Connect with the heart of your Ideal customer to increase sales

This Business Round Table by Exit Your Way® topic this week was "Connect with the Heart of Your Ideal Customer" with Allison Deford and Ray Ziganto. Allison and Ray host a podcast called MFG OutLoud.  Both have a heart for service and a head for business. Neither one is afraid to say what everyone is thinking. they are spreading the word recognizing the patterns, trends, and pitfalls impacting today’s manufacturers.

This Business Round Table by Exit Your Way® topic this week was “Connect with the Heart of Your Ideal Customer” with Allison Deford and Ray Ziganto. Allison and Ray host a podcast called MFG OutLoud.  Both have a heart for service and a head for business. Neither one is afraid to say what everyone is thinking. they are spreading the word recognizing the patterns, trends, and pitfalls impacting today’s manufacturers.

Allison begins the round table by talking about how the whole concept of marketing needs to get re-branded, especially with COVID-19 hitting the market like a truck. She and Ray talk about how sales is much more of a need when it comes to profit instead of marketing. Marketing and sales are very similar in way, but they are also very different. Ray and Damon state that if it doesn’t drive sales, then why do it in the first place? Allison says that marketing is a bridge that connects to sales and if you understand marketing, then your sales & profit will go up.

The round table then starts talking about manufacturing as a whole. Allison says that manufacturer’s are the hero’s, but they also have a image problem. Andrew states that the stereotype of manufacturer’s is grimy smokestacks when actually its a really good industry to make a career out of.   Andrew also commented that manufacturing one of the few industries that creates wealth instead of wealth just being passed around from company to company.

Download our free business valuation guide here to understand more about business valuations and view our business valuation FAQs to answer the most common valuation questions.

Allison and ray then talk about their podcast MFG OutLoud, in witch they talk about how manufacturing is changing and the only way to really educate is too talk about the real details that people usually wouldn’t talk about it when it comes to manufacturing. Allison states that if you are able to connect with the heart of your ideal your customers on an emotional level, then they are more likely to not talk to other competitors, less stingy on price and even if they start talking to a competitor; they are more likely to recommend you to someone else. With their podcast they are able to educate the younger generation of manufactures so that they are able to fill in the seniors shoes.

Thank you too Allison and Ray for sharing their experience in the manufacturing business and how to be successful if you connect with the heart of your ideal customer. Understanding how to connect with your ideal customer and getting on the emotional level of conversation will lead your company to more profit and more recognition.

Thanks to Allison and Ray for sharing their time and knowledge about marketing and how to connect with the heart of your ideal customer.

Do you want to know if your business is ready for your exit or what you should do to prepare? Learn this and more with our business exit assessment here.

The Business Round Table

Learn about the experiences and stories of other business owners to overcome difficulties, improve processes and make their business a dream come true.

All The Faces of Business episodes are


Check out this episode on LinkedIn
The Faces of Business on Twitter:
Listen to this episode of The Faces of Business on these podcast channels


Exit Your Way® provides a structured process and skilled resources to grow business value and allow business owners to leave with 2X+ more money when they are ready.

You can find more information about the Exit Your Way® process and our team on our website.

You can contact us by phone:  822-BIZ-EXIT (249-3948)   Or by Email:

Find us on LinkedIn:  Damon PistulkaAndrew Cross

Find our Companies on LinkedIn: Exit Your Way®,  Cross Northwest Mergers & Acquisitions, Bowman digital Media 

Follow Us on Twitter: @dpistulka  @exityourway

Visit our YouTube Channel: Exit Your Way®

Service Professionals Network:  Damon PistulkaAndrew Cross

Facebook:  Exit Your Way® Cross Northwest Mergers & Acquisitions

Other websites to check out:  Cross Northwest Mergers & AcquisitionsDamon PistulkaIra BowmanService Professionals Network (SPN)Fangled TechnologiesB2B TailDenver Consulting FirmWarren ResearchStellar Insight, Now CFO, Excel Management Systems  & Project Help You Grow



people, manufacturers, customer, marketing, sales, manufacturing, sell, ray, allison, company, talk, clients, big, salespeople, grew, speak, business, understand, tool, point, Business broker, Business value builder, M&A consultant.


Damon Pistulka, Andrew Cross, Allison DeFord, Ray Ziganto


Damon Pistulka  00:02

Hello, everybody. Thanks again for stopping by the eggs zero a round table. Damon Pistulka. Here Andrew Cross may show up in a minute. We’ll see but with me today I’ve got Allison DeFord FELT marketing, Ray Ziganto from Linara International. And if you haven’t seen them already, they are the hosts of MFG out loud. Check it out on LinkedIn and all the other cool places they got it rolling, but so excited to have you guys here today.


Allison DeFord  00:34

Thank you for having us.


Ray Ziganto  00:35

Yeah, Damon, thanks so much.


Damon Pistulka  00:37

Oh, rockin it just gets good to get you guys on. I mean, you guys work in an industry that I get excited about. I mean, well, you guys saw when you had me on I get a little crazy about this stuff. But I think it’s it’s really interesting now to see your show. Watch your show the people that you got going on. It’s It’s It’s a good Good to see that there’s almost kind of a revival in manufacturing because COVID COVID cars, some good things that happen, I think along with the bad. So it’s really been an interesting, interesting thing to see. We got Andrew Cross stopping by to so


Ray Ziganto  01:17

awesome. Hey, Andrew.


