21 min read

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome in Technical Marketing with Sam Morgan

As a solo marketer, it can be a daunting task to ramp up (and keep up!) on all things inbound marketing while also wrapping your head around the technical solutions offered by your company. 

 

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Sam Morgan, Sales & Marketing Specialist at Morgan Polymer Seals, wasn't always a technical marketer. He started his career in the music industry as both a songwriter and music label advertising coordinator. When he made the switch over to Morgan Polymer Seals as their solo marketer....well, you might imagine he had a lot to learn. 

Sam turned to books and podcasts to ramp up on all the ways marketing had changed since his college marketing classes. At the same time, he was taking a self-directed crash course in the business to understand their target personas, solutions, and value proposition. 

With all of this knowledge sinking in, Sam began putting best practices into action, measuring, and in some cases failing forward. He brought in expert help to guide him and tapped contractors too to make sure his time is spent in the smartest and most impactful ways. 

In the episode, Sam also shares some of his favorite tools and advice for fellow manufacturing marketers.

 

Resources

 

Transcript

The following transcript was created by an AI Bot which has yet to learn slang words and decipher Wendy's Texas accent. While it is no substitute for watching/listening to the episode, transcripts are handy for a quick scan. Enjoy!

My guest today is the solo marketer for a polymer seals company that's primarily focused in the automotive market. But as you'll hear through the episode, his early career was in the music industry, and when he made the switch, it was quite challenging to learn all things about marketing. While at the same time, ramping up on the technical solutions the company offers. You'll find out about the information sources he used then, and he uses now to stay abreast with the ever changing world of marketing. Let's do this.

Welcome to Content Marketing, Engineered. Your source for building trust and generating demand with technical content. Here is your host, Wendy Covey.

Hi, and welcome to Content Marketing, Engineered. On each episode I'll break down an industry trend, challenge, or best practice in reaching technical audiences. You'll meet colleagues, friends, and clients of mine who will stop by to share their stories. And I hope that you leave each episode feeling inspired and ready to take actions before we jump in. I'd like to give a brief shout out to my agency, TREW Marketing. TREW is a full service agency located in beautiful Austin, Texas, serving highly technical companies. For more information, visit trewmarketing.com.

And now on with our podcast.

Hey, everyone, and welcome to another episode of Content Marketing, Engineered. I'm here with Sam Morgan. He's a sales and marketing specialist for Morgan Polymer Seals. Welcome, Sam.

Hi, Wendy. Thanks for having me.

I am thrilled to have this discussion today. I know our audience is going to get a lot out of what you have to share, so let's start off by just learning a little bit more about your company in your role.

Sure. Well, Morgan Polymer Seals is a 25 year old automotive OEM supplier, so we make rubber gaskets and seals that go into cars. We supply to big OEMs like Ford and GM. And then we also supply to the tier ones that supply to the OEMs. So all said, we ship about 100 million parts per year. And again, mostly it's automotive so really cool business to be part of. And yeah, my dad started at 997.

97. Okay. And where were you in 97? How old were you?

I was 14 years old. Yeah. When he started the company, we had just got a home in San Diego. I remember he set up like one small little press to make parts in the garage. And I would go in there after school and I would make parts rubber parts while doing my homework trying to save up money to buy a camcorder. So I was one of the first employees.

And I love it. It's all about the camcorder where everybody had their goals.

It was a Spielberg and the making for sure.

Nice. I remember my first Sony Walkman. Walkman, Walkman, Walkman.

Yeah.

Good time. Well, what do you do with the company?

I sure. Well, like you said, sales and marketing specialist, I feel like really my job is to support our sales team and to support our marketing. But reading between the lines, you can probably tell them, I'm also the one person marketing team.

So what are a lot of those going around in our industry? Oh, yeah.

There's enough tools now where you can kind of effectively do it. But yeah. A few years ago, probably two and a half years ago, my background for over ten years was in advertising. So I used to be an advertising, mostly selling digital ad campaigns to enter company entertainment companies like music, record labels, TV and film companies, and did that for a number of years. And then a couple of years ago, my dad started talking to me about some of the challenges at his company. And I said, well, I could probably help with a few of these things.

