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One of the industry’s hottest names in safety joins the Grow Live party this week—Ergodyne! Al Buczkowski, Marketing Communications Manager at Ergodyne sits down with Matt Johnson and Renia Carsillo to chew the fat on what it means to stand out from the crowd.

Watch, listen or read now and learn more about:

  • Al’s take on why end-user safety is always number one.
  • Why successful marketing is always a team effort. Shout out to the Ergodyne team!
  • The importance of keeping a field presence and make contact on jobsites.
  • Why brand voice should always be consistent and your tone contextual.
  • Why sometimes you just need to shut up and listen to the people who’ve been there, done that.

“I’m an evangelist for the safety culture,”— Al Buczkowski.

Want more of all things Ergodyne? Head on over to their website and become part of The Tenacious Nation! And don’t forget to subscribe to The Tenacious Blog for the latest in industry news.

The buyer's journey has changed and it’s time to change with it. Stay tuned for more marketing advice from Safety Marketing Services that you can use to build trust and relationships with your customers.

Next week on Grow Live: Get ready for a special crossover episode with Dave and Bacon Safety Tales, featuring Dave White and Fred Radunzel from Quad City Safety Inc.

In the meantime, catch their podcast on iTunes or Soundcloud!

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Listen to the Podcast...

Click here to listen to the audio-only version of the show on your favorite podcast app. 

 

Read the Grow Live transcript...

Renia:

Hi, welcome back to grow live everyone. I am so excited to be back fresh off of Thanksgiving. I am Renia, director of Digital Strategy here at Safety Marketing Services, and we have a very special guest for you today. We want to welcome Al Buczkowski. He's marketing communications manager at Ergodyne. He's come in to join us today and I just want to tell you a little bit about him. You want to say "hi" first, Al?

 Al Buczkowski:

Hi everybody, it's great to be here. Really excited, and really excited about today's topic.

Matt Johnson:

Thanks for coming on, Al.

Renia:

Awesome. So we have Matt Johnson back with us as usual. You probably saw him with the pumpkin last week. I was so sad to miss that.

Matt Johnson:

Giving thanks. It was the squishy episode.

Renia:

I liked it. If you're new to us he's our C.M.O. and managing partner and he is going to, him and Al are going to really help us today to talk about brand voice. So I'm really excited to jump into that but first I want to tell you a little bit about Al and what makes him such an authority on this.

 

So, if you've ever been on Ergodyne's website you may not even need this bio because you probably know why he's such an authority on this. Al was actually born and raised in St Paul Minnesota just like Ergodyne and he's a lifelong lover of storytelling so we're going to be friends. And that made him get into a 10 year career in copywriting where he has helped to develop brand voice and content marketing strategies for several companies in industries ranging from SAS companies to catalog and online retailers. He's had a lot of different experiences, right?

 Al Buczkowski:

Absolutely.

Renia:

I think there was some sports in there too, wasn't there?

 Al Buczkowski:

There was sports journalism at one point. Yup, yup, many lives ago.

Renia:

So he joined Ergodyne as the marketing communications manager in 2016 and now he oversees the safety gear manufacturers in-house creative team and you partner a lot with digital marketing teams to drive email, social, content marketing, digital advertising strategies.

 Al Buczkowski:

All the things.

Renia:

All the things, right? So he is definitely in the know and we're really excited to have you with us today.

 Al Buczkowski:

Thanks again. It's great to be here.

Renia:

Awesome. So Matt, you want to say anything before we jump in?

Matt Johnson:

No, I'm just excited about having Al here. The guy is the voice of Ergodyne for a lot of the things that they do and we all are huge fans of Ergodyne. I've always respected the brand. It's one of those companies that I've always looked to. As we work with our clients, we oftentimes point to Ergodyne and we say, look at how they're communicating, look at the way that they are having this conversational style in their writing and it's not too uptight. We're in the safety industry so oftentimes the language is very super conservative and I've always pointed to you guys as a reference for look at how do you do it differently, how you can stand apart from the competition.

