Jon Franko, thinker and founder at Gorilla76, works in the marketing realm with mid-sized industrial manufacturers. In this episode, he gives us an overview of the different types of marketing available for B2B and B2C companies and shares tips on options that might be useful for contractors today. His company has also started working toward a more diverse and inclusive team, and he shares a bit of his experience here. See below for a complete transcript.
For more information on their company and resources, as well as their own podcast, visit: www.gorilla76.com
Stephanie Chizik: Thanks so much for joining us, Jon.
Jon Franko: Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity.
SC: We’re excited to have you. Why don’t you start by giving our listeners a little bit of your background as well as Gorilla76’s background?
JF: As you said, we’re an industrial marketing agency. It’s pretty straightforward what we do. We help mid-size B2B manufacturers identify and track, engage, and drive sales opportunities with their ideal-fit customers. We’ve been around since 2006 technically. That’s actually our name. The 76 comes from the seventh month, July, of 2006. And the Gorilla comes from a nod to the non-traditional marketing that we were doing a lot of when we started out. While budgets have gotten bigger and while things have certainly changed, a lot of what we’re doing is still kind of non-traditional in the grand scheme of things. That’s kind of us in a nutshell.
SC: You just made me think — I’m sorry to put you on the spot but I’m sure you can answer this — what is the difference, for our listeners, between B2B and B2C? I think it’s terms that are thrown around a lot and not everyone might know the answer to that.
JF: Sure. B2C, business to consumer, that’s the stuff that we all, whether we work for a business or whatever we do in life, is what we are on the receiving end in every day of life. So when we’re turning on the Super Bowl and we see Ford has the new Broncos coming out and they’re going to run some spots, that’s B2C. It’s Nike, it’s the liquor brands, whenever they’re trying to get you to buy a certain type of six pack of beer. In terms of B2B, that’s business to business. Some of those B2C brands are still doing B2B, but a lot of the manufacturing companies, the industrial painting companies, the construction companies, that’s obviously B2B. It’s a business selling to another business. And there’s a lot of similarities, to be honest.
At the end of the day, it’s always other people that are making the purchase, so I think the brands that do B2B well are the ones that are still tying into emotion and a lot of the things the B2C world is doing. It’s just, a lot of times in the B2B space, you’re in different channels. You’re probably not running that Super Bowl ad. You’re trying to do a lot of thought leadership, a lot of things that position you as the expert, a lot of written content, a lot of things that are truly helping your buyer versus trying to sell something to them, if that makes sense.
SC: Yes, I think it does. And I do think it’s a key distinction, because the people who are listening are probably going to be mostly small- to medium-sized businesses who are coatings contractors, so they are selling a solution to maybe an asset owner or someone like that. So that would be more, like you were saying, the B2C side. But when a coating manufacturer is selling to the contractor — well, that’s B2C as well. It is an interesting distinction.
JF: Honestly, we’ve worked a decent amount in the painting space. There’s a ton of B2B going on there. It’s the city of St. Louis is looking for bids for — and this might be a bad example, using a government entity, but anyway — they’re looking for bids to paint a bridge. So they’re going to — that’s where it’s important for an industrial painting company to be on the radar and to already have the discussions going and to have already positioned themselves as the expert in this field. Where we see a lot of companies getting it wrong, it’s a lot of companies saying, “Look at us. We’re great. We’re really good at what we do and you should work with us.”
Realistically, what should be happening — not realistically, but more importantly, what should be happening — is it should be showing those people why they should work with you. It’s something that a lot of our clients struggle with. They’re always like, “This piece you wrote for us isn’t promotional enough.” And it’s like, Wait, time out, it’s not the point. The point is to educate and to help. We’re going to do that with thought leadership content. And also guys, if you hear a dog in the background that’s my 100-pound Labrador retriever. I was telling Stephanie before we started, anytime I get on a call, he decides to scratch and run around my office and do everything. So I apologize in advance.
SC: It’s funny you said that, because they just started vacuuming. I live in a condo, so I had to put myself on mute while the vacuum went by. Of all times.
JF: Totally good.
SC: I think all those are really great points. Kind of what you're hitting on is that old adage, the “show don’t tell.” So you want to make sure that’s coming across with the promotional materials. And I’m sure that applies to the coatings contractors as well.
JF: Yes. In all honesty, a lot of our clients, they’re not even doing promotional materials. Don’t get me wrong. There’s still a time and place for print advertising. That’s what keeps our magazines alive, right? That stuff’s still important and can be used in a way. But a lot of times what we’re trying to get them to do is, Let’s make it less about telling people how great we are, and let’s use this print buy to drive them to our website to download a guide we’ve written about dewpoint control in your painting application, or whatever it is. That’s kind of how we’re starting to use some of the old, more traditional channels.