I have some experience here, and one thing led to another thing. And then pretty soon it's a few things. And then before I know it, I'm really pretty much trying to create a marketing Department where there really wasn't one before. So I see my job as creating resources and tools to help educate our customers and also giving our sales people some really useful stuff to take into meetings. And then also all the inbound stuff, which I know we'll talk about that's kind of brand new. And so I've had to kind of give myself a a makeshift degree in inbound marketing in the last couple of years.

So that's a pretty dramatic shift to go from the music industry to automotive manufacturing and then to go from advertising to learn about inbound. So tell me about sent me through your process. How did you ramp up on both of those things simultaneously?

Yeah. Well, first of all, coming into a company, especially something in manufacturing, where there's a lot of engineers, there's a lot of engineering customers. When I looked around the industry, I saw that to some extent, there wasn't a lot of real style. There wasn't a lot of real, like concise messaging. So first, why did I just took a look at what we had and said, how can we just make these things look good? How can we just make them a little better? So refreshing the website creating like a proper presentation deck.

And then I realized very quickly that since I graduated from Cal Poly in 2004 with a marketing degree, everything about marketing has changed, right? So, like, there was really nothing.

Everything don't get me wrong.

My degree is paid off. The expectation was useful. But so what I did, actually, I start educating myself. And I got this book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR. And this is probably eight fixed edition. So this book is kind of where I started. And actually, the impetus for getting this book was because I wanted to start doing press releases, and I didn't know how to write press releases or where to even start. So I think that that was my Google search started there and then led me to this book.

And so that was when I basically cracked the book open and started giving myself an education on what is marketing in 2021. What is the most effective way to spend your money and your time?

That's interesting that you started in your role, maybe thinking a little more tactically. But then as you've grown, you're really pulling out and saying, Wait, how do all these activities fit together? What is my strategy? Where should I be allocating budget? That's what I'm hearing in that.

Yeah, that's exactly right. Yeah.

Now, at the same time, I mean, I know that you were in the garage helping dad when you were younger, but there's a big gap there. You worked in the music industry. How have you ramped up on the technical aspect of what your company does, the solutions they offer and the types of customers you have?

Well, again, it didn't help much to look at what the competition was doing, at least in our industry. Still, it's a technical industry, but I don't really feel like it's an industry that's completely embraced inbound marketing. So once I started reading, research, and seeing and seeing that we need to adopt an inbound strategy. And obviously, once I found content marketing, which I've got your book here to content marketing engineers. Once I found Wendy and I found your company, I started downloading your guys articles and educating myself on what it is.

And frankly, again, like the first year when I was just kind of helping out as a consultant, I had my idea of the stuff that we were doing was right. And then by year two, I'd thrown out most of that and realized I wasn't doing it. I wasn't doing it embarrassingly wrong when I was getting close to right. So I feel like in the last two and a half years, I just almost every month has been me trying to learn as I go. So I've been basically trial and error learning about what inbound marketing is, what content should be creating, figuring out who our customer is, what it is they want, and then trying to create that content.

But it's been just a process of trial and error, to be honest with.

Well, there's nothing wrong with that. And with the tools we have these days, you can measure more than ever before. And so with those trials, you have data, you have feedback, feedback, and you can just continue to perfect as you go the challenge, absolutely.

To be not only educating myself, but also battling kind of the imposter syndrome of feeling like I don't belong here. So I kind of joke with my dad. Early on, we start working together. I said, you know, probably the worst thing about hiring me to do your marketing is a complete outsider. You know, I didn't grow up in the rubber industry with rubber in my veins. And that whole thing, even though I did grow up with my dad starting the company and me visiting the plant and having some experience being around it.

So I came in feeling already like an outside. Then I also joke them, well, maybe also the best thing about hiring you that I'm an outsider. So I'm not just going to look at the website of your competition and say, oh, let's just do that. But in fact, I was actually trying to almost start from scratch, educate myself about who we are, what our goals are, who our customers, what it is they really need and what they want and then build content from there. So it was kind of it was a big, big challenge to learn and to, like I said, sort of fend off that impostor syndrome.

Yeah. And extra eyes on you, too. As the founder son, I'm sure maybe people didn't cut you as many breaks, or did people give you special consideration? Which way does it work?

I think it's all just the pressure you put on yourself. I think there's some maybe misunderstanding that if you're working for a family business and you're the founder son, that you must have sort of a get out of your free card. But the truth is, whether it's there or not, you feel a lot more scrutiny. You know, you feel a lot more. I don't know if pressure is the right word, but you feel a ton of accountability to make sure you're spending the money right to make sure that you're making good decisions.

