Learn how a leading optics manufacturer uses daily videos and other content marketing tools to differentiate from their competitors.
Cory Boone, Technical Marketing Manager at Edmund Optics, is a big believer in content marketing for engineering companies, as you'll hear in this episode. He has found that through content, the company builds trust and credibility and stays top-of-mind with prospects and customers.
Edmund Optics' multi-faceted content strategy includes daily videos which range from broad and basic, such as how optics are used in the world around us, to technical challenges where optics and photonics can be applied. Videos are leveraged across multiple platforms including TikTok, LinkedIn and YouTube. TikTok is not where the company expects to find and convert near-term leads, rather it supports long-term awareness and branding goals.
In Cory's role as a Technical Marketing Manager, he acts as a bridge between engineering and marketing communications, which he finds helps to lend greater credibility to marketing as a whole. He also writes technical content where he draws from his optical engineering education and seeks time from deep subject-matter experts within the company. Cory oversees the Edmund Optics Knowledge Center, where visitors can search or filter by topic.
Cory and his team have experimented with generative AI tools such as ChatGPT, and have found their best use to be for brainstorming and outlining. Cory advises taking great caution when using data sourced by these tools. It is important to determine and cite the source of the data to make sure it is accurate, recent, and not from your competition. This is a big challenge for niche technical subjects.
On today's episode, I'm joined by a technical marketing manager from Edmund Optics, and we talk all things content marketing and how Edmund is utilizing different types of content to meet their goals. And one part of the conversation that I found very interesting was their use of video. They create daily videos and monthly webinars, and you'll learn why they do that, what types of content goes into those videos, and why TikTok is part of a long term strategy for Edmund. Let's do this.
Welcome to Content Marketing, Engineered, your source for building trust and generating demand with technical content. Here is your host, Wendy Covey.
Hi, and welcome to Content Marketing, Engineered. On each episode, I'll break down an industry trend, challenge, or best practice in reaching technical audiences. You'll meet colleagues, friends, and clients of mine who will stop by to share their stories, and I hope that you leave each episode feeling inspired and ready to take action. Before we jump in, I'd like to give a brief shout out to my agency, TREW Marketing. True is a full service agency located in beautiful Austin, Texas, serving highly technical companies. For more information, visit trewmarketing.com. And now on with our podcast. Hey, everyone, and welcome to another episode of Content Marketing Engineered. I'm joined today by Cory Boone. He's the Technical Marketing Manager at Edmund Optics. Thank you for joining me today, Cory.
Of course. Thank you so much for having me.
I am super excited to talk to you about this role that for some companies is relatively new, having an engineer in a marketing role. And other companies like and I have done this forever, it seems like. So I think we'll have some fun exploring that and talking all things content marketing. How does that sound?
Cool. Well, let's start by just hearing a little bit about your career journey from optical engineer to technical marketer.
Yes, definitely a big plot twist in my life. So I studied optical engineering in college, a very oddly specific kind of engineering, but I went to the University of Arizona, and so optical engineering is using light to do cool things. So everything from laser surgery to helping robots see to manufacturing things. And so I studied that, learned about the engineering side, really loved it. But when you're doing that, you don't really learn about all the adjacent career paths that an engineering degree could learn to. So I never had any thought in my mind that marketing was a possibility or a thing I could do. Same with sales or project management. But I did an internship at Edmont Optics. So the company I now work for who makes optical components like lenses, prisms, mirrors, things that make light do something. And so in that internship, I did project management, and I thought that was really cool because I love the technical side of things, but I knew I didn't want to just be stuck in a lab for my career. Or just have a purely technical role. And project management seemed like a cool balance of still being involved in all that, but also the different things I was interested in.
