Decoding Manufacturing Marketing
Account Intelligence 06.29.2023

Decoding Manufacturing Marketing

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In this episode of Sunny Side Up, host Chris Moody interviews Jeff White and Carman Pirie from Kula Partners, a B2B marketing agency specializing in the manufacturing industry. They delve into the unique challenges and opportunities that arise in manufacturing marketing, offering valuable insights for marketers looking to succeed in this space. Jeff and Carman discuss the varying levels of ABM maturity in manufacturing organizations, ranging from traditional inside sales setups to highly integrated CRM and ABX platforms. They emphasize the importance of brand-building activities and the need to balance them with demand-oriented campaigns for long-term success. The conversation explores the concept of intent signals and how they differ in the context of longer sales cycles, prompting the exploration of experimentation and the pitfalls of pursuing perfect attribution. The guests also touch on the coin-operated model prevalent in B2B marketing and the significance of the polarity of the sale, highlighting the need to adapt marketing and sales strategies based on buying intent. Additionally, they address the current economic landscape and discuss how manufacturing companies are navigating supply chain shifts and making investments to stay competitive.

About the Guests

Jeff White

Jeff is the co-founder of Kula Partners, an agency designed to help leading manufacturers digitally transform their marketing and sales. A User Experience (UX) and usability expert, Jeff began building sites for the web over 25 years ago. He leads the design and development practice at Kula Partners. Several years ago, Jeff returned to NSCAD University as a sessional professor, bringing his understanding of web standards to a new generation of design students.

A passionate advocate for usability and an open web that is accessible to everyone, Jeff frequently speaks on web design, usability, accessibility, marketing, and sales at events such as HubSpot’s Inbound conference. He is also the co-host of The Kula Ring, a weekly podcast that focuses on talking about technology, marketing, and sales with some of the most interesting minds in manufacturing marketing.

Connect with Jeff White

Carman Pirie

Carman Pirie is the co-founder of Kula Partners, an agency built to help leading manufacturers digitally transform marketing and sales to deliver more leads, close more prospects, and grow their competitive edge. Over his nearly three decades in marketing and communications, Carman’s career has taken him from the halls of Canada’s Parliament to various client-side and agency-side marketing leadership roles. Along the way, he has advised Fortune 100 clients, governments, and non-profit organizations. At Kula Partners, Carman serves as lead marketing and sales counsel to the firm’s diverse range of North American manufacturing clients. 

Connect with Carman Pirie

Key Takeaways

  • The manufacturing industry faces varying levels of ABM maturity, from traditional inside sales organizations to highly integrated CRM and ABX platforms.
  • Longer sales cycles in manufacturing require a different approach to identifying and interpreting intent signals.
  • Experimentation is crucial in understanding what works and what doesn’t, and perfect attribution should not be the sole focus.
  • Balancing brand-building activities with demand-oriented campaigns is essential for long-term success.
  • Television-level content can play a significant role in manufacturing brand-building and awareness.
  • The coin-operated model in B2B marketing often prioritizes short-term results, but brand-building is vital for sustained success.
  • The concept of the polarity of the sale highlights the need to adapt marketing and sales approaches depending on where the buying intent lies.
  • Longer-term bets on creative platforms and content can have a more significant impact than solely focusing on short-term experiments.
  • The cost of producing high-quality content can be accessible to sub-billion dollar manufacturers, providing opportunities for effective brand-building.
  • Economic downturns should be evaluated cautiously, as knee-jerk reactions to news and external factors can skew perceptions.
  • Manufacturing companies continue to invest in new products and expand their accounts, adapting their supply chains to different regions.
  • Aligning marketing and sales activities with the polarity shift in the sales process can lead to better outcomes and customer engagement.


“Don’t think that short-term experiments alone can revolutionize your brand or leapfrog your competition. Longer-term bets on creative platforms and content have a more significant impact.” – Carman Pirie

“The polarity of the sale is not always in our favor. It’s important to measure activities, adapt approaches, and create engagement even when the buying intent hasn’t flipped.” – Jeff White

Highlights from the Episode

What’s going on with your podcast and how has your background played into that?

