Striking the Right Balance of Digital Versus In-Person

Episode 205

October 11, 2022

CJ Brey, the Director of Sales and Marketing at CNC Tooling Management and Application firm PF Markey, discusses the merits of the ‘in-person’ or ‘face-to-face’ approach to generating leads and maintaining client relationships in the manufacturing industry. When the push to virtual came alongside the pandemic, the digital approach to lead generation and sales became commonplace; but now, as in-person events are resuming, those same digital-only approaches are falling flat. Listen to CJ explain what can’t be replicated from a purely virtual interaction, why the right approach to customer service may be a combination of both digital and in-person, and why he ultimately thinks there will be a shift toward more in-person sales and marketing for B2B manufacturers.

Striking the Right Balance of Digital Versus In-Person 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: Well, you know, I was seconds away from sneezing there I thought for a moment. I was like, “This is going to be an unmitigated podcast opening disaster.” But it seems to have passed. I’m doing fine. Thank you for asking. 

Jeff White: All right, good. You let me know if it comes up again. I’ll hit the mute button as quickly as possible. 

Carman Pirie: Indeed, indeed. And how are you?

Jeff White: I’m doing great. For those who don’t know, we were a little unsure this podcast was gonna happen. We ended up rescheduling a few times originally and then Nova Scotia got hit by a hurricane over the weekend, so we’re just glad the office has power and internet, because otherwise, this was not gonna come off. 

Carman Pirie: Indeed. Special hurricane edition. 

Jeff White: Yes. The post-Fiona cleanup. [Laughs] But yeah, I’m looking forward to our guest that we’re recording with today. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. Absolutely. Look, I think we’ve… One of the ongoing, I would say, debates in the world of sales and marketing—particularly in the manufacturing industrial space—through the pandemic has been, how much are we losing by not being face to face. How much is face-to-face required? Certainly, it was a sector that operated largely in person pre-pandemic, so I’m kind of curious to catch up with today’s guest and do so post-IMTS, which is like one of the biggest face-to-face shows on the calendar-

Jeff White: On the planet. Yeah. 

Carman Pirie:  … for the category, and just kind of see kind of what are we thinking about that now? 

Jeff White: Yeah. And I think too, this also ties in deeply with the notion that we keep talking about, the importance of customer service as a tenet and an arm of your marketing and sales apparatus, you know? In terms of keeping things flowing. And I think this plays into that too, and I want to get into those topics, as well. 

Carman Pirie: All right. Let’s do it. 

Jeff White: So, joining us today is CJ Brey. CJ is the Director of Sales and Marketing at PF Markey. Welcome to The Kula Ring, CJ. 

CJ Brey: Thank you both. Appreciate the opportunity to be here and actually to speak with both of you. I think those are some interesting topics we’re gonna broach this morning, so thank you. Good to be here. 

Carman Pirie: It’s awesome to have you on the show, mate. I wonder, look, could we maybe kick this off by telling our listeners a little bit more about the company and what you do there? Just fill us in. 

CJ Brey: Sure, sure. So, I’m coming to you guys this morning from our brand new sales and marketing locker room, so it’s an actual live setting. I’ve got guys coming and going. Each have a desk, have a locker setup, and we kind of use this as our team environment, and set up the backdrop here behind my desk—a sit-stand desk—to do just this thing. To get more involved and more engaged with people all over the globe to kind of have these conversations and bring to light what we’re seeing. 

So, PF Markey is a professional CNC tooling management application firm. So we do everything from sell the actual cutting tools, but more importantly lately collecting and analyzing the data behind those for our customers. We’ll manage the entire supply chain side of it, but then we also really heavily focus on the data and the analytics to help drive the metrics of the business, or our customers’ business, in the machining environment. 

We have an outside sales organization, we have a marketing organization, and we cover a good portion of the Midwest, but we’re heavily engaged at the manufacturing process level with each customer that we work with. We want to be part of the manufacturing process with those people. But again, we’re in the sales and service industry, so that is our main focus when we go to work every day. 