So then when I graduated, I started at Admin Optics in a rotation based program. So it's a few months in one department, a few months in another one. You kind of bounce around with my end goal always being project management. But then the plot twist happened when the head of sales and marketing at the time was looking to have an engineer join the marketing department. So that was a brand new role, hadn't been done at Admin Optics before. And the purpose of that, as I'm sure may be a common message on this podcast, is that technical folks, so maybe engineers and marketers may speak different languages, there may be a bit of a clash, you have different goals. And having an engineer in the marketing department helped to bridge that trust a little bit. And what I was really focused on was creating marketing content, so writing published articles, video scripts, putting together virtual events, all the ways we communicated the technical information out with other people and making sure it was all accurate. So that's how I first got introduced to that. And then so that was a rotation, thinking it would just be a couple of months, but I absolutely fell in love with it, left the rotation program early and then stayed in that role for six years and kind of helped it grow from there.
Oh wow, six years it's been now.
Yeah. In marketing.
Yeah. Okay, so we were speaking before we hit the record button and it sounded like part of your journey was influenced by an old buddy of mine from an eye named Todd Sears. So tell me a little bit about you and Todd and how that went about.
Yeah, so Todd's actually that mysterious head of sales marketing that I mentioned who convinced me to do marketing as a rotation. So he wanted to introduce this program and again, I thought, okay, this will be a short pit stop. Then I'll go on to project management. And also there's a new head of marketing at the time, Scott Bass, and me and him really kind of helped change the direction of the marketing department a little bit, along with everyone else in the department, obviously, but focusing on technical content, shifting towards more digital marketing efforts away from maybe some more traditional methods. And yeah, so Todd got me to stay in the role and he's no longer at Edmonton Optics, but was definitely formative in getting me to make this switch.
Yeah, that's great. And Todd was such a back in my day, we worked together at Ni, just very collaborative. And I like how you described that bridge between marketing, communications and technical and kind of having that person that builds trust and brings everybody together. So that's really cool that he created that career path for you, really, that you walked into or earned, I'm sure. So let's switch gears a little bit and talk about content marketing. So it sounds like you're writing a lot of content, you're utilizing a lot of content marketing tactics. Why is this a good thing for technical companies to do? It seems obvious, but I'd love your perspective.
So I think it's a good thing for any company to do in order to connect with the audience. But I think it's especially important for a technical company because the technical products, the risk of failure is so much higher. If you're putting something into a medical device or something into an automated system that you're making, you really need to trust the supplier. It's different than like ordering a phone case or something that's more consumer. We're still technical marketing can be content marketing can be affected there. But in the technical world, they need to build trust with engineers and people who will be influencing the purchasing decision. So it's establishing that trust, building a long term relationship with the audience. Because if you provide some helpful educational information, maybe they won't immediately go buy some products for you. But such a great point of contact. And if you continue having those touches, once it's time for them to actually make a purchase, they already know and trust you. So it speeds up their process of maybe researching people a little bit. So, like, well, I know Edmontics is an expert in Asyric lenses and imaging and cameras, so I may as well first check them out because I know they're knowledgeable in these areas.
Yeah, right. Because you've demonstrated not only do you have those products, but you're knowledgeable in them. You can help them. Do you feel like your sales force understands how content marketing can maybe shorten that buyer's journey or build trust? Are they on board with this or is that a constant point of education for you?
Maybe a little constant education, but it's definitely been a big change where they really understand the value of it now, where we do some sales enablement tactics where people register for enough webinars and interact with enough content pieces, kind of raises their score. So at a certain point we can say, okay, these are some highly qualified people in this subject because they watched this webinar about this application, they opened these emails. So in that sense, it's really tangible information for sales. There's a recognition there. And then I think as we promote internally the content, we're working on the actual results and how that's impacting our audience. That helps sales recognize the importance and then has some of them volunteer to help with some of these projects. We speak in a virtual event. Exactly. Write the restaurant something which has been great for me because I've shifted a little bit from just primarily being a content creator. So I'm still writing and creating things, but also I'm essentially a project manager bringing it back to my original Aspiration here we are exactly organizing all engineers and salespeople people all across the organization working on content pieces as well.
