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Marketing, design, and technical resources for making your digital and print communications more effective.

Is Blogging Worth the Hassle?

October 20th, 2006

Great question. I guess it depends on what goals you’re trying to achieve. As I continue to consult my stakeholders on the benefits of blogging, the perception seems to be that if the venture doesn’t bring about an immediate return, it’s not worth doing.

As a small business owner, I can definitely empathize with this mentality, since time and money are as valuable as tangible inventory. However, the mindset of blogging shouldn’t be regarded along the same lines as an advertising campaign. If every blogger took the approach of garnering an immediate ROI from a blog, they’d quickly run out of viewers because blog readers don’t want to be sold, they want to be entertained or educated.

So why would a business owner want to blog unless the effort translates into immediate sales? The answer lies in the fact that relationship building takes time, and becoming an effective blogger takes time as well. The whole point of blogging is to increase online interactivity, it’s about building relationships and exchanging information. In other words, blogging provides business owners the opportunity to educate and learn at the same time … basically for free. Smart business owners would jump at the opportunity to tell their story to a targeted audience while being presented with organic market research. However, blogging has become a buzzword with the get rich quick crowd, and unfortunately some negative perceptions have been developed as a result.

Therefore, what is the right approach to take with a blog. My advice would be to:

1) Build your blog through your existing customers first, ask them for feedback and find out what content is meaningful to them.

2) Don’t expect miracles overnight. Be patient, allow your readership time to participate and engage. Don’t be on the lookout for immediate sales results, it could effect your style and turn readers away.

3) Don’t blab on about your products. For a blog to succeed, you need to develop a community centered on relevant information exchange. No, you don’t need to blog about fishing or your favorite pizza, but talk about things in your industry or community that are relevant to your company and customers

In the end, blogging can be used effectively as a marketing tool because it can build intimacy with your brand through putting a face on your products. Just make sure you don’t confuse blogging with advertising.

George W. Bush – A Blog Candidate?

October 3rd, 2006

Switching gears from my previous posts, I’d like to ask y’all a question. With all the common assumptions, misconceptions, and preconceived notions circulating about who George W. Bush is, I started pondering whether or not the President, or a key member of his staff, should start blogging. As for my take:

Downsides

Of course, the risks involved would include time management of the blog. There’s no way the chief executive of the United States could seriously devote time to blogging himself on a regular basis. Or could he?

Additionally, would the traffic to the blog site be overwhelming? Could staffers, or servers for that matter, handle all the comments? Then there would be issues with hackers and other mischievous folks who would love to pounce on an opportunity to mess with the Pres’ blog site.

Upsides

Looking at this question from a positive angle, if the president were to devote 10 minutes a week to producing a blog, or having a staffer write it for him, the obvious upside would be a direct communication to the public without a filtered media. I for one am curious to know some of the day-to-day thoughts that go through the President’s mind.

In addition to the opportunity for increased intimacy with the Commander in Chief, this would seem to be a great method to gauge public opinion, basically acting as an online focus group – uncontrolled variable of course. You’d have to wonder if a blog might also be used as a tool to promote an agenda or to gain support on issues …

What’s Your Take?

As I ponder this question, I keep coming up with as many pros as cons so I’m interested in hearing what your thoughts might be on this subject. Please provide me some of your opinions on whether or not it would be worthwhile for the President to blog.

Note: Please be honest and candid in your responses, but foul language or inappropriate content will be deleted.

Customer Relations – Selling Through Your Customers

September 25th, 2006

As a marketing consultant, I often get caught up in the theoretical realm of academia and lose sight of tailoring my unique value proposition to actively engage with my target audience. You see, there I go again … what I mean to say is I shouldn’t use big fancy words to impress my customers just to make myself look smart. More importantly, I need to build relationships with my customers by speaking their language and providing them with services they truly need and value. If I can accomplish this feat, I will not only gain a loyal customer, but I’ll also gain a volunteer sales representative.

For the past two years, I’ve conducted a fair amount of research on marketing trends and I’ve noticed a lot of buzzwords have been created by consultants like myself to describe a very straightforward marketing truth that has existed for millenniums; namely selling goods and services through existing customers.

