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Making the Cultural Shift from Product Promoters to Problem Solvers

Graham Kilshaw: 
Good morning. Wow, that was some presentation. That mountaineering is pretty scary stuff, huh? We’re going to talk about something really scary now: marketing. Oh, no!

I was sitting at breakfast this morning. Two guys across the table from me were talking about this morning’s sessions. The first guy says to the second guy, “Hey, going to the marketing presentation this morning?”

The second guy says, “No, I’m going to skip that one.”

The first guy says, “Why not? It looks pretty interesting.”

The second guy says, “I don’t understand what marketing people are saying anymore. It’s like a whole different language. I don’t understand anything they’re saying.”

It has become very complex, but it doesn’t need to be. Quick show of hands, how many of you interface with marketing teams? Okay. How many of you manage marketing teams? Okay, so a good part of the room.

Maybe you feel a little bit of the frustration of the guy that sat next to me at breakfast, so I thought we’d start with a little bit of fun. Here’s an idea: the next time your marketing folks go into babble speak maybe this will help you out.

[Video Clip Begins]

Video, Man 1:
Hello, Steve. Thanks for coming. My name is John. Any questions before we start? Good. How does your company currently measure results in digital marketing?

Video, Man 2:
We look at the bigger picture and try to see what kind ripple effect the, uh – [ZAP NOISE] …We, uh, go for the key influencers who are—[ZAP NOISE].

Video, Woman 1:
We look at the smartest way to productize our offerings. [ZAP NOISE]

Video, Man 3:
We try to fine-tune engagements to get – [ZAP NOISE].

Video, Man 2:
Working on getting a real 360-degree of the customer, to – [ZAP NOISE].

Video, Woman 1:
Cross segment synergies. [ZAP NOISE] …Likes? [ZAP NOISE]

Video, Man 3:
Closed-loop marketing. [ZAP NOISE]

Video, Man 2:
Search—[ZAP NOISE].

Video, Man 3:
Classification of our brand. [ZAP NOISE]


Video, Man 2:

Video, Woman 1:
Click-through rates? [ZAP NOISE]

Video, Man 3:
….Just make it go viral?

[Beat] [ZAP NOISE.]

[Video Clip Ends]


Graham Kilshaw: 
I thought you’d like that. Thanks to Adobe, great video. Marketing metrics can get just way, way confusing. But I think there’s a much simpler way I’d like to propose to you this morning, to think about the marketing that you manage or the marketing that you interface with. It’s really understanding whether this marketing actually helps your component customer solve a problem.  

Think of this green line as a spectrum. On the one end of it, you’re promoting product. On the other end of it, you’re actually helping customers solve a problem with the messaging and the marketing that you’re putting out there. As I’m talking, think about it. Where would you put your company on that spectrum today? Now, let me be clear. This isn’t to say that one is right and one is wrong, one is good and one is bad, one is black and one is white. It’s not. 

All marketing has to have a certain amount of product promotion. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be in business. Your customers wouldn’t know what you had to sell. But it’s these days, and the reason why this idea is so important now, in 2019 and 2020, is because of a change that is happening to us right now, and which is going to gather steam very quickly over the next couple of years.  

That change— I think we missed a slide there. Let me just categorize for you. If you’re thinking, what do I mean by product promotion? Let’s look at the spectrum a little closer. What do we mean by problem-solving?  

Here’s some characteristics of looking at your current marketing and ask yourself: is the marketing strategy pretty much driven by the NPI schedule? If it is, then you’re probably more towards the left side of the spectrum.  

If you look at all the emails and social posts that you’re putting out there and even the messages from your C team and your PR team and the videos you put out. Is it really all product-centric? If so, then you’re probably more towards the product end of the spectrum.  

Look at the other side of it. If you sit down and analyze what’s in your marketing campaigns right now, and if you see that what’s really in there is driven by a really good understanding of what the customer’s problem is, then you’re probably more towards the problem end of the spectrum. Everybody get the spectrum? Make sense? Okay. 

It’s not a particularly difficult idea, and it‘s not a particularly new idea. You’re probably wondering, why is this important today? The reason it’s important today is because of this change I just mentioned that’s here and coming now, and that change is search.  

Every time I hear search is changing, I bang my head against the wall. Is Google changing the algorithm again? Can’t they just leave us alone to get on with business a little bitBecause search is changing, how you go to market needs to change as well… or maybe not. Maybe you’ve got the balance right, but let me explain. 

