Influencer Marketing and a Cross-Platform Approach to Organic Engagement

Episode 194

July 26, 2022

Thinking outside the box and getting weird is what today’s guest is all about. Eddie Saunders, Marketing Manager for FlexArm, a division of Flex Machine Tools, discusses his cutting-edge marketing strategies to get Flex Machine Tools noticed by the right people. He explains his cross-platform approach and discusses his use of video-based social media platforms including YouTube and TikTok. He dives deep into building relationships with influencers to add value to his products online presence.

Influencer Marketing and a Cross-Platform Approach to Organic Engagement 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: Look, I’m excited for today’s show. That’s how I’m doing. 

Jeff White: Yeah. I am, as well. We have an incredibly dynamic speaker with us today. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. Yeah. And it’s good to kick around just kind of unique approaches to marketing in this space, you know, and hear what people are doing, and hopefully push some people to think about stuff a little differently. 

Jeff White: Yeah. I think there tends to be a bit of a playbook sometimes in manufacturing marketing around what we choose to do, and maybe sometimes we don’t think that some of the strategies and tactics that you might see in more B2C type marketing are available to us. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. Yeah, I think that’s fair to say, and so yeah, it’s nice to talk to somebody who’s zigging while others are zagging, as it were. 

Jeff White: Yeah, and proving that it works, so joining us today is Eddie Saunders. Eddie is the Marketing Manager for FlexArm, division of Flex Machine Tools, and the host of Flex & Friends, a YouTube show. Welcome to the podcast, Eddie. 

Eddie Saunders: Awesome to be here. Appreciate y’all. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. It’s great to have you on the show, mate. Look, why don’t you tell us what Flex Machine Tools is for the listeners who don’t know and kind of give us a glimpse into your day to day? 

Eddie Saunders: Oh, yeah, so really Flex is a… It’s a masked high growth company that pretends to be a manufacturing facility, if you will, and doing all things unorthodox, primarily being a manufacturer of large CNC machines and things along those lines, but we also have ergonomic and tapping arms which is the FlexArm, which is world known, but with that it’s at the essence, it’s a high growth, very modern, open minded, quirky, weird company. We get called the Google of manufacturing relatively often and we definitely fly that flag, so super proud bunch, high energy, and rocking and rolling, making some waves. 

Carman Pirie: How many people at Flex Machine Tools? 

Eddie Saunders: I think we just broke like 50, which is awesome, because in times where people are declining, we’re just growing. We’re growing and just keeping our foot on the gas pedal, for sure. 

Jeff White: What kinds of… Interesting to say that. I mean, 50 is certainly a good number, but are you… What are the new folks that you’re bringing on? Are they primarily on the manufacturing floor? Are they engineers? Where are you putting them? 

Eddie Saunders: It’s really across all departments, which I know sounds relatively cliché, but when it comes to just our general growth, when you do that and we’re scaling up, for lack of a better term, there are gaps that get identified in all these specific areas across the board. And one thing that’s really awesome at Flex is even though you have your departments, we’re kind of at the size where everybody has their little hubs, but we all still very much communicate across a department basis because we have to work together, and it’s a huge component of our culture and what we do, so it’s nice to be able to have some of those gaps not only reveal themselves, but also to be able to fill those because we have a great leadership team who’s all about people first. But it’s also about bringing in the right people, so that’s kind of our system with that, for sure. 

Jeff White: Yeah. That’s really cool. 

Carman Pirie: So, what’s the skinny with this YouTube channel that you got up and running? What’s going on? 

Eddie Saunders: I mean, we’re doing a lot of really cool things at Flex. We’ve been known for the past couple years for some of our video content and that’s been a big… I don’t want to say bottleneck, but a big point of momentum that we understand we have a massive amount of potential in that area, so luckily with the leadership, and I guess the owner, and the CEO being in his mid-30s, he’s very modern, very open minded, very aggressive, and so he really believes that if we could position ourselves and put out some great content, and put some creative individuals behind the wheel, and kind of stay out of the way, great things could happen. 

And we’re doing that. We’re doing a lot of things that people are either afraid of, they just won’t touch, or they think is entirely irrelevant and unorthodox, but yet we’re having really a lot of success with it from an objective standpoint but also subjectively through all the awareness that we raise, the feedback that we get, and then the content that we can create through what we’re already making. So, we’ve got a really good engine here and I’m really proud of it. 

