In this episode, Eric Miller, President of PADT amongst many other things, joins Mike for a conversation about building the PADT brand in Arizona.

PADT is a globally recognized provider of Numerical Simulation, Product Development, and 3D Printing products and services. They are in the business of helping those who make things, make them better.

Learn more about PADT over on their website: http://www.padtinc.com

Connect with Eric on LinkedIn.

 

Contact: Mike Jones mike@resoundcreative.com

Discuss at https://www.facebook.com/azbrandcast/

The show is recorded at the Resound offices in ever-sunny Tempe, Arizona (the 48th – and best state of them all).

Show Transcript

Mike Jones:
This is the AZ Brandcast, where we explore Arizona’s brand and the brands that make Arizona. I’m Mike Jones.

Mike Jones:
All right. Today I am super excited to have joining me Eric Miller, who is president of PADT among many other things that he’s involved with, including the Arizona Technology Council and the Arizona Commerce Authority. But to his main gig, PADT, they are a globally recognized provider of numerical simulation, product development and 3D printing products and services. They like to build themselves as in the business of helping those who make things make them better. I really like that actually. I think that’s a great way to summarize what you do.

Mike Jones:
Eric, thank you so much-

Eric Miller:
Thank you.

Mike Jones:
… for coming on the AZ Brandcast. I’m excited to talk with you today about PADT and your experience building the brand and doing it here in Arizona. I think that’s one of the things I’m very excited about-

Eric Miller:
Great. Excellent.

Mike Jones:
… every time we have a guest come on, so thank you for coming on. Give me a little bit of history. So, tell me about PADT, how you guys have gotten to where you are, and your history in that.

Eric Miller:
There’s three owners of the company. We started the company back in 1994, and the basic idea was, we were working at what now is Honeywell Engines, was AlliedSignal at the time. It was Garrett when we started working there. We were using these three advanced technologies that were new at the time, 3D printing, simulation, and then advanced design capabilities.

Eric Miller:
We thought, hey, after two years of layoffs, maybe we should take our destiny in our own hands and I think these technologies will probably become more mainstream. At the time, it was just using these high-end engineering applications, but everybody’s going to be using these in the future. So, let’s start a consulting company around that. We’ll use these tools to do engineering consulting. And we did. That’s still what we do today.

Eric Miller:
We still do 3D printing simulation and product development design and using what we hope is the most advanced technology. It has spread to … We work on everything from toys to rocket engines and everything in between. Don’t really care about the industry, it’s really about applying those tools to solve tough engineering problems.

Eric Miller:
What changed, what we didn’t predict was we became resellers as well. So, we’re a bit of a hybrid company in that we resell some of the tools we use that our company is based on, and then we also do consulting. So, that’s been a bit of a switch for a bunch of engineers to learn sales. And that’s been part of our branding journey as well because it’s all foreign to us.

Mike Jones:
Yeah. No, it’s super interesting. I think it’s really interesting to how you’ve taken something that’s very highly technical and probably conceptual to some degree and really started to craft some language that makes sense to people.

Mike Jones:
I mean, just even looking at the website, preparing for the interview was like, “Oh, I get it,” and I’m not an engineer. I don’t maybe know every single keyword, but I get the basic concept of what you’re doing. That’s really, really cool.

Mike Jones:
So, tell me a little bit more about what you actually do and maybe some of the products that you’ve been able to work on over the years.

Eric Miller:
Yeah, so a lot of what we do is aerospace. It’s satellites, it’s jet engines, it’s components that go into aircraft. We don’t really do airplanes too much, but the stuff that goes in airplanes.

Eric Miller:
A given customer may, I’m thinking of one in Colorado, Sierra Nevada space. They’re making a reusable spacecraft. We sell them 3D printers that they use to make tooling for those spacecraft, we do 3D printing for them as a service. We sell them simulation tool so that they can look at things like the airflow over their spacecraft, they can look at the air conditioning system on the inside, they can look at the stresses and the strains and the temperatures and the vibration that it sees virtually before they actually build anything and test it, which is very expensive.

Eric Miller:
And then on the design side, we don’t do a lot of design for them, but if we did, we would help them solve … When we have been involved in design, it’s really solving really difficult engineering problems.

Eric Miller:
That scales up and down the chain. We’ve worked for toy companies. Same sort of thing, they have 3D printers from us, we do 3D printing for them, we do design as a service for them on tough engineering problems, we do simulation to help them prototype how the toy behaves before they actually build it and commit to tooling. All those things together, scanning. Pretty much whatever a mechanical engineer needs to help, we supplement them either by providing the tool or by providing them with the service.

Eric Miller:
Some of our favorite products, local here, GT Medical is one of my favorite right now. It’s a company that makes a treatment for when you have a tumor removed from your brain, like Senator McCain had, there’s little cells that are left on the surface. It’s a little patch, a tile, that goes into that hole where the tumor was, and it irradiates the surface with a little bit of radiation and kills those cells very locally.

Eric Miller:
It’s something that came out of Barrow Neurological and has been … I can’t talk about anything we did for them, but it’s been a great, great success saving lives. We love that sort of thing. It’s just good fun.

Eric Miller:
We work with all sorts of different companies. Medical devices as well, electronics. Consumer products, not as much. There’s not a lot of significant engineering problems there. Big growth for us in helping companies in the cannabis industry be more efficient, right? That’s an industry where if you can get 5% increase in efficiency, that’s a lot of dollars. So, applying aerospace quality engineering to that has been very beneficial for those customers.

Mike Jones:
That’s really cool. Yeah, I like that idea of combining your aerospace history and that deep technical experience that you have and applying it in different ways to other different industries. That’s really cool.

Eric Miller:
Yeah, we work for dental. We just did some dental stuff for helping people take scans and convert them. It’s just fun. If you ask our employees, at least what they say, one of the favorite things about working at PADT is that variety. For an engineer, you can either spend your career working at automobile company on doorknobs or door handles your entire career or you can go to PADT and work on three different things every day. They like that.

Mike Jones:
I bet. I bet they do. No one’s ever bored.

Eric Miller:
No one’s ever bored. No, no.

