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It’s good enough. Usually, “good enough” isn’t enough to solve problems for employees and customers.
Today’s guest is Brianne Hoffman, senior marketing and communications manager at Wanzek Construction. She offers advice on how to avoid makeshift marketing to improve productivity.
Some of the highlights of the show include:
Nathan: It’s really easy to do things just “good enough.” But good enough doesn’t really solve problems, does it? It’s just like you’re skating by. Today, we’re talking with Brianne Hoffman. Brianne is the Senior Marketing and Communications Manager at Wanzek Construction. She wrangles everything from internal communication to external marketing there. There are a ton of moving parts to consider with something like this. What should get posted internally first and externally second, how should projects flow from one person to the next, when should projects swap the leading members, and the list goes on.
Brianne has some pretty good advice here to share today on the Actionable Marketing Podcast on how she solves makeshift marketing. Now, makeshift marketing is what we call the tedious manual processes that suck productivity away from marketers. Makeshift marketing is all those spreadsheets, the endless email threads, the disconnected single function tools, and the list goes on.
All those things add up and causing you spend a lot more time coordinating your work rather than completing your work. Brianne addresses makeshift marketing head on with her assess then plan management style. To top it off, Brianne is crushing it right here in beautiful North Dakota like all of us here at CoSchedule. I’m Nathan from CoSchedule, it’s time to get AMPed with Brianne.
Hey, Brianne, thanks so much for joining me today on the podcast.
Brianne: Yes. Thank you for having me.
Nathan: We’re excited to have you. Brianne, obviously we know each other a little bit, running in some similar circles here in Fargo North Dakota area, but I was wondering if you can tell me a little bit about yourself, and some of the things that you do at Wanzek Construction.
Brianne: Yes. I’m actually fairly new to Wanzek Construction. I joined the department here in March. Some of my past professional experiences, I actually started out with the publishing world. I started out in magazine publishing and was managing editor for about five years for a nationwide publication. The production office was based here in Fargo.
I moved into the agency world for a brief period of time, into the marketing agency world. I didn’t really settle there too much, and then jumped into a marketing director role for a different construction company here in town where I was for about five years. That was a fairly smaller company. I wore a lot of hats, did a lot of different things from events to marketing strategy, to advertising, to graphic design, just smaller company, wore a lot of hats.
From there, I moved over to Bobcat Company which I was at for three years and did Internal Communications for North America for that organization. Did some global and some regionalized internal communication for employees, and have just recently landed here at Wanzek. I am the Senior Marketing Communications Manager here and is spearheading their marketing and communications all around for our company. It’s about 1600 employees, total. We’ve got about 160 employees that are here in the Fargo Office and then counting our field staff for a total of about 1600 across the US. My day-to-day is just running the external marketing for the organization as well as any internal employee communication.
Nathan: I love that background. Going from managing editor into a marketing role seems really fitting. You hear a lot that marketers need to think like editors and publishers. That expertise must land itself pretty well to marketing.
Brianne: Yes, it definitely does because when you think of all the different facets of marketing, from the graphic design, the creative side, the strategic side, how you’re communicating something. Actually my degree is in Mass Communications and English. I’m a dual major. I think in all those hand in hand because I started out at publishing world thinking that’s where I wanted to be as far as editing and magazines, and that kind of thing. Really, the graphic design portion, the strategy, the engagement side has really lent itself so supportive of how we strategically market our business. Because I’ve learned the ins and outs of how it should look in order to grab somebody in, and then just being able to concept around that, like what’s going to be the thing that grabs them in, what’s going to keep them there, and how can we strategize that to a bigger audience.
I started out all those stepping stones, really had led me to where I am today and being able to put those high level strategies together.
Nathan: I love that. Knowing design is the end. You could create the best written content in the world, but with poor design, it’s still poor content.
Nathan: Brianne, I’m just interested. Can you tell me just a little bit more about some of the details into Wanzek Construction. It’s important for us to know a little bit about your background there before we jump to this conversation.
Brianne: Yes. We are in industrial construction. The primary business that we do for Wanzek is wind farms and solar farms. The construction and maintenance of the wind farm. We do construction across the United States and all of a variety of different areas for a lot of big clients. We also are in oil and gas a little bit and some processing facilities as far as egg and industry type things, any type of facility that does processing of sorts. And then a little bit of infrastructure, but I would say the primary business that Wanzek is known for is the wind construction and constructing those big wind turbines that you see when you’re driving on the highway and seeing in different places.
We just recently finished one in Texas, that was about 280 wind turbines, which is the biggest one that we’ve ever created. It’s a really big industrial construction. It all started here in Fargo. It’s fun how they started here and grew. We have just grown monumentally from one year to the next. The wind industry has just taken off. We’re busy for the next two years. It’s crazy.
