If you’re in a niche B2B market, niche down even further. The further you go, the more traction you will gain. And how do you get that traction? With the power of social media, especially LinkedIn. Just because you’re a small and niche B2B manufacturer doesn’t mean you can’t generate leads with LinkedIn. You can if you have the right mindset. Join Ben Baker as he talks to the Director of Marketing for RCF Technologies, Paulie Rose. She is a B2B marketer in the aerospace business who talks to engineers. That is as targeted as she can get, and she is thriving. Learn how you can niche down so you can find your ideal customer. Discover the power of LinkedIn and how you can build connections there. Start building connections today!
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Social Media Marketing in a Niche B2B Market with Paulie Rose
[00:01:44] In this episode, I want to get back into marketing. We’re going to talk about a niche of a niche. How do you sit there and say, “These are specifically the people that we are interested in? These are the people we can help. These are the people we can add value to. These are the people with money. These are the people that are going to be able to reach up, raise their hand, and say, ‘You’ve got something that we need. Let’s talk.’” I’ve got Paulie Rose. Paulie, let’s get into this. Welcome to the show.
[00:02:16] Thanks so much. I’m happy to be with you.
[00:02:18] Paulie and I have been talking for a long time now. We’ve become friends off-air. We sit there. We cause a little bit of trouble together. I love her view on marketing because you are a typical B2B marketer. It’s a business-to-business marketer in the aerospace business and you speak specifically to engineers. You are niching down an audience. Let the audience find a little bit from you about where you came from, and who you are, and then let’s talk about how we niche down on a marketing philosophy to be able to reach the people you want to reach in a way that’s meaningful.
[00:02:57] I love this topic. It’s something that I spend most of my time consumed with. I’m excited to get into it with you. A little bit about who I am and where I came from, I am a mom of four, married, and living in St. Louis. I have a career that started totally elsewhere. Nothing to do with marketing and aerospace. I took some years off to raise my kids and decided to go back to work. As I got back into the idea of going back to work, I decided that a good soft-landing spot would be to go to work for the family business.
I started to have conversations with my mom, who is the CEO of RCF Technologies, a company that’s been in business for many years started by her father, my grandfather. They are a manufacturing aerospace business. We make parts for aerospace the aerospace industry. I decided to jump in. We thought maybe a good place for me to start getting my feet wet would be in sales and marketing. That was it. I got started, fell in love, and started to research, read, listen to podcasts, attend webinars, read books, and research online. It’s been going on ever since. That’s where I’m at.
I came to this whole industry of marketing and aerospace with fresh eyes. I didn’t have a background in either area. Coming with those fresh eyes allowed me to look at problems from a different perspective. I was doing a lot of studying on marketers in other industries and in other areas. I was studying B2C marketing, and B2B marketing, in industry, and out of the industry, pulling ideas that resonated with me and seemed to be proven according to the data, and twisting and turning and playing with it until I came up with what started to work for us in our business.
It’s been quite successful, thankfully. It has a lot to do with the fact that we are a B2B manufacturer, which is extremely targeted. In fact, when I work with other clients now, teaching them about how to use LinkedIn to generate leads and grow their business, niching down is one of the first things we talk about. In my opinion, it truly works to the advantage of the marketing team and business to be able to niche down as much as possible in order to target your ideal audience.
[00:05:40] Let’s talk about that. On your LinkedIn profile, it says, “We design lightweight, fireproof solutions for aerospace engineers with high temp applications.” It doesn’t get more niche than that. You’re dealing with 1/10 of 1/100 of 1% of the world population.
[00:06:01] You would think intuitively, “Why are you being so specific? You’re ruling out all of those other billions of people that you could potentially be talking to.” It is a little counterintuitive, but it works. That’s the truth.
[00:06:14] That was my thought process. There have to be other industries, oil, and gas being one that I’m thinking of, other places that deal with high-temperature situations where you’re negating them. You’re sitting there going, “We deal with aerospace and aerospace only.” How do you decide as an organization, as a marketing, as a brand, that, “This is it?” “
We could take our technology. We could retool. We could do a whole thing and go after a much larger piece of the pie, but we are sitting here going, “We are going to focus on aerospace and in the high-temperature sphere.” What led to that philosophy? That idea came long before you got into the business. Why that niche and how do you sit there as a new person coming in, a fresh set of eyes and be able to tell that story differently, to be able to sit there, and people go, “Maybe we should pay attention to this company?”