Jeff White: That’s cool. Other than yourself, are there others in the marketing department that are helping you scale this? 

Eddie Saunders: Yeah, so we’re lucky to have I think a five-person marketing department, like we currently have an intern, as well, so having six individuals with all hands on is nice because a lot of manufacturing facilities even larger than us typically have one to three maximum in their marketing department, and that’s because they just want to stick with what it is that they’re doing. But when you take six individuals who take some of the core components of what a real marketing team should look like and then you get real all stars in that specific space great things can happen, and that’s really why you see some of the results that you do, because we have a great team that may seem extensive to others, but it’s also very  tactical, strategic, and specialized when it comes to application here at Flex. 

Carman Pirie: You mean most marketing organizations in manufacturers don’t make up 12% of their total employee count? 

Eddie Saunders: There we go. Say it. Say it. No, you got it figured out, man. We’re really proud of it, as well, and there’s a lot of times where I say, “Yeah, we got six people in our marketing department.” They’re like, “Oh my gosh. That’s crazy.” And I think it’s crazy to expect one individual to do something that maybe we don’t need six, per se, but that even a smaller amount of all stars could really do strategically, and I just don’t believe in setting up marketing managers to fail or marketing teams, if you will. Big shout out to those who believe in it and put a little bit of investment behind it. 

Jeff White: Is everybody working on content for these different channels that you have on the go? Or are they… Is somebody involved in trade shows and more traditional types of things, too? 

Eddie Saunders: Sure. So, we tried to take our marketing approach, and we took the department and kind of split it into two concepts, which is lead generation and a demand generation. Now, we’re constantly shifting, and changing, and testing, if you will, so we have like a specific individual that oversees a lot of the trade show options and operations, but when it comes to content creation, a lot of it’s bolstered with myself. I really take a lot of pride in being the face of the brand, because it’s something that I take very seriously and that I have a lot of fun doing, and it’s not anything that I have to ever push. 

So, a lot of it’s based around me. I do a lot of the writing of the videos. I feature in a lot of the videos, as well, because I have extensive experience not only in theater, but also in doing voice overs, as well as I’m a professional MC on the side, and so these things really help bolster a lot of these efforts and I take a lot of pride in being able to carry the flag for my team, but I also could not do it without the team that I have around me. 

So, when it comes back to content creation, a little bit of everybody has their hands in it, but I’m fortunate enough to be able to lead the way in a lot of the creativity. We do a lot of things with a very tactical and strategic approach as I said earlier, but we still have a lot of fun and we do a lot of weird, outside of the box things. That’s what helps us stand out by having  that collective thought where we know everybody has their… where they can flex, if you will, where their special talents are, but it makes a really cool-

Carman Pirie: All right, so what’s the weirdest thing that you’ve done? 

Jeff White: I was just gonna ask that. 

Eddie Saunders: Yeah. The weirdest… I mean, in all reality, the videos that we get to do that are funny are amazing. I mean, for Easter we did one where I got to dress up as the Easter Bunny and the video was that Flex hired the Easter Bunny and how horrible of an idea that was. So, just doing stuff like that, it’s a lot of fun. Doing our own demos is great. But another weird thing, which weird is a good word to me for what that’s worth, getting on TikTok for a manufacturer. That is a weird, outside of the box thing that is not unheard of, but a lot of people are afraid of it, and I think it’s because they’re relatively naïve to it. But that’s super weird to some individuals. When I tell other manufacturers and like our distributors we’re on TikTok, they’re like, “What are you doing?” 

And then I show them the numbers and they’re like, “Oh, that’s why you’re doing it.” 

Jeff White: So, what are you doing with TikTok? Because you’re right, it is an odd channel. It’s even an odd channel for an agency that purports to be creative and cutting edge. It’s certainly an unlikely and unique channel for a manufacturer, so what are you doing? 

Eddie Saunders: Right. Right. And you gotta think about it. From a white collar perspective, you’re gonna have a lot of the old school dudes in the boardroom who don’t understand it and they don’t really necessarily need to, but it’s vital to have somebody on your team that is paying attention to where the attention is in all transparency, and so when it comes to a platform such as TikTok, there’s really objective data there that can show you precisely why or why not you would do that. And with Flex specifically, we’ve used it as our primary testing grounds. 