Nathan: If you could see me right now, my jaw literally dropped. That’s awesome growth. It’s super fun to hear another local company here in Fargo, North Dakota start something up and have a nationally recognized brand.
With that, Brianne, it leads me to something I’ve been thinking of. I really like that your audience is not marketers. My audience that I talk to and think about every day is marketers. As a marketer, I get to think a lot like them. I’m going through similar problems as they are. But I would like to know just a little bit about how you go about associating with your persona and audience. How do you go about planning that or getting to know an audience that is a little bit unlike yourself?
Brianne: That’s a really good question. I would say we’re a little bit different dynamic of a company in that I always say we’re a big company that works with big companies. We work with some of those bigger industry names, like Xcel Energy, Engie, some of those big energy companies. We have a big client base, so when are marketing ourselves to the outside world, a lot of our business has been established over the years of doing work for bigger clients. When I say we market ourselves, we’re maintaining our brand. We’ve got those big clients we continue to work with, and some of these projects takes years to come to fruition. We’re not always out there looking for a brand new business. Of course we are, but not as frequently as some companies might be because we got such long term projects.
But when we do market ourselves and our brand, a big thing that’s important to us is safety. That’s important to our clients. We always say that say safety is the cornerstone of Wanzek, our people, our property, everything. Just being safe is number one and using that in our marketing is very important. Through our social media, we tote safety a lot of the time through, we always […] proposals and things, or showing our safety numbers and how important that is to us.
That’s something that’s huge to our external clients, but it’s also important when we put it out there on social media. Some people who maybe want to come for us may want to know that we’re safe company, that we treat our people in a safe respect that we’re always getting them home safely every day.
I would say that’s number one when we’re marketing outside. Because we have our brand and we have our name that we uphold, of course, but what are our core values? One of our big values and our beliefs that we call here at Wanzek is safety. That’s number one.
Beyond that, what we try to do in an external market is really establish what are called […]. Wanzek is a big company, but it started out as a family-owned company. They try to maintain that deal of family even though we’re larger now. Just keeping that at the forefront of the culture is important here just as much as our product and what we produce. It’s really a feeling that we’re trying to project. We show our projects and yeah, we can show you, “Hey, built this,” and “Hey, we did this,” but if we can’t show you that we did it safely and we can’t show you that our workers are happy to be working for us, then we haven’t really done our job as marketers.
Those are the big things we really try to stress, is that we have people who are proud to work for us, they’re proud to do it safely, and they’re proud to accomplish your project in that manner. I would say those are the key things that we focus on.
Nathan: I really like that. It’s really easy to think of a company as a company, but really it’s a make-up of people. It’s fun to hear that you guys bring that to the forefront in your marketing.
Brianne: Most definitely. Our people are number one. We actually have seven beliefs that we established around our culture here at Wanzek. It’s our talent which is our people, protect which is safety, we have trust, information, communication, integrity, and then profit. Those are the beliefs that we uphold internally here and we just really try to keep hitting home with our communications we do internally and just letting our employees know that these are the beliefs that we stand behind and this is what we reinforce with everything we do every day.
We try to incorporate that in different ways through our communication, we actually have an internal app for people to call out other people. It’s called our FistBump App. What we’re actually able to call out, somebody can say, “Hey, Brianne Hoffman, great job on that newsletter today. Way to knock it out of the park.” And then I get basically tagged in it and shows upon the app, and other people can like it and comment on it, and all of these things. But we always try to call out some of those beliefs on that app too which is fun. It’s a good way to reinforce the culture that we’ve established here and really give people the recognition they deserve internally for a job well done.
Nathan: I really like that, calling people out for a job well done. Also, it sounds like that’s a pretty simple written down frameworks that can help move the company forward. One of the things I wanted to talk to you about was earlier this year, CoSchedule had done some research on written documentation versus strategy versus not, and it turns out that people are way more likely to record success. In fact 313% times more success if they have a documented strategy. Since you talked about having those seven beliefs written down, I was wondering, how do you go about documenting your marketing goals or your game plan, and how do you turn that into reality?
Brianne: Yep. We actually start there. Every month, our marketing team gets together for about a month in advance […] the content. […] get done a couple weeks ago meeting for August content. We start each month with these looking at those beliefs. We’ve got probably four of the beliefs that we want to project on the external side that we might focus on our social media posts go around what those beliefs are. They become our campaigns, so to speak. What we do, using the CoSchedule tool, we take it with that belief so we can sort by that belief, like how many times did we hit talent? How many times did we hit trust in our post this month?
