Source: The Kula Ring
Announcer: You’re listening to The Kula Ring, a podcast made for manufacturing marketers. Here are Carman Pirie and Jeff White.
Jeff White: Welcome to The Kula Ring. My name is Jeff White and joining me today is Carman Pirie. Carman, how are you doing sir?
Carman Pirie: I’m doing good. I’m doing good. Jeff, and you? I’m doing very well. I was going to say that this is going to be the one time that I was trying to try not to mention how your voice is getting better at the intro or whatever, but then it had really good ramp. So that when I overheard you in the washroom earlier practicing, clearly that it’s paying off.
Jeff White: It’s paying off. Yeah, no. The vocal coach dollars are really, really worth it.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. It’s going to take the podcast over the top. If this doesn’t get us into the top 100 internationally, I don’t know what will.
Jeff White: Yeah, well, I know my mom is enjoying the podcast.
Carman Pirie: Indeed. Indeed. Well, look, I hope your mom and all other listeners enjoy our next guest because I’m really, really excited to have her on the show. So why don’t we just jump right into it?
Jeff White: Sure. So joining us today is Kellie De Pooter from G&W Electric. Kellie is the Global Marketing Manager there. Welcome to the Kula Ring, Kellie.
Kellie De Pooter: Thank you.
Carman Pirie: Kellie, why don’t we get underway with just a bit of an introduction to G&W and your role there.
Kellie De Pooter: Sure. So G&W is an organization that’s been around for quite some time. They actually started in 1905 and they’re a company that manufactures electrical equipment from a switch gear to equipment that goes up on the pole and cable accessories, and also, we also provide distribution automation equipment and software programs to help with reliability program for the distribution grid. So I joined G&W in October of 2017 so about a year and a half or a little over a year and a half, I joined the company.
Carman Pirie: Very cool. So that’s long enough to have, very much get your feet wet, but, you know, short enough that you can still have a bit of an outsider’s view probably in an organization that’s been around that long.
Kellie De Pooter: Yes, definitely.
Carman Pirie: I was just wondering where did you come from before G&W?
Kellie De Pooter: So before G&W, I’ve had a variety of different roles in marketing and communications in industries such as retail distribution or electrical distribution. And then there was a longer job that I held with an organization called KONE, which is a Finnish-based company who manufacturers elevators and escalators, and I worked for them for nearly 10 years and led the marketing department for the North American market.
Carman Pirie: So that’s a … must’ve been very interesting. I mean, often it’s funny—I’ve chatted with a lot of manufacturing marketers who work within the American apparatus of a German-owned parent, but the Finnish parent is actually a, probably a duck of a different sort in a way. Do you find the marketing approach to be a fairly progressive at KONE compared to what you’ve perhaps experienced elsewhere?
Kellie De Pooter: Yeah, I would say I definitely did. The organization, well the company, KONE, had purchased a local company here that was based in Illinois, actually in Moline, Illinois called Montgomery Elevator. And that was my hometown. So that’s how I, you know, got in with KONE. I was living in that area at the time. And so it was fairly new in the, you know, acquisition of KONE purchasing Montgomery when I had joined the organization. So the Finnish mindset around marketing and communications and even just product development hasn’t, hadn’t yet really take taken over here locally in the US market.
And so when I joined KONE, there was still a lot of the, I would call it maybe old school thought process on the marketing function, and which was great because it gave me a big opportunity to expand and transform that whole department and really look at all the different parts of marketing and knowing that I was working with a Finnish-based company and they were very progressive and very innovative and creative, there was a lot of support in growing that function within the North American market.
Carman Pirie: This must have been an exciting time and I’m going to really be interested to see how that experience has translated into your new role at G&W and the change agenda that’s afoot there. So you’ve really come into G&W with a change mission and mindset from what I’ve seen. And I’d like you to take us through that a bit and perhaps let our listeners understand a bit more about kind of what components make up that agenda.
