Lisa Ryan: Hey, it's Lisa Ryan. Welcome to the Manufacturers' Network Podcast. Our guest today is Emily Wilkens. Emily helps job shops make bigger profits and an even bigger impact by building them a radical brand and marketing machine and empowering them to use it in a few days. Emily, welcome to the show.
Emily Wilkins: Well, thank you so much for having me, Lisa.
Lisa Ryan: Please share a little about your background, what led you to do what you're doing, and particularly in working with manufacturers.
Emily Wilkins: I grew up near Detroit, and most of my family worked for GM or in the auto industry, in some way, shape, or form. I have always been around manufacturing and mechanics and how things work. My dad had three daughters. I was the first of three girls, so I was his son. My dad did a great thing and got me involved in all that. Mom also worked for GM. They met at GM. She worked in product development, returned to school, and became a calculus professor.
She's at Kettering University, which used to be GMI, in Flint. I had one choice when it came to college. It was Kettering. It's a unique school because it has a Co-op program that starts from your freshman year. I had a full-time job in the automotive industry before I started school for three months, so you switch from school to full-time work every other term. I had friends that were in management positions. I had friends that worked building or designing roller coasters or Disney like crazy cool opportunities as college students.
I started in mechanical engineering, worked in the automotive industry, and found myself hanging out in the design studio. I was pretty bored with all of the mechanical engineering tests they gave me, which were mostly like busy work on spreadsheets and getting bored with being in a meeting with 20 people arguing over half an inch and bored. That's not the experience for all engineers, but that was my experience. I thought about attending art school, and then I switched to business. I stayed at Kettering as an associate company. My focus was in marketing.
I liked my classes; I had always been entrepreneurial. I was the one with the lemonade stand and going around selling things to my neighbors, much to my parents' embarrassment. I've worked in product development and small job shops for most of my career. I've been the one-woman marketing show inside a couple of small job shops, so I have an inside look at what they need, what they don't need, what their budgets are, what their capacity is—internally handling marketing projects and working on things like that. When I started my business a couple of years ago, when I was working, I was the marketing director at a broad view product development.
I started my business a little bit as part of a broad view and then branched out and started doing my own thing, and then, in the beginning, I didn't have well. I shouldn't say that I began to market metal with manufacturers in mind, and then, when the pandemic hit, I had all these friends like, hey, will you build me a website I'm going to start my business? So I broadened, but then last summer, I doubled back down into manufacturing, and that's where I have the most experience and, I think, where I can help the most. I developed this process that differs from other marketing agencies' approaches. It works well for manufacturing companies like small to medium shops that are doing custom work like RFP-based or FAQ-based projects not. I don't do E-commerce; I don't work with manufacturers who are developing and trying to market their products. I work with specifically service-based manufacturing companies.
Lisa Ryan: Give us an example when you're talking about, because when you think about manufacturing, you don't necessarily think about marketing in the same sentence. So what would a job shop want to do to differentiate itself in the market? What are some of the things they do to do that?
Emily Wilkins: Yeah, um, so a lot of job shops grow organically like most of them, they grow to a point organically because they become known in their community for being good at whatever their whatever it is they're doing. Word gets around, and then they end up with customers, and not many of them do much marketing. But then I think they get to a point where they realize that maybe they're not super profitable. On some of their projects, they end up with customers who are a pain in the ass that they don't want to work with or like their business. They want to, they want it to grow, and they want to impact their community. Hence, a lot of the shops that I work with they're small businesses, and they care about their community, and I think that's amazing, and so that's what I like about working with those types of shops that they want to provide a good place for people to work and grow. So they can have a more significant impact on their community.
Lisa Ryan: So when somebody is looking at creating a new brand message, or you call it a radical brand message. I know you have a blueprint for that. Without going into all of the steps, what are some simple strategies? If somebody is starting to think they want to focus more on marketing and get the word out about their excellent work, what would be some steps for them to get started?
Emily Wilkins: The first thing is to ensure they have something exciting to say. We make anything, or we make parts out of metal. So it is not like you're not saying anything. You're what all of the shops like you do. What is it about you that makes you different? In the end, it can be, it can be anything. It doesn't have to be this super profound message. It has to be memorable and get people excited and interested.
Lisa Ryan: So, like no, it would be if we're a metal shop and they made things, and they're like I have no idea what's exciting because we make everything so. What would be some ways to get them to think differently? What are some of your favorite ones that you've worked with people having conversations or exploring with people that it's like, oh my God, I didn't realize that's exciting, instead of the traditional marketing blah blah blah that everybody else is putting out there?
