Learn how a machine tools company uses video and podcasting paired with co-marketing and an action-oriented agile process to grow awareness.
Eddie Saunders Jr., Head of Demand Generation for Flex Machine Tools, is a highly energetic and action-oriented marketer. He and a team of five colleagues collaborate closely to quickly assess marketing ideas and get them accomplished. This agile process has led them to be early to market with new platforms such as LinkedIn live, and they are not afraid to take risks with fun, humorous educational content that many larger manufacturing companies tend to shy away from.
One of the biggest game-changers in their marketing program was what Eddie coined "buddy marketing" where Flex Machine Tools pairs with complementary manufacturers and distributors to expand their reach by tapping each other's networks and defray costs. Some examples include advertising and tailored videos.
Where Eddie seemed most passionate was when talking about the Flex and Friends video podcast, which he hosts. He is thrilled to give others in the industry a platform to tell their stories and learns something new from every interview. Each interview is repurposed in numerous ways to extend the content investment.
Speaker 1:Get ready because today's episode is fast paced and high energy. I've brought on a guest that describes himself as a human megaphone, if that tells you anything. But his day job is a marketer for a machine tools company, and they're using a lot of innovative techniques compared to other manufacturers, and it's working very well for them. So you'll hear a lot about video, podcasting, LinkedIn live and how co-marketing and partnering with other companies have led to collective growth. They use an agile process, which means they move very quickly to adopt things and try things out and just dove in headfirst, as he says during the episode. And he shares lots of techniques and advice that's working for them. Let's do this.
Speaker 2:Welcome to Content Marketing. Engineered your source for building trust and generating demand with technical content. Here is your host, Wendy Covey.
Speaker 1: 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 action. Before we jump in, I'd like to give a brief shout out to my agency. True Marketing. True is a full service agency located in beautiful Austin, Texas, serving highly technical companies. For more information, visit true marketing dot com. And now on with our podcast. Hey everyone and welcome to another episode of Content Marketing Engineered. I'm joined today by Eddie Saunders. He is the head of Demand Generation at Flex Machine Tools. Welcome, Eddie.
Speaker 2:Yeah, appreciate you having me. It's a good day to have a good day and talk about some really cool things in the marketing world.
Speaker 1: Absolutely. So in preparation for this interview, I did a little digging on your LinkedIn and I saw, you know, you have your formal title, head of Demand Generation. But the first title that caught my eye and I think this is in your headline is The Human Megaphone.
Speaker 2: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. For volume and content purposes, you better believe it. You better believe it.
Speaker 1: Awesome. Awesome. Well, I need to hear more about that. And I have a feeling that all will be answered as we walk through this interview today. So let's start out with your career. You know, again, my LinkedIn stalking that I did. I see you had a pretty big mix of marketing and sales positions. So maybe walk me through your professional journey and how you got to where you are today.
Speaker 2: Yeah, sure. So, like, I knew very early that I wanted to be in the marketing and advertising world. I was that kid randomly enough. My parents remind me often, and I'll never forget, if you will, that whenever the commercials would play on TV, you know, I'd run into the room and I'd be watching the commercials. And as soon as the commercials were over, I'd go run back to my toys and play. And I go, Oh, you're kidding. But as soon as the commercials and I can't make this up, they remind me often, like you just you should have been in my you deserve to be in marketing, yada, yada. And so I just knew early on, I just was fascinated by just creating and telling the story and and doing it and just creative ways. I thought that was awesome because there's a big artist component to who I am, which I'm sure we'll dove into. But from that point, so getting my degree in marketing was a big thing, but it was it was difficult for me to tell that look for entry level jobs. And I also know that colleges are free. And my dad said, hey, if you don't get a job when you're in college, I'm not going to pay for it. So you better figure it out, Eddie. And I'm like, Oh, cool, let's figure this out. So I applied for seven jobs, I think in 2 hours at the mall that was in the the city that I went to college in. And one of those jobs that I ended up being a Verizon Wireless sales job, little kiosk in in the Lima Mall.
Speaker 1: Oh, no, it's it isn't. So that.