 Al Buczkowski:

That's awesome, that's great to hear.

Matt Johnson:

It's an honor to have you here man.

Renia:

Yeah, if you're not part of the Tenacious Nation you should be. So I normally save the homework til the end of the show but you should go in like a side browser and go subscribe to their blog and newsletter because it's super great stuff.

 

So, you guys ready to jump in?

Matt Johnson:

Yeah, let's do it. Born ready.

Renia:

So, Ergodyne really does have one of the most recognizable brands in our industry. In your role, how did you help to like develop and shape that voice?

 Al Buczkowski:

The brand voice was well developed by the time I got there for sure. There's an exciting challenge in finding ways to strengthen that voice, making sure that it is resonating in authentic nature and making sure that it is consistent across all channels. I think that's kind of, a big mistake people make is kind of interchanging brand voice with brand tone. In all actuality they're two distinct things. Brand voice, am I the friendly expert? Am I battle tested and always prepared? That never wavers, that's who you are as a brand, right?

 

Brand voice, am I happy, am I sad, am I somber. Whatever it is, that is completely contextual. It's like, I'm not going to talk to my kids the same way that I talk to my coworkers hopefully. I'm not going to talk to my coworkers the same that I do at a office Christmas party as I do, say, at like a product launch meeting.

 

The tone changes but who I am, what I stand for always remains the same.

Renia:

That's a really great point. When you look at your written communication, how do you kind of make that determination about when that changes?

 Al Buczkowski:

Honestly, a lot of that is experience I think as you guys know. It's great to work for a brand that really embraces humor but again, it's all context. It's like at the end of the day our mission is a very serious one. It's keeping workers safe. So, you have to very deftly use that humor so you're not marginalizing that message and your authority.

Matt Johnson:

You're not going to make fun of the idea of dropping tools on somebody's head for example. That's not something we joke around with but in other areas you're trying to warm up and build credibility and trust. I see you guys do a really good job of that. So I guess that is just a matter of knowing when and where and kind of having this kind of social awareness as a brand, right?

 Al Buczkowski:

Absolutely. And I think maybe something to add to that is like some of the most unassuming communications you have with your customers are some of the most important ones. It's a conversation that came up recently with us where we're reaching out to people, whatever it is, Instagram, via Instagram. That is a completely, a very personal, a very important touch point and it has to be done as the brand tone can be casual, tone can be no playful and match the channel. But they have to know that it is coming from the brand, not Al, not whoever.

Matt Johnson:

I had kind of a follow up question related to developing the voice. So, the brand, this is a company that's been around since 1983 and this thing has evolved over time and you came on a couple years ago, right?

 Al Buczkowski:

A little over a year ago.

Matt Johnson:

A little over a year. So when you came on, how did you kind of assimilate into the voice of the brand? What did that look like? I'm just curious. Was it just meeting with like leadership and the sales team? Can you kind of walk us through what that journey looked like for you?

 Al Buczkowski:

For sure, absolutely. Luckily, that's one of the things I am good at and enjoy doing is finding and matching that voice for the brand, for the audience. Even more importantly, I have great tutelage, the head of marketing at Ergodyne, Lindsay Herda, is an amazing writer. She has done more than anybody there really at developing that voice and being my guide. When you look at that website, that's not just me, that's a total team effort and even now she is a rare director who actually loves the creative process and she's a great partner to bounce those things off of.

 

Short answer, it was actually a pretty easy transition seeing as the help that I had along the way and it's fun.

Matt Johnson:

That's awesome. So it's just kind of like this, here's the things that we've done and ...

 Al Buczkowski:

It's just absorbing all of that.

Matt Johnson:

And it seems like culturally you were a good fit. Would you say that has a bit to play with?

 Al Buczkowski:

It's so important, absolutely.

Matt Johnson:

They didn't just want any writer to come on and manage the brand, right?

