This is the story of the marketing journey of the Briscoe Manufacturing Company.
Walt’s iPhone alarm rang at 5:45am as it always did, but he was already awake. And even though he was wide awake, he wanted to stay in bed. He didn’t want to go to work. Again.
There was a time when he looked forward to going to work. But he was starting to dread it. Things were not going well there. He was beginning to wish he could run away from it all. He was feeling like a colossal failure.
Walt is an engineer and the CEO of Briscoe Manufacturing, a family-owned company with origins in wrought iron fencing that over the generations had diversified into a wide range of steel, aluminum, bronze, glass, and stainless steel products. Walt’s great grandfather started the business.
The company sells some products directly through a sales team, and others through distributors.
To drum up business as long as Walt had been with the company, they followed the traditional sales and marketing playbook including networking, buying lists, sending direct mail, cold calling, advertising, and exhibiting at trade shows.
Then, when customers were researching a purchase, one of the first things they’d do is call a Briscoe Manufacturing sales rep to get information.
And then things just seemed to change. For the worse.
A couple of years ago, sales began to slip. The customers weren’t calling as much to get information from their sales reps. And when they did call, it was mainly to negotiate a better price.
To try and shore up the flagging sales, Walt had a slick-looking new website built with lots of information about Briscoe Manufacturing, its history, its products, awards and announcements. Everything you could want to know about Briscoe Manufacturing was on that site. Walt was really proud of that new website.
But sales continued to slide. Some layoffs followed.
And what was even more maddening is that sales continued to slide even though, by every industry measure, the overall demand for their types of products was increasing.
One day, Walt's VP of Sales quit and took two salesmen with him to work for a competitor, Sheridan International.
Then sales really dropped off.
More people were laid off.
Walt was haunted that he was going to be the Briscoe that killed off Briscoe Manufacturing.
One day on a production line, a welding problem arose related to cold lapping in the short arc transfer process.
Walt went to Google to see if he could find some help. He found a detailed article that explained common gas metal arc welding problems and solutions. He discovered that one of the possible solutions to his fusion problem was changing to a flux-cored wire.
He explored that site a bit more and discovered several ebooks and a library of how-to videos that would be helpful for his welders. He downloaded an ebook about the the latest gas metal arc welding technology.
He liked that site. He started visiting it regularly to get answers to welding-related questions. He downloaded some more ebooks, a tip sheet and a buying guide.
The site belonged to Williams Welding Equipment and Supply.
One day Walt got a call from Williams Welding.
He normally didn't answer the phone because of all the irritating cold calls and robocalls. But he recognized "Williams Welding" on caller ID and answered it.
"This is Walt Briscoe," he said.
The caller said "Hi Mr. Briscoe. This is Matt Brady from Williams Welding. I got a message that you downloaded several ebooks from our website, and I was wondering if you found what you were looking for, of if there's some other information we could get for you."
Walt chuckled and said, "Yeah, I was researching a welding problem that came up and found your site. You guys have a lot of helpful information on your site."
That turned into a 45 minute conversation about Walt's welding operations. The salesman for Williams Welding was a great listener. But he also asked Walt several smart questions that really got him thinking. It was very helpful.
Walt and Matt agreed to a follow up call to more fully discuss Briscoe Manufacturing’s current welding operations.
The next morning it hit him.
He realized why his sales team wasn’t getting calls from customers anymore.
His salespeople were no longer the first place customers went for information.
Customers were getting their information online and were only contacting his salespeople after doing their own research.
He smacked his forehead. “That’s how I do research — just like I did with that welding site! Why did I not realize my customers were doing the same thing?”
He thought, “Why can’t Briscoe Manufacturing answer customer questions on our site like that welding supply company?”
“Our slick new site only has information about Briscoe Manufacturing. It’s all about, well… us. There’s not a single bit of helpful information that a customer might be looking for help with.”
Then, he started googling search terms that people who might never have heard of Briscoe Manufacturing might be using. Like, “alternatives to wrought iron fences” and “forged custom metal fabrication” and “architectural metals.”
The Briscoe Manufacturing site was nowhere to be found.
But guess whose site was on the first page of Google for several of those search terms? Sheridan International — the company where his VP of Sales and some of his salespeople went to.
“No wonder they’re hiring more salespeople!” he thought to himself.
The next afternoon, Walt assembled his sales and customer support people and had them write down every question they’d ever gotten from a customer.
Two of Briscoe’s best distributors joined the meeting via speakerphone.
In 90 minutes they came up with 93 different questions.
In the weeks that followed, Walt and the sales team prioritized the questions and began to answer them on their website with articles, tip sheets, buying guides, and later with some simple videos.
Walt’s goal for his company’s website was to become a definitive source of information and answers about the problems they solve for their customers.
Before long, website traffic started to pick up (they had never followed how much traffic their site had in the past).
Prospects started downloading helpful ebooks and signing up for their newsletter.
His sales team started following up with prospects who had visited their site. The sales team also began sharing their helpful information with their prospective customers.
And the sales team started getting more calls and appointments.
Sales cycles shortened.
Sales picked up.
And sales to existing customers really took off!
Ultimately, Walt was able to turn around the declining sales. And he was lucky enough to hire back some former employees. His business is growing again and back in the black.
The moral of the story? In this era where customers can avoid your sales pitches and marketing messages, to sell more, you first need to be helpful.
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