Speaker 2: Yeah. It was a thing because I was just full of enthusiasm and really empty and the experience world. And so that actually turned into about a ten year sales career where I was really lucky to be able to work for a Fortune 500 company at a high level sales role as well as, you know, work with small and medium sized businesses. But a lot of my experience in the sales world just so happened to be in consulting for like marketing and advertising platforms and vehicles, if you will. So it was really convenient to be able to have the scratch that itch, but also just utilize some of my God given gifts and abilities to just connect with other humans and running through all those various roles. I even had a consultancy myself where I was a marketing consultant, so I kind of was able to scratch both those itches again, and that led me to flex where I started here, actually overseeing all of our sales operations in the western U.S. But I can't help myself but to just look at everyone's marketing programs, I'm just wired that way. And through that I was giving advice over about a one year period and they said, Hey, you're going. When has enough advice? Just come on over to the marketing department. And then here we are. Here we are. I get to make all the noise, push all the buttons and be obnoxious and be the human megaphone, if you will, is having a great time doing it.
Speaker 1: Nice. And tell me about your marketing department. Do you have a full team there? Just a few of you.
Speaker 2: Honestly. Like we're really blessed because for a manufacturing facility we have a five person and one intern department in our reality. So not only are we able to provide an experience to at least at least one intern every single year we have a graphic designer slash web developer. We have our marketing manager who sees a lot of our lead gen and a lot of the technical side of it, you know, are just our funnel generation, things like that. I have not one, but two absolute gangster videographers. And then there's me where I do a little bit of everything, so super blessed to have not only just a diverse marketing team, but just a really fun, open minded, creative, modern group of talented human beings.
Speaker 1: Yeah, no kidding. Because so many companies in our industry that are your size have a team of one, and they're expected to know everything and do everything from strategy to execution. And as you know, marketing is so diverse and it really does take different skill sets to do different jobs. So I really like how that set up.
Speaker 2: Yeah, it's really nice. And though we're really nimble and agile, if you will, we're not hasty by any means. But with us being about 50 or less just as a company as a whole here at Flex, it's nice because we can still be agile, we can still do these things. We don't have some type of corporate conglomerate structure because honestly, the videos that we make, especially the funny ones that people really hold on to and really remember, we would never be able to get away with that if we were some Fortune 500 and we just wouldn't be able to. And I know that. So not only do we take advantage of our younger, modern mindset that we have here, we absolutely maximize it by making as much noise as possible within good reason, of course. But it's liberating to be able to have not only the team that I have here, but just to have just the whole company and this driven of let's just shake it up, make some noise and get weird with it. It's. It's the best job I've ever had in my life.
Speaker 1: Great. Well, I'll tell you, there are a few. There's Fortune 500 out there that do some crazy video stuff. So I have to send you some examples later and we can compare. But I heard videographers, I heard video. So I'm thinking that video is an important part of your marketing mix. Addy, why don't you tell me a little bit about how you guys allocate budget dollars, what your mix looks like, and maybe some of your tactics that you feel are working best for the company right now?
Speaker 2: Oh, for sure. I mean, even before I came on board, Flex had dabbled in some type of the creative video world because it was kind of a great way to tell the story, knowing that we're a manufacturing company that can't exactly have boots on the ground all over the country. So we understand we need to really shine a bright light and turn things up to 11. You'll hear me reference that often because it's a big part of our strategy. And when COVID happened in our reality and people kind of sat on their hands and didn't know what the heck to do, we turned to video. So with me, I'm actually as one of my multiple side gigs that I do. I'm a professional emcee and I also do like combat announcing an event announcing so the human megaphone comes rightfully so. And so with that we started writing events and demos like fun, exciting shows, and that actually blew up to a side segment of our business as well as a huge component of our current marketing mix because we do so much. And we also realize in manufacturing there's a lots of stigma around the idea of equipment. It's kind of hard to for it to be attractive. It's kind of boring because all you're doing is just throwing features and benefits out there. But I would challenge every manufacturing company on the planet right now to take a look at what we're doing and try to really maximize on the fact that there's a tension. There's video platforms are not only genuflecting video, but they're facilitating, and they're also very much supporting that usage. And anybody who's really not putting a lot of their efforts into the video world, I would really challenge you to consider not only the metrics and the analytics that are available, but again, look back at what Flex has done with our video strategy by taking something as, let's be honest, as boring as machine tools can be sometimes and made it fun, sexy, exciting and dare I say funny.