Kellie De Pooter: Sure. Yes. So I would agree that the experience that I had with KONE was a wonderful experience and really allowed me to explore all the different aspects of marketing and communications and understanding how it can really grow an organization. And so having those, you know, that decade of experience with them, I actually had another position or another job in between that and G&W, which was with an electrical distributor that was a regional company. And when I was brought into that organization as well, it was for the same purpose as to why I’m here at G&W and it was really to grow and transform the marketing function within the organization. So when I had mentioned about the situation for KONE, it was kind of similar where here at G&W, the understanding of what the marketing function is was really focused on a lot of traditional methods, meaning focused on putting together collateral and brochures and then also putting together promotional items and attending trade shows and that was a good chunk of the focus.
And so me coming in, I have a broader view of all of the other types of activities that you can bring and different channels that you can utilize from a marketing perspective and a communications perspective. One, you know, which everyone is familiar with today, which would be the digital area that at G&W we were quite stagnant and I would almost say a little stale in making sure that we were staying in front of our competition, that we were building our site so that it was up to today’s navigation, look, and feel. It was engaging, providing good content. So that’s one of the major areas that we have a strong focus on right now. And when I had joined the organization in 2017, within my first three months there, I had put together my, you know, five year vision and strategy for the department and presented that to the owner of the company.
Jeff White: What sort of organization were you coming into from a marketing perspective? Where there are a number of people in the department at that time or were you kind of coming in and expected to build it from the ground up?
Kellie De Pooter: I was expected to build it from the ground up. At the time I had came in, there was only one individual who was on the team at that time and that individual was just a few years out of college and so didn’t have a lot of, you know, strong experience yet. So it was definitely an opportunity to start to build the team and really grow and develop it to support that vision.
Carman Pirie: And that vision is really one of redefining, in some way, what the organization thinks of when they say the word marketing even, in combination with really a redirection of the tactical effort towards the more digital side of the house. Have I summarized that well?
Kellie De Pooter: Yeah. Definitely, digital is a part of it and there’s the, you know, it’s just, as I was mentioning there, it’s much broader focus and really looking at other ways that the marketing department should be supporting also other parts of the business from product development to the sales organization and making those connections between those teams which didn’t really, wasn’t in existence when I had joined.
Carman Pirie: So I’m assuming when we’re talking about the how the marketing can serve product development, but some of that, at least, must be partly a voice of the customer research or what have you?
Kellie De Pooter: Yes, exactly. And so we have been spending a lot of time this year working through our new product development process and the stage gate process and looking at different ways that marketing can support, you know, determining what feasibility of a new product would be out in the marketplace, what’s the market potential, what’s the voice of the customer, what are they saying, what are their unmet needs? Looking at different geographies and understanding where this particular product might be a good fit and really just trying to determine where the opportunity is for us to grow.
Carman Pirie: And I can appreciate that that’s fairly early on so far, but at the same time, you know, have there been any kind of early adjustments or wins that have come out of that VOC work in combination of product development?
Kellie De Pooter: We are in, as you said, the early stages. A lot of the products that we have in development right now where we’re taking these new processes and utilizing them. You know, internally we’re seeing success and people are starting to see the information that we’re gathering and seeing how it does have an impact on how we want to go to market. And it’s, you know, really helping people to understand how it ties to sales forecasting and the success of the launch of a product, and you know, seeing how it can grow, you know, after you’ve done your launch for the next five, 10 years or so. So it’s, I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s been anything externally as a success, but definitely internally, I’m seeing a lot of, you know, support and eye opening of our team members and people really understanding what we’re trying to do.
Jeff White: You mentioned a sales forecasting there and part of what you’ve been doing is the implementation of Salesforce and and getting a CRM up and running. How has that process been going and how is it being accepted by the sales organization?
