview and it’s a safe consumable file that a designer can preview, configure, and download directly into their design, and it really is a soft sale.
There’s never a financial transaction. No money changes hands, but a lot of times we see that is the specification of that product into the design, and it’s a soft purchase, and it comes through later into the design process. The purchasing department gets the information for it in the build materials and it’s bought.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. I mean, we all know many categories getting specced is the first step to getting purchased. That’s really where your solution comes in, and I love how it’s marketing by helping. It’s marketing by actually providing a service, by actually being useful to the engineers versus trying to find another way to sell to them, you know what I mean?
Adam Beck: Yeah. And that’s the reason why I chose to come to this company. It’s a genuine need and we can provide a consultative useful tool that these manufacturers really need. We help them, we work with them to create the perfect program for them and their industry, and their audience, and we can work together on it into the future.
Jeff White: Effectively too, what you’re talking about is being a 3D model service bureau for manufacturers, because of course the applications for creating CAD models and other types of models are incredibly expensive, and difficult to learn, and all of that, and it’s unlikely that any manufacturer is going to have more than just the one they need. They’re not going to have all of the different providers of software in their own houses, so I think it’s an interesting model. It kind of reminds me a bit of the print shops of old that always had every version of QuarkXPress and InDesign available, that most of the design shops didn’t.
Adam Beck: Exactly. Yeah, oftentimes these products, these manufacturers, they have a CAD platform or two. They have SOLIDWORKS and CATIA or whatever that might be, and they can provide, if needed, a model to their audience in that format. What we can do is we have over 100 formats with an instance running in the cloud that when that engineer is happy with the configuration, it spins up that actual CAD instance and delivers on demand a CAD model, a native CAD model, to that engineer.
Carman Pirie: I wonder how much of your value prop is centered around that cost savings and admin savings side versus on the more lead gen, opportunity generation side of the coin?
Adam Beck: It depends, manufacturer to manufacturer, so I think it’s universally understood that this is a customer service need, and a lot of these larger manufacturers have mandates to improve their digital customer experience, or their goal is to be the easiest to work with. If you have to call into their company and ask for a CAD model of one of their products and wait three days to get it, and then it’s in a format that you don’t prefer anyway, that’s not the best customer service. If they put it on their website and then you can play with it, create the exact product from their rules that you want, download it in the exact form that you need, that is the experience that these manufacturers want to deliver.
Now, as far as the lead gen side, that also depends manufacturer to manufacturer. Some put it wide open on their website. There’s no exchange of an email address or anything. They know that more downloads is gonna eventually lead to more sales and they got the firehose wide open on it. Other manufacturers, they gate it and they usually have an exchange of an email address, or a couple other form fields, and then it’s free delivery of that product.
Jeff White: Our experience has been that interactive content as far as a gated asset, it usually performs significantly better, but this is a whole other level of interaction when you can actually snag a copy of the product itself in a three-dimensional format that you can then insert into your own product is really… You’re not just talking about pure marketing, but it’s truly something that is highly useful to the engineers and others who are going to be speccing and building out machines that pull products from all over the place.
Adam Beck: Yeah, exactly, and I joke with our customers all the time that I’m jealous that they can use our tool, because I don’t sell a physical product, so it doesn’t make any sense for me to provide CAD models of anything on our website, other than just for an example. I have to do all the traditional marketing content, creating videos, and white papers, and blog posts, and this and that, and they have a treasure trove of content at their disposal.
Carman Pirie: That really resonates with me, and I can just imagine so many organizations, like you say, they’re sitting on just literally millions of pieces of interactive content that they could be potentially putting to work for them. And you must have worked with clients that have done this in addition to that marketing level content that you just contrasted it with. For the folks that have done both, I’d be curious how they’ve seen their kind of lead flow evolve and change over time. Any kind of thoughts on that or experiences to share?
Adam Beck: I guess what do you mean by that?
Carman Pirie: Well, I was thinking like you mentioned manufacturers get to use their products as pieces of 3D interactive content for lead gen.
Adam Beck: Okay. Yeah.
Carman Pirie: And you have to rely on white paper downloads or what have you. I’m guessing there’s manufacturers that actually do both.
Adam Beck: Yeah. Yeah. Many do.
