Change the Entire Trajectory of Where Your Ship is Headed

on January 30, 2022

LinkedIn Live's - Manufacturing Monday Motivation series with Michelle

The following is a partial transcript of the live recorded webinar, Manufacturing Monday Motivation, with co-hosts Curt Anderson and Damon Pistulka and guest speaker, Michelle (Jones) Miller. 


.../clipped opening conversation/...

Curt Anderson: Well let’s take a deep dive you are just an inspirational entrepreneur, you have a great business that I want to dig into, and kind of low and behold, dear to our heart for Dave and myself. We love connecting with folks in the manufacturing space and that’s, boy you are just a relentless marketer for contractors, construction, roofers, man of all things manufacturing. So I want to talk a little bit about yourself today because we’re going to we’re going to go back in time, but share a little bit about your your I love the What’s New in your business. I love the name of your business. Please share that with everybody.

MFG webinar Screen Shot

Michelle Jones: Creativate. It’s a blend of create, innovate, and cultivate all smashed together into one word so Creativate. That’s yeah. I officially, I’ve been doing marketing consulting on the side for a couple years now which you know, you really love when you’re doing it for your full-time job and then you’re doing it for fun on the side is that when your main hustle and your side hustle are the same thing. It’s like alright, I’m definitely in my life calling you know? So, yeah. So that’s what I do. I made the leap and my goal has always been to go out on my own. I come from a family of entrepreneurs, a family of manufacturers, and a family of really, really construction types of people and so this has always been my goal so it’s really exciting to finally be living things that you’ve wanted to do your whole life I don’t think I’ll ever be able to cap like their top 2021 with getting married and officially starting my business and all that in the same year. Um but yeah, let’s, let’s go for who knows what 2020.

.../clipped conversation/...

Curt Anderson: .../ /... manufacturing entrepreneurship runs in your veins you just can’t even help yourself. You have an awesome story about Mom and Dad, can you please share a little bit what’s going on with mom and dad and their entrepreneurial in their past?

Michelle Jones: Well, I am who I am because of my parents and I am unbelievably blessed to have the parents that I have. So Gary and Victoria Miller also easy to spell and pronounce names. And they (my dad and my mom) have high school diplomas, and they have a mindset of continuous improvement. They’re hustlers. They’re always like figuring out another way to do things or do things better. They always... growing up around dinner, we always had all these business ideas bounced around at the dinner table, we talked about work, my dad bought a wholesale millwork business in 99, or 2000. And grew it. And then, unfortunately, when the economic crash of 2008 happened, a lot of his business was going into construction types of materials and products. And in projects, which just took a nosedive. I think their business dropped something like 70%. And they went from 10 full-time employees to a small handful. They really felt the effects hard of that crash. And so my dad, who is he’s an engineer by trade, like the, you know, the school of hard knocks makes him like the best engineer in the world. So he was looking at, he was looking at all this sawdust that they were creating as a byproduct and that he was paying to have someone take away. And so he said, Well, what what can I do with this, I need to be doing something with us. So he figured out that you can take sawdust, pure sawdust, and compress it into blocks that you can burn as heat source or firewood replacement, and chimneys and fireplaces and campfires, you can use it for home heating. So he spent a few years tinkering with this, figuring out what’s the right blend of hope and woods. So it compresses the right way. So it has the optimum, most consistent burn. And eventually, they ended up liquidating the whole side of the wholesale millwork business to pursue this full-time. So when, during that time period, though, when my dad was doing all this development, my mom had gone to work for an insurance company and my mom and dad have always worked together. So she came back and did sales and marketing. And she’s truly an inspiration. She figured out how to do everything, everything, had always done the bookkeeping, but the sales and the marketing side, she figured it all out. She now coordinates all the shipping, she figured out how to get into Ace Hardware. She went on Ace Hardware corporate without a buyer without anyone representing Yeah, went out and got the account, you can now buy their product at Ace Hardware as well either and I think all the distribution center so all the store options to stock their products. And yeah, they sell all over the place all over the United States. And they get requests for international they sell to restaurants actually really love their products like the woodfired pizza places, as they don’t get all the creosote and all the national debt and it burns very consistently. Yeah. Um, so yeah, my mom and dad, they work together. They’re best friends. They enjoy spending all their free time together. They’re just they’re wonderful, wonderful people and they have a really a wonderful, it’s like the American Dream type of story. Right? You start with that’s kind of nothing and you turn it into something amazing.