Andrew Cross  01:18

Hey, guys.


Damon Pistulka  01:20

All right. Good to see ya. So, tell me a little bit about First of all, Allison, tell me a little bit about your history of marketing. I mean, you’ve had the company for a while now. And it’s not your first first year in manufacturing, marketing. But tell me a little bit about your background.


Allison DeFord  01:38

Well, kind of stumbled into it. Like many of my clients, you know, they they said I didn’t choose manufacturing, it chose me. And I really feel the same way. kind of the way Ray and I met and so quite honestly, manufacturers are the hero of our story. Truly They’re their challenge, I think now more than ever, with staying profitable and relevant in a changing at the speed of COVID kind of world. And I think marketing marketing needs a rebrand because I think a lot of the senior leaders that I work with, they don’t trust it. Yeah. And they don’t know who to trust. So they’re looking for that. They don’t know which parts and pieces they should use, because there’s so many now, right here, all this digital conversation and social and they’re like, like, what the heck, I don’t even know where to start. They and they don’t want to waste money. So we decided we I’ve been doing this since 94. And we decided a long time ago, probably a decade ago, that we realized this was our niche, you know, and and and if you dive in a little deeper, it’s building materials manufacturers, so We are the only retrofit company for manufacturers who want to get to the heart of their ideal customer. And why that’s important. It and this is weird in manufacturing because everybody’s always been like head, not necessarily heart, if you will, in terms of the way they communicate with people. So we help you get to the heart of your customer, because that’s how they make decisions. 90% of the time is emotional. Yet everybody was so busy, you know, doing features and benefits bingo, I think I give a tm to mark Roberts for that. And that’s speaking to the rational side of the brain. So that’s like this much. So we help them speak to the bigger part. And we do that with a system we created called a retrofit. And, you know, all that means is helping them take their traditional system and adding modern components. To make sales easier, again, something other marketing firms weren’t really talking about 10 years ago when we decided on this positioning, because really, you don’t want more marketing, you want more sales. So always focus on that.


Damon Pistulka  04:15

It’s interesting you say that because I always whenever someone says marketing me, I just get sick, my stomach won’t throw up on my shoes. Because Because you’re right, every manufacturer has been approached by somebody that says, Oh, I’m a marketer. I’m a marketer. And they probably haven’t sold a whole heck of a lot. And I’m not saying there’s good at great marketers out there and there are but you’re talking about something I think is the heart of this issue is that if it doesn’t drive sales, it’s not worth doing.


Andrew Cross  04:45

Well, I always was always really confused by the fact that you know, everybody slaps a title and especially in a small manufacturing business, this is our sales and marketing guy.


Allison DeFord  04:56



Andrew Cross  04:58

Like, you know, why not? Just like little bolt on there, you know, but they’re completely different things. Yeah.


Allison DeFord  05:04

Well, it’s it’s still happening as you guys know, and I think that’s the thing that I feel. I feel so excited to help in that situation because small to midsize manufacturers. That’s our sweet spot. Right Ray and I work separately with our own companies. But then we’ve worked in tandem with many manufacturers, because Ray has that he’s the inside guy, right? That’s why I call him the unicorn. Yeah, he has that internal CEO mentality. He’s run the company. He understands sales is the language he speaks. But he knows marketing, and he gets it and he knows how you know they’re supposed to work together. Like cross bridge.


Damon Pistulka  05:44

Yeah. Yeah, exactly.


Allison DeFord  05:46

And that’s how we got together.


Ray Ziganto  05:49

That’s what I’ve seen. That disconnect. You know, you brought up a good point about sales and marketing are different, but they’re but they’re certainly related. And depending on the organization, and especially today, there’s, there’s more of a blending than there used to be. You can no longer put them in their silos. Because if, from my perspective, they mean like you’re set if it doesn’t drive sales, why are we doing it? So if you understand the role and responsibility for marketing, and that’s connected to sales, please God, somebody tell manufacturing and operations what you’re doing? Because if you don’t close that loop, and I’ve been in the meetings, it’s like, that, that new campaign is great, but we don’t do that. You know, that’s, that’s not something we can deliver on me. Yeah. But it tested well. Yeah.


Andrew Cross  06:44

I think you know, you know, talking to manufacturers and I’ve worked with, you know, David and I were both in manufacturing for me. It is to put it in their language, you know, the marketing is the tools. You know, you gotta you got to take the time to build do the tooling. You got to up, get this thing ready before you go to production. And, and, and the sales people are out there if they don’t if they’re on the line with their tools, you know, and I’ve had so many of my watch and I scratched my head because the the owner and that’s where the marketing comes from at a strategic level, you know, has to invest that time into it to understand what they are selling. A lot of them just say, hey, go sell.


Damon Pistulka  07:22



Ray Ziganto  07:24

Well look, the biggest thing it’s funny you mentioned tooling because depending on the size of the organization, I come out of a tooling intensive background, the injection molding, metal stamping, you know, those types of things. And the hierarchy of I accuse independent of measure is, well there’s the tool maker and then there’s everybody else. Yeah, you know, maybe the accountant because they’re watching the owners wallet. And it’s no disrespect to the to the tool makers. But the days are long passed where there’s enough slop in the system to allow for any segment of the organization to not be using the latest tools. Never mind not being properly engaged with the customer. And then the market, it’s like, snap out of it. They’re not coming to you because you can engrave the Lord’s Prayer in the head of a pin, you know, they’re coming to you because you solve their business problem, you know, it’s a different world. Yeah,


Andrew Cross  08:20

absolutely right. It really is.


