Managing Dramatically Enhanced Lead Generation

Episode 227

March 21, 2023

So, you are a rockstar marketer (obviously) and you have increased incoming leads in a major way. What now? How do you manage that growth, that success? Brian Critchfield of Airgain is on the show this week giving us some insight into managing phenomenal growth (like 12x growth). We talk about helping the sales team with new leads at different stages of the funnel. Managing the huge uptick in data to sift through. And, how to keep everyone on the team engaged and driving the common goal forward.

Managing Dramatically Enhanced Lead Generation 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: I’m doing well. I’m doing well. Looking forward to today’s discussion, as well. I guess one of the things I like about what we’re gonna be talking about today in some ways is we’re talking about the thing that every marketer or a lot of marketers think that they want, and then we’re talking to somebody who has already gotten it, and then trying to figure out kind of the now what. So, I don’t know, I kind of like those kind of before and after moments when… You know, most of the marketers out there are still sitting there in the before bucket.

Jeff White: Yeah. Trying to figure out how to get to where we are in this case.

Carman Pirie: Yeah, so it’s nice when somebody can kind of illuminate what’s on the other side of that. 

Brian Critchfield: Like weight loss photos, right? The before and after. 

Carman Pirie: Exactly. So, since our guest is already chatting, we should at least have the common courtesy to introduce him. 

Jeff White: We should introduce Brian. Yeah. No, what is this, our first podcast or the 240th? I don’t know. So, joining us today-

Carman Pirie: Sometimes it’s hard to tell. 

Jeff White: It really is. It really is. So, joining us today is Brian Critchfield. Brian is the VP of Global Marketing with Airgain. Welcome to The Kula Ring, Brian. 

Brian Critchfield: Thank you very much. Thank you for inviting me. 

Jeff White: Yeah. It’s great to have you on the show. Why don’t you tell our guests a little bit about yourself and what Airgain does? 

Brian Critchfield: Sure. Yeah, so Brian Critchfield. I’ve actually been in marketing I think 30 years. I don’t feel that old but I think it’s getting there. Been in digital for a big chunk of that time. For those of us who are old enough, remember the AltaVista days when we were playing around with keywords to end up at the top of the list on AltaVista? This is way back in the day, so I’ve been involved in digital since then. I’ve started a few of my own agencies too, as well. Worked with lots of different companies. Have actually taught at the university level, too. Teach marketing and strategy and leadership at several different universities. I’ve written curriculum along those lines, too, as well. I’ve written the digital marketing certificate for a major university. 

So, I’ve kind of dipped my toe, I guess, in a few different areas, and passionate about marketing, and as most Gen Xers, have ridden the wave of digital and learned how to apply I guess more of your classic marketing principles to a digital environment. 

As far as Airgain goes, we’re a wireless solutions manufacturer. We kind of got our start in components and then have recently, within the last few years, started to evolve into developing full off-the-shelf wireless systems, and really our focus is on simplifying wireless. So, there’s a lot of black magic and difficulty in wireless connectivity, a lot of even engineers don’t quite understand all that goes into it. We build products and services that really simplify that whole process and make it easy to get connected, and we focus on the internet of things, or IoT. We focus on automotive, consumer, enterprise. There’s a lot of different markets that we kind of specialize in. But ultimately comes down to that we simplify wireless. 

Jeff White: I really like that you brought up both the notion of being a Gen Xer, as well as having crafted curriculum in a university setting, because I find it’s the one thing that enables me to stay ahead of my kids when it comes to technology. I still understand it better than you for a while. 

Brian Critchfield: Exactly. And I have that same relationship with my kids. It’s funny. Most people are like, “I gotta get my kids to show me the settings on my phone,” or something, and having grown up with it and grown up in a digital environment, it’s the opposite. And the great thing about that is your kids can’t pull one over on you, too, so there’s this new social media platform… No, no, no. I know all about that and no. No, you can’t have that on your phone. 