Emily Wilkins: I did a website and brand for a company called Onex Inc in Erie, Pennsylvania. Their mission was when I did my setup process with them. They talked a lot about wanting to revitalize the American dream, and they were big on revitalizing their communities. Erie, Pennsylvania, was hit hard by offshoring. The 60s manufacturing was in Erie in the 60s, which was the peak of economic progress. They were manufacturing, and then offshoring happened, and the community took a hit from that, and the recession, 2008 10 whatever hit them even harder.
They were big on revitalizing the community and bringing people together. They sold their company back to their employees a couple of years ago, so they're people-centered. When we built their brand, I changed the one word from revitalized to reignite because this company makes industrial furnaces like they that's the thing they are in forge and heat treat furnaces and so, so one little word change to from revitalize to reignite lit them up and love it. So they ran with it, and throughout their site, we use a lot of like heat words, keep your phone, keep your forge high and keep your friend is hot, and like exciting and using words like that to make it more interesting and fun.
They are working on a project right now where they're going to increase their customers' production by 50%, and this customer has a production-based bonus for their team, so increasing their bonus by 50% is a pretty big deal. So that's an awesome story. We're trying to get the word out there in different industry publications. We want to talk about that and how that will affect their communities. We are interviewing some of the people that work there to find out what that means for them and what that's going to do for their life and things like that so.
Lisa Ryan: On LinkedIn, I see manufacturers talking about what they do. We have this new product, and they show a picture of the new product, it's like okay. It's the story behind it and having some fun with it, doing the play on words like the eye-rolling dad joke say that, but it makes people smile at me. It gives them a reaction versus yet another dull campaign. It also sounds like getting the word out there, so I know you do stuff with blogs that, again, when I don't think it when I think about manufacturers, I don't think a whole lot about blogging because it's more like technical articles and technical things.
Talking specifically about product features, it sounds like you're focusing on the benefits and the fun and the culture and everything else, so talk about getting that job shop's history out there in a fun and unique way.
Emily Wilkins: A lot of these shops, as I said, there are 100 million fab shops that all do the same thing like it's not how are you going to make that different and exciting and the way you do that is by making it human it's all about those human connections, and you have a new product or a new service that you want to showcase put one of your humans on camera and have them talk about it and show it and talk about the process of how they come up with this idea or what problem they're solving or whatever it's it's more than personality like people. You're selling to a company like you're selling your stuff to other manufacturing companies. Still, your buyer is a human - a person buying from you as a human takes care of human things whenever you post anything online. If there's a human face in it, it will do a million times better than something that doesn't have a face in it. The more human you can make it, the better. The more they bring out that personality is a great way to engage your team, which is a huge thing right now because talent attraction and retention is like most manufacturers' number one problem right now, so I'm leveraging your marketing efforts also to engage your team and get them involved that's a win, win for everyone right.
Lisa Ryan: We think of marketing as getting new customers, but yeah, if employees have heard of you. Because of your marketing efforts and you're showing humans in your marketing. You're getting the word out as far as some of the different things you're doing, the mission that you are helping to support as far as the organization and in the community, you are going to attract people to you that you probably wouldn't have found otherwise.
Emily Wilkins: yeah, and you're going to attract a higher caliber of people who care about others. People who care about people will care about their job more and what they're doing and helping their team and all that.
Lisa Ryan: So when it comes to blogging, I know one of the other things you have is your stupid simple blog system. They're a little overwhelmed by blogging. I don't have time to blog. I don't know what to write. I sat there and looked at the computer screen and the keyboard for 10 minutes.
What are some of the tips that you can share that might ease that nervousness and get them started?
Emily Wilkins: A couple of things. Number one, engage your team. The machinists are not known for their writing skills. Still, you don't know unless you ask. Maybe your machine likes to write, or perhaps your welding guy is a comedian and loves to get on camera and be funny or whatever. Find out what those talents are from your team, give them reasons to use them, and show them that you value them.
For that, blogging is excellent for search engine optimization because the more you add to your website, the more Google sees that you're making changes and keeping things relevant. So the more it'll send you traffic, the more search terms you'll come up for. With blogs, the key is to think about who you're and who you're trying to talk to. Who's the ideal audience that you're trying to talk to?
One stupid simple hack I use is to have a conversation with someone and record it. I use its otter.ai to recreate the program. I use it to record all of my meetings, and it transcribes your audio and sinks that with the audio so you can search through the transcripts for things you have to go back and edit if you don't know.
You record that conversation, and then you can copy and paste the text into a blog and then go through and add it and make it more of a blog post, and that's one stupid simple hack that will make blogging a million times easier.
Lisa Ryan: And I also think something like asking the question what is keeping my customers up at night or another thing that may be fun is you have your receptionist or customer service people have had maybe having them write down things like the, what are the what are your customers asking, and then you can put that information out there, so again it's real it's relevant. You're getting your people involved because now they feel that the blog post this week was my customer that I talked to last week. Sometimes we overthink it, don't we?
