The Kula Ring

Episode 93 How a Manufacturer Evolved Its Digital Marketing Over the Decade

The Kula Ring podcast is essential listening for manufacturing marketers who want to grow their digital presence and compete online.

Sponsored by Kula Partners—an agency committed to helping leading B2B manufacturers craft digital experiences that transform how they engage buyers, serve customers, and outpace their competition—The Kula Ring podcast features conversations about marketing, sales, and technology with top manufacturing executives from across North America.

The Kula Ring podcast is co-hosted by Kula Partners principals, Carman Pirie and Jeff W. White, both of whom are frequently sought after for their digitally-focused B2B expertise. They regularly share their insights with audiences including conferences like B2B Online and HubSpot’s INBOUND, the Gardner Manufacturing Marketer blog, and other podcasts focused on B2B marketing and technology.

The last decade has seen a dramatic change in the way manufacturers, marketers, and agencies approach the web. In this episode of The Kula Ring, Eoin Vincent, Senior Global Marketing Technology Manager at Olympus, shares his experience creating successful manufacturing marketing content over the last 11 years. He talks about how he manages his team as the work becomes increasingly digital and the evolution of marketing organizations from generalists to specialists.

How a Manufacturer Evolved Its Digital Marketing Over the Decade Transcript:

Announcer: You’re listening to The Kula Ring, a podcast made for manufacturing marketers. Here are Carman Pirie and Jeff White. 

Jeff White: Welcome to The Kula Ring, a podcast for manufacturing marketers brought to you by Kula Partners. My name is Jeff White, and joining me today is Carman Pirie. Carman, how you doing, mate? 

Carman Pirie: I am doing well and I’m excited for today’s conversation. I think it’s always good to have such depth of experience on the show, frankly. So, I think today’s conversation will be a lot of fun. 

Jeff White: Yeah, I think so, and I really am looking forward to talking to our guest about the teams that he’s been building, and the things that he’s been doing, and I think it’s a really interesting depth of experience, as you say, so-

Carman Pirie: And I think our listeners really ought to be aware that the guest and yourself share a design background, so therefore probably everything’s going to just be skewed in favor of designers and entirely flawed, frankly, by most people’s thinking. But the two of you will feel that you are right, and true, and accurate the entire time. 

Jeff White: I think that’s generally how it goes with designers, isn’t it? 

Carman Pirie: I think so. I think so. Well, love to hate designers and hate to love designers. I don’t know, which is it? I like designers, to be honest. I wish I was one. I’m just not that talented. 

Jeff White: You have many talents in other places, my friend. So, joining us today is Eoin Vincent. Eoin is the Senior Global Marketing Technology Manager at Olympus. Welcome to The Kula Ring, Eoin. 

Eoin Vincent: Thank you for having me. 

Carman Pirie: It’s a real pleasure to be chatting with you, Eoin, because I think it’s probably going to be the only time I’ll get to say anything, I’m just going to ask you to introduce Olympus and your role there a bit more formally, if you would. 

Eoin Vincent: Absolutely. Olympus has three companies. Or three businesses, I should say. Most of us are aware of the camera company, and then there is a medical division, and then the industrial division. And so, I’m part of the Olympus industrial division company. We’re based out of Waltham, Massachusetts, and we build non-destructive testing equipment, which is equipment that basically tests things that are being manufactured, or things that could corrode, where we would use ultrasound, or visual inspection, or microscopes, or XRF technology in building and manufacturing. Testing thickness, testing corrosion in a pipeline, testing for cracking, things of that nature. It’s a really neat technology and a really neat business to be marketing in. 

Carman Pirie: That is really cool, and how did you come to it, and how long have you been with Olympus? 

Eoin Vincent: I’ve been with Olympus for about 11 years. I’ve been in the NDT world for 20 years. I was acquired through acquisition to Olympus, and I started on the ultrasound side, so working in Boston, there was a hub of ultrasounds specialists that came out of MIT, so I was working with one of them in a really small group, and it was fantastic. We were in this old watch factory building. My beginnings were there, and I was doing everything from print design, ad design, webpage design, and really anything. Anything that needed to happen, it was coming through me. 

Carman Pirie: The veritable jack of all trades, at that point. 

Eoin Vincent: That’s correct. 

Carman Pirie: So, I think for our chat today, what we’re trying to kind of dig into is really the evolution of that marketing organization over the 11 years that you’ve been with Olympus, how the organization has kind of evolved, and how you’ve sought to grow the team, given the ever-increasing digital context and nature of your work. And I think frankly, some of that’s going to be a bit of how would we do it if we were doing it from scratch? Because these things kind of happen somewhat organically. 