SC: When we’re talking about it internally on our B2B side, it’s like there are a lot of different ways to market. Like you just said, of course print advertisements. But then you can also do things on social media. There’s all different outlets nowadays. They’re all different tools. They’re not all the solution for one problem.
JF: Well, this podcast, right?
JF: This is a great channel. I love the outdoors. I love to fish, and I love to hunt, but I always use the phrase, the idea of fishing where the fish are. You want to be where your audience is, where you can reach — the most efficiently and effectively reach that audience. So yes, are they watching the Super Bowl? Absolutely they’re going to be watching the Super Bowl. But so are a huge amount of other people that costs are off the chart, and that’s probably not the smartest way to go after a potential client. Whereas having a strong web presence or making sure you're ranking for certain key words or whatever that might attract somebody online, that could be a much, much better play. Those are the types of conversations we’re often having with clients.
SC: Are there any other challenges or opportunities that are out there right now, especially for people who might be listening to this in the future. We’re still going through, at least in the United States, the isolation, the work from home, all of the pandemic COVID-19 stuff. Anything that you can see as far as trends that are going on right now?
JF: I think more than anything what we’re seeing now is, and I know I probably disgruntle some people whenever I say this, but it’s like the people who have not invested in their web strategy, they’re sticking out right now. Tradeshows aren’t existing right now. Yes, there are virtual tradeshows, and there are ways around it. But the people who don’t have that 24-hour —. I was listening to a podcast yesterday, and it was a great analogy. Your website’s like a 24-hour, 7-days-a-week tradeshow booth. And the people who are coming to it, they’re not walking by and you're trying to talk to them and they don’t really want to talk to you. They’re seeking you out. They’re coming to your website. The people who didn’t have that in place are probably hurting right now.
I think that’s probably where, if I’m a company — now granted, I’m biased, I work in this space — but that’s probably where I’m looking to spend money and to be innovative. I think there are things like —. We have a client that works in the dairy industry, and we’re doing a podcast for those guys. It’s been incredibly popular. All these farmers are listening to it. It’s been shocking how well it’s doing. Those are the things where it’s like, Alright, just because we’re in this space doesn’t mean that we can’t be creative or innovative or use some different channels. Anyway, sorry, I’m rambling a bit, but I think there’s a ton going on right now.
SC: I think that’s a great point. It’s the more traditional industries where doing something innovative could make you stand out so much more. Talk about bank for your buck, with your example of the dairy industry. Doing something innovative there could probably really make you stand out from the crowd, in your “virtual booth.”
JF: Totally. Again, it’s just becoming that thought leader, becoming that person that is the voice of the podcast industry in your space. That’s a smart play.
SC: I think it’s also worth bringing up, you and I are obviously going to be a little bit biased when it comes to this question — or answer is the better way of saying it. I hear time and time again how important it is to continue marketing. So even when there is a downturn in the economy, that investing in the marketing of your company is just so important. Can you speak a little bit to that and say how to do that?
JF: Yes. 100 percent. The whole purpose of marketing is to make your company more money. It’s almost like watering a plant. If you’re going through a drought, you don’t stop watering the plant. If anything, you're going to give it more. If you're pouring some other liquid form in there to try to water the plant and it doesn’t grow, well then — your marketing needs to be effective. Whatever you're pouring into it needs to be effective and what it needs. I think that’s where its like, Alright, let’s really step back and look at the spend that we’re making, and what is our return? I had a conversation with a client yesterday that we’re doing a lot of social media work for them. Budgets are getting tight.
I just was like, “Over the past year, we’ve seen 35 click-throughs from Twitter to your website. This is probably something we don’t need to be spending time on.” Instead, we’re seeing a great return on these LinkedIn ads we’re running or this paid search we’re doing or whatever. Let’s put more, let’s get that water, to use that analogy, and let’s pour more of that in this area. The companies that are doing it right are looking at analytics for the first time in history — well, for the past five years. We have access to know what is working and what’s not working. It’s no longer a guessing game. It’s no longer something from Neilson ratings telling us how a TV spot’s doing. Or just lining up when we ran this print ad and now here is our sales report. Did it work? Now it’s real, tangible data. It’s insane what we can gather now.
SC: And it helps you, to your earlier point, of knowing where to put that money. Or, in the analogy, all plants need water. Which one needs water more right now?
JF: Right. A cactus, for instance, it can kind of just hang out on its own. We don’t want to forget about it, because I’ve managed to kill a cactus in my apartment. Figure that one out. But yes, it’s making sure that we’re watering the right plant, that we are fishing where the fish are and we’re not in the wake that doesn’t have any fish, so to speak. We have all that data and intelligence now, which is just fascinating to me.
