The Kula Ring podcast is essential listening for manufacturing marketers who want to grow their digital presence and compete online.
Sponsored by Kula Partners—an agency committed to helping leading B2B manufacturers craft digital experiences that transform how they engage buyers, serve customers, and outpace their competition—The Kula Ring podcast features conversations about marketing, sales, and technology with top manufacturing executives from across North America.
The Kula Ring podcast is co-hosted by Kula Partners principals, Carman Pirie and Jeff W. White, both of whom are frequently sought after for their digitally-focused B2B expertise. They regularly share their insights with audiences including conferences like B2B Online and HubSpot’s INBOUND, the Gardner Manufacturing Marketer blog, and other podcasts focused on B2B marketing and technology.
David Roberge, the Marketing Manager at Industrial Packaging, takes a different approach to sales by using video. In this week’s episode, David dives into how he and his team have seen positive sales and engagement growth using video as part of their sales content marketing strategy. Learn from David how he uses customer feedback and queries to create targeted video content his customers want.
Using Video to Shorten the Sales Cycle 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, 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 are you doing, sir?
Carman Pirie: Delighted as always. Just happy to be here.
Jeff White: Awesome. Indeed. So, you’re like one foot in Greece and one foot in Nova Scotia still.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. Yeah. I’m sure people have no sympathy for me these days.
Jeff White: Going to lie on the beach for three weeks.
Carman Pirie: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Now, see, like were I European-
Jeff White: But of course.
Carman Pirie: That’s like five weeks too short for a vacation. But-
Jeff White: The mandated vacation.
Carman Pirie: Right, right.
Jeff White: Yeah. We don’t have that here.
Carman Pirie: Well, you know, it will be good to getaway. I think a lot of people in this COVID time are looking forward to their first vacay.
Jeff White: Absolutely.
Carman Pirie: So, there you go. But-
Jeff White: I get that. But an interesting guest we have today.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. Yeah. You know, and we’ve… I don’t know whether it’s just the fact that as an agency we’ve worked a fair bit in the packaging space, or whatever, but it seems like we’ve had several folks in the packaging industry on the podcast, and so I’m delighted to add to that list today and bring a kind of a unique perspective to it all.
Jeff White: Yeah. Yeah. And a fairly new role within this packaging company and doing some really interesting things.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. Yeah.
Jeff White: Bringing down some barriers.
Carman Pirie: Look, I think there’s a lot of conversation and there has been probably for over a decade, kind of started almost it seemed with social media, everybody talking about authenticity and transparency, and how kind of social helped do that, and I remember way back in the old days with Hugh Macleod talking about the porous membrane, how social media helped kind of break down the walls between organizations and those they serve. So, I think today’s guest is helping to in some ways modernize that conversation, and happy to have him on the show.
Jeff White: Yeah. Absolutely. So, joining us today is David Roberge. David is the Marketing Manager at Industrial Packaging. Welcome to The Kula Ring, David.
David Roberge: Thanks so much for the wonderful intro. Happy to be here.
Carman Pirie: David, it’s great to have you on the show. Look, and I’m pleased that Jeff didn’t butcher the last name too hard, because, with our Canadian French background, we want to pronounce that-
Jeff White: Yeah. No, it’s a bit of a downfall, really.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. Yeah.
David Roberge: I mean, I am French Canadian, but we’ve moved into the States and really Americanized Roberge.
Jeff White: That ship has sailed.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. Yeah. David, it’s great to have you on the show, and I didn’t know that you were originally French Canadian, so we’ll have to talk about that after, but let’s jump into maybe just introduce our guests a little bit more formally to you and your role at Industrial Packaging if you would.
David Roberge: Sure. So, I am David Roberge. I’ve been at Industrial Packaging since 2014, going on seven years I think now, and I started off there as a cold caller. I was supposed to be a lead generator. I was a cold caller. Did 400 calls in two weeks and two callbacks that didn’t result in sales, so I knew something was broken. We had a poor website, and I brought the idea of marketing and regenerating the website to Industrial Packaging. So, I developed the marketing team from there, and that’s kind of how it all started.
