Last fall I had the opportunity to sit down with the Secrets Behind Great Sales and Marketing podcast and talk about the amazing success one of our clients, Tube Form Solutions, has had implementing an inbound marketing approach.
You can listen to the full interview here, but I know that sometimes it’s easier to sit down and read rather than listen to a story. I’ve broken the transcript of that conversation up into 3 posts for those of you who fall into the read rather than listen camp. This is the first of that series, with links to the continuation below.Part one of the interview:
Sampath M.: Hi, this is Sampath Mallidi and welcome to my show, Secrets Behind Great Sales & Marketing. Today I have Todd Hockenberry. The topic that we have chosen is how a struggling 27-year-old manufacturing company grew sales by one million in one year, and that to with Todd.
Hey Todd, welcome to our show.
Todd H.: Thank you very much, pleasure to be here Sampath.
Sampath M.: Can you just tell us a little about your background and where you come from, and about yourself? Then I think we can continue with the next questions.
Todd H.: Sure. I've been in the sales and marketing world with industrial companies for about 25 years. I kind of grew up in the automotive industry and selling and marketing to automotive suppliers. Have background selling capital equipment like lasers in industrial applications.
Then about seven and half years ago, my wife and I started Top Line Results as a sales and marketing consulting company, with also the ability to do marketing delivery services, particularly around the idea of inbound marketing for manufacturing and industrial companies. I've kind of been in that B2B industrial world for quite a while, and that's who we work with.
Sampath M.: Really good. As I've just mentioned at the start, that you're going to be talking about a manufacturing company. Before we delve into the details as to how you've really helped this particular company grow their sales, can you give us a little background about Tube Form Solutions, the company that we will be talking about?
Todd H.: Sure. Tube Form Solutions is a manufacturer and distributor of tube fabrications equipment, large capital equipment that could be anywhere from fifty thousand dollars up to half a million dollars. They have a specialty in the tube bending world, where they're dealing with automotive things like exhausts, or a heavy truck fuel lines, or hydraulic lines for ships and planes, as well as some consumer items.
They're about 40-50 people, right in that ballpark; kind of a typical Midwest US manufacturing company, kind of a mid-sized business. Very successful, lots of people that know their business. What I like to say, are the kind of people you like to work with; they deliver a lot of value to their customers. They really take care and care about what they do, they want to make sure their equipment's delivering for their customers, and make sure their customers are delivering for their customers.
When they approached me, they were kind of struggling with some sales and marketing issues.
Sampath M.: That was going to be my next question, you can actually continue. I just wanted to know what exactly they were struggling with?
Todd H.: Again, like a lot of manufacturing industrial companies, they were really struggling with the changes that they were perceiving in the marketplace in terms of buyer behavior. We would hear things like, "Our sales people try to knock on doors, or cold call, or get into industrial parks and industrial companies that they were normally able to get into, and they can't get anybody on the phone, they can't get anybody to return their calls." They're only finding out about deals when it's late in the sale cycle, when people are looking for quotes. They end up being the third quote as opposed to the person up front adding expertise to the specification process.
They were kind of struggling with, "How do we grow our business?" They knew there were some changes in the marketplace, they knew that their website wasn't generating a lot of good leads. The trade shows that they went to were not generating the types of leads that they had in the past. They just were searching, they were trying to figure out how to grow our business.
Really, their struggles boiled down to lead generation. They didn't have a large database so they were having to go out, their sales people were spending a lot of time prospecting versus selling. They were trying to build a pipeline, and they weren't really efficient at that because they were using traditional, kind of old school outbound methodologies to try and get in front of people.
Once they did have leads and contact, if those leads and contacts weren't ready to buy something right now, they didn't have much of a mechanism to continue staying in front of them and nurture them, and stay current, and top of mind, and build awareness with these companies that weren't interested in buying something today.
Then that really resulted in flat revenue. They had come out of the tough recession in 2008-2009 successfully, but they were just kind of stuck. They knew they needed to do something, and they weren't sure what to do. That's when they found us.
Sampath M.: That's fantastic. My next question would be, how did they achieve 10% growth last year after being flat in all the previous years?
Todd H.: That's why we wrote the article, because it's a nice success story. They essentially did two large things; both of them had to do with their mindset and then their activities. They adopted inbound marketing principles and they adopted inbound sales methodologies. By that I mean, they recognized that the buyer journey and the buyer process had changed, that people were not willing to talk to them and engage with them on Tube Form Solutions time frame. They were interested in engaging with them on their timeframe and when they were ready.
