By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing

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This week’s show is called “What B2B Marketing and Hall & Oates Have in Common?” and our guest is Bryan Smith, Senior Marketing Manager at Tennant Company.

Bryan has an interesting dichotomy where he is running advanced B2B marketing at a 150 year old manufacturing company. We talk a little bit about that juxtaposition and how he has been able to make that work.

I also ask what the sales team needs for providing engagement and relationship building and if there are separate sales plays we need to put together that can be marketing supported to still help the sales team engage the field.

What I do know for sure is that going into 2021, I think with the continued uncertainty, we’re going to have to get really focused. And I think as we’re planning for next year, we’re looking at doing fewer things better, and really trying to focus on the parts of our business that are the most… First of all, the most lucrative, and then also the most differentiating in where marketing can make the most difference.

I also ask what have been some of the successful key components of his journey.  I guarantee we have listeners who are frustrated at the lack of progress between sales and marketing. Bryan shares some things he thinks have been particularly useful… This and a LOT MORE.  Listen in now anywhere podcasts are played and/or read the full transcript below.

Paul:  Hey, welcome back everybody. It’s time once again to grab your board, swim out into that sea of ideas, and see if we can’t catch a wave today with the wave-meister himself, Matt Heinz.

Matt:  Paul, how we doing?

Paul:  I’m doing good. I’m always looking forward to your topics, and today, as always, you have come up with a tantalizing topic that I just can’t not wrap my head. I cannot see what the connection is between B2B marketing and Hall and Oates. What do they have in common?

Matt:  Well, we’re going to talk about both B2B marketing and Hall and Oates. We are doing live today Sales Pipeline Radio from beautiful Whidbey Island about two hours north of Seattle.

Paul:  I love Whidbey Island. I’ve only ever been there once, and it was a magical, mystical place. I had loganberry pie there. I’d never even heard of loganberries before.

Matt:  All right. So we need to do a whole episode on Whidbey Island because if we can do a whole episode on just food on Whidbey Island because the fruit out here is great, the mussels, the shellfish here, the Penn Cove mussels are some of the best in the world. You got oysters coming out of here. Just north of the island, you can go across the section pass, and you find a place called the Shrimp Shake which has just amazing peel and eat shrimp. I am a sconce up here. I’ve got a book manuscript due soon. So I’m trying to get that thing done. But time stops for no episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. So excited to be here today, Paul, doing this.

If you are first time listener to Sales Pipeline Radio, thank you very much for joining us. If you’re listening live on the Funnel Media Radio Network, thank you very much for joining us in the middle of your work day. And if you’re joining us through the podcast, thank you so much for subscribing and downloading. You can find all of our episodes past, present, and future at

Today, this is going to be a fun one, Paul, because we can talk about B2B sales and marketing, we can talk about floor care, we can talk about classic rock, we can talk about hot dish. We got somebody with us…

Paul:  Oh my goodness.

Matt:  … and that is just the tip of the iceberg. We need more than just 25 minutes. Bryan Smith who’s the Senior Marketing Manager for North America for Tennant Company. Bryan, how you dong?

Bryan:  I’m doing great, Matt. How you doing?

Matt:  I am good. Where do we start? Do we start with hot dish? Please explain what hot dish is, and please explain why I am bringing this up with you.

Paul:  Yeah, what is a hot dish?

Bryan:  Well, hot dish is an upper Midwestern traditional kind of another word for casserole. So typically it will include some degree of cream of mushroom soup, as well as some sort of meat and starch, sometimes tater tots, sometimes rice or noodles.

Paul:  Oh my goodness, you’re talking my childhood meals. Can I tell you just something funny here? My mother when I went off to college, and I got my own apartment after living in the dorm for the first year, she said, “You’re going to have to learn to cook something.” She said, “Here’s my one go-to thing, cream of mushroom soup,” just what she said. That goes on everything she thought. Chicken, anything. Just pour a little cream of mushroom soup, and you got a hot dish. That’s what she told me.

Bryan:  Yeah. It was before they discovered the word umami. They knew that that worked. But my mom is 100% Swedish, and we always tease my mom that every time she cooks, it’s just in shades of beige. It could be green beans and they somehow turn out to be beige. But it’s cold, so you have to have good, hardy food up here.

Matt:  And I will just say the reason I bring that up is also I remember the first time we got together up at your business up in… So you guys are based in Minneapolis. I think we were in a meeting, and you said, “I have to go because I’m on the city council, and as a city council member, I am a judge for our town’s hot dish competition.” And I don’t know if there’s more of an upper Midwest phrase than all of that. But I was pretty impressed.

Bryan:  That’s kind of a cartoon I admit. It’s an annual fundraiser they do here in town. So it’s good times. We don’t do much of anything without a casserole here. Weddings, funerals, fundraisers. It’s all casserole.