SC: I feel like the longer we talk, the more clichés and analogies we’re going to share.
JF: I’m full of them. I got 100 of them, so be ready.
SC: I’m full of them except I always mix them up, so it’s not effective.
JF: I do that, too. I get it. I do the same thing.
SC: I think that’s really great, though. For people who might be a little bit wary, the other thing is — here’s another one — you could just dip your toe in the water and see how it goes. Not to say that experts aren’t needed in this area — of course, they are — but if you are someone who is 100% unaware of marketing and you want to see what it’s like, social media is a perfect example of “check it out, see what’s going on.”
JF: Totally. What I also always point out is, the internet has become the great equalizer. The other day I was listening to a B2B podcast, yesterday, and it was for a company that makes small — the case study they were using was a company that makes spades that can lift trees out of the ground to relocate them or like at a nursery they’ll use them. They’re just like giant shovels, essentially, but attached to your frontloader. Well, the company that they were doing, they were interviewing an agency that does search engine optimization work. For the people who aren’t aware, the people the make it so your product shows up in Google, which is so important. But they were a very small company that they were representing. And they were outranking the big dogs in the space because they had put time and effort into this.
The internet’s kind of like —. We have a client, they’re a very large design-build construction firm, but they’re not the largest by any means in the United States. They’re probably in the top 200. But for most terms related to their industry, they’re showing up number 1 in Google. The internet is allowing smaller companies — and they’re still a very good sized company — but it’s allowing people that maybe think they’re too small to compete or maybe they’re just not big enough to show up, to start to take some of that market share that’s out there. Which is like the dream for a small company.
SC: Everyone’s website, so to speak, is on an equal playing field.
SC: That’s a good point. Before I move on then, any other tips you can think of to share with our listeners as far as marketing? You obviously said take stock of which plants need to be watered.
JF: I think the biggest thing I would say is, Don’t be scared of it. It does work. I do — and this is not a plug for Gorilla by any means, we have a very tight-knit niche of who we work with and the budgets required — even if you're a small client, I would still try to do speak out —. There’s a lot of agencies that we send work to because their model — our model is like fewer clients, bigger budgets. There are a lot of agencies that think it’s safer, and I think it’s just two different sides of the coin, but their model is more clients, smaller budgets.
So where I’m going with that is, I think even if I were — I would learn about it on my own but then I think I would hire an expert to do the work. A monthly budget, our clients are typically working anywhere from 7.5 to 12.5K per month. That’s a decent-sized budget. That’s a spend that a lot of companies just can’t do. We ourselves probably couldn’t spend that on ourselves for marketing if we couldn’t do it ourselves. But there are plenty of opportunities. If you have $1000 a month or $2500 a month or something like that, there are opportunities. There are agencies that will absolutely work with you. They’re just going to save you a lot of the missteps in the long run. That would be my advice. Yes, learn about it, but don’t be afraid to — unless your just on a really small budget — don’t be afraid to still hire someone to help you out with it.
SC: Right, either short- or long-term probably.
SC: I just wanted to ask you one additional question, Jon. This is a completely different page of the book. One of the things that really interested me in you guys — I’ve worked with you all in the past before with some of your clients, which you’ve always been really helpful on — I noticed on your social media platforms that you specifically as well as the company, I would think, have made a concerted effort to work in the area of diversity and inclusion. From your standpoint as a business owner, do you have any tips from your experience that our listeners might be able to learn from?
JF: Yes, I think the biggest tip is that, what I finally embraced after 37 years of being on this planet, is — and I still fail at this often but I think I’m embraced it in this area — is you have two ears and one mouth for a reason. The idea of just listening to others was a huge part, at least for me, to understand why the diversity and inclusion work is important. I admittedly grew up as a while male in the middle of the United States. While I did not grow up wealthy or rich or anything like that, I also lived a very easy life for the most part. I think starting to listen to the stories of others and realize that there were lots of other people that maybe didn’t have the same opportunities I had, or that there are systems in place in this country — you know, unintentional or intentional or whatever it is — that just kind of keep certain types of people back. That really started to resonate with me, and I know it was very important to my employees as well. I think it was something that was always in the back of my mind.
I had an employee just straight-up ask me, “Jon, why do we not have any African-Americans that work here?” And I couldn’t answer the question. It was certainly never intentional, but I think a lot of our hiring practices —. I had never made it intentional to think, well, “What are the historically black colleges and universities that I could reach out to post jobs?” I’m only posting them at the schools that I think of. Well, there’s a whole group of people and numerous different groups of people, not just the African-American community. But the Spanish community. All sorts of communities. They’re looking in different places than where I look. So again, that idea of fishing where the fish are. If you're only posting jobs in places that people that look like myself are looking, well, you’re probably only going to get that.
