Identifying Customer Needs for Increased B2B eCommerce Functionality

Episode 190

June 28, 2022

Customer experience can define how your product is sold online. Mike Powers, Director of eCommerce and Digital at Alaska Rubber Group, explains how organizations can identify platforms for B2B functionality to make the customer research and buying experience a positive one. He explains the importance behind product data in online listings and how it correlates with more revenue in distribution channels. Mike Powers reveals how companies can incorporate strategy in eCommerce for their potential customers to discover product information for themselves.

Identifying Customer Needs for Increased B2B eCommerce Functionality 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, sir? 

Carman Pirie: I’m doing well. I’m doing well. And good as always to be chatting with you and good to be chatting with a return guest to the show. 

Jeff White: Yeah. Yeah. One of the very earliest guests on the show. I think we recorded all the way back in I want to say 2018, but time is immaterial and I’m honestly not sure. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. I have no idea. I know that I ended up speaking at a conference due to connecting with this guest. 

Jeff White: Yeah. Has a lot of knowledge. Very well known in the industry. 

Carman Pirie: In New Orleans, which was a great excuse to travel to New Orleans, I’ve got to say, and I don’t… Whether that was 10 years ago or 10 months ago, I honestly have no idea. 

Jeff White: But I’m sure the talk went well. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. I think from what I remember of it, I think it was fine. 

Jeff White: Well, it is New Orleans, after all. 

Carman Pirie: Exactly. There were a few steps taken on that trip to ensure forgetfulness, let’s put it that way. 

Jeff White: They don’t call it Bourbon Street for nothing. Yeah. 

Carman Pirie: But look, yes, in all seriousness, lovely to be chatting with today’s guest. Let’s lift the covers, as it were, and let our listeners in on who we’re chatting with. 

Jeff White: Exactly, so joining us today is Mike Powers. Mike is the Director of eCommerce and Digital at the Alaska Rubber Group. Welcome to The Kula Ring, Mike. 

Mike Powers: Gentlemen, great to be back. How’s everyone doing? 

Jeff White: Yeah. Wonderful to have you. 

Carman Pirie: And Mike, I think you were with… I’m trying to remember the company. 

Jeff White: Hill & Markes. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah, Hill & Markes before, and how long have you been with the Alaska Rubber Group? 

Mike Powers: So, Alaska Rubber Group, a little over two years. Wow. Talk about time, right? Whether it’s 10 months or 10 days, feels like it’s been two weeks to be honest, but yeah, a little over two years, gentlemen, I’ve been with the Alaska Rubber Group. 

Carman Pirie: And perhaps just let our listeners know a bit more about Alaska Rubber Group, like how big is the organization? What is it that you do? Yeah. 

Mike Powers: Yeah, so I would love to, so the Alaska Rubber Group, we are a distributor and light manufacturer of hoses and fittings in the hydraulic and industrial space. And then the great thing about this company is we’re an employee-owned company, and so we’re based out of Anchorage, Alaska, but we have branches spread out all over Alaska, as well as Washington and Oregon, as well. And so, all of our branches have showrooms where customers can walk in, come to a counter, and be able to have custom assemblies either repaired, replaced, or completely built from scratch, and so it’s been a fantastic organization led by our fearless leader, Mike Mortensen, but the reason I bring up an ESOP as kind of the describer or the description of the company is it’s unbelievable to see employee owners of this organization really take ownership at every single branch because at the end of the day, this is their company, and so it’s been super exciting to work with all those employee owners, especially with driving the adoption of our B2B eCommerce platform. 

Carman Pirie: And this has kind of been your schtick. I mean, you introduced B2B eCom in your previous role and clearly have been brought into Alaska Rubber Group to do the same thing. 

Jeff White: I think it is interesting, though, just to focus a little bit on the employee ownership part, because it does bring a different dynamic to the table over a more traditionally structured corporation, eh? We have a client who is an employee-owned organization, and it does change the dynamic around approvals and things like that. 

Mike Powers: It does, it does. And in my career I’ve had the experience to be in the startup world. I’ve been in the corporate world, as well as at Hill & Markes, a family-owned business. Third generation family-owned business. Yeah, the ESOP model is very intriguing, and I keep on seeing, especially coming out of COVID, folks that are talking about what are some of the organizations that are out there that potential or prospective employees can align with? And I’m just seeing that there’s a pretty big attractiveness to the ESOP model. You know, it’s almost like the modern day pension, right? Because there’s a stock price and we’re evaluated, and everybody, you just see from the branch manager down to the guy in the back that is configuring or putting together an assembly, I think we have over 80% of our employees are fully vested owners, right? 