Carman Pirie: Man, 400, and two callbacks. That’s a little-
Jeff White: The conversion ratio is a little off.
David Roberge: I could just be really bad on the phone, maybe.
Carman Pirie: It could be that I suck at cold calling.
David Roberge: Yeah.
Jeff White: But you know, it’s kind of a badge of honor, like you know what? I tried that. It didn’t work. I didn’t like it. It didn’t like me.
Carman Pirie: Look, I would recommend anybody in marketing to spend some time in sales if you possibly can, and frankly, picking up that phone and making those calls at that volume is about the hardest thing to convince yourself to do in sales, because you’re gonna hear no a lot.
Jeff White: Or nothing.
Carman Pirie: Or nothing, or-
Jeff White: Which is worse somehow.
Carman Pirie: And you know, it’s just I think as marketers, maybe this is just self-reference criteria, but I think when you haven’t done that, it’s really hard to understand it. And sometimes as marketers, we’ll roll our eyes at salespeople sometimes, but it’s like man, that… At 5:00, when you really just want to go home, and you know, “I still have 20 calls left to do,” and you know that those are probably not going to be answered… Yeah.
Jeff White: It’s a tough thing to wrap your head around. And you know, I think the fact that you have some empathy for this and that you’ve been through this means that you can probably connect with the sales team and get them on board with some of your thinking more readily than somebody who’s never done what you’ve done, eh?
David Roberge: Yeah. I think that it definitely helps bond the marketing and sales a little bit better to start. We started off in a better place than some companies would, you know, without a doubt.
Carman Pirie: Well, I want to talk about and kind of unpack a bit more this notion of transparency for trust was the line I recall you saying, and just stuck with me, you know? And I know that that’s coming to life in a lot of different ways at Industrial Packaging, and I think part of that at least is a lot of this new video strategy that you’ve been rolling out.
David Roberge: You’ve got it. I mean, this started really small back when we started that website situation in 2014, and rolled into, “Hey, we have this website that doesn’t have… It doesn’t even tell you what products we have. It just says who we are, right?” So, we turned that into an, “All right, so these are the products we sell,” because we sell through multiple manufacturers, but this is just… This is what we have. We never explained more about it. We didn’t have a blog. We had I think three articles on our site that were about 12 words. They were like, “Hey, we do supply chain services. Reach out.” There’s no button to connect.
And there’s no such thing as transparency when it comes to pricing in our industry because it’s kind of like the old-school sales way of I’ll be the salesperson, I’ll tell you the pricing, let me talk to my manager. Kind of like a sales rep at a car dealership. And we wanted to… I wanted to change that, and it took a little bit of time for everybody to get on board from the top-down, but it’s starting to show the results and it’s starting to help the sales team in ways that they didn’t expect, which is good.
Carman Pirie: And how is that? Is it just giving them some better tools to use in the sales process? Or is it speeding up that process?
David Roberge: You got it. It’s literally both. It’s speeding up the sales process and it’s giving them tools to help educate their buyers before they move forward with the next stage in their sales process. With the articles that we produce, we produce two articles a week. We have a podcast that we release weekly. We throw out some cartoons here and there. We try to make things a little fun, but they have all these things at their hands now that they can use as tools to just speed things up for them and to create a better relationship with their customers.
Carman Pirie: I always… I mean, I find that there’s kind of two sides to this coin, and I’m just kind of curious if you’ve experienced this at Industrial Packaging. On the one side is as we introduce more what the old term used to be top of funnel content, you know? Conversion content. White papers or what have you. And as we introduce more of that content and gate it, we will get leads that are at a different stage in the sales process than those that fill out a contact… have sales contact me now, or those that pick up a phone and call themselves. So, in some ways, you’re really lighting up a part of the sales pipeline that wasn’t even visible to you before, and in so doing, often I think salespeople actually can say, “My goodness, the sales process is longer,” because they see more of it.
Jeff White: And they already thought it was long.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. So, have you seen any of that, or have you had to deal with that? Or are they able to just more accelerate it once they get that lead and there hasn’t been too much of a challenge that way?