We can actually track it by how we take it using your tool. But also we start each month looking at that, assessing, and saying, “Okay, what do we have coming up that is people-focused? What do we have coming up that say be focused? What are some of the events coming up?” Then, we pre-plan that way. We call it our content pillars. Basically our content pillars are based on our beliefs here and our culture.
That means external phasing and internal phasing. We actually do our content planning for our social media, at the same time we do our internal content planning for our newsletter and our share point articles. There’s some crossover in that a little bit, just depending on what the content is, but those are always where we start is, okay people, safety, and what do we need to hit, then we consider okay, what events are coming up that we want to continue to promote Wanzek? What are some fun things we can add in? What else have we sprinkled in? We start with the base of that and work our way out, but we usually plan about a month in advance.
Nathan: Makeshift marketing is just good enough. It means that you complete less work, you get pretty frustrated with deadlines and it’s really difficult to prove marketing team value. CoSchedule recently launched our new marketing suite. It’s specifically designed to solve makeshift marketing. Trust me, this thing is going to help complete more work, deliver your projects on time and prove your value to stakeholders better than ever before. It’s got a content marketing offering, it’s got a social media offering, work management and all new data asset management from CoSchedule, all built upon the marketing calendar that everyone loves today.
To top it off, we have a brand new social conversions inbox. The social inbox is available in social organizer, making social organizer a complete social management offering from CoSchedule. It’s pretty exciting news. If you haven’t checked out the news yet, go to coschedule.com/transform-modern-marketing. Okay, let’s get back to the show with Brianne.
I love that. Planning in advance, just a very simple idea to help prevent some of those fire drills that pop up. I really like that you plan around your pillars so that you’re able to prove marketing value, or prove that marketing as aligned with strategy. That’s super cool I like that.
Brianne: Definitely. It’s a good place to start just to know that you’re continually reinforcing that culture that’s been established. It takes years to really establish a culture in a workplace and once it gets done a very good job of establishing it, until maintaining it is just as important. We have to just stay in front of people with what are those beliefs? Why are they important? Why do they continue to be important?
We don’t want to just highlight somebody once and then say, “Okay, we highlighted some employees. We’re good to go now.” No. We need to keep looking for those, we need to keep hearing about what employees are doing and share that with other people.
I would say, planning ahead really helps us to alleviate some of those fires that come our way, too, because there’s always pop up projects. I’m sure most marketing departments can certainly relate. If you don’t have anything done ahead of time, then everything’s a fire, right? Seems like everything is always needed yesterday when it comes to marketing.
I also say most people who have not been in graphics or graphic design of any sort have no idea how long it takes to produce something that is graphics-related. That’s really a lot of […] into our time, there are those graphics requests, those things that do take some time.
Any of those graphics we can get done ahead of time, any of those posts we can get that are just employee highlights and that kind of thing that maybe aren’t just timely but obviously still equally important. We just get those done as much in advance as we can to allow us the extra time when those fires come up so that we’re able to quickly get those done and turn those around for people. We usually have maybe a few big projects a month and we have our standard weekly communications that we’re always doing in our social post. We always know we have those constant variables every week of things we have to get out with then the time in between allows us to get those other quick projects done.
Nathan: Yeah. I like that. Just anticipating that you will have to do some of these just standard marketing operations while knowing you’ve got these larger projects on your plate.
Brianne: Exactly. I know you mentioned this here in the discussion here about hitting project deadlines and keeping your team on track. I’m a total list maker. I would say that even my team maybe even gets a little bit annoyed with me sometimes, but I ask them to once a week, send me a summary of what you did this week.
It’s not even a micromanagement me checking on them thing. It’s for them to realize we’re moving 150 miles an hour every day and we need to take time to reflect than what we actually accomplished. You can be working all day long sometimes and feel like you get nothing done. But when you are forced to have to compile that list of what you actually got done that week, you realize you got a lot done.
I make them go over their list and then what I do is I separately compile a list of everything that is either in my emails or whatever and I have a separate list for each of them. Then when we have our one-on-ones, they go through their list, and then I just basically say, “Oh, I have this extra thing. These three other things where’s that at.”
It’s a good way to reinforce the whole, “Here’s what I’ll accomplish this week,” like “Wow, we really got a lot done.” We can keep tabs on it, keep accountable for it, and keep it moving forward because it’s really easy to just have it in an email, flag it, and just forget about it. But if you actually have to write it down and come back to it every Friday, it almost annoys you to the point where you have to actually get it done.
Nathan: I 100% get that. I’m a list maker myself. That keeps me on track. I also really like crossing things off or putting that check mark there. That just feels really good to see everything that you’ve accomplished.
