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Manufacturing Marketing with Trevor Crotts

Episode Overview

“Find what people want and then sell it to them.”

Creating a successful brand is difficult, yet Trevor Crotts, Founder and President of BuddyBrands and CEO of Compel Commerce, has figured out the winning formula.

In this episode of Zen and the Art of Manufacturing Podcast, Bryan Sapot and Trevor sit down to talk about all things manufacturing marketing. Learn about how Trevor’s first trade show after founding Buddy Brands was a disaster, yet it led to key insights. Discover how the brand yet again pivoted after lackluster sales, creating an opportunity in eCommerce that would prove to be the key to success.

Trevor walks listeners through effective eCommerce sales strategies as a B2C company, positioning your brand in a way that captures the attention of potential customers, driving traffic to your website, and investing in employees that are going to encourage company growth and a great culture. Featuring real-world strategies and lessons to learn from, this episode of Zen and the Art of Manufacturing will explain marketing strategies that work for manufacturers.

Originally broadcast on April 27, 2021

Getting Started

We were selling things on Friday to keep the business moving on Monday. The direct consumer piece came about almost out of necessity from a survival standpoint.

Trevor is a fan of Bruce Lee’s analogy of flowing like water, where you simply have to figure out where to go and flow in that direction, the path of least resistance. For his business, it was easier to educate the consumer about a product using high-fidelity photos and videos, and show the educational part online, rather than relying on someone to tell someone who maybe can tell a customer in a store. The important thing was to be able to articulate the value, because it doesn’t matter how good the products are. It matters how good the organization is able to articulate how good they are.

Many great products end up in the graveyard because if the business can’t educate the customer and explain why, and turn features into benefits in a unique way that really speaks to them and shows them how it’s going to solve their problem or improve their life, it doesn’t matter how good.

The first customer to buy online was Ann Grossman. She found us on the website somehow. Trevor’s company had a cheap and bad Joomla website that he built online and started using Google AdWords to make money. He didn’t know anything about AdWords and he didn’t have the budget to hire someone to run the AdWords campaigns for him, so he learned by trial and error.

Trevor wishes he had invested more time in blogging and SEO in the early days. He feels that the website would be much further along in organic search results if he had. Prioritizing blogs can take a backseat when the goal of the website is to sell supplies and keep the business solvent. Adjusting his Google AdWords account and spending some money to acquire traffic made more sense at the time.

Continuous improvement is key in online marketing. A/B testing is incredibly important when it comes to online. Businesses need to make sure they understand what the customer’s intent is when they come to the website. What they see often does not resonate with them or address their concerns. Selling the solution instead of the product is the key to matching the customer’s needs. Find what people want and then sell it to them.

Hiring the Right Team

Trevor has always believed in hiring for fit and culture, not necessarily for skills and experience. As the business grows, there will be a need to bring in someone who has that experience. At a certain point, the business will have to level with who you’re bringing in to elevate the company. Someone with more experience than you might have.

The biggest hire that Trevor has made recently is a new COO, who was brought in externally. The COO came with a lot of experience and was the kind of person Trevor never thought he could afford to hire. His experience has been invaluable and Trevor would make the same decision again in a heartbeat. There are many ways beyond compensation to attract the right talent to the business. Trevor has hired many different agencies and people for different jobs including freelancers. He has also been burned to the point that he doesn’t hire anyone without a recommendation. “I need to know that someone knows you, who you have worked with.”

Overpromising and Underdelivering

Most marketing agencies overpromise and underdeliver. “If you hire 100 of them, 95-98% of them won’t do what they say they’re going to do. It is very rare to find a marketing agency that does what they say they are going to do.” Understanding the customer is crucial in marketing, starting with knowing who they are, what they like, and where they spend their time. Once you have a clear understanding of your customer, you can tailor your messaging to address their pain points and connect features to benefits in a unique way. This personalized approach can significantly increase the perceived value of your product or service and lead to higher conversion rates.

In the digital age, manufacturers need to adapt their marketing strategies to reach customers directly and create meaningful connections with them. By utilizing technology like 3D models for e-commerce, companies can provide customers with an authentic representation of their products, increasing conversion rates and reducing returns. This technology can revolutionize the way products are showcased online and bridge the gap between online shopping and in-store experiences.

Resilience When Becoming a Entrepreneur

Resilience is a key trait that can be learned from childhood experiences, even challenging ones. Building resilience can help entrepreneurs navigate the ups and downs of business and keep pushing forward despite setbacks. Embracing challenges and setbacks as learning opportunities can ultimately make entrepreneurs stronger and more adaptable in the face of adversity. The journey of entrepreneurship is often filled with obstacles and sacrifices, but having the resilience to persevere can lead to long-term success.

Starting a business requires a lot of sacrifice and resilience. Entrepreneurs should be prepared for challenges that are three times longer and five times more expensive than anticipated. It’s not an easy journey, and there will be a lot of pain along the way. The reality of entrepreneurship is not always highlighted in the brochures, but it’s something that every entrepreneur should be aware of and ready to face.

Despite the difficulties, embracing the challenges can make someone a better entrepreneur. The ability to persevere through tough times and keep going when faced with obstacles is a valuable skill. Entrepreneurs need to be mentally prepared for the hardships that come with starting and running a business. It’s about having the resilience to keep moving forward, even when things get tough.

Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. It requires a willingness to endure setbacks and failures without giving up. The journey of building a business is filled with moments of uncertainty and doubt, but it’s important to stay focused on the end goal. Success in entrepreneurship often comes from the ability to weather the storms and keep pushing forward, no matter what challenges arise.

Accepting Setbacks and Failures

The key to surviving as an entrepreneur is to accept that setbacks and failures are part of the process. It’s about learning from mistakes and using them as opportunities for growth. Every obstacle faced is a chance to learn and improve, making the entrepreneur stronger and more resilient in the long run. Embracing failure as a stepping stone to success is a mindset that can help entrepreneurs navigate the ups and downs of business ownership.

Entrepreneurs must be willing to face the harsh realities of starting a business head-on. It’s not always a smooth journey, and there will be times when things don’t go as planned. Being mentally prepared for the challenges ahead is crucial for success in entrepreneurship. The ability to adapt and overcome obstacles is what sets successful entrepreneurs apart from the rest. 

Connect with Trevor Crotts on LinkedIn.

Alyxandra Sherwood
Alyxandra Sherwood
Digital Marketing Manager @ Mingo Smart Factory I Adjunct Professor @ SUNY Geneseo I Boston Marathoner I Second Street Award Winner I Media Professional with 15 Years Experience