Eoin Vincent: Sure. 

Carman Pirie: But what is the story of the evolution of the marketing function there? How has it evolved over the years? 

Eoin Vincent: Well, it has gone from a place where we have a jack of all trades to more of a specialist role. And that’s been a fairly long evolution, and I think it really came out of the idea… My background is in print. My first real work was in a pre-press industry, running film and the like, and so we came to this world saying, “All right, here’s print and here’s this thing called AOL, and we need to start building stuff for it.” And we became a kind of jack of all trades, and then there were videos, and audio clips, and podcasts, and so we all tried to do everything. One-man bands, if you will. 

And I would say within the last three years, we really have started to reorganize and have specialists. Granted, there are quite a few members of the team that do have abilities beyond the norm. There are some overlaps. I’d say from the photography perspective, for example, the creative group has a photographer and a videographer, and I also have a background in that from the digital team. We do have the overlap, but what we’ve seen is a lot more specialists. Web development specialists, graphic design specialists. And one of the big challenges right now is big data, so we have somebody on the team now that all they do is manage data, and manage measurement, and see how things are going. 

Carman Pirie: Can you give our listeners a sense of the size of the team and maybe we’ll talk through some of the roles? 

Eoin Vincent: Yeah. Actually, it’s quite a small team in the scheme of things. There is a creative team and the digital team. We work really without silos, and we look at each other as members, but from a reporting standpoint, there are two of us, and it’s a team of about 10 people, and then we have about 11 people up in Quebec city for translations. We also have some team members in Tokyo, Japan, and some team members in Germany, and we are a global team, and so that’s been really neat and eye-opening for me to learn how marketing is different in Europe, or in Asia, or in Japan, or Australia, or Latin America and the likes. It’s been a really neat learning process for me as we become more and more global. 

Carman Pirie: Perhaps it’s a bit of a tangent, but I’d be curious to know what some of the more surprising things you found in that transition have been. 

Eoin Vincent: I think one of the interesting parts of marketing is the evolution of email, and I think in the States, we are okay with sending say marketing emails or emails from the sales rep. From a Japanese perspective, and our emails may be full of images, and sales rep’s face, something of that nature, but in Asia or in Japan, the emails are still just really text-based, and very clean, text-based emails, and that was one of those things that I was very surprised by. I don’t know if that’s an industry thing or if it’s marketing in general, because you go to Japan and the marketing is very extreme to what we’re used to here in the States or in Canada, so that was one of those surprising things. You see all this technicolor marketing in Japan, and then you look at the marketing that we’re doing and it’s not, in a way. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. 

Jeff White: As you started out as a more traditional graphic designer, from what I understand, and maybe if there’s time we can talk a little bit about your background and how you come by that, because I think it’s really interesting. But how-

Carman Pirie: But of course you do, you’re a designer. See, this is what I warned the people about. 

Jeff White: Yeah. It’s not so much about that. 

Eoin Vincent: So, what-

Jeff White: Please. 

Eoin Vincent: I was going to say, so what version of Photoshop did you start with? 

Jeff White: Version 2, but that’s beside the point. But I do think it’s interesting kind of how the web has changed, because of course, even just over the last 11 or so years that you’ve been with Olympus, we’ve seen a dramatic and massive change to how not just designers, but how agencies, how manufacturers, how marketers, in general, have approached the web. What are some of the biggest changes that you’ve seen in terms of what you’ve needed to learn about the web in that time? 

Eoin Vincent: I think that the biggest challenge was going from an environment that was HTML and local, working with applications like Dreamweaver, or even if I date myself GoLive, and CGI scripts, and going to a world of databases and CRMs and CMSs, and understanding how they work, and understanding what we can do with that type of data, or how we can separate different content for different regions. One of the things that we did that I thought was very interesting is it’s a trend often for companies to create 40 websites, one for each country or region, and the approach that I’ve always taken was at the end of the day the customer, doesn’t really matter what region they are in, they just want to find out the information. We’ve always asked that question at the end of that process. There would be one website, somebody would fill out a contact form, and in the back end, we would then route it to the correct sales team in the correct country. 

And that was a very eye-opening process to go through, like CGI scripts that were doing that, to databases that we would manage and implement. That was a big curve for me. Especially when you start looking at zip codes and such. We have a sales rep for each zip code in America. That’s a lot of data, so that’s been a really big challenge and learning curve for me. 

Carman Pirie: I really like that approach, however. The notion of let’s segment at the end of that conversion process, not at the start of it. 

Eoin Vincent: Yeah. 

Carman Pirie: And it seems to me that it would make the management of the digital infrastructure on the front end much more simple. 