Okay, very good. So it sounds like you have some pretty good systems that help you make that connection between someone's journey online and emails are opening or whatever that sales can see. So obviously your marketing system CRM everything's, talking you in a good place, there any tools that you're in love with that you'd recommend if someone's listening and they don't have that same data. Insight.
Yeah, so we're always trying to improve the processes. Every month we have a new idea and something that we can try, but we use marketo for organizing a lot of our marketing processes scheduling emails, tracking attendees and registrants of virtual events. And one interesting way you can look at virtual events when we look at trade shows as well as it's very hard to say, okay, this person attended this webinar or this trade show. So that's why they went on to buy a product. You can see correlation but not causation, but you can at least check to see if you're reaching the right audience. So you can see, all right, these people who attended this virtual event or this trade show, they or their companies went on to spend X dollars over the next period of time. And so tracking things like that, at least let you know, great, we're reaching the right decision makers and the right companies with our efforts. Even if you can't say, okay, they saw this webinar and that's why they made this purchase.
Yeah, I like that. Causation and correlation. I may have to steal those terms for you. I think that's the perfect way to describe it. Well, how do you feel? So does content marketing differentiate your company?
Definitely, yeah. In our industry. Other people are doing content marketing. And I do a lot of little competitive analysis in terms of just looking up the website of someone else in the industry, going through what they have. And some people have great videos, great resources. I think one thing that really differentiates us is the level of output. Not that quantity trumps quality in any way. And you just need to make things for the sake of making things, but just the frequent touches with your customer base, where I make a short vertical social video a day, we have, like I said, engineers all across the company and myself and my team. So we can create a lot of published articles, videos, a monthly virtual event. And so the quantity is one factor. And then just the investment and recognizing the importance of the impression that a virtual event or trade show or other marketing piece can have. Where we invest, we use on 24 a webinar platform. And so rather than just a zoom call or a zoom meeting for a webinar, we try and have it be very interactive. A lot of things happening in the background, things they can click on, asking live questions that kind of elevates the experience a little bit and just organizing all this.
So we have a whole part of our website that we call the Knowledge Center that's kind of my baby, along with obviously our web designers and everyone to try and make it really intuitive to sort through. If you make a bunch of stuff, great, but how is anyone going to find it? Obviously SEO. We try and organize it in a way where someone could say, all right, I'm interested in laser applications and I need to find the right filter. And so, okay, choosing a few things, and you get the right videos, application notes, anything else that's relevant to what you're looking for.
That's awesome. And of course, these days with Google's algorithm, that usability, and getting someone to the information they need without them having to click around is so important. You'll be punished otherwise. I've seen it happen with all the changes these past few years. So that's great. You mentioned daily videos, and then a little bit later you talked about, I think it was monthly webinars. So a lot of video. Your video heavy. Tell me a little bit more. Let's dive deeper into your video strategy.
Yeah, so just consumer trends. A lot of studies show that if someone opens a landing page, the first thing they'll interact with is a video towards the top of the page, if available, as opposed to scrolling or doing anything else. Look at how people consume social media. Things like TikTok, Instagram reels, YouTube shorts, these things are exploding. While people may be leaving, some of the more traditional even seems like a weird word, but just what people were doing five years ago on social media. And so since that's where the demand is, and that's where people spend their time, rather than try and drive them to a completely new way of interacting with you, meet them where they already are. Meet them how they spend their time and how they prefer to interact with things. So in our newer New Jersey office, we have a nice huge studio where we can film things for the virtual events. We can create a lot of videos, and then the shorter social videos, it's just so easy to create something. Production value doesn't have to be crazy. That even lowers the separation between the audience and whoever is making the video or what you're showing off.
So it's much easier to make those.
I'm fresh coming off of an electronics conference, and when I presented, I had so many questions about video content, and they said, look, we're dealing with electronic components. How do we make a video on that? What is a quick, low production way to show electronic components? And I bet you have a good answer for that because there's a lot of overlap to the small components that you show through. Edmund, do you have any advice there?