Carman Pirie: And I’d be really curious what you’re seeing there in terms of how their lead flow maybe evolved with the adoption of your tool.
Adam Beck: Yeah, so we have manufacturers where some of the stats they’ve given us were their leads doubled overnight when they turned our tool on. Some have said 300-plus over the first year of their launch. But they use it in multiple ways. It’s not just this one thing that sits on their website and people know to find it. They use it in their social media. That’s one of the things, we do a marketing kickoff with manufacturers and I have to think up a tweet every day, or an Instagram post. You just got a million Instagram posts if you use each of these wisely as the part of the day, or the feature of the week, or whatever that might be, and if you think of it like that, it begins to multiply in the volume of things that you can say if you’re promoting this as your product.
Jeff White: How much guidance do you provide, because as a marketer, and as a representative of this company that is providing this service and these models and all of that, how much guidance do you provide your customers in terms of how best to leverage this asset?
Adam Beck: I’m happy to provide as much guidance and support as they will let us. We’ve expanded our marketing, we’re an industrial marketer marketing to industrial marketers and on behalf of industrial marketers, so we like to be intimately involved with our clients and help them every step of the way, putting their message out there, making them forefront, because really their success is our success. For me to personally market our products, I just like to make our customers look great at the end of the day. For them, I love to make it as easy for them to meet their numbers, make them look great to their boss and their board, or whoever they have to prove out things to, and just continue the more is more attitude.
Jeff White: Carman, I’d like to just point out that this is yet again another instance of the marketing turducken effect.
Carman Pirie: Yeah, exactly.
Adam Beck: Mm, turducken.
Carman Pirie: I don’t know, it’s like almost we have this running kind of desire it seems to work turducken into every third episode of The Kula Ring.
Adam Beck: Have you actually had a turducken, though?
Jeff White: I have. Yeah.
Adam Beck: Yeah. I had… It was probably 20 years ago. I wasn’t impressed.
Jeff White: It was drier than I was hoping.
Adam Beck: Yeah.
Jeff White: But-
Carman Pirie: This is not a ringing endorsement. I’m gonna tell you, Adam, I think the last time I brought up turducken, our guest was a vegan, so that went over well.
Adam Beck: Oh, okay. All right.
Carman Pirie: Really, Jeff, I don’t know… You’re probably thinking about this, as well, just it’s an interesting contrast. If you remember a guest we had on the show, Vince, who’s an architect, talked about being sold to as an architect. To bring you up to speed, Adam, basically there was a big disaster with somebody overpromising and getting an engineering drawing, et cetera, wrong. And instead of making it right financially in some way, the sales guy I think sent a coffee mug or something like that as a bit of a… The way it was explained to us, it was like a $200,000 mistake, and the coffee mug was the… and Vince was encouraging people at the time. He said if you’re selling to architects or selling to engineers, you’ve gotta find ways beyond just the lunch-and-learns and old school sales techniques to try to get specced, and you need to find better ways to be more useful to those prospects. And that really just strikes me that that’s what your tool helps-
Adam Beck: Yeah. Engineers and architects are super smart. They don’t need to be told. They just need to know that you exist and that you create products in the vein that they’re looking for, and they need the opportunity to run with it and crawl around the website and find the one that works best for them, or not, but they want to find the one that works best for them and get it on their time, and the way that they want it. We’ve heard again and again that resonates with these manufacturers and their audience.
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Carman Pirie: I want to transition a bit to pick up on something you mentioned just a few moments ago with respect to how you folks like to go to market and that kind of customer-first approach to marketing that you bring to it. I wonder if you could tell us more about how you highlight your customers and your marketing, and maybe even get a little tactical on us and tell us some of the initiatives that you have found to be most successful over the years.
Adam Beck: Yeah, so we come at it from an inbound content marketing perspective, but the way that we spin it is I’m always trying to tell a customer’s story, and there’s two reasons for that. First is that it feels better at the end of the day, it’s more genuine, it puts them in the forefront. The other side of it is a little bit more selfish. I just hate talking about features and benefits, and it’s boring, and I’ve done that in the past, and I would rather talk about these great, smart, forward-thinking manufacturers and the great things that they’re doing, and what their success brings us along with them.
Carman Pirie: And you’ve been with the firm for a while, so it took you awhile I’m guessing to kind of introduce this approach. Did the organization, was it more of a features and benefits type of marketer before you came along?