[00:07:18] The truth is that we do service companies in the oil and gas industry. We do work with the motorsport industry and a handful of other industries as well. When a company is trying to broaden its brand recognition and trying to get a foothold, we’re going up against big-name companies. We’re a small little B2B manufacturing company in the middle of Georgia. It is helpful to be known for one thing. If you can be known for one thing, you will start to be known by industries that are on the periphery of that one thing. Do we also have marketing information that is geared toward motorsport? We do. Do we also have marketing information that’s geared toward the oil and gas industry? We do.If you're a small company going up against bigger companies, it's very helpful to be known for one thing. Click To Tweet
If we are putting out a message to broaden our brand awareness, it is to be with a focus on the aerospace industry because that’s what we are known for. That’s what we want to be known for. That’s our bread and butter. That’s where the majority of our work is done. It is surprising to see when we get inquiries from people in oil and gas or motorsport. We’re doing work with NASCAR and Formula 1. The engineers that are working in those industries, if they’re looking for the type of product that we sell or something that will address their high-temperature needs, they know that if they look in the aerospace sector, they’re likely to find similar products to what they would use in those two sectors.
When we’re targeting a particular company, particular person, or decision maker within a different industry, we’ll send out information that’s more targeted and relevant to them. When I’m doing broad customer outreach or broad brand awareness, tend to stick with what our lane is. When you’re known for the one thing that you’re great at, you start to get known for other things that you can do as well.
[00:09:27] I would think that people in engineering, oil, gas, and car racing are sitting there going, “If the tolerance is good enough for aerospace, it’s certainly going to be good enough for our needs.” It’s one of those things that if you went after the oil and gas industry, aerospace may say, “That might be good enough for oil and gas, but in the high pressure going into space, no-fail environment that aerospace is, it may not be good enough for us.”
If you elevate yourself to that pinnacle and say, “We are good enough for this. We are seen by the industry as being a proven vendor to do this.” Other industries consider saying, “They’ve reached the pinnacle. They understand excellence. They understand micron razor-thin tolerances. They will speak our language as well.”
There was a guy that I had on the show by the name of Kurt Andersen. He talked about the right knee guy. The right knee guy was the surgeon that all he did was your right knee. “You had an ankle problem? Don’t talk to me. You got a left knee problem, don’t talk to me. You got a hip problem, don’t talk to me. If you have a right knee issue, I’m your guy. I am the guy to come to if you got a right knee issue.”
That’s what we’re talking about. We’re talking about being able to niche down to a point where people sit there and say, “These people know what they’re talking about. This is all they do. This is all they’re focused on. This is what their equipment and their people and their energy and their money are focused on. Maybe we should be paying attention.”
[00:11:13] First of all, I love Kurt Andersen and that right-knee guy story, which I might start to use myself. Your credit, for sure. When you become an expert in your particular field, there’s no choice. It makes sense that you go to the right knee guy when you have a right knee problem. In any industry, if you can be known as the go-to, then you’re golden. You might have an ankle problem and say, “Right knee guy, I know you’re an expert in right knees, but can you tell me whom I should see for the ankle? Can you give me a tip on whatever the case may be?”
It helps to elevate your authority, give your business credibility, and establish you as a thought leader in the industry. Instead of trying to be everything for everyone, be great at the one thing you’re great at and it will grow from there. There’s no question about it. You will become the authority. You will be known for that thing that you do so well.
[00:12:13] As I tell people, there are 8 billion people in the world, give or take. If 1/1,000 of 1% of those people, know, like, and trust you, and do business with you, you can live well for the rest of your life. That means over 99.9% of people probably don’t know who you are, don’t care who you are, and are never going to do business with you, but it’s being able to find that 1/10 or 1/100 of 1% and be able to speak to them in a language that resonates with them.