Kellie De Pooter: Yes. So we are in the very early stages of that project. We have had Salesforce as a CRM platform for a couple of years now and so even before I joined, we actually had the platform. We just had not yet really rolled it out to the full extent that our entire sales force was utilizing it. And so that’s really what our next phase is for this project. It’s really to utilize the platform for what it is and for it to be able to be a good, you know, tool for us from automating a lot of our processes that we do, providing visibility for all of the people who are participants in a project or a bid or have a relationship with our certain customers and accounts. Right now, you know, it’s one of those that were looking for us to be able to not utilize as many different platforms in different types of software programs and actually have everything all in one place so we have better visibility and we can collaborate better and we can be more efficient with our processes.
So when you asked about how it’s being accepted, I would say at this point, I can’t necessarily answer that from a sales perspective because it’s really just been me sharing with our sales organization that it’s coming and trying to, you know, build it up with them before we start to actually get them utilizing it, doing a lot of training, and really the training’s going to be the biggest key when we do our rollout. And so we have a strong focus on that at the end of the year so that when we start off in 2020 we have a solid training program in place with our sales organization so that we can support them. We do have some of our rep agencies who, already today, use CRM systems at their own companies. Some of them use Salesforce and so we do have, you know, part of our organization who is eager for us to start this and implement it, which is great.
Carman Pirie: Kellie, I love the picture that you’re painting here because it, I think, it shows truly the complexity of a digital transformation as it’s kind of underway. I mean, we’re talking about adjustments to the sales organization, change management that needs to happen as part of that of course, as well as the technology through to voice of the customer work as well as a new site as well-
Jeff White: And product development, like how this all impacts what’s actually being sold. I mean, that, at the end of the day.
Kellie De Pooter: Yeah.
Carman Pirie: So you’ve had a full plate, but again, it’s got a sense that you’ve made it even more full because you’ve also looked at the G&W brand more broadly, haven’t you?
Kellie De Pooter: Yes. We … Right before I had joined the company actually invested in doing a brand study, which was fantastic. I was really excited that, you know, they had taken that action and gathered that information and it was very educational for me. When I joined the company, it wasn’t that I necessarily was familiar with G&W but I was not, I felt that, you know, through my interviewing process and meeting the folks that I met with, that the company had a strong presence and a strong brand. And when I had read through the study that they had done, there was definitely some things in there that, you know, we’re kind of red flags for me, that really made me realize that there was a lot of opportunity here.
And you know, G&W does have a strong presence in certain markets such as with the domestic or US utilities, but there’s a lot of other opportunity for growth out there with the commercial and industrial markets and you know, looking at renewables and you know, wind and solar and a lot of other opportunities out there that we don’t necessarily have the strongest brand presence. And especially from an international perspective, we have coverage with sales across the globe, but at the same time our presence out there from a brand perspective is not the most strong situation to be in.
And so those were things that I had realized and saw through that study that we had a huge opportunity. And I had looked at just some simple things about our branding where, you know, we use G&W, which if, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen or noticed, but there’s a lot of G&W companies that exist globally and well, there really isn’t, you know, without any kind of simple descriptor, nobody really knows what you do. And so we recently changed our logo. We’ve kept the G&W but we’ve added electric after the name just to help us differentiate ourselves from the thousands of G&W companies that exist out there today. So we’ve made some simple changes, but even when you do simple changes like that, just trying to make the internal changes, they’re much bigger.
Jeff White: The Kula Ring is proud to be a media sponsor of the 2019 ManufacturED Summit conference, which is being held September 16th to 18th in Chicago, Illinois. Carman and I will be live on site recording interviews for future episodes of the Kula Ring. You could save $200 now with the discount code, kulapartners200 at manufacturedsummit.com. Thatʼs manufacturedsummit.com.
Carman Pirie: I’m just trying to think of if you said, I think 1905 so if my math is correct, that’s 114 year old company.
Kellie De Pooter: Right.
Carman Pirie: I guess, but is it a surprise to the leadership that they maybe weren’t as well known?