By adopting inbound marketing, they were able to understand the persona and the buyer journey of the contacts and the companies they wanted to go after. Then take their resources and content that we helped them repurpose and create, so that they can then share this content with their prospects and leads at the proper time, personalized to them with the right context to them, and nurture them to the point where they were staying in front of them and talking to them. When the customers were ready to buy something, there were positioned as the expert, as the company that was the most helpful, and therefore then in the best position to win the business.
From an inbound side, we were able to take content that they have, optimize it so that they were getting found online. We were also starting to blog with them and set up regular email campaigns to their database, as well as social media. Basically, we were able to just communicate and educate their current database. They drove new revenue out of their existing database, that may or may not have come out to them when the time came for the companies to buy something.
Essentially, using inbound we were able to drive more revenue from their existing contact list and from the existing prospects they have. Then on the sales side, they moved some of their resources to reflect what we learned about the personas and the buyer journey. They moved those resources from outside sales, instead of having 10 sales guy running around the country knocking on every door, they moved some of those people to inside sales and sales support.
They allowed those people to do the kind of pre-sale, lead nurturing, and informational educational kind of pieces that led up to the point when somebody was ready to buy, then they were able to put the right expert in front of the right customer. They were matching that up better, so they were closing more business from a sales perspective.
It was just being more efficient with their resources. Part of doing that was using CRM through HubSpot and then developing things like lead notifications. Whenever one of their prospects was coming to their website, we would notify the salesperson that this person was on the website or was looking at certain content, so they could understand the timing, and when, and what people were looking for.
We were able to help them use content and email templates to be able to then nurture contacts through the process with more value, so their messaging and their outreach, their phone calls and emails to their clients or prospects were more valuable and more helpful. Which again, positioned them as the expert educational resource type people, as opposed to the guy that's just trying to sell them something.
Sampath M.: Right.
Todd H.: Those were the two big things; they adopted the inbound marketing principles and the inbound sales methodology.
Sampath M.: I think this would have taken a lot of change in the way that they were actually functioning. What was the reaction from the sale team?
Todd H.: Sales people tend to be skeptical of new things, but the reaction was very positive. Their response to me was, "Look, we just want to grow our business. We know there's leads out there, we know there's opportunities we're missing because we're not getting in front of people. We'll help you, if you help us get in front of people."
We were able to build credibility with them quickly by using their content and the conversion paths we were creating to get people to respond to them, to get people to come back and say, "Yeah, I'm interested. I want to talk to somebody." or, "I have this problem, and help me solve this." We were able to help them drive a higher level of engagement quickly, so they saw that the principals and the ideas we were helping them understand worked. The reaction was pretty positive.
Sampath M.: How long did it take for you to really make them understand?
Todd H.: The owners of the company were great; first of all the owners understood it, and they understood that they needed a change. They had a pretty good idea of how to change, and that's how they found us. We were referred to them by somebody who had gone through the same type of process with us, and saw that it worked. The leadership understood up front, which is really important.
Then the sales team probably took a few months to really start to get it. We had some sales meetings with them where we sat down for a couple days in a room and went through everything. Again, they beat me up good, they were asking tough questions. Smart guys, they're going to push back hard.
We showed them that CRM, instead of being a sledgehammer that was used to hold them accountable, the way we used it and set it up was, the CRM and the sales process now enabled them. It made their lives easier, it simplified what they were doing. It allowed them to spend more time with customers and have more opportunities to work on. Sales people were pretty predictable; if you help them get more leads that turn into business, they're going to like you.
The tools we used through HubSpot were so easy to set up that there as very little push back there. Some of the other CRM programs tend to be very complicated, not that they aren't good, but the way HubSpot sets it up and the way we helped them put it together, again it was an easy step for them to take.
It's interesting, now we've got sales people that come back and say, "Hey, I've had these people asking me this question. I have some answers, here's some content. Can we write a blog post?" They're coming back to me, giving me ideas for blog posts because they want to do it, because they see that it works.
Want the Full Story?
Part 2 can be found here.
However, this article is an excerpt from an interview I did with the Secrets Behind Great Sales and Marketing podcast. The interview is about 26 minutes long and you can listen to the whole thing here.
You may be interested in these other posts on Manufacturing:
- 5 Reasons to Blog and Get Manufacturing Revenue Growth
- Marketing for Manufacturing: Thinking Like a Marketer