Connect with Allison DeFord:
Lisa Ryan: Hey, it's Lisa Ryan. Welcome to the Manufacturer's Network podcast. I'm excited to introduce our guest today, Allison DeFord. Allison is the founder and trailblazer at felt marketing for manufacturers, and also an expert on the manufacturing MA Masters platform and the overly caffeinated host of the Manufacturing Masters podcast.
She lives to rid the manufacturing world of the web. We syndrome and guide manufacturers to being seen, heard, and felt by their ideal customers. Allison, welcome to the show.
Allison DeFord is Excited to be here. Thank you for having me.
Lisa Ryan: Share a little about your background and what led you to do what you're doing with manufacturers.
Allison DeFord, it's mostly the fact that they are makers, and that's always fascinated me. They make something from nothing. And for me, it's the people, the stories. Many companies we work with, granddad or grandma, bootstrapped had two nickels rubbed together, but they solved a problem.
They created something that didn't exist to solve a problem. And I think the coolest thing about manufacturing is making something from nothing again. And I love its technology side and its evolution over the years. It used to be considered blue-collar, grungy, dark, whatever. It's the complete opposite today. And I just find that very exciting, watching the transformation, and yeah, I live to help people communicate better, and that's the reason that we are called Felt. The most beloved and successful manufacturers are not just seen and heard.
But they're felt and connected to the heart of their customers, and that's not an easy task. And we're good at helping them do that, especially small to mid-size manufacturers. That's just my absolute favorite to work with.
Lisa Ryan: Yeah. Awesome. And it reminds me of when I was in the welding industry, and it was literally at that time it was everything your mother ever warned you about the same thing, dark, dirty, dangerous.
You'd walk in; everything was gross. Now I walk into these plants, and they're bright, shiny, and automated, and as you said, the technology is just amazing, and you start bringing in robots. It's also a recruiting tool because a candidate is walking in. They're like, that's the coolest thing ever. I want to work on that.
Allison DeFord And good point, too, because there's all that talk of the robots taking our jobs. No. They're there to take over the repetitive stuff so that you can elevate the talented people that work with you.
Yeah. Yeah. And when I've had people on the line on the show talking about automation, a good place to start I've found they have found is, what is the task your employees hate doing the most?
And automate that because, again, you're showing them that you're listening to them and you're giving them other things to do that is a better use of their talent than whatever that manual labor task that a robot could do easier and cheaper and not call in sick. .if you could be marketing for any industry, why did you, why else did you choose manufacturing?
Lisa Ryan: Why do you specialize in that?
Allison DeFord We looked at this model years ago with our own business. We're the test dummy; I don't serve you something I haven't tried myself. And we figured out that distributors, for example, are looking to the manufacturer. For the marketing literature and the support and training, the dealers are looking to the manufacturer, and we thought, why would we want to work with anybody else?
But the main, the maker everybody's looking to for the marketing support, that help, and that training. It just made sense to support them; the manufacturer is like that foundational person or foundational component, and it's the backbone of this country. I get excited about that.
Lisa Ryan: Oh yeah. If you just look around, you. Somebody has made everything that we're looking at. Yep. Oh. I always joke with my friends that if I'm speaking at a weird, if there's a weird association, chances are I'm speaking to it because there are associations for everything. It is the coolest thing to be around makers passionate about things nobody else thinks about.
Allison DeFord: Yes. Until they have to replace them or they break.
Lisa Ryan: So I have to ask you, what is the We Syndrome, and how is it hurting manufacturers?
Allison DeFord: If you look at most manufacturers' websites, let's say you do the five-second speed test. How many times do they use the word we?
Look at their social media posts. How many times are they talking about themselves? And what I have had great success doing is helping manufacturers overcome this. And again, you and I have discussed here some things you can do to help yourself that don't cost any money or a lot of money.
This is one of them. Flip the script and address. The viewer address, the prospective customer, or the customer who's coming back to your website or looking at your social media feed, you need to lead with them, not you. And I have this little story that I've shared a million times, and people are probably tired of hearing about it, but I found this image years ago a stock photo. It's this little boy, and he's staring at his navel, and he's like squeezing it together, like making it talk. And he's just fascinated with his navel. And to me, that's the Wewe syndrome. I grew up with cousins. I grew up in Indiana, and many boy cousins ran around with their shirts off, and I couldn't; I was a little jealous.
Because it was humid as you know what, And they were just fascinated. They were just fascinated with their own navel and thought I was hilarious. And I, that's what I see companies doing. I've been guilty of it myself. Again, I'm not pointing fingers; three are always pointing back at you.
It's to flip the script once and for all and show your prospective buyer or your current customer. This is what's in it for you. This is why you should buy this, and this is why you should buy it from us. This is how it will transform some part of your life or business. Flipping the script on the wee is, yeah, it's imperative, and it doesn't take a lot of effort.
