Product Content Supervisor/Marketing Services, Border States
By Joe Nowlan
Chris Ziegelmann was studying marketing when he was first introduced to the electrical industry. He was attending Minnesota State University Morehead, located across the river from Fargo, N.D., and the headquarters of Border States Electric. “Towards my senior year I was looking for some more experience in the marketing field,” Ziegelmann said. “When I started looking at Border States, I saw that it was employee-owned and seemed like a really good company.”
He started the internship just before his senior year. Upon graduation he was hired as a full-time employee. Initially, Ziegelmann worked on Border States’ catalogs using the Product Information Management software (PIM).
“When I was an intern, we were doing primarily small flyers and newsletters. What I was doing was gathering the product information,” he explained.
It required organizing much more information and product knowledge than could fit in a catalog entry, he explained. “We had to boil it down to the really important information for the customers,” Ziegelmann explained. “You might have multiple pages of information, but I’d only have about 250 characters to work with for our product descriptions.”
Believe it or not, in this age of digital and everything being online, Border States still prints up hard copy catalogs. “We’re still doing quite a few. There are a lot of customers that might be out in the oil fields [for example] and other remote sites where they won’t have [Internet] access. So they still need the old indexed catalog,” Ziegelmann said.
In addition, some catalogs are customized for particular customers. “We have a lot of the customers where we tailor catalogs for them, where they have their own part numbers, for example,” he explained. “We do a lot of smaller catalogs or niche catalogs that are focused on a particular market.”
To be certain the product and catalog information is up-to-date, Ziegelmann has to stay up on product innovations and new developments. “We have to know what the customer is looking for. We use keywords in our e-commerce solution. Much of our time is spent supporting our e-commerce catalog.,” Ziegelmann explained.
With product innovations coming along more frequently than ever, especially in lighting, a constant vigilance is needed to keep catalog information up to date. Some catalogs are digital only, Ziegelmann said, although they have printed a few smaller lighting catalogs. “We try to update our lighting catalogs two-to-four times year. A lot of that catalog we actually keep in the digital format,” he said. “As soon as we spent the money on print costs, probably half the lines would have been discontinued and the new bulbs available. So we try to keep that in digital as much as possible.”
Ziegelmann and his wife Trista have a son, Nolan, who is one year old. Someday, Nolan may well join dad on the fishing trips he takes, schedule permitting. Being in the North Dakota, Minnesota areas, he is surrounded by great fishing locations. “I go fishing as much as possible,” Ziegelmann said. “But we also do a lot of home remodeling. That’s where a lot of my time goes these days—projects around the house.”
Q. What advice would you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?
A. Always try to learn about new product and services available and be looking for opportunities and ways to improve what you are doing today. There is always a way to improve a process. Sometimes you need to step back and look at the whole process. Then ask a lot of questions. What we do as a team is focused more on how our customers are using these products. Not just what [these products] are, but how are they being used. It will give us an insight into how we should be tailoring the message that we give our customers. We have to really know our customers’ needs.… Find out what they need and we listen to them. Also, support the community you are in and volunteer. We are encouraged at Border States to volunteer in our community. We have many role models from the top down at BSE that lead by example with volunteering and giving back.
Q. What has changed the most in the industry in the last five years?
A. The speed of information and how that information is used and shared. It seems that everything is being transacted faster and quicker. Information is coming in as fast as it is going out. That seems to be one of the biggest things, in my opinion.
Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Tagged with tED