What’s happening with search? Let me explain the change first by explaining the way we used to search and then the way that we’re starting to search now. If you go back just a few years, the way you’d search would be something like this. Go to Google, Yahoo, Bing, whatever, and you’d type in a couple of words.  

What you’re trying to actually do is find a website that’s going to have the information that you’re going to then read and absorb and make the decision. To all intents and purposes, a few years ago, search was about just finding information. That might sound a little obvious. Wait until I get to the next slide. 

It was really about finding information. Let me give you an example. My daughter Gabby is 12 years old, we like going to the movies. If I wanted to take Gabby to the movies, the way we used to this, pull out my phone, go to my laptop, and I’d type in 19422, my zip code, and movies.  

Then I’d get a list of movie theaters. I’d look down the list of movie theaters, I’d choose the movie that was closest to us that I thought might have something, and then I’d scroll down the list. I’d go through this sort of linear progression and eventually look at movies that were PG.  

That’s all changing now because of thisvoice search. 

Voice search is having a huge impact on our daily lives, and maybe you’ve realized it, or maybe you’ve just started thinking about it. You know Alexa, you know Siri, maybe you know Cortana from Microsoft.  

Quick show of hands, who was at the DigiKey breakfast at EDS this year? Okay, remember the Digibot video? I’m not sure if that’s going to be a real thing with DigiKey, I guess we’ll find out in due time when they’re ready to tell us. But clearly, DigiKey is thinking about this as well. Okay? 

The impact of that change, if you take my example – now the way I search is something like this. If I want to take Gabby to the movies – cross your fingers – hey Siri, what PG-13 movies are showing near me today? 

“Here are three PG-13 rated movies playing at theaters today, but they are a bit far from you.”  

Graham Kilshaw 
Okay, she got most of it. Normally, she’d go on and she’d read out the movies and then I’d choose one from listening to a voice search. Whereas we were reading information before, now we’re listening to the results.  

The impact of that, when I said before that search was about looking for information, is now we’re actually posing problems into these voice search engines. It’s a different activity. Now, it’s problem-solving, and that goes back to the title of the presentation today. 

You really need to think about where you are on that spectrum. Are you a product promoting strategy company, or are you a problem-solving strategy company? Because believe me, what these voice devices are going to do to search and the social impact of it in your daily lives, is pretty phenomenal.  

September 25, one month ago, Amazon announced 15 new voice devices, all in one day. They have glasses, they have a ring you can wear. You can talk to all of these devices and they’ll interact with the phone in your pocket, through Bluetooth. They have receivers in the glasses, they have microphones, they have speakers. They have a nightstand – a nightlight. They have a smart oven. 

The one I’m really interested in is the Echo Auto. I use Amazon’s music platform, so now finally I’ll be able to talk to Alexa in my car because Siri won’t interface with my Amazon Music. That’s going to be a huge impact, the battle for the car is going to be a big one. Why?  

Because people do most of their voice searches when they get in the car at five o’clock at the end of the day. You’re not staying in front of your computer and you want to keep on working, so have you ever left your office and tried to use Siri and the server was busy? Anybody ever have that experience? Yeah? 

That’s because everybody is using Siri at five o’clock. The battleground for the car space for the voice search is going to be enormous, so I’m looking forward to that one.  

Check out a couple of these statistics. By next year, 50% of all searches will be voice searches. 50%.  

30% of those searches will be done without a screen. In other words, we’ll be listening to the information, not reading the information. Just think about that for a second. The information that Siri, Cortana, Alexa, maybe even DigiKey’s Digibot will be searching, will need to be what’s called natural language.  

The information that exists on your websites for example right now, at some point will need to be updated, because they need to read language back to the person who is making the search that sounds more like natural language. Make sense? 

13% of all US households owned a smart speaker in 2017, 55% by 2022. I disagree. I think it’ll be more like 70-80% by 2022 the rate that it’s going. Some of you may be standing there thinking, that’s great Graham, but these are all consumer statistics, we don’t see Alexa in the workplace yet.  

But think about this. Whatever happens in the consumer marketing space in history hasn’t taken very long to migrate into the business space. For example, YouTube. Originally, it was all about twerking kittens, right? Now, you can look up how to design a switch mechanism, a PC board, whatever it is on YouTube.  