Brianne: Yes, for sure. That’s actually one thing I really like about CoSchedule and the tool in using it. We actually just implemented it in May. That’s one thing. I’m a very visual learner. I either have to have a physical list that I can write down and check things off or I need to visually see it and see that some things have been accomplished.
One of the big changes we made when coming in March—when I started this role—was I need to see this all in one place. I need to see external marketing and I need to see internal communication in one place. I need to see how they all put together because when I’m looking at three different spreadsheets, it’s just not coming together in my mind. It is like they need to be emerged together. I know I’m like selling the tool here, but really, it really changed what we do as a team. Being able to view into what my whole team is doing, just see how our planning stuff out, and just being able to easily move it from one day to the other if something new came up. It’s taken us leaps and bounds to staying organized for sure. It’s just easy to look at when something is scheduled. It’s just so much more efficient.
Nathan: I’m happy to hear that. One of the things that I wanted to pick your brain on is, I know you’ve mentioned this quite a few times today, internal and external communication. I was wondering if you could meet me in some of that. Do you make sure to communicate something internal first and then external? What is that process look like there?
Brianne: When I say internal communication, what I mean is employee communication. That’s really translating any of the business happenings down to our employees not only in office but at the field level as well. What we really try to do is be pretty much as transparent as we can be. The leadership here really has a good grasp from what should be communicated, what frequency and in different ways.
One of the things that I’m just really proud to work here is seeing that transparency because you don’t want your employees to be in the dark and to find out something on the internet before they found it out in their leadership. I would say that here, we just do a really good job in communicating that out.
We have a newsletter that comes up once a week, it’s called the Wanzek Wattage, and that has on project highlights from some of our big projects. It has an employee spotlight. It has different announcements throughout the organization. We also have a weekly podcast that is either a member of leaderships, senior leadership, one of our executives. It’s a variety of different people that’ll do podcast just based on the different happenings within the company.
For instance, we just had a podcast today that went out from our senior manager for a corporate project. They ruled out a new system and they wanted to introduce everyone how do you see the status of your project and whose working on it. Just really easy ways to communicate to your employees to keep them up to speed.
I would say one of the toughest things with internal communication is tracking it. We’re using an HTML builder program to send out our emails so that we can start to track that. That’s one of the main things with internal promise like, sure you can shoot an email out through Outlook, but how do you know how many people opened it? How do you know if anybody clicked on anything? Really, that’s one of the things we’ve tried here to spring now is just installing that program—the HTML builder—seeing how many people are clicking on stuff, and what kind of engagement we’re getting.
We’re just seeing increase and increase. That’s so great to see because we want to know that your employees are engaged. Again, just sharing that transparency in different ways through the podcast, through the newsletter. We have an organizational announcement email that shows who’s been promoted, the new hires, all those different things. Just keeping that at the forefront that our people are important, that communication is important, and we try to keep you as informed as we can.
Nathan: Yeah. I love that. The name, the Wanzek Wattage is just awesome. I love that.
Brianne: Thanks. It’s called the Wanzek Wattage and then the tagline is, “Powering communication to be the best.” Be the best and deliver excellence is one of our Wanzek way. We just played off of that and promoted that. The newsletter just rolled out. We have been doing one every week, but we changed the name and we rolled it out, rebranded it just recently, and so far it’s been very well received.
Nathan: Yeah. Very, very fun to hear. It sounds like you guys do quite a bit of things. Handling the internal and external communication. When I talk to marketers recently, it feels like everyone’s feeling that pressure to do more with less. Doing more projects in less time with the only same head count that you have, you’re not getting more marketing team member. I was wondering, do you feel that pressure? If you do, how do you go about managing that?
Brianne: More resources doesn’t always equal for more productivity. If you can really identify those inefficiencies and processes, locate tools to help you get things done faster or even like shifting responsibilities with your people when it’s appropriate, you can sometimes find that additional headcount isn’t always the answer. One time I watched a webinar that said, “We spend so much time spinning our wheels just organizing our emails and the request that are coming in that we haven’t even started on our work yet.” One of the things they said was, “If you can’t get that list out of your head and into a system or down on paper, then it’s no longer occupying the space in your mind that allows for more creativity.”
I thought that was really good advice because it’s true. If you got that running list, I got to do this, I have to do this, and I have to do this, and I have to do this. If it was just in a program or in a system, or on a piece of paper, it’s no longer occupying space and you can actually focus on creatively deciding how do I tackle the day. That’s really important. That’s something that I try to do because I know that I’ll just spin my wheels if I don’t have it down somewhere. Having it down on the program and I use my Outlook Calendar like crazy, just scheduling things out so that it’s not occupying space. I think that really helps.