Jeff White: Very cool. And tell us a bit about yourself, as well. 

CJ Brey: So, I have a storied background. I had about a 15-year career with 3M, kind of on the sales and distribution management side. I worked and managed key accounts, territories, and then at the end our channel partners, our distribution partners. Left that organization in 2019, 2018. Went to work for a startup manufacturer who had a whiz bang product, right? We all have a customer from time to time where we’re like, “Wow, that’s a really good idea,” and I just had one convince me that it was worth jumping ship and trying to help grow the rocket, or build the rocket. And it was—it was a truly tremendous opportunity, we had a lot of fun. It was a company called SwiftWall, and they made a temporary wall panel for construction sites, primarily the airport transportation industry, where constantly have tenants changing. 

So, we built that from the ground up, and had a lot of success there. COVID was obviously very disruptive to that. We lost some people. But from there, I left, always being good friends with the owner here at PF Markey, the organization was growing and expanding, and they were looking to branch out and build more of a sales digital online organization and just add that layer of management and leadership to their sales and marketing organization. They’d always been a very mom and pop, although large, distributor looking to really expand that side of the business, so that’s how I got engaged over here almost a year and a half ago now. 

Carman Pirie: Man, you’ve got me confused, because I’m thinking about… You just mentioned bringing more digital presence to PF Markey, etcetera, and you mentioned about what the firm is doing in terms of the data analytics and whatnot. It all seems very digital-forward, shall we say, and frankly, I get that impression when I go to the website, as well. Customer videos, etcetera, being brought to the fore there. But I thought you and I were gonna be talking about how this is all about just meeting face-to-face and getting rid of the computer. 

CJ Brey: Well, I think the interesting part in today’s world is your first impression or your first introduction is digital 90% of the time nowadays. Our new customers want to meet us digitally, learn about us, get to know us, in some cases trust us before they actually talk to us. We have a bunch of initiatives to help that occur authentically and as genuine as possible, but it’s all in an effort to get to that face-to-face, which I think everyone’s craving, but is hesitant to accept that first time meeting or that knock at the door, if you will, to let somebody in. If you don’t have that digital awareness or that digital presence that people recognize, and are familiar with, and platforms like this where they’ve gotten to know you a little bit, I think it’s really hard. 

Yet they on the flip side want that real person to answer the phone, so it’s an interesting balance. That’s to say the least. 

Jeff White: This is the silly question that we have to get out of the way before we get into the good ones, but how have you seen that evolve since the start of the pandemic to now? 

CJ Brey: Oh, I think it bridged the generation gap, right? Where you might have had some resistance to it, we now have everyone forced into it. So, I think you had the younger generations really adopting that early in their relationship building just amongst their peers, and building those relationships and communication talents, skills more or less, digitally. You forced everyone in the chain of the company to learn how to do that, so everyone up to the owner now is engaging digitally, so I think COVID unfortunately helped that happen much faster. But it also gave everyone access to everyone a little bit more. 

You know, I think we’re all now on the LinkedIn side getting a little bit tired of the sales pitch via the private message, right? But right after-

Jeff White: You mean the immediate one that lands the second you hit accept? 

CJ Brey: Yeah, exactly right. It’s like, “Oh, that’s kind of interesting. That was awfully quick.” But the reality was right after the pandemic, right I guess in the pandemic, you could message somebody on LinkedIn and that was a unique way to communicate, and somebody would respond. I had a number of meetings that I set up when I first got to be at PF Markey 18 months ago. That was a preferred method. Now, I get no response. And that, frankly, I don’t respond to anyone unless I really know them either via LinkedIn message. It’s crazy to see how fast it’s evolving and what channels people are using to communicate. 