I do believe that we have a diverse company as it is. We have numerous religions, we have numerous countries of origin, we have a variety of things. I have noticed the more diverse our team gets, there’s no arguing, the better we get and the smarter we get. A) I think it’s the right thing to do, and B) I just think it’s the smart thing to do. The more perspectives you bring in — I mean, it’s a global economy. We’re competing and working with clients — yes, they’re all based in the United States, but a lot of them sell products all over the world. So I think it’s important to have a variety of perspectives. Again, I just think it’s the right thing to do. It’s all of our duties that if we have been given — I’ll butcher this one but — to whom much is given, much is expected, or whatever it is. I believe that. I think it’s our job to try to improve things while we’re here. This was an area where I saw that we could maybe make a difference.
SC: That’s great. Like you said, it’s so important, not only from a human standpoint but also from a business standpoint to diversify and get all of the new thoughts and ideas. I was just so impressed with you putting it all out there.
JF: If I’m being honest, there’s still a ton of work that we need to do. We have the plan and we’ve recognized it. We’ve hired a consultant to come in, and she handles diversity and inclusion at a university. It was somebody I met through a leadership program I went through. We hired her to come in and consult us on this process. Very simply, what people can do, we’re a small company. So even if we did add a person of color to our team, or we made a hire, that’s only one person. Don’t get me wrong, I think that’s still great, and that’s still moving in the right direction. But maybe areas where we can make a bigger impact is, Who are we spending money with? What are our vendors like? What do they look like? Are they valuing diversity? I also think there’s — we do a lot of volunteering at Gorilla. We do four half-days a year where we take the team and we volunteer somewhere.
Well, are there organizations — maybe the reason is, and this is something we’ve learned, St. Louis’s historically black college university, from what I understand, this year graduated one African-American marketing major. So the chances that that person is going to apply and work at Gorilla, out of the entire world of where they could be working, is slim. But what that does tell me is, maybe kids aren’t learning at a young age that they can use creativity or their business sense or whatever they’re learning to go into marketing. There’s an opportunity with a school down the street from us that is a city school to go in and maybe our team teaches a class.
Maybe we teach them about marketing at the age of — in fourth or fifth or sixth grade — to kind of introduce these things to a segment that maybe just doesn’t know. I think those are the ways. It’s not always all about just writing a check or just hiring someone. I think there are numerous ways you can move the needle in the right direction. And they may be the more effective ways, to be honest.
SC: And it’s not lip service, to your point. I would argue, too, that it’s not something that will ever be done. It’s just something that we constantly have to be paying attention to because the needle could always move different ways.
JF: 100% agree. I agree.
SC: Thank you so much for sharing that. I just think it would be really helpful for some of our listeners to hear firsthand from someone who is going through the experience of starting that process. If someone wants to reach out to you pertaining to that or the marketing ideas, anything we talked about today, how can they find you?
JF: I would love for that. I’m learning about all this by talking to other people. So I’m more than happy to bounce ideas or just chat or brainstorm with anyone. My name is Jon Franko. I always joke that any certificate or anything I’ve ever had in my life, I always have an H in my name and a C-O. But it’s no H in Jon, and it’s K-O in Franco. People can email me at email@example.com and call me at 314-332-1020. Or I’m on all the social channels. It’s just @jonfranko. I’d love to connect. Happy to chat. Trust me, I’m learning as I go here, too. I think those two-way conversations are very important.
SC: I think we’re all constantly learning. Hopefully, I should say. I want to plug your podcast too. I forgot to mention that earlier. You guys have a podcast as well that’s hosted by Joe Sullivan. That I think you can find on your website, right?
JF: Yes, it’s on our website. If you go to www.gorilla76.com, we’re actually — it’s a little hidden right now. Actually, it’s not. It’s just in a weird place in navigation, but we’re reworking all that right now. But yes, we’ve just launched that, and we’re about seven or eight episodes in and it’s going well. We’re learning a ton doing that as well. That’s one thing about thought leadership, is yes, you're trying to make your company more money or whatever, but you learn so much as you go through the process yourself. I think that’s almost often one of the biggest benefits. It’s called The Manufacturing Executive. Again, if you go to www.gorilla76.com or if you just search The Manufacturing Executive in any of your podcast platforms, it should show up.
SC: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today, Jon. Appreciate it.
JF: It’s been an honor. Thank you for having me.