Speaker 1: Well, tell me about. So in one month or one quarter, what is your video cadence and what types of things are you putting, say, in video format versus, I don't know, a blog or something else?
Speaker 2: Sure. So when I move from sales into marketing, one of the biggest there are two big things I wanted to do is to synergize everything and humanize everything. And so when it comes to just our general strategy and our cadence, we do have Flex and friends are live video casts. That also translates into a podcast that's live every Thursday. So we have guaranteed video content that you've leverage as myself, as like the human element and like the brand ambassador, even though I'm also a direct employee of. So we do that. We also will do some live demos as well throughout the whole time, depending on what our certain bandwidth is, because we are obviously producing these machines. And so with that, we're doing content almost daily in all transparency, some form of content every single day. We're always storing it. But the smartest thing that I think that we do as well as what I'm going to would recommend to everybody, is the word fractal and creating fractal pieces of what you have. And we all create awesome pieces of content. Flex's no exception to that rule. But one thing that we do really, really well is being able to take those pieces that we know do well, and then we break up the best parts of that. It's like taking a really good steak and chopping it into a handful of pieces and spreading it out over time. You know, it's going to work. You know it's going to taste good. You know it has the right seasoning, so why not continue to do that? And so from a monthly basis, I mean, if we're not posting some type of video content every day, we're preparing content for that next day. And of course, we always fit in some really creative ideas in as much as I'd love to say, there's this big, drawn out corporate process. No one of us, I mean, we collaborate often, and that's another great thing. We don't have to set specific meetings. We collaborate multiple times every single day. And that not only cultivates good ideas, it separates good ideas from the bad ones so that you can have videos like our Star Wars one like our, you know, our famous flexi and C funny one or flex care plus to be able to really translate these items, make it more digestible but also fit within our content strategy.
Speaker 1: I gotcha. So an agile approach and a lot of collaboration where you at least aren't, you know, one person going rogue, but as a team, you know, taking everyone's creativity and strategic mindset and making decisions quickly based on that group decision.
Speaker 2: 100%, 100%. And then we have a lot of creative freedom here. We really do. But when you put out the things that we do, I mean, it takes a it does take a long amount of time to realize, okay, these people know what they're doing. They clearly know how to make some noise. I'm just going to stay out of their way. So I do have to highlight how we're super blessed here at Flex without having the kind of overtop feel leadership looking down and saying, You can't do that. We got nothing but support. And I think when you foster that support as an organization, it allows the individuals to do what they know and to do it at a high level without having to worry or be fearful. Because if you're creating content and fear, is it really going to be your best foot forward? I would really challenge that. It's not.
Speaker 1: Very good. Well, that support often comes from two places. One is either leadership that just inherently understands marketing and how today's buyer is acting. The other type of leader wants to see lots of metrics and data and what is the ROI in this activity? What am I getting for this investment? So tell me which is yours?
Speaker 2: I mean, in all transparency, like they don't like the leadership doesn't have to worry about the metrics and the data and the analytics because I'm an absolute nerd for it. So it's like one of those. They don't have to worry about it because they know that ad is on top of it. And I make a lot of data driven decisions, though. I'm an emotional human being and as we all are, and I like things that make us feel good and I like to to hear that feedback, we also have to understand that in 2022 or even moving forward, that there are so many pieces of technology that allow us to better understand how individuals are interacting with us. To a certain point, do I understand there's dark social and there's also ways that leads come in that we can't ever identify? Yes, but we actually use a variety of specific platforms to make sure that we know exactly what our audience looks like, exactly where our impression levels are, and what our general engagement is. Because our our strategy moving forward, at least as I kind of head up this demand gen world, is to want obviously raise a lot of attention. But the key metrics we're focusing on are one just impressions being able to get out there. Because if we know if we're increasing those impressions, we're getting in front of individuals and if we can learn what content actually gets on these, you know, genuflect, squeeze algorithms, then we can begin reverse engineering some of the engagement. So very much data driven. Very, very much so even though we're very emotionally led and my theater background allows me to have a little bit of fun, we we don't skimp on data here at Flex. We're we're we're we're 50 person companies. So we realize we're midsize or small. So the dollars count, we don't have these millions and millions of dollars of marketing spend. So when we want to make these decisions, we have to make sure that we're doing it in a confident, sound manner. And there are few things that allow us to do that better than raw data, which I eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Speaker 1: Oh, there's the call right there. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. All about the data. Well, well, there's other things that that I've noticed about your marketing. One is you bring in partners quite often to expand your reach, I assume. Tell me a little bit about that.