Carman Pirie: But you are thinking it through the lens of, ‘they need to meet us digitally first.’ And of course, that meeting is still going to be happening amongst one assumes LinkedIn, Twitter, whatever platform you choose, and then eventually you’re going to be trying to make that transition to in-person. I appreciate that you don’t want to be just sending the first message to say, “Hey, why don’t we have a meeting and talk,” but I guess… So, I’m trying to get a sense of how disciplined and widespread this approach is in the organization, like do you have an initiative underway that says this is how people are to meet PF Markey digitally? This is how they’re to meet us, and knowing that eventually it’s getting to an in-person. Can you take me through the anatomy of that? 

CJ Brey: Yeah, absolutely, and that’s a great question. You know, we have formalized it on a sales side, and that’s not 100% accurate. I don’t have the account managers with a plethora of digital resources in which they use for outreach, or use for building awareness, per se. What we’ve done at PF Markey is try to build the content library online as best we can in the short term that I’ve been here of our customers who are telling the story about us, our leadership telling the story about who we are, talking about our process, allowing people, giving people a channel to do their own research. 

On a more formalized process, what we also did is we launched kind of a marketing campaign around a digital video brochure, so it’s basically… I’ll grab one. Basically a folder, right? Without giving away all the good juice, you open it up and a video automatically starts playing. We record these independently and privately to each one of our I would say key pursuits, the guys that we really are trying to build that relationship with, and that comes right from our CEO. It’s a custom message to the person we’re trying to reach, and it’s usually based on a reference we’ve already received or on some information we already knew going in. It’s not 100% cold, but it’s not hot. It’s kind of that warm lead. 

We intentionally do that from a leadership level to build that bridge. Once the bridge is built, then we bring in the accountant, but we’re trying to encourage people use their LinkedIn and their social platforms. We’re trying to encourage reaching out via those platforms but I’m not enforcing it. I’m not saying, “Hey, this is the process you should use.” We’re still in an industry, in manufacturing, where that’s new. We’re on the front edge of that. And it’s not necessarily that effective. The reference is still the best way, to have somebody call somebody else and then to follow up on that call.

But what we’re seeing like at IMTS this year, and at the IBC conference last year, and some of these other… Or ISA, excuse me, conference last year, is people have seen us now. They know us. They know our name, they know the logo. They recognize that stuff. So, that’s the small bridge that hopefully the digital presence is building to help that introduction happen in person, or at least mean something in person. 

Carman Pirie: I like the idea of driving that initial connect almost as high as you can in the organization. 

Jeff White: Yeah. 

Carman Pirie: Of course, you have that, maybe some would say you have that ability given the size of PF Markey versus some other companies may find that a little bit more difficult to scale, but at the same time, eh, I don’t know. Maybe that’s just an excuse, too. 

Jeff White: Should be shooting for it. 

Carman Pirie: Well, I like how it cuts through a bit of the noise, doesn’t it? And it shows that the prospect’s business and attention is actually important to the organization. It’s gotta go a long way. 

CJ Brey: It does. And the target customer really is that on the flip side, as well. God love the big three here in Michigan. They drive a lot of business to this state, and they employ a lot of people. That strategy, that method of communication isn’t gonna work. It’s not gonna do anything anywhere. That’s just like somebody going out and cold calling, knocking on a door they’ve never been up to. You know, we’re really trying to connect with those that are doing the same thing we’re doing just in different shoes.  They’re small to medium, sometimes large, privately owned companies, where we can get right to the person who owns it, the person who’s in charge of operations and decisions, that’s trying to move the numbers themselves. And that’s really where we’re having the most success, where we know we’re gonna get face-to-face value from those relationships. 

Because you gotta have that. You always will have to have that. 

The flip side is the data side. How do we measure that impact of that relationship, what we’re doing for those people? But we have to be able to show that data to somebody who’s gonna care. We can move the profit line, but if somebody in the purchasing side or someone that doesn’t have a whole lot of concern for the bottom line, we lose that connection. Usually, we want to have the entire team on the customer side that we can have involved. That makes the decisions happen. 

