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One manufacturing marketer’s mission to create memories, build community & bolster a brand

Manufacturing marketing leader blog series explainer.

Amanda is the marketing director at Design Ready Controls, a Minnesota-based contract manufacturer of electrical control panels. The company uses its patented automation in partnership with their customers’ designs to build more than 15,000 highly variable control panels every year. It’s these unseen technical treasures that let complex machines like HVAC systems and industrial electric vehicle chargers do their jobs.

“We’re a contract manufacturer for original equipment manufacturers who require excellence and scale. Basically, we build the “brains” of a larger piece of equipment,” Amanda explains. “Without control panels, the equipment would not function as it’s supposed to out in the market, whether it’s regulating the climate in a hospital or charging a bus in the city. There’s huge pride in that. At the end of the day, when you’ve put it all together, and [the machine] is fulfilling its purpose, that’s amazing!”

But Amanda’s story isn’t just about marketing or manufacturing; it’s an ongoing narrative that weaves together the nostalgia of her grandpa’s workshop with memorable employer-brand marketing initiatives and an intrinsic mission to redefine manufacturing.

How B2B manufacturing brands create memories & infuse purpose for employees

Amanda’s professional journey is every bit as varied and vibrant as her personal one. Her career began with a stint at Robinson Fresh, where she crafted marketing campaigns around fresh produce. She partnered with sales to support retailer B2C promotions, so she got to see up-close how the campaigns she created impacted consumers’ lives. From that moment, she was hooked. She saw firsthand how her marketing work bolstered the brand story, and how the strength of that story created experiences audiences would remember.

When you ask Amanda what her favorite brands are, she thinks of Cup & Cone—a local ice cream shop she’d frequent as a kid. And the Minnesota Twins because of the countless summer games she’s attended over the years. Amanda couldn’t tell you the score of those games or what ice cream flavor she liked the best, but the feelings those experiences instilled in her—and the way she attributes those memories to specific brands—remains vivid to this day.

Her biggest professional challenge is to create those kinds of memorable experiences for Design Ready Controls employees, customers, stakeholders, and the surrounding community. For Amanda, transitioning to the B2B sector after marketing and selling fresh produce was a formidable challenge. She had to shift her mindset from marketing vibrant, familiar, commodities to promoting control panels that don’t even carry the brand name once they leave the factory.

Her task was to build internal excitement around critical yet unseen components in massive machines to boost employee satisfaction, retention rates, and attract new employees. To do so, she had to show the rest of Design Ready Controls that they build the critical brain of larger machines and turn employees into brand ambassadors.

She and her team often lead tours around the facility so schoolkids and other professionals can experience the thrill and satisfaction of helping complex machinery operate properly. These groups hear from Design Ready Controls’ engineers, operations, and executives about the incredible impact the company has on communities around the country.

Together with a handful of company leaders and participants, her team creates authentic impressions of the work being done by all team members across the company. The video series are for internal use only, but the end goal is to instill pride and purpose in the team that makes it all happen. Although Amanda built the video playbook and oversees editing, producing, and distributing them internally, she doesn’t want the credit. Instead, she points the spotlight toward all the other individuals who help execute and deliver the content.

Design Ready Controls also launched a Brand Ambassador Program in 2023 to grow the brand in local communities and ultimately creating awareness to careers in the manufacturing industry and supporting a fruitful recruiting pipeline through educational and community partnerships. The program operates in Albert Lea and Brooklyn Park (Minnesota), Richmond (Virginia), and Oklahoma City (Oklahoma). Amanda oversaw the program’s creation, another testament to her ability to create a deeper connection between Design Ready Controls’ products and its employees.

Embodying this community spirit, Design Ready Controls’ 2024 theme is “Together We Build Strong!” Amanda created the slogan with the executive team to showcase the company’s 35th anniversary and has adapted it to digital assets, physical messaging, and company swag across the organization. Her team-first approach prioritizes collective efforts over individual ones and, in doing so, builds a nurturing, supportive environment for her colleagues. This feeling of belonging is what she remembers most about the brands that had the biggest impact on her growing up, and it’s what she’s hoping she and her team bring to work every day. 

It’s the tireless pursuit of this goal that led to Amanda winning 2023’s “Heels for Heroes” award from the Metro North Chamber of Commerce. The award recognizes women leaders who bring unlimited energy to their jobs and employ servant leadership to impact the lives and communities around them. 

