Lisa Ryan: Hey, it's Lisa Ryan. Welcome to the Manufacturers' Network Podcast. I'm here today with Wendy Covey. Wendy is a CEO technical marketing leader, author of content marketing engineered one of the wall street journals, and ten most innovative entrepreneurs in America.
And she holds a Texas fishing record over the past 24 years. Wendy and her team at Trew marketing have helped hundreds of highly technical companies build trust and fill their pipelines through inbound marketing. Wendy, welcome to the show.
Wendy Covey: I am thrilled to be here. Thank you.
Lisa Ryan: First, share a little about your background and what led you to do what you're doing at Trew marketing.
Wendy Covey: I'll tell you, it's not an easy marketing gig working with engineers at technical buyers. Sometimes I think I'm crazy. But I started my career at National Instruments, now known as NI. And they manufacture hardware and software products for manufacturing. And during that time, I held many positions within the organization, from marketing communications to product marketing.
And then, after a while, a colleague and I decided to leave, put up our shingle, and start our agency. And we did so because we saw a significant need amongst the smaller companies. So say small to mid-size companies that were working within the NI ecosystem. And at the time, they didn't have websites, or they had websites, but they were pitiful.
They had very shallow and content. They weren't doing well in search and didn't have a differentiation—story about what they offered. And so, knowing what we did from our time in marketing, we knew we could help these companies. And so that was the beginning, and that was back in 2008, and we all know what happened around 2009, which wasn't a pretty economic time.
And so for us as an agency going from, okay, we'll work with whoever we know engineers, but we'll work with whoever. So we need to get serious about who we are as an agency. And so it was around that time that we decided, you know what, we're going to only work with engineering companies or companies targeting highly technical buyers, something we know inside and out.
And once we narrowed that focus, that's when our agency took off. And you mentioned that wall street journal award, which was based on the reality that the business strategy of saying no is to grow our business.
Lisa Ryan: So when it comes to marketing, because marketing and manufacturing are marketing and engineering, they aren't generally two words that you find in the same sentence. Why do you find that critical for these types of companies to do?
Wendy Covey: Yeah, and it's a funny thing. Because often these manufacturing companies are doing cutting edge things, right? They're solving problems in new and unique ways, yet when it comes to marketing, they can be woefully behind in their adoption of new technology and strategies.
And so when it comes to marketing and manufacturing, Boy, if you think about these buyers, let's put ourselves in the shoes of the technical buyer. They have a severe problem they're trying to solve and need lots of education. They might be innovating, solving something that's never been done before.
And so when they go to education, where do you think they go? They go to Google. They do searches. And they're trying to find information from trusted sources. And that's naturally what marketing should be doing - creating content on behalf of that company to help that engineer, that technical buyer.
Find answers, build trust and start to build credibility so they can be on that shortlist. We believe strongly that this content-driven marketing approach methodology is perfect for the technical buyer.
And from a customer standpoint, marketing is fantastic because you have to get your product knowledge and the cutting-edge technology you're using.
Lisa Ryan: But marketing is also critical from a workforce basis because, with today's labor shortage, you and I discussed how critical marketing is to sell the products and bring in the right people. So talk a little bit about that.
Wendy Covey: Yeah, I'm so glad you brought that up. Often we'll work with companies on their brand messaging, which gets into how they position themselves.
What do they use to define their culture and core values? That shouldn't just be focused on attracting new buyers. It should also be how we live and breathe as a company, how we want our staff to engage with each other, with our customers, and who we want to attract as new employees come in.
And so, there are a lot of different stakeholders that should be considered when creating that message. And then it. Stop there. You can make wonderful words, but you fall flat if you're not living and breathing those words within your operations and how you act as a culture. So it takes it.
It might be great for marketing to come in and do lead a messaging exercise and create this remarkable messaging and put it on the website. But, still, it takes the entire organization to adopt that messaging and live and breathe it over time.
Lisa Ryan: Yeah. There are so many instances when a company will hire a consulting or marketing firm to come in with something that they think will look good, chiseled on the wall.
But every time the employees walk by, they're like. Yeah. So how do you get that buy-in with employees, so they know down to the core of their being? So that the words on the wall are, is the company they are working for or represents the company they're working for.
Wendy Covey: Yeah. Yeah. So, it may start at the executive level, where you have a team. Think of it as a branding committee, right?
You have your executive sponsor. You have HR at the table. You have marketing at the table, maybe sales as well. And that message, those core values, all those things are crafted. But then, how does that translate into downstream operations? So a great example is if one of your core values is honesty or trustworthiness, then maybe that should be in a performance review, right?
Maybe those core values should be reflected in those conversations that managers have every year, every six months, with an employee to check how things are going. So now it has become not just a sign on the wall or something nice on a website, but something that we expect our employees to live up to.
