The power of competitive intelligence in B2B marketing with Vollrath

In this episode of the Marketing Intelligence Show, Jessica Gondolfo chats with Trevor Irish, a digital marketing analyst at Vollrath, a leading B2B manufacturer of commercial cookware and equipment. Trevor dives deep into the importance of competitive intelligence in today’s digital marketing landscape and how it can supercharge your B2B marketing efforts.

You'll learn

  • How to use Competitor social media insights for go-to-market planning
  • How analyzing competitor data helps create winning B2B marketing strategies
  • How identifying seasonal trends in competitor marketing helps you plan your next moves
  • Get tips on building data-driven reports to make smarter marketing decisions

Subscribe to the Marketing Intelligence Show

Learn from Supermetrics' experts how to use data to fuel growth and maximize the ROI of your marketing spend.
Subscribe to the Marketing Intelligence Show

Jessica Gondolfo:
Hey there. Welcome back to the Marketing Intelligence Show. My name is Jess and I'm the head of US marketing here at Supermetrics.

Today Trevor Irish digital marketing analyst from Vollrath is joining us to talk about how he's using competitive intelligence to guide strategic campaign planning and positioning for Vollrath many divisions.

So hi, welcome Trevor.

Trevor Irish:

Hi. Just thanks for having me.

Jessica Gondolfo:

Awesome. For the listeners who are not familiar with Vollrath, can you just tell us a little bit about who you guys are and what you do there?

Trevor Irish:

Yeah, of course. So we're a B2B manufacturer in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. We specialize in commercial cookware and equipment for the food service industry. So you can find us in many, many restaurants, hotels, convenience stores, grocery stores, anywhere that food is being served. We like to have a presence. We also have, as I said, many divisions. We have an ice cream division that's under the name salting food service. So we make the commercial ice cream machines that you'll find at many different ice cream shops around the country. We also have our manufacturing area where we help other companies with the parts. We make the parts at the same quality that we do for our own products for companies to help them with their finished products. And then we are a global company. Our international company is in Spain called Pujadas, and they also do the commercial cookware and equipment for us.

Jessica Gondolfo:

That's a lot and I actually didn't know that until I spoke to you last week, so that's amazing. Why are you guys using competitive intelligence and how are you using competitive intelligence for your digital marketing strategies?

Trevor Irish:

Well, as you said, it is a lot. We definitely do a lot of things. We have a small marketing team and I realize I forgot to even answer what I do there. I'm mostly in charge of doing all the analytics, all the KPIs and metrics for all the different divisions that we have. And what we came across, especially if we're looking at competitor data, was each of those divisions has a very, very different audience. They have very different trends, they have very different audience levels. So we have multiple other tools besides just supermetrics and some of those allow us to see things like traffic so we understand the average traffic, each of these different kind of areas to get in manufacturing. We'll see a lot of manufacturing sites out there and a lot of them will only get maybe a thousand visits a month. So when you're looking at what they're doing and what traffic they're trying to capture compared to the more our food service side, which a lot of our competitors are around a hundred thousand visits. So times of traffic, what they do for social, what they expect to get in return, what they do for a cadence is so much different. So we use a lot of that.

What we really use Supermetrics for is to capture all that data that comes in on social platforms. And because we can bring in social data from any business profile page, we can create tools then to set it up along by industry and really understand and gauge how often somebody's posting for that industry. Is it every day? Is it every other day? Being B2B manufacturing, it's more about making sure that people know that you're there and putting out some nuggets than it is if we were like a restaurant that had to say our daily special every day. So learning that cadence from what's kind of expected in the industry depending on each division. And then also seeing their audience level so we can tell our higher ups exactly like if we're doing good or not.

Jessica Gondolfo:

That's interesting. Do you have some examples in terms of how you use competitive data to influence your marketing strategies? And I don't know if this for you is division or department, but yeah, how are you incorporating that into what you're doing to go to market?