 Al Buczkowski:

I'd like to think I was well [inaudible 00:08:47]

Renia:

I think there's definitely a connection to place with the Ergodyne team. I mean you see it when you look at a lot of the things that you guys put out and I think you being a native definitely helps you connect to that connection.

 Al Buczkowski:

Certainly. Even down to the space where we work, it's really inspiring office to walk into. It's an old, I don't know how much you guys know about it. Anyway, short story, it's an old train station and so it's a lot of exposed wood beams mixed with Iron and it just gets your juices flowing and gets you in that mindset of ...

Matt Johnson:

Industrial mindset.

 Al Buczkowski:

Yes, you got it.

Renia:

Love it. Tell us a little bit more about the Tenacious Nation because I know for me that's like one of the things that really stands out to me when I see your brand particularly online. Can you tell me a little bit about the history of how that was developed and how your customers engage with that brand?

 Al Buczkowski:

Yeah, absolutely. As you guys know engagement is such a valuable currency, right, but it means nothing if you don't spend it. It's absolutely wasted if you don't engage back, it's a two way street.

 

So, Tenacious Nation was really developed as a way to keep those lines of communications open and constant with your most devoted loyal customer base. The people that will keep coming back to you. The people that will do marketing for you frankly by word of mouth. So Tenacious Nation is really just a way to share the love back and say hey, we're going to give you exclusive access to, early access to a giveaway or a new swag or industry use. Anything to, like I said, share the love. Like you guys are doing some of our work for us, you deserve to be compensated on some level.

Matt Johnson:

Absolutely. So you're doing things like sending them products for them to like review early?

 Al Buczkowski:

Actually that's a different program we have which is our Tenacious Tester program. Tenacious Nation is more of a loyalty kind of a [inaudible 00:11:06]. It's more just making people feel special.

Matt Johnson:

And you guys are like the kings of swag let me just say. I was like, what kind of swag do we got here, I was digging through the closet. I got to give Al when he comes and visits a ton of SMS swag and I just got like this mug and a couple other little things and it's like. When I'd go and visit you guys it's like everything under the sun and it's such cool stuff. That's a big, and I know that doesn't really have much to do with brand voice and all of that but ...

 Al Buczkowski:

But it does.

Matt Johnson:

That plays a lot with in terms of the way that you engage your end user, right?

 Al Buczkowski:

Absolutely. I would say it has a lot to do with brand voice. Brand voice being those things that really go beyond written communication. Our field marketing team which is phenomenal, shouts out to our field marketing team, you'll see them out at trade shows. Our presence is just absolutely astonishing and they come up with a great catalog of swag items that people actually want to wear. It's not like a free pen that you just toss. They'll actually wear the stuff and like the stuff, so yeah.

Matt Johnson:

Exactly.

Renia:

I keep having this conversation so I just love that you said that because your T-shirt doesn't work if nobody wants to wear it, right?

 Al Buczkowski:

Well said, well said.

Renia:

Tell me a little bit about, like, I know one of the things that you do really well is solve problems for your customers. That's everywhere in your content whether it's on social, whether it's on the blog, whether you're out and about having a conversation. How do you make things not just about product but about solving your customers' problems and still hit that end result when you need to?

 Al Buczkowski:

That's a great question and that is something we focus on every single day. The way I approach my job as a marketing manager is we're not peddling of product really but I'm kind of an evangelist for safety culture because that product doesn't mean anything unless everybody at a work site is bought in on the fact that worker safety is important.

 

And then to that, also being authentic and truthful and really putting it out there saying this is a product that will help solve for a risk but it's not the only, it's not the end all be all, it's not a panacea. It takes complete buy in. And really, really pushing that message I think gradually kind of builds that, builds that authority and it builds that trust wherein they want to work with you because you have helped them so much on the way there to their end goal which is keeping their workers safe.

