It was a random Saturday afternoon in October 2016. I was sitting in my home office in San Francisco, on my computer catching up on a recent company video newsletter. Yeah, I know…that’s a pretty lame way to spend a Saturday, but I promise you that’s not the norm. Regardless, it was the start of a new fiscal year, and as an Account Executive, that’s always when I’m thinking most creatively about how to grow my business and better serve my customers.
I’d been toying with the idea of starting a video series for a while. I knew I needed a more frequent, personal way of reaching my clients, and that a standard HTML newsletter would likely get lost in the mix of my customers’ inboxes. Thanks to that internal video newsletter, the idea finally synergized that afternoon: Why not start a video series for the manufacturing sector that also made this “old school” industry more fun an approachable? I grabbed my iPhone and a selfie stick, propped it up using a stack of books, poured myself a pint of beer, hit “Record,” and sent a pilot video of this crazy idea I had to my co-workers and mentors.
Fast-forward to today.
For a little over 1 year, I’ve been hosting and producing a video series called “Manufacturing Happy Hour.” The title itself is pretty self-explanatory: I sit down with an executive, engineer, or influencer that works in the industrial sector, and for the course of a 3 to 5 minute video, we discuss a technology, product, or macro-issue impacting the manufacturing space over a beverage. If this sounds cool, it’s because it is!
But aside from this video project making the past 12 months the most fun and creative year of my career in sales and marketing, Manufacturing Happy Hour is more than just an excuse to drink beer at work. Below are the 5 reasons that I started a manufacturing industry video series:
To Break into a New Market
I should back up and give some context here: I work for Rockwell Automation. You may or may not know them. They’re the largest company in the world dedicated specifically to industrial automation. They make electronics, sensors, controls, and information solutions that automate manufacturing facilities and increase productivity. To use a quick analogy, if a manufacturing facility were a human body, Rockwell’s solutions are basically the “nervous system” behind that manufacturing process.
As a North American company headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Rockwell enjoys a relatively high market share in the United States, but that doesn’t necessarily hold true in every market. In the San Francisco Bay Area where I work, Rockwell is definitely not necessarily the go-to automation solution for certain industries. I face fierce competition from lower cost niche competitors in Northern California, or encounter a “hacker mentality” so prevalent here in the Bay Area that some engineers would prefer to spend countless hours designing a homegrown controller on their own.
Manufacturing Happy Hour is a medium that cuts through the noise brought about by stiff competition. As a sales guy, I’d be lying if I didn’t say this was one of the main reasons I started the series, but that’s just the surface level stuff…
To Reach a Younger Audience
In addition to competition, I have another unique challenge in San Francisco: the age of decision-makers in the Bay Area skews young. In a market dominated by the tech industry, manufacturing is – at least in my mind – only one step removed; you’re still focused on creating a product and solving a problem, just with a large mechanical piece of equipment instead of a piece of software.
While many people might think of manufacturing as a stodgy, “Rust Belt” industry run by a bunch of “good ol’ boys,” in Northern California, the same Millennials running the show at Facebook, Google, and Netflix also have an equally-large impact on decisions in the manufacturing sector, and I needed a way to reach that audience. It’s no secret that Millennials and Gen Z consume information differently than Gen X and the Baby Boomers, so video seemed like a no-brainer for my region.
To Build a Manufacturing Industry Community
I looked around the Bay Area and noticed something missing in the manufacturing space: a community. Every day of the week, you could bet that there was a Meetup for ChatBots, cryptocurrency, or other emerging tech trends and industries, but manufacturing? Strangely silent. I thought if I could create that same collaborative ecosystem, my customers and other people within the sector could learn far more about my company’s solutions from one another than they could from any 1-on-1 meeting with me.
On the surface, Manufacturing Happy Hour is a video series. But at its essence, it’s a tool for bringing my customers – or as I like to call them, “Manufacturing All-Stars” – together to share some beers and best practices in a casual environment (i.e. the best bars and breweries in the Bay Area). You didn’t really think the “Happy Hour” aspect would stop at the camera, did you?
To Give Away Value While Playing to My Strengths
“Giving” as much value as you can to your clients is one of the most underrated strategies in business, and the manufacturing world – for whatever reason – seems to be very much in “ask” mode:
“Can you give us a lower price?”
“Can I have all of your industrial controls business?” (This one’s me saying that! #guilty)
“Can you give us some leads?”
The list goes on. But, successful businesspeople like Gary Vaynerchuk preach (and practice) the value of giving without expectation everyday, and I saw an opportunity to be part of the solution instead of the problem.
As an ex-musician and an “extrovert’s extrovert,” I love being on stage, in front of the camera, or telling a story. While I’m not the best salesperson in the world, I’m still on the ground floor listening to the challenges that the people in manufacturing face everyday, and I know how to pull in folks from my network that can address those problems in a short video interview. Whether it’s a product update or a technology trend that’s disrupting the industry, I found a way to spread the word through a YouTube channel and a cold glass of beer…at no charge!
To Have a Ton of Fun
Could I have recreated this same concept sans beer? Of course I could have! But would it be as memorable? Maybe. But it would definitely not be as fun.
It’s no secret that employees produce better work and results when they’re enjoying what they do, and who they’re doing it with. Rockwell Automation has no shortage of great people, and consequently, a great culture where even crazy ideas like a beer-driven video series are embraced. Without digging into this one too much, I’ll just say that Manufacturing Happy Hour is still a labor of love, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to start something that was both helpful to my clients and a blast to create.
So that’s the story behind Manufacturing Happy Hour! I’ll be sharing more actionable articles related to the series soon, but in the meantime, I’d love to hear from you! What are some creative ideas you’ve implemented within your business recently? How do you go about breaking into new markets, or building community in your industry? Heck, what’s your favorite beer?! Please discuss in the comments below. Cheers!