How can a manufacturing company communicate with 500 employees across the Midwest and still find time to recruit and schedule interviews? Texting for Business.
In this episode, chief marketing officer Scott Heimes chats with Samantha Petersburg from Sukup Manufacturing, a Midwestern farming technology company, about texting for internal communication. This company has found ingenious ways to use Zipwhip’s Templates, Keywords and Group Messages to get the most bang for their buck.
Learn more about leveraging that “back pocket response” of texting and how you can use it for recruiting, emergency alerts, coordinating and more:
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Scott Heimes: Welcome to the Zipcast, where we talk about the latest trends in texting for business, customer communication strategies and technology. I’m your host, Scott Heimes, Chief Marketing Officer at Zipwhip, and thanks for tuning in. Often the key value proposition of business texting comes from businesses having two-way text conversations with their customers. But texting for business can also be used for internal communication, recruiting and more.
Sukup Manufacturing, which makes farming technology in the middle of Iowa, is a case in point. Sukup has realized enormous value by applying texting in both their internal communication efforts to employees and how they recruit new employees, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what they have planned.
We’ll let Samantha Petersburg highlight Sukup’s story and share some of the learnings and insights she discovered in launching their texting program. Stick around to learn more. Welcome to the Zipcast, Samantha.
Samantha Petersburg: Thank you, Scott. It’s great to be here.
Scott Heimes: So, Samantha Petersburg is joining us from Sukup Manufacturing, which is based in Northern Iowa, in Sheffield. Samantha, tell us a little bit about your role.
Samantha Petersburg: Yes, I am in the HR department. There are six of us team members in the HR department. I spend a lot of my time on the recruitment aspect of HR, and also the employee engagement piece as well.
Scott Heimes: Got it. And what is Sukup Manufacturing all about? What do you guys make?
Samantha Petersburg: Yeah, so we’ve been in business since 1963 and we’re a family-owned company. We have three generations of the Sukup family that are currently working here. We manufacture grain bins, grain dryers and material handling equipment. Sukup is the world’s fastest growing bin company, and largest family-owned grain drying and storage equipment manufacturer. We’re located in the Midwest, in Iowa.
Scott Heimes: Yeah. What an interesting history, been going on since 1963. That’s cool. How many employees work for Sukup?
Samantha Petersburg: We have over 500 employees, and we also have six distribution centers located in the Midwest as well.
Scott Heimes: Got it. So, there’s some distributed employees out, not everybody’s in Sheffield.
Samantha Petersburg: Correct, yep. This is our main facility here in Sheffield, Iowa. But we do also have employees, oh, anywhere up to a total of 50 at other locations.
Scott Heimes: Got it. That can be challenging. What are some of the communication obstacles and challenges that you’ve had with so many employees and some of them being remote?
Samantha Petersburg: Yeah, absolutely. And yes, we have a portion that are remote, but with recruitment and being in the Midwest, we have a lot of employees that travel a distance to get to work, so we have employees that either drive 10 minutes or drive an hour and 10 minutes to get to work. So, communicating to a wide variety of employees, not only just here in our small town, but up to 400 could be traveling into our facility five to six days a week.
Scott Heimes: Not to mention people you’re trying to reach and engage to potentially join the firm, from a recruiting perspective.
Samantha Petersburg: Yes, absolutely. And especially during the summer, we recruit and have a large internship program and so this past summer, in 2019, we had about 45 interns, so we had students traveling an hour and a half to work every day. We had students traveling 40 minutes to work every day. So, on the recruitment side of things, that communication piece is also very important.
Scott Heimes: Yeah, interesting. Let’s talk about use cases. How are you guys using business texting inside of the business today?
Samantha Petersburg: We’ve used it multiple different ways, either on the recruitment side of things, and then with living in the Midwest we see all four seasons, and the winter is rough for us. Actually, last week we just had a power outage at our facility, so we immediately got online, sent up a communication out to our employees, dismissed everyone. Then when the power came back on, we had to communicate again to everyone. So that was another example of how we use it.
On the security and safety side of things, we utilize Zipwhip in regards to if there was an active threat. It’s not something that’s happened, but now it’s out there so companies do need to prepare and be ready. And so, this is a way that is easy for us to communicate, alert a message to a large population. So those are some different ways that we’ve used it.
Scott Heimes: Got it. So that’s kind of— I would categorize that as you’ve got a recruitment kind of use case and an internal employee communication use case, which has a lot of variability around it. Let’s leave recruitment to the side for just a minute. Come back to it. On the internal communication side, why is texting better than email or calling them via the phone, for example?
Samantha Petersburg: We need to get the same message to everybody so quickly is the thing, and with Zipwhip we can send mass communication out in a matter of a few minutes, and it’s the same message that goes to everybody. That’s extremely important to us. And we see more people coming to us and saying, “This is my cell phone number. That’s the best way to reach me.” We don’t have a large population coming to us and saying, “This is my email address.” People want that back pocket response, with the Apple watches now and things like that. I mean, they want the message now. That’s what employees want, and so that’s what we’re doing.
Scott Heimes: Got it. So, the universality of texting, meaning that everybody who’s got a smartphone has a texting messaging client on their phone, and the speed at which you’re able to deliver the message are huge values of using texting over something like email. And then the other reality, it sounds like, is that for many people it’s a preferred channel. They would prefer you to communicate with them via text versus email or the phone, just because it’s the way they prefer to communicate in general.
