Tuesday, March 28, 2006

...and a Star to Steer Her By

A close friend of mine is in the music industry doing mostly custom work. His market is actually marketers looking for custom CDs as promotional items, either sales or giveaways. So he spends quite a bit of time reading about marketing.

Today he sent me a story from Fast Casual Magazine called "Blogs surface in fast casual."

It's not a remarkable piece and basically boils down to concepts that many of us know already: read the blogs, respond, pay attention, etc.

During an IM conversation a few minutes later, as I pushed him on the idea that he and his rather large company should be out there, he protested telling me a) he's in B2B so it doesn't apply and b) he doesn't have time to blog.

I chose to ignore the time issue since I'm finding that it's a difficult issue to win. My feeling at this point is that if people see the benefit, they'll find the time. It's not that people lack the time, it's that they don't consider blogging (and the transparency that goes with it) to be important.

My clients are all in the B2B world. That is, few, if any, sell to consumers. Yet, blogging has benefits. But most importantly, you don't need a blog to be out there.

Case in point: I actively monitor blogs for a client of mine that is in the software industry. At one point I found a blogger writing about how he's considering a few pieces of software with my client among them. A few days later he posts in a rather annoyed tone how he had a negative experience with a sales person. He'd already moved on from my client's software, thinking it wasn't right for his needs, and it turns out that the negative experience was mostly a misunderstanding over email, but at the time we only knew that he wasn't happy and was looking elsewhere.

We chose to have the CTO drop the customer an email. What he wrote was a great piece of customer service that not only apologized for the sales issue but also answered many of the technical questions that had come up.

The result: the prospect changed his tone on his blog, said how impressed he was with the company. Later, when he found that the other software didn't meet his needs either, he gave my clients' another look (using the CTO's answers to help him) and was very impressed. All of this was done publicly, so anyone can go and read his experiences.

This isn't something strange and new, it's basic customer service. Find a problem, fix a problem. But with a megaphone.

In another case, a person posted on his blog how he's looking for other companies to contact him and tell how they solved a given problem. That's an open opportunity for one of my clients to have a happy customer contact him and help out. Again, nothing new and crazy, just using the available information in a smart way.

Many see blogging and bloggers as this mass of undgulating sea and themselves as being tossed along it. Not so. In fact, bloggers can be your star, just learn to use a few tools and you can steer yourself toward a few more sales.

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