CCS Dualsnap: Paul Konrath, On Building a Lead-Generating Website for Manufacturers
Hey, so let’s jump into today’s episode. I have Mr. Paul Konrath here from Custom Control Sensors. He is the VP of marketing and sales. Paul, thank you so much for joining me today at IndustrialSage.Paul:
All right, so you’re coming in from LA. We were just talking about this before, beautiful weather, it’s perfect, and you’re going to Lake Arrowhead this weekend. That sounds awesome, sounds like good times. But for those who aren’t familiar with Custom Control Sensors, tell me a little bit about your company, what you guys do, and maybe some of the products that you guys make.Paul:
All right, yeah, well Custom Control Sensors was actually founded back in the late ’50s. It’s a family-owned business. Some of their early products were actually used on the space programs, the Gemini, the Apollo, and Mercury programs, and that got them started into aerospace, and they eventually moved from aerospace into industrial products as well, components for the most part. And the types of products that we make are typically called pressure, sense switches and sensors. They react to fluid pushing against the part of the switch or the sensor and giving out some kind of an electrical output.Danny:
Yeah, no, that’s awesome. I’m sorry, go ahead.Paul:
They’re fairly popular. I mean if you look at the average airplane there’s probably a hundred or so of these types of components on an aircraft. So you don’t necessarily notice them, they’re not a consumer item, but they’re heavily an industrial and aerospace product.Danny:
So are you focused just exclusively on aerospace and aviation, or are there other industries?Paul:
No, we’re one of the few companies that are more broadly-based, where we have a very sizeable aerospace component of our business, and we basically deal with all the majors, and most aircraft that are flying. We have some military applications as well, both airborne and on the ground. Anywhere you might have fluids and pressure. And then on the industrial side, we tend to use industrial as a broad umbrella, but a lot of oil and gas-type applications, a lot of processing, industrial processing. We have some other things in the energy power, your utility company probably uses some of our products as well. And then everything from Disneyland to Papa Gino’s Pizza uses our products.Danny:
So I’ve got a quick question, for those who aren’t familiar then with… you mentioned the Gemini project. So in aerospace, for those who aren’t familiar with that, what did you guys do? This is a really cool story, I’m an aviation and aerospace geek, so this I think is super cool.Paul:
So okay, and that goes back in time in the beginning of the Space Race back in the late ’50s and early ’60s. One of the first manned rockets that NASA put together was started with Mercury, and then the Gemini program, and eventually the Apollo. And what they did was obviously put a gentleman on the top of a rocket and fired it up into space, and the concern was when the spacecraft was coming back from outer space, or somewhere on the orbit, they had to be concerned about deploying the parachutes. How could you deploy the parachutes? Perhaps this person was injured, or who knows what happens. So they worked on coming up with a way to automatically deploy the parachutes for all of these spacecraft. And one of the ways they found was using a CCS switch that reacted to the atmospheric pressure.
So as the spacecraft fell back to the atmosphere, the atmospheric pressure built up, they monitored it, read that pressure, and at a certain altitude, the pressure in the atmosphere got enough to actually flip the switch, or flip our switch, and that closed the circuit that then started the sequence that deployed, well it knocked the cover off the spacecraft, and eventually deployed the parachutes out. And obviously, as you can know now in history, the landings were always successful. But it was a CCS, actually there were a couple redundants, which was just in case, but there were a couple of CCS switches that inaugurated the launch and the landing sequence. There was a switch in the main display on the main console, you had to set it to automatic. So it was sort of automatic just in case. But you could also deploy the chutes manually by flipping the switch the other way.Danny:
Oh, that’s cool, I think that’s a cool story.Paul:
And it certainly got our start. In fact, I was talking to, because it’s the 50th anniversary of the landings on the moon, Apollo is now starting to get a lot of recognition. And I did a little speaker run, showed it around, and the president said “Hey, we were also on the Lunar Lander, we were also in the Rover, the spacecraft, the buggy that they rode around.”Danny:
That’s awesome, that’s pretty cool.Paul:
Yeah it is.Danny:
That’s awesome. Do you have any other really cool applications like that?Paul:
I’m like you, I love airplanes, and… and we see applications like the… the SR-71, the black…Danny:
The Blackbird, yeah.Paul:
