Blogs: Communicating at the Speed of Business

When we hear the word “blog,” we automatically think of a personal journal posted online for the world to read, like a public diary. In the short time since they’ve appeared on the scene, blogs have morphed into an essential business tool for leading-edge marketers.

Take Symmetricom, for example. The company, the world’s leading provider of atomic clocks, and precision devices and equipment, is using blogs to keep in touch with a decentralized sales force that includes 325 representatives and distributors scattered throughout the world.

Yes, it already has e-newsletters. Several, in fact. But these are published monthly. Meanwhile, product changes, discontinuances, new pricing information, and new staffing announcements happen daily, often even hourly.

Jeanne Hopkins, Symmetricom’s senior manager of e-marketing and transactional sales channels, knew she had to fill the information gap. The company’s global sales force didn’t have a shared understanding of product specifications, pricing, and availability. Nor did it fully understand corporate policies and procedures, or take advantage of the sales and marketing programs, including the advertising, trade shows, and conferences, implemented by Hopkins and her team.

Since Symmetricom was already working with e-marketing and analytics firm IMN for its newsletters, bridging the information gap didn’t require much of a leap, as IMN also offers DirectBlog.

A More Timely Solution for Atomic Clockmaker

Together, Hopkins and IMN created SymmBlog, an ongoing log designed to keep her group informed continually. According to Hopkins:

Since September 2003, I’ve published 26 issues, one per week. I use it to communicate product changes, welcome new sales engineers or support personnel, and remind people of upcoming sales meetings and to use the extranet site. OEM manufacturers, our biggest customer group, are continually calling into the sales admin people and asking for things like data sheets. We use the blog to remind our internal people that all the information is on the Web site. It offloads a lot of busy work from our staff.

Hopkins goes on to say not only does SymmBlog help her manage information to and from the sales force, it does so at very low cost. “It only takes an hour or two to import, publish, and email the weekly content.”

Kathleen Goodwin, former president and CEO of IMN (and ClickZ columnist) explains, “Blogs help marketers communicate information at the pace of the business.” Hopkins concurs, “All of our blog entries are dated, which creates urgency. It also helps us substantiate that, yes, we did inform the staff about this policy, on this date, at this time.”

Readers Are Synchronized With New Developments

Symmetricom uses IMN’s analytics to monitor responses to the blog. SymmBlog’s viewership statistics are truly impressive. At launch in September 2003, the initial open rate was 23 percent. By the end of December, it was in the 60 percent range. Now, it’s tracking at 75 percent. Besides links to data sheets and Web sites, SymmBlog features a response button readers can hit to email questions or comments directly to Hopkins and her team.

Hopkins recalls:

When I first sent it out, the head of my division called my boss, who then called me and said, “What the heck is this? What’s a ‘blog’?” Now it’s become part of our vernacular. People expect it to be there and look forward to it. They can easily click back into the archives. It’s like a three-ring binder we add to every week. My boss now says it’s the most fantastic sales tool he has ever seen implemented in an organization. And people in the field tell us they feel more connected to the company — and in the know.

We’re looking for more stories about the business applications of blogs. Send them to Karen.

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