Damon Pistulka  08:24

So backing up again to sell now, I didn’t realize that you’re in building materials. That’s kind of an interesting niche, but you’re in California. So I can kind of see that after after putting the two and two together there. Yeah,


Allison DeFord  08:36

yeah. Kind of again, stumbled into that my husband’s in the lumber industry. And we started meeting people got this was really long time ago and a lot of building materials customer and I just really fell in love with it. And I saw the same issues crop up for them that I see with my other manufacturing clients is that they’re usually Behind, they’re more traditional, yeah, okay. But we have the skills and the, we can guide them to like, bring it up to be a lot more relevant and, and not overwhelm them and real and we also speak the language of their customers. So it’s not like you’re reinventing the wheel every time you hire us, we already know your customers, we already speak their language. And they’re the most important they’re the hero of the story. So that’s what’s been a lot of fun is to really be of service.


Damon Pistulka  09:34

Well, and and let’s let’s talk about Ray a minute because now Ray, I mean, you and I, when we first talk, I mean, you come from moly. I mean, that’s where I grew up. Yeah, I mean, I grew up molding I you know, I was, as I told you before, I started off in college drafting molds by hand. Yeah. cables and stuff. But you’re from Chicago. Now you’ve got a whole different set of you know, there’s not many wood manufacturers around where you’re at compared to everything else.


Ray Ziganto  10:03

So, no, my, again, my backgrounds in it’s, it’s the old school tool and dye job shop, you know, Midwestern kind of, you know, whether it’s supporting the auto industry or back in the day everybody was a vendor to Motorola cuz they were in our backyard or Caterpillar deer, you know, and the zillions of other, you know, mid tier companies, you know, along the way here So yeah, I grew up on that and and part of that and we talked about this that Midwestern, you know, work ethic where it’s a, there’s a there’s a perceived linear relationship between effort and reward. If I want to do more, I got to work harder. And then along comes technology and process and actually, you know, talking to your people, and and, you know, God forbid you actually do some of those things. And then here comes, you know, here comes double digit growth growth. Nobody saw it coming and yeah I might have a benefit because I’m an engineer by osmosis. I’ve just been around it for so long. I I don’t have a lot of formal training. I have some but it’s just I had a knack for it. I was fortunate enough. Enough growing up my my dad didn’t have a man cave back in, in the 60s. That wasn’t a thing. But he did have a shop. Yeah, you know, he had the pine paneled and the saws and, you know, ways and, you know, that was my toy box. That’s where I went and played and I just had an affinity for it then, you know, fortunately through luck and divine intervention, and I met a guy that owned the factories standing around a keg of beer at a friend’s graduation party and landed our first job so


Damon Pistulka  11:51

well, Andrew is a fellow Midwestern they’re out of the Detroit area. He grew up in the automotive industry, his teeth there, so


Andrew Cross  12:00

It fifth generation tool makers in Detroit. Awesome. Yeah. Yeah. Starting with outboard fittings, like Lake St. Clair Oh yeah. upward you know then into automation tool design machines that kind of single family business. Better now though


Ray Ziganto  12:23

recovering you’re recovering manufacturing.


Andrew Cross  12:28

Oh yeah. That’s for sure. It definitely gets in your blood.


Ray Ziganto  12:31

Yep does


Damon Pistulka  12:32

own it for sure. Yeah guys, and when you talk about when Alison when you talk about wood products, I have only run one company that made wood products and I’ll tell you what, when you make when you make that kind of stuff and you make it in volume, I used to just like to walk in the factory and just rub my hand down it because you know, good wood fixtures I don’t care if it’s utilitarian or what I mean just the the combination of wood and metal and wow, it’s just something when you’re when you see a made and see the craft From a ship that goes into it, not unlike anything else, but will it I think, because of the feel it’s a little special.


Andrew Cross  13:05

Well, Allison, I like the idea of talking about the manufacturers the hero, which is really cool, because I think I, we did a lot of work. And I did up with the Society of manufacturing engineers. It’s been a few years since I did that, but that was really cool because their main focus was and we got an image problem in manufacturing, you know, like, you know, that was like it was running out of, you know, skilled machinists, we can’t find people to do this work, you know, because part of the problem is, you know, kids you can make a super nice living because you know, in the trades are becoming a machinists, but you know, in schools, they’re teaching you that you’re, you know, it’s kind of got this image of all grinding smokestacks up and it isn’t like that at all, you know, so these guys were passionate about manufacturing and, and working at the school level. try and convince kids Hey, this is a great career, great job to have. It is the only industry in in the world that actually makes well creates true everything everybody else just moves money around


Allison DeFord  14:13

the thing that I fell in love with, and I’m from the Midwest too. I grew up in Indiana. Oh, and so I have a real appreciation for for what you were talking about in the family business and it’s lost my train of thought. And we’re live How great is that? You know?


Damon Pistulka  14:37

I lost my name the other day and one of these I think it was


Allison DeFord  14:41

but man, it’s like, No, I’m just move on because I literally just thought I’ll get it back.