All of those business, design engineering tools are there on YouTube. Facebook, it was originally about what you had for lunch. Now, it’s meetups for design engineering groups in whatever city you’re in. 

So, it’s not a big stretch to realize that these voice devices are going to end up in our workplace pretty soon. In fact, if you think about it, the voice devices are already in your workplace. You don’t need to bring an Alexa Echo to work, they’re already in the workplace. That’s going to have a significant impact on the information that these devices are going to be looking for and the information that exists on your website that can be found by these devices. Those two things need to match if you want to succeed going forward, and the information that they’re looking for is problem-solving information.  

These devices are actually teaching us to test them, to push them to the limits. You’ve all played games I’m sure with Alexa and Siri to see how they get it all wrong.  

We’re being educated by the devices to pose problems into them. In return, they’re looking for problem-solving information. If you don’t have problem-solving information on your websites in the next couple of years, you’re going to be at a disadvantage. Make sense? 

This is what your customers, your design engineering customers, are really going to be expecting. They’re going to want the problems to be solved by you. They don’t just want the products to be sold by you. Remember Tony Uphoff’s comment yesterday? “Your customer doesn’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want to buy a quarter-inch hole.” That’s exactly what I’m talking about.

They’ll be looking for very highly-personalized answers. As we go further into the presentation, you’ll see how this isn’t just about the content on your website, so please, do me a favor, don’t race back to the office and tell the marketing team they’ve got to rewrite the website, because that’s not what it’s all about.

It really also includes the whole sort of culture of your business. How you think about going to market, how you think about serving the customer. It’s not just about web content. A big part of it is the culture of all of the people who interface with your customer.

They’re going to be challenged more in the future to provide more highly-personalized answers, because the density of these devices across the country is at a scale that’s teaching us to ask more difficult questions. It’s not design engineering questions yet, but it will be eventually. Highly-personalized answers is what it’s teaching us to provide.

EAT – I said I’d mention one Google algorithm change. This is the one you need to pay attention to. It came out in August 2018. It stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. If you go and read up on this algorithm update, what you’ll see is from those three descriptions of what Google says it’s going to be looking for going forward.

They’re looking for long-form content, they’re looking for natural language. They’re not going to be looking for product. They’re going to be looking for trustworthy sites that can solve problems. Google is definitely riding into this problem-solving idea.

It really is about the culture of your business. We could talk about a lot of aspects of culture, but I’m just going to focus on two for today. One is content and the other is people. Let’s dive into the content side of it.

So, you may be sitting there thinking, hang on a minute, Graham. We all know that content is king. We all know we should be doing content marketing, so why are we struggling to get there? I’ll tell you a quick, funny story.

We won a new client last month, and the president called me up, I’m not going to mention his name because I think he’s in the room. He says, “Hey Graham, I’m calling you up so you can push me off a cliff.”

I said, “Okay, any particular cliff in mind?”

We had this discussion about inertia and what he said to me was, “I knew we should have been doing this months ago, I’m just not really sure why we didn’t get around to it.”

It wasn’t because they didn’t have the budget or the willingness. It wasn’t because they were just overly busy, they just couldn’t quite seem to make the step.

My team and I really sort of identified there’s three reasons why, particularly in the components industry who are all of our clients, there’s really three reasons why this inertia happens, and maybe it’s something you want to think about when you want to try to move along that scale a little bit more towards building a problem-solving culture.

Number one is the old adage: we’ve always done it this way. That should be busy easy to break, it’s just breaking the system. The second one is really the nature of the components industry. The rate of change of your customers, the Teslas, the Fords, the IBMs, the Boeings, etc. is so fast that you’re being challenged by them to keep pace.

You’re coming up with new components and new devices all the time. The natural thing to do is when you have a brand new component that solves a particular issue of power, sensor, whatever, is of course you want to shout about it, so it goes into the marketing plan. That’s a perfectly natural thing to do. As I said, I’m not saying stop doing that. You have to do that. You’ve got to start balancing it out, to succeed in the future, with problem-solving content.

The third reason really comes to sort of an HR issue. I was talking to Paula before the event and I would say I probably visited about 30 component makers this year. And I’m going to generalize here, so it’s not true for everybody. But this is typically what I see. The C team is technical, you kind of have to be to run the business.