Mike Jones:
What have been some of the successes or challenges that you’ve seen in growing the brand over the years?

Eric Miller:
Really understanding what brand is. That really was the biggest challenge for us because we approached it … In hindsight, I’ve gone back and read things and gone, “Well, duh.” The old adage in marketing, right? That’s something I hadn’t heard until like three years ago, but every business school graduate knows it.

Eric Miller:
We were talking about the drill. People didn’t care about the drill, they cared about the hole. I think understanding that was really important. We weren’t getting a lot of traction. Even though our target is engineers, we still wasn’t getting through to them unless they already knew that they needed us.

Eric Miller:
And so, really realizing, well, what do they want to do? What they want to do is they want to get their product to market faster. What they want to do is, for a lot of our customers, they just want to get stuff done. Our biggest reason for buying tools from us or using us for consulting is I just got to get this stuff done, and these tools will let me get it done, or this consultant will let me get it done. Understanding that has been really important from a branding standpoint.

Eric Miller:
And really understanding, and this is difficult for an engineer, the emotional impact of brand and the emotional impact of community. We want to be the people in the group that are like, “Hey, let’s go to dinner.” That person in the friend group. And so, amongst engineers in Arizona, we wanted to be the ones that everybody kind of said, “Well, talk to PADT,” or “PADT is great to work with.” And really looking at …

Eric Miller:
I would like to say we planned it all out. But when we realized how important it was, looking back at what’s working and what’s not, it was really this idea of creating trust with people because engineers aren’t trusting usually. They’re trained to not trust.

Mike Jones:
Yes. Where’s the data? Show me the data.

Eric Miller:
Where’s the data? Show me. Show me. Especially in a corporate environment, if you screw up, you get in a lot of trouble. So, trust is really important. And really making them, when they’re done working with us, they walk away satisfied with something that was really positive that we saw. And just because of who we are and who we hire, humor became an important part of that brand.

Eric Miller:
If you go to our website … We don’t do it as much as we used to. We used to do in April 1st, when we’re doing newsletters and not blogs. Before blogging, we were doing newsletters. That’s how old we are. We used to do an April Fool’s episode or edition where we would take these esoteric engineering topics and we would do an Enquirer style newsletter.

Mike Jones:
Yeah. That’s awesome.

Eric Miller:
It was like, Britney Spears understands get a new tattoo. It’s such and such equations for high dynamics or something like that, hydrodynamic equations on her back. So, her tramp stamp is this calculus equation that we photoshopped it on her back.

Eric Miller:
That was really key especially when we’re trying to get our name out there. It softens the blow and builds that trust. It’s really being intentional. I think the big change was a lot of that came naturally, but until you’re intentional about it, it didn’t really benefit us the way it has being out there.

Eric Miller:
The other thing that I always said, we needed to really grow beyond. So, our initial customers are all people we already knew. We are a small company, and that was great. But in order to grow, we had to get new people to know who we are and to trust us and to take our phone call when it came or answer our email when it came.

Eric Miller:
And so, we really went on a campaign of everywhere you go in Phoenix, if it’s a tech event, some guy or girl is going to show up in a PADT shirt. When you’re there, you don’t have to be on stage, you don’t have to be in charge. Ask smart questions. You should be able to do that. If you just go and ask smart questions, you’ll build that brand around we know what we’re doing, we’re trustworthy, we’re competent, and if you do it right, we’re fun to work with too.

Mike Jones:
Yeah. I love that. I think, yeah that’s a great concept of being present and making sure the brand is present.

Eric Miller:
Yes. Yeah.

Mike Jones:
I mean, that’s the idea of the T-shirt, right? You can’t just be there, you got to actually show the brand. It’s kind of, I don’t know, branding 101 to some degree of like-

Eric Miller:
It is.

Mike Jones:
… you got to be there, you got to put the logo on it. I use this example, a bunch of presentations of the Dial ad from about three or four years ago in the Super Bowl. It was funny and it was ranked as one of the best ads that year from the Super Bowl. I think what was really interesting is they say their name probably 18 times in that ad. Of course, all the advertising people that I know were like, yes, got to say the product name, got to show the product, got to put it out there. I think that’s important.

Mike Jones:
But I like the second half of that equation that you put together which was you’re actually building the brand through how you ask questions, the presence you bring to that event.

Mike Jones:
We work with a lot of clients who want to build their thought leadership [inaudible 00:13:22] be out there. It’s like they all want to speak and they want to be on podcasts, and they want to do articles. We’re like, “Yeah, that’s great.” Sometimes you have to start somewhere, which is just showing up and then using the platform that you’re given to ask a question. I love that. I think [crosstalk 00:13:37].

Eric Miller:
And that’s how we did it, right? We showed up and a lot of it was, I learned it from my … We had a fourth partner who unfortunately passed away, but he couldn’t help himself. Anywhere he went, he would ask smart questions. He’s kind of known for it. A true genius. I saw him do it. I saw that he went from being pretty much unknown in the community to everybody knew who he was. And he was not a particularly social guy. What I realized, in going to a couple meetings with him, is that no matter what the topic was, he had an intelligent conversation about it. It wasn’t telling people this is what you need to know about it, it was learning from them. He was interested and he would ask them questions. Well, the next thing you know, he is the one they want on stage.

Eric Miller:
And so, being intentional about that. Yeah, over time we got on stage, but we also hired a marketing firm to help us with the PR to get to the next level. Once we had, I think it feel like a brand that we could understand and promote, hiring a marketing company that was good at PR really helped us get out there, much to their chagrin. We don’t really use them anymore because we got over that hump, but it’s got the monthly article in the Business Journal and get asked to be on podcasts.

Eric Miller:
The big, big show out west for us is what used to call the Pacific Design Show and now I think it’s called innovate, build, make or something crazy like that. Anyway, it’s a pre-coded 30-, 40,000-person show. They’re asking us to host panels in the conference, right? We’re not paying money and bugging them.

Eric Miller:
Somebody asked me … In fact, a salesperson asked me at the last event, that last year in Anaheim, “How did you become a thought leader?” I said, “Unfortunately, you got to be a thought leader. You got to understand what you’re talking about and you got to be willing to stand up and say this is what I think.” That’s how we do it.

