Episode 43: Katie Felten and Bridgette Palm Talk about Changing Perceptions in Manufacturing”
Katie Felten and Bridgette Palm are working to change perceptions about modern-day manufacturing. They are also providing support to support to women in marketing who work at manufacturing companies. On this episode of Brandstorm, the two women talk about the new association they have founded called Women in Marketing in Manufacturing, or WiMiM, and how they are helping the industry become agents of change.
Katie Felten and Bridgette Palm, Co-Founders of Strategy House
Katie and Bridgette began working collaboratively about 5 years ago. Katie needed writing support and Bridgette was interested in social media strategies. Together, they developed a social media playbook and soon found themselves presenting digital media strategies to manufacturing executives. Realizing it was time to trade in their gmail accounts and create a company, Bridgette and Katie co-founded Strategy House about two years ago. The two marketing strategists are helping manufacturers market in the digital age.
Manufacturing: Perceptions vs. Reality
Strategy House is based in Milwaukee, the second largest city in the nation for manufacturing with more than 4,000 companies in the seven-county metro area. According to Bridgette, that gap is quickly closing behind Indiana. While many people perceive manufacturing as “dumb, dirty and dangerous,” in their words, the reality is manufacturing has changed. Companies are making huge investments in robotics and automation.
For the last 60 and more years, manufacturing companies have typically relied on their sales teams to take care of business. As these manufacturing companies shift in to the digital age, its leadership is not only seeing a changing of the guards, but these new leaders recognize that the buyer’s journey is now done online. And with more than 50 percent of the manufacturing workforce expected to turnover in the next five years, recruiting and retaining top talent is essential. Manufacturers are turning to marketers to tell their story and spread the word.
While working to change these perceptions at Strategy House, Katie and Bridgette made another discovery. Manufacturers were often hiring young women with an understanding of how digital marketing works to run the marketing departments…typically as a one-woman band. Coming into a department that never existed before with zero processes, documentation or direction was very isolating. There was age, generational and departmental gaps that were causing frustrations on both sides of the aisle between management and marketers. While hired for their digital expertise, many of these women came on-board not knowing much about what the companies actually made or were delegated as the “t-shirt girl” or “name badge lady.”
Katie and Bridgette formed WiMiM to provide support for and connect these women with their peers. Exclusive to women in marketing, who also work in manufacturing, the association is a platform for women to brainstorm with each other and share ideas. Once a month, Katie and Bridgette lead a discussion about a specific topic and then turn it into an issue-solving project. While still in the start-up phase, the association currently has about 35 members and is free to those who meet the criteria and want to join. An application is available on the Strategy House website.
Career Growth and Opportunities in Marketing the Manufacturing Industry
One of the things Katie and Bridgette like to do is visit local universities and schools to talk about career opportunities in marketing at manufacturing companies. They’ve found that these marketing jobs just aren’t on the radar for marketing students. Bridgette and Katie say this is largely because no one has heard about these companies, even though there are thousands of manufacturing companies in the Milwaukee area alone.
In terms of career paths, women who survive in this industry will likely find themselves in C-suite jobs in the next five years. There is an enormous opportunity for career growth and success in manufacturing among young women.