Damon Pistulka: Yeah. Oh, that’s cool.

Curt Anderson: .../ /...Michelle, when I say this phrase, this is how we’ve always done it. What’s your response to that?

Michelle Jones: Like, well, then that’s why we need to break it.

Curt Anderson: Yeah, that’s why we need to break it right? Because a pandemic might come along, 2008 might come along, but take a little deep dive and not necessarily you know, we’re not being critical. Because, you know, God bless entrepreneurs we're a little bit stubborn, do things, we forgot it works, and hey, let’s keep running with it. But when you hear that, how do you tactfully or how do you approach your clients? I’m like, Hey, can we see a different way? Can we take a different approach, but when you hear that response, share a little bit of your insight or how do you tackle that?

Michelle Jones: I mean, if we go back to the examples and the parallels between 2008 and what happened with the COVID pandemic, especially as it affected manufacturing. We saw some manufacturers kind of shelter in place, hunker down, and just kind of, like, keep the lights on. And yeah, but then we saw so much innovation. And I think if you know, we’re not done with the pandemic yet. But I think I believe we’re on the tail end of it, hopefully. But there’s if you look back, and that the manufacturers that have really adopted and adapted super well, they become flexible, they become agile, they release new products they’ve gotten into new businesses, I am sure you guys have heard all kinds of really cool stories as I about manufacturers who took their products, and they use them in different ways. I was actually at Warner Rupp in IDEXX. When this happened, and, and we stayed open, because we were in a central business, so many of our products went to food processing, manufacturing, and hand sanitizer, all that stuff. And we had another business unit that actually developed the spray system to quickly sanitize a hotel or another hotel hospital. And so and it took off like that, and they went they just pivoted their whole, their whole focus towards that, and they made it happen. So when I hear clients, they’re like, well, we’ve always done it that way. I’m like, Well if you do it the way you’ve always done it, you’ll get what you always got. So yeah, you know, why am I here, we’re here because we want to grow, we want to shake things up, whether it’s we want to deepen customer relationships, we want to acquire new customers, whatever it is, if we keep doing it with the same mindset processes, materials, we’re not going to get different results.

Damon Pistulka: Yeah, yep. And that’s so true in that because you know, you’re going to get what you’re going to get and I think a lot of people don’t realize to on the other side of this is that they’re losing business now, because they’re not adapting. They didn’t see it, it’s moving little teeny increments, and over time that builds up. And there are competitors that are not standing, still waiting to be able to do whatever face to face, or however they sold before. They’re really taken the taken lead on some of these things. And you’d like you said, you saw people pivoting, you saw people looking at different ways to connect with their customers, potential customers, and really move forward. And other people are like, well, we’re going to hunker down and wait. And when we get back out, we’ll start talking to people. And it may never happen the same.

Michelle Jones: No. And I think it affects not only just the materials or the services that are produced to the products, it affects the mindset too. I mean, we look at labor, like labor is such an issue right now within the entire base. And so the companies that have been able to say, You know what, we can be flexible, or we can work with you on this, or we can, the ones that are able to do that also the ones that win. So it affects how you treat your customers, it affects products that come out, it affects retention, and employee retention. So I work with a business coach, so shout out to Christine Hawkman, because she’s awesome, but named her She named her business one-degree shifts. And it’s because we I mean, these stories, these incredible stories that we hear of these huge radical pivots like I just mentioned, they’re awesome, but they’re definitely the exception. They’re not the norm. It’s those tiny things that you do every day. Yeah, one degree at a time, that change the entire trajectory of where your ship is headed. And I think that’s really true for manufacturers.

Damon Pistulka: Exactly, because it’s not big, huge things you have to do. It's little improvements every day to keep moving towards the end goal.

Curt Anderson: .../ /...So let’s do a little role-play. Okay, so Damon and I don’t know if you noticed, we’re not so young anymore. Right? Well, Damon is but I’m not. So you encounter a couple of entrepreneurs who are you know, we’re Gen X, we’re digital immigrants or older, crusty. We’ve kind of done it this way. So let’s take a deep dive into marketing for manufacturing scope. Okay, so you got a couple of dudes like us and you’re feeling a little resistance on like, I don’t like social media. People are posting what they had for dessert on Facebook and that... talk a little bit about how do you tackle that, and what advice do you have for people on how to better network and market themselves through social?

Michelle Jones: Through social specifically?