Paul:  I got to interrupt one more time here. Now I know where it comes from. My mother was not Swedish. She’s Irish. But she was born and raised in Minneapolis. I was actually born in Edina, and everybody around, whenever somebody comes, there’s an event, a wedding, a funeral, get together, everybody has to bring a dish. And that’s what they always say, you had to bring a hot dish. Yeah, right. Exactly.

Bryan:  We’re not very good at showing our emotions, so we tend to do it through 9 by 13s

Matt:  Well, although we could spend the entire episode today talking about upper Midwestern food, I do want to talk a little bit about sales and marketing. Bryan, you’ve got this interesting sort of dichotomy where you are running B2B marketing, you are running advanced B2B marketing at 146 year old company is a manufacturing company as well. So talk a little bit about that juxtaposition because I know we have a lot of people that are listening that are running marketing in industrial organizations, many of them are older, many of them have more a traditional view of marketing and sales and how they work together. Talk a little bit about that juxtaposition and how you been able to make that work.

Bryan:  Yeah, for sure. I’m going to fact check you though. We just turned 150 this year.

Matt:  Oh my goodness.

Bryan:  It’s been exciting. So I’ll tell you I joined Tennant Company nearly eight years ago, and when I joined the company, we were what I would lovingly refer to as an arts and crafts marketing group. And we did the brochures and the trade shows and pretty much on-call for whatever the sales team wanted that week. Yeah, I think our brochures were like 16 pages long but didn’t talk about anything that our customers actually did. It was a very old school approach.

So it’s been a journey over that time. Really what’s happened I think is sales force, which has also been on a journey I think of evolving from their relationship based, old school type of sales approach. I think we’ve been evolving together. And they’ve been realizing more and more that they need good demand generation and good work from our end to be successful, and we’ve been consistently delivering that, which has really brought our function much more to the table strategically in the organization. But it hasn’t happened over night. It’s been a journey, and it’s been something where we’ve had to really lay out, say what we’re going to do, and then do what we said we were going to do. It’s very much a we have to show our math, and we have to show results.

Matt:  Well, and let’s talk a little bit about that journey because I think it maybe more extreme for an older organization with sort of a more traditional sales and marketing event versus say a younger SaaS business that maybe sort of doesn’t have that history and baggage. But every company that we see is on some version of that journey. So what have been some of the key components of that journey that you’ve been most successful? I guarantee we have listeners that are frustrated at the lack of progress between sales and marketing. What are some things that you think have been particularly useful?

Bryan:  I think the critical thing for us has been really strong planning, and I think that has been probably the biggest game changer for us as far as being very clear of laying out exactly what we’re going to do over the year, very clear on what we’re going to measure, and what good looks against those measurements. And ensuring that plan is aligned with where sales leadership wants to go. So that’s allowed us to do a couple of things.

First, it’s allowed us to really define success for the team and then be able to demonstrate that we are achieving those things. But probably more importantly is when the winds do blow and there’s an urgent need from the sales force, we’re able to go, point to that plan, and say, “Okay. Here’s what we collectively agreed to do. Which of these things would you like us to not do in order to do this new thing that you’ve just came up with?” And nine out of 10 times, it’s, “Oh, no. Just stick with the plan.” And that’s been I’d say probably the biggest thing.

Matt:  So I love that concept. We’re talking to Bryan Smith today. He’s the Senior Marketing Director of North America for Tennant Company, and we’re talking about that journey of taking a traditional sales organization help integrate with marketing. And I think having a plan, making trade-offs… So what I’m hearing from you is just really active communication as well. Of course, talking is not the same as doing. And I seen a lot of marketing organizations say, “We’re going to be a better partner to sales,” and what they end up doing is just becoming help desk. I literally have seen some companies that have just a request form. And whatever sales needs, they fulfill.

It’s rarely ever successful when you’re just responsive, when you’re just defensive, when you’re just providing whatever they want versus making it a two-way street. Sales maybe on the phone with your customer more often and hear that, but I think oftentimes marketing also needs to be the voice of the customer and provide some back and forth on that. How do you recommend, and what have you guys done at Tennant to sort of balance what the sales force needs and is asking for with having that proactive strategy to move forward?

Bryan:  Probably one of the biggest things that we did two years ago is we brought on an agency partner we worked with in the past. They’re the kind of agency that does really good work at a really good price, but they can crank things out quickly. I might not go to them for the huge robust strategic concepting work, but if we need stuff knocked out, they get it done and they get it done well and fast. So we went to them, and we set up a program where our sales reps can basically go directly to them and get help with PowerPoint presentations or get help with updating a sales sheet or things like that. But they have to pay for it. And we have kind of a set rate curb, and we’ve gotten good discounting on it.

