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B2B Blogging Webinar

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  • Indium Corporation
  • I recently gave a webinar in conjunction with the ISBM (a great organization - highly recommended). The topic was (of course) B2B Blogging.

    You can view and listen to a recording of the webinar right now .

    I thought the questions that arose during and after the event might be interesting to you. Here they are:

    Q: We have an electronic newsletter and we can't sustain both a blog and a newsletter. Should a blog replace a newsletter? Do you send links to customers?
    A: Consider implementing a super-pull strategy and:

    - Combine the newsletter into the blog (create a more chatty portion and a more newsy portion on the page to provide for both styles of communication)

    - Promote the readers' ability to subscribe to your site via RSS technology

    No, we don't "promote" our blog by sending out links unless it is a critical part of an ongoing discussion on a specific topic.

    Q: Why was HP in bold on one of your earlier slides? (I don't feel you really need to answer this one!)
    A: Simply an error.

    Q: Would you recommend turning a blog into a podcast or an on-demand audio file to help reach a broader market?
    A: I sure would, especially if it was interesting and meaningful.

    Q: What types of incentives are offered by Indium to its experts for them to continue contributing to the blogs?
    A:
    - Our two bloggers (me included) enjoy helping people and being a bit out in the public eye. Hams like us enjoy being in the public eye.

    - Next, blogging involves a lot of interesting (relatively) novel technology and techniques, so learning is involved.

    - "This leads to that", and we both appreciate that. So, one of our goals is to get to the next cool thing. Personally, I feel that many, many people will be broadcasting their own personal video quite commonly someday soon. By blogging, I get to see how this evolves, and what it takes to do it all.

    Q: What do you think of community server vs wordpress or e2evolution?
    A: I have never heard of any of them. According to my web tech team:

    Wordpress is a typical blogging system, very similar to what I am currently using.

    b2evolution is a lot like Wordpress, but it has some extra features that let it behave more like a CMS (content management system) -- which basically means that it can be used to manage an entire web site, not just the "blog" parts of it.

    Community Server is a large-scale communication system meant to be within companies and organizations. It can be used to blog, send messages, and share files, among other things. This would rarely be used by a single person blogging on their own.


    Q: Is there blogging software that incorporates an automatic edit/review process - that is, draft posts are sent automatically to an editor/reviewer who can then send-it back to the author for revisions?
    A: I don't know. I imagine that this would be expensive and would stumble with technical, industry-specific jargon (at least for a while).

    Q: Is there a way to quantify the relationship between blogging and your bottom line?
    A: Is blogging the exclusive domain of Marcom? Of Sales? Or can blogging be used for TONS of business purposes? Of course, I feel it has tons of applications (internal & external, informational & revenue-oriented). So, all B2B blogging can't be lumped into one basket.

    That said, I don't know of any. My experience with Marketing and, more specifically, Marcom, has me believing that Marcom delivers leads to the Sales team (very simplistic definition). So, Marcom should be accountable for marginal lead generation. After being handed over to Sales, those leads should be tracked to completion (revenue or not). But how should Marcom be judged on that conversion rate when they have little control of that process step?

    Q: What was the cash requirement to get you where you are? What is the current annual budget?
    A: Indium pays a vendor (a team of web experts) to manage many web-related technologies and activities for us. In other words, Indium people focus on electronics assembly materials expertise and web experts handle all web-related stuff. If we want our graphical design layout changed, we just ask the web guys to do it. If we want any special formatting done, we ask the web guys to do it.

    Now, if we want to bold, or italicize a word, or if we want to post up an image, we know how to do that ourselves. And, I am quite facile with Blogger, Picasa, Flickr, Audioblog, etc. and make it a point to be familiar with these tools, so I know what's fair to expect of my team.

    Bottom Line: we demand that Indium people be experts in their technology and farm out the support stuff to others.

    So, this costs us money. We pay an hourly fee to the programmers. My guesstimate is that it costs us $500/month in direct costs.

    Q: What are the sophisticated tools you use? Those beyond the free tools?
    A: Our web vendor set up blogging software that is customized for our needs. Our people use it from anywhere in the world. Quite honestly, I have often considered dumping it all and implementing a business-level publishing platform subscription to MoveableType.