We do a lot of experimenting with various pieces of content, whether it’s focusing on okay, let’s put humans in the caption, or humans in the video. What’s that gonna do? Does that help boost the relevancy? Does it help boost the reach? Okay, that’s not working. Let’s shift over to showing them our machines. Do people want to see that? Okay, that’s working a little bit more. All right, now we’re going to show them chips being made, we’re gonna show them our arms tapping, and no joke, we didn’t even want to touch it in January, and then by May, can’t even make this up because the numbers are there, we had one specific video in May of 2022, if you will, perform better and get more views than our YouTube channel did in all of 2021. No, I can’t make that up, and we have a solid YouTube channel for our size and for what we do. 

But one video surpassed an entire year’s worth of video views. That is when I became a believer. 

Carman Pirie: Which is fine, but is it reaching your actual buyer? 

Eddie Saunders: Sure. And so, one thing that we do, as well, is we understand, and we can get into influencers in a moment. We utilize that specifically to really leverage not only the white collars and the blue collars, and one thing I think manufacturers make the biggest mistake with… There’s two big mistakes. One is eye marketing, which we can cover, and two is just… They speak their speak and they always want to market to the decision makers, when in all reality those people in the boardroom who sign the POs, who issue the checks, and all the things along those lines, they’re gonna go to the blue collar individuals who are operating these machines, operating these tools, who are getting their hands on the parts making these things, and that are gonna be utilizing the equipment that the white collars authorize and purchase. 

So, we use TikTok as a primary method to target the blue collar workers, because they’re subjected to our content, and we have direct experience and confirmation of those individuals in communication with the white collar decision makers making purchases because of what’s been influenced and the content that they’ve seen from TikTok. You cannot deny that it is a pool of attention and if you as a marketing professional selling anything in this world are not focused on the pools of attention, then what are you doing? 

Jeff White: Interesting. One of the things you mentioned earlier is that you’ve got objective numbers. It’s not just kind of looking at the view counts or anything like that, but how are you leveraging that attention once you have it? So, you found the right people. They’re the ones who are influencing the decisions to buy. What’s the next step for them and how are you kind of bringing them into your world after they’ve consumed that TikTok content? 

Eddie Saunders: Sure. I mean, being consistent is the biggest thing, so just getting into TikTok is definitely not the answer. Having a cross-platform approach and just being consistent. Because we understand, especially with our products, being aware of the purchase cycle, like the consumer purchase cycle, being aware of that, because it’s different when you want to go buy a sucker at the store as opposed to a $5,000-plus, or even $200,000-plus of machinery. So, being aware of that is the big thing, because you got someone who’s spending a capital piece of machinery or equipment, if you will. They’re spending six figures plus on it. They’re gonna be subjected to that specific content over a longer period of time because that specific sale or that cycle is going to be a little bit longer. 

And so, if we’re talking about those shorter type of sales and how are we interacting and engaging with that, we point a lot of individuals and create a lot of funnels to our website, which through our website there are obviously funnels within that, that directly get individuals to submit those quote forms, which is at the end of the day really what we want. A marketing qualified lead, if you will. 

So, even though we’re not converting every  single individual on TikTok, or Instagram, or Facebook, we’re creating a cross-platform approach so that by the time you are ready to research CNC machines, look at tapping arms, look at ergonomic solutions, you have no choice but to know that we are a top option. Not only an option, but a top option, because we have brought education, entertainment, and engagement to you for the last umpteen days, weeks, months, or sometimes even years that it takes individuals to spend. We combine consistency as well with a little bit of automation on the website side to convert those and then track our success, and then reverse engineer. 

Carman Pirie: I’d be curious. How much of your belief in this is data driven versus say religious, you know what I mean? I think sometimes it takes people to believe in it a little bit before it pays dividends and if you’re waiting for the data to show you the direct path to the money, you may miss it. So, I guess just kind of curious about your thoughts there, like how much of it is, “Look, I’m following the numbers, and this is what works,” versus, “This is what I believe, and it’ll work eventually.” 