Jeff White: yeah. Kids, we’ve already looked at the ROI of that one. TikTok is just not gonna take off. Yeah. 

Brian Critchfield: Exactly. It’s a waste of your time. 

Jeff White: While that may be true, apparently I was wrong. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. Look, kid, if you’re gonna build a profile, we need to be able to monetize this down the road. 

Brian Critchfield: Exactly. And it’s funny, too. I literally have my nine-year-old coming to me wanting to start a YouTube channel and I’m having to have those discussions with him about, “Okay, what’s your focus? What type of content are you gonna produce?” And I’m going, “This conversation with my nine-year-old, I would have never thought about that.” I was still eating dirt at nine. So, there you go. 

Carman Pirie: Look, you folks both have children and I do not, so I’m not going to be able to contribute to this conversation a whole lot, but I guess my gut instinct of it all is that as a Gen Xer we kind of in some way needed to know or figure out how the technology worked or there was a level of needing to know what was happening under the hood, whereas I feel like today’s technology has removed a lot of that requirement, and therefore people are just… They’re tech enabled without having to understand the underpinnings, if you will. Does that make sense?

Brian Critchfield: No, I think that’s a great way to put it. I mean, we kind of grew up with it. We saw the evolution happen before our eyes. And we know where the foundation… how it’s built. Whereas a lot of the kids today benefit from it but don’t really know where the foundation came from. And you know, I remember taking classes in basic as a software in high school and programming in basic, and just kind of fell in love with computers back then, and oftentimes when I talk about my focus in digital and how most of my career has been there, for me I have a passion for a few different things, but computers and technology is one of those. Marketing is one of those. Content is one of those. And they really all converge in this digital marketing space today. And so, for me it was kind of the perfect fit, and not only that, but I’m also a big believer in just kind of positioning, and honest, and transparent marketing. I remember taking classes in school going, “Oh, so my job in marketing is to lie to people. That’s what you’re telling me, right?” 

And today, with so many technology tools that we have, it really is all about transparency. It’s really all about delivering value. And what we used to call back in the day value-added marketing. 

Carman Pirie: You’re reminding me of an old ad guy I used to work with. He’s like, “Look, we don’t have to tell the truth here. It’s not PR.” But look-

Jeff White: There’s plenty of PR people that would disagree with that statement. 

Carman Pirie: Of course, of course. But look, I do want to kind of zero in a little bit on something that you’ve been able to help Airgain with, which is dramatically enhancing their lead flow. You’re welcome to give the numbers if you like. I won’t disclose those. I’ll just simply say and when I’ve looked at the numbers, we’re talking about like an 11X, kind of 12X increase in the kind of lead flow that that organization’s experiencing. 

Brian Critchfield: Yeah-

Carman Pirie: And-

Brian Critchfield: Oh. Go ahead. Finish your question. Sorry. 

Carman Pirie: Well, and I was just saying, anytime you do that, that’s not even the same sport. We’re comparing apples and oranges here, aren’t we? I mean, it’s gotta really change the entire marketing and sales environment when you 12X a lead flow like that. 

Brian Critchfield: Yeah. And that’s… I guess therein lies the challenge. It’s the old adage, careful what you wish for, right? And I think that’s what we’ve run into as an organization. So, I joined… Airgain really didn’t have much of a marketing effort before I joined. You know, our core business going back 20 years was custom antenna design. And so, we would work with these major companies, Comcast, Charter, DirecTV, and we would custom design the antenna systems within their devices, and so we had maybe 25 customers and marketing wasn’t a focus back then. We made a couple of acquisitions that really put a focus more on it. 

And so, when I joined it was they were saying, “Okay, we need more leads.” And I said, “I can drive more leads, but we have a whole bunch of other problems we’ve gotta solve too, as well.” So, the focus was on leads, and again, as you mention, it’s 11-12X within a matter of a couple of quarters that we started driving, and the analogy that I use is you’re driving a bunch of traffic over a rickety old bridge, and so now it’s our time to kind of back up a little bit and try and fix that rickety old bridge while traffic is going across, right? And so, yeah, it also… It’s a great problem to have. Some might say a high class problem. But it is, it kind of exposes I think some of the other problems that need to be fixed within an organization. 