Adam Beck: There was actually no marketing before I came along. The guy who hired me, who has moved on to other things, he was only there for a couple months and he started the marketing department, and I was the first on his team, and we looked at the things that they were doing and we said, “Here’s why you can do more and here will be the benefits. Your customers should like this. It should increase our search traffic. It should increase our lead generation.” And it’s proven out significantly in all of those. We create white papers, and case studies, and videos, and it’s all customer-centric. And our leads have never been better.
This year is a little bit of an anomaly. It’s a little weird. I don’t know how to quite read the numbers yet for 2020, but over the last eight years, we’ve probably 8x’d our web traffic from where I started. We’re probably more than that. We’re probably 10x’d off the top of my head on monthly search or web traffic.
Carman Pirie: That’s impressive. I wonder, so often I hear industrial marketers who want to use case studies more frequently in their marketing, and they struggle to get them, frankly. They find it hard to get through a sales gatekeeper, potentially. Their client organizations aren’t always willing to open up. It can lead to these scenarios where case studies are kind of nameless and faceless. It’s like, “Says a happy engineer out of Cleveland.” As opposed to actually saying the company and the person. And it strikes me that the type of service that you offer is one that delivers a competitive market advantage, and I guess what I’m suggesting is that some people may be a little hesitant to talk about it and how they… This is a big competitive advantage for us, and kind of announce it to their competitors. How have you gotten over that hump? Because it certainly seems like you have.
Adam Beck: Yeah. We make it in their best interest. It’s part of the package that they purchase from us. They purchase this service to put things on their website and reach engineers, but as part of that it’s a marketing tool for them to market, and I consider myself as part of what comes along with that marketing tool, so we are helping them. Actually, those stories, those customer stories are what they’re using to help reach their audience and let them know that this exists, that if they haven’t tried it yet, to visit it. We create videos showing how to navigate each customer’s website, how to navigate the configuration tool. We make it in the customer’s best interest and again, we’re carried along for the ride, and they’re the shining star in this, and everybody wins.
Jeff White: I have to imagine the referral potential here, because you’ve got manufacturers talking to manufacturers, providing models upstream, downstream to each other. I have to imagine if somebody goes ahead and specs one of your models into their product, they’re then thinking, “Geez, we could use this, too, so that other people can spec our tool, which specced that tool to somebody else’s product.” How prevalent is the kind of the built-in referral possibility of the tool?
Adam Beck: It’s tough, because this tends to be component manufacturers that use our tool, and OEMs are the consumers, so those OEMs don’t always have a reason or a want for their products to be specced in, but there’s many opportunities where we’ve been reached by those OEMs and they’re like, “I’m going around looking for these. Why don’t you have ABC Manufacturing’s slide, linear slides on there?” Like, “Well, they’re not on our system. If you want to contact them, or we can, we can see what we can do for them.” That’s usually how the referrals go. They’re looking for it. They’re like, “Why the heck don’t they have this?”
Carman Pirie: Man, that’s powerful if their potential customers are coming to them and say, “Hey, you might want to use this tool. We find it helpful with the other stuff that we spec and buy.”
Adam Beck: Yeah.
Carman Pirie: That’s fantastic.
Adam Beck: Well, as far as other ways that we’re putting our clients in the forefront is last year we, at Content Marketing World, did an entire day, and it was the Industrial Marketing Summit. I was by default the MC of it, which is not my strength, but we were just there in the background, and we put manufacturers on the stage and let them talk about how they promote their products and the tools that they use, and they mentioned the variety of things that they do, and the techniques and tactics that they use, and it was a great experience, and I think that it really opened a lot of manufacturers’ eyes to how many cool things industrial manufacturers think, “Oh gosh, I’m selling these metal widgets and it’s not some sexy shoe or a Big Mac or whatever that fun thing to market is.” But these industrial marketers have a lot of cool opportunities and assets at their disposal if they want to get creative with it.
Carman Pirie: Yeah, I’ve gotta say I’ve been in the marketing business an awfully long time, and I’ve never been able to figure out. It’s never resonated with me why people have that kind of predisposition towards consumer B2C marketing versus industrial marketing. Because I think there’s so much cool stuff in industrial, right? There’s so much interesting technology out there, and interesting applications at play, and parts of the economy that in some ways other people don’t even know exist, you know?