Eddie Saunders: Sure. No, I love your reference there. So, I’d probably say it’s maybe about 70% data driven and 30% emotional, because it’s human to human. If we ignore that there are emotions at play, and I remove those, that makes me no longer human. But if someone comes to me and says, “Hey, where’s the objective data? In God we trust, everybody else brings data.” I actually track the top four metrics of all five of our major platforms. We utilize a service called Buffer, if you will, which they’re a dime a dozen type of services like that, where you can go through, look at all your analytics and metrics, and so I check them honestly at least every other day, and I have all of our monthly totals, so anytime I even get emotional and I feel like, “Oh, okay, I really like this platform this month,” I can always go back and reference. 

But the better point is that I can track every single day or even month over month to see, “Okay, if we increase our post amount, does that necessarily result in more views? Does that result in more of this?” And we also, and a big way that we separate these, is we understand that not every single platform is going to show the best data in the same way that the other one would. So, not all social media platforms are created equal, so not all the same metrics that I’m tracking for Instagram am I gonna track for TikTok, as well, so that’s another important thing is not treating them all as if they’re the same, because they’re all not. If they were the same, they would be one specific platform. 

So, definitely religious from an extent that I love it, and I believe in it, and it’s one of those things I put a lot of faith into it, but I back that faith up with numbers and real data, and right now the data that we’re showing just by utilizing strictly TikTok as a battery in our strategy, it’s increasing our numbers in ways where we’re getting now into the millions of impressions and things like that, and for a small little manufacturing facility in the cornfields of Ohio, getting weird ain’t so bad after all, is it? 

Jeff White: That’s pretty great. I want to dig into something you just mentioned, that not all platforms are created equal, and what succeeds on TikTok isn’t necessarily gonna succeed on Facebook, or Instagram, or even YouTube. Are you creating specific content that is completely different for each platform? Or are you creating one piece of content and then modifying how it’s served, or modifying how it’s used for each platform? Or in some cases are you simply not replicating that content across platforms at all and simply having it in one place? 

Carman Pirie: So, basically how native is the content on each platform? 

Eddie Saunders: Yeah. I mean, we definitely do not share the same pieces. We could share the same general video, per se, but it is not only do we go as far as formatting it to the specific screen size, like we got some gangster videographers that will not allow a video that was posted on Facebook to be in the same ratio. They’ve got the pixels figured out. We’ve got it down to that granular. Now, again, we will share a similar video, but we’ve even got to the point now in our experience, and all of our testing, and having our fingers a little bit on the pulse, if you will, of posting one thing on this specific day on TikTok, and then we could wait to post the same piece of content three days later on Instagram, because one of the things that I would highly recommend in your strategy is utilizing some type of platform like we use with Buffer, or the variety of others, that can even go as far as showing you the specific times of day that you’re getting the most engagement and interaction. 

In 2022, if you’re not using that type of technology that’s available at your fingertips, then you might as well stick with pen and paper, or maybe Excel if you’re so adventurous, but that’s huge for us to be able to gauge what’s going on and how we serve up those things, because they are all different. And also, we try to reverse engineer our strategy, whether we have promotions, because like other businesses we have promotions and specials, sales every once in a while, but a lot of the content really is as native as it can be. Whether it’s captions, whether it’s the ratio of the video, whether it’s we’ve seen a trend of video work on TikTok that we want to replicate, or we see an Instagram trend that we want to make sure we put in that specific hashtag. You’re only gonna get out of it as much as you put into it, which sounds cliché, but social is no exception to that rule. 

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Carman Pirie: I liked your comment about TikTok and addressing kind of the blue collar workers, and it just reminds me, I’ve seen a lot of social strategies that weigh heavily on Facebook for attracting that same person. 

Jeff White: Type of person, yeah. 

Carman Pirie: You know, there’s this sense that… You know, forgive the reference, but almost like the great unwashed masses are on Facebook. I guess what has been your experience there?

Eddie Saunders: I mean, Facebook, I hate to say this, we call it our coattail platform, if you will, because it’s great when we want to talk to our local audience, but what we really leverage Facebook for example for is the communities that are within Facebook. And another big strategy on socials is if you just go natively surface level, that’s fine, but what people really forget is that there are communities, and hashtags, and conversations, and rooms if you will, within each of these platforms, where there are segmented pieces of attention. 