Andrew Cross  14:48

No. Well, you know, I will just wait. It’s okay.


Damon Pistulka  14:55

The good thing about it is is with four of us on here, and a little bit To talk about, you guys have this MFG out loud thing. Tell me how you came together. And you guys were like, How did you meet and then go, Okay, let’s try this. Let’s do this.


Allison DeFord  15:11

Do you want to tell the story? Or do you want me to


Ray Ziganto  15:13

all go for it? Go for it?


Allison DeFord  15:15

Well, I made some big changes in my business a couple years ago. And in looking to, I think, make some modifications. I ended up starting to meet more people on LinkedIn. I played on LinkedIn. That’s been my sandbox for like 15 years. As I say, way before it was cool. And I really believe in it. Well, this guy with a funny mustache kind of caught my attention with his banter and I thought, huh, this guy’s my people. And so we reached out I don’t remember who reached out first, but it’s like my brother from another mother. And I realized, you know what, there’s something really interesting here. Because, like I said, he sat inside guy, and then who understands marketing and how it connects to sales. I’m the sales or marketing expert, who loves and lives for manufacturing. And so it was just like the universe just brought us together. And what about a year and a half ago? We Well, before that, we started working with clients together, they would fly us in, we do our boot camp, we help them with strategy, and then re helps them on the sales side. But I, we came up with this idea. And I said, You know what, I’ve always wanted to do a podcast. And I don’t think I think manufacturing could use one more, because there are only a handful when when we have this idea or less. And the rest is history. We really just I said I don’t know how to start a podcast and he said I don’t either. And I said, well, beard out.


Ray Ziganto  16:51

We’re starting a podcast.


Allison DeFord  16:53

So yeah, we launched this year on St. Patrick’s Day at the beginning of a pandemic because why not?


Andrew Cross  17:00

What’s interesting, I think that, you know, you’re touching on something too, that is also I think a struggle for manufacturers is, is that, you know, they, they kind of communicate in their own language, you know, and they’re get a great talking amongst themselves and they’re super smart, you know, so they’re used to solving problems and in their building things, right. So then when the customer speaks, a lot of their reaction is they’re just they, they’re, they don’t know how to use it, right. Yeah, yeah, right. It that’s a it’s a difficult thing, barrier. But I think the most successful manufacturers I’ve seen and the ones that really come through and get a business, they are the ones who their salespeople are their ears, right? In a feedback loop. Then they use it like that. It’s like this little lady grows, that’s it does grow sales, but more of an indirect way. Right? Because then it’s back to work and get a customer what he needs to get the solution.


Allison DeFord  17:56

Right. Well, and and the reason that is Engaging emotionally is so important because it ties in directly with what you were just saying, if you are an empathetic brand, right, that words becoming ubiquitous, and I think a lot of people are discounting its value. This is not a trend. In my mind. The this there’s a little set of statistics that I absolutely love. And I think it makes it very clear why it’s important. If your customer if you really understand them, and you’re solving their problem, and you’re speaking their language, they a third, they’re 33% less likely to sorry, 33% less price sensitive. Yes. 44% less likely to go to a competitor. And 300% 300% more likely to recommend you or refer you to someone else. Yeah, if they’re emotionally engaged, so why wouldn’t you want to do that?


Damon Pistulka  18:59

Yeah, exactly. You know, you listen to people, Don Williams, this is not a Dallas, I get forgot where he lives. But you know, he says that the same thing. He talks about wowing your customers and, and and really, really going the to the answer for you to do it. And I think that manufacturers for a long time are and still to this point are so caught up in doing doing this whatever they do that they don’t think about that part that really closes the deal because we’re a bunch of technical people at heart that the manufacturer the people that get into manufacturing and start those businesses are usually because they’re good fabricator, machinist, whatever it is the that’s the way they started years ago and some still do now but and I think they don’t understand that whole part of sales because they don’t get into it because they’re a good salesperson. Right? People well,


Ray Ziganto  19:54

right. And in truth be told that not all of them are good operations people. Okay. You know, because I find, ya know, Allison, I have seen the same thing you get called in, it’s like, well, what’s, what’s the problem? We need more sales. And then you look at it and it’s like, there should be no problem getting more sales, but they’re so caught up in their own shorts, internally on operations stuff. It’s like, you know, until we fix this. Yeah, bring I speak, it might be counterproductive, you


Andrew Cross  20:20

know, well, that’s where the solution, you know, comes from, too. It’s like they expect it to be plug and play.


Ray Ziganto  20:25

Yeah. Oh, so now but when we need it, get on the phone and get an order.


Andrew Cross  20:30

Right. And it is it a certain way. It’s like we look at it from a different exit your way we’re looking at, you know, these are businesses, we work with a lot of manufacturers and other types of companies as well. But, you know, there’s a limiter on these type of businesses and, you know, that we find because we’re looking at growth, you know, and because we’re doing that, because we’re deal guys and our buyers are looking for growth, that’s everybody’s looking for that in the market. So you need to build a company growth oriented. But you know, what’s interesting is, you know, again, this lack of understanding of a sales, it’s a lack of understanding, but it’s also putting their heads down and having so much control over things that when you get to a certain size in your organization, you can’t grow anymore in control. And then you become a growth manager. For me, just general contractor.


