Blogging is nothing new. It’s already propelled many of whom used it as a part-time platform for their opinions and observations into the stratosphere, or shall we say blogosphere. Many bloggers and blogerati are rock stars, regardless of industry and journalistic background. Their intelligence, words of wisdom and associated niches attract legions of loyal readers.
The technologies available today allow writers to easily publish, link, feed, and market globally – all with a bit of simple HTML code on their page. There are even tools to help others launch blogs within minutes – without requiring any technical expertise whatsoever. Many have even left their “day jobs” and have jumped headfirst into the ocean of full time blogging, enjoying advertising and external investments as a means of newfound, lavish support. For many, it’s equivalent to winning the lottery – at varying levels, whether it’s money, influence, networking, career advancement, etc.
However, many of these same tools that make blogging so contagious and wildly popular have already opened-up a new channel of business-to-business communications that is largely untapped, but still set to explode. This represents a tremendous opportunity for B2B companies looking for a voice; searching for a way to communicate with customers; desiring an untraditional platform for grassroots branding; and unmasking predispositions and helping to mold perceptions.
Blogging has become a viable, respected and even, desired channel for corporate communications and customer relations. Some businesses today are experimenting with executive and corporate blogs as a means to tap into this rich and evolving vein of CRM.
After all, blogs are already implemented on many corporate sites right? Well yes, a small percentage of B2B companies are utilizing blogs as part of their sales and marketing strategy. However, many of them fall into the category of online newsletters and sales pitches.
But this isn’t about using the Web as a one-way medium. Blogs integrate several basic principals of Web 2.0 (before 2.0 evolved into its own ecosystem, which could be an entirely other article unto itself.) Most importantly, however, the idea of making web sites interactive, allowing visitors to read, communicate and share with company executives and peers make corporate blogging very 2.0.
Companies truly concerned with their customers at an emotional level (in addition to business of course) will build a bridge without toll booths, increasing traffic and ultimately, sales and loyalty.
Dedicate a portion of the company website to speak to your business audience directly. Remember that your audience is layered by employees, peers, channel partners, customers and competitors. As a CxO, it’s critical to speak to each of them, acknowledging that the crossover is there, but still designate posts to each one your customers, frequently. Frequency + quality + focus = loyalty, sales, and resonance.
The key is not to propagate or pontificate. I can not stress this enough. Instead of using the corporate blog as a typical arm of marketing, i.e press releases, newsletters, and email blasts, etc., I highly recommend identifying the pain of your customers and delivering the painkiller in a direct, personal, and believable fashion.
This is all about opening up the corporate kimono. Expose the soul and personality of the company.
There are several books on this subject, many of which take 200-300 pages to explain what is completely distilled in this, and many other, articles regarding how to leverage blogging initiatives to transcend online text into future sales and customer loyalty.
Blogs are seemingly anti-establishment, yet the good blogs are anti-complacency and pro commincado. They are personal, candid, irreverent, and informal.
Naked Conversations, authored by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel, explicitly spells out why and how to leverage a corporate blog to cultivate target markets at national, and even global levels and its associated ROI. Scoble was formerly with NEC and a blogger who frequently criticized Microsoft. Microsoft, in turn, hired him, and encouraged him to continue blogging without censor. Many credit his blogs, along with Lenn Pryor and others, with the humanization of Microsoft among business partners and customers– helping to shift views away from the evil empire facade.
According to the Economist, “Impressively, he has also succeeded where small armies of more conventional public-relations types have been failing abjectly for years: he has made Microsoft, with its history of monopolistic bullying, appear marginally but noticeably less evil to the outside world, and especially to the independent software developers that are his core audience. Bosses and PR people at other companies are taking note.”
Think about a blogging strategy. Sit down with the executive and marketing team, including PR and Web. Chart-out an official plan, identify prospective participants and writers, and dedicate time to making it happen! Work with sales and customer service to learn the real pain-points and needs of the market. Capture it, distill it, and publish often. Most importantly, read the comments and interact. It can only help.
At the end of the day, any company reaching business customers should take the time to understand how their products and services can help them succeed. Blogging is about embracing this unique technology and strategically and carefully opening up windows to expose the corporate culture. Acquiesce the successes and failures of your corporate evolution, in order to prove that your experience and leadership skills are legitimate, respectable, and most importantly, in line with your customer’s objectives.