So, I get more value and more return, for lack of a better term, on our Facebook community page, that room with like practical machinists,  for example. They have a specific community page of five figure worth of individuals who are specifically focused on that type of content, and if we post a piece on our standard Facebook page, I can almost guarantee that every single time if we take the exact same piece and put it on that community page on Facebook, it’s gonna get way more engagement because we did the right thing and found a pool of attention in an ocean of just what we thought was just relevant human beings and eyes. 

So, that’s another huge thing for it, is being able to go into these communities specifically utilizing the right hashtags, because you know the conversations are being had. You know they are. There’s proof and data that shows that there are. But the question goes back to you and the burden is on you. Are you putting yourself in the best position to have those conversations and be involved in those conversations within each platform? 

Jeff White: I think that’s really interesting. Are you leveraging paid amplification at all? Or are you finding that your videos are just so interesting that organic is sufficient? 

Eddie Saunders: We’ve dabbled a little bit in paid. We try our best to be as organic as possible and hopefully no one from Google is listening here today, but I just feel like there’s significantly dropping and declining value in paid search ads. And I don’t want to speak just from our specific experience, but it’s become so diluted, like back in my early 20s when I was selling phone book ads and Google ads pretty much was my thing, and I saw a dying section of the yellow pages, and of phone book ads, and I saw that digital adoption into the SEO, the SEM, and I had to spend extensive weeks and weeks training, and I did all the courses, and so it’s something I really believed and it was my bread and butter when I was doing consulting and throughout my career, but now I’m just seeing a little bit of decline in that. 

But where I see some of the rising is in the social side of it when you’re talking about paid ads, but it all goes back to audience, specifically. Best bang for your buck as we stand right now, TikTok paid ads. Those are gonna be fantastic for you if you’re trying to get impressions and those general views. That’s where it’s at. Instagram’s getting a lot of flak right now for their decline in that push because they’re spending entirely too much time trying to be like TikTok. LinkedIn is another valuable opportunity if your specific audience is there, but to me I would almost rather spend more money on platforms where I know we’ll speak to the blue collars, because I know the white collars are gonna talk to the blue collars. 

So, back to your paid ad question to kind of sum it all up, there’s value there, but a lot of it comes down to the user, because if I put the wrong coin into the machine, it’s not gonna run. But if I put the right coin in there specifically, I know how to operate the machine, I’m gonna get far better results. But even if you put the best person in each of those categories, I still feel like potentially depending on who your audience is LinkedIn and TikTok are providing the best return as it stands right now. 

Carman Pirie: You kind of touched on a little bit earlier, but we haven’t dove in yet about your use of influencers and what you’re doing from a B2B influencer perspective on these various platforms. I guess can you let us into that strategy a little bit and let us know what you’re doing? 

Eddie Saunders: Oh, for sure, man. It’s the one thing that I’m probably the most proud about when it comes to our efforts. I love bootstrapping stuff, because I was born and raised Midwest boy. You pull up your boots, get on your gloves if you have them, and if not, you better wash your hands after, you know? Just whatever stuff like that. So, really we’ve teamed up with a variety of influencers, and I get to talk about this a lot because it’s such an underutilized piece of attention. You want to talk about real value? Forget paid ads. If you give me $1,000 of paid ads and $1,000 with influencer marketing, I can almost guarantee you’re gonna get a better return if you know how to do it correctly with the influencers. 

For example, we have an individual named Abom79, real popular machinist, over 500,000 subscribers on YouTube, like almost 150K-plus on his Instagram, just real well known dude who just gets stuff handed to him, and we’ve had the pleasure of working with him, and he’s a very skilled machinist and a great content creator, and by giving him a product that is honestly a much lesser cost to us than it would be for doing other paid ads and things along those lines, in less than two years we were able to surpass 1.6 million video content views. 

Now, mind you, those are his video views, but it’s his video views using our piece of equipment, and we talked earlier about pools of attention, right? This is where it becomes relevant because you have individuals on the internet, and on social media, who are talking directly to the people that you are trying to talk to, except one major difference. The influencers have the attention and that H2H and human-to-human concept you cannot ignore, and as a marketing individual who goes over budgets, and ROI, things along those lines, it’s hard to beat when you give somebody a product at cost, at cost, and you ship it to them at the cost of shipping. It’s hard to beat that when you know and you have objective proof of their current audience and what their current reach, rankings, things along those lines are. If you can really match that up, and we’ve been able to just see a lot of success not only from that example. 

