Share personal anecdotes in your corporate blog

April 25th, 2007

You’re doing great things at your company. Finding new ways to serve your customers . And of course you’re telling your prospects and customers about these things in your corporate blog.

But remember, readers love hearing about you personally. How things in your personal life lead you to consider ways to serve them better. In Bill Marriott’s blog you’ll see that he regularly weaves personal experiences into his posts, even talking about his family, his grandchildren, and so on.

If you fear you’d be giving away your privacy, consider that there are many things you can tell about your personal life. Even if you’re not the owner of a vast hotel chain talking about staying at some fine hotel somewhere, still your experiences as a business owner or executive very often relate in some way to your work life–and talking about them won’t necessarily invite the papparazzi to invade your world. There are always dozens of occurrences in the course of a week at work that can bring sparkle and intensity to your blog content–sometimes especially if the experience is negative.

You wouldn’t hide every negative thing from a colleague. Think of your readers as colleagues and write to them as you would talk to your business associates. Use the same principles of privacy and decorum and common sense in both situations.

Are you a leader? A trend setter?

March 23rd, 2007

Oddly enough, the U.S. government seems to be slightly ahead of the private sector in setting people up to work from home. A recent study says that 44% of federal employees who responded to a survey have the option to telecommute. While those numbers could be skewed because if you don’t have the option, maybe the survey doesn’t look very interesting to you, that same situation probably holds true for government and private employees surveyed. 

That seems surprising…that the government is ahead of the capitalist system on any single item.  But when you consider the benefits of telecommuting to the organization, it’s maybe not so surprising.  They include: 1) significantly decrease traffic and pollution in congested cities, 2) improving employee recruitment and retention by enabling a better work-life balance, and 3) help ensure continuity of government operations during snowstorms and other minor events as well as after catastrophes. (Hmmm. The Homeland Security people may be having a hand in this.)

At any rate, if your company is enlightened–in any way–or is a leader at doing something new and better, whether for employees or customers or vendors, you get big-time brag rights on your business blog. Take ‘em.

'cuz they said!

March 20th, 2007

Forrester is the 10-ton-giant of the business research world. Here they are weighing in on one of our favorite subjects: “Social media like blogs and peer reviews are gaining influence, and marketers avoiding these newly emerging channels risk losing business.”

Thankfully, they offer an easier entree into the world of social networking by suggesting that fear of blogs can be tamed by starting out with email marketing.  The idea is that business owners can begin to get used to having interactions with their customers–listening to their customers. They can do so by experimenting with less frightening options like surveys, polls, message boards, and testimonials–learning that customer service includes inviting and dealing with customer responses.

Start learning to get personal in your marketing efforts, and you’ll be catching the wave that’s not a fad and isn’t going away: business blogs.

Be true to yourself–and leverage the power of the many

March 16th, 2007

Saw a documentary last night on the then-20-year-old woman who designed the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial. Inspiring story of a girl whose parents emigrated from China and became professors, both at Ohio University. She, Maya Lin, grew up with a strong example and internalized commitment to doing what not only what is right, but also what is important.  She stuck to it through all struggles she had to face as various factions fought over the appropriateness of the memorial, including facing angry Vietnam vets who intially felt the design was not only wrong but insulting.

Some of the most powerful images from the film were watching that young girl’s eyes as that angry vet reviled her design, and later watching her calm, quiet, and humble figure walk away from the 10th anniversary celebration of the memorial–attended by tens of hundreds of vets and families, almost all in tears.

She believed in what she was doing. Her vision won over the most prestigious and powerful competitors. She stood firm against opposition. And she remains true to herself today, having designed a moving memorial to the civil rights movement in addition to unique museums and even homes.

Perhaps the most moving of all the images were those of the fingers and the hands of the visitors/viewers who come to draw on the energy of those designs, fingers tracing the names of loved ones or breaking little pathways in the water flows. When people participate, a project gains far greater power.

And that is the principle behind social networking and the power of the Internet–as new technology makes it possible for more and more people to participate. Your project can gain greater power. And if you, like Maya Lin, keep always the highest ideal in mind as you work, your work will always remain meaningful and your decisions intelligent.

What's really going on with your customers?

February 18th, 2007

You can always write about the positive happenings at your company or in your professional life as part of your business/corporate blog. But sometimes it pays to talk openly about what’s missing–like what customers are unhappy about in your industry.