Kellie De Pooter: It was. You know, I had actually, when I gave my presentation to my boss and to the owner of the company in December of 2017 with my vision, part of the support for why I had the vision that I was presenting was around the results of this brand survey. And they had seen the results even prior to me coming in and talking to them. And so they were aware and it was definitely eye-opening for them. You know, the one challenge we, I don’t know if I would say it’s a challenge. It’s actually a positive. I mean, our company is significantly growing and so we’re not in a, we’re not really struggling, but at the same time we still want to grow in other markets outside of the IOU or the utility market and we need to have a consistent brand and our brand has not been consistent.
I showed, you know, when I was doing my studies and trying to do more research around our brand, I could find a minimum, you know, seven different logos that were being used all over the world and we’re not consistent. And so that was one of the other big changes was if we’re, if we are really serious and trying to grow as a global organization that we need to be one global company with one global brand. And so for the last year and a half I’ve been pitching that and trying to educate our leadership on why that’s important. And then earlier this year, the approval came through that yes, you know, the leadership team was in agreement and supports it and so now we’re able to move forward with really implementing that one global brand.
Carman Pirie: And as part of that, of course, getting to an enhanced level of visual consistency is the, is a pretty low hanging fruit when you’ve got that many logos kicking around. Is your brand worth moving beyond that as well, to look at how the brand is actually positioned and revising the messaging and how it’s talked about?
Kellie De Pooter: Yes. Yep. Actually, one of the first things that we started was really around our value proposition out in the marketplace. It really wasn’t the visual side of it. So we, last year for pretty much all of 2018, that was a lot of the work that I was doing with in regards to the brand and working with our owner and our leadership team to refine what our value proposition is out in the marketplace and how do we want to position ourselves and differentiate from our competition.
And now 2018 was really one of the first times, was the first time, where we were able to start to implement those key messages and you know, pillars of our value proposition out in our marketing activities, you know, with our graphics and our online or social media and all the different channels that we’re utilizing to have that consistent message that’s positioning us as a differentiator in the marketplace.
Carman Pirie: And I’m assuming that the, I mean, this would impact how the sales organization speaks of the firm. Have they … How receptive have they been to and have they been able to get any kind of customer feedback from the, from that shift thus far?
Kellie De Pooter: So I haven’t heard any specific customer feedback. I can say that the sales organization has been very supportive. A lot of the work that … I’m a firm believer of having a strong, close relationship with the sales organization because obviously marketing is a support function for sales, but also we can help drive sales and we can complement the work that they’re doing out in the field.
And so to, you know, when we’re making changes in the organization, if it’s CRM, if it’s the website, if it’s, you know, changing the brand or adjusting it and creating a value proposition, I believe that you’re going to be more successful if you engage the sales organization and get their input and feedback. And so they were a big part of this work that we’re doing and providing their guidance in how they thought that we were positioned in the marketplace and how we could differentiate. So it was a good collaborative effort between the groups. So they’ve been very supportive and they are very excited. It’s been a lot of positive feedback around what they’re seeing, you know, with the presentations that they’re giving to their customers. We’ve revamped all of the templates and the formats and even the messaging in there to support what our value proposition is and how we want to position ourselves with the customer and they’ve been very pleased with what they’ve seen.
Carman Pirie: Can you give us a sense of how the value prop has actually shifted or how you’ve changed how you talk about it?
Kellie De Pooter: Well, it’s very, it’s kind of interesting because with, you know, how I’ve mentioned that we have a strong utility base customer and we are looking to really grow in the commercial and industrial side of it, which is a completely different customer segment and they have different needs. They manage their projects very differently. Their budgets are very different. How they get their funding is very different and so we really needed to spend time understanding how do we create this one value proposition that’s going to speak to all of these different types of customer types? And this is a lot of the work that we’re trying to do on the website right now as well is to make the experience for the customer when they get there relatable to them. We don’t want a non-utility customer coming to the site and feeling like, “Oh, this is just built for a utility and isn’t really addressing what my needs are.” So we’re spending a lot of time trying to create that environment and that experience that supports all of the different types of customers. And so yeah, go ahead.