[00:12:43] That’s precisely it. When you said earlier that you’re blocking off all this other business that could be coming your way because you’re only specifying that you’re there for aerospace engineers, the truth is exactly as you said. It’s for that reason that I don’t need 10,000 followers on LinkedIn to be generating a steady flow of new business because I’m talking not to everybody who’s curious and was wanting to know about and thought it might be interesting. I’m talking to and connecting with the people who want what we make, who need what we do, who need our expertise, and who want to buy what we make. It cuts away a lot of the noise and gets you directly on the path to speaking to the decision-makers that you need to speak with in order to do business.
[00:13:31] Let’s dive into that because a few years ago, you walked into the business. It’s a business not started by your mom, but by your grandfather. This is a business that was in business for many years before you even walked in the door. How did you go about changing the marketing, changing the brand, refocusing, retooling, and reenergizing to be able to make it relevant in 2017, and 2018 instead of 1977?
[00:14:05] Here, too, I had a bit of an advantage. It felt like a disadvantage at the time that I started, but it was an advantage. I came into the business and there was nobody sitting in the marketing seat before my arrival. The business was done by word of mouth, by going to trade shows, and by making sales calls. It had worked for all the years that it had worked, and it was how business was done for many years, but here we are in a digital age and there was nothing being done. We had a website that was limping along. My first project was to revamp the website and build a new website. I knew that if we had a functioning website, we could build from there and begin to generate a marketing plan.
My first year was dedicated to building a website, which is a beautiful website now. Everybody should go and take a look if you’re an engineer and aerospace looking for a high-temperature application. Otherwise, you’re not going to find it all that interesting. We built out the website and then the field was open. There was nobody telling me, “This is the way we’ve always done it. We can’t go in that direction because we’ve tried it before and it didn’t work. We can’t step on that one’s toes.” It was, “Whatever you think, Paulie, go ahead and give it a shot.” By the way, we have zero marketing budget. That’s the other piece of the puzzle.
Go ahead and make our brand well known and get us, new customers. Again, we found the dollars to do the website, and then I was left trying to figure out what would be our plan of attack. I was somewhat familiar with LinkedIn from some previous experience. After all of the reading that I had started to do and the conversations I started to have, I was sold on the idea of inbound marketing. I thought it made great sense and could work for us. I was somewhat familiar with LinkedIn and I knew that was a place where people went to do business. I was drawn to this concept of inbound marketing as a strategy. I jumped on LinkedIn and got to work. I am an avid reader and learner.
I am still looking for new resources all the time. I have a pile of books by my bedside table and a stack of websites that I’m still trying to get to read another blog post or another article. It was in the doing that the learning came. There was a lot of head scratching, even though I wasn’t getting any red light saying, “That’s a waste of time. Don’t waste your time on LinkedIn.”It's really in the doing where the learnings will come. Click To Tweet
It was free, first of all. I have a free membership. I ended up doing a premium membership, but I’m not even on sales navigator, which is the next sales level. I started to produce some content, connect with people, and follow the feed of people that I was interested in learning from or selling to, and because there is no silver bullet, it does take time. I began to slowly build more brand awareness, connections with potential customers, and a lead generation system that has worked for us.
Approximately 1/3 of our new incoming business comes from a lead generated on LinkedIn. It is a direct feeder to us for business. I was like a kid in a candy store. There were no parameters. There were no guidelines of what has been done and shouldn’t be done. I got to experiment and try and play. Sometimes things worked and sometimes things didn’t work, but more often they worked than didn’t.
I’m still building and learning, but it is working because if you, one, as a B2B manufacturing company, and that was the other thing when we were talking to others in B2B manufacturing, as I was starting to say before, a lot of head scratching saying, “LinkedIn is not the right place for you. That doesn’t even make sense. How could you be on LinkedIn doing business?”
The line of connection was not clear to people. As it kept working for us, I started to have conversations with other B2B manufacturing leaders and business owners. I said, “Could I pick your brain for a little bit? How is it that you’re getting this to work? It didn’t ever occur to me that social media in that way could work as a lead-generation tool for our business. After all, all we do is make these little plastic widgets or these nuts and bolts.” Our audience isn’t there. I have taken them through. What I have come to learn is the process for success where people like myself are working for small B2B manufacturers, and it is working.