Carman Pirie: Now, I don’t want to be dismissive of your talents here in any way, Brian. Clearly you know what you’re doing. That said, there’s no way we 12X lead flow within a few quarters without really what we’re doing there is adding points of conversion, adding kind of lead capture probably to a brand that already obviously had some good attention and traction in market. You know, it seems as though you probably did a good job of getting it out in front of some new people, but you’re in some ways I’m certain to get that kind of performance… You’re kind of harnessing, if you will, the power that the brand had, and just kind of maximizing the lead flow potential that it had. First, before I ask my question, is that somewhat accurate, at least?

Brian Critchfield: I mean, Airgain’s been around for 20 years, right? So, there’s a brand there and even the companies that we’ve acquired had their brand names too, as well. So, there was no question that there was a demand. In the past, you almost had to stumble across a lead form to be able to… You know, I’ve got PO or credit card in hand. Please, will you talk me? 

We just really created, as you mentioned, those channels of conversion, and conversion points along the way, but we also reached out to specific audiences that we knew that were key targets of ours with a simple, repeatable message, and you know, kind of all of your basic marketing blocking and tackling. All the basics and put it out there, and once you put that system in place, yes, I think as you mentioned, Carman, just being able to tap into this pent up demand that’s existed in the marketplace. 

Carman Pirie: You know, I think it’s just an important… If some marketers, especially as they’re maybe starting a role with a company and kind of growing their marketing function, maybe it’s an organization that hasn’t had a strong marketing focus historically. Depending on the dynamics of that market, this can be a situation, and the brand, it can be a situation that you find yourself in where you’re working for this organization that kind of has this pent up… You can turn on the conversion tap, the lead tap a little bit just with some of that blocking and tackling, as you say. I just thought it was important to kind of highlight that to marketers to recognize or try to be wise to the fact when you’re in that kind of a situation. 

And then, of course, as you start to harvest the success of that, now we’re into the whole now what. Because as you 12X leads, the type of lead that you’re converting, the type of lead that that sales organization is working is quite a bit different, isn’t it? 

Brian Critchfield: There’s no question. You know, as I mentioned, you almost had to stumble across a contact form to really submit a lead in the past. And so, the type of lead that the sales team is used to receiving is very far down in the funnel. Now, as you’re doing outbound, as you’re going out into the marketplace and you’re finding leads, they’re going to be a little bit higher in the funnel. They need some nurturing until they get to that point that they’re ready to move forward. So, there is that challenge, I guess, with the sales team, because as the leads start to come in it’s like I talked to one or two of them and, “Well, these are bad leads.” Well, no, no, no, no. They’re just a little bit lower in the funnel. They need some nurturing, and they need some work on them too, as well. 

But getting them into a database, getting to a point where they’re nurtured, getting them to a point where they’re delivered to the sales team, that whole process, putting that in place, that takes some doing. But you know, we’re in the process… Again, back to the rickety bridge thing, we had a qualification mechanism before. It was woefully understaffed for the volume that we’re talking about now. So, that’s a problem we’re trying to solve, right? How do we go through that qualification? It’s almost like panning for gold, where you know there’s gold in there, but you have to do a little bit of work. You gotta swish it around. But then you pick out the gold nuggets and go, “Okay, sales team. Here’s a gold nugget. Here’s another one. Here’s another one. Here’s one that needs to be thrown back to be nurtured longer.”

But you know, that’s the process. 

Carman Pirie: So, as you do that panning for gold, is your goal to send the same quality of gold eventually to the sales organization and just more of it? Or is there a little bit of the sales organization having to learn to work with different kinds of leads too? I don’t know. Is the sales organization having to get better at educating leads? Or I guess I’m curious if there’s a give-get there. 

