Identifying Your Ideal Customer Profile and Mapping Customer Journey w/ Jeff White

WBSP037: Grow Your Business by Identifying Your Ideal Customer Profile and Mapping Customer Journey w/ Jeff White

In this episode, we have our guest Jeff White, who discusses why it is so important to identify the ideal customer profile for your offerings to streamline your growth. He also discusses why mapping customer journeys are critical to providing a seamless customer experience irrespective of whether you acquire customers through physical or digital channels. Finally, we had a chance to discuss the nuances of account-based marketing and channel conflict issues for manufacturers selling through distributors.

Chapter Markers

  • [0:58] Intro
  • [2:34] Personal journey and current focus
  • [3:43] Perspective on growth
  • [6:51] What is Account Based Marketing?
  • [10:12] Account Based Marketing in the post-COVID world
  • [12:25] How to sell into complex accounts?
  • [16:49] How to align various functions of a company?
  • [20:34] The ideal customer profile for companies selling to multiple industries
  • [26:00] The use of intent data for account based marketing
  • [29:00] The customer journey mapping for manufacturers selling through distributors
  • [34:09] Closing thoughts
  • [35:27] Outro

Key Takeaways

  • What a lot of people think of when they think of account-based marketing is there actually talking about account-based advertising so being able to use a tool like Terminus or demand base or something like that, in order to choose which departments in which organizations that you would like to serve advertising into, but that’s not what account based marketing is as a whole.
  • When you have that many people who have to be involved in making a decision, you have engineers, procurement, the C-suite, you have others who are involved. And the messaging to each one of those types of people within an organization and within an account is going to be different because their needs are different.
  • With a lot of B2B manufacturers, simply attracting more top-of-funnel traffic is just going to dilute the quality of leads that you get. So if marketing is working closely with sales, the content that they’re creating can be much more tightly aligned with what those personas are looking for.

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About Jeff

Jeff White began working in the web space in 1994, initially as a user experience designer. He is the co-founder of the B2B manufacturing marketing agency, Kula Partners. Currently, in its 18th year of business, Kula focuses primarily on helping mid-market manufacturers take an account-focused approach to sales and marketing.


Full Transcript

Jeff White 0:00

There’s a lot of inertia in something like that to just do nothing. Yeah, when you have that many people who have to be involved in making a decision, you have engineers, you have procurement, you have the C-suite, you have others who are involved, and the messaging to each one of those types of people within an organization, and within an account is going to be different.

Intro 0:22

Growing a business requires a holistic approach that extends beyond sales and marketing. This approach needs alignment among people, processes, and technologies. So if you’re a business owner, operations, or finance leader looking to learn growth strategies from your peers and competitors, you’re tuned in to the right podcast. Welcome to the WBS podcast, where scalable growth using business systems is our number one priority. Now, here is your host, Sam Gupta.

Sam Gupta 0:58

Hey everyone, welcome back to another episode of The WBS podcast. I’m Sam Gupta, your host, and principal consultant at a digital transformation consulting firm, ElevatIQ.

Selling complex products involving several buyers is challenging. Each buyer persona is different. Each channel they prefer to hang out with is different. And each piece of content needs to have appropriate messaging that resonates with the customer persona you might be targeting. But the most crucial element of mapping your customer journeys would be the ideal customer profile, which most companies struggle to identify.

In today’s episode, we have our guest, Jeff White, who discusses why it is so important to identify the ideal customer profile for your offerings to streamline your growth. He also discusses why mapping customer journeys are critical to providing a seamless customer experience, irrespective of whether you acquire customers through physical or digital channels. Finally, we have had a chance to discuss the nuances of Account Based Marketing and channel conflict issues for manufacturers selling through distributors. Let me introduce Jeff to you.

Sam Gupta 2:04

Jeff White began working in the web space in 1994. Initially, as a user experience designer, he is the co-founder of the B2B manufacturing marketing agency Kula partners; currently, in his 18th year of business. Kula focuses primarily on helping mid-market manufacturers take an account-based approach to sales and marketing. With that, let’s get to the conversation. Hey, Jeff, welcome to the show.

Jeff White 2:32

Thanks very much for having me, Sam. Of course,

Sam Gupta 2:34

Just to kick things off, do you want to start with your personal story and current focus there?