Matt Johnson:

Tons of content on your website about specific risks on the job and you guys obviously spent a lot of energy and resources into making those pages really user friendly with a lot of great resources. Those pages obviously they point to a product that helps solve the problem but they're not necessarily all about that, are they? They're about this higher level of awareness.

 Al Buczkowski:

Absolutely, yeah. You pretty much said it. It's about taking them through that complete journey of awareness, oh my God, we have a problem and then down to what's the extent of this problem, what's the reach of this problem down to what can I do. And then that's where you definitely kind of place your product within that stream. Like I said, you don't treat it as like the end all be all, the panacea.

Matt Johnson:

So many suppliers and distributors I think when they do marketing communication, what they tend to do is they either do one or the other. They talk all about the issue, the risk or the awareness level content. So highlighting the danger for example. And then they don't do a very good job of tying a thread and leading them to the answer, right? So they kind of leave the buyer, they leave the visitor hanging.

 Al Buczkowski:

Exactly, yeah. Go ahead.

Matt Johnson:

And then on the flip side, the other thing that they do is they just lead with the solution without explaining first the reason for the solution. And so, maybe you can touch a little bit on why you feel like it's important to have all of those working together.

 Al Buczkowski:

Most certainly. Yeah, without the context what is the solution. I think showing a deep really authentic understanding of the problems that the solution is supposed to be solving for is so important. Like you said, you can frame up an issue but then not have that positioning at the end and then like, okay, you kind of did a public service but you didn't really do anything for the bottom line.

Matt Johnson:

Exactly. At the end of the day we want to bring awareness, we want to encourage a safety culture but we are suppliers, we are distributors, we are trying to sell products. So it's got to do all of those things and it's got to do it in a way that builds trust with the end user. And I feel like where a lot of specifically distributors are in danger of these days is they lead with the product first and foremost and those products have become commoditized through the supply chain evolution that we've been going through. We can get these products anywhere.

 

So, if you're just taking orders as a distributor sales rep for example and you're not adding additional value through like educational pieces that talk about the hazards at length, you're really missing out an opportunity to distinguish yourself from Amazon and the big box stores. So, I feel like that is critical for this idea of adding value to the end user. If we're not adding value, then what are we doing?

Renia:

There is an old saying that I think we forget too much particularly in digital marketing which is people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. You have to lead with that response and sometimes it's fast. One of the things that I love so much about your brand is that when you see that tenacious word everywhere, you know exactly what you stand for. As soon as you see it, it's one word in a very important font that really resonates with your end user. And so you're making a statement very quickly about what your values are and that gives the opening for you to share the information that you have which gives the trust, which gives that opening for you to make the sale.

 

But those things have to come first. People have to know that you give a crap before they're going to listen to what you know and then they have to listen to what you know and get some trust before they're going to want to buy from you.

 Al Buczkowski:

I guess I would add to that too like people can see straight through just straight up marketing cynicism. Like you could be tenacious on whatever and if you as a company and a culture are really kind of living that too, even though the customer doesn't have a window into our office and how we do our business, I feel like it kind of pervades. Like everybody in our office, tenacious is a great descriptor of them and that's kind of how we do our work and go about our business. I think that really gets embroiled into everything we do then and it makes it all the more genuine and I think that on some level that comes off with our customer facing communications and our products and everything we do.

Renia:

Well you can tell you guys are having fun at work. I don't believe that you could produce the kind of copy and messaging and things like that that you do if you weren't having a good time.

 Al Buczkowski:

Oh, absolutely, no doubt about it. But then again, it's that balance. It's a serious mission and so we are seriously devoted to it. Of course we have fun along the way, sure.

Matt Johnson:

Love it.

Renia:

Love it. So, I think part of why you guys are putting so much intentionality around this is you see that the buyer's journey has really changed a lot. So it's much more buyer centric, not so sales driven. Can you talk to us a little bit about what you guys have done to address that change over the years?