Brian Critchfield: Yeah. I think the answer is definitely both. You know, there’s a certain type of lead that the sales team is accustomed to getting in the past, and so you want to get it to that point where you’re able to deliver a hot, ready lead that they can work on. But at the same time, the sales team, especially in a new world, a new environment, has to adjust how they mine or nurture these leads on their own. You know, there’s just so much more opportunity that’s out there, that’s available, that’s in front of them. 

And so, yeah, I think it’s kind of a balanced effort that it takes, but I would also back up a little bit, and maybe this changes the conversation a little bit. So, Airgain, we’ve been around for 20 years, since 2003 actually in our current form, but we’ve made a couple of acquisitions throughout that time, really within the last five years that we’ve made two acquisitions, and it’s added whole lines of product to Airgain that we haven’t had before. And that’s also been a challenge as an organization, is how do we tell one story instead of three stories? And so, it’s taken us a time to get to where we are today, and it took me the better part of the last year to really figure out that core message, that connecting thread that goes through all of our different product lines that can tie everything together with one story. And that connecting thread is that we simplify wireless. 

It took a while to get there. You know, it’s funny, there’s… and I’ll paraphrase this, and I’ll probably butcher it, but there’s a story about Mark Twain where he said, “Hey, if you want me to speak for 2 hours, I can do that right now. If you want me to speak for 15 minutes, you’re gonna have to give me a couple weeks to prepare.” Because brevity takes time. It’s a challenge, right, to get to that simple, repeatable message. But once you do, it can be extremely effective and it’s taken us a while to get to that, to where we can generate leads as well through these simple, repeatable messages that we have. 

Jeff White: Did you find when you arrived and where you were standing up this new marketing function within Airgain, or kind of growing it, or certainly making it more sophisticated, was there pressure from the executive to make that messaging hum first? Or was there more pressure to kind of bring us in leads, or help us convert, and find more leads first? It’s a bit of a chicken and egg kind of question because you don’t really want to, necessarily as a marketer, go to market without a good, unified message that helps you tell the whole story, but maybe there’s additional pressures that are more kind of here and now that people are looking to have you focus on before you get started on that. 

Brian Critchfield: Yeah. I think that’s a great question. So, my background or my specialties are strategy and digital. Those are kind of the two areas of specialty I’ve always had. And from my agency days, it’s always been interesting. I started my first agency early 2000s up in the Northwest, up in Boise, Idaho, and we had the first social agency up in the Northwest, and it started as a word of mouth marketing agency, and then it was right at the birth of social media, and so we adopted those tools and were doing a lot of classes, and trainings, and things like that on it. But throughout all of my agency days, what I found is very interesting is people don’t want to buy strategy. They want to buy a website, or they want to buy a brochure, or they want to buy leads, or they want a… They want the end result, and you usually have to kind of back them up into, “Okay, if you want a website, what are you gonna say on it? If you want a brochure, what are you gonna say on it?” And so, it’s backing it up.

I’d say the same is true… You know, my executive team at Airgain has been very supportive throughout everything, but definitely coming in they’re like, “We need to increase our leads.” And it’s the result that they focus on. And so, I said, “Okay, if you want to increase your leads, trust me, I can drive more leads than you can possibly handle, however, we need to back up a little bit. We need to fix a few of these rickety bridge issues. And in addition to that, we need to get our messaging together.” But we did kind of get started early and start generating some leads at least at the product line level with what we knew were key differentiators in the market. So, we didn’t wait to get started. We did start generating leads early on. But we’ve definitely seen improvements once we were able to kind of nail down our messaging. 

Carman Pirie: And is it fair to say that those early lead improvements were more focused on the products or areas of the business that you thought weren’t going to change a lot with the enhanced messaging anyway? Like they were already kind of like the tiger by the tail successful products, so let’s drive more lead flow there? 