Ray Ziganto  21:22

If it becomes the capacity of one, then you’re Yeah, you’re limited. You know, that’s a point of inflection because a lot of owners struggle with giving up real authority and responsibility in other functional areas, you


Andrew Cross  21:37

know, at other thing is that yes, they do. And it’s not even like they want to control it. It’s fear. You know, if they don’t, what’s going on one of those sales guys up to you know, what, what are the quotes, you know, they’re going up, sales are going up, you think they’d be happy and a lot of times they come in and they’re nervous, because he sells now you know, maybe I can get liver you know, yeah. You Know the pessimistic? fear? Fear?


Damon Pistulka  22:05

Yeah. What’s what have you guys seen in the market lately that that’s been? You know, what are you seeing with your the manufacturing people out there? Are they, hunkering down? Are they investing in in the sales and marketing now to try to grow? What are you guys seeing overall?


Allison DeFord  22:24

Well, I’ve seen a mix. I’ve seen a lot of people as soon as soon as COVID hit I, I thought I had hoped, naively, that that many people would say, you know what, this is the opportunity that we’ve been waiting for, right? Especially if you’re still deemed essential, which everybody in my sphere was all they were all deemed essential. So, you know, that’s not to say that they didn’t suffer any kind of loss, but they’ve been busy. This whole Time. And so I thought to myself, this is an opportunity, man, you could like, you know, while things kind of slow down a little bit and people are working from home, you could retool your website like, maybe you had that on the agenda, right? That was part of your strategy. Then when the smoke clears the COVID smoke, as I call it, you’re rocking and rolling and ready to give them a better experience. Instead, what a lot of people did was they pulled back and just sort of played possum, or we’re just going to wait and see. And I thought, What are you waiting for? The world’s not coming to an end, right? We’ve experienced not maybe not this exact thing before, but I think a lot of fear just froze them. They were gonna wait and see. What about you Ray? What is your take?


Ray Ziganto  23:50

Likewise, it’s real uneven. Similar response the companies that have continued to power through it. The common thread was they prior to COVID? They had developed very close synergistic working relationships with their key customer segments. Yeah, they had their finger on the pulse of what was going on. And they were, they were already kind of in, in growth mode. So there was a brief hiccup. But you know, I know people that are moving into new buildings, I got a friend and industrial Real Estate’s having a record year because of expansion, you know, for, for manufacturing firms that are that are that are out there. The big thing they’re struggling with, you know, now that the new reality is kind of settling in is and, you know, Alex and I have talked about this with, you know, some of our mutual friends. You know, Mike Roberts is one of them. The selling is different. Now, their sales guys are are kind of, certainly, you know, they can no longer sit around twiddling your thumbs go out. I can’t make any calls. It’s like, well, you better do something. Then, you know, what’s what’s the new way of of engaging, you know, with clients and and that changed in an instant. And it looks like that change is going to stick. So if they’re behind the curve in that regard, it’s it’s problematic for them right now.


Allison DeFord  25:16

Yeah. As Mark pointed out, and in our game changers of, you know, conversation every Thursday that we’re doing this month, he pointed out this that, you know, when the tide went out, you could see who was swimming naked. And he’s coined the phrase, which I know it’s there was a book about it before but his take is different and I really dig it is selling naked. So how do you know if you’re selling naked? And that’s one of his things that he talks about? and Ray and I see it every day. I think what is the percentage he said like 60%, based on a recent study that he did, or has access to 60% of salespeople are not equipped or able to sell digital


Damon Pistulka  26:01

60 a lot.


Allison DeFord  26:02

That’s dangerous if you know, that’s, that’s your main bread and butter and we’ve since kind of crossed over. And if you’re selling naked, you’re marketing naked. Yeah. And, and you are, you know, it’s embarrassing can be, and it can be very costly and nobody has time for that. So, that’s that’s like a whole that’s like a whole book, I hope. But


Andrew Cross  26:28

we’ve noticed recently too, even with some of the younger folks, right, who you would expect younger, some of the younger sales people are working with and you would expect them to be all tuned in to making as transit and, you know, some of the more senior you know, Excel folks are like this are you know, let’s get going because this you know, I’m going to get on zoom, I’m going to get on this I’m going to do that we’re gonna you know, doing more digital work and social media stuff is I got to be able to read out one way or another and other ones, you know, I was surprised because really they we would come on I’d actually say, I want to hear what you got to tell because, you know, I’m interested. No follow up, get on the call. No cameras can’t see him. Like, yeah, mind boggling, but I’m not surprised by that those numbers that you’re studying there,


Damon Pistulka  27:22

that that was a surprising thing for us. I mean, we we routinely talk to salespeople just because two things we want, maybe we may be interested in something but b we want to see how they’re selling right? You want to you want to understand what’s happening. I can’t tell you how many marketing emails that I’ll read through just to see the wording they use and things like that because and, and when you take this back to where you were, you guys are adding manufacturers. Some haven’t got past the point of printing out a flyer and taking it to somebody and showing it to them before this. So we’re we’re like talking about, you know, Mars and in the earth, literally. And so what are you seeing? I mean, are you guys getting seen a lot of demand, or people are waking up to the fact that I’ve got to change? We’re not going to be out physically doing this nearly as much as we used to, at least for a while. Are you seeing people jump into it now? Or are they still kind of holding back?