Mike Jones:
Yes. Yeah, and there’s probably a consistency in there too.

Eric Miller:
You can’t stop.

Mike Jones:
It’s like if you do it once, you got to keep doing it, keep saying it. We talked a lot with some … Some of our clients, they get bored with their own brands sometimes.

Eric Miller:
Yes. Yeah.

Mike Jones:
We’re always trying to reel them back in of like, your customers aren’t bored.

Eric Miller:
Yeah.

Mike Jones:
Right?

Eric Miller:
Yeah, stay on-

Mike Jones:
They’re just [crosstalk 00:16:15] for the first, second or fourth time. They don’t live inside the brand like you do, and so they’re not bored. That’s the power of it.

Eric Miller:
I don’t know if it’s still a thing, but when we started the company, I read an article or book or something about the idea of drip marketing. I think that it’s changed his name and it’s technology is totally different, but back then it was just about this idea that you’ve got to constantly stay in front of them and keep your … Not your detailed message which engineers struggle with, right?

Mike Jones:
Yeah.

Eric Miller:
You want to give them a brochure-

Mike Jones:
[crosstalk 00:16:50] all the features.

Eric Miller:
… with 40,000 different bullet points, right? But just this, we do 3D printing, we do simulation, we do design, or we sell the tools that help you do that and just constantly drip that.

Eric Miller:
It’s frustrating because they don’t get it. They don’t get it. And then all of a sudden, they’re calling up and saying, “Hey, do you guys do” blah, blah, blah? I’m like, well, I’ve been sending you emails, I’ve been talking about it for years, but yes. Yes, we do.”

Eric Miller:
Because people are busy. I think your point is really well taken in that we’re bored of it because doing it constantly, but they don’t hear it often enough, right? You can certainly overdo it, but we were not anywhere near that.

Eric Miller:
So, the constant … I don’t know what they call it now or if it’s out of fashion, but I took that to heart early on even though I know what that message was. It’s the constant dripping. We’ve got to do the newsletter. If you’re going to do a newsletter, you have to do it every month. If you’re going to do a blog, you got to publish three or four articles a month. If you’re going to do a podcast, you got to put it out.

Eric Miller:
We do a very niche podcast from the software we sell at ANSYS. We put it out every other week. Come hell or high water, if I’m just reading the stock prices about the company, and that’s the only thing in that episode, it goes out every other month, every other week.

Mike Jones:
Yeah, I mean it’s, at least in my experience it’s still drip marketing. I mean, it’s some of the same principles. I actually got started in marketing doing direct mail. Okay? It’s really funny how those concepts that I learned, the theory behind all of it has not changed. It’s just the channels are a little different with social media, with email, with obviously podcast and video. There’s just so many other channels and media to use now, but the basic concepts of staying in front of people, having a core message, delivering value and knowing that you’re going to have to touch them many times.

Mike Jones:
Depending on the industry, I think, especially if you’re working in highly technical fields, it can take years to develop somebody who’s on your list into an actual customer. Because those sales cycles might be long, or they might not turn over a contract for three or four years and open it up for bidding. It depends on what you’re talking about, but …

Eric Miller:
Yeah. They don’t need you. So, one of my favorite books that I read recently is How Clients Buy. It’s about the high-end consulting, the accounting consulting companies, the Ernst and Young’s or EY or whatever they call themselves now type companies where you’re charging somebody $800,000 to tell them what they are know about their business.

Eric Miller:
But the guys that wrote the book, it really fit what we do as well because it’s not like everybody … Everybody needs milk, right? And so, if you’re selling a better milk, you can call everybody up and convince them that you have a better milk. When you’re selling computational fluid dynamics, you’re modeling the fluid flow in a structure, they don’t need that. There aren’t a lot of people that need that every day.

Eric Miller:
But when they do, you want them to equate that need with your brand. That was a lot of what their book is about and doing that work of going to the meetings and playing golf, which I don’t do; writing the articles; sending the articles. All the stuff you’re talking about, that drip, drip, drip.

Eric Miller:
Staying on message has been really hard, because you want to improve it and make it better and change it over time. I’m always telling my engineers, “Nope.”

Mike Jones:
Yeah.

Eric Miller:
Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. Stop. Stop. Stop. If you go to our website right now, which I’ll let people know, it is being redone. It is close to 12 years old. At the time, in order to rank high, you had a lot of texts, a lot of value-added texts, and so we do. You’ll see in the new one that we’re down to just sentences instead of those big long paragraphs.

Mike Jones:
Really just draw people in and make sure it’s the main message. That’s great. We talked about PADTs brand. How would you define the brand? What is the definition or the essence of PADT?

Eric Miller:
Well, I’m actually looking on my other screen at the documentation for the new employee trainee.

Mike Jones:
There you go.

Eric Miller:
What I point out is that it’s both thoughts and emotions. It’s the intellectual side and it’s the emotional side of it. The thoughts we want to associate with our brand are trustworthy, that we’re experts, that we’re dependable, that we’re quick, that we do things in a win-win way. A tough one, but we’re the good guys in these situations and that were friendly and flexible.

Eric Miller:
I go on in the training to point out that those are just words, unless you actually do them. We tell people we’re flexible, but if you don’t respond in a flexible way when they have an issue and they need you to be flexible, if you do it 99 times right and one time wrong, they’re going to remember the one-time wrong. Your brand’s gone.

Eric Miller:
And then in a promotional standpoint, I mentioned these before, it’s trust, satisfaction and humor. Those are the emotional responses we want. I’ll be honest, I hate our name. Our real name is actually Phoenix Analysis and Design Technologies. It was almost Phoenix Analysis and Design in Advanced Manufacturing Technologies-

Mike Jones:
Oh, that’s even more fun.

Eric Miller:
… because we’re engineers and we want to list all the things we do, right?

Mike Jones:
Yes. It’s very functional.

Eric Miller:
Very functional.

Mike Jones:
Very functional.