One of the things I mentioned too is if you can get an assessment of your team and where they’re at every week, you can move things around almost like chess pieces. Hey you can strategize like, “What if this person took this and this person took this, I bet we get done faster.” It’s a matter of literally of just getting that new perspective some time. Sit down in a meeting and say, “What can we do to speed up this process? Could we set up a template for things and we are building from scratch each time? Let’s put our heads together and just really have a brainstorm session.” Sometimes you’re saving that much more time by setting aside two hours just to brainstorm. Set aside time just to brainstorm it and see if you come up with some ideas that will create those efficiencies. Otherwise, week after week you’re doing the same thing and wasting all that time.
I’m a big woman of just take a step back, assess, and really just ask, “What do you think we could be doing better?” because sometimes your team members have better ideas when you all come together. I’m always all about, “What do you think we should do?”
Nathan: I really like that. It might have a little bit of fear to basically say, “Hey, let’s go back to the drawing board on this,” especially if you’ve been doing it for a while. But it makes so much sense to look at where is an inefficiency that we could knock out of this process or is there extra approval in this that we should just remove. Stuff like that really helps.
Brianne: Right, exactly. I would say, “What are your barriers? What are your challenges? What are you up against right now? And why is this not getting done faster?” And then find out what that is. It comes back to the whole, “That’s the way we’ve always done it so why change it?” You need to be willing to ask yourself, “Why hasn’t it changed and why hasn’t somebody post the question of why can’t we change it?”
To certain extents, it’s hard to ask the question, especially if you’re coming in as a new person, and you’re like, “Why are we doing it this way?” You don’t want to sound like you’re arrogant in saying the way that we should do it is better, but I do think there’s a way to oppose that to say, “I have a new perspective, I have a fresh outlook on this. I’ve never been in this process before, but have you ever considered doing this?”
There’s a way to approach it that can be a positive spin on it. “I think that sounds like a great idea the way that we’re doing it. Could we ever combine this with this so that I got all at the end of the week instead the beginning?” Just asking those questions than say, “Where are my […]? Where can I push it?” by being delicate of course. I do think it’s just a matter of asking the questions sometimes because sometimes people just say, “Well, we just saw it done that way.” Well, ask the question and find out why.
Nathan: I love that. One of my favorite questions to ask is going down that white rabbit hole. “Why do we do this? Why should it be done this way? Why do people care as we create collateral?” We use that approach a lot. It’s great advice.
Brianne, I was going to ask you one last question. We’ve been talking about doing better work, making sure it’s on strategy, I was wondering, how do you measure all this? You got internal and external stuff, how do you show the value of your teams work to leadership and key stakeholders at Wanzek?
Brianne: There’s a couple different ways. We actually assess our metrics on a monthly basis. As I told you we do our content planning strategy once a month. How we actually start that meeting out is looking at our metrics. We take a look at our social media metrics, we say, “What worked? What didn’t? Why was this a popular post? Why wasn’t it?” and assess that first and then go into our planning. We do the same thing with our internal communications. We say, “Okay, this went out at this frequency at this time. What were people clicking on? What do they enjoy? What did nobody click on? Did they not enjoy hearing from that part of the business? Or maybe they really liked this.”
We’re newer in the tracking metrics of the internal com because we never had anything in place before to be able to track it, so that’s new. But as far as social media goes, just tracking our followers, tracking our likes, and then tracking our most popular posts. We do also track metrics around our recruitment campaigns. If there’s a certain position we’re hiring, for certain project managers or something like that, we’ll be tracking the campaign metrics around that, watching closely to see how successful that was for getting applicants in the door and that type of thing.
But for the most part, it’s just keeping an eye on that each month, keeping it at the forefront, looking at what your engagement is. And then we actually do an employee engagement survey once a year too, so we can assess there if there’s anything we might be missing. We’ve got per annual coming up here and we’ll hear some feedback from there too and see if there’s any changes we can do, anything we can implement to change and shift that a little bit. We’re constantly keeping that at the top of our mind of what can we be doing better, what maybe didn’t work. It’s trial and error, but at least you got some part backs to look at.
Nathan: Yeah. I really liked that. Assess, then plan. That’s great advice. I need to take that into account for everything we do here, too. Thanks for that insight. With that Brianne, we’re at the end of the show today. I just want to say thank you so much for taking a little bit of time and sharing your knowledge with us. It’s really fun to get another local Fargoan on the show.
Brianne: Absolutely. Thanks again for having me. I appreciate it.
August 20, 2019
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