In this episode of The Kula Ring, Jeff and Carman talk with Lew Weiss of Manufacturing Talk Radio and All Metals & Forge Group. Lew shares some of his insights from his long experience as a manufacturing marketing trailblazer, and offers some tips for staying ahead of the game.
Leading the Pack in Manufacturing Marketing 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. My name is Jeff White and joining me today is Carman Pirie. Carman, how are you doing today?
Carman Pirie: All is well. All is well. Good to be chatting.
Jeff White: Yeah, indeed. We’ve got a really interesting guest today, somebody with significantly more podcasting experience than us. Why don’t you introduce him?
Carman Pirie: I’m a little worried. I don’t wanna ask for too much advice as we go through it because I think we might get an invoice at the end. I’m gonna try to be brief on that front, but. Yes, we’re chatting with Lew Weiss today. Lew is the host of Manufacturing Talk Radio. He’s also the president of the All Metals and Forge Group. I will also stop talking now and just let Lew introduce himself, perhaps a little bit, and then we’ll get chatting. Lew, welcome to The Kula Ring.
Lew Weiss: Well, I appreciate you having me. When I start talking too long, just say, “Lew, it’s our show.”
Carman Pirie: I suppose it is a big risk bringing on somebody that does so much podcasting onto your show.
Lew Weiss: Well, maybe. You’ll find out. You’ll find out. We’ll see how it goes. I’ve been in the steel forging industry now for over 40 years. Typically, I have been doing most of the marketing for that company, bringing in outsiders, and so on, and following my lead and my direction. In November in 2013, because so many people copy what we used to do, both in print and direct mail, and some digital in part of that time, that I woke up in the middle of the night and I said, “Radio.” I am a radio nut. I’m a news buff. I said, “Radio. Let’s do a radio show about manufacturing.”
Two weeks later, we did our first show. It was the end of November. We’ve now done about 300 shows in manufacturing, many aspects of it from technology, to the numbers, to the stats, to global involvement, political and geopolitical, and marketing. Actually, there’s another company that’s spun out of that, that’s Women in Manufacturing. We’re doing the same thing with that, but we wanna take advantage of the fact that this is the year of the woman. We started a Women in Manufacturing show. We’ve done about 40 of those shows. We’re having fun with it. We’re getting good feedback. People seem to feel as though we’re doing something positive for the manufacturing sector. We’ve learned a lot about people in manufacturing, in different aspects of manufacturing than where I’m from.
Everything is a learning experience. We’ve had a couple people on multiple times. The Institute of Supply Management, they have a regular show with us once a month. We have others that we also do multiple shows.
Carman Pirie: You know, there’s this common narrative. You hear it time and again in chatting with marketers, be they manufacturing marketers or people outside the space that are just reflecting on what it is to work in manufacturing from a marketing perspective. Time and again you’ll hear them say how manufacturers are behind the eight ball, not doing new and innovative things, laggard adoption— Look, I’ve said that and I think in some ways the stats broadly do prove that out, but I love the fact that we’re talking with the president of All Metals and Forge Group who, frankly, saw the light several years ago now and taking a different approach to marketing. It’s just fascinating to me.
Lew Weiss: Well, you know, it’s interesting. Are you familiar with ISO, International Standards Organization?
Carman Pirie: Oh, yeah.
Lew Weiss: Well, we got involved … ISO came to the country in 1992. We were the first metal company that was registered under that title. We’ve now done nine certificates. We just got approved for our most recent one. I remember when I did it, my friendly competitors knew what I was doing. They said, “Well, why are you doing that? Why are you letting yourself be dictated by a foreign country?” Which was Switzerland. I said, “It’s not exactly being dictated to by Switzerland.” That’s the one who came up with the ISO formula. We did get our ISO in 1994. I told all the friendly vendors that, “Do it now, or do it later, but you’re gonna do it or you won’t be in business.”
Sure enough, they all crept up to the plate and did what they had to do to get their ISO certification, which I started to do it, mostly at the beginning, as a marketing tool because we’re the first ones to have it, there was certain business that we would get because we were one of the only ones who had an ISO certificate. We used it as a marketing tool, even though later, it did a lot of good things for our company, the processes, and so on, that we still use today.