Lisa Ryan: No. Just switching those to use. And make a huge difference. It reminds me of my own marketing material that I, it's the same kind of thing, but I called it doing eye surgery, and that you go through and remove every time, I say I love that eye. Are you doing we surgery? Yes. But it's important.
When it comes to marketing, it's not something that, You think a lot about when you are a manufacturer that you know, I make this stuff, people are going to come to me. How are you? What are the areas that you focus on when it comes to working with your clients in their marketing efforts?
Allison DeFord: The brand foundation is number one. I always say marketing happens from the inside out, right? Or from the top. We talk about shit rolls downhill. Yeah. I find that most small to mid-size manufacturers I encounter don't have a compelling, unique value proposition.
They're not leading with what's the promise? What's the thing that makes you different? Why should I care? What's in it for me? They're missing that the unique value proposition is key. How do you get to that? I take a look at who are your audience personas. Who, what do they look like?
We don't have that. We have it here, but we don't have it in A P D F, or we've never put it on paper. It's imperative to understand who you're marketing for and on behalf of, not at. The major way we are different is that we're not trained to help you interrupt. We convince.
It's connecting to the heart of your ideal customer. Because people don't make decisions rationally. 90% of the time, they make decisions based on emotion. Why not connect on an emotional level that's imperative? It's that brand foundation stuff that's usually missing.
Also, they are usually missing a brand personality and a brand voice. I use Target as an example, even though they're a retailer. We can learn a lot from B2C. You see a commercial come on. Or maybe a radio spot or whatever; it's targeted before they even show you the bullseye logo at the end because there's a voice, there's a tone - same thing with brands like Yeti Gerber Knives. I could go on forever. But those are the ones that are memorable because they have, they're distinct, and they mean something to you. And then a strategy. Most manufacturers are missing a cohesive and not like some 80-page document that they're never going to follow, but create a holistic system as I think of the Hoberman sphere, and when you open it up, it's, and it's all connected.
So how is your messaging connected? How is it connecting? Is it consistent? Is it relevant? And are you leading with what's in it for them? You have to help people self-serve because they're what, 80, excuse me, percent through the buying cycle before they ever pick up the phone to call you. And if they're millennials or younger, they don't want to pick up the phone, right?
They don't want a salesperson to call them ever. They want to do it all digitally, and they want it to feel. Easy. Helping people overcome a lack of content, like we don't know what to talk about, is what we help you figure out. How often should we do it? Where should we do it? Do we have to be on every social media platform?
No, you do not, but be where your people are. That's the whole ticket. It's breaking it down and dispelling the myths. Most manufacturers feel overwhelmed with marketing at this point, and I can see why. It's easy. It's easy to do, right? There's much more, and it's changing quickly.
So it's like, where do I start? What do I don't know what to do? Guiding them. And what you're guiding, what appeared to me is that it is bringing back the passion for why you started your business. As far as what is that, you talked a couple of times about the promise in your unique value proposition, but why did you even start your company in your garage 20 years ago?
What is it that you knew you could do better than anyone else? What is it that you are passionate about? How are you different? And I think if we just even go back to the very foundation. Of, the, of why we even started our business because it wasn't to make cheap stuff that well, we're a penny cheaper than anybody else, and that's why I started my business.
There's no passion in that. And we can start to build our branding, or you can also help them build their branding by taking them back to the essence of what makes them unique from every other maker out there. Yes, and I find that most manufacturers make the mistake of talking about what they do, and what they make instead of why they do it, which is what you just said, right?
And that's people don't buy from you because of what you make. They buy from you because of why you do it. And what's in it for them? How does it? How does it empower them? How does it make their life easier? Nobody wants to buy a drill, but they do want to make a three-quarter hole, make a hole.
Yep. Most manufacturers have such a unique story. Nobody else has, but they've bought into this idea that we need to tell people how long we've been in business, how many square feet of manufacturing floor space we have, our history the more we tell you about ourselves and the, the products that we make, the more compelling it's going to be.
And it's not. But when you start from a place of difference, for example, one of our clients is a custom circuit board manufacturer. And when you look at his competitors, everybody's saying the same thing, right? There's a lot of; there's a lot of me too. There's a lot of wee. And we looked at their operation, their business. They have 20 employees.
They're not doing gazillions of dollars a year yet, but they've been around for a long time. And I said, you know what you guys do better than anybody else. You uncomplicate something complicated. You uncomplicate circuit board assembly, and your team is down to earth, and there's just this human element with this technological, Piece that I said, that's what makes you guys different.
