Chris Schermer’s Insight into Working with Red Wing Shoes

April 23, 2020

By Denise McDevitt


Chris Schermer, president of the B2 Award-winning agency SCHERMER, knows today’s B2B marketers are under pressure to generate sales. But when it came to his work with the Red Wing Shoe Company, his agency was sure to balance the drive for sales with a push for brand awareness. In a Q&A with the ANA’s Denise McDevitt, Schermer breaks down how his team did work that snagged a B2 Award.


Q. For many B2B marketers today, it’s about measurement, and measurement means performance marketing. How did you balance brand awareness goals against the drive for sales?

When we first started as the B2B agency for Red Wing Shoe Company in May 2018, we had three objectives: help them hit their aggressive marketing-qualified lead (MQL) goals for the year, launch the new Red Wing for Business program in October, and further enhance their marketing program post-launch. To accomplish all three, we designed a phased go-to-market (GTM) approach. The first was optimizing and expanding digital channels and ads to boost short term lead gen. This was done in weeks. The second was strategy and creative for the fall launch of Red Wing for Business. The third phase was actually done over the top of those two; new research which drove a new campaign and content strategy that dovetailed into our earlier efforts and launched at the end of 2018.


Q. Red Wing is an established brand, albeit entering a new space. How much time/budget/work did you allocate to educating the market?

The key to educating anyone is to make sure you’re educated first. So, we did a fair amount of buyer research and then mapped these pain points to program benefits. With those insights, it’s fairly easy to create content and messaging that helps individual personas in an organizational buying process understand how Red Wing for Business can help. We were able to do a good job building brand and creating demand in the same program, but the former does take time, especially when introducing an enhanced program, not just a new product. Fortunately, Red Wing Shoe Company has an incredible brand and reputation to build from, so we’re generating interest quickly.


Q. For a brand that’s been around for over 100 years, what were the internal challenges faced going all digital (ordering, buying, fulfillment) across all constituencies (customers, stores, corporate)? What hurdles did you encounter? How did you overcome them?

I can’t really comment on the internal challenges, since it involved so many aspects of Red Wing Shoe Company’s business, tech and teams. I will say it was a complete digital transformation that truly elevates their end-to-end customer experience above any manufacturer out there in their space. So for us, that meant helping customers understand that Red Wing for Business is about way more than just footwear. It’s about a way to keep workers safe, mitigate risks and manage costs. To get that comprehensive message across, we really had to focus on helping individual buyers in the organizational buying team care about what Red Wing for Business is, and how it helps them, their stakeholders and their company, by showing them we really care about those very same things.


Q. Trade show events are uniquely B2B to a degree. How did you approach this key media vehicle differently?

We launched Red Wing for Business at the largest Safety Expo in October 2018. But we really didn’t think of it as a trade show where we would sell, but as an opportunity to help people experience the unique benefits of this new digital program. So instead of relying purely on sales people to explain the program, we had them engage with different physical and digital elements that brought it to life. A “Voucher Vortex” in the center of the booth represented all of the paperwork people have had to endure; an arcade with custom developed games that showed various benefits of the program that were fun to play. A massive interactive touchscreen sales people used to guide prospects through a footwear selection process; and, probably most impressively, Red Wing Shoe Company drove their newest flagship Mobile Shoe Store into the booth so people could see and experience the merchandise and process. There was nothing like this booth at the show. The end-to-end experience and storytelling really helped people see clearly an otherwise hard to envision solution and helped Red Wing Shoe Company generate four times the MQLs over the previous year’s trade show.


Q. What industries did you target? Why? Did you use channel marketing?

We focused on industries with the highest need for safety footwear: manufacturing, warehousing, transportation, construction and energy. We coupled this with an omnichannel marketing approach to reach our audiences where they spend their time, whether they were actively looking for a safety footwear program or looking for thought leadership content on safety issues. With the launch of the new digital tools and how it addresses key buyer pain points, we were able to expand our audiences to the full buying committee within the company as well as multiple sizes of customers.


Q. What was the biggest take away/key learning for you and your team in this experience that will influence your team’s approach going forward?

The biggest a-ha we had was seeing how well the phased GTM strategy worked. The lead gen program, which also won the B2 Award, more than doubled leads from 2017, even though we had a steep hill to climb in the second half of 2018 to get there. But we did it with our client partners’ help and our fast-track approach. We’ve embraced this methodology for several new clients since, and we’re creating good traction and ROI from getting to market fast, testing and optimizing, while learning and applying to a longer-term strategy and launch. We are able to deliver incremental improvement faster, which drives exponential results better.

You must be logged in to submit a comment.