The sales team, almost always technical, have to be to talk to the customer. The marketing team is usually technical, semi-technical, or not technical. Just think about the organization. Who has got the balance of power in the discussion about what goes into the marketing plan? More often than not, it’s the sales team because they’re focused on the products they want to sell.

That’s just a natural way that organizations in the components industry operate and I see it all the time. Maybe just think about that when you’re listening to the marketing team, because product every time all the time really isn’t going to be the answer going forward. More of the problem-solving content marketing needs to come into the balance.

I’ll give you a little quote. This is one of my favorite movies. If you’re in marketing strategy right now, if you’re sitting there thinking yeah, we’re very, very product heavy and all of your email blasts and your social announcements are really just about product, this scene from the movie Into Darkness, the Star Trek movie, and Captain Kirk says to Scotty, played by Simon Peg there, he says, “So Scotty, you’ve got to get us through that black hole, warp factor 10, and you’ve got to do it in a nanosecond when I click my fingers.”

Scotty turns to Captain Kirk he says, “Well Captain, that’s a bit like jumping out of a moving car off a bridge into a shot glass.” My apologies to David Kirk for the Scottish accent.

The point is, what are the chances of you putting out that brand new component in an eblast and hoping that somebody in your audience of existing or future customers needs that product right there and then, and is going to react to it, and it’s going to lead to a conversation. It’s a very slim chance.

You still need to do it because you need the awareness of the products, but don’t expect that to be the driving force for lead generation. The driving force for lead generation needs to be a conversation around your customer’s problems.

This study came out to reinforce this point at the beginning of 2019, January 2019. Demand Gen puts out a report every year. They study all B2B markets and they made an interesting change. In 2018, they said the most important part of the buyer’s journey … Remember the buyer’s journey that Tony Uphoff was talking about yesterday?

Prior to 2019, they said the most important time for the salespeople to engage with the customer is that final three months when the specs are written, the blueprints are done, the RFQs go out, and that’s when you’ve really got to be engaged. I think that’s still very true.

The interesting change they made in the study this year was this, is that now they’re really focused on that first three months, the problem-solving period. That’s the time they’re saying the buyer’s journey is so complex for your customers, trying to navigate all the people in the organization is virtually impossible, but if you can connect with those people in the first three months of a design project, your chances of being dragged through the buyer’s journey increase significantly as you can there.

38% of companies actually developed an informal list of people they were going to put on the RFQ in the first three months. How do you get into that? We’ll talk about that a little bit more later. But a big play in getting into that first three months of a design project is content and demonstrating to your customers that you have a problem-solving mentality, you have a problem-solving culture. You want to be a part of that problem-solving discussion at the very beginning.

I looked at some other companies because, some other industries rather, because I’m thinking doesn’t everybody promote their products? You have to, it’s true. But is it the first thing that they talk about? I looked up Merck, they’re in my backyard in northwestern Philadelphia in the pharmaceutical business.

I took a look at their homepage. You can see from the six dots there that there were six pictures in that gallery. Not one of them talked about product. Remember, the homepage is usually the first place that people go to. Everything on their homepage talked about problems: social problems, they’re in the people business of pharmaceuticals.

SAP: they’re totally in the business of solving problems. There’s nothing on their homepage that talks about the latest SAP product. They’re in the business of helping their customers solve their customers’ problems.

In our own industry, I picked a couple at random that I found. TE has this very nice project going right now called rFlight, or they’re working with the rLoop organization on a project called rFlight I should say. I’m not going to play the video, you can go check it out: the future of human mobility. They’re looking at the personal air taxi market, interesting.

You can see they’ve got products mentioned here at the bottom of the screen, but if you go the TE homepage, this is what you get. They’re putting the message out to this human mobility market, whether it’s automated cars or whatever is that they want to be a part of the problem-solving part of the equation.

Same with Honeywell. They’ve got these really interesting— I would encourage you to go read this, just Google it – the Future of 9 Industries. They have industrial safety, factory automation, personal human air flight for them as well. I don’t remember the other six, but the message they’re putting across here is: let us be a part of the problem-solving that you’re going through. You don’t see a whole lot of product on the homepage.

Interestingly, we did a study of about 15 companies in our industry and we analyzed for the last 30 days, what did they do on social media, what did they do on email, and what did they do on their webpages? Before any of you from those companies get nervous, I’m not going to pick on anybody. We averaged all of the data.