It works pretty darn well. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. I’m trying to kind of understand what you do and what you don’t do. We just mentioned about the LinkedIn kind of cold call sales in mail. That’s on the list of don’t dos. I guess what other stuff do you see happening in the space that seem to be running counter to this notion of more personal and in-person service that you are trying to deliver? I’m trying to think of like chatbots as an example. Increasingly ubiquitous. Oh, man…

Jeff White: You mean AI isn’t necessarily intelligent? 

Carman Pirie: Well, you know, live chat, lots of track record of success with that, right? And it’s a way of delivering on this exact kind of same message digitally, largely, so I guess… Yeah, give me the dos and don’ts. What are some stuff you see out there you’re like, “We will never do that as long as I’m in this role?” 

CJ Brey: Right. Yeah, gosh. Well, and that changes day to day, because I’m like, “Yeah, let’s try that.” And then I’m like, “Ooh, that did not work at all.” So, here’s a prime example. Zendesk software. Great customer service platform software. It’s the infamous ticketing system, right? You send your email to a generic email address and anyone on our customer service team can grab it. From our side, that’s “Man, that’s awesome.” We have a small team of customer service. We want them to be highly responsive. We want them to be on top of everything that’s happening—no matter who calls in, we pick up the phone. We can see what’s going on with that customer. 

However, on the customer side, they’re like, “I just want to work with Noel. I don’t want to send my email to inside sales and get an automated generated response that says, ‘Someone has your issue. Here’s your ticket number. We’ll be back in touch soon.’” Very impersonal. Very insecure feeling on the customer’s side. Somewhat confusing. Well, is it happening or isn’t it happening? And when can I expect a response? 

So, I kind of see there being a lot of these, like the chatbots, a lot of these double-edged swords. You want to be as highly customer focused and customer service oriented as you can, and there’s a lot of tools and resources out there, but are they really what your customer deems as customer service? I used one over the weekend. Chatbot. And I realized, very quickly realized I was talking to a computer. I wasn’t going to get the answers that I needed. So, now I have a bad taste in my mouth for the chatbot. And so, when I see that the next time I’m not real excited about using it. So, do I want to put one on my website? I do. Because I do think that a lot of the market expects to have these different avenues to communicate with you. And if you don’t have one, it’s like, “How come they don’t have one of those chatbots? I don’t want to write an email. I don’t want to make a phone call. I just want to text with you.” 

And it’s gotta be, I think, a little bit of a marriage between all of them, and you have to be able to hit zero quick, where you do have those systems and those processes. So, to answer your question, I’d say I want to always be default human answering the phone, human making the call back, human writing the email, human handling the issue, and having the customer know who that human is. So, yes, send your email to inside sales at customer service. However, Noel got the ticket. Noel’s phone number is this. If you need anything, please call Noel. And actually have Noel make some sort of customized response… I don’t know—it’s a balance—to get back to that person without giving too many steps to either side in an interaction. 

Because everybody wants to be fast, and quick, and easy, but personal, which is…

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Jeff White: Well, that’s the promise, right? It’s the promise of marketing automation. It’s the promise of service automation. It’s the promise of chatbots and everything else. I think the key there with most of that technology is to not, kind of, play hide the weenie and pretend that it’s a real person until somebody figures out that they’re talking to a bot. And simply say like, “You’re talking to the PF Markey Customer Success Bot. This isn’t going to be like talking to a person, but we’ll get you to one as soon as possible.” So, I don’t know. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. I like that notion of being able to hit zero. We all know what that means. Well, those of us who’ve actually been on a telephone. Which is getting to be-

Jeff White: It’s getting to be… Yeah, the rest of them want to talk to chatbots. So, if you know what zero means and where it will take you-

Carman Pirie: You say that in jest, but honestly, part of I think a way a lot of people would look at this would be to say it’s a bit generational. I think that’s a bit of the easy way out, though. There are probably just as many 57 year olds that like the, “At least I have a throat to choke now. I have a ticket and I can tell them how long they’ve screwed up. That’ll be really helpful for me.” Those people exist and they exist when they’re 23, too, so I wonder. Generational isn’t just the only-

Jeff White: Differentiator. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. So, I like the notion of, okay, build out  these services, allow people to hit zero quickly in whatever context that makes sense, and that makes sense to me. And then conversely, it also makes sense to me to have something on the site that says, “We don’t have any damn chatbot. We don’t-“ 

Jeff White: You’ll talk to a real person, but it might take a little longer. Or maybe it doesn’t. 