That said, my dad's form of management is to let people rise and fall on their own, to give them the freedom to try things and make mistakes. That's why the company is so successful. I mean, he reminds me of this all the time. When I first started working with him, he would say to me, kind of joking, like, you just look at me and say, Well, Sam, just don't mess it up.

That's all he's saying.

That both completely sincerely and with a little bit of humor. I think about that all the time, which, you know, for me, what I take from that is try things and do your best and just start. But don't sit back waiting for someone to tell you what to do. Don't sit back waiting for someone to approve, but just start. And so it's been really cool working in a family company. But it's also completely different than any job I've had before where I had, like, a boss, you know, it fails, and you just got your number.

Just hit your number. So this is a little bit different.

You know, I think there's a takeaway to four managers to allow their staff to try things, to fail forward, to experiment. So that's good advice, too. There were there mentors that helped you within the company ramp up, or we're good people for you to bounce ideas off of.

Yeah. So my older brother, Sean, he's our chief revenue officer, and he worked from Morgan Polymer back in the early days and then kind of took off to have his own journey working for these big international, massive ceiling companies. And then now he's back working at Morgan Polymer. But all along, he's kind of the main person that I can always trust to talk to, because he is not only family and he makes himself available to me, but he's very much like. I mean, he is a rock star in the industry.

So a lot of times, if I have a question that I could have taken to my dad, he'd probably just say, just do whatever Sean says.

Which is nice, nice.

And then again, frankly, also Mark Colony or head of engineering, Todd Tester, VP of Sales. My cousin, Thomas Morgan is one of our design engineers. Now, these people have all made themselves available whether I've been learning about our business again from scratch and so much of its chemical, because we're talking about rubber. So I'm not a chemist. This is not my cover zone, so I'm constantly having to go to them to get information. But then in terms of mentorship for the actual marketing work, again, it's been partnering up with your company.

It's been just diving into all the resources available online that can give you some guidelines how to do it. It's kind of been a combination of somewhat self teaching based on the resources online for how to do inbound next. It just as much as they'll let me going to the folks that work for us and just saying, tell me what your challenges are. Tell me what our customers want. Tell me about our products. Tell me what works and what doesn't. So it's been beyond a team effort.

I can't imagine how bad this stuff would have been if I've been trying T write it myself.

And I appreciate how receptive it sounds like your internal leadership has been to you, coming with questions and just being open with their knowledge. Have you, in turn, done a lot of education on inbound market now that you've been on this journey for a few years?

Yeah. I mean, not only have I had to educate myself, but in order to get executive sponsorship, in order to have my dad and the really skilled people that have running this company for 25 years to be on board with it, I have to not only understand it myself, but I have to understand enough to kind of explain it to them so that they understand the imports, what I'm doing. It can't be just a good job, kid. You got us another article in a trade Journal. Here's your goal, star.

Everything that I'm doing, every dollar I spend, every hour I spend has to go towards building revenue at the company. And so it's been really cool. I think watching again, I don't think anyone had a bad attitude about it from the beginning. But we're talking about people doesn't mean our leadership team, almost all of them have worked at the company, like, since the beginning. Right. So I was having to take a company that was very good at what they've been doing for the last 25 years and just say, well, let's let's flex a little bit.

Looking to the future. Let's have a sales strategy. That's not just an outbound strategy where we're knocking on doors or calling folks. Let's think about this in a different way. I think it took everyone maybe a minute to see the importance of it. But now that we've been starting to get some inbound leads, and now that there have been some real connections and opportunities made because of this work, it doesn't take very long for people to say, oh, yeah, this works. Let's keep doing it.

Great. So it sounds like you have ways to measure ROI, and you're tracking those leads over time, and that virtuous cycle is going to get everybody so much more excited about inbound marketing. Is that engine keeps turning faster. That's right. Yeah.

And it's not, as you know, adopting an inbound strategy from where there wasn't one. It's not an overnight thing. Right. So you don't get that buzz. You don't write one case study, and then the next day have some bands of people saying, here's, millions of dollars, please.

What I thought it was is that easy so far.

So far, that make me look good. I think our expectations are reasonable. Again, I think the folks that are historically is leading the company, they see the benefit of taking a long term approach for sales. Instead of just saying, let's hire five more people, and again, throw more bodies at revenue, saying, how can we essentially have these tools working for us 24 hours a day? And it's a process. It's a long it's a long term strategy. It's not a short term thing.