David Roberge: So, the way leads have come in, as you said, we have that top-of-the-funnel content. They’re coming in with a better understanding of what they want ahead of time, so a lot of that beginning part of that sales process that our salespeople have been used to is already kind of done. The prospect already knows what they’re looking for based on the stuff that they’ve looked at on our website. And then we can look in our CRM and make sure that we’re aligned with what they’ve seen, and we can provide further content if needed. And it shortened that sales cycle, for sure. And definitely most recently with the new website.
Carman Pirie: Is the new… Is the top-of-funnel content on the site largely ungated?
David Roberge: Yeah.
Carman Pirie: Ah.
David Roberge: Most of that stuff is ungated. One of our highest downloads is ungated if you want it to be, but you can also download it, and that’s one of our biggest converters because there’s that option. But it’s also just free on the website if you want to browse and learn more about shrink film.
Jeff White: Well, and of course then too, you have the SEO benefit. One of the worst things about the whole gating of content thing is that you spend all this time crafting this incredible piece of long-form content and then hide it where nobody can actually search for it.
David Roberge: Yeah.
Jeff White: In some ways, but at the same time you never… You know, had we not gated content early on, we never would have had the ability to see people who are further up that funnel, and you know, and now we know from account-based strategies that it starts even sooner than that. You know, by the time people have started to download white papers, they’re already weeks or months into that consideration.
David Roberge: Oh, yeah. They’re starting to determine what suppliers are gonna provide for them rather than just learning about what they even need, for sure.
Carman Pirie: But it sounds as though you’re introducing or engaging the sales apparatus, if you will, at kind of a similar time as you were before, and you’re using mostly ungated content to educate the prospects in advance of that, whereas oftentimes when you’re gating content earlier in the process, you’re actually engaged like sales begin their outreach at an earlier stage, right? So, that may be part of the secret sauce here, not to put too many words in your mouth.
David Roberge: Yeah. I mean, honestly, when we had a lot of stuff… A lot of the things we had gated, and we gave through a sales rep, they weren’t ready to talk to a sales rep yet. So, we decided to kind of switch the funnel, I guess a little bit and choose which items would be gated and which wouldn’t to help the sales teamwork on the really qualified leads. And actually, not reach out unless somebody’s ready. And now people are really just reaching out at a steady pace so that there’s no real need for outbound prospecting at such a high pace.
Carman Pirie: Right, right.
Jeff White: And you even… You did something too that I think would scare the crap out of an awful lot of marketers and probably some salespeople too, and you’re trying to get away from the request for a quote module on the site. What’s the thinking behind that?
David Roberge: I mean, request a quote, it’s available, but we want you to know what you’re looking for on our site before you have to request a quote. So, like say you’re looking for shrink film, you don’t know what the price is gonna be, and you would generally have to request a quote, usually every website you go to in manufacturing, in general, is just like, “Here’s what we have, but you have to click this button, and then reach out to us, and then you’ll find out.” We wanted to stop that and make that transparent, so we’re honest ahead of time. So, they start to see this trust with us because we’re telling you on our shrink film page, this is the range you can expect for pricing based on your volume, based on minimum order quantities, what you really need. But it’s really… I mean, that phone conversation is where we can narrow in on that specific, specific price, because you know every customer is different, of course. But at least you come in there and you have an understanding of, “All right, I’m gonna be spending between $8 and $12 per inch of width on shrink film.” Whereas before, it would just be like, “Give us a call first.”
Carman Pirie: David, that’s gotta be a huge game-changer. I think it’s when you take an industry that won’t give you a price, and somebody chooses to do it-
Jeff White: And it’s even in a lot of cases the consulting answer of, “It depends.”
Carman Pirie: Right.
Jeff White: You know, it still depends, but it depends within these margins.
Carman Pirie: Yeah.
David Roberge: You got it. It is scary, too. Since I don’t think that there’s really anybody else that really is offering that right now out there, it’s scary to the salespeople. It’s scary to the senior management. But it’s also exciting because we’re seeing the positive results of it and seeing that the sales cycle shortens really quickly.