I have since started a consultation business on the side where I’m helping other small B2B business owners learn the foundational elements of how to get onto LinkedIn and the standard operating procedure to follow to start to gain traction. I’m living proof that it is a platform for us, too. Social media works for us, too, as small B2B manufacturers.
[00:19:48] What I’m curious about is what are the insights that you learned, what were the a-ha moments, and what were the things you went, “I tried that and that blew up in my face.” We’ve all had them. I’ve been on LinkedIn for several years. I could probably write a book on the things that I’ve done wrong over the years. What was right on that day is certainly wrong now or whatever. It’s constantly changing. You’re constantly reevaluating. What are the things that enabled you to be able to niche down and be able to have the right conversations with the right people? What’s one example of something that blew up in your face and said, “We shouldn’t be doing that?”
[00:20:30] There were many wrong steps, and along the way, some correct steps. LinkedIn is forgiving in that way. Whatever you put up now, you can change in the future. Probably 90% of anybody who saw it will forget about it in a week anyway. You’re starting fresh all the time. Try things. Experiment with things. One of the missteps that I took was trying to understand how this platform, LinkedIn, works.
I spent a lot of my time putting out content, for instance, on our company page, because intuitively, one thinks, “This is a business platform. I should be posted to my company page.” That turns out is not the best strategy. Your company page is important to the overall picture of what you’re trying to do if you’re trying to build your brand on LinkedIn, but truly, you get far more traction and eyes on through your personal profile.
It took me some time to learn how to set up my personal profile in a way that reflected my business and used the company page as a reinforcement to what I was putting out on my personal profile. It took some time to get there. It also took me some time to figure out my tagline or headline, talking about what I do to help the people I’m trying to serve. It took a while to figure out how important that was. I always say, “If you can, in one short sentence, put in a line for yourself, which appears under your profile picture, which is plugging into this formula, I help X do Y by doing Z.”
I help aerospace engineers to find lightweight, fireproof solutions to high-temperature applications. You’re plugging in the formula. What I didn’t realize at the beginning, which probably slowed down my growth, was how important that tagline was and how important interacting on LinkedIn was. It’s not just about going out and selling what you’ve got. It’s just not about going out and trying to get connections. It’s certainly not just about going and posting content.
All of those things are important and they all count. If your person’s starting out, the best place to start out is not even to worry about producing content. It’s getting in the feed, starting to connect with people, starting to like and comment on other people’s posts, starting to see who’s following who, and who might you connect with that is in the industry. Start building an ecosystem of the people that you want to be talking to.
I feel like I’ve put out some fantastic content, but nobody saw it because I wasn’t connected to anybody who was interested in seeing it. I hadn’t established any relationships with people who might be interested in seeing it. The place that I started, which was posting content to my company page, was the wrong place to start. The place to start is to build your profile, build your company page, start engaging in the feed, start making connections, and then start producing content that you post through your personal profile, primarily. Secondarily, posting to your company page as well.
[00:23:43] That’s so important. The biggest thing that I heard from you was, “I help people do this instead of we do this.” How do you sit there and make it about your customer and the problems that they have and the things that are tearing their hair out? If you could do that, they pay attention.
[00:24:02] That’s such a good point. It’s 101 marketing. If you’ve already filled out your profile, for instance, I would go back through and take out every time you say, “I. We. We do this. I do this,” and make it about them. If you can focus your conversations, your private messaging, your profile, and your content on your customer and their needs, you have a far greater chance of striking accord with somebody or being interested in somebody. We all get inboxes filled with emails coming at us all the time about how new companies can help you with this, that, or the other, or what they want to sell you, what we’ve got, and what we can do for you.