Before I show you the next slide, just remember it’s an average. Within the results, there’s good and there’s bad, let’s put it that way. Here’s what we did. We followed all of those companies for 30 days on LinkedIn, we signed up for their email newsletters and we visited their homepages. I’ll talk about trade shows separately.

Of the LinkedIn posts, those 15 companies put out 838 posts in the last 30 days. Then we categorized the results between product, like an NPI announcement, PR, which includes – could be trade shows, could be the CEO got an award, could be employee activity, could be local community – that’s PR. Anything that was focused on the customer, we classified as content. Everybody got it?

These were the results. Please keep in mind, within those results, even though you can see the content comes up at the bottom of the list in every case, it’s a statistical average. There are some companies in our industry that clearly have got this figured out. Their message is, we’re a problem-solving culture. We want to be a part of your problems, we want to help solve them.

There are other companies statistically within those results who really don’t have, have not yet started, let’s put it that way, talking about their customer’s problems. They’re focused pretty much solely on their own products, so just be cautious when you look at the statistics. Emails, same result. Homepages, again, we just analyzed the homepage. What’s the message?

Just like when we looked at TE and Honeywell and Merck and SAP, what’s the first thing you see when you get to the homepage? Is there evidence there that they’re saying hey, we know what problems you’re working on Mr. Customer, let us be a part of it. That’s what we were looking for, so we categorized them the same way.

Trade shows, those 15 companies were not part of the trade show analysis. This is simply what I put together when I was asked to do this presentation six months ago— I started making a note and I carry a journal of what do I see when I go to a trade show.

Do I walk up to a booth and it’s pure product? Or is there something else there? I noticed in about 10% of cases that some companies are putting on seminars, even little companies that had a 10 by 10 booth.

I saw one at IMS in Boston in May, which particularly interested me. It was a small company, I forget the name, but they had some nice video screens and they had a schedule posted on a whiteboard of all of the little five-minute educational videos they were going to show that day. I passed the booth a few times and they always had a small crowd of four or five people stopped to watch these little educational videos.

It’s not just the big brands in the room that can afford to do those big seminars at conferences, this is something that smaller and mid-sized companies can do as well.

Let’s go back to the spectrum. As I said, product promoting company, problem-solving company. Let’s say we talk a little bit about the sweet spot. Show of hands, who knows Gary Vaynerchuk? Anybody follow him on Twitter? He’s very loud, very crude, very entertaining, but he’s a really good thinker.

He wrote this book about eight years ago, it’s still on my nightstand called Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook. What he’s talking about is “jab, jab, jab” is the content to draw the customer towards you. Engage that customer, show them that you can help solve problems. “Right hook,” and then drop in a product message.

Once you’ve got that trust, once you’ve earned that credibility that you can help them solve their problems, then you’re perfectly entitled to start talking about your products.

In the book as the title almost suggests, it’s sort of a three to one ratio. Jab, jab, jab, right hook. It’s about a 75/25 ratio. If we just go back to the stats for a second, here you can see it sort of 80% everything else and 20% content.

What Gary Vaynerchuk says is, flip that around if you’re looking for a simple answer to this. 80% of what you put out should really be, if you think about it, 80% of what this set of numbers shows is really focused on the company, and less than 20% is focused on the customer.

What Vaynerchuk says is, flip it around. 80% of what you put out there should really be about the customer, and 20% should be talking about you and your products and you’ll have better results and he proves it in the book.

I’ll give you some examples. This is a video made by RS in the UK, along with some of their component partners, Panasonic, Pi, and a few others. And it’s a demonstration really of creativity and this idea of having a problem-solving culture.

It’s not just all about white papers and application notes. Those are very important, but in this video they took a Superman doll and a weather balloon attached to it and they floated it up to the edge of the atmosphere… Well, let’s watch the movie.

[Video Clip]

Graham Kilshaw
Pretty good, huh? I’ve watched that 100 times, I still like it. Some of you are probably sitting there going, yeah cool video, Graham, but what on earth does that have to do with problem-solving? For the engineers in the room, what questions are going through your head?

There you go, what components did they use at that temperature? How did they build a communications system? How did they handle a video system? This isn’t an application. No, it’s not a white paper. The message, that I think very cleverly that RS has done, is send a message to their audience that “we love solving problems.”

We’ve got a great bunch of component partners, we can take any project you can imagine, even going up to the edge of space and retrieving something as creative as that. We want to be part of your problems. We’ve got all these great partners.