Trevor Irish:

Well, as far as I think the ice cream industry is kind of an easy one to kind of speak to on this. We expect our competitors to be at zero activity during the winter months because nobody's really buying during that time. Now, as much as our higher ups would love us to be selling those ice cream machines already ahead of the busy season in a December or January, there just isn't a lot of activity during that time and looking at that, we know that if we're doing any kind of a campaign or activity there, we don't have that competition that's going to cost us as much, but we know then that's going to cost us more when we get to the busy season. So that is one thing that we use for budgeting purposes. We'd rather put more budget towards the busy season when we know it's going to cost more, but keep it going. We don't want to completely ignore our audience either, so we will keep going over those months where nobody else is doing anything just to be there when they're not.

Jessica Gondolfo:

Yeah, that's fair. How does that or does it have a difference with your organic strategies and your paid strategies?

Trevor Irish:

Oh yeah, definitely. So I would just say for our organic strategy, you're very limited to the audience that you have. You're limited. The only people that can see it as that percentage of the people that actually follow you if they log in, if they're one of the people that Facebook algorithm decides to serve on their feed or not, and then also if they are sharing it for their friends so their friends can see it. So it's really important on that one to kind of create content that's going to have activity. So that's another thing where we create these large Looker studio documents with Supermetrics to be able to also see a layout of what are people posting, what are the ideas, what's getting the most attention, what's not, what cadence is doing the best work before it's being too much and people aren't reacting. And really recently we've really come to the conclusion that sometimes going back to just those basics is where you're going to get the most attention in organic.

If you just say happy insert holiday, it's really easy for somebody to go by and just click. You get more attention, your post shows up more often and we see it with all the competitors too. The most popular posts are the ones that are just that simple. New products are always fun, so people like new fun stuff and you don't have to say a whole lot about it. What we do see is that's a good kind of attention. We also can see from other people and ourselves over the years, if you have something that's harder than it gives somebody a chance to think about it, you're also going to get a lot of opinions in your comments instead of just likes, just like, Hey, good job or Happy Thanksgiving back. And then that takes up a lot of time because you can't just ignore negative comments, you can't just ignore the trolls. It's not really a good look if you're just deleting them all the time. So we do have to take that time to actually answer those when we have a more complicated post and we know it's not just us, we're seeing it on our competitors as well. So we've been able to make adjustments that way too to make sure that our organic social strategy is a lot more simple, straightforward, easy to harder to have an opinion on.

Jessica Gondolfo:

Yeah, that's a good point because social media is so that it has so many channels, it has so many people, so many audiences, and I think it's really interesting that you look at your competitors so deeply on that side with all of the data that you can get from social media especially because all the data's a lot different depending on what social media platform you're on for what you guys do, which is in this manufacturing B2B kind of space, what is the most important metrics to you that you are looking at and what is the cadence that you are looking at them on?

Trevor Irish:

So social media, and we do both organic and paid, so paid as well for that. The real important one for us is the top of the funnel. We really found that this is more from not so much our competitors, but from our own metrics that come in. If we could see our competitors conversions, obviously that would be a really nice thing.

Trevor Irish:

So with our organic social specifically and our paid social, because we also definitely do paid, we do look at our competitors for what they do with their metrics, but for us internally, we really need to see that conversion data and what they do after they do it to be able to say what metrics are important. From that, we really found that the most important part is impressions that top of the funnel because I can just say especially with Facebook, there's so much on there. I think we all have a friend or somebody that on our family that maybe bought something off of Facebook and it wasn't what they thought it was when it arrived. I will never forget my friend who was really excited, he bought a supercomputer from a Facebook ad and it was 50 bucks, so he decided just to give it a try and when he got it, it was a key chain of a supercomputer.

