From the Big Green Books to Digital Dominance: One Engineer’s Take on Breaking Out of Your Comfort Zone

Full disclosure: I jumped at this opportunity to guest blog for ThomasNet, and not simply because of my relationship with the Thomas team (I am their HubSpot rep). From my past life as a chemical engineer, I have fond memories of sourcing suppliers in the company’s “big green books,” the Thomas Register — just as my father did as an engineer before me. As I thought about how to extol the virtues of inbound marketing for industrial suppliers like you, I realized that those of you who are already thriving with this “new age” marketing approach have a lot in common with the Thomas company itself: you’ve both embraced change.


It’s not always easy, but it’s almost always necessary.

Imagine absolutely dominating a category for nearly a century, as the Thomas Register once did in the land of printed industrial directories. How quick would you be to embrace change? Well, in business, sometimes change in the marketplace can engulf you, especially when you’re too hesitant to break out of your comfort zone.

For ThomasNet, embracing change meant transforming itself from a print goliath, into a formidable online resource within the ultimate playing field leveler: the internet. I can just imagine the conversations that led to the decision to stop printing the Thomas Register. A difficult call for sure, but one that absolutely flattened the walls of the company’s comfort zone, and led to its leadership today as an online supplier discovery platform (

Your audience is telling you it’s time to change it up.

Thankfully, at least as far as a sales growth strategy goes, breaking out of your marketing comfort zone is not quite as monumental a decision as the one ThomasNet had to make. It simply means acknowledging that today’s industrial buyers have a different way of discovering suppliers, and adjusting your strategy and tactics accordingly.

For forward thinking suppliers, that means embracing inbound marketing. Unlike traditional “outbound” marketing methods such as trade shows, telemarketing, sending direct mail and praying for leads, inbound marketing focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and products. By aligning the content you publish with your customer’s interests, you naturally attract inbound traffic that you can then convert, close, and grow a relationship with over time.

If you haven’t started making the shift to inbound marketing, time is absolutely wasting. Industrial marketers who have gone outside of their comfort zone to embrace blogging, social media, email marketing and a quality content/SEO strategy on their websites – all the tenets of inbound marketing -- have opened up tremendous avenues for new success.

The difference between being a dinosaur or a dynamo.

The willingness to embrace change has enabled a 118-year old company to thrive in a very different world from which it began; ThomasNet is not only industry’s top online supplier discovery platform, but they also recently beat out 2,000 other inbound marketing agencies to earn HubSpot’s 2014 Partner of the Year award. I look forward to continuing my relationship with the ThomasNet RPM team, to help American manufacturers build success.

Thomas Industry update

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