Jeff White: Oh, I was just going to ask and kind of leveraging off your comments about the website and what your intentions are for the, you know, in terms of people self identifying as they arrive there, one of the things that we’ve, we talked about beforehand was how you’re also looking to implement marketing automation and well, what are your plans in terms of utilizing tools like that in order to be able to speak differently to different types of customer personas?
Kellie De Pooter: Yes. So we also, as part of our program this year, have added on marketing automation as a new platform, which we’re very excited about utilizing and it definitely has functionality around it that will help us see the activity in the traffic and you know, what are our customers doing when they’re on the site? What are their behaviors? And which will help us drive business for our sales organization before they even know that this customer might even exist. So I think, for me, that’s one of the most exciting parts about it because I want to transform this marketing department into a driver of sales and the website’s going to be a major tool to help us do that along with the marketing automation.
Jeff White: Very cool. You mentioned there that you’re a, you know, you’ve been growing the marketing team as a result of this push to digitally transform or transform G&W, what’s the team complement look like now?
Kellie De Pooter: Yes. So I had mentioned that when I joined I had one individual on the team and so since I joined I have added two new individuals to the team, and then there was another individual who was, has worked for the company for 10 years and she’s a market analyst and so she is the one who supports us in our market research and the voice of the customer. And so I was able to … We made a shift and added her onto my team as well and that’s been an absolutely great addition to the whole marketing department. So we are a team of five? Yes. Right now.
Carman Pirie: And I’d be curious Kellie, in your … because you as you’ve pulled together this five year transformation plan, where do you see that going? Are you seeing it really scaling up an internal team? Are you seeing a hybrid model where you stay pretty lean and lean on outside partners more frequently? What’s that looking like?
Kellie De Pooter: So I envision that the team will probably still stay somewhat lean and there are … I’m a believer that there’s benefit in having a good mix between your internal skillset and expertise and also utilizing outside expertise. So I like to have a balance. There are certain roles though that I feel are more important to have inside like a digital, you know, marketing manager or some form of a digital responsible person on the team. And so that is definitely an area where we have for growth. And then, you know, the other area is to expand hopefully someday globally so that we have local support who understands the local markets and can work with local vendors and local agencies and support us from that perspective versus us, you know, working really hard and trying to support our international needs from Illinois.
Carman Pirie: Understood.
Jeff White: Fair enough. I mean, do you see specific countries where that is a really needed compared to others perhaps?
Kellie De Pooter: Well, we have, you know, we have manufacturing facilities in Shanghai, Mexico, Canada and then here in the US and I think that the logical first step would be to, if we were to add somebody, it would be where we have an office or you know, we have some setting of a corporate setting. So you know, Shanghai would be a potential to support our Asia-Pacific area. We do have a sales office in India as well. And then you know, our Latin America and Mexico is another key area. Canada and US have a lot of similarities within the products and also the customer base, our sales organization, and so that one I think is a much simpler and easier, you know, area for us to cover from, from the US.
Carman Pirie: That makes total sense. Although, I must say, as a Canadian, I feel like I have to do my country a bit of a service here and just encourage you to expand that role in Canada.
Jeff White: Well, for sure. If for nothing else so that you say niche instead of niche when you’re up here. Yeah.
Carman Pirie: Well and adding one additional job in Canada, given the size of our country, like doubles our employment rate.
Kellie De Pooter: Right, right. Yes. And I respect, I respect that commitment.
Carman Pirie: Kellie, I wonder if you could give us a glimpse, if we’re looking around the corner, as to what’s next on this five year journey. I know you have an awful lot on your plate right now and I’m curious what else is going to come onto that plate in the next little while.