Eoin Vincent: Especially from a translation perspective and from a product launch perspective. Product launches are still an all hands on deck process, but we’re only updating one website, but we’re doing it with eight languages, so it’s still a long process. But yes, I agree with you. It’s a lot easier. And then each region is up to date with everything that’s going on. We’re not expected that different regions would have to launch their pages also, so yes. 

Jeff White: I think too, just purely from the maintenance of an overall infrastructure perspective, that makes a ton of sense. And I think it creates a more seamless experience for the user to not force them to know which site, or to redirect them once they’ve loaded the initial page. Oh, it looks like you’re in Canada, would you like the English or French version, or what have you. Instead, it’s just a matter of okay, you arrive at the Olympus site, and you digest the content, and if there’s something that you would like to get more information on, at that point you declare where you are. I think it’s a bit of a user-first perspective, and I like it. 

Carman Pirie: Well, and how many times have we seen brands that are maintaining multiple sites across multiple jurisdictions, and they in some ways, after a while, especially if the management of those sites kind of fall through the different regions, and they’re given a bit of autonomy, often they kind of lose a sense of cohesiveness in the brand voice. It becomes very disjointed. You look at the European site and you look at the North American site, and they kind of seem like they’re communicating different USPs, and the brand stands for different things in different markets, and of course, the only person you’re really fooling in that moment I think is yourself. You’re not fooling the prospect or the customer in any way.

Jeff White: Yeah, exactly. Some site in Bavaria that is still sized for 640 by 480 and nobody’s updated it in forever. 

Eoin Vincent: Yeah. The PDF is 10 years old and… Yeah. 

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Jeff White: I do think that one of the things you had said, Eoin, that was particularly interesting, was this notion of starting out with static sites and CGI script and all of that, and back in those days, the technology stack was usually not the domain of the marketing organization. It was the domain of the IT organization. And over the years, we’ve seen a big transition of overall technology spend is up in marketing, and perhaps down in IT as a result. How have you seen that progression over the years? 

Eoin Vincent: Yeah. I’ve been in a very unique role. In my Olympus history, the website has always lived in marketing, and I think that’s extremely unique. A lot of the peers that I have worked with, as you noted, the websites were part of the IT function. Moving from one technology to another, when it lives in an IT world, there may be some benefit from a coding perspective, but from a marketing perspective, and this is where I think starting to really see the benefits of having this role in marketing, we’re seeing the customers… We’re able to visualize the customer’s journey better and understand the customer because it’s not just a website. It is a part of a complete funnel of content. Social media content, print content, tradeshows, and then websites, they’re all intertwined with each other and making sure that messaging and visuals all are connected is huge, and I think that bringing the websites into marketing challenges marketing to a certain degree, but I think those are really good challenges to figure out. Because ultimately it will give us better messaging to our customers and give a better customer experience. 

Carman Pirie: I couldn’t agree more, but at the same time, I like the note of caution in your voice there. I think oftentimes marketers see that as a… Then they’ve won the battle if they can just wrestle control of the site away from IT, but it’s like, “Eh, that’s only the first step of it.” Getting actually to know what you’re doing in that domain and to be comfortable and native there is not something that comes easy to every marketing organization. 

Eoin Vincent: Yeah, and I would say one of the challenges that I’ve personally faced over the years is being so close to the tree I don’t see the forest, and that becomes very challenging, especially when you’re building very large websites. And over the years, I’ve gotten better at that, and one of the joys of having a global team and global customers, my internal customers, is that I have many eyes looking at the same process, or pages, or content, which really helps build the journey better. Though recently, I’ve also looked at focus groups to help me out through that process to make sure that we’re designing content the way that we expect or the customer expects it will work and look like. 

Carman Pirie: I’m curious, is that type of qualitative research and kind of UX sensibility, et cetera, indicative of some of the specialty roles that you’ve involved in house over the years?

Eoin Vincent: Absolutely. And on our team, we have somebody that is most definitely more UX-centric, and someone that’s more code-centric, from the perspective of contact forms, and making sure those processes work, so absolutely. Yep. And that’s part of when I was developing this team, really looking at how can I again have the overlap. I have these two coders able to do the same work, but they’re each bringing something that’s very specific as an addition to that. The team that we’ve built, I am extremely happy about, because we are very adaptive and we’re very agile to the challenges that we’re facing, and I feel very lucky to have such a strong team behind us right now, so it’s been really neat. 

Jeff White: Do you think that perhaps your team structure and your focus and understanding of the web, and this is where Carman’s gonna… I can hear him rolling his eyes, is a bit different, given that it’s design-led, rather than marketer led? Because I do think it creates different types of teams that maybe think about things in perhaps a slightly different way. 