And B-52 Bombers, it goes way back in time. So we do some of that but most of our applications nowadays, well like the other day we were talking about one on the Abrams Tank, which you don’t think about. So we get a lot of those unusual applications from that standpoint. On the other hand though, anywhere there’s water, we come up on things, so anywhere there’s fluid we can get involved and that takes me all around the world.Danny:
That’s awesome, definitely some very cool applications. So let’s kind of talk about some of the sales and marketing a little bit with that. I would imagine obviously aerospace, defense, all these different areas, definitely have some unique challenges in terms of the procurement process, and selling. So I guess what would you say, how are you guys… I guess what techniques are you using, essentially, to get that message across and develop new business?Paul:
Let’s talk about the aerospace a little bit. Not that it’s totally unique, but it offers an interesting… The aerospace industry is changing from older engineers and old ways of doing things to the younger people, and it presents two different ways of… two different entry points into the industry. And we generally are a technical product, we have to deal with engineers, we design parts for usually some kind of specification. So an engineer is almost always involved. And we are a relatively small company. We’re not quite as big as Boeing, and so it takes a while to get into people, and finding the right people. Some of that is done the old-fashioned way, where you call on people, you ring them up, but we’re finding more and more the younger people don’t want to be bothered. And when I say younger, you know. But they don’t want to be bothered, if they want something they’ll look at the internet, they’ll look and see who’s using whatever.
So while we still do the old, we go to the Paris Airshow, we have a booth, we put out flyers, we make sales calls, we follow up, we try to make it easy to be seen, and easy to visit with. We also are finding that we need to find more ways to reach out to the people and get them to be aware of us. And once you become aware of us, then you can work them through the customer journey, as we call it. So that’s where we’re finding more with digital marketing, how to get people who don’t go to the airshows, who don’t necessarily knows us from, we have a long history, and a lot of people in the aerospace industry, once they know you and they’re comfortable with you, they’ll continue to use you. As the younger people come up, they’re not ones that designed the old aircraft, they’re designing new stuff. So we’re trying to find ways to get in front of them, to help them become aware of us, to help them reach out and see our products, and as I said, make it easy to do business with us. And that’s where the digital marketing that we’re putting forth is starting to show results.Danny:
That’s great, so we talk about digital marketing, a lot of times it just can be a big, nebulous term. What are…what have you guys… What are you guys doing? And a follow up question to that would be when did you start?Paul:
Not soon enough.Danny:
Okay, all right, all right.Paul:
It probably goes back to about 2005, six, seven, eight, I don’t know. But it was one of the old, kind of… it was a website. And then we thought that was all you needed to do. And a couple a years ago, about four years ago, not long after I started with CCS as a company, it stopped really doing us any favors, the website we had. So the first thing we thought was we need to have a platform so that you can bring us into the modern capabilities. Everything from building awareness, all the way through to eCommerce, to have an interaction, so that… Amazon’s a great example. But everyone gets their asset. So they said okay, the one thing Amazon doesn’t necessarily do is create an awareness. Everybody already knows it, but it doesn’t build an awareness to your product, because it’s the same. So we redid our revamp and actually started a brand new website. That allowed us more flexibility. Portals, communications, where you could look something up, you can come into our website and see what you’ve ordered, or want to buy. You can search for things. And at the same time, it did a much better job of allowing us to put content on it. And that was part of the search engine optimization, which is part of digital, my understanding, search engine optimization is a part of digital marketing, but it’s not the only thing out there.Danny:
We spent a year and a half, it is a whiz-bang, I encourage you just give it a shot. We sat back and said “Okay, now we’re going to see customers coming in,” and while there was an increase, it wasn’t to the level we thought was necessary, or that we wanted. So then we did a little more research and realized that the website is only one aspect of digital marketing. It’s a big one, and it can be in the industrial market, probably the biggest, but you also need, you mentioned earlier- personas. You need people looking for you, you need to find those people, or find a way to encourage them to come to your website. So we went out and we put together, we did the research, and we put together what I would say, from an industrial component and a product like ours, a roadmap, you know?