So, it is an intriguing and really exciting model, and to that point I’d also like to add that what I’m seeing in our industry is that there’s a lot of independent distributors in the hose and fitting space, and what we’re also seeing is there’s a lot of folks that are owners that are looking at retirement and maybe exiting the business, and they don’t feel like selling their business to Fastenal, or Grainger, or a big box store, and so we’re having conversations with these independents because these owners want their people to be taken care of. And so, over the last six months we’ve had two acquisitions of independent distributors in our space join us because those organizations want to know that their people are gonna be taken care of and they’re not gonna disappear. They’re gonna be rolled up into the Alaska Rubber Group. That’s gonna allow us to grow and sustain, and even these branches that are coming on are excited to grow, as well. 

So, there’s no sunsetting for them. They’re excited to be part of this group, so the model is really exciting to be part of. 

Carman Pirie: I think that’s an interesting point that in some ways it may be a model whose time has come in this… Given a number of components of the global dynamic right now. 

Jeff White: Yeah. Could probably do a whole show on how you use the ESOP as a marketing advantage for mergers and acquisitions. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. 

Mike Powers: 100%. 100%. And if you guys don’t mind adding, what’s intriguing or I think attractive to some of these folks that are in that position of either trying to figure out what to do with their business is that the Alaska Rubber Group, we feel as though led by Kristen Fail, our head of mergers and acquisitions, is that we’re developing a blueprint or basically a master guide, right? Because when we talk to one of these independents and we kind of audit or understand what their technology stack looks like, maybe what solutions they’re using for the financial part of the business, we’re realizing that we’re well positioned with a very good ERP. We have a best in class B2B eCommerce platform. We’re using business texting. We’re looking to do buy online, pickup store integrations and locker integrations. 

And the list goes on, right? We’re using Proton AI for sales, so again, I could continue going down the path of all of these different digital technologies we’re using, but when we have one of these branches that come on board, we now have a blueprint on how to roll them into our company and with a switch of a button we can get them active on all of the platforms I just mentioned and we can start serving that customer base in that market that distributor has worked with for such a very long time. So, that blueprint is being built and I do believe that would be a great episode for you guys, for sure. 

Carman Pirie: I think it’d be interesting to unpack that a little bit, especially after you’ve implemented it a few times, to see kind of what level of immediate lift do you see in the first quarter post integration, things of that nature, so I like the fact that we’re not even a fraction of the way into the second episode and Mike’s already negotiating his next show. 

Jeff White: The royalties are gonna be massive. 

Mike Powers: You guys are too funny. 

Jeff White: I want to go back, because you said you’ve been there for two years now, and you’re the one who brought this, the knowledge on how to do this, and kind of has helped drive it. Talk to us a bit about what it took to build, because I think I remember when we spoke you were saying it was about 16 months to kind of get this off the ground. What did that look like and how did you approach it? 

Mike Powers: Gentlemen, I think the one thing we need to start with is that I’ve been in two very different journeys. One from the kind of bottom up to the top down approach of driving eCommerce or digital transformation. So, I think it’s important to start there, because I think in my current role with the Alaska Rubber Group, my CEO, Mike Mortensen, had a whiteboard over his shoulder and it said, “B2B eCommerce,” and he had it on his whiteboard for three and a half, four years, to the point where when he originally put it up with a blue marker, by the time I started to talking to Mike, it was completely faded and you couldn’t even erase it off the whiteboard. Why is that important to note? Because Mike Mortensen and our board of directors were at a conference in Denver, Colorado, that was part of Modern Distribution Management, and there was a talk there, and I believe it was the gentleman was John Gunderson, that was talking about the importance of establishing the digital branch for your distribution business. And he went through examples of how distributors need to look at building an eCommerce website as if they’re building or acquiring a new branch. It’s your digital branch that you’re locking that door onto the side of the business. 

Long story short, our board of directors and CEO walked out of that meeting saying that this needs to be as important as either acquiring a branch or building one from the ground up, okay? And so, they were all aligned in this, after leaving this conference, in that we need to find somebody to drive or own this initiative. And so, that was my… I had an opportunity, an introduction to the Alaska Rubber Group, and then we had many conversations, and I laid out kind of my strategy and some of the success I had at Hill & Markes, but to rewind, when I was at Hill & Markes, it was a different scenario. It was the company’s largest customer coming to them and saying, “Hey, if you don’t offer online ordering to our users in the next 12 months, we’re gonna have to move to another distributor.” 

