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Realizing ROI w/ Jessica Jacobson of Apache Stainless

We're changing up our style here at Foremost Media by interviewing some of the most infuential marketers in the manufacturing space and getting some of their invaluable insight! In this episode we spoke with Jessica Jacobson, the marketing and communications manager over at Apache Stainless Equipment Corporation. She's been in the industry for over 30 years and has an uncountable number of successes in that time and has built up quite the resume of marketing wisdom. Today, we're talking about her time in Apache, advice on trade shows, and how to always have a mind on ROI in all your marketing efforts.

Time Stamps:

  • 0:00 - Introduction 
  • 1:48 - B2B versus B2C 
  • 5:02 - Employer Branding 
  • 6:42 - Invest in the methodology and the philosophy of sound marketing practices
  • 8:16 - Marketers need to be able to articulate about their technical products
  • 10:28 - Caterpillar Success Story
  • 12:18 - Where are you getting your marketing information from?
  • 14:17 - Jessica's eBooks
  • 15:45 - Consider the cost and your return on investment/Tradeshows
  • 20:22 - Social Media
  • 22:00 - You just don't have to spend a million dollars to get good marketing efforts
  • 25:04 - Goodbye

Resources Mentioned:

  • "No Ego" by Cy Wakeman
  • "Yes Ma'am, No Sir: The 12 Essential Steps for Success in Life" by Coach Carter

Find more marketing insights and show notes here.


Evan Facinger: What's a commonly held marketing belief that you just don't agree with whatsoever?

Jessica Jacobson: You just don't have to spend a million dollars to get good marketing efforts. You just have to be smart.

Evan Facinger: All right everybody. Thank you for joining the Foremost Media Marketing Chat podcast. This is Evan Facinger, and I'm super excited to have our guest here today. She's been doing marketing for a long time at a manufacturing company. I'll let her tell her story. Her name is Jessica Jacobson, she's the marketing and communications manager at Apache Stainless. So we're really excited to have you here, Jessica.

Jessica Jacobson: Thank you.

Evan Facinger: And curious too, how did you find yourself at your current position? What led you to be the marketing communications manager there?

Jessica Jacobson: Well, I have been a marketer for original equipment for B2B for 30 years, and I became marketing and communications manager at Apache Stainless having been asked by a previous manager that I worked with at my last company who had said, "Hey, would you like to come to Apache and help us out?" It was closer to my family, so I moved as well, and I really very much enjoy working here at Apache Stainless.

Evan Facinger: Nice. So you got brought with.

Jessica Jacobson: I did.

Evan Facinger: Your talents were so undeniable that they had to bring you with.

Jessica Jacobson: Yes. They did. Yes.

Evan Facinger: And you've been in the marketing, well, for the manufacturing industry for quite a while now. Is there something that you wish everyone understood what it's like to be a marketer at a manufacturing company?

Jessica Jacobson: Yeah. So normally if you're in a manufacturing field, then you have a B2B market. So you're selling to business teams, purchasing teams, and it's very different than business to consumer. A lot of those things, if you're just working directly with the consumer, you could probably get a little bit more of an emotional response. You might be able to work through just some basic kinds of information and have the cost be maybe a driving factor. But it's completely different with manufacturing. In fact, I simply would not be qualified to do business to consumer as much because it is a different type of marketing program because you have a highly technical audience. So your value and your messaging must be true and proven. You can't do some of the catchy kinds of things that are in business consumer. I see that and sometimes I'm like, it's too bad because I know at that particular company or that those particular product leaders could certainly come up with something that has more value to a business team purchasing your product. But your eye on the prize is really your true value proposition of your company or your brand or your product.

Evan Facinger: Yeah, you're right. I mean it is different. I mean B2B versus B2C. I know that there's that big push of, there's always still people at the end of the day, but there's different thought process that I go into the buying and into the purchase decisions. Do you ever get a little jealous of some of the B2C marketers and how they can do some of the more catchy sort of marketing for it?

Jessica Jacobson: Yeah the B2C is a bummer. Like okay, you got to follow your brand guidelines of what you do, you know and you really probably should for business to consumer. But you have a whole different thing with emotional response that people have emotional buying. And believe me, with B2B, if they're doing that, they might not be giving their company the best value because if anything is emotional about it, it is this company is going to make me look good and help me with my career. That's your emotional response rather than this is cute and I need one of these because I don't have pink.

Evan Facinger: Yeah, it's definitely a different type of emotion, like you said. And I've been seeing a little bit more of the emotion in some of the marketing, and it's exactly what you said too. This is going to help my career. This is a good choice, this is the safe choice. It's almost back to the old IBM thing, nobody gets fired for purchasing IBM.