Eric Miller:
And then we, just out of necessity, abbreviate it to PADT and finally changed it to a DBA as PADT. It’s not a good name. People struggle with memory, people struggle with saying it. New employees are like, especially in sales, they’re like, “We need to change our brand. We need to change our name.” I’m like, “No.” Because when you pick up a phone and they go, “Oh, you’re PADT,” and they answer your call or they answer your email because you’re on PADT, yes I would have loved to have done it 20 years ago before we built our brand, but that was-

Mike Jones:
The equity is all there now.

Eric Miller:
The equity is all there now. If we change it, we throw all that away. So, yeah, the logo is old fashioned and the name is cumbersome, but it is who we are. We just got to stand behind it and be happy with it.

Mike Jones:
Yeah. I mean, it’s funny I was actually working on a presentation I’m giving out Monday about brand naming, funny enough. I break down the different categories and types of names, functional being one of them. It’s funny how often functional names get turned into acronyms. That’s very common, this highly functional, usually long multi-word name.

Mike Jones:
You could think of International Business Machine, right?

Eric Miller:
Business Machine, yes. Yes.

Mike Jones:
And yet, IBM has made it work, right? You can take a somewhat less than ideal name, and I’m sure early on in some ways it probably helped because that functional naming can help establish, like this is what we do. And even from an internal standpoint, it gets everybody going, “Oh, yeah, that’s what we do because it’s in our name.” Over time, that becomes actually a challenge to the brand.

Mike Jones:
But you can still put meaning behind the acronym. Obviously, it’s always great when the acronym turns into something pronounceable, I think, like NASA or GEICO.

Eric Miller:
Yeah. That’s the problem with our acronym.

Mike Jones:
Yeah, it’s like, oh no, it’s a little less functional as a name because you can’t say it. You can definitely make it work.

Mike Jones:
I was prepping for it and I’ve given this presentation before of just talking about how, yeah, your name is important. If we’re working on it, we want to try to get it as close to great as possible, obviously. We want to maximize the time that we’re spending on putting energy into it. Obviously, you got to consider equity when you’re talking about renaming and all that stuff.

Mike Jones:
But one of the things I mentioned in there, 90% of your brand building is not the name, it’s not the logo, it’s not even … I mean, to some degree, yeah, colors and identity. Those things are really important. But it’s what you got to before which is this is what we stand for, these are the things that really matter to us and we deliver on day in and day out. We prove that this brand stands for these things.

Mike Jones:
And then it becomes a little less like, if you’re IBM, it’s less about the name and it’s about what are you doing? Right?

Eric Miller:
Yeah. Exactly.

Mike Jones:
Do you stand for those things?

Eric Miller:
[inaudible 00:26:06].

Mike Jones:
Exactly. There’s a whole conversation there about are they still doing it well?

Eric Miller:
[inaudible 00:26:11] go down that road. We’re not sure if they’re living up to their brand anymore.

Mike Jones:
No, and that’s hard.

Eric Miller:
That’s hard.

Mike Jones:
When you’re that big and you’ve been around that long.

Eric Miller:
And the industry changed as much as it did.

Mike Jones:
Yes. The industry [crosstalk 00:26:21].

Eric Miller:
The industry that they created. I’ll bring up a local company not affiliated with us at all but I worked with through the ACA, which is one of my favorite startups here in Arizona, Quick.

Eric Miller:
If people don’t know who Quick is, they’re a marketplace for food service people especially bartenders and catering service people and people that need that service on demand. You basically go online, go into their app and find a gig and do the gig. From a technical standpoint, it’s really well done. But I thought it’s a great example of fantastic branding because they were able to … They aren’t bartenders are us or something like that, right? They are quick.

Mike Jones:
Yeah.

Eric Miller:
That could apply to any industry, right?

Mike Jones:
Yeah.

Eric Miller:
But when you apply it to their industry, what does their customer want more than anything? They want to get a good server or bartender quickly. And what does that bartender or server want? They want to find a job quick, they want to get paid quick.

Eric Miller:
And so, it really … It’s a beautiful branding. Great logo and I think that people want to look at that as a non-technical, a non-engineering company. One of the better branding experiences as far as culture and what do they stand for as well. Where we failed, we didn’t know, was it’s easy to remember.

Mike Jones:
Yeah, you don’t know.

Eric Miller:
We didn’t know back then. We didn’t know this was important. PADT, not easy to remember. Fortunately, we’ve only had confusion twice. There is actually an engineering consultant in Amsterdam named Vander Pat.

Mike Jones:
Oh, interesting.

Eric Miller:
He owns the domain padt.com, which is why we’re padtinc.com. He got it a month before we did, in the early days of the internet. We had an employee visiting there and he actually went in and talked to him in a PADT t-shirt. It was pretty funny. They’re not giving it up. They’ll sell it to us, but they’re not giving it up.

Eric Miller:
And then there is a crematorium in the Himalayas, I think in Mongolia. I can’t remember which country it is, but they’ll show up on the … We do the Google thing for PADT News. They’ll show up every once in a while, that the PADT-

Mike Jones:
That’s interesting. [crosstalk 00:28:41] or maybe-

Eric Miller:
I think it’s in Nepal. It’s cremating more … It’s in Kathmandu, actually.

Mike Jones:
Oh, okay.

Eric Miller:
Yeah, whatever country that is. So, they’re cremating more bodies. They added another cremation thing for COVID. I’m like, well, hopefully people won’t think that’s us.

Mike Jones:
Probably not. I mean, if you’re doing the branding right, you’re in places where-

Eric Miller:
Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Mike Jones:
… your target audience is at and they’re not finding themselves at some crematorium site.

Eric Miller:
Yeah. Yup, that’s so funny. And also, it’ll just show up in our feed and we’re like, “Oh, wow, that’s pretty funny.” But we’ve made it work, and I think that’s the big lesson that I try to convey to new employees is you can find a lot of fault with the name and the colors. They’re just boring, boring, boring.

Eric Miller:
The thing you’re not supposed to do is the printer had … This is back when it was offset printing for business cards. He had a sale on this particular color, blue, and that’s why we’re blue and black.