Jessica Gondolfo:

Well, I mean it was a supercomputer, it

Trevor Irish:

Was as advertised, but that's where we've really gotten to that point where we just don't necessarily trust that we're buying on there. So we're going to view and then validate. So that validation, the viewing is that the impressions and then the validation. We start seeing that people will get really good impressions on what we're working on on paid social, and then we'll see our paid search actually get people that are mid funnel, they saw it on paid social or on Facebook or whichever social channel we're working on. Then they'll go and search it on Google, we'll show up top and then we end up with pretty good conversions after that.

Jessica Gondolfo:

Does the cadence of which your competitors post or does the cadence of which you guys post matter for those impressions?

Trevor Irish:

Yeah, you can definitely burn out your audience really quickly. The biggest super fan isn't going to repost you If you post every day. If you're posting once a week, they're just going to be sick of you. Your message is going to be watered down. At least in our industry, it's not like we're releasing a new product every day. We could really go through a catalog and literally have a post for a different product every single day of the year if we needed to. But by that time, what's interesting about it, it's the golden triangle rule. It's 30% new content, a third reposting, and then a third, which is just topical happy holiday kind of stuff. You have to have that variety. And being a B2B people following your page, it's more because they're a fan, they need to be reminded, not just kind of slammed in the face with it all the time. They want to see what they're really following on there and then just be happy when they see you every now and then.

Jessica Gondolfo:

And do you think that that's the same across LinkedIn, Facebook, or all of Facebook's platform Twitter? Are you kind of tracking that all the same across the gamut of social media?

Trevor Irish:

So we stopped with Twitter just because of you don't want to be next to an ad that is crazy, that's just bad for your brand. Look, we've also been watching that for a bit. I know it became really expensive to be able to have that API for Twitter, we only have a couple companies that we watched that actually deleted their Twitter. I think most people just kind of stopped posting, but they just don't want their account taken over, so we want somebody to come in and steal our at sign. So on that one we just completely stopped and I think that's okay. And the weird thing is even the other companies that stopped their audience is just going up by five, down by seven, up by three. So they've just all been hovering at the same state. I'm not really sure what to think of that one yet with LinkedIn, LinkedIn number one doesn't like to get you allow traffic off their site, so they do a lot of recycling of your posts.

We really kind of found, so that one's really one to be careful of. We've been doing a little website updates and somebody changed a link and a pulse from four months ago started generating 404. So LinkedIn, I think if you overpost on there, you can really kind suffer from that. It's going to show up more and more with the recycling that they do Facebook. They do limit how many people see it. So we see that. So that's kind of where watching what the competitors do, I'm glad that you're able to edit this. Where I'm really getting to is on a monthly basis we keep tracking a spreadsheet of all the different metrics, how many posts, how many likes, how many shares, how many comments on each one. So we can actually say, okay, this month how many reactions per post? And the more posts that they have, the less reactions per post they get. So that really does decrease. So we're just always trying to look for that happy medium depending on what we're seeing, not just for our sales per our competitors like okay, if we do four times a month, once a week, we're at a really nice this amount per post. And so where are they? We definitely have one company that post eat a lot and it's their happy holiday. One gets a lot of action and the rest of 'em are all zeros.

Jessica Gondolfo:

That is interesting. Does the size of the company or the size of your competitor and their audience have any impact on the likes or the engagement that you're seeing on those posts?

Trevor Irish:

Surprisingly, anybody can look up any of our social media platforms and see about where our audience level is. We have competitors that just absolutely have hundreds of thousands of followers and the pattern still follows.

Jessica Gondolfo:

Is that because you feel like the brand message that you guys are bringing are more valuable and that because this data that you have is helping you to understand better posting strategies compared to what they are?

Trevor Irish:

Yeah, I really do. Our social media manager will always talk about that. What we're really learning is to do more of the quality posts over the quantity because when we see somebody with 300,000 followers and they're posting 20 times a month and they're only getting two likes per post, and we have a audience that's much smaller than that and we can make a post and get 50 likes per post, we're really trying to work on those quality posts, simple message, easy to kind of things and kind of base that on the different content that we see from our competitors and learn from what we see what they're doing.