Carman Pirie: Or yeah, somehow turns that into an advantage, right? Like want to be almost obsessively and unapologetically in person. Could be an interesting strategy if people actually called it out rather than just allowing people to hit zero. 

Jeff White: Yeah. But now we’re strategizing in the room, and we should never do that. 

Carman Pirie: What do you think? 

CJ Brey: I agree. I can see both sides of the matter. We deal with a lot of people, a lot of companies, and it’s easy to drop the ball. I mean, some of these implementations that we do with the cutting tools, we can have thousands and thousands of UPC codes. And you know, one customer order can be 50 lines. There’s gotta be a way to track that information. Gotta have that information in a system where we knew when it came in, we knew what was being done with it, and we know where it is now. It cannot be a Post-It notepad thing. 

But I think you can provide the opportunity to anyone to speak to a person in your organization and make that channel very apparent that it’s a real person situation. Hey, they might be out to lunch, they might be on vacation, you might get an automated reply to their email if they’re not here, but somebody’s gonna get to your information if maybe you go down this route, or if you take this method. But your person cares about you. We care about you. But they’re a real person and we’re real people running the business, so if you don’t want to use the automated system, maybe there’s a way to do that. And do both. 

Jeff White: Yeah. I mean, it certainly speaks… We were chatting just a bit before we started recording here about your experience at IMTS (International Manufacturing Technology Show) a few weeks back, and just the different strategies that different manufacturers were taking to being back in person, whether that was how you folks were approaching it-

Carman Pirie: Some opting out. 

Jeff White: Yeah. Exactly. 

CJ Brey: Yeah. Right. 

Carman Pirie: So, yeah, what did you see there? 

CJ Brey: I’d love to expand on that because I have to kind of put this out there. This was my first IMTS. So, I haven’t been there prior. It was not something ever that I thought I needed to be at and I’m really glad I went to this one. And for those who weren’t there, I didn’t notice, and I think that’s a problem. If you are a major player in the market, or even a small player in the market, and this is the largest manufacturing show on this side of the hemisphere, in this hemisphere, I don’t think not being there was a good decision. Because it really… I think more than selling products, brings an energy to what you’re doing, and is an investment on your part to the industry. It’s sending a message ultimately all the way from the guys who have matching tennis shoes, jerseys, and serving beer to their customers, and manning a booth with 20 people, to the guy who’s just barely able to afford a six foot table in the back. 

It’s sending a message. Who’s investing? Who’s moving the needle? Who’s trying to move the needle? And then, again, the opportunity to meet people in person. I talked to a lot of manufacturers. We have 2,000 lines. I’ve narrowed that down to a core 15 and I meet a lot of them regularly that are from this area. But I don’t meet the guys that are on the email chains you know, that are higher up in the organizations. And I don’t see every product that they talk about, and I don’t see the breadth and depth of their capabilities until you go to a show like that, you know, and you dedicate time out to focus on that. And so it was interesting. 

I honestly didn’t understand how complex and expensive, or how large of an investment it is for these people, but on the other side I don’t see how you don’t do that. I think that’s going to be where the shift is in the future. You’re going to see I think more of that happen, because I think that’s where we’re getting the time and attention back. People I think are losing that sustainability of the relationship when it’s not in person, where the more times you meet somebody in person, the better and stronger your relationship is, the more sustainable and longer lasting it becomes. That is still true to this day, and I think you’re going to start to see a shift back to that, and I think COVID was just obviously the other end of that spectrum. It’s easier to break up if you haven’t seen somebody in a long time. 