But again, when it’s something they have to pay for, even if it’s a couple hundred bucks, all of a sudden it’s not quite as urgent as it might’ve been before. But if it is urgent, they have a way to get it done. So that’s been great because that’s basically taken all of that sales force stuff off of our plate. The only time we get involved is if there’s a material change to the messaging on one of those pieces that we need to take a look at and make sure that it’s kosher. But other than that, the agency just sort of handles it for us, and it’s on the reps to cover that cost.

Matt:  How is that changed at all this year? Because a normal course of business, things move kind of incrementally. This year things are moving a little more exponentially given COVID. It might be a good opportunity to tell us…

Bryan:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Matt:  What does Tennant do, and why is that relevant to right now and having some pivots around those messages?

Bryan:  As far as how we’re working with the sales force or just generally?

Matt:  I think a little bit of both, right? Has the message pivoted? Has who you’re targeting pivoted, and how do you manage that in the way that sort of coordinates the efforts between sales and marketing?

Bryan:  Yeah. So messaging had to pivot quickly. Since we’re in the cleaning business, we had a lot of very urgent questions that came up right at the beginning of the pandemic as far as what we could and couldn’t say about our products, what role our products should play in the deep cleaning that was starting to happen and is continuing to happen throughout this pandemic. So that was a place where we did have to react to a sales move quickly and reprioritize because we were at risk for misinformation going out.

That was something where we pulled the marketing team together. We got really quick and put together guidelines on disinfecting and guidelines on both how to disinfect floors as well as how to disinfect our own machines. Those were things we had to do very quickly to support the field in that particular moment.

But what we did push back on though is we had a lot of requests for trying to light up a bunch of pandemic related campaigns and things like that. Those were things we did push back on a little bit because first of all, in our industry, we didn’t really have the urgent story to tell that the chemical companies did. And we felt like that might be a little tone deaf. And secondly, we just didn’t see the performance out of those kind of pandemic related messaging pieces that we were starting to put out there.

As things evolved though, what we did find is that when we were putting out more robust content like webinars and eBooks and things like that that were more about how to evolve your cleaning processes more generally in light of this pandemic, how to adapt automation and how to adapt other things to shift your teams to be able to do more work, that was compelling. And so that was a place where we took a little more time to develop the messaging, but it was a mixture of having to move really fast on some things and then sort of push back and spend a little more time thinking about other elements of the way we adapted. We’re still learning.

Matt:  Learning and evolving and that’s how we’re going to tie this B2B conversation back to Hall and Oates. We got to take a quick break. We’re going to pay some bills, and we’ll be right back talking with Bryan Smith at Tennant Company about B2B marketing, hot dish, Hall and Oates, much more.

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Paul:  Okay. If you guys can somehow tie all of this back to Hall and Oates, I’ll give both of you my mom’s secret recipe for scalloped potatoes and creamed corn, which was her hot dish that she always went to here.

Bryan:  So Matt, actually, I was thinking about this today. And I think I’ve got a shot at it.

Paul:  Okay. All right.

Matt:  You want to explain. You can’t just leave that hanging.

Bryan:  Yeah. All right. So here’s my shot at it is I was reading a little bit, and what I didn’t realize there is no Hall and Oates. There’s Daryl Hall and John Oates. All of their albums are named with both of their actual names, and they did this very purposefully so that they could have their own careers as well as their career together.

Paul:  Okay.

Bryan:  They didn’t want to become branded as only themselves. They wanted to be branded as two guys who worked together but that also worked independently. I think there’s a parallel there to sales and marketing where there are times when we can put together a great record together, and there’s times where we have to have our solo careers as well. How about that?

Matt:  That is good.

Paul:  Not bad.

Matt:  I think you’re right. I think not only is that true that they’ve gone very intentionally back and forth, but that was also something they agreed to. They said, “We love making music together. We love making money making music together.” But then they each have their own solo projects, and here we are how many years later? The other analogy I thought was interesting. They’ve been doing this for a long time, but they evolved. They evolved based on what the market wants and based on what they’re interested in doing. We still have all of the classic yacht rock songs from the Hall and Oates days of the ’80s when we think about… But then you’ve got Daryl Hall who’s doing is At Daryl’s House Series where he’s taking artists and taking his house band and recreating and doing covers of his music. You’ve got John Oates who is going back to some of his bluegrass and country roots and reinventing a little bit of what he’s doing as well.

So I think evolving over time to what the market wants, to what the market’s interested in, and not just being someone who’s stuck in a particular period that isn’t as effective, that isn’t as monetized, that was the angle I was thinking. But I like the idea of saying, “Listen, we both have jobs to do, but we have an opportunity to work together to make something bigger and better.”