Curt Anderson: Or just in general. Just online internet marketing however you want, whatever direction you want to go, you take the ball and run with it.

Michelle Jones: Um, I definitely experienced this on a very personal level within my career within companies that have been just they’ve just been very resistant to it, and I tried different things. So this is coming from experience, you can try to make them think it’s their idea. It’s obviously on Facebook, they’re not on Instagram, like, they’re not ever going to convince them that it’s their idea. I mean, never say never, but rarely you will convince them. Um, the thing that I’ve found, has worked for me is to say, just what do we have to lose? You know, we can stay here, and we can analyze all of these things that could go wrong, but what about all the things that could go right? So let’s test it, let’s trial run it, let’s give me 30 days, and you can approve, if it’s social media, for example, I will give you a bucket of posts, and you can pre-approve all of them, we can review weekly, I can let you know what’s going on. This is something that I am willing to stake, my reputation, my career whatever on because I believe so strongly in it. The other really cool thing that we have as marketers that we have never had before in the last, you know until the last decade is data. We have data that actually drive our decisions now, across every platform, and the data is getting so much more robust with all the different Google tags, and all the integrations that you can do between different platforms. So you can actually start to connect these dots. Whereas before you could never connect a billboard, you know, that’s maybe someone called us because they saw our name on a billboard. But also, that’s not really where our target persona hangs out. So it’s super, super granular, and super pointed with, "Hey, here’s where our exact ideal customer hangs out. Here are the things that we need to do if you create a customer persona." For example, one of those things based on this persona, which if you know, Damon, disagree, there’s I’m showing you this, this evidence, here’s our persona that we all agreed on, well, this persona hangs out on LinkedIn, they’re on LinkedIn, rather than trying to hit them with a direct mail or do a paid ad or something and hope they see it, let’s go directly to where they hang out. And let’s speak to them in their language. So I know that’s a lot of different things kind of all. But really, hopefully, there’s some good examples. If anyone out there is struggling with this right now, hopefully, one of those types of one of those nuggets will be useful to you in some way. And if something doesn’t work, try another method. But I’m also a little bit relentless. That was so so very persistent. So if someone isn’t in favor of something, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, it’s the right thing. I’m, you know, I double down on it. It’s something that’s done.

Curt Anderson: .../ /...So guys, entrepreneurship runs in Michelle’s blood, heavy-duty on targeting manufacturers, contractors, construction, roofers, you name it, she’s passionately going after it. So I’ve just done a little bit of role play, that may be playing a little bit of devil’s advocate of like, targeting a different generation. Let’s talk about the folks if someone’s listening to this right now they are head over heels in love. And Michelle, and we need some Michelle on our team. And so there is no resistance, they are just ready to rock and roll. Talk a little bit about your company and I and I love how you, you know, for so we’re gonna dig in Persona posts, so on and so forth. So folks that are raising their hand, say, Michelle, please help me. Let’s keep running with this ball right now. So talk, walk everybody walk us through your process and how you help folks, and how you make them look like rock stars.

Michelle Jones: Well, first of all, if that’s the point you’ve gotten to I applaud you, 100%. Because even just recognizing that you need to be doing something differently, especially within your marketing is a huge first step. So absolutely fantastic. So in my case, if I have someone come to me and say that and they will say they’re a manufacturer, I like to sit down with them and talk through their goals. Tell me about your business. Tell me about the background. Tell me about the history. What is your customer base look like? How many customers do they have? How often do they order? What’s the average size of the order? I mean, we go through, it’s all about No, I want to learn as much about it’s kind of like a date, right? I want to learn about you as I possibly can. And then what I do is if if there’s no plan in place, or not a lots been done, or it’s one of those situations where it’s Michelle, I know we need to be doing something but I don’t know what I take all of that information, especially what your growth goals are, which markets you’d like to target which products you’d like to see additional growth in. And I build marketing around those. So I don’t have a checklist of like, oh, every every every potential client I work with is exactly the same and gets the same is very, very custom for what your specific goals are. I have some clients that they want to deepen their customer relationships, they know they can grow their business Just by engaging with their existing already, that’s your goal, we’re not going to go out and start randomly. Doing Google paid ads, we have a group of knowns, you know who your people are, you know where your business is coming from. On the flip side of that, if you’re, hey, Michelle, I have this awesome product, and we want to get it out to the world, or, Hey, we just want to see our business grow. And we need to identify more prospects, you have a bucket of unknowns. So we got to find those unknowns, and we got knowns. So there’s different strategies that you put in place that and so then I love putting together these plans, because they’re, they’re so custom, and they’re so specific to each person and to each client. So and then we work together. And sometimes it’s me overseeing and making recommendations on different vendors, I work, I have my approved network of vendors that I personally have worked with, as a client with them before. And I brought them along with me. So whether it’s graphic design folks, or search engine optimization, or whatever, cherry pick, then who you work with, and you work with the best of the best. Yeah, you don’t have to get you know, you’re not getting an Asia typical agency. Where are you? You’re paying for all these things you don’t need. It’s very specific and very targeted. So that’s my, that’s how my business is structured. And that’s, it’s been a lot of fun that way, actually, because it is, rather than just doing a lot of things and hoping results. It’s a very targeted way. Kurt, we talked about niching and then niching. Down again, it’s from a client perspective.