Mike Jones:
That’s why you’re blue and blue, there you go. Sometimes the story, I think, behind branding, it’s funny because I talk to all sorts of people all the time. A lot of startups, especially, they’re like, “Hey, we want to make sure we do it right, do it well.” There are times where I’m just like your story is your story. And there are times, really dig in and do the really robust, really do it right. And there are times where it’s like, you know what, that’s your color, people already know you for it, just Just lean into it, right?

Eric Miller:
Lean to it, yes.

Mike Jones:
And own the story. Have a little laugh about how you got there and let serendipity be the history, which is fun.

Eric Miller:
Yeah, yeah. I definitely agree with that.

Mike Jones:
Yeah. What have been some of the more interesting ways you’ve gotten the brand out there? I’m thinking particularly of one thing you’ve been working on lately, but I’m sure there’s others.

Eric Miller:
You’re talking about our silly novel.

Mike Jones:
Yes, I love it.

Eric Miller:
I think we started down the road of doing things unusual with the April Fool’s episode of our edition of our newsletter. We fell away from that when we went to the blog because it wasn’t a once a month type of thing.

Mike Jones:
Yeah, it doesn’t translate.

Eric Miller:
It doesn’t translate quite as well. We had a couple of funny April 1st … we would do an April 1st article but we kind of got away from that. We probably should get back to it now that I think about it.

Eric Miller:
I guess that’s one of the things I have, before I get back to other unusual things, one of the lessons I’ve learned, and you kind of brought this up, when something works and it’s working well, you still have to keep doing it. We’re certainly guilty of getting a little lazy on some of the things that have been effective for us. We got to get back to doing them. As we’ve gotten bigger and I’ve done other things, I was doing all that myself. And now, I don’t really have the time. It’s something we need to address.

Eric Miller:
But anyway, crazy things we’ve done. Well, one of the things we do from a brand building standpoint is we do two open houses a year.

Mike Jones:
Okay.

Eric Miller:
One is for families.

Mike Jones:
Oh, that’s cool.

Eric Miller:
We get some cool technologies especially 3D printing and invite kids to come in and see it. So, bring your family. Dad can show off what they do because they can’t go to their office, so they can bring them here. Mom can talk about what she does and explain things to people. We try to do that in February as part of the SciTech Festival and bring some robotics teams out from the community.

Eric Miller:
Again, we do support the robotics teams, but we don’t get the benefit of the branding unless we invite them to the open house to show what they’re doing to robotics. And it’s interesting, two things that people remember the most from those family open houses are those robotics teams from the high schools and elementary schools that just impress the heck out of them, and the other is how their kids reacted to the 3D print. The excitement and joy that they saw. Those are good things to do just on their own, but there’s no harm in getting branding value from them as well, and that’s been really positive.

Eric Miller:
And then we do more of a customer-focused event on October and key to our brand. We call it Nerdtoberfest. So, instead of Octoberfest it’s Nerdtoberfest, right? It’s for engineers by engineers. It’s no different than anybody else’s open house, right? But-

Mike Jones:
Yeah. [crosstalk 00:33:16].

Eric Miller:
… by branding it Nerdtoberfest, we make it ours. A lot of PADT t-shirts running around. Again, invite our partners to come in and show off their hardware and their software and things like that. Those have been really successful for us, and got a lot of complaints under COVID when we cancel them. A lot of it, “I look for this every year, going to this.”

Eric Miller:
We did the Nerdtoberfest at the end of October all outside. We only had one large room open inside. It still was really popular. Hopefully we’ll get the numbers up again.

Mike Jones:
That’s great.

Eric Miller:
And then the thing you’re talking about is we just decided we’re going to write a book, a novel, where the main character is an engineer that does engineering things. It’s quite poorly written. But if it does okay, we’re about two-thirds of the way through the story, we may go back and edit it and turn it into something a little bit more readable.

Eric Miller:
It’s about Ashley who’s a CFD engineer, simulation engineer, who is using the company’s quantum computer and gets in virtual reality interface. Wires get crossed and she gets sent back to ancient Phoenicia.

Mike Jones:
That’s awesome.

Eric Miller:
Yeah. The pirates attack and she goes to Egypt. She uses engineering to solve the problems. So, that’s kind of fun. It’s been fun to write. We’ll finish up the story in about two or three more episodes. In fact, this weekend I have to write the next episode.

Eric Miller:
Yeah, it’s been fun. It’s one of those things that you don’t think anybody’s reading, then you go to a conference and everybody is like, “Oh, my god, I love Ashley. What a great character.” You’re like, “Oh, my god, you’ve read it?” [inaudible 00:35:05] read it. So, yeah, it’s been good.

Eric Miller:
That’s another thing that I learned over time, and I say this to the engineers a lot, is I had to learn the hard way that marketing is really about taking toilet paper and getting it wet and throwing it against the wall. You don’t know which one stuck, and you don’t know what you did to get that one stick. It’s like, some of them stick and some of them don’t. It’s not a science. It’s so much as an art and trial and error.

Eric Miller:
You don’t really realize the impact you’re making until you get this person that says, “We would like to buy half a million dollars with the software. Oh, by the way, the reason why I called is I’ve been reading your blog for 15.” Never interacted with you never said anything. I got this new job with this new company. They don’t have any simulation tools. Love your blog. I want you to be our ANSYS representative. I want to buy ANSYS from you.” Boom! All of a sudden you get this new customer. So, all that work that you put into it thinking it didn’t go anywhere paid off in that long run by creating that trusted relationship.

Mike Jones:
Yes. Yeah, it’s almost like you have these lurkers who … You never really know exactly who they are until they finally kind of said, “All right, I’m ready to take the relationship to the next level,” and you’re like, “Wait, we have a relationship?”

Eric Miller:
Exactly. Well, I’ll give you an even better example. One of our more fun projects that we did beginning of the year that was really kind of fun and it’s confident, one of the things that changed over the last 27 years is the lawyers got involved and we can’t talk about anything we do anymore even though this is not at all a high-tech industry that we did this for.

Eric Miller:
But anyway, it’s a local industry that you wouldn’t think of to do engineering, a company that you would think of doing engineering. They were developing a product that they could use in the service that they provide. And they had some internal engineers. That’s not what they do, it’s not their core competency.

