Increasing Reach Through Strong Brand Identity

Episode 279

March 19, 2024

Kimberly Day is on our show this week talking about how she moved Finish Thompson, a family-run company, from advertising in trade publications to more of a brand focus, a decision that has fostered growth and recognition in just seven months. Kimberly brings insights from a broad career in many marketing and communication verticals. Finish Thompson is a highly technical, engineering-focused brand that Kimberly is making accessible to all who may need to employ their pumps and services.

Increasing Reach Through Strong Brand Identity 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, mate?

Carman Pirie: I’m happy to be here. How are you doing?

Jeff White: I’m doing great.

Carman Pirie: This is like the day before I go on vacation. So how could I complain? Really?

Jeff White: Yeah. I don’t think you’re allowed to complain. Especially given that there are four feet of snow on the ground.

Carman Pirie: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I’m not. I’m not phoning it in, though, Jeff. I am here.

Carman Pirie: Like, you know?

Jeff White: Present.

Carman Pirie: Never let it be said that I took off a day early.

Jeff White: No. No one would ever dare say that. But that’s not what we’re talking about today.

Carman Pirie: No, you know, I’m. I just there’s just so many layers to today’s story, you know, like the kind of returning to working in the family business, you know, really applying a lifetime of marketing kind of experience and talent acquisition along the way to manufacturing for the first time. Um, I just, I just look forward to diving into it. I think our guest has so much to teach us and our listeners today. So let’s just dive in.

Jeff White:  Absolutely. And, you know, there’s an absolute ton of manufacturers that are like this. These small family-owned, multigenerational companies. And yeah, I think it’s really interesting.

Carman Pirie: So and put small in air quotes because they’re not, you know, you know like small manufacturing enterprise. They’re incredibly large businesses. And so and you’re right, Jeff, I mean, they’re everywhere across North America. And frankly, the succession planning for those enterprises is a clear and present issue, really for many of them. And so, yeah, yeah, so many layers.

Jeff White: For sure, so joining us today is Kimberly Day. Kimberly is the director of marketing communications at Finish Thompson, welcome to The Kula Ring Kimberly.

Kimberly Day: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.

Carman Pirie: Kimberly, I really appreciate the fact that there is a little bit of a typo when you logged on to the squad cast and you said “dat” for your last name versus Day. And I was so hoping it was going to screw Jeff up like.

Kimberly Day: As I was saying, I’m a big fan of New Orleans. I think it just was very surprising too.

Jeff White: these things happen.

Carman Pirie: Look Kimberly, let’s let’s jump right into it. Can you introduce our listeners to Finish Thompson and to you a bit, if you will?

Kimberly Day: Let’s start with Finish Thompson. Finish Thompson has been around for nearly 75 years. It started off as a finishing manufacturer of finishing, putting decorative colouring on metallic materials. So, for example, the front of the grille of a car like that looked like your little BMW or Cadillac symbol on the car, those sorts of things is what we started off doing. And then my father, who had come into the company in sales and then rose up, ended up buying the company. Right around the time that he was transitioning from president of the company to purchasing and being an owner in the company was right when they were starting to recognize the need for purifying solvents. So they were they were personally using a lot of solvents and then they would have these large barrels of sort of dirty, cruddy solvents. And it was very hard to know what you wanted to do with these ginormous barrels. And so they created these pumps so they could still use the solvent again. And that really propelled them to move into completely redoing the company and focusing it on specifically pumps that work with corrosive chemicals, corrosive fluids, which is where we’re at now.

Jeff White: I love that pivot. That’s an incredibly interesting, incredibly interesting place to go to from where it originally was.

Kimberly Day: It really is. But if you think about it, it makes sense. They were they recognized the problem. They had solved it for themselves and then thought, wow, I bet other people have this problem. So I started to move that and they did some acquisitions along the way to get to where they’re at. And now, as we sit, we are in like virtually every city in the U.S. or state in the U.S., I think we’re in 40-plus states. We are in a myriad of cities or countries across the world, and we’re on six of the seven continents. Our pumps are in use on six of the seven continents. So it’s it’s pretty incredible. This is my family’s business, and I didn’t even really fully realize it until I kind of came in and like, fresh eyes on it.

Carman Pirie: That’s hilarious that, you know, Well, wait a minute, we’re in six, we’re global. I thought I was out doing other marketing work and I didn’t realize there was such a great story to tell. It’s kind of interesting. So tell us about that. What were you doing prior to coming to Finish Thompson And then, yeah.