Speaker 2:Oh, the body branding system, it worked. When we were hanging out at night with our friends in the street, lights were on and at work when we were going out swimmin in the ponds with our bodies. The buddy system is great and I know it's a fun little play on words and I. I love alliteration and assonance. I'm a sucker for both of them. But when it comes down to it, I also understand that there are more players than just us in the world, and I would recommend that anybody really look into this type of system and what it really means, if can I break it down in somewhat layman's terms, is all of our products more than likely, especially if it's a product, involves some other type of synergistic product in a way something that's related to that can be used together or sometimes they even require one another. So in manufacturing, we have tools that require, let's for say, for example, cutting tools. There are so many cutting tool brands in this, you know, in the world. And a lot of them are also trying to do the same exact thing that we are, and that's get their brand in front of as many human beings as possible. So what's one way that we can do that? Well, you have your network. I have my network. Maybe if we do something together, we can talk to each other's networks. And if there really is that crossover and we've done our homework, everybody wins. So we get to not only double down on the general frequency and reach of our of our efforts, but a lot of times in from a from a spend a level, if we're talking about some type of targeted ad campaign or dollars are involved, we can cut that investment in half. And Flex has done that a variety of times, whether it's a targeted ad, spend your geographical, if you will, or if we're talking about some type of print ad where we've actually split the cost of full page ads to make it literally 50% off while we just co-brand with somebody. It's again, the big concept behind it is you're cutting down your investment, whether it's time, effort, whatever it may be, and you're doubling the amount of reach and frequency that you can obtain. And there are few times in life where you get to reduce the effort and increase the output outside of that specific example. And again, marketing is no exception to that rule. And Flex has done that in a variety of fashions. And I would argue that aside from video and even video being a battery of that, the whole synergistic branding that we've done with others in kind of a collaborative form has been one of our biggest lifts, if you will, when it comes to our reach and our frequency and our engagement, because we're now talking to audiences that we have never been able to if we didn't partner up with our friends.
Speaker 1: Great. When you do so, do you ever need to forge a joint value proposition to the market, or are you usually working like you said? Like, let's just split an ad and you take the top part and I take the bottom part. So how integrated are you in your strategy or does it depend?
Speaker 2: Sure, it's obvious. It very much depends on on on what it is we utilize. And because there's various things you and I could do a social post together that's co-branded. We could do an announcement video like when we go to our dealers events because we rely heavily or not heavily, but we actually eyeballs. Yeah, we rely heavily on distributors to help sell our products nationwide in the events that we cannot. And so from that, they have trade shows. They can, they can reach out to these individuals and they can try to sell their network and do this and that, which is okay. But how much greater can that be? If we make a video saying that we're going to be there, we get to share it and they get to share it. And it brings a lot of legitimacy. And not only does it do that, it also lets them know that we're bought in and we care and it's going to open us up to another. Because it's not a strange thing for Flex to do these collaborative videos without having to be asked for a variety of our partners not once, not twice, but every time they have a show. So I would definitely promote a good solid mix, and a lot of it does depend because we have some partners who maybe they're part of their strategies and goals isn't to do a paid ad campaign. If you don't want to do a paid ad campaign, that's cool. We could still do a specific video that you can share on your socials. If that's not what you want to do, we can do a co-branded email. Okay, if that's not what you want to do, we can get as basic as doing just a standard white page, if you will. So it does depend. And we never want to assume that our marketing goals and dreams and ambitions are the same as anybody else's. But it's there's been, I think, zero times thus far that if we've pursued a collaboration with somebody that we haven't been able to find at least something, because not only do we go into it with intention, we go into it already knowing what we've done, what works and what could potentially work for them so that they.