 Al Buczkowski:

Certainly. This whole conversation in essence has been about that really. Customers are looking for help. More than just a product they're looking for help. And if you can prove yourself as the authority, if you can help them along this journey, then that's where the success is.

Renia:

Absolutely.

Matt Johnson:

The thing that we've seen so much especially the last like five, 10 years is this idea that the products that you sell are, the product information itself is readily available. Where in the past the sales people would have that information, whether it was in the form of a catalog or whether it was up in their head and they were kind of the gatekeeper of that information. Then what has happened with everybody having, let's say the Ergodyne product line on their website. You can go find information about your products everywhere. So there's no real differentiation between places to buy your product.

 

So, the end user still needs that guide. They still need somebody to help them solve the problems. People are like more than ever less likely to engage with a sales rep face to face. It's becoming harder and harder and they don't want to have those cold calls and people bothering them. So the idea here is, and I think what I've seen from you guys is that information is being published all over the Tenacious Nation online. So through the blogs and through your social engagement and through those videos that you've created teaching them how to use the products, teaching them the issues that relate to their workers on the job site, those are all ways that I can see that a company like Ergodyne has done a good job of evolving to meet that new industrial buyer's journey.

 

All of that information is there. The end user has everything they need on their website and when they're ready, they'll let you know. That is a warm lead, that's a warm deal that you guys can work with your distributors to close and everybody's happy.

 Al Buczkowski:

Absolutely. And I would add to that our special capability of our field presence, whether it's at the trade shows or having our own in-house experts go out to a job site and actually teach people how to say tether their tools. What a valuable touch point that is. Even better than say a white paper or a blog post, that's the ultimate.

Matt Johnson:

It is. You'll never be able to replace the value of in person connection. What the companies do that absolutely kill it, knock it out the park when we talked about this earlier are the companies that can match the experience that their customers have in person with the experience that they have online in a digital world. So, if we can match those of and it's succinct brand experience with the right tone and the right voice and the right resources, that's when magic happens.

 Al Buczkowski:

Well said man. Absolutely. And that's what we're striving for.

Matt Johnson:

I think you're heading in a tremendous direction. I'm excited to see what you guys do in that area, so good stuff. We were walking around the website and digging into all the nooks and crannies and there's so much there so definitely recommend if you haven't been there in a while go check it out, some really great resources.

Renia:

It sounds like, I know a lot of marketing managers that we talk to really struggle with their sales teams or their boots on the ground and it sounds like you guys really work really well together to make sure that brand experience really crosses or crossed everything that you do.

 Al Buczkowski:

For sure. As a marketer, having salespeople and having product managers who are so incredibly knowledgeable not just of the products they sell but in the space they sell them in, it's invaluable to have that sort of resource in-house. It's great.

Renia:

Are you up for a side question to help our marketing managers out there? All right. So, you are a little over a year into this role but you've been a copywriter for a long time, you've been in the marketing arena for a long time. If you were a marketing manager coming into a safety company new again, what advice would you give to someone new? What should they be looking at, who thought should they be making friends? Can you give them some advice since you've done it recently?

 Al Buczkowski:

That's a big question. I think just shutting up, just shutting up and listening and the people that are at that company are there for a reason because they bring something to the table. They're smart incredibly intelligent people and so just shut up and learn as much as you can about every part of the company because everything is connected, everything.

Matt Johnson:

And I think you're demonstrating that even here because you're down here, you're on a trip with your senior sales person and you're learning from him and you're talking about the brand and you're talking about your distributors, you're talking about your customers and how the whole thing fits together. I can tell you're doing exactly what you just said. You're listening, you're kind of absorbing and kind of, you're learning a lot I think that is probably the best advice you could possibly give.

 Al Buczkowski:

Yey me.

Matt Johnson:

Shut up and listen. That should be the name of the show.

Renia:

There you go, podcast name for the week. As we kind of wrap up here is there anything else you'd like to tell the audience? Anything you'd like to ask them to do or think about?