Jessica Jacobson: Exactly.

Evan Facinger: That sort of emotional versus the B2C side of things. And I guess being in that sort of marketing realm for so long, what's the biggest change that you've seen during that time?

Jessica Jacobson: Boy, the last, and I'm not going to say two, three years, it's been 10 years for me anyway, is that your employer brand, normally you're so busy working on your products and your services, but if you don't have good quality employees that are coming in and helping you with your products and services, and that's going to be a problem. And this is something we're very highly involved with. So I think community branding, employer branding, I think needs to be supported by marketing and I've seen more and more companies do that. The other thing too is you really have to stay focused on the technology to retrieve your customer data, behaviors, trends, and just to reevaluate your positioning with customers. And that data is so much easier to get now, but those are the two, I'd say, the two biggest changes that I've seen in the last 10 years.

Evan Facinger: And it's not just data for data's sake. It's what can you do with that data? It's one thing to capture it and collect it with all the different technologies, like you said. But then you've got to have somebody there that understands what to do with it. How do I use this from a marketing or a sales perspective or even an operations perspective too.

Jessica Jacobson: Yeah, for sure. Yep.

Evan Facinger: So you got the data to trend, everything else. Is there something that you think everybody in this industry, I mean, in the manufacturing marketing industry, you mentioned how it's a lot different than B2C. What's something that, at least from the marketing side of things, do you think everyone in this industry should be doing or at least paying attention to?

Jessica Jacobson: Yeah, I think you really got to learn and invest in the methodology and the philosophy of sound marketing practices and how they match with business practices and how you can support other parts of your organization. Even to the point where you need to plan it, follow it, measure it, come back and then make changes from there. But again, you get people that don't have experience or working at that higher level or they don't have access to that higher level of marketing and they're just churning the wheels, okay, I'm doing this ad. Why is this graphic all that important? That kind of thing. So closing that loop for new people in the business and just people coming from other industries and that's what you're seeing. You're not finding people with 30 years of marketing experience, they're wanting to retire. So that's what I really see that people should really start doing. And whether that's in a class or books or however, I think that higher level, beyond tactical, in the strategy is very important to start learning and buying in to why the planning is so important.

Evan Facinger: Yeah. And do you think that that's going to carry over, so if we're looking at what the biggest challenges for manufacturing marketers in the next five years, is that going to continue or is there something else that's going to be on the horizon?

Jessica Jacobson: No, another challenge is that the marketers need to be able to articulate about their technical products. I mean it's more than just taking a picture and putting out a video with some music. I mean, you need to be able to tell your stories of your value proposition and really dig deep into processes or some of the solutions that you're solving for. And you have to be able to speak that intellectual language to your customers, even from a marketing standpoint, not just your sales team that needs to probably be fairly technical but your marketing assets. And that's probably the biggest challenge is finding people who have the mindset to write and develop these technical conversations and media to help that. Just like what you're doing here, this is pretty technical, but you are creatively developing some content that is going to help with a lot of your audience.

Evan Facinger: Yeah, completely, and I think the big thing too is what used to work doesn't work anymore. So 10 years ago you could write a piece around a certain topic that maybe you didn't quite understand because there wasn't as much competition out there. It wasn't everybody trying to do content marketing. But now there's so much of that marketing fluff pieces out there that if you just write another one, it's not going to get the time of day from anybody. From Google, from the potential buyer. It needs to actually be coming from the authority of an expert that actually knows what they're writing about and what they're talking about. And anybody that has that knowledge, they can tell when they're reading it. You're reading a blog post and it looks like somebody just scraped together a couple different ones without understanding it.

Jessica Jacobson: Yeah, you could tell. Yeah. And the more in depth and the more it provides the customer with a solution, then the more readability that it'll get.

Evan Facinger: So is there anybody I guess in the marketing or manufacturing kind of industrial space that you think is just doing a great job with their marketing?

Jessica Jacobson: Well, a couple years ago, maybe quite a few years ago, I read a case study on Caterpillar and they'd lost market position. And what happened was they actually had a competitor equipment in a new build of their company. So their own company weren't even using Caterpillar for the excavation, for the business. And so again, this was in a marketing coursework that I was taking and they lost their number one spot, but they have clearly been defending that number one market share for many years now. And they had a lot of serious foreign competition. But it was more, they had marketing, they had business, they had contracts, they worked on branding. They really, really turned that around. And they've held that position for many, many years now.

Evan Facinger: And you think that a lot of that is because they were able to turn it around because they tied everything together around turning around? You mentioned they've [inaudible 00:11:46]-

Jessica Jacobson: Oh, they would have had to.