Jeff White 2:38

Sure, absolutely. So I mean, it’s a bit of a long and winding road for sure. But I started my company back in 2004, primarily as a Web Design and Development Agency. That’s my background. I’ve been teaching and doing usability and UX and things like that for a very long time. That was the primary focus when I initially started the agency that became Kula Partners.

And over the last 17 plus years, we’ve grown quite a lot and moved into a primarily manufacturing and B2B specific focus and, and we really kind of helped manufacturers get aligned and terms of how they sell from an account-based perspective and bring ROI to their organizations using that. We really help them by focusing on the niches or niches, you know, depending on where you are in the world. And that’s really what we focus on is helping them understand how to how to sell into those specific categories and subcategories that they target.

Sam Gupta 3:43

Okay, amazing. So before we dig deeper into that, and obviously, there are some interesting aspects, we have one standard question that we ask every single guest, and that is going to be your perspective on growth. Jeff, what does growth mean to you, man?

Jeff White 3:56

I think you can go a lot of different ways with growth. But I think one of the things that we’ve seen, and I mean, we, like you, host a podcast that specifically targets manufacturers, although our audience is primarily marketing and sales. And one of the things that we’ve really seen over the last three years of doing that podcast, plus our time, as an agency focusing on these manufacturers, is just how important it is for them to be looking for an opportunity in specific areas.

So we’ve all heard of the ideal customer profile (ICP). I think it’s still the case that a lot of manufacturers don’t necessarily know who their target accounts are beyond perhaps the current customers that they may have. And if you ask a lot of manufacturers, who are you selling to? They’ll say, Oh, we can sell to anybody, like, there are all these different areas.

Jeff White 4:54

We work with a lot of companies that may sell to. There may only be ten organizations in the world that can actually buy from them because of scale or because of specific focus and products and things like that. So really understanding who you’re targeting, and how you’re going in there, and exactly who are the personas within those individual customers, and truly kind of breaking those down into groups and targeting them quite specifically, being able to break down and know, you know, these are our ten tier-one accounts, then we have these 100 tier two accounts, and the way that you’re going to talk to them is going to be different. And I think this is where growth is for a lot of organizations, for larger manufacturers who have a very strong kind of customer base.

Jeff White 5:45

We see this a lot with the kinds of companies that we have on our podcast, like Schneider Electric and TE connectivity. These are huge companies that have a huge base. But one of the things that they’re frequently telling us is that the opportunities for them are finding those niches that the small groups that have previously been potential, you know, maybe they were too small for them.

So they’ve developed an offering for those. We recently hosted Ball, who is involved in an aluminum can manufacturing and things like that, you know, huge customers, the biggest beer brands and soda, soda brands in the world work with them. But their real focus now is on getting down into the craft beer market. It’s a very different buyer, a very different level of sophistication. You have to talk to them differently. And you have to train your sales and marketing team differently in order to target those kinds of companies. I think this is true. We’re seeing this across all scales, and all levels of manufacturers from you know, the billion-plus organizations on down to, you know, smaller $50 million companies, they really need to understand who they’re selling to and know exactly how to go after them. And it makes for very interesting work.

Sam Gupta 6:51

Yeah, so let’s talk about Account Based Marketing a little bit more about how that differs from any other marketing that you might have. What would be your perspective on Account Based Marketing?

Jeff White 7:01

Account Based Marketing is really interesting because it’s not just Account Based Marketing. It’s also account-based sales. You’re talking about there is very much looking at the specific accounts that you’re targeting, and figuring out exactly how you want to talk to them, you know, and, and this is you’re linking a lot of different things together. What a lot of people think of when they think of account-based marketing is there actually talking about account-based advertising, you know, so being able to use a tool like Terminus or demand base or something like that, in order to choose which departments in which organizations that you would like to serve advertising into, but that’s not what account based marketing is as a whole.

I think even a lot of those organizations are moving away from the term ABM and more into just like this is just selling now, this is how we do this. This is how we generate profit and grow our organization is by truly understanding the nuances of selling into those markets and selling into those companies and understanding also the scale and size of the buying committees that we’re seeing, I mean, gardeners telling us that in a lot of cases, some of the buying committees are we’re in double digits now 11-12-13 people involved in making a purchase, and there’s a lot of inertia in something like that to actually just do nothing.