Eric Miller:
So, they were talking to a person that runs one of the economic development groups here in town, basically a realtor that works for these economic growth people, and he said, “Oh, he was just complaining over dinner that they were struggling with this problem.” He said, “Oh, you should call PADT. They can help you with this. It’s what they do.”

Eric Miller:
So, this is this person who is not an engineer, not technical, not a customer but that we run into in the work we do for economic development, the stuff I do with the ACA, the stuff I do with the tech council. And so, there’s a $400,000 contract out of nowhere that these people didn’t even know existed until then.

Eric Miller:
And he never quite know the connection because what he did was he told his engineer to go online and find this company, and the engineer went to the website and contacted us through our website. He never told anybody that the connection came through this economic development person until I saw the economic develop person. He says, “How’s that project going?” I’m like, “Oh?”

Mike Jones:
How do you know about that?

Eric Miller:
Yeah, I told about you guys. I told about you guys. So, you never know who’s going to be your customer or refer you as a customer. That’s another lesson. We were hyper focused on the end user, the engineer in the cubicle, and that’s not who sends us work.

Mike Jones:
Yes. There’s usually an influencer, and we find that a lot with a lot of our clients. Just in B2B in specialized or technical fields, there’s usually three to eight people involved in the purchasing decision, and there’s usually even influencers outside of that group who are surfacing that solution and saying, hey, you should consider this.

Mike Jones:
That’s a big deal. I mean, I find that almost … I don’t know, it’s come to surprise me how almost every company I’ve ever worked with in B2B has that. And when you find it and you figure it out, you almost unlock this little secret sauce when it comes to your marketing of like, oh, we don’t have to win the end customer directly. We win these influencers; we win a lot more of our deals. In fact, they get a lot easier because you have this trusted advisor almost who’s basically guiding them to you.

Eric Miller:
100%. What I always say is that the end user can kill the deal if they really don’t like it, but in the end, who makes the decision is the important person to commit your get value. That’s why it’s so important to create this brand that says PADT does these three things, we sell these five products so that when that need arises, they make that connection. And going any deeper doesn’t really help anybody.

Mike Jones:
What I even love … I mean, going back to the introduction, I love this summary that you have of you’re in the business of helping those who make things make them better. Because I think about like that real estate development person who has some influence in economic development. That’s something they can wrap their head around. Right? Even your key service areas and your products, they probably are like, “I don’t really know what these are.” I wouldn’t know how to translate that and talk to someone, an engineer, and say, “Oh, you have this problem.” Then it’s PADT. But when it’s like, well, you make stuff and you’re having problems making it, PADT. Right?

Eric Miller:
Right. Right. Right. Exactly. Right.

Mike Jones:
So, I love that.

Eric Miller:
Exactly. Exactly. Yeah, it’s a great example. And our slogan, our motto or whatever you want to call it is “We make innovation work.” It used to be, when we started the company, it was “We add dimension to your ideas.” The reason why was all these technologies we started the company on were 3D technologies. The world of engineering was two dimensional. It was paper.

Eric Miller:
We started the company in this transition from paper to three-dimensional computer. And so, we thought we add dimension to your ideas was really clever, right? Because that’s what we were doing. We were adding that third dimension. People didn’t want to add-

Mike Jones:
It’s functional.

Eric Miller:
… a third dimension. They didn’t … Yeah, it’s functional, right? They didn’t want to add a third dimension. They wanted their innovation. We came with this great idea, we want it to work. That’s why we shifted the branding to that new slogan.

Mike Jones:
No, and that goes back to what you said earlier of just getting to what’s the end? Right? What’s the end benefit or accomplishment that they’re really looking to get to? All the stuff in between is important, right? How you get there is definitely a question they’re going to ask, but it’s not really the core of what they’re looking for.

Eric Miller:
You still got to have to get in front of the engineer and do a demo and show you got your choice, right?

Mike Jones:
Oh, yeah.

Eric Miller:
But you’re not going to get there unless you have a simple brand message that gets you the meaning.

Mike Jones:
Yeah. Talk to me a little bit about just being in Arizona. How has that impacted the business? It’s even in the name, it’s interesting.

Eric Miller:
Yeah. Yeah.

Mike Jones:
I didn’t realize that until I was doing a little bit of homework and realized, “Okay, what does PADT stand for again?” It’s like, oh, my goodness, it’s right there. So, Phoenix [crosstalk 00:42:22].

Eric Miller:
Yeah. For some reason we thought having Phoenix in the name would be beneficial. It never helped us in any way, shape, or form but we thought it was really important at the time.

Eric Miller:
What’s been great about starting the business in Arizona, and a lot of people didn’t realize this until maybe five years ago. is that Arizona has always been a very high-tech state and always had offices. Not necessarily headquarters, but offices for people that make complicated things. Whether it’s medical devices, or jet engines, or rockets, or helicopters. A lot of people don’t know that the cellphone was basically designed in Arizona.

Eric Miller:
Motorola is based in Schaumburg, Michigan, I mean at [Schaumburg 00:43:05], Minnesota, and they talk about Schaumburg as the birthplace of the cell phone, but all the engineering was done here.

Mike Jones:
Yeah, that’s really interesting.

Eric Miller:
Yeah. And the way chips are packaged, [inaudible 00:43:16] chips are packaged was all developed here in Arizona by Motorola and Intel. And so, there’s always been this engineering back office in Arizona. So, we’ve written that, and quite well. It takes getting out there and getting to know people and building that brand.

Eric Miller:
And also, people you know and made happy changing jobs. That’s branding as well, right? Because they took that brand identity with them when they changed job. So, as Arizona has become a stronger and stronger tech hub, which we have actively participated in promoting, it’s been really good for our business.

Mike Jones:
That’s great.

Eric Miller:
The problem, and I’ve written a lot about this in my business journal articles, the problem in Arizona is we don’t really have a community because we’re the back office and because we have such a good quality of life.