Call it customer evangelism, viral marketing, strategic referral program, grassroots marketing, or whatever; the main point is that successful businesses are built upon customers. Whether an organization focuses on business-to-business or business-to-consumer markets, a strong buyer-seller relationship is key to staying in business.

As I look back over my career, I recall having the mindset of using technical or academic language in an attempt to wow my audience by “educating them” and by utilizing gimmicks or creativity to gain their attention and to create top of mind awareness. What I failed to understand is that my audience didn’t care about how smart I or my firm was, what they wanted to know is what my company could do for them; and the dilemma was that my audience didn’t want to hear this from me or my advertising. They in fact wanted to know what others who had tried my service had to say.

Whether buyers are looking into finding a logistical consultant to assist in setting up a global distribution channel or simply seeking the best golf course in town, they’re likely to turn to their peers and/or business associates for advice. As a consumer, I often find myself asking a friend or colleague, “So what’s your opinion on … ” The answer I receive will undoubtedly play a role in my purchasing decision one way or another.

My opinion on this matter is supported by overwhelming statistical evidence that demonstrates people are making purchasing decisions off of referrals and testimonials. For instance, 83% of consumers base their purchasing decisions off of referrals when choosing a restaurant. The numbers are similar for prescription drugs (71%), hotels (63%), cars (58%), computers (40%), and financial services (57%). Without further researching the matter, I would strongly content that successful companies within those industries have a strong customer relations policy. One example, Apple Computers, has again received the highest rating on customer satisfaction by scoring an 83% score in the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Now you know why we Apple freaks are so adamant about our machines.

So how do companies like yours use customers to sell goods and services? I hate to be master of the obvious, but you simply take good care of them by going the extra mile to make sure they’re happy. No, I’m not talking about giving stuff away or incurring a loss as a set-in-stone customer satisfaction policy, but simply assuring that your customer is happy with your performance by the end of the day. Now as a former sales manager, I know that some customer demands are unreasonable, but it’s always important to demonstrate to the client that your organization has their best interests in mind. Not wanting to expend too much effort on this matter, I’ll simply say that the best policy is to put yourself into your customers’ shoes and empathize with their position. When you do this, you have a much better chance at gaining their respect and understanding.

In conclusion, I simply advise to go beyond expectations in satisfying your customer. Don’t view this ideal as a reactive crisis response, but utilize it in a proactive manner so as to add value to your product or service. The last thing you want your customer to say to others is “I didn’t get what I paid for” or “the burger sure didn’t look like the picture.” If you bring value to your customers by going the distance for them, they’ll gladly pay a fair market price for your services in the long run.

Hitachi – Don’t Blog Just for the Sake of Blogging!

September 18th, 2006

Over the past few weeks, I’ve highlighted a few blogs that have succeeded in capturing the elements required for successful blogging – mainly developing content relevant to the customer or stakeholder.

Therefore, I thought I’d venture out to find the epitome of a poorly written blog. Needless to say, my venture was a short one as I quickly stumbled upon Hitachi Data Systems‘ ill-fated attempt at engaging the public.

As I meandered through Hu Yoshida’s blog, what caught my attention right off the bat was the content. Written purely from an executive perspective, I had a difficult time keeping myself awake while reading about Hitachi’s new storage widget or Yoshida’s traveling experiences in and out of Heathrow Airport. What Mr. Yoshida has failed to do is develop content that is meaningful to the audience. Frankly, I don’t know of too many individuals that would be compelled by Yoshida’s traveling experience. (yawn)

Compared to Ford’s Bold Moves site, which includes controversial commentary and passionate feedback, Hitachi has developed a site that is bland and uninspiring. My suggestion for Mr. Yoshida would be to drop the Hitachi-centric and personal traveling posts and concentrate on developing content that emotionally engages the audience. In other words, make me laugh, make me cry, or make me angry; just do something to compel me to contribute to contribute to your site. Unless the content improves, you can bet that Yoshida will shut down his blog within the next 12 to 16 months due to lack of interest.

If you’re reading this Mr. Yoshida, it would be great if you would contact me because your company has a compelling story and you’re on the right track with blogging. I’d love the opportunity to help you take this strategy to the next level by tailoring your content to address the emotions and needs of your target audience.

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