Jeff White 8:00

Yeah, when you have that many people who have to be involved in making a decision, you know, you have engineers, you have procurement, you have the C-suite, you have others who are involved. And the messaging to each one of those types of people within an organization and within an account is going to be different because their needs are different.

The C-suite wants to know how this is going to impact their bottom line. Engineering wants to know that this product is going to integrate well with the other products that they’re designing and making. Procurement wants to know if it’s going to fit within the procurement standards and the budget.

Jeff White 8:53

There’s just all of these different things. What account based marketing enables you to do is to say, Okay, I’m going to send different messaging to each of these different types of people. And I’m going to choose the channels with which to do that based on where I know that they are. And this requires a reset and how a lot of salespeople think because what we hear from a lot of organizations is that, generally they send in a sales engineer or an engineer, and that person wanders the halls of a factory and, you know, generates conversations within the organization that they’re talking to, and that that generates sales.

Well, post-COVID, that style of sales is probably done for it’s very much a different world that we have in this day and age. And I think that really what we’re talking about is using technology using even more traditional advertising and marketing mediums like print and billboards and things like that. You have geography as an option. If you know that there’s a billboard outside of a specific factory or a specific headquarters, then you could be using that as part of your strategy to drive interest from the C-suite but your products. There’s a number of different tools at our disposal. And we’re really talking about all of the different things that go into a campaign and looking at exactly how you’re going to target those different individuals within your ideal customers.

Sam Gupta 10:12

Okay, so tell me a little bit more about the post COVID world. So you made a comment that it’s going to be a completely different world from the sales and marketing perspective. So yes, I mean, we are kind of aware that technology is going to be prevalent in every single conversation. We are probably going to be more virtual. But tell me the specifics of how you see this differently?

Jeff White 10:32

I think there’s a massive change afoot right now. I think it’s as we’re talking in early 2021, and the vaccines are rolling out. That’s probably going to reshape in-person meetings again, but I think they’re going to be different than they were. The fact of the matter is, the number one budget line item in every CMOs toolbox in the manufacturing space is trade shows. And it always has been. This has always been the way that they have generated opportunities.

It’s the way that they have connected with their customers. It’s the way that they have found opportunities. And it’s incredibly expensive and incredibly inefficient. But it worked because this is just how the industry always works. Now, we may get back in Q4 2021, to a world where trade shows exist again, yeah, I think there’s gonna be different, you know, like, I think the spend is going to be very, very different. I talked to the CEO the other day, and he said I had the best year I had ever had in 2020., which is really interesting. I had no idea that I could sell without flying and saved $600,000 this year, and to me, that’s indicative of the fact that people are going to want to do things differently.

Jeff White 11:48

I mean, although we’re all itching to get out there and kind of meet with people again, and kind of be together in spaces, again, I think we’re going to see trade shows are going to be very different than they were before. And a lot of this is going to show that that kind of outside sales model where you have people who are traveling around and going visit customers and getting into their operations, and really understanding that is not going to be as desirable as a buyer potentially. And I think that we’re going to look at reinvesting what was being spent on trade shows in more modern marketing methodologies.

Sam Gupta 12:25

Okay, so let’s go back to your conversation about defining the customer personas and finding the relevant channel where they hang out. So if we define the individual personas for those 12 to 15 buyers that are involved in the purchase cycle, and they might each have a bunch of channels they are hanging out on. So in total, we are going to get, let’s say, I don’t know, 50 channels plus persona combination.

And I don’t know what the term is for that. But now, we need to create the content aligned with the persona plus the channel. So how do you do this? I mean, in my mind, if I think about it, this is almost like you have to have a salesperson who understands these personas deep enough so that they can create the appropriate content for these personalities. Do you see this as a marketing play or a sales play? How would you create this content for each of the channels as well as a persona?

Jeff White 13:22

That’s a great question, Sam. And I think that the reality of it is and what COVID has forced us to do within our organizations is to create a much tighter alignment between the sales and marketing functions. No longer can marketing generate a whole bunch of leads, and then transfer them over to and just toss them over the fence to sales, and then sales work those leads or more often than not say these leads are junk, we can’t use them. You know, like it really is the case that those two functions need to be more tightly aligned than ever. And sales. People know what their personas and the people that they’re selling to, and the people that they’re talking to are interested in. They know what their pain points are and their budgets are. They know all of this different information.