Evan Facinger: ... Other aspects of it.

Jessica Jacobson: Yeah. Even contracts, pricing, efficiencies in their bill, even union stuff. I mean, this was more than just a marketing effort. And that kind of goes back to what we were talking at the beginning of this podcast, that marketing needs to support the other efforts. It's more than just messaging. It needs to support all areas of the business.

Evan Facinger: And so you mentioned that you read that in a case study that you were taking for a class. What are you reading now? Where are you getting your marketing information from?

Jessica Jacobson: Well, right now, because I also have a communications hat, so I'm reading just finished “No Ego”, it's by Cy Wakeman and it's about removing communication barriers in the workplace. It's a lot about coaching soft skills and communications. And again, I do help with communications both outwardly and inwardly here because when your employees are involved in communication and starting to engage in their business, that helps grow the loyalty of the business and of the manufacturing whole realm there. The other thing, I went to the pet show and I saw Coach Carter, he was really fun. He made people do pushups, which is kind of funny. I was way in the back so I didn't have to do that. He's had a movie that's, I don't know, 10, 12 years old, but he gave everybody the book “Yes or No Ma'am”, so I enjoyed reading that.

Evan Facinger: That's good. Yeah, I think that that's an interesting topic for the book. I've read other “Ego is the Enemy” for example, that kind of hit on how that can impact your inward decision. But I guess putting that into the workplace, how you communicate with the team and how the team communicates with each other, is that really what the book hit on?

Jessica Jacobson: Yes, both. The “No Ego” was a lot about communications and soft skills and then the “Yes or No Ma'am” was really on him... It was really on attitude and not giving up. A lot of it was about coaching, a lot.

Evan Facinger: Nice. Well, so you've been doing marketing for a while there in communications of course too. But from the marketing side, was there a success that you're most proud of? One that really, if you're going to retire in the next few years, you're going to hang your hat on and talk about that?

Jessica Jacobson: I don't think I'm there yet. Just when you think you've got a job well done that some technology comes, it's just really hard to keep up with the technology or somebody comes around and says, well, can we do something on that customer data set? I have had some of my eBooks republished for Apache, so I was happy with that. I was just looking at an ebook again, looking at click throughs, reads, downloads, keyword searches and survey customer data. I had a white paper that was talking about heat transfer surfaces and it had 22,000 reads and it's only 18 months old. So I mean that's pretty cool. But like I said, I don't think I'm quite there yet. I've got a couple lists of things that are, I think, probably best practice going on. But there's always something new that they get us to learn and figure out how to do.

Evan Facinger: And your best is yet to come, right?

Jessica Jacobson: Yeah. Exactly.

Evan Facinger: So I guess on the other side of things, what about a marketing failure? Something that maybe didn't go as planned and what did that teach you?

Jessica Jacobson: So for many years in the first part of my career, I did trade shows, just mechanical. Okay, I'm supposed to do this and I'm supposed to do this and here's my budget. And especially in 2008 when there was just kind of a downturn and we were like, okay, we should roll up our sleeves and look at our budget. We were like, okay, what's the ROI of this trade show? And I think that's important because I think you can... Some companies are like they will spend an absolute fortune and not even return inquiries or respond or make appointments or even do things ahead of time where you can invite customers. And a lot of people are just not following up with those kinds of marketing efforts. But I think that's probably a failure from a marketing to not consider the cost and what your return on investment. I now do that. I've been doing this for probably 10 years now. But when I first got in the industry, I just didn't. I was just following what I was told to do. And as I got more involved in the leadership of the marketing effort and having responsibility for costs, that's something that I definitely do now for sure.

Evan Facinger: Yeah, well and that's a good... trade service is a good example of ways that they can do better and actually start to track back to ROI and I'll be the first to admit bias. I've always been more of a digital marketer than anything else. So looked at the trade shows and the budgets that are spent and everything else that goes into the trade show for a lot of the companies that we work with. And I'd asked that question, well what's the return on investments for this? And a lot of people couldn't answer it. And the other thing I was amazed at, and this was a number of years ago, so I'd like to think that this is different now as well, you pointed to. At one point somebody said, well it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter what the ROI is for these trade shows because I just need to stay here because I've got this booth, I've had this booth, there's a lot of legacy for it. If I'm not exhibiting at this trade show then the competition over there, they're going to start to spread rumors about why I'm not here and it's going to be that business isn't doing good.