So, it was a different journey from the Alaska Rubber Group, where it was a top-down approach, to, “Oh boy, our largest customer is saying  they’re gonna leave us. What do we do?” But in both scenarios, gentlemen, once you get into the position or that first day after having lunch with the executive teams in both scenarios, you sit down at your desk and you realize, “What do we need to do?” And so, in both scenarios I will tell you evaluating vendors in the marketplace that could help us with product data, because I believe whether you’re going to be jumping into eCommerce with a light catalogue or going full B2B eCommerce with a large platform, having accurate information or product data on the products you sell is extremely important. 

Even if you’re gonna be getting that information into your ERP, or giving it to your salespeople, customer service team, before even launching a website, making sure that you have accurate product information was probably the first initiative for both Alaska Rubber Group and Hill & Markes that I had to determine, and so that piece along with identifying a platform that would allow for us to give the B2B buyer the functionality that they need to manage their business with us, right? So, gentlemen, B2B eCommerce to me is the ability to display pricing and availability, customer-specific pricing for that distribution customer, right? 

Now, that’s the baseline for me. The second piece of the puzzle that I’m gonna highlight here is that in this day and age we need to allow the B2B buyer to manage the way they’d like to buy from the distributor. I have at both Hill & Markes and at the Alaska Rubber Group, we have customers that need to control how buyers are ordering from both Alaska Rubber Group and Hill & Markes, so a multilevel approval process, the ability to view and pay open invoices, so definitely different from B2C, but those are some of the product information and B2B buying functionality were two pieces of the puzzle that we were really focused on in both journeys for me, and it really allowed for us to go out to the marketplace and realize that Unilog, in my opinion, was the platform that I’ve implemented at Hill & Markes and had success with, but I also realized that for the Alaska Rubber Group Unilog was going to be a player or a partner that we also potentially wanted to work with to provide product data not only to Alaska Rubber Group but to other hose and fitting companies that were part of our trade association. 

So, those were a couple of things of in the very beginning part of the journey that were important to us. Now-

Carman Pirie: I think the focus on product information early on, it makes sense of course, because it cascades across so many aspects of the business beyond eCommerce. I guess in each instance, how heavy a lift are we talking? Because usually you’re dealing with a lot of that information being very analog. It needs to be captured and verified in some way. 

Jeff White: Disparate places. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. So, I guess did you find, were you able to check that box in the first six months? Did it take a year? 

Mike Powers: You know what? Great question. It’s not a project that has a start and completion date, gentlemen. It is an ongoing process. What I mean by that is we… You’re gonna have some sophisticated manufacturers that have a PIM offering, they have product data, they’re actively distributing that data. In some cases, some of these manufacturers might be selling on Amazon Business and they realize that we need to have rich specifications and features, but you also have manufacturers that are now trying to understand the strategy and realize that if we want to expect more revenue from the distribution channel, then we need to provide them with product data so that they’re able to meet their customers’ needs, right? 

So, you have a wide range of expertise when it comes to product data. I will tell you that I’ve worked with our current vendor in Unilog in the past. They originally got their start in working with I believe Grainger it was a long time ago, but they were able to work with or get a substantial amount of the product data from our large manufacturers. And when I say get, it means that a lot of these distributors have the product data residing on their website, and that’s fantastic, but we also gotta realize that when you take in product data from different manufacturers across different product categories, there needs to be kind of a normalization or a cleansing of that data so that you’re able to organize it and put it into a taxonomy which resides on a website. 

And I don’t want to go too far down that because I know we could go in many different directions, but again, it’s really important to note that you’re not only going out to each of your manufacturers and pulling in that product data. You’re pulling these data sources or this product information from many different data sources. You still have to organize it and make sure that you can put it into a product category or taxonomy that is easy for your customers to use. So, it is a heavy lift and it’s not a project that ever ends. I actually have a gentleman on my team, Justin. That was my first hire at both Hill & Markes and Alaska Rubber Group, was our eCommerce merchandiser, because every single day they need to be working in the product data, making sure that the website, the attributes, the features, the filters, everything is what it needs to be to be useful for our end user. 

Jeff White: I mean, the structured part of structured data is the key here. 

