American Marketing Association Virtual Manufacturing Event

Author: Trent Knuppel


American Marketing Association logo

The American Marketing Association (AMA) welcomed five stand-out guest speakers to give their insights and expertise on what is currently happening in the business world in regards to marketing and manufacturing at Milwaukee’s virtual manufacturing event. 

Guest speakers Kurt Bauer, the head of the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce; Dave Caughlin from Kusile Equipment; Jeff Coon, from Stream Creative; Jeremy Opsahl from Canon; and Caleb Townsend from Factur covered economic updates as well as marketing trends and best practices and how manufacturers are responding to COVID-19.

Below, we discuss COVID-19’s effect on the business world today, and explore how these industry leaders are responding to the unprecedented times.

Manufacturing in Wisconsin

Kurt Bauer of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce headshotKurt Bauer - Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce 
Kurt spoke about how the manufacturing industry in Wisconsin has been effected by COVID-19. 

“This pandemic is an extinction-level event for many businesses. The current U.S. unemployment rate is at 14.7%, which is the highest recorded in U.S. history since the great depression in the 1930s—the actual number is likely much higher than that because that doesn't account for all of the job losses we've had. We started 2020 at 3.4% unemployment and we are now estimating at least 22% unemployment inWisconsin,” Bauer said.

Prior to COVID-19, about 380,000 Wisconsinites were working in manufacturing. There are 22 sub-sectors in manufacturing’s broad scope. Some of our sub-sectors in Wisconsin are doing well, including: food packaging, medical supplies, outdoor power equipment, sanitation, and home cleaning supplies. 

Some packaging companies are experiencing record profits because of the high demand for products in the food and medical supply industries. Bauer and his team estimate that around 70% of Wisconsin manufacturers initially stayed open over the course of the pandemic.

Agency Marketing for Manufacturers Through a Crisis

Jeff Coon of Stream Creative headshotJeff Coon - Stream Creative “How can we leverage video in the sales process to give a face-to-face experience in lieu of actually being across the conference table from a prospect?”

Jeff spoke about how his team at Stream Creative have been helping their clients optimize and improve their digital channels.
A few ways to do this:

  • Improving your on-hold experience for those calling your company
  • Integrating text messaging for individuals who prefer to communicate that way
  • Creating and using chatbots on your website

Jeff transitioned into more strategic marketing tactics that he and his team are executing during this pandemic. 

Two main quarantine tactics are:

  1. Online Product Selectors or Product Configurators 
    1. This allows people to configure and/or interact with your product in a more engaging way, creating a more experience
  2. Leveraging Video in the Sales Process
    1. Give face-to-face experience in lieu of actually being there with a prospect
    2. Zoom, Slack, Skype, Teams, among others are great resources for video calls

Using these digital tools to replicate what sales reps are able to accomplish when they meet with prospective clients before COVID-19 is an important integration for businesses—this shows your target audience that you are putting in maximum effort and not allowing this pandemic to stop you from offering your products and services to the market.

“Customers are using our marketing agency for two main reasons: versatility and an outside perspective,” said Jeff. “Versatility entails having more hands on deck and expanding your areas of expertise. As far as the outside perspective goes, we can be a sounding board for our clients, leveraging our collective experience from other clients and markets. We can share what’s been working for other companies and help them apply that to their business.”

Jeremy Opsahl of Canon headshotJeremy Opsahl - Cannon The sales team at Cannon has built a new sales tool app. This app provides the team with all of their content, and allows them to share content with their customers.

“Understanding how much people’s lives have changed since the pandemic struck, especially working with businesses that have been drastically effected causes us to act quickly in uncharted territory,” Opsahl said. “We are looking at some of these new opportunities to really help grow our business and help solve our customers problems in different ways.”

Other Featured Speakers

Caleb Townsend of Factur headshotCaleb Townsend - Factur “We have encouraged our clients to up their game on LinkedIn, making sure they have a profile that is not only complete, but also written to be engaging and encourage collaboration and interaction,” Townsend said. “It’s important to use the LinkedIn platform to make a name for your brand, product or service, have a robust profile, post consistently, and make sure that you’re showing up in other people's feeds.”

Townsend also mentioned that this is the time to be more empathetic with people and put that into some bigger messaging. Everybody, including your clients, are likely working from home and may also be raising children, which includes teaching school material among other things. Inserting empathy in your messaging is important during times like this.

Dave Coughlin - Kusile EquipmentDave Caughlin of Kusile Equipment headshot

Coughlin said he and his team have had to become experts on what each state is adhering to in terms of quarantine rules. Some states allow citizens to work in their offices, while others are required to stay in their homes—because of this, providing sales support is handled on a case by case basis. 

How to Optimize Communication with Video

The main theme of the panel discussion is centered around maintaining a personal connection with prospects and customers and staying involved in visible platforms and channels both on and offline.

The use of video can help support all communication initiatives.

How creative can you be as a marketer?

Video is a significant factor. Video embedded in email is the future—it’s a great way to stand out. This can be useful in a number of ways. If you need to show a potential client a product, or how your production plant works, video gives you the opportunity to show them what they need to see.

Speakers continued to focus on the importance of video on the job.

“Video is very important. It gives you the opportunity to show empathy and your personality to make that human connection with a client or prospective client. Engaging with people is always important, a great way to do this is through Zoom meetings and webinars,” said Jeff.

The bar for communication has now been raised due to the fact that all companies have been using video conferencing consistently over the course of this pandemic. Phone calls, voicemails, emails, and text messages simply aren’t going to be enough anymore. Video calls are the closest thing we have to in-person meetings. Video calls have become the new norm. It is important to utilize video as a tool because it will strengthen the human connections between your brand and your customers and clients.

In conclusion:

We would like to thank the American Marketing Association for allowing us to represent Stream Creative in this fun and exciting virtual event. And another thank you to the wonderful speakers who participated in the event, your insights are always appreciated.

How has your company adapted to working through the COVID-19 quarantine protocols?

Leave a comment and let us know what you think the future holds for manufacturing business operations.

About the Author:

2020 Intern for Stream Creative pursuing an undergraduate degree in Journalism, majoring in advertising and public relations.

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