    Q: Have you considered using the blog to tap into insights from lead users?
    A: Remember, in my industry, the term "lead" is a homonym for two unrelated but important items: "lead" the metal element, and "lead" as in being the leader. I assume you mean the latter (as in thought or practice leaders). If so, the answer is YES. We are always seeking their input. They are a critical element in our communication chain.

    Q: Have you used blogging as an internal tool with associates? For example, keeping new hires connected.
    A: Sort of. We have an intranet site that looks and feels like a blog, but it is populated the old-fashioned way. Still, we update it more than once per day. Sure sounds like we should convert the backend to a blogging platform and remove the middleman, right? This is a classic case of an old thing slowly evolving to a new thing - with some parts remaining rooted to the past. We are just lazy enough to not change the process while behaving very differently day-to-day otherwise. I think I'll get right on it - THANK YOU for the buzz to do so!


    Q: What is the biggest mistake you can make in B2B Blogging?
    A: There are so many potential errors, it would take me weeks to make them all ;). Some are:

    Premature initialization (poor buy-in, poor blogger, weak theme, improper resources, cumbersome software, no goal, etc.)

    No succession plan (as we discussed in the webinar)

    Bad voice (being rude, unprofessional, uninformed, arrogant, etc.)

    Not understanding and respecting the audience

    Ego tripping

    Hoping that blogging will save the farm

    Q: Did your company provide policies or rules for staff who were blogging?
    A: Yes, I did:

    I issued a POLICY ON PUBLIC DISCOURSE

    I held several small meetings with my main blogger:

    -Discussed public discourse

    -Reviewed other blogs

    -Reviewed his hardcopy editorials and writings

    -Reviewed Indium's goals

    -Reviewed his goals and agenda

    Q: How do you handle the loss of a regular contributor (ie through attrition)?
    A: Right now I might have to shut the blog down. Dr. Lasky is irreplaceable and we have no other blog (topic) going (for other people to maintain).

    I suggest a clear and viable succession plan that would likely include a co-blogging endeavor so the transition would be seamless.

    Q: How is blogging likely to evolve and where do you see it in 2-5 years? Any technology enhancements expected or any limitations we need to be aware of?
    A: Vlogging. Really simple. Isn't it much more natural for people to simply talk? (versus writing). And it couldn't be easier to point a simple camera and chat away. The hard part is all the behind the scenes stuff that is ALWAYS the hard part (planning, setting a goal, preparing the "stuff", organizing your thoughts, coming off the way you desire, etc.).

    Uploading and downloading bandwidth is increasing, memory is increasing, software is more and more user-friendly, viewers have better and better capabilities on their PCs, cameras are cheaper and better (and smaller). It's a vlogger's paradise (almost).

    Q: Don't competitors benefit from content on your blog?
    A: Yes. Just like they do when they read my Product Data Sheets and view my website. My choice is to "go big", to own the space and hope I can sustain it. I am confident that I can maintain this position. Our PUBLIC DISCOURSE policy cautions us all against "giving away the farm", or bits of it piece-by-piece. We're careful, but we're not shy. No one ever shrunk to greatness.

    Q: How has blogging enabled Indium to better understand your customer's needs?
    A: Witness the very large number of comments and private return e-mails that our blogging has generated. And rest assured, none of it is fan mail. We've got professional engineers, responsible for some of the world's greatest product innovation reading our writing. They want help with processes, materials, and networking. They have leading-edge questions and ask tough questions. Guess who they come to? Guess who gets "first look" at these topics and issues? In part, we get asked because they know we respect them - and have developed that reputation for the past 72 years. Without that built-in respect I guess that many questions wouldn't get sent our way.

    Q: How do you measure ROI for your blogging activity? Is it worth the investment of time and money?
    A: Simple. Our blogging goal is to generate blog page views and comments/e-mails.

    For us it has been worth the time and money as it has greatly enhanced our image, generated a lot of topical data on key issues, and kept us in on the "conversation" occurring in our industry.

    Q: Do you recommend hiring a dedicated writer to do your blogs?
    A: Generally, for a tecchie B2B blog, no. In our world "street cred" is critical. It's that simple.

    A big THANKS to Mary Donato, Ralph Oliva, and the ISBM for allowing this transcript to be published.