Embracing Change During Tough Times

by Marnee Palladino, MARN, Inc.

For the past few months I have been wondering what should I write for the “Editorial in the Field” article? Trying to decide on a single topic relevant to this period of economic instability was proving challenging to say the least. And then I re-read Charles Ingram’s September 2020 editorial, “Please Don’t Read This!” It was validating (and ironic, considering the title) to revisit his insights into the importance of promoting your business — even more so during the slow times.

The coronavirus pandemic affected business worldwide, but what did that mean for manufacturing and manufacturers’ reps? Early in 2020 we knew we wanted to invest in new marketing and promotional tools, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about the cost during these unprecedented times. Was now really the time to spend money on marketing? But with in-person visits out of the question, it was clear that we needed to adapt. Our timeline was officially accelerated.

I’m smart enough to know what I don’t know, and so I relied on the talents of those who are strong in areas I am not. For years I’d been hearing from marketing firms that “people are more likely to watch a short video.” They are more likely to do this than they are to read an email, click through some pictures, or look at a line card. I knew we were upgrading our website, but now I was including short videos as well. Despite my dread of being on camera (I’m happy to say I made it through) we are now able to directly market and promote each manufacturer in 60 to 70 seconds. Videos not only offer a new aspect of credibility to our firm and to our lines, they are much faster to absorb and have been proven the best way to engage people.

We also added a new manufacturing line to our portfolio. It was a synergistic addition to our existing capabilities as well as an excellent reason to reach out to our customer base. It wasn’t a planned addition, but watching them adapt to the economic downturn by offering a capability-set previously reserved for their injection molding business — thereby earning brand-new customers from today’s most successful industries — has been most rewarding.

Finally (because we just weren’t having enough fun) we upgraded our CRM. Sure, it’s a struggle learning to do business on a new platform, but aren’t we all doing that already? This CRM is much more rep-friendly, and while we’re not yet proficient, it’s already clear that it’s going to make our day-to-day lives better. It allows us to easily input notes after a meeting, send post-meeting follow-up emails to prospects and customers, and share line-specific information with the touch of a button — all from our smart phones. Next up? Evaluating the automated email-marketing platform that directly integrates with our new CRM to streamline our efforts. In the “more good news” department, we just recently learned it allows us to include our newly minted line-specific videos!

I felt reassured by Charles’ article — his success over the years suggests that we are on the right path. Certainly there are days when we feel we took on too much in too short a period of time, but if not now, then when? Throwing ourselves into, and embracing the unavoidable changes has at the very least made us feel proactive in a time of uncertainty. Showing our customers that we are strong enough to stick around through the tough times is the message that will mean the most, and it’s the message that we want to send.

Marnee Palladino is CEO and president of MARN, Inc., a manufacturers’ representative firm in Middlebury, Connecticut. In 2020 she was elected to the MANA Board of Directors. Prior to launching MARN in 2014, Palladino worked in sales and marketing for Palladin Precision Products (now one of MARN’s principal manufacturing lines). After graduating from Cornell University with a Bachelor of Science in facilities planning and management, she worked in Manhattan for a financial corporation and later launched ML Project Management Consulting.