Adam Beck: Yeah.
Carman Pirie: And I find that cool. To me, that’s more interesting than marketing Nikes, I think.
Adam Beck: Yeah. I like it because I call it the slowest moving videogame ever, because what I do in our position here as an industrial marketer, because we’re not at the scale of Pepsi or something like that, I can see a direct correlation between the marketing that we put in and the results that we get back. And our clients see the same thing. When you’re hoping that your commercial on the Super Bowl is getting you selling some more six packs of Pepsi, there’s a big disconnect there and a lot of guesses in between.
Carman Pirie: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve gotta say, Adam, I think a lot of that secret sauce that you have with this customer-first approach to your marketing is around that creation of content, marketing content for the customer. It’s not just a one sided you’re getting the case study out of it, and I can’t help but think that that’s really what’s fueled your success in this approach.
Adam Beck: Definitely. Yeah.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. So often you’re out there as a marketer asking for those case studies and it’s like you’re hat in hand, you know? They’re not approaching it as though they’re coming to give something, as well. I think that’s really, really solid advice.
Adam Beck: Yeah. Thanks.
Jeff White: Well, it’s very much a push-pull. It kind of reminds me a bit, we had a guest on the show last year, James Stanaway from Epilog Laser, and their product is a laser engraving machine, and they do a very similar thing in that they actually get their customers to create things with it and then use those things as the giveaway, or the sample that helps to get their customer’s customers excited, and it’s a multipronged approach, and it benefits both Epilog and their customers to be talking about it in that way. More of a physical example, I guess, than a 3D model.
Adam Beck: Exactly. Yeah.
Carman Pirie: Very cool. Adam, I wonder, kind of turning personal a bit and kind of reflecting on a career as an industrial marketer, I wonder, is there anything you wish you knew when you started that you know now?
Adam Beck: Oh, wow. I think earlier in my career I would have focused more on writing. I was an okay writer in school and in my early years, and I never really focused on it. I think that’s one of those things that it translates to every aspect of what I do, and it’s one of the things that we say in our marketing department, it’s called a Mark Twain quote but it’s not. I would have written you a shorter letter had I had more time. Or I think I said that backwards, but boiling things down to the essence, getting to the point, being clear and concise is a learned skill and it takes a lot of practice. I’m still getting better at it, but it’s one of those things. I think good marketers come from great writers.
Jeff White: Wow.
Carman Pirie: I did not expect that answer.
Jeff White: Yeah. I didn’t either and I love it, because I couldn’t agree more. I was an absolutely atrocious writer growing up. I had an English teacher in high school who told me I’d never be able to write. Now it’s about 80% of what I do.
Adam Beck: Yeah, and when you can apply that to an email, I’ve had… Another service our marketing team provides is we help our whole sales and technical team with anything they need to edit, or is that an important email, or a document, whatever that is, and we’re always trying to help them get to the point, boil things down, get to the essence, be clear with less words, and send it.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. It’s a funny thing and I think… I’ve gotta say, as somebody who maybe… I don’t know. I guess I’ve had a lot of writers work with me in the past, and sometimes you almost begin to wonder if it can be taught, right? You’re almost like, “Ah, you almost have to be born with it.” And here you both are saying you just worked hard and became better writers over time, and it wasn’t something that you were initially strong at, so I think that’s instructive to our listeners, as well.
Adam Beck: Yeah, for sure. Everywhere I’d work previously, I was always told I was a good writer or a better writer on the team, but when I came to work here, my predecessor had a journalism background and was a real editor, like a newspaper-caliber editor, and the first couple things I wrote for him just got shredded, and I had to swallow my pride. It was a bit of an ego check. But I think my writing is way, way better for it. And it changed my perspective and how I’m trying to write. Instead of trying to be verbose and flowery, I’m trying to throw all those words out and get right to the point.
Carman Pirie: Well, Adam, I feel after that it would be silly for us to be more verbose in this episode.
Adam Beck: Oh, man!
Carman Pirie: I really thank you for sharing your expertise and perspective with our listeners today. It’s been a fascinating conversation. I really enjoyed it.
Adam Beck: Thank you for having me.
Carman Pirie: All the best.
Jeff White: Yeah. Thanks very much.
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