Allison DeFord  28:28

I think what Ray said, I think it’s a split. At least from, from my view, so I can only speak from that my experience. I see a lot of people yeah, I’m starting to see the smoke clear. I’m starting to get that message from a lot of my clients too. So that’s good news. They’ve put some things off for a while because they really just, you know, they were kind of waiting to see. And there’s a lot of people too that I think are just simply afraid. I think they’re Afraid of looking foolish? I think they’re afraid of trying something that they don’t know how to do or they’ve never done before. Like start a podcast. Right. Right. And, and I think what? And I think too, I don’t know if that depends on your age, because I know the older I get, I don’t know, maybe it’s a mix. I’m fearful to look foolish or that something will fail. And manufacturing, at least the clients I’ve worked with have typically, they take so long to put something into play that this is now like, we got to snap this up. And I think that feels a little scary. like, Whoa, I don’t know if we can do this that quickly. I’m like, yeah, you can, you know, we got to try. And as long as it’s sensible, and the customer is front and center as the hero and we’re speaking their language. Not gonna fail.


Andrew Cross  29:55

Yeah, a couple comments we got from the support tuning in by Barry Bellman, our partner in crime, yeah, hard to sell to strangers, you know, he, he say it and learning how to make friends. Right, which is, you know, more difficult and challenging too. But


Ray Ziganto  30:18

there’s another piece to that too. You know, for a lot a lot of companies that I get involved in, you know, the everybody’s we’ve talked about this the other day, you know who on the call has ever changed insurance companies or mobile phone carriers? All of us Why? Well because in most industries they typically treat the new customers better than the old customers is the thing. So, odds are, I haven’t come across a company yet that didn’t have another 20% of upside with customers they already had. Yes, they never bothered to get any further dig any deeper than the one buyer are the one engineering group, you know, that they were working with. So it’s like holy crap. If you Want to move the needle now? Bear, you’ve got the vendor number, you know, and everything else. So, yes, your friends,


Damon Pistulka  31:07

you know that that’s so interesting. And you said that because I was I was not in a manufacturing client the other day we’ve got a client that’s in a completely different industry. And I was telling them the same thing I said, you’re doing business with the biggest companies in the world, literally. And you’re doing business with two people in that company, there has to be 100 at that level, that you got to figure out how you get the person’s name that they work with, in and it was like I was, it was, I don’t know what it was like I was from Mars again. And there’s so much more goodness that you can do in these companies like that. But I come back to what else and you and the topic of this is connecting to the heart of your customer because I mean, Don said something a while ago I rebel and practices way better than I do, but connecting to the heart of your customer and the you know, I’ll tell you what But I thought it was BS. A year ago, if you had told me we need to develop a customer persona and figure out okay, what’s this customer do? Where are they? What are their problems? All this? And once you do it you go. This really makes a lot of sense. Mm hmm. And you should see. Whats that?


Allison DeFord  32:20

, it makes marketing to them easy. Yes. Yeah.


Damon Pistulka  32:26

Well, yeah. Where you spend your money, right? So if you’re in a manufacturing company, and you know, my target is x, you find out where they’re at. You don’t you may not be on Instagram or Twitter or Pinterest, you might be on LinkedIn. And because that’s where they talk, and that’s where they hang out, or it might be someplace totally different. But when you start to do these things, and you talk about the things they like, like you’re saying, Allison and Ray, and it’s going through this marketing, and going all the way from the customer perspective, like you do with these manufacturers. That is how they really understand who they’re selling to, because I can bet. And I’m going to ask you this question. How many times do you come in and the salespeople will tell you, this is who they sell to, and you go through a customer avatar persona exercise, and it’s a lot different. Yep. Yeah.


Allison DeFord  33:19

Oh, yeah. or marketing thinks that it’s this. And then when we bring sales into it, we learn what it really is. Yeah. So that’s happened more than one time or they


Ray Ziganto  33:35

get sneaky and get aspirational. Well, this is what we want to sell to. You know, everybody wants to use the ball prior to they wanted to be aerospace and medical. Yeah.


Andrew Cross  33:47

And talk to sea level and ownership. They have a different completely different story to Yeah, no. Yeah.


Allison DeFord  33:55

Going into when you get past I this is what we do when we do persona development. We start with something called an empathy map. And what the empathy map is for is to figure out we have these like four quadrants. What are your customers currently hearing about you? What are they seeing from you? What do they feel? And what are they actually thinking about? And then we take that information and we create a difference map. The difference map allows us to then dive deeper and understand why do you actually exist and what problem do these folks really have? It may not be like, I’ll give you a great example. I have a really large drywall manufacturing client. They’re incredible. And what we figured out in looking at the voice of customer survey that they had conducted before they brought us on, which was like candy for us. Oh, yeah. From the customer’s mouth and so much good stuff of why they loved buying from this company, and the problems that they were having. And so we identified that. Well, this is I can’t say it right now, because we’re still getting ready to launch it. But the point is, is that this is what your customers are doing. Yeah. Make it easy. You make this part of the construction process. Easy. And they all everybody was like, huh? I said, that’s it. No one else is talking about making it easy, easy ties into all the other great things that you do for them. Yeah, but it’s motivating. And it’s simple, and it’s memorable. And that’s what somebody wants. I want this part of the process to be easy. So I’m go with you.