Brian Critchfield: Yeah. No, we’ve had… We had some well known product lines out in the marketplace, and we were able to get some good results out of those product lines, some differentiated product lines, and so with that we were able to go to a specific target audience with a product line, whether it’s an embedded modem, or we’ve got a rooftop vehicle networking device for first responders. We have some of those key products that have key differentiators. And we’re able to go, “I know that this market cares about this, so I can start with that simple message and start generating leads immediately.” 

At the same time, really I kind of put it into three buckets. I have the what we’ll call one-to-many campaigns where it’s really kind of throwing out the fishing net, trying to catch whatever interest is out there, right? One-to-few campaigns, which are going after specific vertical markets, and then one-to-one campaigns which is what we call today account-based marketing, ABM, or ABX, or whatever new term that you want to come up with, right? But you’re going after a very specific account with a specific message. And so, I think for the one-to-many campaigns, a lot of times you can start there with key product lines. I know that this audience cares about this. I know that this is what they want, and I can target that. 

But in order to get into the one-to-few and one-to-one campaigns, I think you really have to nail down that messaging. And so, it’s almost an evolution, right? You can start with the basics, but then you have to kind of evolve to go after those more targeted campaigns. 

Jeff White: What kind of structures have you put in place once you started to drive this volume of leads? You mentioned already how some of the sales team weren’t necessarily understanding what to do with some of these higher in the funnel leads, so what kinds of things have you done in order to ensure that the salespeople are chomping at the bit to get the leads that they’re ready for, and these ones that need to be nurtured are being served appropriately? How have you kind of done that at scale in order to address this volume of leads you were beginning to draw?

Brian Critchfield: That’s a great question. You know, some of it’s been trial and error. We’ve had marketing automation tools in place, so a lot of… You know, we rely on HubSpot’s our tool that we use. We rely on that for lead scoring, for lead capture, for nurturing, emails, all that kind of stuff. And then we had to start putting some additional pieces in place, so we tried a combination of technology tools and people. We started with we had one… call it an inside salesperson to do lead qualification, and they were really kind of part-time, because they were also helping out with trade shows, and helping out with some sales, too, as well. And so, it was really kind of a part-time person, and so we implemented some AI follow-up technology to try and fill up their calendar rather than having them chase down the leads for qualification. We said, “You know what? If we can implement this AI tool that can really fill up his calendar with appointments and he can just be talking and qualifying people all day.” We had a little bit of success with that. Not what we would have liked to have had. Part of it was because his calendar was so small because he was working on so many other things, so availability on his calendar was pretty lacking. 

And then on top of that, there were a lot of people that didn’t show up to those appointments even though they booked them, and so that was kind of a trial and error thing. Okay, so maybe we use this tool when they’re a little bit further down in the funnel. And then what’s working now is we’ve actually hired a couple of just people that that’s all they’re doing now is focusing on lead qualification. And so, we have our HubSpot system that will… Lead comes in the door, so to us, we define a lead as a contact capture. Once there’s enough activity there that it reaches a certain score level within HubSpot, we classify it as an MQL. Once it’s an MQL, it goes to these people for qualification. Once they’re able to identify an opportunity, a budget, titles, get all of that information, it becomes an SQL, and it gets passed off to the sales team. 

In the past, we’ve had a separate CRM entirely and we built our own web hub that would push those leads into that CRM. That was broken, come to find out. Over the last I think two years we found about 1,000 leads that were never transferred into that CRM system, so we’re going through the process of potentially gathering everything together in HubSpot, so we’ve got our CRM, our marketing automation, our service, all of that together in one. I think there’s a lot to be said for having that 360 view of the customer with one system. 

So, like I said, I think it’s a combination of tools, processes, and people. That’s what I would say. I would also say too, as well, having been involved in technology as long as I have, technology does not solve your problems. It can also exacerbate your problems too, as well, so you have to have the right processes in place, and then you implement the technology to execute those processes. 

