14 December 2004

Blogs as a lab for product innovation and market testing

Blogs can be a cheap system to deploy. But don't fall for the trap thinking that blog may not come at a high price.

Blogs: Are they really the answer to corporate interaction with bloggers?

Blogging as a lab

Your customers drive your blog. But it's more than that. If you have new products, and want to leverage them into a new market, then with the right marketing, you can attract new types of bloggers to your blog.

In that sense, your blog can be an early warning system: Is our message impacting our desired "new customer base" in the way we intended?

A blog can test out new ideas, and test out the types of customers that are going to respond to certain messages. In that sense, your blog is your laboratory.

Less time waiting for the final results and trending lines and buying profiles. But something that can be tested early in the product development cycle. Far before your product reaches the market.

Discussion

Ref I have my doubts about the utility of blogs as the "catch-all" solution to corporate media with the blogging public. Sure, blogs and blogs alike interact.

Let's consider the larger corporate psychology. Hypothetically, suppose your firm is one that has a wonderful exterior, fine products, but just below the surface you have a morale problem. Or worse, your products are sold as new innovations, but you're knowingly giving the public stuff that has more bugs than, well certain browsers that require a strange number of security patches.

Are blogs the "quick answer" to a marketing problem? On the surface, given the low cost and high volume potential, it's a no brainer. But the downside is that the corporation is simply engaging in another gimmick.

What to do?

Well, you need to make sure your blog is actually written well. I'm not talking about English. I'm talking about a coherent link between what your company standards for, what you are willing to do, and how the customer actually acts.

The worst thing a major corporation can do is to self-promote, then be in a position to not support the customer. At best, the customer-corporation is tarnished forever and there is a continued degradation in goodwill.

At worst, your customers start to slowly wake-up. They sense that your approach to the issue is not sustainable, inappropriate, and something they could do far better with just a simple adjustment. Clearly, something you have not done.

Innovation

The blog needs to be more than transformative for ones's internet ratings. I'm not talking about simple English. I'm talking about actually expressing ideas, interacting with the opposition, and actually generating something new out of the experience.

Again, if you're not hoping to attract bloggers that are intelligent and your product doesn't care what your customer's intelligence is, then maybe blogging isn't something that needs to be intellectually stimulating.

However, the blog can be transformed into something that does engage your customer in terms that the customer wants to be engaged. It's not your blog, but theirs.

The blog needs to essentially engage the customer in terms the customer will feel engaged, one on one.

  • Are you giving them content that is thought provoking, but the customer doesn't want to be provoked?

  • Are they better off after having read the material and simply looked at the pictures?

  • Is there a new idea or approach when your customer doesn't want new ideas but confirmation of purchases?

    If you want to chase rankings, you're leaving yourself and your corporation to the whim of popularity. But if you want to engage a blogger, you need to engage them, not your blog. That takes time. Knowing your customer in terms they relate, not what you want to give them.

    Timing

    Make sure your blog is actually timed appropriately. If you're still in the development phase, and only able to talk about "stuff we can't talk about" that tends to turn people off.

    Also, if your blog is created while there's an internal power struggle, or ongoing litigation or buy-out, there's another blackcloud. SEC rules prevent pre-IPO offering disclosures. You might not be quite ready to publish your blog, especially when you're still in the middle of a major transition.

    Blogs for the users

    The blog also can take on a life of its own. This is neither good nor bad. The problem for corporations is when the blog delivers at a service level wholly at odds with the actual services that generate cash and sustainable revenue.

    This strikes up some important considerations:

  • Who are we really writing for: Our employees, our customers, or the potential new customer?

  • Is the blogging effort distracting from our public relations efforts?

  • Have we devoted resources to blog that are sending messages at odds with both our core values and our intended message?

    This is not to say that blogging and public relations are a poor fit. They can do wonders. The challenge is to notice when there is a divergence between the corporate goals and what the blog is doing.

    A check-up for your blog

    Are the types of readers we're attracting matching our target audience of our media messages.

    Do the types of interchanges we have in our blog detract from our goodwill?

    Is our corporate brand something that is elevated by the blogging experience?

    Things to look for.

    Notice your reader's language, tone, and feedback. The worst thing to do is to rail against a lone customer because they are "being negative." A quick check around the internet might find other emerging concerns with products.

    The challenge isn't to silence the critic. But to listen to this free information and deliver a product or service that meets their expectations.

    Also, corporations need to research how their public relations efforts are generating consumer expectations. Again, if the public shows up at your blog, inquires and comments in a manner that you are not expecting, rather than torment a lone blogger, corporations might want to use this information as some early warning intelligence.

  • Are we generating messages and user expectations beyond what we can currently deliver?

  • Is our notion of "service" matching what the consumer desires?

  • Have we created unsupportable service expectations in the blogger's minds?

    The blog that stands out is one that gives the customer what they want. It may be links, information, and new ideas. Or the blog may be something that is a portal for what's new, what's up, and what's out of style.