Lisa Ryan: Wow. And also, when it comes to recruiting employees, what are some of the methods that some of your clients are using to use that marketing method and get the word out as far as their culture and what they've built? Why would these employees want to join their organization versus competitors down the street?
Wendy Covey: I find a lot of manufacturing companies. I don't have a good definition of their culture. So one is, it is just looking inward and trying to put the words around what their culture is. So, for example, with Trew marketing, we call the way we work laid-back excellence. We want to be approachable.
We want to have this Austin style of we're laid back. We're not very formal, but when it comes to details, those matter, and excellence matters. And so when we recruit someone, we explain laid-back excellence, which will appeal to someone or maybe repel someone else. And that's a good thing because we want someone that fits in our culture and in.
Not uncomfortable there. And I think that's no different than manufacturing companies, whether at a job fair or on your website, just trying to put those words around what culture means for that company.
Lisa Ryan: So what do you think are some of the biggest mistakes people make in marketing?
Wendy Covey: Wow. There are lots out there. The first is having a very outdated website, and Google changes its algorithms every few years. They punish you. It's very punishing if you don't keep up with the latest technology trends on your website. So that's one end of it: ensuring your website's secure. For example, it loads quickly. Those are all sort of table stakes. Still, then the other side of it is having accurate information about what you offer, how your company operates, and speaking about things using a buyer's language. And or a recruiting person's language instead of your own internal language.
So think, if I'm just promoting my products and using lots of acronyms, that's not very friendly language compared to speaking to a buyer in their terms and helping offer content along each stage of the buyer's journey. So it's that combination of fresh content that's thoughtful towards the buyer or the recruit, whoever that person you're writing for is combined with a website house that functions as it should.
Lisa Ryan: Yeah. And so often, I know there's a difference between the written and spoken words. And doing some combination where you are speaking into some kind of dictation, so it comes out as you said, that relaxed, casual type of language where it's very conversational versus sounding like a fifth grade English teacher wrote it.
Wendy Covey: That's great you bring that up. And usually, during a brand positioning and messaging project, we talk about the tone of voice. You'd be surprised that not every company would agree with the statement that you should be conversational and approachable.
There are different styles, and it goes back to that culture. One might be that we want to be informative and commanding. And the next one might be. I'll give you an example—Vertech, a control integration company, calls themselves control freaks.
And that's very casual language compared to some of their peers in the industry. So it all is a mashup of how your tone, voice, and culture fit together.
That would also represent who you're attracting, especially in engineering. I think of that as more detail-oriented and more formal, and maybe in another type of a small manufacturer where you're looking for somebody who's that good cultural fit to consider, as you said, who the audience is and gearing the language towards that.
So you could see where some companies jump into content development without first taking a step back to say, what tone do we have? What voice, key messages, what does our company stand for, and what key phrases and messages should be woven downstream to every case study, white paper, and every page on a website? Top-down is very important when putting together a content strategy.
And what about from the recruiting standpoint? We talked to ensure you don't have an old website so that Google doesn't punish you. But what about photos of your current employees or videos of what a day in the life looks like or those types of things to attract people to your organization?
Lisa Ryan: What are some things that manufacturers can get started with, or at least keep an eye out for when they go through their website and decide what to do?
Wendy Covey: I love that you jump to a perfect assumption: we should tell those stories of those employees. And I think some companies are afraid to do that.
They're afraid to give employees the autonomy or the independent voice that's not controlled, or they're afraid that they'll be poached if that employee is out there on too many things, but that's an outdated view. So these days, recruits and prospective customers expect to look at LinkedIn profiles, see stories about employees, and understand what they're doing.
And again, it builds credibility for that recruit, thinking about working at the company and in some authenticity of what's happening firsthand from that employee. But it also helps think for a prospective customer, are they real? Are they the real deal? And you. Who are, do they have technical experts who have their voices, and are there sales people authentic, technical people that I can trust to help advise me through this purchase?
So there are all kinds of reasons to get those employees involved. And then, as for the tools, I know Lisa, you, and I talked about going where that person is. And that can be a little challenging. On the marketing side, when we're trying to attract new customers, we publish an annual survey.
It's called the state of marketing to engineers. And we do this alongside global spec. That's a partner. And every year, we study how engineers seek and consume information to make a purchase decision. And in the report, we ask, where do you go? Do you use social media? What do you rely on the most?
Do you watch video? Do you watch podcasts? And so that's a great resource to get a pulse on the engineering side. And as far as the recruits. You're seeing more social media utilized by companies to tell their culture story. And so, while engineers, when looking to make a purchase, aren't necessarily going to places like Facebook or Instagram, they may be going there in their personal lives.