We’ve done other collaborations with other product lines, and it’s really done wonders for us, and as much as I love talking about it, I hope that no other manufacturers pick up on it, because we’re just over here going gangbusters with it. 

Jeff White: That’s interesting. In terms of… You mentioned this a moment ago, you know, you have to do it right, and I think what a lot of marketers are afraid of with an influencer is that, “Oh, they’re gonna say something negative about the product.” 

Carman Pirie: That they can’t control the message. 

Jeff White: They can’t control the messaging at all. What are you doing to do it right? Are you giving them free rein, like, “Look, we’re gonna ship you this piece of gear and you do what you want to do with it and we’re just happy to be here,” or is it like, “Hey, man, we’re gonna send you this $200,000 machine. Could you say something nice about it and don’t talk about any flaws?” 

Eddie Saunders: Right. No, it’s interesting, because not only have I worked directly with Abom79 and Petty Welding, and all the other great influencers we’ve worked with. I’ve also been able to kind of be an agent specifically for Abom, so we got such a good relationship that I was able to work with him specifically and then tie him to various other brands, and one of the biggest mistakes that I got to witness and see other individuals make is not setting guidelines. Now, mind you, depending on what your cost of product is, like if it’s something small you can be a little bit more open minded, a little more laid back with it. I used to actually pump up my Instagram profile with the whole fit dad community and I was given free product, and discounts, and things like that, because it was all smaller $50 or less items, whatever it may be. 

But when you’re talking about with this case, we’re talking about thousands of dollars and hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment. A big fail is individuals not setting expectations. But one of the biggest things you can do is to make sure you’re reverse engineering with intention. Don’t just go reach out to influencers and think that that’s just gonna be the easiest thing. You need to ensure that one, you’re looking at the right hashtags, which is a big thing that I recommend. So, if you want to talk to machinists, you need to look up #machinist and everything revolving around that. For tapping arms, for example, we looked up #tapping. CNC machines, we looked #CNC, #cncmachining. Not only are we able to find the top voices in those spaces; we’re able to see also the other conversations that are there. We can see the engagement that’s happening and a lot of other wonderful things. 

But you’d be really surprised at the amount of people who just give product away and say, “All right, cool. Hey, please say something about us.” Now, you don’t need to be militant in your approach because they are also human beings who get to be selective of who they work with and you very much need to be mindful of that, because if they don’t want to promote your stuff, they won’t promote your stuff. It’s pretty simple. But when you have someone you can build a relationship with over the long term, like with Abom, he has two of our tapping arms and we are now getting ready to install a CNC machine in his facility. So, through that we’ve been able to create a blossoming relationship that we feel is only starting because we’re helping him tell a story. 

If you just give product to an influencer, you’re relying too much on them and you’re just kind of saying, “Okay, I don’t care what happens from now.” But if you’re engaged and you build that rapport, and that relationship, and you’re part of the process, and make it easier for them, they’re gonna do great things for you. Because teamwork makes the dream work. 

Jeff White: You’re like a walking slogan. I love it. That’s great. 

Eddie Saunders: That’s very kind of you. 

Jeff White: No, it’s like you can turn a phrase, my friend. It’s great. That’s really cool. You mentioned you want to give them guidelines and you want to ensure that they understand kind of what their responsibilities are in this relationship, and you develop that by creating the trust between you, and because you know that they have trust with their community. That’s why you’re obviously engaging with an influencer. But what sorts of things have you seen in terms of they’re getting hundreds of thousands or millions of views in the videos with your product in it, and they’re talking about it, and kind of reviewing it, or doing whatever they are with it. What are you seeing on the other end in terms of sales leads that might be coming from that? Are your sales team-

Carman Pirie: Yeah. How directly can you connect the dots? Is that what you’re asking? 

Jeff White: Yeah. Kind of going there. 