Eric Miller:
In a couple of articles, I talked about how the problem with Arizona, when people move here from California, often people will say, “Oh, talk to Eric Miller. He’s been here a long time. He’s connected all these folks.” And they’ll say, “I’ve been here for six months trying to get my consulting business going and I cannot get any business. What means should I go to?” Well, the tech council is where you should start. It’s one of the few community organizations that we have.

Eric Miller:
But if you want a niche, like you’re an HVAC expert, right?

Mike Jones:
Yeah, that’s really though.

Eric Miller:
There’s not a group you can belong to because what we do is we work really hard, and we work really hard, and then we go home. I think I built more relationships when my son was playing Little League because other dads were engineers working for potential customers than I did going to events here. Because until recently, they just didn’t exist and the people you wanted to meet don’t go to the events. They just don’t go.

Eric Miller:
We have a joke, the show I was talking about earlier in Anaheim every year, a lot of times we’ll see customers there that we don’t see in Arizona. So, they’ll be walking up, “Oh, PADT. WE do work with you guys.” Went through space industry-

Mike Jones:
Yeah. They’re like down the street or something.

Eric Miller:
Yeah, exactly. Went through Space Symposium in Colorado. That exactly happened. A company that is literally in ASU Research Park with us was like, “We haven’t seen you guys in five years.” Here we are in Colorado Springs, Colorado, at the Space Symposium talking about doing business together.

Eric Miller:
We still haven’t solved that problem. Leadership definitely gets together through the tech council, but when it comes to the second, third, fourth tier in the engineers, yeah, it’s not like other places where everybody went to the same school or everybody belongs to this or does that. And so, you have to really work at it here.

Eric Miller:
That’s the downside of Arizona. You got to be proactive about getting to know people. You got to have coffee with them, you got to go to lunch with them. For engineers, it’s lunch. For non-engineers, it’s coffee or dinner. Just an add value in those meetings, right?

Eric Miller:
We don’t have a central place to go. It’s interesting. We’re working on it. I’m working with some folks on really targeting the space industry, which is growing in Arizona and a childhood fascination of mine. So, if I’m sitting here fiddling this audio, but I’m fiddling with a little pin. It’s a little, I’ll show you on the camera, it’s a little pin that says Arizona Space Industry.

Mike Jones:
Oh, that’s cool.

Eric Miller:
That your place in space is our logo, right? So, trying to create some community around the space business here in town and some synergy there.

Eric Miller:
We have an office in Littleton, Colorado. I don’t have that problem in Colorado. There’s three events I can go to, to meet everybody that’s in space in Colorado.

Mike Jones:
That is so interesting.

Eric Miller:
They’re all there. They all go.

Mike Jones:
That’s really interesting.

Eric Miller:
It’s very different about Arizona. At California, the same way, you can pick a couple of events and meet everybody that’s anybody in that industry. From cubicle dweller to CEO will be there. We don’t do that here. Trying to change it, but yeah. It’s up there.

Mike Jones:
That is really interesting. I’ll just put this out there for our listeners, go look out Eric’s posts on the Phoenix Business Journal. He’s got a ton of great, great articles. Very insightful. I think you think very deeply on a lot of different topics. Not just within your field of engineering, but even things around like building community, networking. Just, I think, really important aspects of just building not only a great business but a great ecosystem of businesses here in Arizona. So, I do highly, highly recommend people-

Eric Miller:
Thanks.

Mike Jones:
… go and check those out. Well, we’re almost wrapped up on time. I cannot believe it went that fast.

Eric Miller:
I love this topic. For an engineer, I really am fascinated by it because I lived it. I had to figure this out because we weren’t growing.

Eric Miller:
I’ll give a shout out again to the tech council. How did I learn a lot of this stuff? Well, I went to their marketing events, their marketing education events where experts talked about these things. One of the more beneficial ones was Miss Details as a local, Tanya Gagnon. She did one totally unrelated on restaurant marketing, but it was about creating a brand around the restaurant. It was so insightful for me understanding that from the perspective of an engineering company. It was the same thing, right? You got to create a story? You got to create your band and you have to stay on message and stay on message. Everything you do and everything you put out has to reinforce that message.

Mike Jones:
No, that’s great. Well, if you don’t mind, in the last couple minutes here, I might put you on the hot seat with-

Eric Miller:
Okay.

Mike Jones:
… a little game that we like to play called Name 10 Things.

Eric Miller:
Okay. Okay.

Mike Jones:
I’ll give you a little, name 10 technologies that you’re getting excited about in the next, maybe the next decade, let’s say. There’s no wrong answers. That’s one of the key rules of improv is there’s no wrong answers.

Eric Miller:
No wrong answers. The thing I’m most excited about right now is broadband from satellites.

Mike Jones:
All right, that’s your first one.

Eric Miller:
I think that’s going to change everything. We use our phones a lot, but we live in an environment where that’s something we can do, but I think it’s going to change everything.

Eric Miller:
Number two is electrification of vehicles. I think that’s a game changer. It’s been great for our business so I’m not a complainer about that. But it’s not often that an entire industry does a reset. That’s what’s happening in the automotive industry right now. It’s fantastic.

Eric Miller:
Autonomous, I’ll put as number three. I think it’s got a longer way to go than people think it does, but it’s going to be here sooner than naysayers like me thought it would be. I definitely [inaudible 00:50:32].

Eric Miller:
I think that number four is going to be reshoring manufacturing. The question is technology, so I’ll mention the technology that I think it’s going to make it possible which is automation. So, manufacturing and automation which includes 3D printing, is the only way we’re going to reshore. We’ve got to have highly automated factories. The Tesla Factory is a great example of one that that really figured it out and is able to make cars affordably in the US. And so that’s, I think, a number. That’s what? Number four?

Mike Jones:
Number four, yeah.

Eric Miller:
Number four. Number five, I’m going to say … Hmm, new technology that’s changing. I think-

Mike Jones:
It doesn’t have to be new, actually. Ten technologies, so-

Eric Miller:
Ten technologies that I’m excited about.