Carman Pirie: I think this is really interesting to think about, this notion of… Because everybody thinks about it kind of heading in one direction, right? More and more digital over time. But kind of what CJ is telling us here is that is driving a fragmentation of both attention and interest in engaging digitally. That it’s almost causing a kickback to engaging personally and that will never go away, because we’re human.

Jeff White: We’re humans. And we have no choice. 

Carman Pirie: Not to go too far down the road of Mark Earls and the book ‘Herd,’ but we’re super social apes who do what we do because of each other, and we’re going to continue to want to do that in person. That’s interesting to think about, CJ. 

CJ Brey: I think there’s a fulfillment in what you do day-to-day. Obviously, we all spend the majority of our time— those of us who have to—working with our profession and the people around us, and if those relationships aren’t deep and authentic, very quickly lose interest, and I think enjoyment, right? People want to be excited about what they’re doing, and I think a lot of that just comes from the interpersonal relationships, whether or not it’s a personal issue or personal matter. When I know something about the guy that I work with and what his family’s up to, whether it be camping, or sports, or his love for power boats, whatever it is, it adds that layer. And that layer adds I think a texture, a strength to the relationship that goes beyond. 

It’s like the age-old saying, “Small gifts create relationships, large gifts cement them.” It’s this idea that being with these people and knowing more about them than maybe I could learn digitally, just because they share personally, gives me a confidence and a security I can’t get online. And therefore, I know the relationship’s stronger and it’s gonna last longer. 

So, if I didn’t get to meet you at IMTS, you’re toast, you know? 

Jeff White: I think it’s funny, though, because as someone who’s worked a lot in the tech industry and things like that, ‘Yeah, but how does it scale?’ Oh, wait. You just add more people, and with each of those, you get more accounts. 

CJ Brey: Yeah. 

Jeff White: Better serviced, and- 

Carman Pirie: But it doesn’t-

Jeff White: It’s not infinite. 

Carman Pirie: It does come with complexity, it’s fair to say. 

Jeff White: Yeah. 

CJ Brey: Yeah, and where are the people, right? That’s the problem. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. 

CJ Brey: This model works wonderful if I can find people. 

Carman Pirie: That’s a very, very interesting point in this day and age, in this kind of labor market. Yeah, yeah. Maybe we need to hit delete on this episode. This whole in-person thing is going-

Jeff White: Going nowhere. Yeah. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. We’re screwed. 

Jeff White: There’s no one to put in those positions. 

CJ Brey: Yeah. It’s gonna be, I think, an uphill battle. And Elon Musk talks about the population deterioration over time in its pure volume, and that becoming an issue, and my hope is that it’s just evolution at this point, where we do have this population of people working remotely in kind of a gig-style economy, but that when given the opportunity like at an IMTS show, or just even the local coffee shops that seem to be popping up everywhere that people can get together to build those relationships, you know? Hopefully, it’s just an evolution and not truly the opposite, which is all digital. 

Carman Pirie: You know, and I don’t think it is, because it’s interesting. When you look, if we do go down the road of generational analysis here a little bit, we’ll see that younger generations are not living a life that is exclusively digital as much as people like to suggest that they are. And in fact, they’re showing a greater interest in in-person connectivity with friends etcetera, and deepening those relationships in kind of ways that seem almost old school by comparison, I think. Yeah, I don’t know. I think that there’s a ‘there’ there. I don’t think we’re going down a road of having a bunch of folks that work remotely and never actually want to see folks in person. It’s just that they don’t necessarily maybe want to work with people every day in person or see the utility of it. 

Jeff White: Yeah. 

CJ Brey: No. I think… Yeah, there’s definitely a giant efficiency movement that we’re going through. I was home last week. COVID again, right? But I got as much done and did as much in a couple days at home that I would do at the office, but I was also able to tackle a few other things that have been nagging at me for a long time, and it was super helpful to the family life, home life, and it was in between two calls. So, I do agree. I think that there’s-

Carman Pirie: COVID productivity bump. 