They’re sending out a message that we have a problem-solving culture. I thought that was a very clever way of doing it. But let’s bring it back down to earth for a minute or two.

Schaffner, who make EMI filters, in 2016, they had growth of just under 5%. At the end of 2016, they made a very conscious and deliberate decision that they were going to move away from a purely product-focused marketing strategy and move towards a customer problem-solving strategy.

At the end of 2017, what they did was they built a very deliberate and consistent campaign over 12 months of multiple white papers that addressed problems in very specific industries, so highly related to their customers. Medical equipment, energy storage, factory automation, so it was highly relevant to the customer. They did this over and over and over for 12 months.

At the end of 12 months, they turned that less than 5% growth to over 11% growth. In 2018, that 11% went to 25%. I want to say a quick thank you to Ken Vallera for allowing us to share those statistics with you today. That’s what a consistent, deliberate approach to solving customers problems can do, directly affected top line, and significantly the bottom line.

Okay. We’ve looked at the content part of the problem-solving equation, let’s look at the people side of it. The easiest way to solve this, I think, is put it on the org chart. Look at your businesses now. Do you have a content manager? Show of hands, who has a content manager on the org chart? One, two, three. Three. Put it on the org chart.

I heard recently TTI just hired their very first content manager. I saw an ad on LinkedIn last week Allied Electronics is hiring for a content manager. As long as that content is of the problem-solving variety, not just product content, then you’re on the right track.

There’s a problem and an opportunity with this whole question of voice search changing the way we search and the kind of information that these devices are going to be looking for. As you probably know, Siri and Alexa don’t always get it right. I looked for some of the bloopers that they’ve had recently, found a couple of interesting ones.

A guy comes home, rolls into his garage, he’s got smart home everything. He says to Alexa, “Hey Alexa, please turn on the porch lights.” Alexa replied, “You don’t have a Porsche, so I turned on the Yugo lights instead.”

I saw a video of a little girl sitting in front of an Alexa Echo. She says to Alexa, “Hey Echo, can you spell book?” It wasn’t very much of an answer.

My favorite one is, apparently Jeff Bezos is talking to Alexa, sitting at home, relaxing in the armchair, watching TV. He says, “Hey, Alexa buy me something from Whole Foods.” Alexa replies, “Sure, Jeff. Buying Whole Foods now.”

That’s the problem, these devices are not really ready for prime time yet as far as design engineering goes, but who is? You are. You’ve got the people who can answer all of those questions. Let’s try this one.

Hey Siri, what kind of resistors do I need for a 10-volt circuit?

“Okay, I found this on the web for what kind of resistors do I need for a 10V circuit, check it out.”

Graham Kilshaw:
Okay, so what does she do? She went back to the old style of searching. She just referred me to a bunch of websites for me to go read and me to figure it out. She can’t figure that out yet. (Sorry, Siri. Go back in the pocket.) But your people can.

The problem is they are not ready… the opportunity is, you are. You’ve got the people, you might just need the content, but you’ve got the opportunity to address the questions that people are going to be searching search engines for more and more in this long-form problem-solving type of question.

They’re not going to be searching two words anymore, they’re going to be putting entire questions into a search engine like the example I just gave. The opportunity is for you to harness your people and build this culture of problem-solving content, problem-solving people, and you can actually formalize it.

I found somebody that fits this bill very well, I met Jenn Eby a year ago and I think Jenn personifies this idea of somebody who goes to market. Jenn runs a rep firm in Seattle called Marctech2, I forget where we met. But her whole philosophy is solve the customer’s problem, line card second.

There’s a short delay here. See what Jenn has to say.

Jenn Eby:
I have built an incredible network over the last 30 years in this industry, and so I feel I go way beyond just looking for an order or looking for a PO or looking for something that I sell, and I connect people to this incredible network I have and provide them with some pretty good solutions and great relationships.

Whether I get the PO or whether or not it contributes to my business success or not, I just love connecting people to the solutions that might be able to help them. I’m leading them to also want to be that first phone call, to also listen to people, to also sit there and figure out how can they help these customers and the relationships they’re building over the years. Again, it’s not just about selling, it’s about the connection. I think listening to somebody authentically, it’s perfect, it’s the connection.