Kimberly Day: I always say that I Forrest Gumped my way through my career. I started, it’s a completely accurate analogy. I started here in Erie. I was working for a broadcast company as their creative director, writing TV and radio commercials, and this is San Francisco. And I had never done PR in my life. And I got a job with the Medical Association, and they needed somebody in broad with broadcast experience because they wanted to grow their communications group. So they were patient with me learning PR and I’d never written a press release before. And then I left after several years there, I moved to DC and took a job as an editor and writer for a health, natural health and wellness newsletter and had never done editorial before. And but they, my grandmother had owned a bunch of nutrition stores, so I actually knew the space. So I just that’s what I say to sort of always landed into something And then just along the way, just kind of cobbled it all, okay, writing TV and radio. Oh, okay, doing press releases. I was doing content marketing and editorial. Then within that realized I had a gift for branding and coming up with what your theme should be, what your strengths are, and what are your weaknesses to grow on. And it just really kind of went from there. So I have been doing that depending on where you want to start for probably a good 20 to 25 years.

Jeff White: I love that you also dropped that. Your grandmother was also an incredible entrepreneur.

Kimberly Day: Oh, she was. That’s a whole other she was in for her time. Unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable. I think that’s what’s really nice is that. So when my dad passed away, my brother took over the company and between my dad and then this grandmother was my mom’s mom. We just had incredible role models in our lives in a very organic, natural way for being an entrepreneur, taking risks, but taking smart risks, learning the space that you’re in and how to grow it, not having not been fear-based and but just being smart about it. I am insanely blessed that we had such powerful role models.

Jeff White: Did you think that the experience that you had I mean, it sounds like you learned something new with each career move that you made and, you know, laterally within the field of marketing and communications, But did you think that would apply to manufacturing when you came to Finish Thompson?

Kimberly Day:  Uh, in fact, we had a long conversation about me making the transition for a lot of reasons, but one was part, with the exception of working in television, the vast majority of the rest of my work was in something related to health. It was either a medical association or actual lab life science, or it was in health insurance. But it had always had that mark of it. And when we discussed my making the pivot to manufacturing, I wasn’t sure if I was honestly going to like it. It just seemed kind of dry to me. And if you want me to talk about pumps, I mean, really, and I’m used to talking about heart attacks and this is not, you know, this isn’t fun. But then I also realized all of the different ways I’ve pivoted from industry to industry and thought, okay, the skill set is pretty comparable. So I just went in and talked about what are your customers like. Maybe this will be this will be the interesting part. So it’s not about the pump itself, but I wanted to look at what problem do these pumps solve, and that was a game changer for me. I’m obsessed that like literally obsessed with it. I remember looking at my brother and going, Are you kidding me? Our pumps are in over 90% of every dialysis machine in the United States. Why don’t I know that is your sister? We have pumps in major aquariums across the country. Vegas, San Francisco. Why don’t I know that? If I don’t know that, then your current and potential customers don’t know that. And then I was hooked.

Carman Pirie: And I mean, it’s not like they weren’t doing marketing before and it’s not like they weren’t telling at least a little bit of their story, I’m sure. Curious was, you know, did you just see an opportunity to put a different lens on things and just start tugging those efforts in a different direction? 

Kimberly Day: I guess that’s a great way to say that. There’s a lot of different aspects of marketing, which is one of the things that I love so much about this space. Marketing can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. It could be, it could mean advertising, it could mean sales support, literature, collateral, it could mean, you know, what I like to do, which is branding and content marketing and public relations and communications tends to all fall under that marketing umbrella. And when I came into the company, their focus had really been on advertising. They were putting advertising into pump trade publications. They were doing a little bit of pay-to-play. We’ll put an X number of ads in the magazine and we’ll give you one or two bylined articles to write, that sort of thing. And then the other aspect of what I would call their in-house marketing was creating graphics and producing literature for sales support and all of those things are incredibly important. When I came in and we talked about the goals over the next 2 to 3 years, it was really about getting who we are out there. As long we’ve been around for so long we’ve been a leader in this space for so long, but with the caveat of for those people who know us. And so my role and my job is to make sure that when our salespeople go into a distributor or a customer, they don’t have to tell them who we are. My job is to make sure when they walk in the door, people already know who we are. And for me that means less focus on advertising and more focus on branding and in what I would call the content marketing side, making sure we are telling our story to people who don’t know us versus telling our story to people who already do.

Carman Pirie: I think one of the challenges that many manufacturers have with taking that approach is that you know, in some ways it’s it feels inherently less measurable or at the very least less connected to the sales pipeline or immediate bottom-line impact. How have you approached that? Have you know, is it an area like, look, I’m your sister, you can just trust me here, it’ll work. I mean, I can’t imagine they’re just going to get away with that.

