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June 29, 2009

Rick Short Explains How to Turn Staff Into Prolific Bloggers

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Soldering can't possibly have anything to do with blogging, right?

Wrong. For Indium Corporation , a supplier of soldering materials and electronics assembly equipment, blogging is now a central piece of the marketing mix.

Rick Short Why? Because blogging helps Indium reach target audiences, get the company message out and -- above all -- get found via search engines and social media .

In a recent email interview, Rick Short , Indium's director of marketing, explained why blogging is so important to his company.


Q: You work at a company that supplies electronics assembly equipment. What made you want to start your first blog? Weren't you worried about a shortage of readers and topics to write about?

A: My goal was, and remains, to own the space as the "thought leader" for a wide variety of pertinent topics, technologies, etc. This, theoretically, delivers customer contacts on targeted topics-leading to increased sales, as well as insight into future opportunities (technologies, developments, etc.). It also delivers our customers a sophisticated source of support. Bottom line -- I wanted a win: win scenario.

Since the Indium Corporation has so many accomplished technologists who perform basic and applied research, as well as many individuals who are active with customer applications in the field, I knew I had the content. My real challenge was getting my staff to warm to the concept of being a blogger. This required a change in mindset, as well as a slight change in routine and responsibilities. Some perceived this "new" practice to be frivolous. After all, "writing a column" (like a journalist) seems quite unlike the traditional serious and deeply-involved creation of a "white paper" - it doesn't feel right to some scientists. Once they realized how this type of sharing is valuable, they started coming around.

Q: As the director of marketing communications at the Indium Corporation you manage trade exhibitions and blogs (among other things). Which channel is more efficient for you? Why?

First we need to know the units that you use to measure efficiency. To me it involves things like time, money, utilization rates, and (most importantly) contact generation. So, in terms of things like time/ contact , money/ contact , and "times used" (how many times we can put one piece of information out to the market), blogging and related social media is, by far, the most efficient activity.

That said, I don't have to select only one way to go to market, so I use a variety of activities to earn our target audience's respect, trust, and favor.

Q: Indium has 10 employees blogging about topics varying from electronics assembly and technology to interface materials and semiconductor packaging. How do you justify so much company time devoted to blogging?

A: Another way I've heard the same sentiments goes something like this, "I don't have time to do that silly stuff, I've got an experiment to finish (or a white paper to complete)." That was the voice of many of my bloggers at one time or another. Many people see blogging as an activity that takes precious time away from their "important" work.

My tactic is to reduce the process down to a very simple form, an inarguable form. In the case of my staff, it almost has to be a mathematical equation. Remember, my staff, and our customers, are extremely sophisticated, well-educated, and technologically astute. They seek and value data and logic, not warm fuzzies.

So, I break it down to this: products and technology generate content (meaningful information) which generates (customer) contact which generates profitable sales . Then, I demonstrate how easily my staff's hard-earned and extremely-valued content is purveyed via blogging (and other social media ). Next, I use some anecdotes relating to the effect of delivering a white paper at a technology symposium, or having it printed in a trade journal versus having online, syndicated, and searchable for years and years.

Eventually, these smart people see that blogging thrusts them and their content into the spotlight in a long-term, efficient manner. They quickly get it.

Q: Which one of the Indium's blogs have you found to be the most successful and why do you think that is the case?

A: Each blog is a success since they each have different target audiences and expectations. I can't simply declare that, because blog "A" generates more leads than blog "B" it is better. We need to consider the population of the target audience, as well as other factors. We also need to consider the resources needed to keep the blog vibrant.

Q: Your company has facilities in China, Singapore, South Korea, the U.K. and Italy. How do you think your blogging and vlogging generate international leads?


A: In many ways, technology is "global." Sure, language matters, and barriers exist. We blog in Chinese as well as English. We wish we were blogging in many other languages. We have resource constraints and we make the best of them.

As usual, we seek to overcome cultural and language barriers via the use of numbers, tables, charts, graphs, and videos. We also seek to tap into emotions and experiences. We may be geeks here, but we're people. Our highly-technical audience has a tremendous sense of passion and of humor. My ideal communiqué has no spoken or written words-it conveys the message perfectly using only universally understood imagery. Alas, that ideal is rarely achieved-but we nail it sometimes.

Q: How do you compare your video marketing efforts on YouTube with your blogging program? Are your videos a source of leads, or do you have other goals for them?

A: There are similarities and differences. The basic similarities include our desire to earn respect and trust via authentic, unassailable facts, depicted clearly-and our customers' (almost universal) ability to easily access each. The differences are mechanical.

But, remember, a YouTube video can be easily embedded into a blog post. In fact, that is exactly why I created our YouTube channel . I wanted a place to house my embeddable video for blog usage.

In conclusion, I see them as being one comprehensive toolbox, not mutually exclusive.

Q: What advice would you give to a company that needs to increase online lead generation, but doesn't think blogging is right for its industry?

A: Rethink. And use outside experts to help you rethink. Many times, our leaders are very experienced. That could mean they've been doing the same old thing for too long and are in a rut. I've certainly been that guy a few times. Outsiders can refocus us, bring opportunities into the light, and wake us up.

If blogging truly offers no benefits, big deal. Move on. Do what works for you. There are so many scenarios out there, and so many lead-gen tools available that it should be possible to craft an effective program.

Q: What are your favorite blogs? (Other than ones run by Indium or HubSpot!)

A: Being a Marcom geek, I love Dan Santow's blog, Word Wise . Writing and grammar seem to be a forgotten art in communication. I believe it really matters a lot. I truly enjoy Dan's particular (and proper) attitude toward writing. Moving beyond the topic, he puts the blog together (mechanically) in a crisp, clear, easily understandable layout. Then, he writes succinctly and effectively. Bottom line: when I am done, I am better -- and I can implement what I've learned the rest of my life. That is value. Remember, a good blog (like all good Marcom) is all about the audience and never about the author.

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