This is not something that marketing has traditionally had access to. Because these people have often been on the outside sales side, they’re not in the office. They’re out there meeting with customers. They’re doing all of these different things. And, they’re not necessarily providing that intelligence back to marketing who have the ability to craft content that can be used both in a more inbound style of marketing, where we’re getting that content published on the website, attracting people to that, and pushing them through the funnel.

But the fact of the matter is, with a lot of B2B manufacturers, simply attracting more top-of-funnel traffic is just going to dilute the quality of leads that you get. So if marketing is working closely with sales, the content that they’re creating can be much more tightly aligned with what those personas are looking for.

Jeff White 14:56

And they may find that in some cases, the content could be anything from something that is written, it could be a calculator of some description that actually helps you to understand exactly which product makes the most sense for you, or the providing of 3D models, we need to think of content is more than just a white paper, or more than just a video content could be an augmented reality application that shows your product content, in this case, could also be like I was saying, a calculator or configurator, or something like that. I mean, we’ve seen as an agency that that type of content, more interactive type content, actually, generally, when put into an inbound situation, converts at more than double the rate of traditional written content.

The other thing, too, is that every one of these manufacturers has 3D models of their product that’s content to those are things that engineers want to be able to download and put into their own models and spec those things within the product. In a lot of B2B situations, especially when you’re selling into OEMs, we’re going to be including your product in something larger, getting prospect as the first part of the battle, like getting in there and being there and being the brand that’s on the ground can really help you to do that.

Jeff White 16:00

We’re in a time right now where simply having an availability of product is a marker of being able to get a prospect, you know, in this day and age where there are supply chain disruptions and other issues that are going on, being out there and being available. And being in front of those customers, hey, this is our product, this is what it does. But it’s, also, this is how much stock is available, and then working very closely with your distribution network to ensure that you’re getting that product out there to the appropriate locations and having it available to your potential customers.

Sam Gupta 16:49

Okay, so we are going to talk about the ICP a little bit, right. So from the perspective of this podcast, my ICP is the CFO. So CFOs, the way they like to think is obviously sales and marketing are great sales, and marketing alignment is great. But for CFOs and CEOs, the real deal starts when you have a signed contract. And in my mind, I think not only do sales and marketing need to be aligned in an organization. Everything needs to be aligned. That is going to be your sales, marketing, operations, finance.

And if any of that is not aligned, our company is going to lose on significant opportunities. Because even if you close the order today, and if let’s say the sales or marketing over commits on their promises, and if operations cannot deliver, then what is going to happen, it’s going to fire back, you are going to get a refund request form that customer and probably you are going to get really bad reviews, maybe in the community, they are probably going to blast you on social media. So sales and marketing are equally relevant after signing the order. So what do you think we need to do in terms of aligning all of the functions of an organization, not only just sales and marketing?

Jeff White 17:55

Oh, man, like the organization has an alignment of all of these different organizations, you mentioned operations. The other one is service, you know, services, a huge component of this, you know, the post-sale service and, and troubleshooting, and all of that sort of thing is obviously very important as well. And I think where this really starts to come to life is in the integration of the different MarTech stack and other parts of the operations tech stack, where you’re integrating your ERP with your CRM with your product database that is going into your product information management or PIM system and having all of these different pieces talking to each other, so your marketing automation platform on your website is talking to your CRM, which is communicating with your e-commerce platform.

So, when somebody’s making a purchase, which is tucked into your ERPs, what your distributors are doing, and all of the product data is being sent out in the appropriate ways and appropriate formats to all of these organizations. Is this the norm? No. You know, like, it’s a very complex web of applications that generally aren’t made by the same manufacturers that have APIs that may talk to each other but require custom integration in order to do that.

So you’ve got all of those different pieces. You need to have the reporting of what’s going on and what orders are coming from, where’s you understand your channels, and how all of that’s working. And this is really where it rolls up to the CFO is like being able to see all right, where are these opportunities coming from?

Jeff White 19:27

Where are the new closed deals coming from? What tools are actually providing that return on investment and using your CRM in a way that truly has an understanding of the sales process that’s gone on for a new deal truly having an understanding of what each person is working on. And reporting up to appropriate managers is a massive component of this and making sure that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals.

So this is very much the state of where we are right now. Now is that a lot of these applications are kind of coming into play, we’ve got the sales forces of the world and others where they have all of these different tools that are now kind of talking to each other. They can plug those into each other. And there, they’re able to provide appropriate APIs so that things from an operations perspective, from a servicing perspective, from a sales perspective, and marketing perspective. And obviously, how all of that rolls up into the different channels of distribution is going to be a really important bit of knowledge for different members of the C-suite to have.