Mike Jones:
You could bring back an old one and-

Eric Miller:
You can bring back an old one. So, I think one that hasn’t paid off yet that’s been around for a while is remote medicine, so remote diagnostics. Home medicine, home diagnostics. The [inaudible 00:51:45] not quite there yet. I think that’s going to be big. That’s going to change people’s lives. We’re positive and I’m excited about that.

Eric Miller:
Six is going to be solar.

Mike Jones:
Okay.

Eric Miller:
I think wind is going to be a player, but I think we’re going to get the price down per square foot of generating with solar. I think that’s going to be a big player.

Eric Miller:
And then I’m going to go out on a limb. I could be wrong about this one and say the other one that has always got me really excited is nuclear. A lot of people don’t know that one of the reasons why so many companies move to Arizona is because our electricity prices are cheap and they’re reliable. That’s because we have-

Mike Jones:
That’s [crosstalk 00:52:29].

Eric Miller:
… the country’s largest nuclear power plant. It’s built like a tanker, runs like a tank, and it’s been fantastic. So, I think nuclear, that’s six, right? Or seven?

Mike Jones:
I think you’re at eight.

Eric Miller:
I think we’re at eight. Number eight. So, nuclear was number seven. Number eight, something that I’m excited about. I think that, I don’t know what form it’s going to take but the metaverse, let’s call it that. I don’t know what it’s going to be, but I think that the way we consume and interact is going to change. We’ve seen it already with Zoom and Teams and stuff.

Eric Miller:
I think that moving more towards, not the crazy vision that’s been around for a long time, right? I used to use Second Life, which is what everybody is talking about right now, a decade ago.

Mike Jones:
It’s just real life duplicated.

Eric Miller:
Yeah. Yeah, exactly.

Mike Jones:
Which is kind of odd to me.

Eric Miller:
It was kind of odd, yeah. I think what they’re calling the metaverse or the virtual world, it’d be number eight.

Eric Miller:
Number nine, oh I know. What I researched a lot and really excited about is plant-based protein.

Mike Jones:
Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Eric Miller:
Meats, as much as I love it, I’m not a vegetarian, it’s not sustainable. As more countries become wealthy, we just can’t do it. So, we need plant-based protein. That got me really excited.

Mike Jones:
Isaac Asimov was actually right.

Eric Miller:
Right. Exactly right. It’s so funny you know that. Wow. Did you see the picture behind me of him? I got it on my shelf.

Mike Jones:
Oh, I do. I do now. That’s awesome.

Eric Miller:
Yeah, yeah. Very influential for me. His early books especially in the vats, the giant Vats of yeast, I think it was.

Eric Miller:
I think the last one, and it’s going to impact us more than we know is artificial intelligence. And that’s a big-

Mike Jones:
Big one.

Eric Miller:
… topic in and of itself. I’m trying to think of when do I click on our news story? That’s probably the 10th one, yeah. [inaudible 00:54:51]. Not the crazy stuff but how it’s being used day to day to change lives.

Mike Jones:
No, that’s awesome. Thanks for playing along on your 10 things. That was a great list, really interesting. Eric, thank you so much for chatting with me today-

Eric Miller:
Oh, it’s been fun, yeah.

Mike Jones:
… and coming on AZ Brandcast. Where can people find you? How can they get in touch and find out more about PADT?

Eric Miller:
I don’t answer my phone, I’ll tell you that right now.

Mike Jones:
Good for you. Good for you.

Eric Miller:
If you leave me a voicemail, I’m not going to respond. I tried, and I tried, and I tried and I failed. So, the best way to get hold of me is through LinkedIn, probably, if we don’t know each other already. If you just do Eric, space, Miller, space, our annoying name PADT, I will show up-

Mike Jones:
There you go.

Eric Miller:
… because the brand is strong. Definitely connect there. You can get my contact information there as well. If you want to email me, and that’s the best way to get a hold me is by email. Or go to a tech council event or go to a commerce story event.

Mike Jones:
There we go.

Eric Miller:
Our startup community is growing and is really dynamic. It’s interesting, PADT doesn’t work with startups, but it’s cheaper for us to volunteer to help startups. So, when they become successful companies, they become customers.

Mike Jones:
Exactly.

Eric Miller:
We love it as well. It’s just so much fun. Out and about in the community is probably the best thing to do. Get involved and let’s build those connections that we don’t have in Arizona. Really, the answer is don’t go home, go to an event.

Mike Jones:
I like that answer. For anyone that wants to find out more about PADT, again the website is padtinc.com. I highly recommend people check that out especially with the new website launching.

Eric Miller:
In February, yes.

Mike Jones:
In February? That’s awesome.

Eric Miller:
Look at the current one now and then let us know what you think about the new one when we put it out. We’re really excited about it. It’s a giant quantum leap forward.

Mike Jones:
And if you’re into novels based on engineering, historical novels based on [crosstalk 00:57:05]-

Eric Miller:
Historical novels, yes.

Mike Jones:
It’s like all my favorite things all combined-

Eric Miller:
There you go. In one place.

Mike Jones:
… into one. It’s probably why I was like, oh, we got to talk about this. Go check out their blog as well.

Mike Jones:
So, I just want to thank everybody for listening to another episode of AZ Brandcast, where we delve into the makings of remarkable brands right here in the great state of Arizona. Thank you all for joining us. Don’t forget, you are remarkable.

Mike Jones:
If you want to find out more episodes from us, check out our website at azbrandcast.com as well as find us anywhere that dcasts, whether that’s iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Now. I think we’re still on Google Play, but if there’s somewhere that dcast and we’re not there, send me an email. Find us at azbrandcast.com. Again, I’m Mike Jones for AZ Brandcast.

Speaker 3:
The AZ Brandcast is a project of Resound and is recorded in Tempe, Arizona with hosts, Mike Jones and Chris Stadler. It’s produced and edited by Sam Pagel. Music is produced and provided by [inaudible 00:58:00], an Arizona-based music group.

Speaker 3:
You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and at azbrandcast.com. If you’d like more episodes, subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play or wherever you prefer to get your podcast. To contact the show, find out more about AZ Brandcast, or to join our newsletter list to make sure you never miss another episode, check out our website at azbrandcast.com. Copyright Resound Creative Media LLC 2020.