If you make it about solving problems for your customer, you will start to get noticed. Even in the about section of your profile, offer something of value to your potential customer, you’ve already jumped the line in terms of somebody that people will want to get to know. If you approach LinkedIn with that mindset of a giving mindset, a sharing mindset, your basic goal is to provide value wherever and whenever you can, it will work to your benefit every time.Approach LinkedIn with a giving mindset, with a goal to provide value wherever and whenever you can. Click To Tweet
[00:25:14] We call it getting pitch slapped, companies that automatically see your profile and they hit you with some type of an offer. They don’t read your profile. They don’t have an idea of what you do. I don’t know how many companies want to help me communicate more effectively. Read my profile, people. Look at what I do and the value that I provide, and then come up and say, “Let’s have a conversation.” Interestingly, you said about the personal profile, because I am a big believer that LinkedIn is people helping people. That’s how business relationships are formed.
It’s about people trusting people, people liking people, and people wanting to get to know people. If we comment on each other’s posts, if we listen to each other, if we understand, if we value each other, and if we build these relationships, then the business happens. If we go into any social media platform, any trade show, or anything sitting there going, “It’s all about me. Buy from me. You need to spend your money with me,” nobody cares about those people anymore.
[00:26:20] We’re bombarded all of the time with all of that. We have started to tune it out. I know this will resonate with you, but another huge approach is to think about storytelling. For instance, when we go to make a presentation, we’re never there to sell our product. What we do in our presentation is tell stories. We talk about stories of how we created this. “We came up with this concept which helped this customer, and here’s the problem it solved for them. Here’s how this design got created and why it was helpful for this other customer who had this problem.” It’s in the sharing of stories that you build relationships, that you share and highlight your values, and share your value, how you are valuable to the people listening.
Instead of feeling like you’re being come at, with an aggressive approach, “Buy from me. Here’s what I make. Here’s what I can do,” it is a softer entry to a conversation, which allows the listener to come on board with you and figure out for themselves if what you’re doing has relevance to them and is appropriate for them. No matter how hard you pitch slap, if you’re talking to somebody who has no need for what you do, it’s not going to resonate anyway.
If you can share a story about who you are, what you stand for, and how you’ve helped others in their situation, it allows for a broadening of a conversation. It allows for a flourishing of a relationship. Certainly, in B2B, and manufacturing, in particular, there is a long sales cycle. It’s rare that we have customers who have a problem, find us as a solution, and immediately are ready to buy and go.
[00:28:11] You don’t get a purchase order 24 hours after you meet somebody.
[00:28:13] Not that often. It does happen that sometimes there’s a need and we can address it quickly and it happens. There are times that I have conversations and a few years later, get a call back saying, “I remember when we spoke about X, Y, or Z, and it happens that I now have an issue where you might be able to help me out.” Much more of our business comes from those longer-term relationships than they do from immediate interaction. Take a breath, slow down, share our stories, and relate to people as people, and the business will follow. I’m totally on board with that and agree with you completely.
[00:28:52] I call it enabling the possibilities. What you do is plant the thought process within people’s minds of, “If I can solve this problem, what will it enable me to do?” All of a sudden, the price tends to go away because not only are you solving the headache that’s right in front of them, but you’re also creating opportunities for them to do things that they couldn’t do today.
[00:29:18] Telling the story of what things could look like for them if they follow the path of working with you, buying your product, buying your service, and working with you. It’s painting that story again of, “This is what it looks like right now, but let me show you what it could look like should we work together down the road. Here’s how it helps you. Here’s how it helps solve your problem. Here’s how it makes things better for you as a business, as a person, as a worker, or as a company.” It all ties together and starts with that human interaction and that conversation.
[00:29:54] Let me ask you three quick questions and then I’m going to let you go. The first question is, “If you were going to give people one piece of advice about niching down and marketing that we haven’t already talked about, what would it be?”
[00:30:09] The piece of advice I suppose I would suggest is that the narrower you are able to be, the more traction you will gain. If you think you’ve already niched down, take another stab at it. It happened to me when I was starting this consulting business for other manufacturers in B2B marketing. I thought I had nailed it. I thought I was niched down as far as I could get, and I was speaking to a narrow segment of the audience. I had a conversation. It was enlightening because I realized that there was more work to be done. I could niche down even further and do it as an exercise if nothing else. If I would say in my consulting business that I work with other small B2B manufacturers to learn the foundations of LinkedIn, what if I were to say I work with other small B2B manufacturing owners in the aerospace industry? What would happen if I narrowed it down even further?
