Tech 2 Tech: KYZEN’s Short Technical Sessions a Big Hit
Nolan Johnson gets an update from Tom Forsythe on KYZEN’s Tech 2 Tech sessions. These brief 15-minute sessions were set up during the pandemic by KYZEN for customers, prospects, and new engineers around cleaning, and have since found traction with their manufacturers, reps and distributors.
Nolan Johnson: Tom, you and I were just talking about how IPC APEX EXPO has gone virtual for 2021. You’ve already made a similar jump with the KYZEN Tech 2 Tech sessions that you started last year.
Tom Forsythe: It was certainly part of the equation. At KYZEN, our team is very technical. Our salespeople are more consultants than they are salespeople, to be honest. Of course, the reason APEX has been delayed is because COVID-19 is still rather rampant. So, close personal contact with other than blood relatives is pretty limited these days. We thought, why don’t we look at our expertise, and break it up into very digestible pieces that wouldn’t really take up everyone’s day. With everyone being remote, living on Teams or Zoom or whatever it may be, and having these big hour-long blocks of time where you can’t squeeze anything else in, we said, “You know what? Let’s target this at 15 minutes.” People can slide this session in between meetings. They can get a cup of coffee and come to our meeting. In fact, we intentionally start a bit past a quarter after the hour.
We sat down and rapidly came up with a long list of potential topics. One of our challenges is that we tend to be “big picture” speakers. Turns out, going to the short form of 10 or 15 minutes was a challenge and a learning experience for pretty much everybody on our team. I decided I would be the first “victim,” and that really helped us focus and boil things down to that executive summary sort of thing. We looked at the key elements of each specific topic. As we did, we realized that we had a broader audience than we thought. We started out thinking, “All right, this is for customers, prospects, and new engineers to get assigned to cleaning, and they’ve never really worked in it before.” But we discovered that it helped our manufacturers, reps, and distributors. They have very broad product offerings, and they’re always looking to learn and pick up some expertise.
We got participation from all over the world. The guys from Asia and Europe see this as a terrific opportunity to pick up some facts. Existing customers tuned in to ask follow-up questions on current challenges, because we’re not out there visiting people. We found we had this broad audience, and then a funny thing happened: We came up with this long list of topics. Well, it turns out we all thought the pandemic would be over in a couple of weeks, right? In March, this all started out as a two-week problem. That turned out not to be true. While it’s been extended, we’ve kept the ball rolling, and now we’ve developed this library of, I think, two dozen or more.
Now it’s a case of, “Gee, now we’re working on the website and other things, so how do we make that available to folks on demand?” We found we’re now covering all these building blocks around cleaning, and even in electronics, we talk about board cleaning, stencil cleaning, and we get into some advanced packaging topics. There’s a broad range out there of what people do. The water-soluble materials versus the people cleaning the old rosins–not that there’s too much of the rosin left, but there’s a little bit of it–and lots and lots of no-clean. There are all these different nuances. We’re getting even more excited about that because if you’re hiring new people, whether it’s in the lab or marketing, they can sit down and get some basic education on key fundamentals, almost like a verbal glossary.
The electronics industry is famous for its jargon. The military doesn’t have anything on us for acronyms. When you hire new people--whether it’s us, the cleaning people, or the solder people, and even our customers—and give them a project, where do they start? This is a resource for them which, from a utility function, has greatly expanded and gotten us even more jazzed. It has turned out to be a fun thing.
Johnson: It sounds like it. You’ve got four audiences you’re reaching all at the same time: your prospective customers, current customers, your distribution chain, and your staff.
Forsythe: Absolutely. In my world, the solder’s just dirt that needs to be cleaned. My compadres in solder, they laugh too, but it’s honestly true. They hire new people too. And well, here’s an open resource that you can get a little insight on. The more we think about it, the more we smile, and we just keep moving ahead and expanding the topics. We sit down every month or so and lay out the next two or three months. We do the sessions every other week because, frankly, there’s a lot of work to get them ready.
Johnson: 10 minutes is not easy.
Forsythe: No. Also, we decided to really go to our bench. KYZEN’s got a very broad and deep bench between our field services folks (who are all technical), and our R&D folks, who are technical by definition. We have a big crowd of people. We’re cycling them all through. This is shining a light on the depth of expertise that we’ve got throughout the organization. It’s not just three or four people who know this stuff.
Johnson: There’s something about putting more faces from your company out there with the customers to make a deeper connection. It tends to humanize your company, humanize your product, and make the community tighter.
Forsythe: Absolutely. That’s very core to our approach. For our market branding, we had some studies done a couple of years ago and we came up with this notion of where science and care converge. We liked that it wasn’t a clever marketing brain transplant; it was a very clear mirror that spoke to who we were. And this whole idea of being involved with our customers: If they’re having a bad day, we want to be standing next to them having that bad day, helping to make it go away.
If our expertise can be part of that solution, we very much want to be there and do that. We’d like to do it in person. We don’t like to send emails and letters. We like to show up and roll up our sleeves, and that’s our nature. From that perspective, the pandemic has been awful because we’ve been prevented from doing that for mostly good reasons, but it doesn’t mean the outcome isn’t still very contrary to our preferred modus operandi. This whole approach is very much in sync with our normal activities of being highly engaged onsite with customers, but we’re trying to figure out some ways to do it digitally. This was one of those ideas.