Carman Pirie: Indeed. 

Mike Powers: Massive. Yes. Absolutely. And to the point where, and you guys brought it up, and this is a different part of the question you asked, was one of the things I tell B2B practitioners, and I just had this conversation in Chicago at EnvisionB2B, is you need to audit or understand what are the backend systems that you’re working with before you start this journey. So, you asked the question with Alaska Rubber Group. Our journey of 18 months to go live, I did not expect that. I did not expect that timeframe. My expectation was going to be in the nine to 12 months range. But guess what? Unfortunately, things change, and what I mean by that is that in our relationship with our ERP, when we began working with our eCommerce vendor, we had about 80 to 90% of our API from our ERP mapped to our eCommerce platform. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I’m still trying to debate, our ERP vendor realized that Alaska Rubber Group is one of our largest customers and that if they’re asking for an API for B2B eCommerce, we should probably invest in our API so that other distributors can offer eCommerce to their customers, and what ended up happening, gentlemen, was about two months away from go live the decision was made to basically migrate to a new API. Hence why the timeframe went from 12 months to 18. There was a kind of a remapping to a new API. 

But fortunately enough, it’s a hiccup that happened, but we are now well positioned for the future with this new API with our ERP, as well. 

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Carman Pirie: So, I think we’ve kind of danced around this a little bit. You’ve kind of mentioned some of the bigger manufacturers that had their work together, as it were, and were able to provide you with fairly comprehensive data. I guess what has been your experience in that kind of manufacturer ecosystem overall? Are some of them still kind of trying to figure out if digital transformation is a thing? 

Jeff White: I swear, it’s gonna take off. 

Carman Pirie: Or are most people… Have they gotten with religion, I guess? What are you seeing? I know you were just at that conference in Chicago, so maybe there’s some-

Mike Powers: Yeah. My observation is that I still believe that even some of the larger manufacturers that are doing it, and many of them may have experience in B2C, I think there’s many that are still trying to understand B2B and in particular distribution and how that kind of all comes together. Because when you’re talking about distribution, B2B, eCommerce, you have many manufacturers, the first thing they think about is MAP pricing, right? They’re not even thinking right off the bat, because they’re worried about Amazon, and resellers of their products on Amazon, but when we’re talking about a comprehensive eCommerce platform, we’re looking at our partners asking how do we get daily, weekly, or monthly updates of your product data so that if there’s any digital assets that your marketing team is creating and pushing out to the marketplace, that we’re automatically feeding that into our PIM or our CMS so that we can get it online, and so when we have those discussions or we come to the table with those asks, and many times, gentlemen, I’ve had some of the heads of eCommerce say that, “Wow, this is unbelievable. We’re excited to have a distributor that’s thinking this way.” 

Because I’ll be honest with you. There’s not many distributors and the hose and fitting space that are currently offering a B2B eCommerce solution to their customers, so this is still very new to our space, even though you guys have been talking about it for a while and the digital transformation has been thrown around for a long time, but in many cases this is still somewhat new in our industry. And so, I do know that many of our manufacturers are building out their digital teams, their B2B eCommerce teams, and I do believe that in the next year to two years that many of our manufacturers are gonna understand and get these teams fully ramped up so that distributors like the Alaska Rubber Group and many others that I think are just now beginning the journey are gonna be able to sync with the manufacturer and get all of the necessary marketing, really good marketing material, that would love to be used on our own websites. 

Carman Pirie: So, it’s interesting to note that to your point, it’s not something that’s particularly common in this space. eCommerce is fairly new in the hose and fittings category, so I’m curious. What has been the reception thus far? Are you seeing… Is the eCommerce channel really about reducing some costs of doing business? Or is it increasing share of wallet? 

Mike Powers: So, great question. And it’s an important one. So, one of the things that I think is really intriguing about our space is that that light manufacturing or that hose assembly that I mentioned to you at the beginning of the conversation, that has been this industry’s moat to protect them away from the Amazons of the world, or even some of the larger big box stores, or the Fastenals, or the Applieds, or even the Graingers, because what’s happening on a daily basis at each of our branches is somebody is walking in with a broken hose, with a male fitting and a female fitting, comes to the counter and says, “Hey, this busted on our tractor or our water irrigation system, or our Navy destroyer. We need to get it repaired.” And that expertise behind the counter is going through, asking questions, understanding what it’s being used for, and then they go to the back of the room, or they go into the back of the store, and they get to work. They do their magic. 