 Al Buczkowski:

Wow, wow, big open ended questions.

Renia:

I know. I promised I wasn't going to do this by the way.

Matt Johnson:

We told him that we weren't going to like give him all these questions.

 Al Buczkowski:

Oh my goodness. I would say really ...

Matt Johnson:

Check out the blog, check out the website.

 Al Buczkowski:

Yeah, Seriously. Check out the blog, check out the website. Shut up and listen.

Matt Johnson:

Awesome.

Renia:

I think shut up and listen is really good advice when you're trying to develop a brand voice if you don't feel like your company has one. I know Ergodyne has been very intentionally developing this for a long time but if you are trying to pull together a lot of different variables, a lot of things that are maybe not as cohesive and consistent, I think that's great advice to listen to what's actually happening because it's going to be more authentic if you try to build on what's actually happening rather than create something on your own.

 Al Buczkowski:

For sure. And that's where listening to the sales people and asking them how are people talking about this product out in the field.

Matt Johnson:

Lots of talk about that. We've done a couple episodes about smarketing and bringing sales and marketing together and listening to each other and having those conversations, that's really good advice. Do you have any application for us today Renia?

Renia:

I do. So if you are putting together your 2018 calendar and you are putting together your 2018, right? We've talked about that a few times.

Matt Johnson:

You better be. You're running out of time.

Renia:

You're almost out of time. If you don't have a documented version of some of the tone, style, things like that for your brand, you definitely want to get that on paper especially if you're going to work with an agency or if you're hiring new people into your team in 2018 you want to have something written and maybe even some videos, I've seen some really great videos, that describe what this looks like and feels like.

 

In fact, Ergodyne obviously has the tenacious word but I bet there's other words that pop up pretty often that are important to your brand as well. And if you don't have those on paper, they're not likely to be intentional.

 

So, a lot of you have heard us talk about having a style guide for your visual and your graphic design. You should have that for your brand tone and your brand's voice as well.

 Al Buczkowski:

I second that, wholeheartedly.

Matt Johnson:

Wouldn't that be cool. Then whenever you're working with a freelancer or something, you can just, here, this is the guide, stick to it. It'd save us a lot of pain, wouldn't it?

 Al Buczkowski:

It is very necessary, for sure, cool.

Renia:

All right, Matt, so what do you want people to do this week?

Matt Johnson:

This is the part of the show where we do a call to action and every good marketer needs a call to action, it's very important. So this week's call to action is simple. Just want you guys to go Ergodyne's blog, subscribe there, it's ergodyne.com/blog and be sure to follow them on social media. They're really cool. They're great people to engage with. A lot of great content on there. If you're a distributor, you should be doing that because that's content that you should be sharing with your customer base as well.

 

So, following them, follow their blog, share their content. Use it to help scale your business. Leverage what they've done already, you don't have to go and recreate the wheel here. They've done a great job laying the foundation for you. Use that content to your advantage and work it into some strategic sales opportunities with your customers.

Renia:

Awesome, love it. Thank you Al so much for being with us.

 Al Buczkowski:

Thanks for having me. This has been a great time.

Renia:

Yeah. So, guys next week we actually have a special crossover episode for you. We will have Dave and Fred from Quad City Safety with us and we will be doing a crossover with Dave and Bacon's Safety Tales. And P.S. If you don't know what that is, you're really missing out and we'll post a link in the show notes for you.

 

So come back and see us next week and we will talk to Dave and Fred about distribution, marketing initiatives and what it's like to do a podcast for the first time.

Matt Johnson:

That'll be funny.

Renia:

We'll see y'all next week.

Matt Johnson:

See you then. Thanks Al.

Renia:

Thanks Al.

 Al Buczkowski:

Thank you.

Matt Johnson:

You were awesome man. Good job.

 Al Buczkowski:

Thank you.

Matt Johnson:

Appreciate it.

 Al Buczkowski:

Thank you.

 

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