And when they come across culture posts that might be more attractive or more engaging to them using that side of the brain, like recruiting. I want to work for them. It's personal side versus. I'm researching an RF product to put into this thing I'm designing.
Lisa Ryan: And you also made an interesting point with the information for recruiters. It's easy for them to go to LinkedIn and see where that potential candidate's working and start wooing them. But if they're. Boss, if their company was posting them for Joe's, the employee of the month, or Maryanne just won this fantastic award, and they're giving their people kudos almost to the point of they are the face of that organization.
It certainly makes it much more difficult for them to leave; versus that, here's the LinkedIn profile of this person. So we talked earlier about being. Poaching people, but by promoting them more and their role within your organization, it seems that would be cementing their relationship even stronger.
Wendy Covey: Agree.
Lisa Ryan: So what are some of the other things you see working in manufacturing? Again, what are some of the best things they can do if somebody is listening to the show today and just looking to pick up some marketing tips to get started?
Wendy Covey: Yeah. Our research shows that 96% of engineers watch video for work every week, 96%, but manufacturing companies feel intimidated by video.
And I, I get why, when. Sometimes when we think of video, we think of that very polished corporate overview that an expensive production company comes in and does, but that's not really what they're seeking. A lot of it is how-to information. It's videos that show a demo of a.
Product and so those can be done cheap, as long as your lighting. Good lighting is good, and your sound is good. You can use a very basic setup. You can also use webinar technology to do on-demand software demos, things like that. That one big tip is if you've been putting off video, this needs to be your video year.
And then we're on a podcast right now, and podcasts have jumped hugely in popularity this past year; 73% of engineers listen to podcasts for work every week. And that was up from 40-something a year ago. So I think the adoption is for a few reasons. I think.
There are more shows out there than there used to be. And as you have more opportunities to find something that matches your need, that's a good thing. And then also, it might be that we were craving more of that spoken word material during COVID and coming out to sheltering in place.
It was one of those where we can't go to an event, but I still want a personal connection. So videos, podcasts, maybe that speaks to some of the spikes.
Lisa Ryan: And it's funny because I think about my podcast and how it was a COVID-inspired podcast to come out because I fought it for years because I was so intimidated by it.
And I'm sure many people listening to the show think it will take a lot of time and money. So we're recording the on zoom, we're stripping out the audio, and I'm going to upload it to my podcast site after being edited. And it's simple, but those, and. I'm not concerned about the downloads because it's not the information it's meeting new people. It's having conversations.
So what you just said about inviting companies to consider, maybe it's a once a month, once every couple weeks, or even once a week podcast where you're talking to different people in your organization or interviewing your customers or vendors. There can be so much that goes on.
That we don't have to wear because it's one of those things you get struck by lightning where you get millions and millions of downloads because there are so many shows out there. But if you think about how you can have some fun with it, get the word out and, hopefully, attract some people that like what you have to say. That's what a podcast is all about.
Wendy Covey: Yeah, it brings a voice and a personality to your brand. And as does video, that's harder to do on that flat page, right? I will say on the podcast front that what we recommend our clients do is start with being on the other. People's podcast to develop, who is that spokesperson?
Who's going to be the face of that initiative? And then, when starting your podcast, if it's technical, some of our clients have been running into some challenges with bringing on guests whose companies allow them to come on and talk about their projects. So it's no different than asking permission for a case study in legal blocks. It's because of IP issues. Sometimes podcasts can run into the same issue.
So there are some strategy things to consider depending on the subject matter. But like you said, there are a lot of benefits to doing it. So I'm with you. I have. I'll second that encouraging voice, and I also think that the podcast isn't necessarily the venue for talking a lot of straight technical because that's better in the written word where you can go through and take your marker and underline and everything but conveying the personality of the company and the passion.
Lisa Ryan: That's why I like talking to manufacturers. I love being around passionate people who make things and conveying that excitement. As we start to change the conversation into the younger generations and more so into their parents and guidance counselors and stuff to welcome and introduce more people into manufacturing and podcasting would be a great way to do so because it's so accessible these days.
Wendy Covey: All about having that strategy and goal and then making sure your editorial calendar supports it. That's great.
Lisa Ryan: So if you think of all the things, all the ways that you help manufacturers with their marketing, again, if somebody was listening today, what would be your number one tip for them to get started?
Wendy Covey: If they're starting from, if they're starting from ground zero, and if they already have some marketing, that's like just. Okay. All right. So starting from ground zero, really understanding who you are as a company and putting that into words, right? So we call that brand positioning and messaging.
Suppose you're just starting. The most important thing to do is understand who you are as a company and how to articulate that. And that is through brand positioning and messaging. And it's that...