tED magazine’s new series of stories, “Better Together,” are completely the work of our past “30 Under 35” winners. They came up with the topic, and then they wrote the articles. “Better Together” allows the next generation in our supply chain the opportunity to let you know how they see the industry in the future, how they see it taking shape right now, and what they would like to see happen so it remains strong and vital throughout their generation.
This article comes from Mark Klein, president of Klein Tools.
Consumer dynamics are changing in the manufacturing industry as experienced Boomers are retiring and younger generations are entering the workforce. This shift creates an interesting situation for brands as they navigate keeping established customers while introducing themselves to new ones. The challenge is keeping each audience engaged while finding ways to individually match its needs. As a 159-year-old company, Klein Tools built its success by providing quality tools that help electricians make their jobs a little easier. The advent of new technology and marketing to a new group of millennials has completely changed the ways of doing that.
From our 2015 and 2016 State of the Industry (SOI) surveys, we know millennials and electricians with less than 10 years’ experience rely on web searches and online resources more than more experienced ones. More than 35 percent of our customers with less than 10 years’ experience say they buy tools from Internet retailers, which compares to 15 percent of electricians with 20 or more years’ experience who do the same. The survey showed millennials want everything online, including products, new content, reviews, how-tos and tutorials. Whereas previous generations preferred seeing, touching and testing new tools before making a purchase, millennials —and those newer to the electrical trade—prefer buying tools online, and rely on peer reviews before making a decision.
To get out ahead of this, suppliers need to take a fresh look at their online presence and ease of use for consumers. Specifically asking how easy is it to find our products online, navigate the website and where videos or tutorials are stored. I’ve also noticed many of our brick-and-mortar distributors are establishing or growing their own e-commerce websites. In turn, we’ve optimized our entire catalog so distributors can easily update their web stores with Klein products, information and content.
We also know from our SOI surveys that searchability and strategic SEO are the most direct ways to reach younger demographics. This is a form of marketing quickly taking the place of in-person, on-the-job recommendations. We are always finding ways to present more personalized information to our customers in ways that enhance their experiences with our brand. The world of marketing has changed drastically, and we, like other companies, are always searching for ways to connect with our customers on a more personal level.
Aside from purchasing tools, electricians of all ages and experience levels want companies to support their personal educational and developmental goals. Whether online shopping or watching training videos, much of a new electricians’ off-the-job-site experiences start and end on the computer. Customers want to SEE the supplier explaining product benefits and issues, and giving tips. Klein Tools has found success with the video blog series “Klein A-to-Z,” which virtually introduces all our products and capabilities to our customers. The A-to-Z series reaches our consumers, new and old, in a way that resonates with them.
But, millennials are not just our customers. They are employees too. This is another area where we had to rethink our traditional engagement model.
At Klein Tools, we noticed higher turnover within our millennial segment compared to older engineers and team members, so we made Klein Tools a more attractive place to work. Our younger workforce can gain experience on our state-of-the-art equipment and on the latest technology while also working on different product lines to determine where they personally have the most interest. The feedback we’ve received is that this model helps keep millennials employees interested and engaged with our brand. It also allows them to see the bigger picture at Klein Tools.
Another way we find success is giving more personalized mentoring and feedback opportunities between younger employees and more experienced members of our team, including senior leadership. I know this is something I try to make as much time for as possible. Hearing from people at all levels of the organization keeps us at the top of our game. Talking to and learning from those who are new to Klein and are experiencing it for the first time allows us to look at the company in a new way. We often tout that is a great family company and I want our employees to know they are part of our family too. Regular meetings and impromptu conversations go a long way in ensuring their voices are heard and that we are creating a company where they feel valued.
Our goal as an industry leader is to set the standard and model best practices for ourselves, our customers, and our industry. Finding new ways to reach consumers and to share about ourselves on a more personal level makes us all better. It helps us find new ways to problem solve and fosters creative thinking and fresh ideas. We’re excited for what the future holds and we’re motivated by our team of employees and customers who keep us on track along the way.
This topic, along with many others, will be discussed during the roundtable discussions and panel session at the upcoming NAED LEAD Conference in Chicago on July 20-22. We strongly recommend you send your young, up-and-coming stars to this year’s conference. You can register by clicking here.
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