And as soon as we flipped that, and we led with that on their website, I, he's had people ring him up, and we rebranded, changed their logo, and made it a lot more relevant today. And he's gotten many compliments. People are like, oh my gosh, I love what you're saying. I love this.
It's speaking to people. Sometimes it's something as simple as you uncomplicate something. Another manufacturer we work with, your natural gift is that you guys make this part of the construction process easy. Your competitors are all big corporate; they're doing many other things.
They make it hard. You guys make it easy at every turn, and they said is that unique enough? And they said it is. No one else is talking about it. It doesn't have to be complicated. That's the thing, it's usually right under your nose, and you're just too close to it to see it yourself.
Lisa Ryan: And it can be something that everybody else is doing. Several years ago, one of the beer companies came out with a label that turned blue. If the beer was super cold, I'm sorry. Everybody's beer will be the same amount of cold.
But because they thought ahead, to make theirs blue. Everybody started thinking that theirs must be colder, but that was because they had something different that nobody else was talking about. You find that one thing you just summed up beautifully that you can own.
Speaking of providing services and benefits to manufacturers, I have been an expert on manufacturing masters. I know that is your baby and your passion. Why don't you tell us a little bit about what the Manufacturing Masters platform is and why it's valuable for manufacturers and reps?
Allison DeFord: Great question. It's the baby of Darren Mitchell; I give him all the credit. Yeah, he's awesome. He is an entrepreneur; I call him Midas. Everything he touches turns to gold, and he's very down-to-earth. And he created this Netflix for manufacturers because of what he likes to call it.
But instead of entertainment, it's education and best practices. And me and my company had the great pleasure of helping him name it and develop a brand, and we came up with the tagline, everything they never taught you in school. That's what you're going to find on this platform. And the cool thing about it, Is you're not being educated by just willy-nilly random people, right?
These are up to 130 vetted, battle-tested, and trusted experts. I'm on there talking about marketing. You're on there as well. It's every possible subject that you can think of. And one of my favorite stories, Is Darren was in a room with a bunch of manufacturers, and he was, they were talking about this platform, and the one guy just he'd been real quiet, and he raised his hand.
Darren said, yeah, what's up? He said I've been doing my job for 26 years, and until I watched the best practices about, I can't remember what the exact topic was until I watched those on this on manufacturing masters. I had no idea what best practices even looked like for my job, and now I do. He's God; I wish I would've had this years ago.
And it was just; it's that kind of transformation that happens. And the cool thing is I also have the gift of working with MEPs and associations to bring this to their entire audience. And Darren has priced it in such a way because he fully. NPS and associations and their value is that when they bring this into their program and offer it to their people, not just one person gets to subscribe.
Every person in that manufacturing company gets to subscribe for the same. It's all covered. It's incredible. He keeps opening it up. And I keep saying, wow, when I think you're being too generous, you get more generous. And he said that's the point I wanted to bring this to people like me.
He owned a business for 26 years, 25 maybe. And he said A lot of times you feel alone. Yeah. You don't know all the stuff that you need to know. And if you can have this support system at your fingertips, It's on demand; it's short. He purposely made, and you know this, every video is like anywhere from two minutes to, some of mine were 20 minutes because I was one of the ones at the beginning, and he's we have to shorten this up.
We have to make it the right size and easy to consume on your time. You can grab this nugget and put it into action.
Lisa Ryan: Yeah. Most of mine are in the five to seven-minute range. But the interesting thing about the platform that you alluded to is that regarding people being vetted, it's like any sponsors do not pay Darren to be who I want to be, and I have my own channel on manufacturing masters.
Allison DeFord: I felt very blessed that he found me because of my work and invited me to participate. But if I would've just found him and started prospecting and trying to sell him on why I would be such a great expert, there's no way he would've had me unless he did the full background.
So that's what I like about it, is that it's real people. Real plants. It's not you don't have. I'm a professional speaker, but I am the exception versus the rule. And you're just getting real people sharing their stories about what they do. And as you said, you've seen people learning in those little snippets of information many times.
You must have access to something that I could sit down with, I could watch a five-minute or a 10-minute video, get some great ideas that I can put into practice, and you know what? And if it's not right for me, maybe it's not right this time, and I go on to another expert because I have 139 more people I can watch.
And when you were on the Manufacturing Masters podcast, you brought up an excellent point, and I think it segues beautifully with this or ties in, I should say. You said it's not 2019 anymore. We can never return, so this platform is incredibly important and relevant today.
Number one, everybody's zoomed out at this point, right? And we're working differently than before, consuming much information, news, and social media feeds. It's overwhelming to me, frankly. It's a.when you have many options. It has to be. Our attention spans are, have shortened tremendously.
So that's why I think it was brilliant on his part to make these all very short to the point; he had zero fluff. Nobody's trying to sell you anything, right? It's, let's jump into this topic and