Sam Gupta 20:34

Okay, so let’s go back to again, talking about the ideal customer profile. But now, we are going to talk from the perspective of either manufacturers or distributors. So let’s say if I’m the CFO of an organization, and if I have my salespeople, they might be selling to different industries, they might be speaking their language. And my primary channels at this point in time could be just traditional, where the customer either calls or emails, or we go to a trade show, and then we can customize the messaging as per the need of the customer.

But now, if we talk about getting this traffic through the web, right, let’s say if I want to implement the ideal customer profile through the web, and each customer journey is going to be different, as you mentioned, that each channel is going to be different, each customer persona is going to be different, the kind of message that they are going to understand is going to be different. So how do you structure this in a website where I can target each of the customer profiles so that the messaging is going to be relevant for them? So talk about the customer journey of each of the persona, and probably channel as well? And how would you implement that for a complex manufacturing organization that might be sold to multiple industries?

Jeff White 21:47

Yeah. That’s also a great question. Sam, I think a lot of this comes down to spending the time there are the fundamentals of truly understanding what your ICP is. So sitting down looking at your current customers, what are what’s the psychographic information, the demographic information that we have about these organizations? You know, where are they located, what you know, what kinds of issues do they have all of those sorts of things.

But we have a bit off from an account based marketing perspective. We also have another tool at our disposal called intent data. And I’m not sure how familiar you are with the idea of intent data. And it comes to life differently with different tools. But one of the things that it allows you to do is to say, Alright, I understand who my top 10 tier one ideal customers are that I would like to be talking to. So you can put those into your account based marketing program. And then you can begin to see when those different organizations or the different kinds of groupings of people within those organizations are actually spiking on intent.

Jeff White 22:47

So you can see if somebody if there’s a spike in a large number of extra searches for the kind of product that you sell, you can tell that that’s coming from that company, and then you can use that information to fine-tune the information on your website specifically for that customer. When they click on your ad, that you’re serving to them on the news site where they’re reading about that particular thing, you know what I mean? So, like, you’re able to tell, like, this organization is actually spiking on intent for my product.

I’m going to serve them an ad that’s about that. And then, when they come through the website, I’m going to fine-tune the content of that specifically for them. And this is where truly having an ideal customer profile comes to life on the site. So you know, you may have other tools in place that allow you to be able to tell, you know, when a new customer or when somebody comes to your website, where they’re coming from, and perhaps fine-tune the content that way as well. So personalization is a really huge thing.

Jeff White 23:00

And I think being able to customize the information that you’re serving into each one of those organizations, as well as the personas within it, and knowing what the things that they’re looking for are going to be and serving them, is going to help you to fine-tune the kind of information that you’re giving to your ideal customer profile. And it really is a matter of doing that that hard work of sitting down and figuring out alright, who are the people within these organizations that we sell to them? What do they need to know? And how can we help them? You know, what can we surface to them within our website?

Jeff White 24:19

What can we serve to them via LinkedIn? What kind of ads can we serve on that platform as well? I mean, there are all of these different tools available to us. And I think it’s important not to get too overwhelmed with the sheer variety of availability of tools because you can just completely blow your brains out trying to make sure that you’re on everything, but really, that’s not necessary. I think you can become very, very focused, do the research and truly understand who your ideal customers are.

And we’ve done things in the past when we’re working with some of our clients, and they may only have like ten companies that they can sell to well, that means that you can truly invest a lot of time and research about those specific target accounts. Find out who the people are by name within those organizations find out what they’re interested in craft content that shows an alignment.

A lot of traditional manufacturers are family-owned organizations that go back generations, they’ve grown through mergers and acquisitions, but the company’s 150 years old, and it’s always been in one family’s name, well, you know, you may be selling into another company that is of similar stature and has that same kind of thing, you can talk about some of the shared values that you have as part of your advertising when you’re going to CEO, for example, and crafting video content specifically for those people.

Jeff White 25:30

So there are just lots of different ways that you can use these tools. And I think that simply making sure that you’re doing it with an eye to being very specific about the content that you’re serving, and making sure that it’s relevant, and then seeing what the results are and focusing on that and making sure that you’re fine-tuning it as you go to make it better and better.