So, that right now in our space, that can’t be done digitally, right? There aren’t too many, so that has been… The light assembly or the ability for a customer to have something break on them and basically walk into our branch, that’s not something that you can do on some of those websites that I just mentioned to you. What I will tell you is in our journey today; we are kind of in the crawl phase. We have over 50,000 SKUs that are active on the Alaska Rubber Group website. You can go through and find adapters and fittings and buy bulk hose. That’s fantastic. 

We are realizing that we have a substantial amount of our customer base that for a long time may have been going to some of the websites that I mentioned because we didn’t offer online ordering, so that long tail, maybe that tail at the end where they love the customer service, they love coming into our branches, but if it’s Saturday morning and they have to place an order for pickup and they want to grab it by Monday afternoon, we weren’t able to fulfill that need. So, we are gaining back some of that lost market share on the tail where people were going away and maybe shopping online at some of those other websites that I mentioned. 

For our larger customers that are working with the Oracles or SAPs of the world, we’re getting meeting invites to, “Hey, does your platform integrate with Ariba or Coupa? Is there punchout integration? We want to roll this out to not only the 15 or 20 users that are buying from Alaska Rubber Group, but you’re our hose and fitting supplier. We want other users in our organization to start buying from you.” So, we’re uncovering that, and this is part of my customer adoption strategy, and I think we on our last call talked about that. In the first year of go live it is all about customer adoption. How do we make sure that our existing customers are aware of the platform? How do we introduce some of that B2B functionality that’ll make their life easier? And how do we really focus on growing incremental revenue from new items? Because again, what’s happening is our customers all of a sudden, and let’s go back to the digital branch example, the lights are now on. Our new branch is open. Our customers are now opening the door and walking the aisles of our digital inventory, so they’re seeing 50,000 items online and being like, “I had no idea you represented Interpac or Landa.” 

So, now not only are salespeople and folks in our branches going to customers that they’ve worked with. They’re having new conversations about new items that the customer just never knew existed and that’s happening because of our platform. 

Carman Pirie: That’s an interesting little side benefit, just that exposure. 

Jeff White: Yeah, like the ability for customers to now begin to discover for themselves. You don’t necessarily think of that as a driving thing that makes eCommerce even better. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. And not in the industrial space. You just think, “Oh, you’re serving into an existing need. There’s a requirement.” It’s not about the package of gum capturing your eye on the checkout on your way out, right? 

Jeff White: I do love, though, these counter guys being the… They’re playing the line of the consultant. Well, how much is this? Well, it depends. Every time. 

Mike Powers: Exactly. Exactly. Gentlemen, you nailed it, because it’s consultative selling, but they’re subject matter experts. I mean, listen. There are scenarios where if a hose fails it could be catastrophic, so it’s not only consultative selling. It is in some cases like you need that expert to understand what the use of this is going to be, what the use of the hose or fitting is, so that they can make sure that it’s assembled and certified in the right way, right? We have the folks up on the Alaska pipeline on oil rigs and other Navy boats, and it’s just… There’s lifting and rigging equipment. There’s scenarios where a customer is using our product in very strenuous circumstances, and we need to make sure that it’s there. 

I also want to add, too, is that we, in my experience at both Hill & Markes and the Alaska Rubber Group, we’re realizing today, gentlemen, that the B2B buyer is comfortable and prefers to maybe do product research on their own, right? They want to self-discover. They want to be able to browse, right? But I will tell you that at Hill & Markes, we had close to 2,000 customers that were registered on the website, had a username and password, but they never purchased an order online. What they did was they logged in multiple times per day to see pricing and availability, their shopping list, but they still preferred to shop maybe through their sales rep or through their customer service rep. 

So, even the folks that are maybe looking at eCommerce or this as maybe a little overwhelming, I will tell you that we do have customers that are still logging in but are placing their orders the way they’ve always placed. 

Carman Pirie: I think that’s an important thing to note even just in an ROI tracking perspective. 

Jeff White: Yeah. Yeah. Even sales that don’t actually transact on the website are still driven by the web. 

Mike Powers: So, it’s hard to look at this journey as a straight ROI conversation, and that’s what from the CEO all the way down, you can’t look at it as, “What is the ROI or when is this platform going to be paid off?” We’re already seeing that, and I break the silo up or the strategy into three things, right? It’s incremental revenue from existing customers. It’s those 30 to 40 customers per minute that are on our website across the United States, that found us through Google, that we’re getting new customers and new revenue from them, as well, and then it’s the organizational efficiencies. We’re realizing that we’re saving time and effort and money in some cases in some workflows in our business that are not necessarily straight ROI scenarios from the website. 