Yeah, a little piece of glass. How do you make it look cool or convince somebody that it's important. So it's different depending on your audience. So, for example, for a lot of this short social video, let's say you're doing a TikTok. The audience there may not care about the specs of your transistors or whatever components you have, but really highlighting the applications or how these things impact the world, that's what people can relate to. So you could talk about, okay, let's say you made an advancement in your electronics components that can reduce the weight and size of a system. You could talk about things like portable medical devices or how so many things are becoming wearable or connected to something that people can understand and then show. Okay. And this is one of the technologies letting these cool things happen. So that could be a good angle, is connecting it to real things that people can relate to.
Yeah, I like that. And when it comes to specs, boy, that's really information better consumed on your website, in your data sheet. Yeah, that kind of place. Very good. Thank you for that. I think maybe you've seen our state of marketing to Engineers research report, and TikTok wasn't really high on the list. But what's your case for TikTok? Convince me.
Yeah, it seems odd. So A B, two B company where average Joe Schmo on the street doesn't need to buy a prism to do anything crazy with light. But we sort of have a different goal with our TikTok program. So that started during COVID-19 shutdowns. I just started making a video a day about why the sky is blue or how lasers are used to help self driving cars navigate, or again, connecting it to what people can experience in their day to day life. And so, really, the goal there is educational outreach. So spreading awareness of our industry, optics and photonics. People may just think of maybe eyeglasses when they hear the word optics because they see Jones Optical, or that's their one impression of it.
Yeah, maybe a microscope, if they're sophisticated.
Exactly. If we're lucky, they think of a microscope or a telescope. Right? Yeah. So in 2040, the young people that were reaching on TikTok, or we visit a lot of schools to teach about optics as well, people that we reach through that, they'll be the consumers, the potential customers, people maybe employees in the space. So one of the main goals with TikTok for us was educational outreach. But then we found that these videos have a second life on other platforms like LinkedIn. So that's when you really impact people in your industry, and even if you're sharing the same videos. So why the sky is blue on LinkedIn? And we're a company that is involved in light and optics that shows a little bit of goodwill for the kind of educational outreach you're doing, but also you're educating people you can connect with there, and especially if you tailor some of those videos to be more about your products. So let's say I can make a video about aspheric lenses, so a lens that does something better when it comes to making light be manipulated. So I can create a video saying, hey, here's this technology, it does these really cool things.
So that may reach some audience on TikTok, but then on LinkedIn, you're indirectly promoting your expertise in this kind of product, implying that you make it, or at least can provide that kind of product. And so, since so many platforms have short form vertical videos now Instagram, Reels, YouTube shorts, obviously TikTok, although TikTok was kind of the first to get it right in the sense of if people talk about that style video, they'll often say, oh, yeah, a TikTok style video, even if they don't mean TikTok.
It's so true.
Exactly. So that kind of video is applicable everywhere. So make it once and share that across all these platforms, and you really broaden your audience, broaden your reach.
Very good. Okay, so you talked about education being one of your goals, and that's very different, obviously, than launching a new product or legion for a certain vertical. So let's bring it back up and talk a little bit about marketing strategy. How do you guys approach planning? Is this a quarterly thing, campaign based? What does that look like for Edmund?
Kind of all of the above, where the first start of our marketing strategy is a yearly planning meeting. So all leading up to that, marketing will meet with the leaders of our business lines to figure out, okay, what are the key products they're planning on promoting in the next year, key manufacturing capabilities, and just messages we want to get across. And from that, we do determine campaigns. So we determine a couple of yearly main areas of focus. And then from there, we can work with the different channel owners and marketing so the people in charge of email, video, virtual events, all those different areas. Excuse me. And so we prepare some yearly campaigns. So we set that in motion. But then, of course, things come up. You need to adjust to the market. Exactly. So every month we reconvene and evaluate, all right, what's been going on, what's coming up, and then just whenever an idea or something comes up from the business lines, we can evaluate it, but we look at it within the framework of those yearly campaigns. So if something is not relevant to what we said, okay, would be a main message, we have to say, okay, so is it worth bumping something we already planned for in order to make this happen?