Carman Pirie: And I would have to think that the space is so competitive anyway that it’s not like there was probably, and again, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but I’m assuming I guess in some way that there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for extra margin gain-
David Roberge: You got it.
Carman Pirie: … in the sales process. I don’t know. I remember I used to work in an organization and there was one sales guy who was just so much better than everybody else at building relationships, you know? Man, I just don’t know… He was magic at it. And as a result, he could build in about an extra 15 points in a deal, 20 points in a deal than anybody else was able to get, right? But it was the type of business where you had to kind of contact somebody to know the price, so there was that ambiguity and maybe it wasn’t as competitive, but in this instance, I’ve gotta think people are… They’re gonna shop around. They’re gonna get three and four quotes for this stuff. You’re gonna have to be within that range anyway, aren’t you?
David Roberge: Yeah. I mean, we may be slightly higher, but we give you reasons why, because we aim to protect your people, and your products, and your brands throughout the supply chain no matter what, and you’re gonna get that heads up when there is a price increase, like the 19 billion that we’ve had this year alone in that shrink film area. We do our best to make sure that our customers are aware of things when we’re aware of them, so if there is an increase, they know, and they know when their cutoff is to buy something to stock up. We use it to our advantage.
Carman Pirie: So, are you telling me that you guys may be a little bit more premium-priced than some of your competitors, but because you choose to talk about price first, it gives you a way of justifying it?
David Roberge: Yeah. I mean, you could find shrink film, let’s say, on what is that? Not U-Haul.
Jeff White: Oh, Uline?
David Roberge: It’s the other… Uline. Thank you. Yeah. You can find shrink film there. It’s not gonna be the same quality that we have because we work with specific vendors. We rate our vendors. They all have a scorecard, and we reach out to them quarterly and make sure that we’re all on the same page and they get rated. You can get a badge if you are rated an A and they can use that on their website if they’d like. So, we choose the right vendors, with the right products for our customers to have what they need when they need it, and yeah, it’s not gonna be the same thing that you get from Uline, but you’ll know when you can get it and you’ll know how much it is. Always.
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Carman Pirie: I like that. I think there’s something really instructive there about getting out in front of that even when it’s not… even when the price isn’t your-
Jeff White: Advantageous. Yeah.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. When you may be a little bit more expensive. Oh well. At least you’re bringing it up first and to give you a chance to justify it.
Jeff White: Yeah. It certainly brings that trust element in. It’s such a simple thing, you know, but it requires a bit of faith on your part that people are gonna understand it and have that reaction. You know, “Oh, because they’re doing it this way, I feel like there’s probably something else going on here that I’m not necessarily seeing in our other vendors.”
David Roberge: Yeah. And we’ll be honest with people that reach out to us, like we’re not really set up for startup businesses, say. But we’ll tell them, “Listen, your best bet is to go to Uline to get this shrink film because we’re not set up to help you in the most advantageous way for you and us.” So, we’ll tell them where to go elsewhere. If we’re doing a contract packaging deal and somebody reaches out to us and it’s something like liquids or powders, we don’t deal with those. We send them to the Contract Packaging Association.
You know, we’ll always give somebody somewhere else to go rather than just being like, “Sorry, no.” So, there’s that other end of it too, so we try to help no matter what, even if we can’t help.
Carman Pirie: Really cool. I want to talk a little bit more about the integration with sales and what you’ve done there to really… kind of getting them involved, I guess, in the content creation process.
Jeff White: Yeah. Especially as it applies to the video side. I think what you’re doing there is really interesting.
David Roberge: Yeah. So, sales is our biggest generator of content ideas. Sometimes just the full-on content in general. They work closest with our ideal customers. They hear the questions that we’re being asked, so we can get those questions answered in blog form or video content. So, the biggest generator of content is the sales team. And then we developed some videos around our brand purpose and the products that we offer to further develop that trust and put a human to that face, or to that phone call, and it’s been very successful.
The sales team started using video in their email outreach. And at first, it was weird for them, because you know, being on the camera is weird. But it starts to become this normal thing where now they’re like, “I’d rather do that than have to write out this email,” because sometimes emails come off differently than you wanted them to when you were speaking on the phone, right? So, using video in the sales process as one-to-one videos, or one-to-many videos, has really helped move that relationship-building process, as well.