    A blog today may reap great returns. But it may also come at a high price.
  • Blogs can be a cheap system to deploy. But don't fall for the trap thinking that blog may not come at a high price.

    Blogs: Are they really the answer to corporate interaction with bloggers?

    Blogging as a lab

    Your customers drive your blog. But it's more than that. If you have new products, and want to leverage them into a new market, then with the right marketing, you can attract new types of bloggers to your blog.

    In that sense, your blog can be an early warning system: Is our message impacting our desired "new customer base" in the way we intended?

    A blog can test out new ideas, and test out the types of customers that are going to respond to certain messages. In that sense, your blog is your laboratory.

    Less time waiting for the final results and trending lines and buying profiles. But something that can be tested early in the product development cycle. Far before your product reaches the market.

    Discussion

    Ref I have my doubts about the utility of blogs as the "catch-all" solution to corporate media with the blogging public. Sure, blogs and blogs alike interact.

    Let's consider the larger corporate psychology. Hypothetically, suppose your firm is one that has a wonderful exterior, fine products, but just below the surface you have a morale problem. Or worse, your products are sold as new innovations, but you're knowingly giving the public stuff that has more bugs than, well certain browsers that require a strange number of security patches.

    Are blogs the "quick answer" to a marketing problem? On the surface, given the low cost and high volume potential, it's a no brainer. But the downside is that the corporation is simply engaging in another gimmick.

    What to do?

    Well, you need to make sure your blog is actually written well. I'm not talking about English. I'm talking about a coherent link between what your company standards for, what you are willing to do, and how the customer actually acts.

    The worst thing a major corporation can do is to self-promote, then be in a position to not support the customer. At best, the customer-corporation is tarnished forever and there is a continued degradation in goodwill.

    At worst, your customers start to slowly wake-up. They sense that your approach to the issue is not sustainable, inappropriate, and something they could do far better with just a simple adjustment. Clearly, something you have not done.

    Innovation

    The blog needs to be more than transformative for ones's internet ratings. I'm not talking about simple English. I'm talking about actually expressing ideas, interacting with the opposition, and actually generating something new out of the experience.

    Again, if you're not hoping to attract bloggers that are intelligent and your product doesn't care what your customer's intelligence is, then maybe blogging isn't something that needs to be intellectually stimulating.

    However, the blog can be transformed into something that does engage your customer in terms that the customer wants to be engaged. It's not your blog, but theirs.

    The blog needs to essentially engage the customer in terms the customer will feel engaged, one on one.

  • Are you giving them content that is thought provoking, but the customer doesn't want to be provoked?

  • Are they better off after having read the material and simply looked at the pictures?

  • Is there a new idea or approach when your customer doesn't want new ideas but confirmation of purchases?

    If you want to chase rankings, you're leaving yourself and your corporation to the whim of popularity. But if you want to engage a blogger, you need to engage them, not your blog. That takes time. Knowing your customer in terms they relate, not what you want to give them.

    Timing

    Make sure your blog is actually timed appropriately. If you're still in the development phase, and only able to talk about "stuff we can't talk about" that tends to turn people off.

    Also, if your blog is created while there's an internal power struggle, or ongoing litigation or buy-out, there's another blackcloud. SEC rules prevent pre-IPO offering disclosures. You might not be quite ready to publish your blog, especially when you're still in the middle of a major transition.

    Blogs for the users

    The blog also can take on a life of its own. This is neither good nor bad. The problem for corporations is when the blog delivers at a service level wholly at odds with the actual services that generate cash and sustainable revenue.

    This strikes up some important considerations:

  • Who are we really writing for: Our employees, our customers, or the potential new customer?

  • Is the blogging effort distracting from our public relations efforts?

  • Have we devoted resources to blog that are sending messages at odds with both our core values and our intended message?

    This is not to say that blogging and public relations are a poor fit. They can do wonders. The challenge is to notice when there is a divergence between the corporate goals and what the blog is doing.

    A check-up for your blog

    Are the types of readers we're attracting matching our target audience of our media messages.

    Do the types of interchanges we have in our blog detract from our goodwill?

    Is our corporate brand something that is elevated by the blogging experience?

    Things to look for.

    Notice your reader's language, tone, and feedback. The worst thing to do is to rail against a lone customer because they are "being negative." A quick check around the internet might find other emerging concerns with products.

    The challenge isn't to silence the critic. But to listen to this free information and deliver a product or service that meets their expectations.

    Also, corporations need to research how their public relations efforts are generating consumer expectations. Again, if the public shows up at your blog, inquires and comments in a manner that you are not expecting, rather than torment a lone blogger, corporations might want to use this information as some early warning intelligence.

  • Are we generating messages and user expectations beyond what we can currently deliver?

  • Is our notion of "service" matching what the consumer desires?

  • Have we created unsupportable service expectations in the blogger's minds?

    The blog that stands out is one that gives the customer what they want. It may be links, information, and new ideas. Or the blog may be something that is a portal for what's new, what's up, and what's out of style.

    A blog today may reap great returns. But it may also come at a high price.
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