Okay, well, as you reflect back on the past two years in your big ramp up, what are some tools that you found yourself addicted to or favorite projects that you've done?

Sure. Well, first of all, before I started partnering with True, I was doing it by myself. And one of the first things that I asked True to help me with was to audit my own work. So whether you hire an agency or whether you have a friend, do it, whatever it is, be willing to let other people tell you what you're doing. Good, bad and ugly. Try to not have a chip on your shoulder and be too precious about the stuff you've written to, the stuff you've made.

Some of the feedback I got right away early on was, hey, you've got the right idea in this marketing stuff that you're writing in these videos you're making. But right now it feels a little fluffy. It feels a little bit too surface. If you really want to appeal to engineers or to purchasing directors, which most of them have an engineering background, you got to get a little more technical. So some of the tools, again, were, frankly, just research, research, research. Go online, search for the subjects, what you're trying to educate yourself about and learn.

And then from there, go to the experts within your own company in terms of actual tools. Again, I keep it pretty simple. I'm using Squarespace for our website. It's possible that I'll probably upgrade a HubSpot fairly soon because now we're getting a lot more robust than the site. But Squarespace has been great. I'm using HubSpot for contacts. So now when people go to our website and reach out to us, we can track it and we can actually see those come in and have them automatically turn into marketing leads some of the stuff.

Again, maybe it's just exciting to me, but Canva, which is it?

It's exciting to the world just to really do this design platform.

So if you're like me and, you know, you have to do some graphic design. So early on, I was tiring out all of the design, and it was frustrating because I'm getting back professional work. But every time I have a note or an edit, I'm emailing them, and then the person's emailing me that and just the money and the time build it builds up. So for anybody who doesn't know who's living under a rock canvas, it's basically like being able to have, like a Photoshop or illustrator, except something that's easy to learn.

So that's been a great tool for me is again, kind of a one person marketing Department. I love using Grammarly for my writing. Grammarly is just again, an online writing tool that helps to edit your writing not only for grammar and kind of obvious mistakes, but also for writing style, so you can set goals like, well, this one needs to become an academic tone, very professional, this one's more general, more neutral. So it kind of helps you to write, which I love. Again, read books. I know it sounds simple, but just like read marketing books.

This other one I got to I thought was great. This book called Start With Why kind of about storytelling. So even though, again, I'm doing marketing for a manufacturing company that supplies to the automotive industry, in some ways, this is the most traditional possible industry out there where usually the answer is, how should we do it? Let's do it like we did last year because we don't work. And the number one thing you don't want is for something to go wrong because it was new, and then there's a warranty issue.

And then to start with Why and a lot of these books about storytelling, I think it still applies to a technical industry. So I've been trying to use tools that both teach me how to write technically, but also teach me how to write a compelling story and compelling narrative kind of a mix. And then again, the last thing I would say is just don't be too precious when someone says you did it wrong or you don't know what you're doing yet when you had your episode about the top six reasons why the marketing person is not respected within their company.

And I think the number one thing was you just don't understand your product or you don't understand what's going on your company. That really rang true to me. So just be diligent about learning and be willing, like you said, kind of to fail and to get up and try again.

And you're never going to know it as well as your technical folks within your company. So you're not aspiring to that level. That's certainly a level where you can talk to customers. You can give your elevator pitch, you understand the acronyms. So there's at least something beyond just the surface level there.

That's absolutely right. Yeah. You don't want to embarrass yourself in front of someone. You want to be able to speak knowledgeably. But yeah, there's no way I'll ever get up to the level of our Mark Connolly, our director of engineer, has been doing this for 40 years.

I mean, and if you did, you wouldn't be doing your marketing job. Right. Right.

Of course.

Yeah. So you mentioned manufacturing being very traditional. It's hard to be the disruptive force. And I was talking with someone just yesterday about Jeffrey Moore and Crossing the Chasm. Is that a book you've run across them?

I've heard of it, though. I don't know if it was maybe one of your guests recommended it.

But, yes, that's another good one. It's been around a long time, but the principles, even if you just looked up the adoption curve, it talks about how you have people who are really excited, technologists, and they're willing to take all the errors in the back. Things don't work perfect because it's new technology and it's disruptive. And then there's this huge cabin before you get to the rest of the world where you have an early and late majority where these people want to see that it's proven technology.