Eddie Saunders: Oh, for sure. So, if you check my LinkedIn profile, you’ll notice that before I was in marketing I actually started as a sales manager over here at Flex, so I was managing everything in the Western U.S., so I was not only dealing with our dealers, but also talking directly to end users, so I was just learning their problems and really cutting my teeth for lack of a better term with that. And one thing with my marketing degree and mindset I always asked is, “How’d you hear about us?” And it’s also something that’s on our website, which if you are going to be collecting leads and you don’t have a where did you hear about us section, you’re failing. Because in that point we did give them options of where they’ve heard from us and the number one lead driver during my time in the sales world here at Flex was Abom79, and you had mentioned it, and it’s you keep hearing it, and you ask, and you inquire, and you put the position out there, so we very much put ourselves in the position to know if it was going to work, and we very early and very consistently find out that it was a big thing for us. 

And you could tell, honestly, there’d be spikes in activity, as well, and that’s another thing, because if you do it correctly you can have the influencer specifically have your website or some type of link in their description pages. And again, there are layers of strategy here and that’s one of them, and we could almost know when he was getting ready to or just posted a video, because we would go to our web traffic, and you would see a spike that day. It was almost like clockwork. Every time they’d do a video or a post, you’d see a small or even somewhat large spike depending on how we did that, as well, because we would also use their content and another little big little tidbit… Big little tidbit, for what that’s worth, I should say. It sounds weird. Oxymoron, right? No, but is to make sure that you’re both on the same page and having just that funnel set up. Having that funnel set up and then also taking their content, as well, like allowing yourself to take fractal pieces of that and then use it for your own socials throughout a specific schedule. 

Influencers really like when you drive traffic to their page, so tagging them is always great, and it’s the good synergistic approach to be able to keep the data behind it, but also include some of the feel goods that are a part. 

Carman Pirie: I hate to get all Ts and Cs and legal specific on us here, but I do think that there’s some marketers that are listening to this that work for larger organizations, as an example, bigger brands, and their thinking is if they’re gonna start engaging with influencers, giving them a large amount of product, or frankly any product, that they’re gonna need to have a legal contract in place that outlines the expectations, on, and on, and on. I could see another approach, which maybe is the one you’re taking or maybe it’s not, Eddie, I don’t know, where you basically develop the relationship and you can talk through what you’d like to accomplish with a specific initiative, but it’s not maybe formalized to the extent of a contract. 

I guess am I reading how you’ve approached it correctly? And I guess does it strike you that maybe trying to get too formal with it is a bit of a danger? 

Jeff White: Yeah. Are you worried about scaring them away with overly complex-

Carman Pirie: Yeah. I don’t know. It doesn’t allow the relationship to blossom, maybe, if it’s just all legal crap all the time. I don’t know. 

Eddie Saunders: Well, I get it. Think of some of the best customers that you’ve ever had before, like think about them. Think about when you started off, you needed a contract, and not that the contracts don’t exist, but imagine as that relationship went on how much more loose you became with things. Not from a functionality standpoint but just from a comfort standpoint. Conversations literally form differently. Your level of rapport increases. So, you have to think that’s still a human-to-human relationship, but if there’s a transaction going on and an influencer gets scared about some type of legality, then they may not be the right influencer for you, because some of them try to be really relaxed and lackadaisical, and that’s okay depending on the specific product line, but if there is… You set your own price level, but I would say anything that requires $500 up, whatever that number may be for you, there needs to be something involved there, especially if there’s expectations. 

Now, with Flex, I’ve seen a variety of people who have five to ten page contracts, and other individuals who say, “Hey, just take this and do good stuff. We’re gonna have faith in you because we know what you’re able to do and what you do on a consistent basis.” Flex, I like to have a little bit of a middle ground approach depending on what level of trust we have with you, but at this point I always lay out a bulleted list of, “Hey, over the next 12 months here’s the pieces of content that we would like to see in tandem with some things that you would like to do.” And typically, when you make it easy for them, because you have to think, when you’re giving them a new product of some sort, they have to learn about it. It’s not as if it’s like a piece of candy, like, “Oh, I taste this candy. This is good. Go buy this candy.” This is a piece of equipment that they have to learn to use, and it has to add some real value to them. 