Their podcast, “The Kula Ring,” is dedicated to sharing the stories of manufacturing marketers. Recognizing a lack of conversation specifically focused on this niche, they decided to fill that gap. Through weekly interviews with manufacturing marketers, they create a show that explores their experiences and interests, fostering learning and connections within the industry. As a small agency based in Atlantic Canada with clients worldwide, their podcast offers a valuable learning opportunity. By interviewing experts in the manufacturing field, they can expand their understanding of the industry and establish connections with intelligent individuals.

What are the key differences in marketing dynamics for manufacturing clients compared to the broad B2B marketing audience?

The key difference lies in the niche orientation specific to the manufacturing sector. Unlike other B2B organizations, manufacturing marketers often operate in highly specific markets with a limited number of potential customers. This necessitates a more focused approach, ensuring no potential customer is overlooked. Additionally, traditional marketing strategies that rely on persona-style targeting may not be as effective in the manufacturing space. With highly niche target account lists, there is a need to create awareness and drive interest in products or categories that may not yet exist.

Why does the traditional BANT framework fall short of marketing to manufacturing customers, and what approaches should be considered for that audience?

The traditional BANT framework fails to address the unique dynamics of marketing to manufacturing customers. It assumes that salespeople should engage only when there is budget, authority, need, and timeline. However, in manufacturing, where sales cycles are longer and relationship-building is crucial, sales teams need to be involved much earlier in the process. A more unified marketing and sales approach is necessary. Furthermore, in situations where the target account list is relatively small, focusing solely on the last stages of the sales process limits the opportunity to build relationships and establish connectivity within the market. By involving sales earlier, manufacturers can benefit from a more synchronized marketing and sales motion, leading to improved traction.

How can the qualification process be approached for a smaller captive audience, and how can collaboration with the sales team be improved in this context?

When dealing with a smaller captive audience, the qualification process takes a different approach. Customers on the target account list are already pre-qualified, as they are known to spend significant amounts on specific products or services. The focus shifts toward developing a tailored mix of marketing and sales activities to nurture relationships and draw them closer. Collaborative workshops play a crucial role in improving collaboration between marketing and sales. These sessions allow both teams to discuss target account lists, prioritize accounts, and determine where to concentrate their efforts. By aligning their strategies, they can enhance coordination and effectiveness.

How do they handle the dynamic of focusing on all accounts versus building demand for something that doesn’t exist when bringing sales and marketing together?

Jeff and Carman address this dynamic by utilizing a model developed by Carman. The model charts the niche orientation and account revenue competency of manufacturing organizations, helping them understand their position and identify a path to success. By aligning sales and marketing efforts, they can effectively balance their focus on existing accounts while also creating demand for new products or categories. They recognize that niche revenue is a team sport that requires gradual synchronization. In terms of building demand for new offerings, they emphasize the importance of aligning the compensation model to cultivate new demand. By incentivizing sales beyond closed deals, sales teams are motivated to invest in relationship-building and creating demand from the early stages of the customer journey.

What do you think about the tools and technology that you should tell your clients to be using or that you like to use for them, considering the non-linear buying process and the influence of compensation on sales behavior?

Carman and Jeff mentioned that the tools and technology required for success vary depending on the size and maturity of the organization. Smaller manufacturers may have a more traditional inside sales setup, with CRM knowledge residing primarily in individuals’ heads. On the other hand, larger organizations often have well-integrated CRM and ABX platforms, along with internal marketing teams. The choice of tools depends on the organization’s level of ABM maturity and overall sophistication. Before diving into deep account-based marketing campaigns, it’s crucial to establish a foundation through demand generation, pay-per-click advertising, and sometimes paid social media.

What is the difference in the concept of intent between manufacturing and broader B2B, considering the longer sales cycles in manufacturing?