They want to see case studies. They want to see specs, see that that solution worked in action. And then you have finally the laggards that won't switch away from something they've always done, really, no matter what. And so it's a really good principle to apply to your personas and know which they are and how to write to that person.

So, yeah, Funnily enough. I think with our customers, it's still a bit of a mix. I think that you've got some folks that simply want whatever was done last year. A lot of people, though, are definitely interested in what's new, and even if they can't, you know, I don't know, always get something approved that's brand new. Like, again, when you're supplying automotive, it's all about having your material to prove it's all about having approval, approval, approval, approval. But that said, the way in which we make things can still be cutting edge, our ability to keep internal strap to a bare minimum, to be incredibly cost effective.

Those kinds of things you can invent new ways to do that as you go. And that doesn't really disrupt your ability to still be the tried and true part of the tried and true product. Yeah.

It's not always the product. Sometimes it's about the delivery of the product or the service behind it. That is the difference maker. I mean, look at Uber versus getting a cab. It's all about the experience, right? The product still the same. It gets you from point A to point B. Yep.

That's right.

Yeah. Well, Sam, what parting advice do you have for other manufacturing marketers that are new to the technical industry? Trying to ramp up, feeling overwhelmed? What lifeline would you throw to them?

Well, hopefully, if you're lucky, you in a situation where the people that you're working with aren't expecting some sort of incredible Banan of new business overnight. I would say, first of all, be patient, be patient. Keep checking yourself, keep checking your work, keep collaborating. But in general, I guess when you're feeling that imposter syndrome, just remind yourself that you're doing the work. I mean, you're learning something that is itself essentially kind of brand new again. I've got a marketing degree. I worked in advertising and marketing for over ten years, and yet this is still completely, essentially new to me.

So I guess maybe go easy on yourself, go a little bit easy on yourself and just keep at it. Persistence and patience and humility, I guess.

And along with that, it sounds like continue to keep up with the trends because it's going to change again. You may feel really smart on the marketing front right now, but wait two years, it all change again.

It's going to all change again. That's right. So, yeah, stay educated. Listen to podcasts like content. Marketing engineers know what it is your customers are listening to and ask them. I don't think the first thing you asked someone is. So how did you hear of us? I don't think you need to be like that. But talk to customers and get to know them. I think so often during a customer visit, the ideas, what we can't wait to get in and tell them about us. Here's a 40 slide presentation all about us.

I mean, what a mistake. Ask your customers about them. Talk to them.

I think one that you'll uncover by doing it that way. That's right.

One thing my dad has always led by example with is just that humility. He's now at the point where. Yeah, of course, I want our stuff to look good. But when we go to talk to a customer, if we come in looking like we're just the coolest kids in town with everything figured out customers smell that and they don't like that, you know, have some humility about what you're doing. So I think being willing to change, they keep changing, I guess.

Love it. Well, Sam, where can people connect with you and learn more about Morgan Polymer Seals?

So Morgan Polymer Seals com. It's M-O-R-G-A-N-P-O-L-Y-M-E-R-S-E-A-L-S com. From there, you can watch some videos I've produced that kind of show off what we do in rubber injection molding and plastic molding transfer molding. We have a really cool vision inspection system we've kind of invented. So I'm really proud of some of these tools and some of these innovations we've made for our customers. And I also love to talk about marketing. So if anyone has the guts to go on the website and reach out to me directly, I'll chat with you.

I'm an open.

Great. Yes, you are. And I really appreciate you just sharing your experience and the ups and downs of how these past few years have been for you. And I'm excited to watch your journey from here and what great things you guys do.

Well, really. Thanks, Wendy, for doing the podcast, because every time I listen to an episode, I'm reminded that it's kind of normal people like me that are trying to figure this out every day. And it does help to make me feel, I guess, a little more motivated to to keep at it. So thanks for doing what you do.

Good.

We're all in this together.

Absolutely. Alright. Bye, everybody. Thanks.

Thanks for joining me today on Content Marketing Engineers for show notes, including links to resources, visit True Marketing Com Podcast. While there, you can subscribe to our blog and or a newsletter and order a copy of my book. Content Marketing Engineers. Also, I would love your reviews on this podcast. So please, when you get a chance, subscribe and leave me your review on your favorite podcast subscription platform. Thanks and have a great day.