Jessica Gondolfo:

Looking ahead, how do you envision that competitive strategies are going to evolve inside digital marketing, especially in the B2B side of the house?

Trevor Irish:

Well, first we have to all learn what the next step after no more cookie tracking happens, we're definitely doing a good job on our end of staying on top of all the changes that our platforms want us to make. Two, make sure that we can still serve up to the correct audiences. And what we really hear from our account managers is that a lot of companies just haven't yet, whether it's that they lack the internal resources to do it, they're just not sure what it means. But I do think that we have an advantage there because we're taking care of that right away. We're really listening. We have a lot of support too from our executive team to make sure that we have what we need to keep up to date with all that. Everybody is well aware of the cookies at our company, which is really helpful for me. So I think that is going to be an advantage. In fact, I can definitely say that some of the new types of ads that they have in AdWords we're benefiting because we're using them now and a lot of people aren't. So they're cheaper for us. There's not as many people.

What do you mean by that?

Trevor Irish:

So they got rid of display ads and now they're doing one called a Performance Max ad, and we actually found that the quality of the traffic's been really good, but it's not reliant on keywords. They're trying to serve this up by audience. So you're not adding keywords, you're not bidding against other companies for keywords. But since a lot of companies aren't in the space yet, our cost per click is much lower than any text ads.

Jessica Gondolfo:

How are you building those audiences?

Trevor Irish:

So like we do with all of our Looker Studio reports, we have a lot of lists of based on what division we're talking about for our company, what competitors are in that field. So what you can do on the audiences and AdWords, you can build audiences based on types of websites that people go to. So if we want to say that we want people that shop at one of a bunch of our dealer sites, I can build an audience just of people that went to sites like this and literally list all of the dealer websites that we have. So Google's using that information to serve the ads people that are likely to visit these places, and it's still a lot of learning yet even on my part, they added Google signals as well, which you are putting in keywords, but it's more the idea of it. So people that are searching for the idea of let's say commercial food service, you would put that in there. It's not really looking for that keyword, but people that are under the idea of that. So it's still very new going by audience and it will serve some of it into the search, the keyword search areas, but we're really kind of seeing that as a very good direction that's going. Our conversion rates are definitely going up with these and just not a lot of people are doing it yet.

Jessica Gondolfo:

That is actually really interesting because the keyword bidding was always kind of, are you getting to the right audience? Are you hitting people who are searching the right things? Is there overlap different places? So that's really interesting. I think that that will serve actually your competitive strategy probably really well on that. I want to, if it's okay, circle back to Supermetrics for a second because I'd love to understand how do you use Supermetrics for your competitive strategy?

Trevor Irish:

Yeah, so we talked about the many divisions and we even have divisions within divisions. Our commercial food service is split into a smallware countertop equipment and serving systems. So those are much different audiences as well. But that also means we don't really have a lot of competitors out there that do maybe two of those, one of those, but there's very few that do all three. So when we can put reports together, we can make them. So it's just for companies that smallwares, just companies that do serving systems, just companies that do countertop equipment or are in Spain or in Mexico or manufacturers. And we can really isolate this and then bring in the different data that different people in the company need. So it's not just a tool so that I can record on a monthly basis. I can also give it to the people that are doing more like market research and they have something that has a date range on it. So well this is coming up next year, let's take a look at this section of our competitive base and what were they working on at this time last year? Are there any similarities between

That? We can also make sure that we're not just forgetting about or ignoring. So it really turns into a beneficial thing for not just me and my reporting on digital metrics, but it can also bleed into a lot of the different business areas for the information that they need.

Jessica Gondolfo:

Was there a time that you were doing this without supermetrics that you realized you needed to help you consolidate that single source of truth?