Johnson: It sounds to me like this is going to carry into 2021 with a lot of momentum.
Forsythe: We believe so. We’ve got a load of topics lined up and we’ve got people in line. In fact, in our live productions, we go through one or two training cycles with the speaker. We get them familiar with the tools, much like we did today with this Teams call. But it’s been very good, the admin side has really fallen into place and the organization has really rallied to it and done a great job on some of these topics in helping explain those terms that are thrown around that a lot of people have heard, but maybe everybody doesn’t understand them or doesn’t understand how they connect.
That’s what we’re focused on, those tight, 10-minute windows, because you don’t really have time to jabber along when you’re trying to convey a concise, complete topic in that brief 10- or 12-minute window with a few minutes for questions afterwards. It’s been a very positive experience because it’s helped everyone hone in, refine it, and also generate some additional topics. I’ve got this great 30-minute talk, but I’ve only got 10 minutes, so, maybe I could segment this into two or three things that we stretch out over a length of time. It’s really been a positive thing, and the feedback we’re getting from the attendees has been very positive.
Johnson: What sort of feedback are you getting?
Forsythe: We’re getting questions. I mean, a lot of times when you finish a webinar, there’s this kind of dead silence and maybe that’s because you answered every question known to man, or maybe it’s because everyone’s having a tough time focusing on how to ask a question, or who else is on the phone and that kind of thing. We routinely get really thoughtful, very precise questions because, again, we’re in these very precise little areas and they’re great questions. Just this morning, there were some very thoughtful, precise questions that in a general talk never would have been brought up because it was a little too far on the edge. That’s been really positive. We also continue to have pretty good attendance at these things, and that has been fascinating to us.
When we started, we always knew we’d have some downstream use for this, so we were posting them on the website. Then we noticed that we were getting all kinds of watches downstream. We weren’t really focused on that in the beginning. We were kind of caught up in, “Let’s get them done and get them out there.” But we looked over our shoulder and realized, “I’ll be darned. That’s okay.” Now, how do we manage that? And how do we help people know that they’re there and understand it? This is phase two in the development cycle. It’s alive, but it’s not grown up yet.
Johnson: This content is tailormade for putting into the content section of your virtual trade show exhibit.
Forsythe: Could very well be, that’s right. We might take a few of those and say, “Here’s some ‘for instances’ for your lane, so to speak.”
Johnson: Because conversations usually happen in the trade show group.
Forsythe: Right. It’s one of these things where we want to create an opportunity for people after the live event to also ask questions; That’s what we’ve got to sort out.
Johnson: Is this available as a resource on your website now?
Forsythe: It is. In fact, in the beginning we thought, “We’ll brand it. It’s this Tech 2 Tech thing and then make that easy to focus on.” It may take us a week or two to get the latest one up, because when we have the Q&A, it’s live, somebody submits a question, we’re reading the question, and then the presenter is answering the question real time.
That also helps us for the people that have to go every now and then. We’ll have lots of questions. We say, “We’ve committed for the 15-minute block here, and our 15 minutes is up, so if you need to go, you’re not going to miss anything because you can just click on the doc on the website and read the questions that you missed.” That’s another piece, where they don’t have to go listen to the whole doggone thing again. If they want to, they can just click on the doc. “Oh, what about this? Oh, that is interesting.” That makes it easy for the user to get to the information they’re looking for.
Johnson: What a simple yet powerful spin on the idea of a webinar.
Forsythe: Yes, and the key part of it is the brevity, keeping it to that 15-minute window. Our idea is that you block out the hour, give us 15 minutes, and give yourself the other 45. Fair trade.
Johnson: Your audience probably gets more out of it than a full hour.
Forsythe: That’s kind of the overarching concept--it’s brief, to the point and speaking to very finely focused topics, some of which will people find interesting. People that are just perusing may find them all kind of obnoxiously narrow and straightforward, but then they’ll think, “I always thought I knew what that was. Let’s see if I do. No one’s looking, and maybe I pick up something that can help me at work tomorrow.” These aren’t science talks. There’s science in them, but these are practical talks. Here’s what these things are and here’s the impact on the shop floor. So, there are takeaways in pretty much all of them for people to go back to work tomorrow (assuming we get back to go to the building tomorrow) and use immediately.
Johnson: Tom, thanks for talking with us about this and sharing how this is going. It’s fascinating that just taking a very simple spin on a well-known concept can change it entirely.
Forsythe: We’re excited so far, and we hope it continues to give value to folks. But we’re running with it for a good while longer, that’s for sure.
Johnson: Fantastic. Thanks so much.
Forsythe: Thank you, sir.
KYZEN is a global leader in providing environmentally responsible, RoHS compliant precision cleaning chemistries for industries ranging from electronics and advanced packaging to metal finishing and aerospace applications. Since its founding in 1990, KYZEN’s innovative cleaning technologies, scientific expertise and customer support have been repeatedly recognized with the industry’s most prestigious awards. For more information, visit www.kyzen.com.