Graham Kilshaw:
As you can see, Jenn Eby’s mindset, her whole way of going to market is problem first, she’s got it. If you want to test yourselves out and see well, how does my team go to market or how do I interface with customers? There’s a great little test you can take on LinkedIn, it’s called the social selling dashboard, if you want to make a note.

Just go on LinkedIn and search “social selling dashboard.” It’ll give you an instant free report on how you interface, what’s your natural approach. My rank, I think in the top 4% of my industry, the top 14% of my network. I think if you’re getting anywhere between top 10 and top 20%, you’re in good space.

Interestingly, I hope you can read the blue labels of what it’s actually looking at in your profile. What’s interesting here is the test is called “social selling skills.” It’s not saying a single thing about selling. It’s not saying anything about product.

The one that’s most interesting to me is the one that says “engage with insights.” Are you going onto LinkedIn to share insights with other people? Or are you just going onto LinkedIn to tell them about your latest product? Because that’s what gets you the high score, and I guarantee you, if you’re just using LinkedIn as a PR platform to announce your latest NPI, you’re probably going to lose points.

Problem-solving content, problem-solving people to build this culture. At Lectrix, we talk about this as building the human search engine. How could you think about formalizing this idea inside your businesses? Think of it as a human search engine.

It’s the combination of content and people and a few other tools as well. I’m going to show you a couple of companies, just to finish up with, that I think have done an incredible job of building their own human search engines inside the business. One is Hilton.

Hilton has a program called Hilton Suggests. It started on Twitter and now it’s on all social platforms and they even have a dedicated website to it. The way this works is, they build a cross-functional team across front of house people in the hotels, back of house people, administration people, and the key part is they actively searched Twitter for people who were asking questions about things to do and the places they were going to travel.

Then they proactively engaged those people with answers and information. Most notably, they never said a word about “come and stay at a Hilton hotel.” They positioned themselves as a problem-solving service to travelers.

In our own industry, Edmund Optics in south Jersey, my neck of the woods. They’re in the photonics space. Anybody here from EO? Okay. They built a program, two of my folks used to work for EO, so that’s how we know about this one. Their program is called ELP, Engineering Leadership Program.

They hand pick people, cross-functional across the company. They train them for six months in customers and products. They rotate them through departments. They built a wiki inside the company, which stores all of the questions that have ever been answered of a customer. Think about how big that is.

They built an intranet that’s only for the people in the ELP program, and then like Hilton, they proactively ask customers what problems they’re working on. The orange button in the bottom right-hand corner is their live chat tool. They engage customers on their website and ask them what problems they’re working on. Then they market this.

A lot of you probably say, yeah we have a bunch of all this already. That’s great, so you probably don’t have a long way to go. But the key ingredient is to market it once you’ve built it. It’s to let the customers know that you have this service. Marketing can be your point of difference over your competitors.

I was talking last year, here at ECIA with Brad Slatten, I think he’s in the room from ECS. You can always spot Brad, he’s got that really handsome Tom Selleck mustache. Brad told me over a cocktail last year that he figured out about five years, that just announcing new products was giving him sort of a temporary gain, but it didn’t last because his competitors in the crystal space caught up pretty quickly, and then the cycle would start all over again.

But he made marketing the differentiator of his business. If you want to hear more of the story, Brad is in the room somewhere.

The last one I found just a couple of days ago, and I haven’t had a chance to research it, is Schneider Electric. Same kind of human search engine, but what’s really interesting about this one is it’s not just the experts in the company that are feeding this human search engine. They actually got their customers involved in it as well. They have a group, I think it says about 38,000 people, signed up to help other customers solve problems. Very impressive.

To finish up, I’ll leave you with a thought. The typical question we ask customers when we go to meet customers, or we’re emailing customers. The classic question is, how can I help you? If you walk into a shoe store, how can I help you? Just think about that question for a second.

If you break it down, what you’re really asking the customer is, customer, you tell me what the problem is, and I’ll tell you if I’ve got an answer. How can I help you? If you change the question that you ask your customers to: what problem are you working on today? Just imagine the number of opportunities that could open up.

Imagine the number of things they’re going to tell you that are contained within the problem, the design they’re working on. Some of it may be relevant to you, some of it may not be relevant to you. But think about how many more potential RFQs that could lead to. If you change your mindset from here’s the product I have to sell, towards what problem are you working on today?

I’m Graham Kilshaw. Thanks very much.