CJ Brey: Yeah, yeah. It totally was. Because I didn’t feel that bad, right? Because I’ve had it who knows how many times. This was technically the second, but you know, I work on the road a lot and I work in the office a ton, and that being able to work from wherever now, with the capability that we have, I do believe that’s gonna be… We’re gonna be a more productive society. And a more well-balanced mental society. 

Jeff White: Yeah. No question about that. 

Carman Pirie: Look, wrapping this up, I’m just curious. If you’re kind of looking into your crystal ball, three to five years from now, what do you think the biggest challenges that you need to solve for, if we’re looking out that far? Where’s this all going? 

CJ Brey: That’s a great question. I think that it’s attracting and keeping talent and maintaining a successful organization. I think for us, in a sales and service industry, it’s hard work. I mean, you have to put in a lot of hours. You have to be on the road a lot. You have to be behind the phone or at your desk a lot. And it’s probably not the most glamorous of jobs. You know, I think you can get really into it. I think you can get passionate about it. We have a young guy who just turned 30, who’s been here for five years, but it took him all of four years, three and a half years, to become a strong value-add partner to his customers. It took him a long time to learn that business. And there’s always gonna be that need of somebody who’s technically sound in our industry, regardless of the product, regardless of the operation, and somebody’s gonna have to invest in that person for a while, and that person’s going to have to stick it out for a while. 

So, I think it’s attracting and retaining and training good people to do what I think possibly was more expected and or seen as the norm before. Where now, the options, and opportunities, and awareness, like I was telling my son just yesterday. I mean, we watch YouTube. We watch Instagram. We watch Netflix. I mean, the availability of what’s possible via information is everywhere. My son sees more things that he wants to do when he grows up than I probably ever saw, or knew about, or could do. And so somebody who’s going into sales to sell drill bits watches the young wrong YouTube video, I’m gonna lose them. Because you know, I’m really more passionate about engineering mountain bike frames, like my son wants to do. I don’t want to sell drill bits. 

Carman Pirie: Your son and Jeff need to talk. 

Jeff White: Yeah. 

CJ Brey: We’ve had this conversation. And that’s I think the hard part, is there’s a lot of jobs out there that aren’t as flashy and fun, as exciting, or pay as much. I mean, we can only afford to pay so much, and I think we do a pretty good job at it. But it’s gonna be keeping those people around, keeping them involved. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. I would find it very hard to disagree with any of that. I think it’s going to… If it’s been a challenge in the last two years, just wait. 

CJ Brey: Yeah. Words of encouragement. 

Carman Pirie: It’s been an absolute pleasure to kick this subject around with you, mate. Thanks for coming on the show. 

CJ Brey: Likewise, guys. It’s been a pleasure of mine. It’s cool and I enjoy following you guys. 

Jeff White: Thanks a lot. 

CJ Brey: Yeah. Keep it up. 

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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CJ Brey

Sales and Marketing Director at PF Markey

My full name is Christopher Jarl Brey, but I go by C.J. I’m the Sales and Marketing Director for PF Markey, a Professional CNC Tooling Management and Application Firm based in Saginaw, MI. We are people who care about other people and use data to help them thrive. I’ve been married to my wife Jennifer for the last 12 years and we have two great kiddos, Jack 10, Katie 4.5 and a Golden Retriever, Henry. We’ve lived in Midland, MI going on 10 years. We are an outdoor family that loves the water, camping, mountain biking and traveling. Prior to PF Markey I was the Commercial Director for a startup manufacturer in the construction industry. Prior to that I was with 3M for 15 years in industrial account management and sales, followed by channel leadership, which is where I met PF Markey. Outside of work in 2020 I started the Midland Mountain Bike Crew, which is a part of the Michigan Scholastic Cycling Association. The youth mountain bike team teaches kids the value of health, adventure, and the fun of biking nature trails. We had over 104 children in our 2022 season. I believe in honesty, integrity and putting people first.

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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