Damon Pistulka  35:48

Great example. It’s so great. It’s such a great example because they’re worried about making drywall.


Allison DeFord  35:55

Right, and that makes sense. Get it? You know, we’re always more worried about ourselves and what We do. It’s just like back in the day I used to talk about if I would meet somebody and they’d say, Well, what do you do? It was all about me. It was all about felt it was all about marketing. And and he started to watch them glaze over. And what we realized, oh my god like it, this took a long time. And this is what we do for a living. But sometimes it’s really hard to do it for yourself. And what we realized is, no one wants to hear about marketing. They don’t give a crap. They don’t want more of it. What do they want more of sales? Talk about this is how we’ll help you do that. So it’s we are like living proof and re as well. We’ve lived it. We wrote test it, are you because we’ve made mistakes, and we’ve had successes and we’ve been afraid to do things. So if we don’t tell you to do anything that we haven’t tried ourselves and proven. I’m


Damon Pistulka  36:54

so so real quick here, because we’re getting we’re getting closer to the end here. But So you guys are going to be when you help somebody going to the manufacturer and help them you’re going to start where and kind of end where, with what you do. I just saw, I understand I don’t quite understand it


Allison DeFord  37:11

completely. We like to start with the foundation, right? We call it shoring up your infrastructure. Because the reason that we do that somebody comes to us and they’ll say, we need a new website. But giant new website, we say, Okay, why? Well, they will tell us why. And then we say, Okay, well, let’s take a look at your substance. What’s your, what’s your current website made up? And they kind of look at us like, What do you mean? And we’re like, all right, content. It’s not just words. It’s the words. It’s the pictures. It’s the messaging, it’s the tone, what’s your personality? They look at each other. I don’t know if our brand has a personality. Well, okay, what’s your culture so we as we kind of peel back the layers and it’s It becomes very evident. And now unless somebody has all these things dialed in, yeah, let’s jump into that website. But what we often find is okay, well, what’s the value proposition that sets you apart? Like, what’s the first thing we’re going to say on that website? Mm hmm. And they’re like, well, oh, they get confused. They want it. They want to know, what is it going to look like? And we say, No, no, no, that’s like baking a cake without the right ingredients. So without the substance, your website, for example, it’s nothing but a speaker. It’s an amplifier. What’s an amplifying, nothing that people care about if it’s like a brochure, or features and benefits Bingo. So Ray, and I start with the founding of your brand. And oftentimes people need a retrofit, they may just need like a partial, where we kind of logo we keep the tagline. We build customer personas because they don’t have any. Yeah. Take them through a breakthrough. Boom. camp, and we include sales people. And we did one up in Oregon. I was it last year or two years ago, it was one of one of my favorites because the group pulled us each aside individually and said, Oh my god, this is the coolest thing ever. And we’re like, well, that’s great. What do you love about it? They said, we’ve never been in the same room like this before. And we’re on strategy together. And it was so great to get that feedback. And we thought, okay, and they’re like, thank you, thank you for coming. This is like, my brain is on fire. This is so good. So helping you see what’s right in front of you, that maybe you couldn’t, because, you know, it’s like right in front of your nose. And I think we tend to make it too complicated if we’re the manufacturer, and we help you creatively articulate what’s really great about you in a way that makes sense and emotionally connects with your customer. So we really just walk you through the process then we create the strategy Then we create the content if you don’t have anybody to do that, and then we can help you execute. Or we can hand it over to your in house team, no agency required, which nobody wants a barnacle on a ship. Yeah, they need you. And then Ray’s expertise is in several areas, he can work with operations and sales to actually implement the plan. And he’s really good at it. He’s also really good at helping international manufacturers, especially out of Malaysia where he has a lot of experience to help them transition and take advantage of this system, but in a way that people in the United States that appeals to them, so I mean, and that’s a whole nother conversation, but he’s brilliant at it. And I just have that holy cancer, so you need to talk right and


Ray Ziganto  40:48

it was awesome. She said


Allison DeFord  40:56

I get all excited.


Ray Ziganto  40:59

We can We all do. It’s, you know, it is it is such a blast. It’s it’s just being able to provide some informed perspective. You know, for him, you know, we are passionate about making those people, the heroes of their story in their company and, and for them to make their their clients, the heroes and that’s that’s just how it feeds, right? Yeah.


Allison DeFord  41:21

Well, I know a lot of times they’re settling. I think that’s one thing that we realized a while ago is they’re settling. When they say, well, what’s the ROI? And I say, well, don’t you mean cute? And they say, What do you mean cute? And I said, Well, if you’re only looking at your return on investment, you are leaving so much money on the table, and they’re like, Alright, tell me more. I said, you have the opportunity to also get a return on your innovation and your influence. So let’s cube that. I don’t know if I can cuss on here. So I won’t um, let’s keep that stuff and and let’s rewind And the needle in a bigger way, because it’s like they’re forgetting about all this other opportunity. And so that’s uncovered to