Because we can't do everything you can.
We're trying, but it's hard. So if something doesn't fall into one of the main campaigns, then you just really have to check okay. Is this worth giving up? Some of those other things we earlier agreed were our main areas of focus in order to make this sooner.
Great. So a lot of nimble changes on the fly. I like that monthly. That's really frequent to do that monthly. But of course, business isn't stagnant. And that's great that you guys have a process for making trade offs. So speaking of things that are changing fast, let's talk a little bit about generative AI, or AI for content development. So chat GPT and Jasper and writer. Wow. These tools one year ago at Content Marketing World, they weren't talked about. And then this past year, it was up and coming. You saw them all over the tree show floor. And now at this latest electronics event I was at, everybody was talking about Chat GPT. So I'd love to hear your thoughts. Are you guys playing around with it for content? How are you playing with it? Or are you taking a look? What's your stance?
Yeah, so it's fascinating. And so anyone who's not very familiar. So these are tools where you could put in maybe some prompts, the outline of a piece of content you want to write or just some general information, and it will write it for you. It's AI. And so I think it's very promising for creating rough drafts of content pieces. So trying to speed up more of the tedious tasks for your team so you can focus on some more higher value ad activities. And we did test it a little bit. We tried having some of these tools create the rough draft of one of our application notes and it can be a good place to start. As you get into a very highly technical niche subject, it may be harder for these tools to create usable things for you, but still is definitely something that we want to experiment more with in terms of, again, just reducing some of the tedious things that we have to do to create rough drafts of pieces. And then the engineer, the content marketer can take it from there. Tweak it, really make sure, okay, this is actually tailored for our audience.
But one potential concern and thing I want to look out for is making sure that we're properly citing sources in these pieces. Because if I create a piece manually, I want to make sure if I'm taking a claim or something that isn't just my own or the company's own knowledge, we cite the source. But the way these AI platforms work is they crawl all over the Internet to find all kinds of sources. So you're potentially drawing from thousands of places to create what they're writing. And so I just want to make sure if we have any claim that's not general public knowledge or anything like that, that we do properly cite it, which, since I haven't played around with these things too much yet, I still need to figure out, okay, what is the process for doing that? But that's one concern in my mind.
Right. Because the citation shouldn't be chat cheapy.
Exactly. It didn't come up with it took it from somebody, and you don't want it'd be a bad look if okay, it's still this directly from your competitor, and then it's you paraphrasing it without realizing that's what you're doing.
And that is absolutely something that could happen. And particularly so when you get into these, like you said, very niche applications where there's less publicly published information about that subject. So good points. Thank you for sharing that. So to wrap this all up, what advice would you give? Let's start with engineers that are looking to break into marketing or transition into marketing. What advice do you give to them?
So I think who better to do technical marketing than you in the sense of, okay, a marketer, somebody who is experienced in marketing, maybe a social media wizard, great. But engineers have hope it's okay if I say this, a good BS meter. So if somebody is not really speaking, emphasizing the things that are important for the kind of application, the kind of technical area they're speaking about, you recognize that and you really lose trust of it in what they're talking about. You're saying, okay, well, yeah, that's just whatever that's the marketing people. And so I personally think it can be easier for someone with a technical background to develop communication skills, to work on their writing, work on their presenting, to communicate that information, as opposed to somebody who is great at communication, has all those skills to master the technical side of things. Maybe harder to go that way.
Yeah, absolutely. I think on that way, really, what happens is you're paired with that technical person. It's never trying to take that knowledge and become that person. It's very rare that you see that.