Kimberly Day: I think anyone with siblings would know that. That is the opposite of what happens with your sibling. Under no circumstance.

Carman Pirie: I was trying to get a fight started.

Kimberly Day: Yeah. It wasn’t like, Hey, trust me, your sister is like, Yeah, but don’t you remember when we were 12? Like, that’s not going to happen. Fortunately, I, you know, it’s my brother. I adore him. He’s incredibly smart. And so when I made the agreement with him that he had to treat me like a director of marketing and not, you know, after 5:00 we can be siblings, but between eight and five we have to be coworkers. And I had to, I wrote up like I would write up for any client or any employer. I wrote up an entire plan and this is what we need to do. And this is the success and this is what I have done elsewhere in this worked and laid that out. And we started slow and small. It’s only been seven months, so to say small conceptually it’s been seven months sounds funny, but I started with social media. There was very little social they were doing, and the social they were doing was basically the equivalent of taking those print ads and putting them on social. It was sort of that type of social. And I instead came and took a different tact and started focusing again on what is the problem our pumps solve. So I started focusing on the industries that we are talking about, the industry talking about how those industries rely on on pumps like ours, then focusing on a success story that we’ve had in a company in that industry, and then maybe talking about the pump that solved that problem. And really I’m a storyteller and you can do that in every industry is what I’ve learned, and it’s really fun to do it in the manufacturing industry because it really does start with knowing the problem you’re trying to solve. So you’ve got to know your industries and you’ve got to know how the pumps are needed and then you can come in and talk about how you solve that problem. We’ve seen incredible responses online our social has skyrocketed. We are getting it started off with phone calls from and messages from people who are starting to share stuff and now they want to sell us something or, Oh, you’re doing this, we want to do this. And then it kind of morphed into, Oh, you should come to advertise with us. Oh, okay. You’re now we want you to come advertise with us. And then now it’s starting to be. Tell me more about this pump. Can I get a quote? I didn’t know who you guys are. We are seeing we went from no shares to one or two shares as opposed to in some cases 15, 20, or 25 people sharing the post.

Carman Pirie: It’s interesting because a couple of those leading indicators to other people sound like a nuisance, right? Why are we getting a bunch of these calls?

Jeff White: Trying to sell us stuff!

Carman Pirie: Yeah. Can we make this stop, please? And you just cited it as Yeah, that’s, that’s how we knew we were actually starting to get on the right track. It’s very, very interesting.

Kimberly Day:  There is when I was explaining it to somebody, they said the same thing with it. I don’t get it. And I said, Oh, did you watch Sex and the City? Yes, do remember when Samantha was starting to promote Jared in his modelling career and she started list first. It’s the this, then it’s the this, then it’s the this. I’m like, it’s the same thing. It’s they’re going to be the people who are going to notice you first, and then it’s going to be a little more people and then it’s going to be your target audience.

Carman Pirie: I just want to take a moment to recognize that this is the first time in the history of The Kula Ring that Sex and the City has been brought up. I’m absolutely certain of it.

Kimberly Day: And and Forrest Gump. Forrest Gump and Sex and the City.

Carman Pirie: Yeah, I’m I’m not sure about the Forrest Gump reference, but man, that Sex and the City one I know that that has not happened.

Jeff White: You can take marketing lessons from anywhere.

Kimberly Day: Absolutely. She did PR so she knew what you know, the writers of her character knew what they were talking about.

Jeff White: Exactly. Yeah. I mean, frequent listeners of the podcast will certainly know that we love the topic of finding and selling into niches in the verticals that you’re that you were identifying. Have you been primarily working in the ones where you already have something of an audience or are you also exploring places perhaps where Finish Thompson pumps haven’t been used before?

Kimberly Day: Really great question. We have dipped our toe into virtually every industry that has a pump. We have industries that we would like to grow into is probably a better way for me to answer that question. The two big ways that we’re looking at growing right now is the green energy space. So solar panels, wind farms, things like that. And then ironically, the petrochemical space, those seem like two completely different things, but those would be the two spaces that we are really looking at growth, the green energy, one in particular for me because it’s to me that’s a ridiculously low hanging fruit. I mean that topic is just everywhere right now. And we have a really amazing story to tell in that space. I don’t think people really recognize how green energy works. I know I didn’t understand how green energy worked. I thought that I literally thought that, like the windmill turned and then water and energy came into your house. And I didn’t understand that it has to get stored somewhere it has to run through fuel cells, and it has to be captured. And all of that means you need a pump. And so and a lot of the things that’s super exciting for me as I’m diving into this space and learning about it so I can share it is for wind farms in particular. A lot of them are moving into the middle of the oceans and so they’re moving offshore just for space reasons. And that means it’s really expensive to repair them, replace them. And we have pumps that have very low maintenance, and very high efficiency. They don’t cause leaks. So we are really growing into that space as people realize that it’s a great niche for us.