Carman Pirie: For clarity, are they using video throughout the process? Is it just at the front end where they’re trying to get and kind of establish a relationship, or get noticed, or is it something that persists throughout?
David Roberge: It’s throughout. It starts with, “Hi. I’m introducing myself to you. I’m David,” to, “All right, this is our next step. I look forward to talking to you on our next Zoom call or our next meeting.” And then each step of that process will have a video up to the reviewing of the proposal. We want to make sure that we’re both on the same page, so we’ll review the proposal with you online, live on camera, and keep that relationship so that there’s always a face to that name and to Industrial Packaging.
Carman Pirie: That’s interesting. A lot of people that I’ve seen use video, it’s mostly in the prospecting stage.
Jeff White: Yeah. It’s really early on. You’re sending something out and hoping that the video is the thing that’s gonna push through the clutter.
Carman Pirie: Right. It’s really the hook or something, or the bait, whereas this is… I’m thinking on the salesperson’s side of it, they are going to get way better at video really quickly.
Jeff White: Yeah.
Carman Pirie: Because when you’re not just doing it once for the prospect phase, but literally throughout-
David Roberge: Oh, for sure.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. Yeah.
Jeff White: You’re gonna be more comfortable with it. And I mean, you’re probably using some form of tool for analyzing how those videos are engaged with?
David Roberge: Oh, yeah. Transparency, we use Vidyard, and it’s a great tool to see if the video is even watched. We get great responses sometimes. They’re like, “I’ve never gotten a video before. This is great. Thank you so much.” You know, it helps build that camaraderie with somebody else. They don’t respond back with a video, but that’s okay, you know? We’ll see you at some point, potentially. But at least they see us.
Jeff White: That’s potentially really weird. People just start recording videos and sending them back and forth.
Carman Pirie: Video messages back and forth. Asynchronous video communication.
David Roberge: It’s like forget the Zoom call.
Jeff White: Yeah. That’s like my kids on Snapchat or something. Isn’t that what they do? Is that what the kids do?
Carman Pirie: Man, you’re the one with kids.
Jeff White: Is anybody selling on-
Carman Pirie: You’re supposed to know.
Jeff White: Oh, I know. Is anybody selling packaging supplies on Snapchat yet?
David Roberge: That’s a new vertical we haven’t touched yet, but maybe.
Jeff White: That’s pretty wild, though. And I really like this idea that… and you know, you’re not the first person to say that salespeople, because they’re closest to the customer, they get most of the questions, and therefore, they’re not necessarily the ones who are generating that content and bringing it to life.
David Roberge: Right.
Jeff White: So, how has that process worked and what results have you seen from that?
David Roberge: Started off choppy, as I’m sure it has for many, where sales were like, “Why are you always asking us for stuff? Why are you doing this to us? We have to be on calls. We’re trying to prospect.” But then they started to get these leads that are qualified coming in faster and more frequently. Like, “Okay, this kind of makes sense.” So, we set up kind of SME meetings, is what we call them, where they’re the subject matter expert, the SME, and we either do it via email or just like this, or via video, and we gather as much info about that specific question that they were asked, and then we decide if it’s gonna be a video, or if it’s gonna be a podcast, or a blog, or all.
But they’re involved in that content generation, for sure, and it’s starting to not become such a bother, which is great.
Carman Pirie: I was kind of wondering if… I mean, it’s one thing to harvest the idea from the sales subject matter experts, kind of in a meeting format or what have you, and I don’t want to presume that you’re kind of big brothering the Vidyard content too much, but I am kind of curious. Have you been able to see any of the video content that’s being produced by the salespeople for their one-to-one communication and say, “Hey, this is a pattern,” or, “This keeps coming up,” and find kind of content ideas that have more broad appeal, or you may produce for a broader audience?
David Roberge: As far as the one-to-one videos, those are really generally about what that customer is specifically looking for. We can try to pull out some ideas from watching them, which is more or less rare than just having sales say things like, “This was asked from somebody that we were working with.” Video is where it’s at in 2021 and going forward.