Speaker 1: Don't have to think about returning to from a place of authority. Yeah, that's great. And I'm glad I'm glad that you brought up distributors because oftentimes it's hard for manufacturers to get that bandwidth and attention from particularly the larger distributors. So having that video or some piece of content that helps you help them and and helps you guys stand out together is really smart. So really like that example.
Speaker 2: Yeah, yeah. We try, we try, we understand. Like it being from my I have the sales background, I know what I needed and now that I'm in marketing, I know what they need. Yeah.
Speaker 1:Now, another strategy I think you mentioned to me is your use of influencers in the industry. So tell me a bit about that.
Speaker 2: It's huge. And I personally think and I've spoke about this a handful of times, that it's one of the most underutilized pools of attention and one of the most underutilized just marketing methods in general. Because you think influencers, you think like your Selena Gomez, you're good at Kardashians or whatever, millions or hundreds of thousand dollars a post, which that's cool. You know, that's relevant to you if you're selling makeup products or fitness apparel or whatever else that they promote. But in all transparency, Flex's utilized multiple influencers, whether they're micro or even macro, to be able to promote some of our large machines. And just, for example, with our specific tapping arm, we had teamed up with an individual about 79. He's got over half a million followers on Instagram and he's got, you know, six figure plus on YouTube as well. So just big pool of attention there. And through us giving him a product which is relatively low cost to us, we spent way more on other means. We were able to amass over 1.5 million video content views within a matter of like less than two years, 1.5 million. And that wasn't even our efforts. That was, hey, we did our homework and I'm watering it down. We did our homework. We like you. You like us. Here's an arm. Here's a list of content that we'd like to see if that's what you're cool with. He's cool with it. Two years later, over 1.5 million video views on a channel that's talking to people that we wouldn't be able to talk to you before. And that's a big misconception. They think, Oh, these are people who are just putting on makeup and filters and doing stuff. No, I mean, these are individuals who are thought leaders and attention holders to audiences that you are struggling to talk to. Why would you not consider talking to them when you know they already have the attention? And there are, of course, are strategies for picking the right and wrong answer. I mean, not all influencers are created equal, but if you do your homework and you reverse engineer with intention, influencers can not only change the game for you, it can be the game for you.
Speaker 1: Hey, good advice. I'm hearing lots of marketers in their car needing to, like, pull over and pull out of their notepad and add some tactics to their marketing mix here. The last thing I want to make sure that we touch on is flex and friends. We need to dove a little bit more into this. So what was your inspiration behind creating this and is it a video podcast? Is it a video series that turned into a podcast? I need to hear more.
Speaker 2: It is. It's all of the above. Honestly, it's one of those things where there are a couple of content creators within the manufacturing world, your Chris Lukes, your DJ calls, and even Joe Sullivan, you know, they're doing their little video cast, things like that. And I thought it was really intriguing and I wanted to provide that type of that type of entertainment and education to the industry. But from the perspective of a manufacturing brand, because I know the humanization of brands and things like that, and I understand also the and the ambassador roles and, you know, the content creator. And so I was inspired by those human beings and I thought, why can't we do that for ourselves? And I started to realize as well, there are so many interesting people in manufacturing that don't they either don't get to tell their story, they don't know how to, or there's just like no opportunity for them to do so. And so I thought, man, let's create something that's a catalyst for human conversation and understanding. And I don't pitch we don't pitch our product or anything along those lines. It's not a pitch show by any means. And it started as simply as, Hey, I've been doing some homework, give me this microphone, give me this laptop, and I will take care of everything else. And long story short, here we are almost a year later. We are in I think we're in season five and still just treading along nicely. We go weekly and the intention was mainly just to take advantage of LinkedIn live. If I'm being upfront, Wendy is like because we knew that not everybody gets access to that. So we once we got approved, we said, oh, a live show, let's go. Yes, give it a shot.
Speaker 1: Try some stuff out.
