Interview with Mark Harbeke of Winning Workplaces

by Jenny on February 7, 2011

Winning Workplaces LogoMark Harbeke is Director of Content Development for Winning Workplaces, a Chicago area nonprofit whose mission is to help small and midsized businesses create more cohesive and productive work environments.

1. Why did you guys decide to have a blog?

I had seen research that our target audience – North American small business decision makers – was participating on and launching blogs at an increasing rate, as part of an overall jump in their use of online marketing and social media. Since we want to be where they are, launching our own blog, especially with its email and RSS subscribe capabilities, seemed like a logical step for our communications strategy.

2. Do you ever have folks ask you what a blog is?  How do you define it?

We had some people internally ask to define it, including the benefits. I say that it’s a system that allows us to post a wide range of content (we’ve done photos, videos, and slides in addition to text/links and images) in a way that helps us especially reach new web users, via search engines and referral sites. It’s a means to get on the radar screen of more potential customers, and to steer them toward a desired action, such as contacting us or subscribing to our emails.

3. How did you discover Compendium Blogware?

We had been doing a very labor-intensive blog on our website, but it wasn’t getting the kind of traction we were looking for, especially when it came to search engine indexing and reach. So I did some research and we finally decided to launch a custom, SEO platform on Compendium.

4. How long have you had the blog with Compendium?

We launched it in June 2008.

5. Did you look into other blogging platforms before going with Compendium?

Yes, a few.

6. What makes Compendium worth the money for you?

They had both competitive pricing and the features we were looking for. Since embarking with them, I have been very impressed with my client success manager there and their support team, who are respectively proactive in steering us toward beneficial improvements to our platform, and do quick turnaround of requested changes with excellent customer service.

7. Why did you choose to put your marketing money into a blog and not into direct mailing or something else, for example?

Versus direct mailing, where we have seen the typical .5 – 2% return, there has turned out to be no comparison. Around 10% of our total website traffic comes from the blog, and it has especially made an impact in terms of people who have visited our “about” page (18% from the blog in 2010), “contact” (32%), and e-newsletter signup (53%). In fact, the average number of quarterly email subscribers nearly doubled last year. That’s tangible because it means a lot more people to use as a knowledge base (for when we do employee practice research surveys) and sales leads.

There is also the power of online sharing on the blog, which we use via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. That has boosted referral traffic back to our main website.

8. What sort of success have you seen with your blog?

In addition to the above, 170,000+ visits to date, over 95% of which are new. Also 15-20 shares on Twitter per week. Our blog has also won awards from Evan Carmichael, Online MBA, and Best Universities.

9. How many folks in your company write for your blog? Do they find it an easy or a daunting task?

One – me. I found it more daunting when I held myself to writing two to three posts per day. Now I do about one a day and that’s more manageable.

10.  Is there anything else you would like to add?

Another benefit of doing a blog is that as you post more quality content, more people will approach you asking to write guest posts for your blog, or have you write posts for theirs. Both of these can help enhance your personal reputation (if you’re a solopreneur), or your company’s rep.

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Do you have a blog?  If you’re interested in being interviewed for our blog, we’d love to hear from you!  Please feel free to contact us.  If you would like to get blogging but not sure where to get the content, please don’t hesitate to contact us for a quote.

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