Carman Pirie: You’ve at least been open to the promise of marketing for awhile, which is …
Lew Weiss: Oh, absolutely.
Carman Pirie: Manufacturers often get accused of being close-minded, perhaps a little bit there.
Lew Weiss: That’s correct.
Jeff White: Interesting, they caught up on the ISO thing. I wonder if they’re going to catch up on the podcasting and content marketing side of things.
Carman Pirie: Exactly.
Lew Weiss: Well, there’s also another thing that they have to come up to speed on. There’s a program called NIST, N-I-S-T. It was a specification called NIST 700-181. By this December 31, if you sell to the government, you sell to the Department of Transportation, sell to the Department of Defense, or NASA, if you are not compliant with that spec, you will not be doing business with the federal government. So here’s one that’s being forced on us. I’ve been talking with a consultant who does this kind of work. He said nobody’s jumping the gun on this. They’re gonna feel it. I am now for my NIST registration. I’ll go where nobody goes. I’ll get there before them and watch them follow up behind.
Jeff White: It’s interesting too, though, ’cause I mean there are other things that should technically be required, like the Americans with Disabilities Act, in terms of making websites fully accessible for people with limited vision, or other things like that, and we’re still seeing nearly daily, somewhat frivolous, lawsuits going after companies that are not following Section 508.
Lew Weiss: Right. They could have just done it. They don’t take it seriously. One of the things that I’ve found over the last five years in regards to All Metals and Manufacturing Talk Radio is that the primary reason, that I found anyway, that why manufacturers are not buying into the new marketing horizons is twofold. One, they don’t have the time. Two, they don’t have a clue on what needs to be done. There are obviously a lot of people out there, perhaps such as yourselves, who help build companies, who don’t necessarily concentrate on manufacturing. Consumer goods, obviously that’s a big thing for the internet, but manufacturing has been kind of behind the curve for a long time.
Lew Weiss: I went to a hearing in the New Jersey Senate about two, three months ago. We were invited, along with four or five other manufacturers. They actually went out to … They got guests. They wanted 20 guests to speak as a panelist to talk about manufacturing, and so on, within the state of New Jersey. Only five of us showed up. They don’t have the time, the interest. They’re not being made aware of the value of getting involved. I think that’s a big problem.
Carman Pirie: I guess it’s always somewhat easy to chalk up a lack of adoption to just a lack of awareness. But, I guess moving beyond that, because I can tell by chatting with you so far that you’ve had countless conversations with your peers, presidents, CEOs, of other manufacturers who have probably kind of looked at you a bit like a dog watching TV. You know, confused look, tilted to the side.
Lew Weiss: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Carman Pirie: I’m wondering why you do what you do. Have you been able to get through to them? Actually, I think that may be helpful for our listeners who are trying to move their own programs forward and trying to get more senior level buy-in for their initiatives. It may be helpful to know how you cracked that nut.
Lew Weiss: First of all, I refer to that look of the dog, I call it the dumb dog look, when he’s tilting his head back and forth. Yes, you do get the dumb dog look from a lot of people because one, they don’t have the talent and the skills. They gotta go hire someone. Now, going to hire someone into your company to do work that you yourself don’t understand may not be your best route. On the little bit more expensive side, hiring a consultant who has, or small agency, has tremendous value to the company because they bring things to you that you don’t have to go learn. They teach it to you. It makes an incredible difference.
We did have somebody on our show a couple weeks ago. It was about cyber security. It was a fairly new company, three, four years old. Cyber security is going to be the next big thing that we all have to address. He called me two, three days after the show. He said, “Wow, this is great. I got three calls and I got one major ISO registrar calling and wanting to do some work with us.” So, it does work if you’re going in the right direction. But if you’re a manufacturer with the old attitude of hire the outside salesman with an old beaten up, out of shape case to let him do the milk run, I don’t think that … It has a value, but there’s a lot more value in doing the digital route today.
Carman Pirie: You’re preaching to the converted here, I think.
Lew Weiss: Yeah, right.