And so we realized that we have to find our audience, build our personas, look at who we do business with, or who we want to do business with, and create that audience, or that profile of that person. And we’re in that stage on that area, to build our profile and then look at our contacts, whether they’re our engineering peoples’ contacts, our diversity people, our salespeople, marketing people, and build up a customer relationship database, and put them in the different personas. And we do business with tire pressing, when we sell a switch that goes on a tire press, that makes tires that prevents the worker from being exposed to hot steam at high pressure. We also put things on the Orion spacecraft that they’re working on. We don’t want email blasts that are geared to this space to show up in the tire manufacturer engineer’s mailbox. So some of that where you’re sorting out your customer.
And after that, then there is the email blasts, where you do the whitepapers, blogs, anything you can, segment it to those specific personas, and set them up for those people with links to your website, or somehow to find your website. And once they’re there, we hope that there’s enough there to keep them interested, or at least to make them aware of CCS so at a future time, when they get into the product consideration point, they go “You know, that CCS had a pretty easy website to work with, let’s see what they have.” And ideally you have a call to action, whether it’s to request a quote, ideally at some point they’ll be able to buy the part, or specify a part. Then one of our salespeople would call them, and get in touch with them, and say “Hey, I see you looking at this substantive product, can I help you out with that final decision to buy it?” So does that give you enough understanding, or do you need more?Danny:
No absolutely, that’s great. That’s the… So you said about four years ago you started going into that, after the whole website change. Is it… How long do you think it took from “Hey, we’re doing the website implementation,” to getting to where you’re talking about now with having segmentation your emails, and content specific to those different personas. What would you say… How long did it take to kind of develop that and integrate it?Paul:
Ooh, that’s a trick question, and… It’s a never-ending process in some ways. But I would say that we seeded a three or four year program. The website took a lot longer than we expected, but I would say we were naive in both what was expected, what it took to really put out a good website. And that part of it was just looking at all our competitors, looking at some of the better ones out there and saying “What can we do, what does the budget allow, or what do we want the end product to be?” And then we went out and found somebody to help us with that. And while they’re a big company, we aren’t the only program on the block, and fortunately the gentleman in charge on our end put together a very clear profile of what we were trying to do. And that kept us from wandering off, because there are a lot of distractions that you can come upon when you’re doing that.Danny:
Yeah, absolutely, just a few shiny- squirrel!Paul:
Yeah, yeah, exactly.Danny:
Oh, I totally get that. So I’m curious, from an organizational standpoint, when you guys started going down this road, was there a whole lot of buy-in that you had to get, or was it just more generally accepted saying “We really need to start going down this road,” or what did that look like?Paul:
Well first of all I have very enlightened… the people who run our business, they’re very enlightened. My boss, the owner I should say, he recognized that the website wasn’t doing us any favors. And so when we brought the subject up that if you want to grow as much as you want to grow, we need a better platform to do that with. As a good boss would say, “Show me the plan,” and the stakeholders- we’re a relatively small company, so it’s relatively easy to pull together the key stakeholders. And he bought in, we did the whole plan, the budget, what was expected. We underestimated the time it would take, and the internal resources that were necessary to build up the databases that were required. But once we got the program rolling, it moved along. There were some parts where it dragged, where we had an agency help us. We held a pretty high standard, and we tried some new things, and they tried some new things with us, and I think we underestimated the complexity, but in the end the final results, just by pushing through, the final results bore out what we expected, and it came out real well, so. And he was happy, I’m sure at points he looked at the checks that were being written, and looking at it all, saying, how do you get a return on investment with a website? Well, it takes time. It’s not a switch, but we had buy-in from his level, and full support. And in fact there were days that he’d make sure we had regular updates, and weekly meetings and what have you.Danny:
Yeah, that totally makes sense. And that can be a scary thing obviously, writing the checks and saying “Hey,” you know. ‘Cause the reality of it is that this stuff takes time. Like you said, it takes time to implement, and not only, okay fine, it’s implemented,” and we flip the switch, it’s not like voila overnight, everything’s happening. Anecdotally, unless you have the data, I mean how long do you think it took to say “Hey, we’ve got a positive ROI on this thing, or at least we’re seeing some strong KPIs that okay, this is good, and we’re moving in the right direction”?Paul:
I would say we’re not quite there yet by his standard. We are… From a user standpoint we are seeing good metrics on the users on the website. People are coming, they’re spending more time. We have a very good global distribution base, and very good participation from their side, which is good, it’s a good measurement. We go out to all around the world, “Hey, you using the website?” “Yep, loving it, it’s great.” We see a little bit of reduction in workloads on some of our people here because people would call us up or come to us for questions, or certain things. Now they go on the website and they find what they’re looking for, and they’re happy with it. So I mean that’s part of the ROI that’s kind of hard to measure. It’s not just how many people on a website, it’s hey, we’re getting business that we didn’t have to write the quote, do the research ’cause people would go on there, find the part they wanted. And we have 10,000 parts, so some of that data and putting it out there took longer than we expected. But now that it’s out there, updating is pretty easy.Danny:
Yeah, so you mentioned another thing a little bit earlier, we were talking about eCommerce a little bit. And so you’ve kind of set up, do you have a fully-fledged eCommerce, from a payment system standpoint, or is it from more product catalog that’s an online kind of thing?Paul:
At this point it’s more of a product catalog. You come to us with your needs, and they will sort through your, do you want it in an explosive or nonexplosive? Do you want it in this environment or that environment? Do you want it made out of this material or that material? And it will steer you from, like I said, 10,000 parts, down to a couple. And in the end, at this point it’s not an eCommerce site, but now you can declare your needs: “This is what I want, how much will it cost, how soon can I get it?” So we see the eCommerce still a few years away. It’s a goal, it’s our, what do you call it, that’s our goal.Danny:
Yeah, no, absolutely. And so you mentioned it already before, and I probably should’ve asked this, and I didn’t think to ask ’til just now, but you mentioned your distributors. So are you…Paul:
What percentage of business do you do through distribution versus direct?Paul:
Okay, we use distributors in the aftermarket for the aerospace. Aerospace is, and in some ways it’s similar to industrial, but obviously if we sell to the aircraft manufacturer, that’s OEM, that’s ultimately adding things to the airplane. Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier. And then once they sell that to an airline, now that part has to be maintained. And so they would look for the CCS part wherever they can find it. And as you know, there’s a lot of airlines out there, a lot of people looking for parts around the world, and they generally want the part immediately, because the plane needs it to fly. So we’ve taken on a distributor that is a global supplier, and they put our product on a shelf, and that way anybody looking for my parts in the aftermarket would call them, granted there’s a premium ’cause it’s on a shelf, but that handles the aftermarket in the aerospace. But repair, I mean it’s overall type of requirements. That’s one.
On the industrial side it’s not unlike that, it’s just more diverse. So we obviously try to sell to people like General Electric that use our parts, GE, turbines, what have you. Once that gets put out somewhere in the industry, now people have to maintain it. And that’s where our distributors would come in. On the other hand, because the world’s a big place, and we’re a relatively small company, a lot of our distributors also sell to OEMs. And most of our industrial business tends to go through our distributors. We have… Yeah, the majority of it goes to distributors, and we’re good with that, because they build a local business, local customs, they handle the shipping, and where appropriate, they keep it on the shelf. Or if not appropriate, we might ship direct to the end customer, but we deal with it through the distributor. Either the sales rep, or as a distributor.Danny:
So bear in mind, with all of that, how is the, with the website and all the other digital marketing activities you’re doing helping to support your distributors? What benefit have they driven off of, let’s say having the product cata- catalogued, can’t talk… on the website?Paul:
Well, the first one is, customers, they need a part. Some of them know part numbers, some just know what it has to do. So they in the past would call up a distributor and say “I need a pressure switch, and I need it for this kind of pressure, and this kind of temperature environment, and this kind of a setting.” And the distributor would have to get out the old catalog and flip through the catalog, “Oh yeah, look at this one. Oh, that one too, well let me get you a price, let me see what I have here.” And so the first phone call is to the distributor, Him and the guy looking for a part. And the distributor says “Okay, let me get back to you while I look through the catalog.” And then he finds the part, and maybe he goes back, and he talks to the person about “Is this the right part? I’ve got this figured out there,” “Well what’s the price?” “Well let me get back to you, I’ve got to find the price.” “What’s the lead, when are you going to deliver it?” “Well let me find that out.”