Speaker 2: Yes. And then so I would love to say here at Flex, we give things a shot, but we don't. We live just headfirst. And so they were kind enough to support me, as I mentioned before, super supportive group here. I they got me a laptop, I got this microphone, we invested in a small platform and I started booking guests and it was it's really been unreal. Started as a video cast that we go live every Thursday and then we realize the popularity of it and the power of it. And then we turned it into a podcast, which is now been for the past year, probably a couple of months. And we are on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon and Audible, which is on.
Speaker 1: Everywhere, a.
Speaker 2: Little bit of everywhere. But if anything, those are great. Does it provide metrics? Yes, but the thing that I'm the most proud of is being able to help these incredible people tell their story, that that is the all time for me. That's why we don't ask for sponsorship. We're not doing anything along those lines. Yes. Can we create. A massive amount of content from it. And do I maximize it as a from a content creation standpoint? Absolutely. But again, I'm most proud about yeah, I'm most proud about the human beings that's allowed me to be able to connect with and also just to learn so much.
Speaker 1: Absolutely. So fun. Well, I'm curious if, you know, as you're selecting the guests that are the best fit for your show, if you ever have trouble where the guest is willing that their company is not willing for them to come on and share what they consider to be IP or whatever. Does that ever come up?
Speaker 2: Very rarely. And then the best part about it is because you have to really either dislike me or dislike promotion to not allow your employee. Because I think there's been a huge shift where employers are not afraid to allow their employees to empower themselves and to represent their brands. I mean, you're seeing the wave of authenticity come through platforms like Tik Tok, where filters aren't as appealing, scripted is not as appealing. And so I would tell companies who are hesitant to let your employees beyond podcast and video cast break the chains. Break the chains because it's a control problem. And I hope that you're hearing this right now like it's it's a control thing. And if you refuse to allow your employees to help build their brands and you don't get on that piggyback, you will lose them to other companies that will allow them to do that, because there are so many examples of humans that are that that are being supported riding the wave and they're taking their company's brand to levels in which it would never be able to do before, because you are humanizing it and you're giving it something to be relatable as opposed to just your image on a screen, your logo on somebody's polo that quite frankly, nobody cares about because we've been doing it for too long. Let your employees create. Let them tell their story. And they will indirectly tell your story. As I step off my soapbox.
Speaker 1: I love the soapbox. Excellent. Excellent advice. Well, Eddie, where can people connect with you and learn more about your company?
Speaker 2: Flex We're we're super obnoxious. We make a lot of noise, flex machine tools dot com. But if you really want to be entertained, check out our YouTube. That's a big thing. And we're even messing around on talk. So obviously we're on the socials, but check out our YouTube, check out our Tik Tok. But me specifically, I'm pumping out content every single day, especially over word regarding flex and friends. I'm interviewing some of the coolest people the industry's most. Is it passionate, profound, best, brightest and all of the above. So find me on LinkedIn and check us out on socials. We're doing a lot of fun, entertaining stuff.
Speaker 1: Excellent. Well, thank you so much for your time today. This was super fun for me. I appreciate it.
Speaker 2: Likewise. Thank you so much.
Speaker 1: Thanks for joining me today on content marketing engineered for show notes including links to resources visit True Marketing com slash podcast. While there you can subscribe to our blog and our e-newsletter and order a copy of my book, Content Marketing Engineer. Also, I would love your reviews on this podcast, so please, when you get a chance, subscribe and leave me a review on your favorite podcast subscription platform. Thanks.
- Eddie Saunders, Jr. on LinkedIn
- Flex Machine Tools
- Flex and Friends on Spotify
- Flex Machine Tools on YouTube
Wendy Covey is a CEO, a technical marketing leader, author of Content Marketing, Engineered, one of The Wall Street Journal’s 10 Most Innovative Entrepreneurs in America, and she holds a Texas fishing record. She resides in a small Hill Country town southwest of Austin, Texas, where she enjoys outdoor adventures with her family.
TREW Marketing is a strategy-first content marketing agency serving B2B companies that target highly technical buyers. With deep experience in the design, embedded, measurement and automation, and software industries, TREW Marketing provides branding, marketing strategy, content development, and digital marketing services to help customers efficiently and effectively achieve business goals.