Carman Pirie: As you’ve been doubling down on content marketing and education pieces, etc., I’m curious how I mean, because it’s a very technical product, I’m sure, and I’m sure the folks that build it, the engineers responsible, you know, could probably get incredibly in-depth and detailed about what the capabilities of the pumps are. And of course, the use cases can probably be quite technical as well. How do you make a kind of judgment call about how to go? And if you do, I’m curious about how you make that judgment call, because I think it is something that a lot of marketers struggle with. It’s like how technical a story do I need to tell?

Kimberly Day:  Yeah that’s a great question, I am. This is one of the great spaces where my previous life helped because I wrote hardcore medical for a general audience, and to me, it’s the same concept. How, how detailed do you get when you are talking about a medical condition? And the solution is just the same as how technical you get when you’re talking about how this pump works. And I use my mom as my that’s my basis. How do I write it in a way that my mother would be able to read this and not have any questions and still understand it? So my mom’s very smart, so I don’t want it to be like I’m writing it for my daughter. But I don’t, it’s not her area of expertise, so I don’t want to talk over her head. So I always have that’s my gauge is would my mother be able to understand this? And then there are also different layers. There’s the first time you put something out and it’s to the general audience, and that’s when it has to pass through my mother filter as somebody comes into it. And I can tell based on the questions they’re asking, then I know how detailed I can get. And then depending on how much they’re following that, that’s when I go over my head, pass them on to an engineer, and I can do it that way. We have an insanely incredible team that works for Finish Thompson I don’t know how they let me in the room. They are so smart. They are so incredibly gifted at what they do. They understand the space in a way that I will I don’t know that I ever would. And they’re patient in explaining it and what I love the most. And it’s one of the areas that we’re going to kind of move into a little more. They’re very show and tell. So when I was having a hard time understanding actually related to offshore wind farms, I was having a hard time understanding how to write something. One of the guys went got the pump they got the part of the pump, brought it out, took it apart, showed me this goes here, that goes here, This is how this works. Like, Oh, now I know how to write that. So we’re now looking at doing a ton more videos for exactly that reason.

Carman Pirie: You sometimes look at what your competitors are doing and just kind of scratch your head because it seems like this approach is very intuitive and natural to you as you’ve kind of taken this approach to pivot the marketing for Finish Thompson. Um, does it surprise you that others aren’t doing the same?

Kimberly Day: I don’t worry about what other people are doing. I don’t really know that I could tell you what other competitors are doing. You know? So my focus is what we’re doing. And if something we’re doing isn’t working, then absolutely I would take a look at the other competitors. I think the only time I really looked at what our competition was doing is probably in the first month I was here and I just went through all of the trade mags and looked at who’s advertising and who’s not. Before I made the decision to sort of stop that, that part of our marketing plan. And when I saw that what I was told was sort of our biggest competitors at the most were advertising once into those publications that confirmed for me that that was probably not the space to do that. So that’s really the only time I’ve looked at it. I don’t I’ve looked at their websites, I have looked at websites because I want to know about flow and things like that. But you know, we’re all different, all of the companies out here are different. The really big companies have multiple kinds of divisions and groups under them, so I can’t look at them because they don’t they aren’t like us. That’s kind of apples and oranges. So I don’t I don’t really pay attention to what everyone else is doing. They’re welcome to pay attention to what we’re doing.

Carman Pirie: You know, you were wondering how that was back and forth, thinking that was going to sound like a bad answer. And I’m like, that’s the best answer ever.

Jeff White: It’s exactly right up our street.

Carman Pirie: Yeah, exactly, Exactly.

Jeff White: The only pump company we’ve ever worked with when they pump manufacture, they manufacture fish pumps for moving fish from one place to another.

Carman Pirie: Although oddly, we have worked in the solvent recycling space. So when the story was about these pumps being used and solvent was my goodness.

Kimberly Day: That was that was in the eighties, like late eighties, early nineties. That’s a lot of what we were doing.

Jeff White: Kind of moving beyond what had come before around the advertising in those trade pubs with the things that were probably not really generating the right kind of interest and the right kind of traffic. Have you partnered with or brought in any other specialized help to give you a hand and a feel of the lift, as it were?