Empowering, inspiring & educating the next generation

Amanda is fun and personable already, but when you get her talking about manufacturing, she becomes a ball of kinetic energy. Her favorite motto, “Manufacturing is Awesome!” is more than just a quirky phrase, it’s her personal ethos. The mantra reflects a deep-seated belief in the industry’s potential. She envisions a future where the diversity of opportunities in manufacturing is celebrated, and careers are built on passion and skill, not necessarily degrees hanging on a wall.

Reshaping the perception of manufacturing is an ambitious endeavor. Reimagining what some consider to be a dry or highly technical industry takes creativity and strategic thinking, but Amanda’s passion is not just a professional choice—it’s a personal commitment. She is deeply interested in sharing stories and highlighting the significance of manufacturing as an industry and an integral part of peoples’ daily lives.

“I wish people would learn more about the different types of manufacturing,” Amanda laments. “So many intelligent and skilled people work in the sector, but it’s not recognized enough. It takes a wide range of uniquely talented team members to be successful in manufacturing, I just wish I could shout that from the rooftops, if you are driven, innovative, ambitious and bolster a collaborative-team focus mentality, manufacturing is for you.”

To help achieve this, she dived headfirst into the world of children’s literature and education in 2023. She and her coworker Joe House—Design Ready Controls’ chief commercial officer—co-authored a book called “Blake Explores Manufacturing.”

The book introduces children to the world of manufacturing through the inquisitive protagonist Blake, who explores and develops a fascination for manufacturing through a series of questions to his NASA-manufacturing dad. The book targets young minds—kindergarten to second grade—aiming to spark curiosity about how things are made. It also includes an activity that equips kids with a building challenge – creating a tool for picking up toys. There is also a monthly newsletter that includes family-centered building activities. These everyday tasks teach kids responsibility and provide opportunities to engage, collaborate, and innovate as a family.  

Writing “Blake Explores Manufacturing” was not just a whim or timely departure from Amanda’s usual marketing role at Design Ready Controls; it was a personal journey of growth and learning, driving her to engage with younger audiences and inspire the next generation to develop passions for fields like manufacturing and engineering.

“We have doctors, lawyers, nurses … and we need those people! But what about the kids that love to build? Where do they fit into the education system? What’s their pathway to success?” Amanda asks rhetorically. “There are so many brilliant kids that love robotics and building with Legos. We wrote the book to show them that there is a long-term, successful career path for them to live out their passions.”

In addition to her role at Design Ready Controls and being a published author, Amanda’s passion for giving something back to the manufacturing community continues to grow. She and Joe co-founded MAKE Publishing—Manufacturing A Kid’s Experience—to be the business arm of “Blake Explores Manufacturing” and to highlight the significance of manufacturing in everyday life.  

“The goal is to inspire the next generation, create memorable experiences, and show them how to win in manufacturing,” she explains.

While the book is the cornerstone of MAKE Publishing, the initiative doesn’t end there. She and Joe were both born and raised in Minnesota, they created, financed, and printed the book here, so it was important to them to serve the community that nurtured them. A percentage of the proceeds from book sales is invested back into Minnesota communities, and they’ve had discussions with the Albert Lea school district to have the book distributed in libraries and classrooms. They’re also discussing sponsorship opportunities and other collaborative efforts with manufacturing companies throughout the country.

“I definitely see MAKE as a feeder to a future pipeline, but that’s just one piece of the platform,” she says. “We want to keep our options open to ensure that it becomes a holistic system that educates, inspires, and equips the next generation to win in manufacturing.”

A final word

Amanda Gregory’s journey is a testament to the power of passion, perseverance, and purpose. From the early lessons in her grandfather’s workshop to her role at Design Ready Controls to building MAKE Publishing, Amanda has built a career in marketing around creating memorable experiences and serving others.

Her story is not just about the transition from marketing fresh produce to control panels but about infusing life and a sense of purpose into every endeavor. Through her leadership, Amanda is helping to reshape the perception of manufacturing and provide a foundation for future generations of manufacturers.

Amanda’s journey reminds us that memorable experiences are more than the moments we create for ourselves—they’re about the impact that brands can have on larger communities. Her servant leadership, commitment to innovation, and dedication to education exemplify how individual passion can translate into collective progress.

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