Carman mentioned that in shorter sales cycles, it is easier to identify intent triggers that indicate immediate opportunities. However, in the earlier stages of the funnel, where the sales cycle is longer, it becomes harder to confidently deploy intense specific experiences. Carman emphasized that marketers need to be open to the uncertainty and lack of obvious signals in the “dark funnel” of the buying journey. Carman also mentioned that keywords and their relevance in indicating intent can sometimes defy logic and previous understanding of the industry.

What do you think about experimentation and making educated guesses and bets versus striving for perfect precision and assuming everything works the same in manufacturing?

Carman suggests that while marketers are often encouraged to focus on short-term experiments and invest more in what works, many manufacturing marketers find that approach unreliable. Instead, Carman proposes considering longer-term bets and envisioning how a creative platform can be implemented across various marketing and sales assets. Some of these assets may have immediate ways to measure success, while others may not. Carman agrees that striving for perfect attribution is misguided and emphasizes the importance of creating an overall marketing experience that attracts customers and prospects.

How do you coach or what advice would you give to a marketer in manufacturing who needs short-term results but wants to transition into longer-term brand building?

Carman advises that while it’s understandable to show early traction and results, tactics that deliver short-term wins may not have the same long-term impact. For example, a successful paid search program can generate high-quality leads but won’t revolutionize the brand or significantly improve competitive positioning. Carman also mentions the danger of substituting targeting for creativity. Some marketers believe that tools like Demandbase allow them to focus solely on their target audience without considering the quality and creativity of their messaging. This overemphasis on targeting can lead to uninteresting content, which is counterproductive.

What are you seeing in manufacturing that we should all learn from?

Jeff mentioned that many manufacturing companies are competing against well-established brands with long histories and large budgets. To compete effectively, smart manufacturers are focusing on building their brands while also running targeted campaigns that generate warm leads for sales. By creating content that appeals to their target accounts, even when they’re not actively in the market, they can increase awareness and visibility. Jeff gave an example of GE Healthcare, which produced high-quality content during the pandemic that wasn’t aimed at selling anything specific but focused on telling stories and creating brand recognition. Carman added that such initiatives don’t necessarily require a huge budget, as the production side can be accessible to smaller brands, and they can choose cost-effective distribution channels like YouTube.

How are you and your organization navigating the current economic downturn?

Carman and Jeff discussed the current economic situation and shared their perspectives. Jeff noted that while there is talk of a downturn, some manufacturers are still making investments, launching new products, and expanding their accounts. They are also diversifying their supply chains by nearshoring and working in different regions. Overall, Jeff expressed encouragement based on their interactions with clients and podcast guests. However, he acknowledged that there are some individuals and organizations experiencing softness in the market. Carman added that the talk of recession can often be knee-jerk reactions to daily news and urged people to disconnect from sources like Twitter. Jeff jokingly mentioned Carman’s concern when he delves into macroeconomics due to his art school background.

Tell us what the polarity of the sale means and how it’s relevant to this sales process.

Carman explained that the polarity of the sale refers to situations where the customer exhibits a strong inclination to make a purchase, such as when they directly express their desire to talk to sales or when a consumer walks into a dealership already knowing the specific car they want. Carman emphasized the importance of recognizing when the polarity of the sale is not in one’s favor and adapting marketing and sales strategies accordingly. This involves measuring the activities of marketing and sales, considering the tone of voice and approach, and understanding how to navigate moments when the polarity of the sale has not yet shifted. Carman highlighted the significance of the polarity shift, where the customer recognizes the seller as the expert who can help solve their problem. He also discussed how the concept of polarity varies throughout different stages of the awareness funnel and underscored the need for salespeople to engage customers early on to work towards achieving a positive polarity shift.

Is there a book, blog, newsletter, website, or video that you would recommend to our listeners?




Kristin Thompson FallonFounding Member at Chief

Mike Nager – Business Development / Program Management at Festo Didactic

Jessica Woodside – Director of Marketing at WIKA USA

Monique Eliott – Senior Vice President, Global Brand & Communications at Schneider Electric

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