Sam Gupta 26:00

Okay, so I’m kind of not sure if I follow the intent data completely. So do you have any story or the example where you have utilized the intent data and got results from, and so I would like to hear any stories that you might have?

Jeff White 26:15

Sure. So I mean, intent data is really interesting. And there’s a number of different platforms that provide. Bombora is, is a relatively well-known intent platform that one’s baked into the terminus account based marketing system DemandBase, as an example, has its own intent platform. And so what intent data is, you can say, these are the topics or the things that I know that my ICP is interested in.

So, for example, as like yourself, where you are selling ERP platforms or working on the implementation of ERP platforms, a lot of those are known by name. So you can put your target accounts into your intent platform and say, so these are the ten accounts that we’re interested in. And I want the platform to show me when that account is showing interest in the name of the specific ERP that I’m targeting. Yeah, and we’ve done this with a few of our clients as well who work in the software space that sells into manufacturing.

So they can actually get notified when one of those target accounts is showing intent they’re interested in, in making a purchase in some way, shape, or form, or interested in that platform, or doing research on something related to it or a competitor.

Jeff White 27:29

That’ll give you a notification that, hey, this account is spiking on intent. And in some platforms, they’ll even show you what articles they’re reading, it’s kind of creepy, but you know it, it’ll actually show you that kind of level of information. And then you can decide what to do with that. If you’ve planned out your account based marketing campaign that you’re going to be doing, so when somebody spikes on intent, this is the campaign that we’re going to deploy, these are the ads that we’re going to send out, these are the emails that we’re going to follow up on because this is definitely a multi-pronged approach.

So you know, when you’re seeing that someone is spiking on interest in something that you provide marketing is going to be serving ads into that audience sales is going to be contacting the people that they know that are kind of responsible for that at the same time. So you’re coming at it from different ways. And that’s when you begin to get interested. You might get a meeting booked to give a demo, or to show a product in use, or talk about what the next step is.

And I mean, a lot of these organizations have massively long sales cycles, you know, not only do they have huge groups of buyers, but it may take two or three years to close a multi-million dollar deal. And so simply getting them into your world and seeing that your product is an option by understanding when they’re actually interested in looking for it is a massive tool in your arsenal in order to be able to properly target those target accounts.

Sam Gupta 29:00

Okay, amazing. So let’s talk about the customer journeys a bit more. Let’s say if I am selling through the distributors, but because of COVID, I’m actually trying to go direct to the consumers. Maybe when I had the distributors, I already had my relationship. They only came to a website as a brochure just to learn what my organization did. They never placed an order through the web, but as you know, because of COVID. Now everybody’s trying to go to e-commerce. So how would you structure the customer journey on the website? Let’s say if I want to, you know, transform my existing relationship with the distributors through my web, and then I want to go direct to consumer as well.

Jeff White 29:40

I think this is a conversation that is on the minds of a lot of manufacturers because they have these existing distributors now works who often are the people that have the relationship with the end customer. The distributors are probably the ones who know what the pain points are specifically with someone because they’re the ones are, you know, making the purchase and ordering through the distributor because perhaps as a manufacturing organization, you’ve never gone direct to consumer or direct the customer before.

So this is where you get into the nuances of manufacturing distributor channel conflict is that distributors don’t want you as a manufacturer to sell direct. So what we see with a lot of these organizations, like TE connectivity, is a great example. We’ve had them recently on the podcast.

Jeff White 30:28

And one of the things that they do is not only do they make the product available on their website, but they also show you exactly where you can get it at the distributors nearest you. So there are e-comm channels, and they’re using those as well as brick and mortar channels. And they’re listing out who has what in stock and how many they have. I mean, this is an insane amount of data that you’re required to drive a platform like that.

And you truly have to have good data about your product content as well, in order to be able to kind of be the one who has the most high-quality information about a product as well as having the information about where it can be purchased. And I think you know. There’s a number of different ways that manufacturers can overcome this potential channel conflict. One is to always redirect the sale to the distributor. That’s one way that you could do it. Others might spiff a distributor.

Jeff White 31:00

If the sale actually comes through their site, they were going to pay them the commission on that sale if it went through the distributor. So you know, if we’re selling in a particular geography where we have a distributor, but they buy it directly on our website, then maybe we piss of that distributor because they’re the ones who generally have the relationship with the customer.