Carman Pirie: Well, it’s funny, because I think a lot of people will talk about it, suggesting that people have a strong preference for video content. I’m not… I haven’t always been convinced that that means that they don’t also have a preference for written content. I think people generally have a preference for good content that is about them.
David Roberge: Yep.
Carman Pirie: And almost regardless in some ways of format. I am kind of curious, though. There’s one video on your site that I noticed where you folks are talking about whether or not Industrial Packaging is a good fit for a prospective business. And I’ve always kind of wondered about these types of videos because of course, it always seems to me that the person’s probably never going to say that they’re not a fit, right? Because they’re trying to sell.
David Roberge: Yeah.
Carman Pirie: I guess how have you found that type of content that… Does it still resonate? Are people mostly not as cynical as I am?
David Roberge: I think that people understand that of course, they may be like, “Yeah, we want to be your customer,” but it helps them self-opt-out because we’re giving them the truth that we might not be the right fit for you. If you don’t fit these certain criteria, you’re gonna reach out to us and we might not be able to give you the best answer, but we’ll find the best answer or send you to the right place to get that answer for you.
Carman Pirie: So, I suppose that kind of content then, what you’re saying is it works provided that you’re actually… You make sure that the video isn’t for everybody like there actually are some people that will watch it that say, “Yeah, it means I opt-out.”
Jeff White: I’m not that size. Yeah.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. Yeah.
David Roberge: Exactly.
Jeff White: You know, you haven’t just brought video to life in the sales process, and in marketing, and focusing on it on the website as a content tool, but you’ve also used it internally and for recruitment, as well. I mean, the second hardest thing to do after selling something is finding more people to help build it, or sell it, or do whatever, so how has video helped you there?
David Roberge: Video testimonials with our internal customers, or internal employees, I should say. Sorry. Our internal employees, we’ve pulled some from different departments across the board to kind of give a shot of a day in the life and what they appreciate about working with us, why they want to stay, or maybe why they don’t. Hopefully not too many of those, right? But having that video available, it helps with recruitment, for sure. I mean, people will reach out to us in their hiring application and be like, “We saw the Who is IP video and that really drove home that that’s the kind of core values that I have and the core values that I want to have in my company… I want to work for a company that has those core values.”
So, it definitely helps with recruiting, which is helpful, as well.
Jeff White: Very cool. So, I want to, as our time comes to a close here, I’m wondering. What’s next? What are you looking forward to? You’ve recently launched a site that’s changed the game a little bit, shortened the sales cycle, all of that, but where are you going from there and what are you most excited about?
David Roberge: Yeah. I mean, super excited about that website launch and that shortened sales cycle. I know we had talked, and we had… Generally, one of these deals closes in about three months and it took three days. Worth mentioning. Phenomenal. And they mentioned this one video that we had just launched, and it was really high quality, and it’s called The Claims We Make, and it covers our brand purpose and how we live up to that for our customers. So, I’m super excited about that and I’m excited about bringing more of that type of content and that video into the sales process. And utilizing video to the most extent possible to help shorten that sales cycle for the sales team and our customers, too, providing educational content that helps people trust not only us but trust themselves making their decisions around flexible packaging.
Jeff White: It’s a nice way to put it.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. Yeah. It’s really… I think that’s a nice, interesting North Star as you go through this.
Jeff White: Quite altruistic.
Carman Pirie: Yeah.
Jeff White: Yeah.
Carman Pirie: Lovely. Well, it’s been a real pleasure to have you on the show, David. I really enjoyed just unpacking Industrial Packaging, as it were.
David Roberge: Yes.
Jeff White: You’ve been waiting to use that for the whole thing, haven’t you?
Carman Pirie: You know, I wish I’d have thought of it earlier, but it just kind of came to me as it came out of my mouth. I maybe could have done a better delivery, Jeff. We can always edit, and I can try it again.
Jeff White: No, I think it was great.
David Roberge: Yeah. Yes. Do it. It was great. It’s been a pleasure, as well. Thank you, guys, so much.
Jeff White: All right. Thank you.
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