.../clipped conversation/...

Damon Pistulka: Do you think that marketing has really become a part of sales? Because it is so necessary?

Michelle Jones: Marketing? Yeah. Yeah.

Damon Pistulka: Yeah. Well, I guess people call us marketing. But I’m just saying, a lot of people think of marketing as optional. And I’m thinking of it in the context of successful companies don’t view marketing as optional. They view it as part of the sales process. Yes, it’s not the same thing. But it is necessary if we really want to grow like we want to grow.

Michelle Jones: Yeah. And that’s why terms like sales enablement are out there. And that’s why it’s a huge part of marketing Account Based Marketing. One of my colleagues, Dave Loomis, wrote a book called Marketing is Everything We Do. And it’s so true because it is either you intentionally put energy into your brand or not, that’s still your brand. But Summit, I’m actually in New Orleans right now at the International roofing Expo. And yesterday was National Women in roofing shout out to all my women roofers out there. But I was talking to one of a very large roofing company actually and for years, they didn’t have a logo, they didn’t have a brand. They didn’t have any of those things. And we were just talking about how even your no-brand is still a brand, right? Like it’s, it’s, it’s when I define marketing, it’s literally from before someone hears about you in the first encounter they have all the way through finding your your people that are your advocates and your writer, your di clients, they would you know, they support you, or you they refer you marketing is everything in there. Because it is its brand its sales. It’s it’s it’s yeah, it’s literature, its materials and stuff like that, but it’s all those softer touch points to that make a big difference and and how you find your voice and how you talk about yourself. So whether that’s a sales pitch, or it’s the recording on the phone, or it’s the automated emails that go out your brand is everything and brand aligns with marketing. So yeah, if you’re, if a company isn’t embracing marketing, I mean They’re kind of their last bit, I guess you’d expect a marketer to say.

...//... Yeah, and I think we’re at a really pivotal point here, too. I mean, we are right at the cusp of, I’ve heard so many conversations. And I know Curt, this is also kind of your specialty. E-commerce for b2b. It hasn’t been completely figured out yet. There’s yeah, there’s a lot of different models. There’s a lot of different vendors that are getting into it. There’s a lot of businesses that are exploring it. So if you’re already behind right now, on your business model, you’re still keeping, you know, writing great notes. I mean, nothing against paper, I love handwriting notes. But if your CRM, for example, is still in an Excel sheet, and still like making copies of things, you’re a little behind right now, what businesses figure out how to do b2b e-commerce, the ships gonna sail and you’re going to be back at the court. I mean, I think is a really pivotal time to make sure that if the manufacturers actually get up to speed, and start to embrace the digital revolution, or whatever you want to call it, but really start to embrace how these tools, they’re not another burden. If they’re used properly, and you get the right tools. They can really, really power your business and help you grow.

.../clipped conversation/...

Curt Anderson: .../ /...What advice do you have for anybody going out there just so you don’t try and make this pivot trying to make a deep change? What advice do you have for everybody as our takeaway today?

Michelle Jones: Just get started, you can create the most grand plan in the world. And if it’s sitting there on paper, it doesn’t do an ounce of good. Make that post, change that piece of literature, update that one page on your website, just do one thing your one-degree.

Curt Anderson: One degree better, you know, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming doesn’t have to be daunting. Like you know, we’re not saying hey, scrap your Excel spreadsheet or you know, so and so forth. But boy, just start taking those little steps one degree at a time.


If you have enjoyed reading this snippet, you can watch/listen to the full episode, HERE


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