Carman Pirie: Of course, I think the level of measurability on digital initiatives as well can help with gaining that buy-in and you can more directly connect the dots on the ROI faster.
Lew Weiss: Sure. Sure. I mean, we have on All Metals and Forge Group, that website. We’re getting about 40-45,000 visitors to our website a month. That generates over 1,000 inquiries, real projects to be quoted. You can’t get that from the outside rep who’s carrying a beaten up, out of shape case.
Jeff White: Maybe he just needs a better case… and then maybe a website.
Lew Weiss: That could be. That could be. But we find that … There’s so much more that we could be doing. It’s all a question of expenses, how much do you want to lay into building the digital backend. Right now, we have one, two, three, four, five, roughly six people, that are handling different aspects of our various programs, including the two shows. It takes a lot of effort.
Carman Pirie: I understand that because you’re painting a picture, Lew, as you say that of a corporate team that has a very different composition and skill set than what many manufacturers think of. Talk to me about that. What have been the competencies that you’ve seen fit to bring in-house over the course of your journey in that?
Lew Weiss: Well, we needed marketing people, and marketing people from the digital world, not the marketing guy who sells ad space in magazines, which still works, but you get so much more exposure to a wider breadth of market using digital. I think, all in all, it may come out to be ultimately cheaper. You have professionals working for you. You don’t have to be the one, even though, in many cases, I am because I enjoy doing the marketing side and being involved in the marketing side. But I think that larger companies … We’ve got 35 people, but if we had 50 or 100 people, you gotta have your own people doing this or you have to have some inside people that are doing it and they’re dealing with the outside consultants or outside agency. But one thing I would clarify is that there’s a lot of charlatans out there who don’t necessarily know what they say they know. It does take time to find the right mix for you in terms of talent and knowledge base.
Announcer: You’re listening to The Kula Ring, conversations on manufacturing marketing. Don’t forget to subscribe now at kulapartners.com/thekularing. That’s k-u-l-a partners.com/thekularing.
Carman Pirie: Yeah, I think you have been in this marketing game an awfully long time. We don’t view those comments in a … That’s why, frankly, one of the reasons I like talking to somebody like you who has the experience of implementing the ideas and actually putting the rubber to the road and seeing the results, rather than just simply talking about what could be or speaking about that theoretically.
Lew Weiss: We had an incident I guess two years ago, three years ago. A large company, I’m not gonna use their name. A large company, they are a media company. They’re a magazine publisher and all kinds of media stuff. They approached us to take our website from .5 to .10. Well, I guess it didn’t work well. We were blacklisted because of the actions that they did. Our traffic that we were getting before they pulled the plug was at 40-45,000. In a week, we were at 7,000. It took us a year and a half to rebuild all over again. So, you gotta really know the people that you’re in bed with.
Carman Pirie: Yeah, I know if someone’s promising immediate results, they may get them immediately, maybe more akin to what you just described.
Jeff White: Not the ones you want.
Carman Pirie: Yeah, yeah. Lew, when you talk to me about, well frankly, the fact that the president of the firm knows web traffic to the level of detail that you do, and the number of the leads that are coming in via the web platform on a monthly basis, I can tell you it is reasonably unique in this space. You clearly have struck a chord with what you’re doing with a different, well, maybe it’s the same manufacturing buyer and you’re engaging them in a new space or you’ve struck a chord with a new type of buyer. I guess, which is it or is it a little bit of both?
Lew Weiss: I think it’s probably a little bit of both. Again, going … First of all, I always think that the leader, the President, the CEO, the whatever of a company, even if it’s a big company, they should really be up to speed on what they’re doing in terms of their marketing because they could be out there marketing some piece of junk that no one’s gonna tell you if it is good or bad. You gotta know the numbers. If you don’t know numbers, you know nothing. That seems to be the case, even though in the larger companies they pretty much adopted the digital world. Some of them haven’t done real well. I think that JCPenney got involved in some kind of black hat marketing and they were crushed.
Carman Pirie: Yeah, I remember when that happened.
Lew Weiss: Yeah. So, even the big companies, they wanna get involved, but they figure they can do the shortcut. There have been others since JCPenney.