Kellie De Pooter: Yeah. So you know, as I mentioned earlier, one of the big goals for this whole transformation is really to create marketing as a function of driving sales. And so I really want to continue building up our presence digitally and taking advantage as much as we can of the marketing automation and utilizing that to support campaigns that generate leads that hopefully turn into sales. We’re just now starting with a couple of campaigns this year. We just kicked one off for fire mitigation for the West coast and areas that you know struggle with electrical ignition and causing wildfires. And so this is pretty exciting for G&W because this was a first campaign that actually is encompassing. It’s a tight faceted campaign and it’s using multiple channels and that’s not something that we’ve traditionally done here.
So people are very excited about it and we’re kicking off another one later this week on a specific product that’s in a new market that we have not really played in before. It’s in the low voltage market and so we’re going to be doing a brand awareness campaign. So I would like to see us developing more of that, to help us become that driver of sales. Some of the other areas I would say, really, is still continuing and pushing to grow internationally. And then I would really like to look at building some educational programs where we are supporting our customers. We do a lot of presentations and educate our customers. But I’d like us to create more of a continuing education program where we’re providing them with those credits and things like that.
Jeff White: I liked that the, you know, the goal post for this are largely around sales and performance of campaigns. And I wonder are you the one setting the KPIs for where you hope these things go or is that coming from the management and ownership?
Kellie De Pooter: No. It’s coming from me and really it’s, you know, based off of just past experience and knowing what’s successful, what’s not successful. But I also feel that depending, you know, each company can be different. Their markets can be different, their customers can be different, and so your KPIs may have to adjust. So it’s always kind of a learning curve.
Carman Pirie: Of course. I wonder, I mean, we’re 18 months into the gig or what have you. You know, that’s a long enough to maybe have a few battle scars. So along the way. Would you give yourself any advice if you were starting that role again, something that you know now that you wish you knew then?
Kellie De Pooter: That’s an interesting question and you know, I think for G&W, I’m going to kind of turn this on in a different way, because G&W, when I interviewed with you know, six, I think it was six different people in one day. It’s a long, long day of interviewing here at G&W. And you know, I wanted to really understand the culture and I wanted to understand how the organization operated and what their view was on the employees and work life balance because I’ve worked for some other organizations that were a little bit more toxic and I really didn’t want to fall back into that situation. So it was extremely important for me to find a place that I could feel comfortable and feel supported and really want to grow and stay and everyone was extremely positive and just didn’t have anything negative to say.
And you know, at first I’m kind of like, “Okay, you know, that’s normal and people don’t want to, you know, scare you in an interview process,” but I can tell you 18 months later, everything they said is true. And this organization is led by a very amazing owner. He has a unique ability to have a great personality, but be business savvy, very customer and employee focused. And so that bleeds down and into the whole organization and everyone is just very supportive and very friendly. And I’ve never been in an organization where I have had as much support with as much change that we’re trying to implement in this organization.
Carman Pirie: I think that’s really instructive to marketers who are looking at taking on a new role and kind of surveying their options and because it, you have to have the environment that enables you to perform. It’s not just whether or not you know what to do and you have the wherewithal to see it through, but is the, you know, like you said, there’s the culture. It’s the environment. Is it there to support what you’re looking to accomplish or is this something that will work against you? So I think it’s maybe not something that advice that you’re giving in hindsight so much as I think something that you, you’re reaping the benefit of the 18 months later.
Kellie De Pooter: Yes. And I agree with you that it is key to the success of any marketing transformation to have to have good leadership support. And if you do not, then it’s a, it is a big struggle.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. I mean, marketing can often struggle to get executive leadership at the best of times, just, you know, for the day to day, let alone trying to navigate a significant amount of transformation without it. That would be a death blow.
Jeff White: Yeah.
Carman Pirie: Kellie, this has been a great chat. I really thank you for taking us through this transformation and kind of, I guess, in some ways opening the covers a bit and showing us as it’s going, you know. We’ll be really excited to catch up with you in a in a year or two and see how we progressed. I look forward to that.
Kellie De Pooter: Yeah, definitely. I appreciate you guys inviting me. Thank you.
Jeff White: Thank you.
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