Definitely. And it could be a person who's a great communicator. So they just have to work very closely with the technical staff. Like, a lot of our content pieces could be even me. So I'm technical, but I didn't get a PhD in a very highly specific area. So I'll sit down with the expert in that, interview them for 30 minutes, create the outline, draw from that to create a piece. And so somebody non technical could do that. But you're much more effective at doing that if you have some technical background, because you can understand better what the expert is saying.
Yeah, fair. All right. What about for technical companies that are still not really quite there with content marketing, with videos specifically? How would you recommend they get started? What are some key low hanging fruit or first steps that you would recommend they take?
So one easier way to get started is draw from what you already have. There's a good chance maybe one of your engineers made an internal training to make sure that the staff is aware of this cool kind of research you're doing or a certain technical area. So great, you likely already have a slide deck with pictures and some text describing that. That's a great place to start. You could use that as the script for a video. And again, now that things are a little more casual, people were doing news from their couch in their house with a kid running around the background. So the expectation of completely polished production value has lowered a little bit. So you could easily, just on a webcam or on a cell phone, create a video explaining this concept. There are a lot of tools for a green screen effect where you put the image behind you speak to it. So, yeah, one way is to leverage the existing pieces you have. They could be internal trainings. Another is if you're looking for somebody to enter this kind of role, it could be an engineer who, again, doesn't have to be your star PhD, R and D engineer, but somebody who has a technical background and enjoys writing, has some communication skills.
If you find somebody with that foundation, it's easy for them to grow into this role. And again, when I mentioned leveraging what you already have, that includes your staff. So you have however many engineers you have that are experts in some area. And so, like I said earlier, you can sit down with them, interview them, that creates the outline of the piece, and they can help review it and make sure that it's polished. But leveraging your internal experts, leveraging internal trainings and documents you have, that's a good way to get started. And then maybe as you start doing that, you find your own voice or find additional ideas that you want to dive into further.
Great advice, man. Cory, thank you so much.
You're so welcome.
Fun discussion. Where can people go to connect with you? Learn more about Edmund and see, I don't know, your favorite TikTok video that you created. So send people to some places, please.
Let's see. So you can find me on LinkedIn. Cory Boone. I believe my technical name is Cory Boone One, but if you just search my name, you'll find me eventually post pretty much every workday, whether it's sharing one of the short form videos or other things related to the industry. Then on TikTok, we're at at Edmund Optics, and there again, it's daily Stem related videos. Sometimes it's not even about optics. It could be a discovery of a new species or something like that. So those Stem topics at Admin optics. And then if you're in or looking to learn more about the optics and photonics industry, our website is edmondoptics.com. And again, that my baby. The knowledge center. You can see a Learn tab at the top, and that lets you again, filter through all kinds of resources to see videos, virtual events, application notes, all that kind of information. To learn more.
With all of that filtering so you can get to exactly what you want to see, right?
Awesome. All right, well, thank you so much for being here today. I appreciate your time, Cory.
Of course. Thanks for having me.
Thanks for joining me today on Content Marketing, Engineered. For show notes, including links to resources, visit truemarketing.com. Podcast. While there, you can subscribe to our blog and our a newsletter and order a copy of my book, Content Marketing Engineer. Also, I would love your reviews on this podcast, so please, when you get a chance, subscribe and leave me a review on your favorite podcast subscription platform. Thanks and have a great day.
Wendy Covey is a CEO, a technical marketing leader, author of Content Marketing, Engineered, one of The Wall Street Journal’s 10 Most Innovative Entrepreneurs in America, and she holds a Texas fishing record. She resides in a small Hill Country town southwest of Austin, Texas, where she enjoys outdoor adventures with her family.
TREW Marketing is a strategy-first content marketing agency serving B2B companies that target highly technical buyers. With deep experience in the design, embedded, measurement and automation, and software industries, TREW Marketing provides branding, marketing strategy, content development, and digital marketing services to help customers efficiently and effectively achieve business goals.