So, capturing that process, there’s just so many things that you can do, and they’re gonna rely on you, so relationship is still important. Because even though there may not be an exchange of dollars in a sense, there’s still exchanges of goods and services, and content is no exception to that specifically, so I think if you’re a good human, and you’ve done your homework, and you’ve reverse engineered your campaign with intention, then an agreement should never scare an influencer. And if it does, that can set you back to square one or completely remove the opportunity, so being  transparent about what you’re doing but also being very laid back, because you also have to remember you’re not approaching an entity. You’re approaching a human who puts posts on the internet and people like them, and you need them, and they want to work with you anyway, so don’t make it difficult to do so. 

Jeff White: Oh, man. This takes me back to when I was studying design back in university and I was designing a lot of CD covers for local bands, and I realized after a while that I needed to button that down because most of these people were completely flakey and would just forget and then nothing would ever happen, but the very first band I ever worked with that I made them sign a contract, I never heard from them again. 

Eddie Saunders: Wow. 

Jeff White: This would have been like 1994, so they were just like, “Oh, man. This is scary. I’m not messing with this. Forget it.” And now one of the guys from that band is one of my good friends, and we’ve talked about that, and he was like, “Yeah, you just scared the crap out of us, and we thought it was too official and too scary, so we found somebody else.” 

Carman Pirie: I think Eddie brings up a good kind of middle ground about understanding who we’re dealing with here, but obviously recognizing that there’s a real exchange of value in both directions, and that does deserve a level of formality around the relationship. I think that was just good guidance. 

Jeff White: Absolutely. Yeah. Well, we’re approaching the end of our time here. You’re already doing a lot of things that would be considered the future by a lot of marketers. What’s in the future for you? What are you doing next? 

Eddie Saunders: So, I got promoted to oversee all of our FlexArm brand recently, and so that’s a big jump for me and I’m excited for that, and kind of focusing on our legacy brand, because it’s what started it all in all reality, and so it’s our bread and butter, so I’m really proud to be able to continue to take that, and not only extend that product lifestyle, but just advance it, and innovate it, and also doing a lot of speaking. Whether it’s on these podcasts, or I’m gonna be in the next two or three months, I’m gonna be at three major industry trade shows speaking to marketing within the industry because I’m doing a lot of quirky stuff and I’m glad it’s making a lot of noise, and I’m glad that I can bring the marketing component, and the importance, and the magnitude to the forefront of the conversation, and it actually have representation within the industry. You know, at places like Fabtech, at Content Marketing World and Advanced Manufacturing World Expo. I’m super proud to be able to take that and just get the megaphone and be like, “Marketing is important in our industry. Please stop embarrassing us by being five years behind. Here’s how you do it.” 

I’m really looking forward to that, honestly, just the awakening of some of the individuals in the boardrooms so they can listen to the creatives, attract more talent, and tell a whole different narrative so that we can bring real talent to all levels within manufacturing. 

Jeff White: I think it’s interesting. The way that you’re talking about this reminds me of the way that Gary Vaynerchuk was talking about this 15 years ago. 

Eddie Saunders: Yes! 

Jeff White: And we’re still having that same conversation about… You know, I remember when he was saying like, “Guys, you gotta get on Twitter. Oh my God, it’s 2011, let’s go. It’s been around for four years now. It has a real B2B potential. You’re just getting left behind.” And then he was pimping other networks and other things like that, but it is interesting that in 2022 marketers are still having to be told by innovators like you that there’s opportunity here and that you should be looking at this to see if it’s appropriate for your brand. 

It’s not to say that every single manufacturer should be on TikTok, but some of them should be, and if you understand your buying process and all of that, and it makes sense, then you should be considering these platforms and hiring the people that can shepherd them in the right direction, too. So, I thank you for bringing this to our audience. It’s been really exciting talking to you, and I wish you all the best in the future. Thanks a lot, Eddie. 

Eddie Saunders: 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

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Eddie Saunders Jr

Marketing Manager for FlexArm, a division of Flex Machine Tools

Eddie Saunders is a father, husband, kickboxing coach, former top ranked MMA fighter, Jiu-Jitsu competitor, sports announcer, singer/songwriter, and lover of all things adventurous! The above are just a few things that truly embody who Eddie is and what he’s all about. Each of us is living life according to what we know and gravitate towards. For Eddie it’s simple…turning over every stone, exploring every opportunity, squeezing every moment for what it’s worth, always growing, and never slowing.

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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