So there’s a bunch of different ways that you can manage this. It’s on the minds of an awful lot of manufacturers right now. Because they’re stepping back and saying, you know, why can’t we do e-commerce on our own, and their distributors are saying, Well, you know that that’s our job. But in a lot of cases, the distributors aren’t even up to speed with their own e-commerce platform. So sometimes forcing their hand a little bit by developing a great platform yourself can be a way to make your distributors step up and provide the appropriate service that their customers are looking for.

Jeff White 32:12

One of the things that we do know currently is that a lot of the buyers that are coming into the manufacturing space are younger, they’re used to e-commerce experiences in their personal lives, and they want to have that in their commercial lives in their job, they want to be able to buy the same way that they do when they’re buying groceries online.

So providing an optimal ecommerce experience is part of that. And this, again, comes back to that earlier point that we were making around the importance of the integration of the different tools that you have so that you know the appropriate product data, you know, stock information about that you know where it is you’re providing that information via your website and funneling it out to your distributors as well. And giving the experience that your customers want to have in order to make that purchase from you and making it easy.

Jeff White 32:59

That’s what this is all about. I mean, that’s where we’re moving now. And a lot of the not so much distributor networks, but the Amazons of the world that are kind of getting into the business side of marketplaces and selling are helping to accelerate that thought. And there’s an awful lot of CFOs and CMOs who are thinking about how do we tackle this and use the channels that we have and make this better and better.

So it’s really it’s an interesting time. Because there’s a whole lot of manufacturing organizations that are really getting into this space and dealing with the channel conflict and other issues that they have. And some are dancing around it a little bit. I’ve even heard some organizations that are saying, well, we’re gonna start up an e-commerce platform, but we’re not gonna call it by our name, we’re gonna call it something else, but they’re gonna sell entirely our products like, Okay, do you think they’re not gonna know exactly who this is? You can’t play hide and seek with your distributors. These are some of your most important sales team members. So you really have to develop an understanding of that and work with your partners in order to achieve the best results. That’s really all there is to it. Communication. Who knew?

Sam Gupta 34:09

Well, again, communication and relationship. Absolutely, it’s all about relationships and in the business market. So hey, Jeff, I really want to thank you for your time. And we are about done here. Do you have any last-minute closing thoughts?

Jeff White 34:22

I think I’ll reiterate what I said off the top, and for a lot of manufacturers in this day and age, the opportunities are in the niches. They’re very much about understanding who you’re selling to and organizing that information in a way that is consumable and understandable by your potential customers. And really getting down to you’re truly providing value there from every moment when they first interact with you all the way through to a sale to servicing that customer for years is going to be about showing that you truly understand their needs and is available in all of your channels, whether that’s sales, marketing, product information or what have you and making sure that you’re truly fine-tuning and providing the information that your target accounts need.

Sam Gupta 35:08

Okay, I love it from this conversation. My personal takeaway is going to be an ideal customer profile. If you don’t have the ideal customer profile right, then it’s going to be really harder to grow and develop the infrastructure that you need to be successful. So on that note, Jeff, thank you so much for your time. This has been a fun conversation.

Sam Gupta 35:27

I cannot thank our guests enough for coming to the show and sharing their knowledge and journey. I always pick up learnings from our guests, and hopefully, you learned something new today. If you want to learn more about Jeff and the Kula Partners team, head over to Links and more information will also be available in the show notes.

If anything in this podcast resonated with you and your business. You might want to check other related episodes, including the interview with Joe Sullivan from Gorilla 76, who touches on different aspects of social media and marketing and why manufacturing organizations need to rethink their marketing strategy with COVID-19. Also, the interview with Greg Mischio from Winbound, who talks about why manufacturing organizations need to adopt the approach of a digital twin to augment their sales teams.

Also, don’t forget to subscribe and spread the word among folks with similar backgrounds. If you have any questions or comments about the show, please review and rate us on your favorite podcasting platform or DM me on any social channels. I’ll try my best to respond personally and make sure you get help. Thank you, and I hope to catch you on the next episode.

Outro 36:38

Thank you for listening to another episode of The WBS podcast. Be sure to subscribe on your favorite podcasting platform, so you never miss an episode. For more information on growth strategies for SMBs using ERP and digital transformation, check out our community at We’ll see you next time.

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