Jeff White: Do you think that … I mean, a lot of the precedent for things like the way the web works now, the way the internet works now, is of course being set in the B2C space. What is you think that B2B marketers and manufacturers can take away from that? What learnings are there there?
Carman Pirie: And what might they wanna ignore?
Lew Weiss: Be open to change and then act on it and ride it out. You’re gonna have to make a commitment, a financial commitment, but that financial commitment will come back in spades. I’ve seen it done. I’ve seen it happen. We’re enjoying that same place, as I just laid it out. Not only that, but you’re doing some good. At least, we’re feeling we’re doing some good with Manufacturing Talk Radio because we’re supplying information to manufacturers that won’t necessarily get this information on mainstream media. I don’t think I addressed the B2C side yet. Other than large companies in the B2C world who are following the new methodology to a greater extent than manufacturing.
Jeff White: For sure.
Carman Pirie: It’s interesting to think about, what … Because the largely B2B world of manufacturing is not B2C, so there are some things we have to learn from them. There’s probably some lessons we should ignore from the B2C world. Talk to me about that.
Lew Weiss: Well, the B2B world, first of all, you tend to be dealing with a lot more dollars. It represents a third of our economy, upstream and downstream from the B2B connection. B2C, me personally, in the 55 years that I’m in manufacturing, I really don’t know a lot about B2C, but I think B2C is probably an easier methodology. I think there’s more available talent in the B2C world in terms of experts, if you will, who can lead retailers, and so on, to a more golden field.
Carman Pirie: Interesting I think to just hook on for a second because you’ve grown a fairly diverse marketing team as a small manufacturer. What you say is quite true that a lot of young marketing talent, particularly digital savvy marketing talent, may be more drawn to more consumer-style marketing initiatives. I guess, have you found talent attraction more difficult as a result of that dynamic?
Lew Weiss: Yes, sort of because there is less of them, number one. Of the less that do exist, you gotta find which ones really do have the talent and which ones don’t, so that square starts getting real small until you find the right connection. I mean, we have, for example, a writer who … We also do a magazine called Metals and Manufacturing Outlook. One of our primary writers is a gentleman that I went to meet in France. He’s been writing for us now for, I don’t know, two years, two and a half years, something like that. You gotta go where the talent is. We’ve been with him now for a number of years. He leads our magazine efforts. We’re doing a lot of stuff.
Carman Pirie: It seems to me that you fundamentally are in some ways a media company, a new style media company that just happens to have addiction to do die forgings and steel removal rings on the side.
Lew Weiss: That’s what it’s looking like. As a matter of fact, the name of the holding company is MBC.
Carman Pirie: Nice.
Jeff White: Oh, man.
Lew Weiss: Which, it refers to Manufacturing Broadcasting Corporation. But if you say it fast, it’s clever.
Carman Pirie: Yeah, nicely. All right. Well, look, this has been a meandering conversation if nothing else, Lew. I think there’s been a fascinating insight into just basically how you thought about marketing. Would you have any parting thoughts for our listeners as we conclude today?
Lew Weiss: Great question. I’m glad you asked this. Regarding my insights into marketing, I’ve been doing marketing for my multiple companies for almost 55 years, 55 of it being in my metals company. Many years later, like only 5 years ago, we started Manufacturing Talk Radio and Women in Manufacturing. All of that is marketing. You need to out-market your competitors. That is paramount. Every time your competitors start copying what you’re doing, change, because if you don’t change, you die. Those are two of the things that come to mind, as well as, lastly, build your brand and build it strong because that’s what people ultimately know when they’re not dealing with you on a regular basis. They’ll see your logo. They’ll see your colored jackets, like maybe our yellow jackets that we wear. It’s a brand and it’s very strong. That’s my strongest recommendation to your audience. I appreciate you having me on your podcast. Thank you very much.
Announcer: Thanks for listening to The Kula Ring with Carman Pirie and Jeff White. Don’t miss a single manufacturing marketing insight. Subscribe now @kulapartners.com/thekularing. That’s K-U-L-A partners.com/thekularing.