The website is set up so now either the distributor or his customer can go into it and knowing the product, the pressure, the characteristic he’s looking for and the specifications, he can narrow it down to- it’s all drop-down menus- and filter it down to “Oh, that’s the part I could use, or that part.” And you read a little bit of either one of those two. Then when he calls the distributor, he now has a part number, says “I’m looking at this one, or I’m looking at that one.” The distributor can go “Okay, well let me go online, let me go to the portal,” and he can come back and say “Well I have some on my shelf,” or “I don’t have any of that, but CCS will have one tomorrow if you want it, let me get you a price right now while I’ve got you on the phone.” And the whole interaction, one phone call all the time, and then the customer can place the order if he wants to. Or if he doesn’t want to deal with the distributor he can come with us and put a request for our website. We get it, we respond to it, in our case it actually does go back to the distributor because we want the distributor to feel part of the interaction, and to have that chance to pick up the phone and talk to the customer as well. So we want to make it easy for the customer to do business with us, but we certainly want to make sure that we keep the distributor in the loop as best we can, and as automatically as we can.Danny:
Yeah, no, that’s fantastic, and I love that. We talk about this a lot, just ways of being able to make it easy for your distributors. Obviously the end customer, but when you’re working with distribution, essentially you’ve got kind of two different audiences a little bit there. You want to make it really easy for the distributors, so “Oh, this is great to work with these guys, ’cause they’ve got my back, information, I don’t have to go through all this rigamarole.” And the same thing for the end user, that customer there. So that’s fantastic. So-Paul:
Sorry, were you going to say something?Paul:
I was just going to say yeah, you made a good point about making it easy for the distributor because the distributor probably has, for that matter any salesman has a lot of products to sell. And you try to make yours as easy as possible, and at the same time you get a share of his mind, and that’s what you try to do is keep them, “Wow, it was easy to sell this product, or it’s easy to do business with them, so I’ll give them more of my mind share,” Because he’s got limited resources too.Danny:
Exactly, it reminds me of an episode we just released, by the time your episode that we’re shooting right now is released it’ll be a couple weeks later, but actually I had my father on for a Father’s Day edition. And he’s actually an independent sales rep for about, I dunno, 18 to 20 manufacturers in high-end building materials, so it’s fairly niche, if you will. But that was one of the things that we talked about was actually the challenges of independent sales reps relative to manufacturers. And just what manufacturers can do to make essentially their life easier. It’s sort of the same thing for distributors. And if you’re repping that many different products or companies, sure: price and rebates and all that good stuff is certainly part of it, but making it easy so that it’s like “Man, they made my life a million times easier, this is great.” That’s a huge win.Paul:
Yep, and so CCS has their foot in both sides, because in the aerospace market we have manufacturers, reps as you refer to them… and that’s usually done on a country basis. Again, it’s so they can talk the same language, they can reach out and be there quicker. And generally we look at areas where there is aerospace. Whether it be Europe, obviously, Germany, France, China, Japan. So we understand that something else the customers like to deal with is they like, at some point, to talk to somebody on a comfortable basis, and maybe the sales rep is not the top technical guy, and we don’t expect him to be. We look for him to be the relationship person, the person who knows the customer, who can talk to the customer, who can help along, keep that relationship moving, keep the discussion going. And yeah, tell us when we’re off the beam. Say “Hey, if you want to do this, you’ve got to do this, this is how people in Europe do it, or people in China do it.” So the U.S. is a little different because we have American distributors here. So some of them would call themselves manufacturer’s reps so they don’t carry inventory. I’m okay with that. Whether or not you carry inventory, long as you get the customer and you get the sale, I’m okay.Danny:
It’s all good, make them happy. So as we look to wrap a little bit, I guess my last question would be for those manufacturers that are on the fence and they’re trying to figure this out, trying to dial up, maybe they haven’t seen that ROI, or they’re a little nervous about it, what’s your message or your piece of advice to them?Paul:
Well first of all, thanks to people like Google, and Google Analytics, you can get a pretty accurate assessment of your return on investment from your digital marketing, or your website, I should say. You can see people click on the website and how long they stayed, what do they do, and ideally in your website there’s some call to action. Okay, I send you this, when you go to the website you place a quote, you ask for more information, some kind of a link, excuse me. Something that makes them do something. So you can see that I sent out this email, and that link was to this part of the website, and yep, the traffic picked up, and we got a lot of quotes for that kind of a product.