There isn’t a KPI or a metric or a dashboard that we’re able to evaluate that, but it’s an unseen or unheard benefit of having this platform. 

Jeff White: I think it’s good, though, because you are able at least to report on the number of people who have an account, have logged in and looked at things, but not necessarily made a purchase. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. You know if they’re using it for research, obviously, as a result. I want to kind of hone in a little bit on the consultative selling model that happens at the branch level. Do you have any plans to try to bring that online? I’m thinking live chat, even video on the site, et cetera, that could help potentially. Is that something that you see down the road? 

Mike Powers: Yeah, so that’s a fantastic question. So, today we have over 50,000 SKUs that are on our website for adapters, and fittings, and hoses, but we just talked a few moments ago about what’s happening over the counter, right? Somebody walks in, they have a problem, they have an issue, they need a solution, and our fantastic employee owners behind the counter are able to diagnose it and basically build something that’s gonna meet that problem. 

The north star for the Alaska Rubber Group in our digital transformation is building, which we’ve already started. We are working with a firm in San Francisco and we’re going to be building a hose configurator that will integrate not only with our eCommerce system, but will be a stand along solution so that if somebody walks into one of our branches and they see a line of folks that are waiting for will call, we’re gonna be able to have a solution or a kiosk of some sort that allows for them, based off some of those questions and things that are happening behind the counter, to give them the options or the business rules on creating a hose assembly. 

So, yes, we are currently working on building a configurator that’s gonna pull in all of the product information from our PIM. It’s also going to read and also have some… I’d like to say some AI behind it that’s gonna allow… look at the established business rules and based off specifications and maybe use case scenarios, that we’re gonna be able to produce an assembly that can be built through our website and other areas of our business. So, that’s kind of the… I’m glad you asked that because for us, it’s not just launching a B2B eCommerce website. If we can take what’s happening over the counter and do that in a way online, that’s gonna be really kind of the north star of our transformation. 

Carman Pirie: You know, and I like the self-service component of that. There’s certainly something interesting there. I’m curious too about the integration of humans into this in some way. But anyway, maybe I’m not gonna try to drive your strategy for the entire organization in the last two minutes of the podcast, though. I don’t think that would be fair. 

Mike Powers: I think there needs to be, gentlemen, to just be some of the scenarios and examples I gave you. I don’t necessarily see something configured on our website or in maybe a configurator app go straight to production. I think it still needs to go through a review process. Because it doesn’t matter how great technology is. There could be some outliers or rules that weren’t established. Because at the end of the day, there’s gonna be a person behind this that’s managing it or making sure that we have those rules in there. But yeah, you’re absolutely right. I do believe our organization wants to make sure that if there’s something that’s gonna be built online, and especially the customer. We know our customers, right? We’ve established relationships with them. We have people that if something comes in over the website and it just doesn’t feel right, or maybe there’s something missing based off our knowledge of that customer, we’re gonna pick up the phone. Or we’re gonna send a business text to them and say, “Listen, we got your assembly. Got a couple of questions.” Doesn’t hurt to always be… to double check up on that customer. They actually appreciate it. 

Jeff White: I like how you’re putting the… Even though you have such a great focus on technology, you’re still understanding the importance of the human component and the knowledge that your customers and your team have. It’s pretty great. 

Carman Pirie: And the understanding that that’s a bit of a moat in the industry overall, as you say. I think it’s an important insight. Look, I think time has flown by. 

Jeff White: Yeah. It really has. 

Carman Pirie: Thank you so much  for joining us on the show once again. 

Mike Powers: Absolutely. 

Carman Pirie: It’s a lovely opportunity for our listeners to get a chance to learn from your expertise and experience. It’s a pleasure as always. 

Mike Powers: Absolutely. Fantastic, gentlemen. Hope to do it again soon. 

Jeff White: Thanks very much.  

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Mike Powers

Director of eCommerce and Digital

Mike Powers, the Director of eCommerce and Digital at Alaska Rubber Group is a B2B eCommerce Strategist and practitioner with over 15 years of digital marketing and eCommerce experience including re-platforming of a legacy B2B eCommerce platform and implementing customer adoption/acquisition strategies.

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

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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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