Trevor Irish:

Yeah, my bookmark bar used to be gigantic. My spreadsheets, I don't modernize 'em very often, so they still have little notes next to it for direct links to each individual profile page website, even if they had Vimeo or TikTok or anything, I used to have to literally go to each of those and it was very time sensitive. So the first of the month it was like, don't bother Trevor, he's just going to be sitting there working on that. And as we wanted to grow these audiences and segments, market segments more and more, and we don't have a data lake at this point or any other way to do that, it was all manual. So if I wouldn't get information until five days later, that data was inaccurate by five days. Just like when we're looking at how many posts somebody had. Right? Well, if you don't catch it right away or if you have to go and actually look.

I mean at that point I was really just doing audiences. I couldn't do any of this until I had Supermetrics and it was that API file. I noticed Supermetrics actually from Looker Studio when you were looking at all the different ones that they offered. And just because I was looking for an answer to this, because you start giving people out the company, it's like, oh, well this is the audience level. And it's like, yeah, but that's really hard to collect all that, but can you get all this? And then it turned into, well, can you tell me how many times you posted? Can you tell me what they posted? Can you tell me how many likes they got? Can you tell me which one's more popular? I mean, I will just say, yeah,

Jessica Gondolfo:

You can

Trevor Irish:

Facebook. Yeah, they hide posts from you go to anybody's profile, scroll back, how many posts are there that they don't even show you Supermetrics does. And now when somebody adds a new one to me, I can't tell them what their audience was in May of 21 because that stays current, but I can then go back and I can tell them all their posts until that Facebook profile was created. So before Supermetrics, it was really limited to, I could just say my audience levels and in some cases still the same. LinkedIn, we still only do audience levels because of that reposting kind of thing that I was talking about before. But now with Facebook and Instagram specifically, they can add a new competitor or a new dealer or company or anything that they want information on and I can go all the way back.

Jessica Gondolfo:

That's interesting. Yeah. They also do by cop engagement too. So posts that have had more engagement, you'll see if you're scrolling through a feed more experience, it's not like an Instagram where you can see by time. So that's actually really cool from a seasonality perspective, if you need to go back and say, ice cream is only good between spring and summer, so we want to make sure that we're going back to understand what their transitioning into for that seasonality. I love that you can be able to do that. And I love the competitive edge on this. If you didn't have Supermetrics, do you think that you could do any of this today?

Trevor Irish:

No, and in fact, I would say that it probably would've dropped off because if we're just looking at audience levels, at some point it was going to just turn into a, okay, well that's nice to know rather than a, well, we have this data by time of year, all dated out growth, times of activity, times of low activity. It just wouldn't even be, wouldn't be possible not for where we're at. Supermetrics allowed us to keep that part of it, to allow us that competitive edge to keep that data on a monthly basis for anybody to have access to at our company and to also do those very specific and cater to reports to any of those divisions that need it.

Yeah, that actually reminds me, I thought about this morning, one of the other things that we kind of noticed too, and this is thanks to Supermetrics, anytime that we'd hear about a company that might be selling or anything else like that, I always get asked, can you look up this company? So because I can look back at all their social activity, it's just a trend that I've seen over my years of doing this. Every time they ask me this, there's a year, two year period of no posts period. And then that rumor starts that they're going to be selling all of a sudden 20 posts a month.

Jessica Gondolfo:

Interesting.

Trevor Irish:

And then all of a sudden you hear a sale goes through no posts for a while and then it picks back up.

Jessica Gondolfo:

So you can kind of see where they are in their own internal journey with that too. That's really awesome. Trevor, thank you so much for coming on. I love competitive strategy. I think it's so important with go to market, and I don't think enough people are doing it. So when I learned that you were doing it with Supermetrics, I thought that was really cool.

Trevor Irish:

Yeah, I agree.

Jessica Gondolfo:

Awesome. All right. Thank you so much.

Turn your marketing data into opportunity

We streamline your marketing data so you can focus on the insights.

Book Demo