It helps you get clearer about what offer you’re providing. Even if you go narrow and decide to back it up a little bit and broaden it slightly, the exercise is less about whom you’re trying to reach out there and more about defining what it is that you can provide as a surface or a benefit, or a product even. It’s a good exercise to use. You might have to play with it a little bit. Maybe you’ve gone a little too far. Maybe you’ve spun a little bit, but 9 times out of 10, people think that they’ve already niched down and there’s more work to do. I would say give it another shot. See if you can break it down even further.
[00:31:46] Do you deal with the right knee or the meniscus on the right knee or the cartilage on the right knee? With aerospace businesses under $500 million or women-owned businesses under $500 million, there’s always more to niche down. I love the fact that you could always sit there. You may sit there and say, “There are twenty people around the world that do this. Can I add enough value to those twenty people to have a living?” If the answer is yes, go for it. If not, then you broaden out a little bit.
[00:32:20] That’s exactly the exercise. When I first started and was a little nervous about saying we only work with aerospace engineers. Even on LinkedIn alone, there are thousands of engineers that fall into this category that I am interested in connecting with. I could be working for the next twenty years and still not connect authentically with each of them. I could pitch-slap everyone.
[00:32:41] New ones are graduating every year.
[00:32:44] If you’re looking to build connections and you’re looking to find the right people, it takes time. It doesn’t help you even. If I were reaching out to hundreds of people on any given day, it wouldn’t grow my business anymore quickly because I couldn’t connect with all of those hundreds of people every single day. There’s only so much time on any given day. If I’m trying to connect, tell my story, hear their story, and share the vision of what could be, it takes time to build that relationship. There’s a line between needing to reach enough people, and also having enough time to develop those new connections as opposed to just growing your number of followers.There's a line between needing to reach enough people and having enough time to really develop those connections. Click To Tweet
[00:33:26] Paulie, what’s the best way for people to get in touch with you?
[00:33:29] I would love to connect with everybody who is reading on LinkedIn by going to Paulie Rose, my personal profile on LinkedIn. You can see us through our website at www.RCFTechnologies.com. You can find me for my consulting for LinkedIn at www.PaulieRose.com.
[00:34:15] Here’s the last question I ask everybody as they walk out the door, as you leave a meeting and you get in your car and you drive away, what’s the one thing you want people to think about you when you’re not in the room?
[00:34:26] I want them to think of me as someone who is there to help them. That’s the takeaway, whether I’m selling our products related to aerospace, whether I’m sharing a new technology that we’ve discovered through our R&D, whether I’m sharing tips about how to use LinkedIn to grow your business, I hope that I leave an impression that I am doing what I do because I am coming from a place of wanting to help because that’s the truth. If I didn’t feel like I was offering something of value, I’m not sure I would stick with it.
There is something to having a helper mentality that is fulfilling personally and hopefully is adding value to those that I connect with. I don’t ever want to have somebody leave a meeting feeling like that was a waste of time because I don’t even want what they sell, but rather, “It was great to meet her. She is a person who might be able to help me, whether it’s now, later, or can’t help me, but I know somebody whom she can help.” I hope that I leave that impression as I leave the room.
[00:35:26] I know that you’ve added value to my audience. Thank you for being an amazing guest. Thank you for being you. Thank you for niching down.
[00:35:34] Thanks, Ben. It was a pleasure chatting with you.
About Paulie Rose
Paulie Rose is Director of Marketing for RCF Technologies – an aerospace manufacturing company, and Founder of Paulie Rose Consulting – Helping small B2B manufacturers learn to use LinkedIn for business growth *Because social media works for us too!
Paulie has been named one of the Top 100 Women in Aerospace and Aviation to Follow on LinkedIn, is passionate about her work at RCF Technologies, and is dedicated to helping other manufacturers learn how to use LinkedIn to boost brand awareness and generate more leads.
Paulie is also the mom of 4, and lives with her husband in St. Louis, MO.
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