There is a leap of faith, no question about it, but the numbers, we’re starting to get enough data that says if you’re not out doing this, you’re missing a large opportunity. And you can keep going to trade shows, but how do you know your return on investment from a trade show, right? Or a print ad. And I’m not saying print ads are bad, or trade shows are bad, we do a little of that from time to time. But I like the idea of this website, Google Analytics, SEO optimization, because you do get numbers, and you can see the increases in the traffic, and the increase in the time people spent on your website. And the drop in the bounce rate. And ideally if that’s not increasing sales, then you’ve got a different problem, you know? You see “Wow, I’m getting more potential customers, getting more looks, getting more people interested in my-” These are people who are there not because they’re just cruising the internet, they have an interest in your product. If you don’t see a resulting increase in sales, maybe you have something else missing in the equation.Danny:
There you go, what’d they say, the famous saying that says information is power. I mean that’s really in this day and age, in the informational age it’s just that, we have information, and it’s powerful, and you’ve got the data.Paul:
No question, yeah. And as I tell my people, your perception’s one thing, but the data doesn’t lie, show me the data. Bring the data, let me see, see what you’ve got. And then you can start, you can move them wherever you want, you can interpret it how you want, but it’s data that you can use. And I do find that much more available in the electronic age, your website, and the digital marketing.Danny:
That is one of its strengths as people get more comfortable with the data.Danny:
Exactly, yeah, yeah. Well, hey Paul, well thank you so much for joining me today on IndustrialSage. For those who would like to come check you out, your website is ccsdualsnap.com, I get that right?Paul:
All right, awesome, so let’s check out the snazzy website, we’ll look at the product catalog. Obviously if there’s manufacturers out there that could use your product, give him a call. But thank you again for your time, and just sharing your insights, and your story, because I think it’s really helpful, and it will resonate with a lot of other people in our audience.Paul:
Good, well hey, it was a pleasure, I certainly enjoyed it. I was a little nervous at first, but you do a very good job, so thank you.Danny:
No reason to be nervous, thanks so much. All right, okay, so there you have it. Listen, I really enjoyed this episode, there’s a lot of key takeaways that I have. The things that are coming to mind first is I really loved hearing Paul’s story about how they started doing the website, and if I have the metric right, it was about 2005. It’s 2019 right now, that was four years ago if my math, or I’m sorry, that was 14 years ago if my math is right. And it’s an iterative process. It wasn’t something that was happening overnight, and I think that’s the biggest takeaway. And you’ve just got to keep dialing it in. And kudos to their owner there who was saying “Yes, we do need to do this.” And kind of punching through a little bit of that fear, saying “I feel like this is the right thing,” but sometimes you don’t necessarily get that immediate ROI, it’s going to take time.
And as you continue to grow and you continue to do that, you’re going to start seeing some of those benefits, you’re going to start seeing a lot of residual opportunities and different things, like for example, where customers might have questions about things, or where you might have to have phone support for that. But now, because of the information that’s on the website, they’re able to get access to that when they want it, which could be three in the morning or whenever, and is also helping their distributors. So… And I love the whole workflow of just kind of how they’re generating leads, and sort of processing it through the website, to be able to basically provide that information and that value to them. So hopefully you have a couple key takeaways yourself. Take one or two, implement them today. If you’re still trying to “Hey, we need to do this,” see what you can do, learn from Paul and what they’re doing, to implement it in your company.
So that’s all I’ve got for you today. If you have any questions we’d love to answer them for you. You can reach out to us at IndustrialSage.com/questions, we’ll answer them for you there. If you’re on any of the podcasting stations, we’d love a review. Hey, if you’re on social media, share the love. And last but not least, if you’re not on our email list, subscribe. You really, really want to do it, and here’s why. We have a lot of great content that you’re not seeing or hearing on the website. If you’re on the podcast or anything, there’s a lot of great stuff. There’s a lot of offers, there’s a lot of great tools and resources to help you be a better salesperson, be a better marketer in your company in that manufacturing and industrial space, and to learn about all the great new things that are coming out, ’cause as you and I know that marketing, all this stuff keeps changing. The core hasn’t, but the wrapper does. So anyways, we’ve got some great stuff for ya, I’ll stop hammering that. I’m done, I’m done yapping. Thanks so much for watching, and I’ll catch you next week with IndustrialSage.
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