Bryan:  Yeah. And I’ll tell you what’s been really cool during the pandemic is we’ve definitely been Hall and Oates the last few months here at Tennant. We’ve seen so much more engagement from the field into the work we’re trying to do, and vice versa. For example, we in the past had sort of an outsourced BDR function. We have some BDR inside but usually for volume we need to go outside to do it. Well, since the pandemic’s been going, especially in the beginning when a lot of our reps were in their home office a lot, our reps have been doing a lot of that prospecting work for us. And it’s actually been super successful. And they’ve found that they actually don’t hate it as much as they thought they would. So we’ve had unprecedented engagement into working together on prospecting with our field reps and things like that.

So I think back to your former question, that’s due to this pandemic has driven us together as functions.

Paul:  So I had a whole different take on it. I thought you guys were going to reference one of those famous songs, and you were going to talk about can we go back to the way things were. And the song title is I Can’t For That, No Can Do.

Matt:  Well, we could if we wanted to. We could go back in the library and find some interesting songs and titles that are good metaphors. But I think Bryan nailed it. I think being able to sort of be adaptive to be able to work together when needed and leverage your strengths as an individual, but then also have that agreement up front as well. I think Bryan, what’s interesting is you’ve referenced some of the pivots you guys have made as we wrap up the last few minutes here on the Sales Pipeline Radio today with Bryan Smith from Tennant Company.

The pivots we’ve made very quickly in March in end of Q1, Q2 of this year are now just kind of the way we’re doing business. And I think that we can’t really say this is a COVID era. This is what we’re going to do for a while. How do you as a business, how do you as a marketer put those pivots into place quickly and more semi-permanently? And then what are the things you need to be looking at in the market to decide when to change again?

Bryan:  Yeah. I think the second part of that question is the hard part. I think for where we’ve pivoted right now I think we’ve hard pivoted away from doing as many trade shows and in-person events and towards virtual and webinar events, and particularly those that we can host ourselves or with a single partner. We’re getting more leads out of those than we were out of shows, and they’re better. That’s a hard pivot that we’re going to stick with I think. We were already starting to move away from trade shows and I think that’s been validated for us big time.

I think the big question for us is as a manufacturer, we have some customers who really want to touch and feel our equipment before they buy it, but our reps spend a lot of time pulling trailers around the country demoing machines. I think a big question for me is how might we better enable our reps to not have to do that as much as customers also may not be quite as interested in having our folks come out just to drive a scrubber around their facility. I think that’s an open question right now exactly how we’re going to handle that going forward because we have not cracked the mat on that yet.

Matt:  Well, I don’t think very many people have. Not only do we not know where things are going, we don’t know where things are going. We don’t know how things are going to continue to evolve. We don’t know when some version of normal’s going to come back. I think we continue to hear a lot of sales people be frustrated. They can’t get out, meet their customers. Talking to a company earlier today that their sales…

No, but I think maybe last question for you is just around the idea of sort of what the sales team needs and providing that engagement and relationship building. I mean, if from a marketing standpoint the events aren’t as efficient, are there separate sales plays that we need to put together that can be marketing supported to still help the sales team engage the field? Is that purely digital or is that going to expand beyond digital?

Bryan:  For us, it will I think extend beyond digital. I’m not sure that we figured out exactly what that will look like yet. What I do know for sure is that going into 2021, I think with the continued uncertainty, we’re going to have to get really focused. And I think as we’re planning for next year, we’re looking at doing fewer things better, and really trying to focus on the parts of our business that are the most… First of all, the most lucrative, and then also the most differentiating in where marketing can make the most difference. I mean, we’ve got some big business opportunities right now where frankly my team is not going to have a huge impact on it. There will be a huge priority for a sales partners, but probably not for us because they’ve got those covered.

We’re looking at where are the ones where we can really help them make an impact. As we’re looking at next year, a lot of that’s going to be around our robotic solutions. That’s a place where we’re really seeing some growth and engagement and where we have an opportunity as marketers to educate our market and help them understand the benefits and values of automating some of their processes. But that’s big news stuff for them, so the place where we can really be helpful.

Matt:  Well, we are unfortunately out of time. I know that for sure in the show notes we now have a… I don’t know what the linguine. Paul has a hot dish recipe. We’re going to have to get the tater tot recipe from Bryan. We’re going to get all that up. If you get nothing out of this event, which I think actually appreciate a lot of what sharing here. Definitely look forward to sharing those with you as well.

But now we’re out of time. Thank you so much, Bryan Smith, Senior Marketing Director of Tennant Company for joining us and covering a wide variety of topics. We will be with you next week. On behalf of my great producer, Paul, this is Matt Heinz. Thanks for joining us on another week of Sales Pipeline Radio.


Sales Pipeline Radio is sponsored and produced by Heinz Marketing on the Funnel Radio Channel.  I interview the best and brightest minds in sales and Marketing.  If you would like to be a guest on Sales Pipeline Radio send an email to Sheena.