Ray Ziganto  42:10

a lot of it’s about about Mojo, you know, probably a bad term, but managers get they get stuck in this rut of this incremental performance. And I get it in operations. It’s like, boy, if you can get 3% better a year, you know, across a big organization, that’s a that’s a big lift. And, you know, yes and no, I think what’s required and where you really need an outsider, if there’s willingness, but you don’t know what next steps could take on the part of leadership or on preferably ownership as well. Then to come in and say, you know, what, if we could give you a path to double your business in three years, properly, you know, start thinking a little bigger, you know, and it’s like, you know, what we’ve both seen, and I have both seen and those instances, if there was one too and support You know from ownership, it’s not hard to create a path and a process, get the plate spinning, you know, and make it happen. And by the end of that third year, everybody’s like, hey, look what we did. And then they go duplicate again. It’s it. Let’s try and double it again. And that is possible, you know that the first piece of data that most manufacturers get wrong, is their estimation of how much of the market they own. You know, we’ve got 30% No, you don’t probably even have rounding error. Yeah, you know, in terms of what’s out there, and then you prove it to them, then it’s like, oh, but then it’s, oh, you know, there’s looks, let’s go find the rest of that. Let’s scoop up another chunk that big.


Andrew Cross  43:41

Yeah, we get that too. And we, you know, we’re getting ready to sell it’s like, you know, how much market share you have, you know, what’s your plan? Have you ever done any studies, who’s your competition, all the basic stuff that a buyer is going to want to know. I haven’t even a clue but who the competition is they don’t they don’t say


Ray Ziganto  44:00

Especially now with Google, I’m like, Oh my god, it’s so much you can find out for free, let alone if you spend a couple grand or more to do a comprehensive study. It’s a big world. It’s a big role. And it’s even easier to sell internationally now. So yeah.


Andrew Cross  44:19

We’re seeing now Allison to it’s like, the light bulb kind of goes off when they all said the same room and start talking to each other. I know that, you know, the manufacturers mindset. And it’s not just a small business owner, successful, small or medium sized business owner, when they have problems, they put their heads down, and they go to work and they don’t, they don’t walk into the other room with their team and realize the they’re right in front of them. There’s the resource, they’re there, right and now that that was even gotten bigger with folks like yourself, I mean, that’s what we’re trying to do an extra your way is introduce talented people like you guys. You know, hey, pick your head up off the desk, look around. Big out what the resources aren’t there that are so available. That’s what’s exciting about us because we just spark it. And,


Allison DeFord  45:07

you know, it doesn’t have to be complicated. I think that’s the thing is we demystify this complicated idea of marketing and sales and just break it down. It’s transparent.


Andrew Cross  45:21

And you don’t have to have the answer. You don’t have to come up with the answer. As somebody. Yeah. It is the point it might be the person. It might be your coworker sitting right next year. Go ask them and they’ll make your lives easier and everybody wins.


Ray Ziganto  45:35



Damon Pistulka  45:36

Well, you know, it’s it’s been awesome talking to you guys. Man is it is I was waiting for this for a long time. You know, you’re seeing me and Kurt Anderson going out are really good. You guys. out loud. This is something I love. That hidden I didn’t even think about You know, but


Andrew Cross  46:02

by the ways it’s happened. It’s usually Damon but that’s okay. Yeah.


Damon Pistulka  46:08

They get excited over forget, but but it’s great to have you guys on and you know, I just I feel like there’s there’s there’s a new hope for manufacturers when we see you guys out there helping people and others that you talk to and people like Kurt Anderson show him writing, e commerce and manufacturing. This is something that we have to get into because the manufacturer in the middle of Illinois or Indiana or Washington or wherever the heck they are, they can sell around the world now and you look at the things that are that are available. If they if they connect with their customer like you’re saying Allison and really understand them and help them solve their challenges so young, it’s so awesome to have you guys on again, today with us on the roundtable. We’ve got Allison before from Bell marketing, raise the gun From linari International, the host of MFG out loud, so great to have you guys on today. Thanks so much for stopping by the roundtable and we can have you on again for another couple hours. Well, it’s fun, but we’re gonna sign off for now. And just thanks again.


Ray Ziganto  47:22

Thank you guys. Thanks everybody.


Allison DeFord  47:23

Hit it.


Andrew Cross  47:24


Schedule a call to discuss your business goals and answer your questions on growing business value, preparing for sale or selling your business.

Check Out Posts Talking About Sales.

Related content

These posts may also interest you

Developing Annual Net Income Projections

In this week’s Exit Your Way Roundtable our guest speakers were Andrew Cross and Damon Pistulka. Andrew and Damon are the Co-founders of Exit Your Way.  Exit Your Way helps business owners build businesses that provide more money today that they can sell or succeed when they are ready.  Today we are discussing the final part in building annual projections.  Estimating the fixed costs and calculating the projected net income.

Developing Annual Projections

In this week’s Exit Your Way Roundtable episode, our speakers were Damon Pistulka and Andrew Cross. They are the Co-Founders of Exit Your Way. The conversation of the episode started with Damon sharing the topic of this episode.  Damon and Andrew help their clients build businesses they can sell or succeed.  Developing accurate projections is a big part in building a successful business.

Annual Strategic Planning and Projection Development

In this week’s Exit Your Way Roundtable episode, Andrew Cross and Damon Pistulka covered the steps business executive teams can use to perform their strategi planning for the upcoming year.  This episode is the first of a 3-part series where Andre and Damon will cover strategic planning, projection development for variable costs, and projection development for fixed costs to project the net income.