Jessica Jacobson: I've definitely heard that too. I definitely heard that. In terms of trade shows, there's some things that you can do to maybe reduce the size a little bit, maybe come up with some creative ways to have equipment that is something that is more of a display. And you and I have done in the past a really market, the trade show special landing page and special marketing program so you can get your ROI. So you can look at the whole thing and just see where you are. But a lot of companies, this is their show, they don't do things that way. And I totally understand that. We're organized as an employee-owned company. So this is something that I definitely will do this for the company, make sure that we are responsible to our budget. But there's companies that are owned by an individual or a corporation and they may not have those goals the same as what we do. But I definitely like to do things with an ROI calculator from the show. I definitely do this.

Evan Facinger: And that's a fair point, especially with there being so many opportunities to do so. And I know that you've always done well at the trade shows outside from the one that you learned your lesson on. I'm sure with being able to track and being forward thinking, we're already going to spend this anyways, how can we get the most out of it both.

Jessica Jacobson: Exactly.

Evan Facinger: Actually during the show, before the show, even after the show.

Jessica Jacobson: Right. Definitely, definitely.

Evan Facinger: So I guess obviously trade shows would be one of these, but what other marketing channels are you really focused on right now that you're having a lot of success with? Or maybe you see it as an opportunity that you could get more successful?

Jessica Jacobson: Well definitely social media, but it's all integrated. So social media, but social media at trade shows, social media for our employer branding. Targeted digital advertising, whether it be emails or ads. We have video everywhere. We have it on video on social media. Even for recruitment, we'll go into colleges and things like that. I mean we have it really everywhere, at trade shows. And then the trade shows to be strategic. So if you are at a trade show, is this a strategic plan for your business? Is it something you've done for years that never had an ROI just because, or is this something in a growth area that you really need to be at for both the employees and the team and for people to learn more about that industry. So those are even strategic also.

Evan Facinger: Yeah, we've seen a big shift towards social media as well, both from lead generation aspect. I mean that's something that's always going to make the headlines from it, but also a recruiting standpoint and just showing the company culture and making sure that as you're all fighting for the same sort of talent that people want to work where you're at and they do want submit their application or even stay working there for that matter.

Jessica Jacobson: Yeah, for sure. Yeah, that's true.

Evan Facinger: Well what's a commonly held marketing belief? Something that is maybe seen as a best practice or just an industry standard that you just completely don't agree with whatsoever.

Jessica Jacobson: You just don't have to spend a million dollars to get good marketing efforts. You just have to be smart. And you can spend a million dollars if you want.

Evan Facinger: You can spend more than that too.

Jessica Jacobson: You can plaster your logos all over cars and people's shirts and shoes and banners and across your company, give everybody 10 shirts and spend a lot of money on print advertising. But I just would say that I look for efficiencies and I measure what works. And I wouldn't use ego or pride. For example, you have companies that call us and say, oh, this big corporate producer is coming to Beaver Dam and if you pay thousand dollars and give us a whole list of all your contacts. Seriously, that's what they do. And then we could publish this for you and then you could pay for reprints and people will bowl over for that. They're like, oh, that's such a good deal. But man, the resources that go in here and the fact that when you get down to the nuts and bolts of that, you find out that it's not even going to your industry partners. And again, it doesn't have that value proposition. It's all me, me, me, and we're good, we're great. But the customer doesn't want to read that. They want to read, how are you solving our problems? That's why they're doing business with you. What are you solving? It's not like we're selling in nuts and bolts. It's really, how are you solving our processes? So I really think that you can have a fairly modest budget and really go to town if you look for efficiencies and measure what works and spend on programs that have payback.

Evan Facinger: You nailed it. Payback. It all comes back to the ROI at the end of the day. And that's been a focus of yours. And I think that rightfully so, I don't need to spend a million dollars to do marketing. I can figure out how I can make marketing actually be a revenue generating part of the company versus just something that makes pretty pictures and make people feel good.

Jessica Jacobson: Right, exactly.

Evan Facinger: And put some posts out there, plan the trade shows and things like that. So yeah, ROI. I think that that's the overall general theme.

Jessica Jacobson: Right. Marketing infused with sales and other business practices, for sure.

Evan Facinger: And I think that's a perfect spot to leave it at unless you have any other sort of tidbits you'd like to end the show with.

Jessica Jacobson: No, this has been fun and I wish you the best. I hope it gives people some context or value in their business and their manufacturing business.

Evan Facinger: I think you added, a ton of value to the show. I really appreciate you taking the time.

Jessica Jacobson: Okay, you bet. Thank you so much.

Zach Baierl: Thanks for listening to the foremost Media Marketing Chat podcast. If you want to stay on top of your marketing game, make sure to like and subscribe so you never miss an episode. For more episodes, show transcripts and marketing insights, go to foremostmedia.com.