Carman Pirie: Man, I really hope people are listening to you, Brian. I hope they hear… You know, this guy’s been around a bit. It’s not his first kick at the cat, as it were, and you know, being very open and transparent about the fact that, “Look, we tried this. It didn’t work that well.” You know, we were trying on technology too much over here and as it just turned out, it didn’t work for us in our application. You know, for so many people they think, “Oh, well, yeah, no, I went and bought technology X, Y, or Z, and now we’re good. That’ll solve that problem.” 

And it’s like, “No, no, no. You just started to problem solve and you created a few others along the way.” It’s really, I think, an important lesson for people to hear there. 

Brian Critchfield: Yeah. Technology can create a whole new set of problems for you, so that’s the challenge, right?

Carman Pirie: They’re problems worth solving, of course, but…

Jeff White: Yeah. It totally is. But I think there’s something interesting there too about the idea of you’ve implemented HubSpot now, and it’s kind of given you a bit more of a 360-degree view, and people who’ve heard this show before know that we love HubSpot, so we’re not just gonna say that everything’s better because of HubSpot, but when you’re talking about sometimes the creation of these interconnected tools, you can end up misplacing 1,000 leads because nobody knows what’s really going on, because you haven’t necessarily had all of the things you need in order to get the notifications, and trigger the next steps, and do all of that, and then it’s been running for two quarters and somebody’s like, “Hey, does anybody know what that’s doing?” And then you go and look and realize you’ve got 1,000 people that didn’t hear back from you. 

Brian Critchfield: Yeah. You know, and having… Well, first of all I would say having everything together, simplify your technology stack as much as you can. Try and avoid the 50 different systems that are out there. But on top of that, have your processes in place so that you… You know, it’s just like the system of government we set up in 1776. Have your checks and balances in place, right? So, have your people double check, and making sure that leads are getting through the right way. Check your technology. I think that that’s another aspect to it as well and having that built into your process. 

So, the separate CRM system we were using was Zoho, which is… It’s a good system, but it’s the connector between the two where we were finding some hiccups, so we decided that we’re shifting from Zoho to HubSpot’s Sales Hub, so that again, it can all be on one system. And I won’t get any endorsement dollars from them, but there you go, that’s the move we’re making. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. You know, I’ve seen it so many times, especially as these tools began to promise the ease of integration between them, and of course we all know the market driver behind that, and why they want to communicate that, and how many times have you seen like, “Oh yeah, no, here was… a junior marketer connected these together and it’s working great.” And it’s like yeah, nobody was willing to spend the money to actually have proper QA done on that technology integration. And I’m not saying that that was the case in your instance, but it’s more just to… I think it’s just kind of word to the wise for marketers listening. It’s like yeah, you can integrate tools. Yes, it’s possible. Yes, it could drive a lot of value. And yes, you ought to give it the… if it’s gonna deliver that much value, it probably deserves that much of your attention and care. 

Brian Critchfield: And I would also say too, as well, one of my sayings I say a lot these days too is that marketing and data are synonymous, and that’s really what it’s come down today is data gives us the ability to make great marketing decisions. But you can’t make those great marketing decisions unless you have the right data. And you see the rise in positions, like such as marketing operations, or martech people, or whatever. They’re becoming more and more important to an organization to make sure that your technology works and it works well together. And trust me, I’ve got a lot of bumped knees, and bruises, and skinned elbows along the way. I’ve worked at organizations large and small. We’ve implemented customer data platforms before where we’ve tried to pull all of this data in together. Especially in a manufacturing environment, I’ve tried. 

I’ve never been a believer of software stacks like Adobe, or Oracle, or whatever, Salesforce, because they usually do a couple of things well, and the other things not well, but I would say whatever you choose to solve the problem is make it as simple as possible. Simplify your tech stack as much as you can and there’s less opportunity for errors, but it starts with process. Process first, then figure out how to apply technology to that process. 