Carman Pirie: I wouldn’t have thought the microphone was sensitive enough to pick up the eye-rolling sound. 

Eoin Vincent: I think that’s one of the challenges that we’re adjusting to right now, is that we have been marketing-led, and we need more communication on what our customer needs, our external customer needs, or how they expect something to happen. This means that we need to communicate with our sales groups more often and understand more about what their needs are. This is something that we’ve been breaking down for quite some time, but it is one of the challenges to find that balance between design and sales and marketing, so it is interesting to see something that was heavily marketing-led, to working with specialists around the world. We have these wonderful scientists and specialists in different fields of technology, and being able to sit down with them and talk about the technology, and then create content around that. 

And as you both probably know, this is now also very big for Google, from the perspective that Google is now looking for these authoritative people that will answer the questions that people are looking for. So, it’s been a really neat process to go from a design concept group to more of a sales specialist group, if that makes any sense. 

Jeff White: I think it does, for sure, and I think that’s really interesting. One of the things that you mentioned a little bit ago was this idea of being able to see the forest, and when we connected ahead of the recording here, you had mentioned that that was sometimes why you would rely on, although you’ve built this very powerful internal team, that often you rely on outside agencies to get that kind of ability to see the forest. How are you integrating with external organizations? 

Eoin Vincent: You know, the funny thing about COVID for me has been working with our external agencies. I’ve had more video conferences with them in the last month. That has been absolutely amazing because we’re able to communicate and work more effectively. But the way that we’re using them is to look at how we’ve created pages, and how we could better create pages from the perspective of SEO, and we’re also making sure that some of the technology on the back end is maintained correctly. Some of the structure that is in place, I built 11 to 15 years ago and is still in place, and a lot has changed in that time.

Bringing in an agency that would take the time to go through some of the how the pages are built, how the Google Analytics data is being collected, how is it being filtered, how are all the conversion tracking is working and the like, has been a fantastic part of the process. Because we just kind of close our eyes and say, “Yeah, it worked five years ago, so it’s still gonna work today.” And bringing in an agency to look at how we’re doing things has been an eye-opening experience from a technology learning perspective and correction perspective. 

Carman Pirie: I can tell you from the agency side, and we should tell our listeners that we don’t work together in an agency relationship, so we’re not the agency you’re referring to and vice versa. But I have found that so often the case is that a lot of that infrastructure isn’t set it and forget it, and I see it time and again, whether it’s with an analytics setup, like say conversion tracking within GA, or even a Google Ads account that’s been left to just kind of be out in the wild on its own for far too long. That’s often some of the very early and significant value that I find we deliver as an agency, so I guess I’ve seen it from the other side, like when you can kind of dive into those. You start doing that with the page analysis, you start looking at conversion tracking within GA. It was set up five years ago and that’s that. I think that’s very solid advice for marketers listening, is don’t just assume that because it’s done, that you can check it off the list and never look at it again. 

Eoin Vincent: Yeah. No, absolutely. Because a lot of our decisions are being made because of the data that we’re collecting. Our wins and our losses are based on metrics, and if that metric data is being measured incorrectly, or is doubling up, or something of that nature, or not being collected at all, you may make different decisions than if it was being collected correctly. 

Carman Pirie: Yeah. Yeah. No question. No question. 

Eoin Vincent: Things like Google Tag Manager really changed how Google and websites interacted with each other, and I personally believe you need a PhD to understand Google Tag Manager correctly. And making sure that system was set up correctly, for me, was huge, and there were adjustments that needed to be made, but now we’re collecting the data in such a way that all the triggers go off in the correct order, and is collecting the data the way that we really want it to be collected. 

Carman Pirie: That makes complete sense, Eoin. I think that has been a fascinating conversation. Kind of we’ve meandered a bit from the evolution of the marketing organization from generalists to specialists, and marketing maintaining control of the tech stack, and kind of what that means, all the way through to the evolution of design versus sales thinking in driving the work for the marketing dept, so I think this has been just a fascinating conversation. 

Eoin Vincent: Thank you. Thank you. 

Carman Pirie: It’s been good chatting. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. 

Eoin Vincent: It’s been a pleasure to be a part of this podcast and I greatly appreciate it. 

Jeff White: Thanks a lot, Eoin. 

Eoin Vincent: No problem. Thank you.?

Announcer: Thanks for listening to The Kula Ring, with Carman Pirie and Jeff White. Don’t miss a single manufacturing marketing insight. Subscribe now at www.rccompplan.com/thekularing. That’s K-U-L-Apartners.com/thekularing.

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