Samantha Petersburg: Yep, absolutely.
Scott Heimes: Got it. That’s exciting, and all the different ways you’re using it, from power outages to weather issues to security and safety, and I’m sure some general updates as well, is really compelling. That’s definitely a market-leading case study of how to use Zipwhip for internal communications. So, congratulations. Let’s shift over to the recruiting side, and maybe you could tell us a little bit about how you’re using Zipwhip for recruiting, and some of the success stories that you’ve experienced.
Samantha Petersburg: Yeah, absolutely. Like I said, usually in the fall, I mean we could do interviews, we could do a hundred interviews in two days. And so, when we’re scheduling and communicating, again the students, the best way they communicate is short and sweet, and they want the instant message.
And so, it’s either, yes, I want an interview — they’ll respond to us through Zipwhip. We’ll communicate to them, we’d like to set up an interview, does Tuesday work for you? Yes. We can quickly respond back to them. So, we set up interviews that way. We also use the text feature where if they text the word ‘apply’ to us, it’ll automatically send them an auto response.
Samantha Petersburg: That is great, because that’s saving our HR team time where we can set up in Zipwhip an instant message, and we don’t even have to do that. It’s just the word will trigger the message, so that saves us time, which is key. We set up physical tests by using Zipwhip. We send out orientation reminders through Zipwhip. So, on the recruitment side, opportunities are endless on that, and the communication is just a lot faster than communication via email.
Scott Heimes: Yeah, some of the same value propositions, right?
Samantha Petersburg: Mm-hmm.
Scott Heimes: It sounds like in this case you’re also — besides it being a preferred medium, the students, most of the candidates, would prefer to text that way, and you can actually reach people and they’ll respond.
I know it’s becoming harder and harder via email and the phone. Also, the speed and the consistency is a real powerful element. And then you’re taking it, really, to the next level and starting to apply auto reply key words to drive automation into the experience so that your recruiters don’t have to always be the ones that are responding every time. The machine is actually doing that for you inside of our software, which can be really powerful.
It sounds like you’re also using reminders and scheduled texts to remind people that they have an interview at 10:00, and to remind them of a phone conversation or other things that are coming up, maybe even a new orientation. It’s all really cutting-edge stuff, Samantha.
Samantha Petersburg: It is, and like you had said, usually we’ll do orientation every Monday for however many months, and we automatically set up on Sunday night at 6:30, through Zipwhip, to send out a message to this group of individuals that are starting the next Monday. So, that’s nice to set it and forget it.
On Friday, our team sets that up, and the group of people, so on Sunday night our team doesn’t have to log into the computer system or type up a message, hit send. We do that Friday before we go home, and like I said, we forget about it until Monday, because we know the system’s going to do it.
Scott Heimes: That’s a really powerful use case.
Samantha Petersburg: Mm-hmm.
Scott Heimes: I’m sure with the success that you’ve seen for internal communications and recruiting, is Sukup looking at expanding texting in other parts of the business? For example, a lot of times we see clients migrate it into sales and marketing, sometimes billing and collections, and the whole customer interaction around support can be powerful ways to use business texting. Any exploration like that taking place at your company?
Samantha Petersburg: Yeah, a couple of our other departments, such as sales, and our service department too, has been kind of calling us and questioning us as to, “Oh, it can do that? Do you think I could do this?” Or, “Oh, how do you set that up? Do you think you could show me?” And so I think now we’ve used it enough and we have Zipwhip open all day every day on our computers, so I think it’s so familiar in our department that I could see it in at least three other departments here in our business.
Scott Heimes: That’s exciting to hear. So, any last tips for the audience on either setting up a program, which you were obviously a key part of, or making it really work? Any insights that you’ve seen, or best practices that you’ve learned that you want to pass on?
Samantha Petersburg: Yeah, one — I mean, I would highly encourage this to any business, it doesn’t matter how big or small, this product really works for all. So, I think that if anyone has the opportunity to pick this product up, I would encourage everyone.
The other feature — I mean, the features are great. We really love the group messaging, putting groups together so we can send out messages. If it’s a first shift or a second shift, that’s another cool feature that you can set up. That’s been very valuable to us, and I think other businesses that would be a best practice.
Samantha Petersburg: And the templates, the template feature, when we’re in a hurry or a blizzard is coming, or we need to get a message out fast, we have templates already set up for those types of situations, or safety and security situations where we can click a button and the message will go. That’s a really cool feature about Zipwhip, is you can prepare and you can plan, so that’s something that we really see as really valuable with Zipwhip. I encourage everyone to look into Zipwhip. It’s been great for us, and I’m really excited to see how we can use it in other areas of our business as well.
Scott Heimes: Well, Samantha, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. It’s been a pleasure to see a manufacturing use case apply the technology in such a sophisticated way. And so, kudos to you and the team and good luck going forward.
Samantha Petersburg: Yeah, thank you so much.
Scott Heimes: Thanks for joining us. Hey, if you haven’t heard, Zipwhip recently published the Ultimate Guide to Texting Your Customers. Whether your business is considering texting, or you’ve already adopted a texting tool, this new e-book has all the info you need for a successful texting strategy. For a free download, just go to zipwhip.com/ultimateguide. Until next time.