Carman Pirie: Brian, I’m gonna tug the conversation a bit in a different direction as we close here. I’m curious, because you spent some time teaching marketing, developing curriculum. What is the one thing that Gen X managers are missing when it comes to extracting the best performance out of young marketing talent? 

Brian Critchfield: Oh, that’s a great question. You know what’s interesting? I would say I shared with you three of my passions before but I didn’t talk about the fourth one, and my fourth passion is people development. I’m a big believer in that. In fact, I’m a certified facilitator for Franklin Covey, and 7 Habits, and Leading At The Speed Of Trust, and all of those things. I would say I would recommend a book to you called Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. It’s written by Dan Pink. Great book. But in that book he brings all the research together to figure out where true human motivation comes from. And what he finds is that the old carrot and stick models we used to use just don’t work, and especially with Gen Y and Gen Z, or millennials and Gen Z. It’s just not an effective tool anymore and all you have to do is get on social media and Buzzfeed and see all the lists of people with their terrible bosses, and the stories that they have, and all that kind of stuff. 

What he found, that once you take money off the table where you’re paying people a decent wage, so that’s not an issue, there are three things that motivate us. Number one is autonomy. The ability to be self-directed or self-driven. It’s amazing how much that is motivating to Gen Z or a millennial just to give them the ability to go, “Look, this is your domain. This is your business. How are we gonna do it? I work for you in this situation. I’ll give you my best ideas, but you get to make the decision here and drive this forward.” So, that’s number one, is autonomy. 

Number two is mastery, or in other words, the desire to be the best in the world at something, right? Whatever that is. Whatever your passion is. It could be outside of the workplace and that’s fine. I try and help cultivate, help nurture whatever passion they have and whatever they want to have mastery on. But the third thing I think is most relevant to both Gen Z and millennials, which is purpose. So, autonomy, mastery, and purpose, the third one being we all want to be a part of something great. We all want to contribute. You know, Steve Jobs used to say, “I want to put a ding in the universe.” 

I used to work for a big publishing company and I would say to my team all the time, “Look, we’re not curing cancer here. We’re just selling ads.” And I think at the heart of hearts, we all want to cure cancer. We all want to do something meaningful. So, how do you turn what you’re working on and what you’re doing into something meaningful? Finding the purpose in that, giving people the autonomy… You know, Steven Covey always used to say you can’t hold people accountable for results if you dictate the methods. You know, people will surprise you with how creative they are, and how great they are at solving problems if you give them the space and the air to be able to do that. 

I would say, in my opinion, in my years, and again, I’ve bumped my knees and I’ve got a lot of scraped elbows on this too, as well. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. But in working with teams, and I’ve got a great team that works for me at Airgain. They’re all rock stars across the board. But what’s great about them is they work extremely well together, very dedicated, pitch in, help each other out. We’ve got your old geezers, all the way down to your young bucks, and they all work extremely well together because we’ve built kind of that team culture around those three things. Autonomy, mastery, and purpose. So, that would be my take on it. 

Carman Pirie: All right. Well, thank you for that, and I really appreciate the discussion today. It’s been wonderful to have you on the show. 

Brian Critchfield: Thank you for the invite, guys. It’s been great. 

Jeff White: Yeah. Wonderful to chat with you, Brian. Thanks. 

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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Brian Critchfield


Brian Critchfield

VP of Global Marketing

Brian Critchfield earned his reputation as a global speaker, author, professor, and consultant on the topics of word-of-mouth marketing, marketing strategy, and digital marketing. Over the last 25 years, Brian has launched well over 100 products and developed go-to-market strategies for companies ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500 firms. He has also taught and developed curriculum for major universities on the topics of marketing, strategy, and leadership. He is currently responsible for leading his Airgain team in all facets of public relations, marketing, and brand strategy as its VP of Global Marketing. Brian holds a BBA degree in Marketing from Boise State University and a Global MBA through the prestigious Thunderbird School of Global Management. Brian is married with 5 children, who may one day drive him to drink.

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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