Connected: Leverage Blogs as a Biz Tool
September 1, 2005
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
everywhere are talking: Should you consider blogs? What are the
pros and cons? Do you need a blogging strategy as part of your
Blogs were the talk of the town when the global gurus of online
marketing converged on Chicago this past July for the AD:TECH05
conference. Marketers were talking in bars over beers about blogs.
They were chatting in the hallways. They were debating in conference
rooms. They were blathering about blogs from podiums. Everywhere
you went--talk, talk, talk--about blogs.
It’s sort of ironic. There’s all this chatter about
blogs, which are simply online conversation Web sites.
Of course, blogs are a whole lot more than online conversation
sites. They’re one of the newest marketing tools of the
new millennium. The best communication is word-of-mouth. If you
can get customers and prospects talking about your product or
service in an organic online conversation, that’s great
marketing. It’s a low-cost dialogue that can give you global
access to your customers.
E-mail is a potent online marketing tool. Internet banner ads
are here to stay. Google revolutionized the world with search
advertising. Web sites like Burger King’s subservientchicken.com
build buzz. But blogs are red-hot.
I admit I’m not a big blogger. I don’t regularly visit
blog sites. Blogs are overhyped. But my advice to marketers is
this: If you’re not exploring blogging’s potential
to move your business ahead, start now. You’re missing out.
Blogs are more formally known as Web logs. They are online discussion
sites that focus around a subject of common interest to a target
audience. There’s typically a host or discussion facilitator.
One of my favorite blogs is Ed Brill’s site at www.edbrill.com.
Brill typically gets about 13,000 hits a day. On a big day Brill
tops 25,000 visitors. Those numbers aren’t huge by Internet
standards, but they’re not bad for a guy working out of
his home office in Highland Park, Ill., a Chicago suburb.
Brill isn’t your ordinary suburbanite. He’s a business
unit executive for Lotus Software at IBM Corp. Brill is the globe-trotting
guy responsible for sales and marketing of Lotus Notes. He has
more than 61,000 organizations that are current customers. More
than 120 million licenses have been sold authorizing use of his
product. The technology research and advisory company Gartner
Group based in Stamford, Conn., estimates Lotus Notes has 45%
of the global market for e-mail software. Brill’s main competitor
is Microsoft Outlook.
Go to Brill’s blog. You’ll see comments about his
travels to China’s Great Wall. You’ll see his thoughts
on the opportunities, problems and future direction of Lotus Notes.
That’s what attracts eyeballs.
Business leaders like Brill once relied on annual user group meetings
to take their customers’ pulse. Because of his blog, Brill
is directly in touch with users from across the Americas, Europe,
the Middle East, India, Africa and Asia.
Blogging isn’t glamorous. It’s hard work. Brill recently
traveled to Sydney, Australia, to attend an IBM conference. At
2:30 a.m. he got a text message from a friend on his cell phone.
It read: “Ambuj’s Out.”
Ambuj is Ambuj Goyal, general manager of Lotus Software at IBM.
Goyal wasn’t actually out. He was shifting responsibilities
at IBM. Jet-lagged or not, Brill’s readers expected an update
on the move. What would it mean for Lotus Notes customers? Brill
had to find out and write about it in the middle of the night.
He still had to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed the next morning.
Brill was an early online community-builder. He’s been at
it for seven years. His site isn’t an official IBM site.
Brill owns it. But his relationship with IBM and his position
as a thought leader on Lotus Notes is evident. Brill’s an
expert, and his site is an asset for his employer. It’s
because of bloggers like Brill that IBM recently released a set
of corporate guidelines about blogging. It’s a smart move.
As a marketer, Brill says his blog has many benefits:
It allows global contact with customers.
face: The blog puts a human face on his message.
Blogs provide immediate response.
Blogs delivers buyer insights even from hard-to-research markets
like India and China.
opportunity: Blogging surfaces new customers.
blogs even contribute to discussion, dialogue and alignment around
strategy within IBM. At IBM, Brill says Jon Iwata, senior vice
president of communications, maintains a blog to connect with
employees. Brill says Iwata’s blog is candid.
Brill offers up for novice business bloggers is this:
Aim for a specific community.
- Be knowledgeable.
Write about what you know.
- Be sincere.
Write in an honest voice.
- Be human.
Give it a personal touch.
- Be candid.
State the unvarnished facts.
twice. Write as if it’s going on a newspaper’s page
forever. Revisions will be caught. Should this say errors will
- Hold fast.
Stick by what you say. Apologize for mistakes. Clarify confusing
Write regularly so people will follow you.
- Read blogs.
Keep up with others in your community.
up. The author has to engage.
marketers not to approach blogging like a traditional marketing
tactic. He cringes when he hears marketers building boilerplate
plans with line items saying, “Contact top 25 bloggers.
Get them to write about our product announcement.”
to Brill, that’s too formulaic. It could backfire. Bloggers
need to be approached individually.
Why should you blog? “For a company that wants to be in
touch with customers there are few better ways,” Brill says.
“For me, meeting even a small subset of my customers through
any other way is difficult,” he adds.
just the tip of the iceberg. Blog on! Even if I don’t.
Krauss is a partner with Marion Consulting Partners based in Highland
Park, Ill., and can be reached at Michael.Krauss@Marionpartners.com