Emily Wilkins: Totally, yes. Don't make it dull and stuffy. People don't want to read like the way that we're taught how to write in school like that's not how we don't talk that way so don't write that way like right like you're talking to somebody. You don't have to be perfect.
Lisa Ryan: Right exactly.
Emily Wilkins: It can that's more likely to turn people off anyway if it's too dull.
Lisa Ryan: I also use the otter Ai, and there are so many other programs like that. Something easy to do, and maybe you post it as an interview with Joe, the machinist, Sally the welder, or whatever you want to do in those short snippets.
Emily Wilkins: A lot of fat, and if you want to stretch that ship is what I call. Record somebody, like your machinist, explaining something or whatever, record somebody saying it on video. Use otter to transcribe it, then you can post the video and turn the transcripts into a blog post, so you created two pieces of content with one video.
Lisa Ryan: There are so many programs out there. I use happyscribe. You're doing all of the above when it comes to putting the subtitles on them that way. It's like I've got the video that people can see a natural person, you have the subtitles, and then for the people who hate videos and, taking the time to watch a two-minute video. They can then read what's below it. You never do anything one time. Purpose repurpose, repurpose.
Emily Wilkins: You can repost things. You can recycle your posts in a couple of months like people will forget, or you have new people following you now, or different people will catch other people like you at different times. Can you post the same thing for the month?
Lisa Ryan: I do that with the manufacturer's network. I keep going and reposting the other, the other episodes. I don't know how often they're listened to, but the content is out there, you tag the people that are in it, they can share it and, like you said, maybe you're having new people, because the life of something on social media is a couple of seconds some. I'm scrolling through, and I don't see it. I'm not going to see it.
Emily Wilkins: With video content, if you have on your website or YouTube that that's going to be there forever, and people can search that one until the Internet crashes and probably won't ever happen, but.
Lisa Ryan: yeah, who knows who would have a pandemic that took out the last two years of business to write directly. When somebody is considering doing more marketing outreach for the reasons you said, either their customer list is getting stale, or they want to up the quality of the customers they're attracting, what's the number one way to get started? What is the number one thing to create? First, I guess, with your prioritizing it.
Emily Wilkins: The messaging is the most critical part of you. You want to ensure your message is clear, consistent, and memorable. It doesn't have to be profound, but it has to be memorable and short and sweet. You have different levels and different layers of messaging, right, so you have a short and sweet tagline. You might have an elevator pitch a little bit longer. You have some messaging on your homepage on your website or topics that you care about or unique viewpoints on things, maybe there's something that you've always hated about your industry, and you're doing things differently.
Maybe you have a unique perspective on a specific topic or think about everything and try to brain dump that's always the first. The first step is developing that messaging and brain-dumping ideas because you have that list forever to pull from.
Lisa Ryan: Right, and So what about it so I'm we know the website is essential because that's the first place, people are going to go in and learn about you so having real people they're getting humans involved having the blog live there, what about social media when it comes to manufacturing Where are you finding that customers and other manufacturers are hanging out.
Emily Wilkins: The most LinkedIn has been massive for me. It can depend a little bit on your market. Still, LinkedIn is important, and every social network is different, too, so you want to know who your audiences are on those other networks. Facebook is a little more for employee-type posts than human interest things. Still, TikTok is up and coming.
There are not as many companies that are using it for that, like leveraging it for that, but that makes it easier for you to get your stuff seen, and there are a ton of people on it and new people joining every day. So hence, its growth is a fast-growing platform. I'm going to contradict my earlier statement. Some people will sit there and watch manufacturing processes on tech talk for hours like they'll walk and hashtag satisfying is one easy a lot of like watching like a manufacturing process happen, like, I found this awesome account that I posted about this on LinkedIn the other day, but is it's stamping press of some sort. Still, they started putting all these colorful things under the under press and stamping them to see what it would do.
So they're like making this vast, colorful mess out of their machinery, and it's fun to watch and cool to watch so, and I don't know if it will necessarily get customers from that we get your name out there and get people to pay attention to.
Lisa Ryan: If we bring the sexy back to manufacturing, it's like that's where future generations are coming in. If they can see something cool that looks fun, that's hashtag satisfying. That may be because it's like I do. my sister always sends me TikTok stuff. I don't get it. I spend most of my time on LinkedIn and a little bit on Facebook. That's so true because if we're looking for ways to bring new people into the market, allow your customers may not be on TikTok. Still, your future employees certainly are right now, so that's a great tip, and again, we get out of our comfort zones and do something, and if you don't want to do TikTok, I'm sure there's somebody in your organization that loves it. So with a more than a happy question, her young people like who's on...