Kimberly Day: Yes, absolutely. I this is part of my bias, but I immediately went to a PR firm, somebody who specialized more in communications within the industry, within this industrial manufacturing space. I always say that one of my special gifts is being very aware of knowing what I don’t know. And I don’t know the magazines, the publishers. I don’t know the contacts to accomplish the branding that I wanted to do. I don’t know who to reach out to. So I just researched who knows those people and contacted and connected with them. And so we have secured a PR firm that is helping us do that. What I would call earned media versus paid.

Carman Pirie: Now, I’m assuming that there has to be some overlap between the trade publications that you’re terminating an advertising relationship with and those that you want to get some space with.

Kimberly Day: Ish, I would say ish that.

Carman Pirie: Ish, Some Overlap.

Kimberly Day: Where we were publishing, where we were in advertising, I should say, were in magazines that sell homes and I felt like we were advertising to our competitors, in my opinion. So what I have asked our firm to do is to seek out those industries and publications that need pumps, the wastewater industry, aquarium industry, medical industry, biofuels, the green energies who are their publications. That’s where I want. That’s where I want them to see us. I want to go to the people we need to serve, not be sitting in a pool of people doing the same thing we do. Then the sort of trade-off of that is in all of these trade magazines, as you guys know, a thousand times more than I do. They have these sections in each like a pump and systems or a processing trade pub where they have industry news. And so this firm is pitching industry news about us to those magazines that are in our space, in our pump space. So we’ll still be in that, but not in an ad space. We’ll be in that and sort of that. What’s going on? What’s in the news, what’s the new product, which is really where I would prefer us to be.

Carman Pirie: The distinction in target publications is very instructive for people listening. It’s not just a pivot to earn media versus paid, it’s actually a pivot to different types of publications that are actually speaking to end users versus the frankly, that drinking your own bathwater that happens in so many industries. Yeah.

Kimberly Day: That just didn’t make sense to me. As I said, the whole focus for me is we are solving a problem. Pumps just happened to be that solution. So I need to go to the people who need their problem solved to say, Hey, we can help you with that.

Jeff White: It’s like that age-old axiom of drill manufacturers should be looking for people who need to buy a hole, not a drill.

Kimberly Day: Yes, Yes, exactly. Love that. Yes.

Jeff White: What’s uh? You know, you’re a few months in and seeing some results and things are going well and you’re still getting along with your siblings. So that’s great. What’s next? Where are you going?

Carman Pirie: Not a career move. You’re not trying to move her to her next role yet?

Kimberly Day: Yeah, I would say just really just more and bigger of the same. One of my big goals is to really focus on getting much to his chagrin my brother is an incredible thought leader in this space. He’s got a ton of great ideas and a lot of great forward-thinking. So if I had to put one big thing out there would be to get him in something like a Forbes magazine or the Wall Street Journal talking about the business of pumps.

Carman Pirie: I look forward to watching this unfold over the next two or three years is going to be very exciting at Finish Thompson. Kimberly, thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. It’s been lovely to have you on the show.

Kimberly Day: It’s been great. Thank you, guys, so much. It’s been really fun. You’ve made it easy. 

Jeff White: Thank you.
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 K-U-L-A partners dot com slash The Kula Ring.

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Kim Day Headshot


Kimberly Day `

Director, Marketing & Communications

Kimberly Day has been a communications and content marketing professional for more than 25 years. She has written in the medical association, natural health and nutrition, and health insurance spaces. Kimberly has also written for online, TV, radio, newsletters, blogs, websites, social media, magazines, and emails.

Starting out as Creative Director for a broadcast company in Erie, PA, where she was awarded “Best Television Commercial” by the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters, Kimberly pivoted to Communications Manager for the American Academy of Ophthalmology in San Francisco, CA. In this role, Kimberly was awarded the “Silver Medal” for Excellence in Public Relations by the Bulldog Reporter and had the pleasure of working with several celebrities to help promote healthy vision, including NFL tackle Jermane Mayberry, actor/singer Mandy Patinkin, and 1999 Miss America Nicole Johnson.

In 2001, Kimberly headed back east to the Washington, DC area to focus on editorial and content marketing in the natural health and nutrition space. Over her 17 years in this field, she wrote thousands of health-focused articles, co-authored Hormone Revolution with Dr. Susan Lark and served as ghostwriter for two other books. She also created and ran health and fitness boot camps with celebrity trainer Jackie Warner, star of Bravo TV’s Workout.

In 2018, Kimberly moved into the health insurance arena, serving as an external communications, branding, and content marketing consultant for Versant Health (a vision insurance company), as well as Unum Insurance.

In 2023, Kimberly came full circle back to Erie, PA, where she currently serves as Director of Marketing and Communications for Finish Thompson, where she enjoys hiking, reading, and true crime docuseries.

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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