A couple of guys writing in the Harvard Business review have done a wonderful job of examining that elusive thing called customer satisfaction. They posit that CRM (customer relationship management) software is actually hurting levels of customer satisfaction. They’ve invented a new term for an old concept–CEM (Customer Experience Management)–which means actually asking the customer how s/he feels about each experience with your company. Wrote my monthly GetMoreCustomers newsletter on specific ways CEM differs from CRM  

Now writing in your blog about that sort of thing takes courage–but believe me, it’s the kind of thing that will get you more attention than almost anything. And more loyalty from customers who feel you’re truly working to make a difference in their experience. So take the bullet between your teeth and go for it–the HBR guys promise that, done right, it improves your bottom line.

Single women as marketing demographic

February 13th, 2007

If you make industrial products, you figure your market is most likely mainly male. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t women in the field. Are you marketing efforts unwittingly turning off those women? If you make or sell almost anything else, chances are the percentage of women who have buying power for your product/service is much higher.

Women are an increasing proportion of executives, business owners and professionals. Today the best-educated woman is 28 years old, the best-educated man is 56. Are you missing the boat by leaving them out of your calculations when you plan your marketing materials and other outreach efforts?

And increasingly the women you’ll be marketing to are independent, self-supporting women who may or may not have kids, but who are making it all happen for themselves. There’s a new organization SWWAN (Single Working Women’s Affiliate Network) just for single working women and their SWWAN blog focuses on issues specific to single women. They care about many of the same things all women care about, but they also may have radically different hot buttons that the right marketing techniques could really push. Read Laura Rowley’s article about women as a market demographic.

Any way you look at it, if you haven’t reexamined your target market with gender in mind, you may be missing some big opportunities.

What it takes to write a corporate blog

January 28th, 2007

Writing in your corporate blog is a commitment. It takes perseverance. It often takes imagination, as you cast about for suitable material. It takes creative energy to convert the events of ordinary business days into material that will interest your readers. It takes being interested yourself in order to make your blog interesting. Of course, it helps if you’re a high-profile, high-ranking executive at your company; your position alone attracts readers (and often lots of comments from readers who want to be associated in some small way with your power and prestige).

It’s nice to see that a midwest university engaged in a research project to understand what makes corporate blogs effective. One of the most important ways to get your blog known is to read and comment on other blogs in the same topic areas. This adds another element of time to the process of publishing a corporate blog. Very important to consider the time required when choosing who will write your blog. More on this later.

The pscyhology of why business blogs work

January 11th, 2007

You may be wondering about how a business blog can engage your prospects, vendors and customers. The reasons are many.

Let’s start with the fact that people who want to do business or are doing business with you enjoy knowing about you–about your company and its attitudes and its goals. If you provide this kind of transparency in your corporate blog–or even in your personal executive blog–you’re inviting them to feel part of an “in group,” a psychologically powerful way of building loyalty.

Next you’re inviting them to genuinely feel a part of the group by participating via comments. Research cited in this story, “Online, Helping Strangers Is Huge” backs this idea up. We all want to feel that we have something to contribute. By inviting comments you validate your visitors’ sense of importance. Even if they never do comment, the fact that they have the option is pscyhologically valuable.

Another point is that you are promising people something. You’re promising to regularly create something for them that’s worth reading. And on that score, you should make sure that’s true each time–or don’t write anything at all. You’d be amazed how many people keep coming back to a blog that has provided value for them–even long after the author may have stopped making regular contributions.

In short, you are creating a personally fulfilling relationship with your readers that doesn’t require them to do anything but enjoy. They don’t have to speak up. They don’t have to be accountable for anything. They can just show up when it’s convenient and keep up with you and your company. Yes, it takes a real commitment from you. But the payback can be significant in terms of creating trust and loyalty.

Competing with giants – Wikipedia's got guts

December 27th, 2006

If you ever worry about your competition getting ahead, you’re not alone. But how’s this for an example of how to believe in your own knowledge and capabilities? Wikipedia, the folks who’ve created the most extensive repository of human knowledge ever online, are setting their sights on beating Google and Yahoo at the search engine business.

I mean, this is chutzpah of the first order. But they’ve already got the presence online–and the investors, including other giants such as Amazon. But this is the exciting premise. The idea is that this new search engine will use human brain power combined with open-source technology to find the truly most-relevant results to an inquiry, not results that are influenced by how popular something is to other people (not counting how many incoming links a page has, as is now done with Google’s algorithms).

This could be revolutionary stuff–removing the popularity-contest aspect from the formula for determining the value and/or validity of information. Could dramatically change the search engine optimization business as well–a welcome change from the mysterious, hide-your-secrets game now played by many SEO companies.

Though this is still a way off. it’s an interesting strategy for Wikipedia to announce it far ahead of even knowing how they’re going to do it. Undoubtedly Google is going to sit up and pay attention. And I’m going to guess that well-written blogs full of value-add content will assume an even more critical role in determining search engine rank. However they set it up, they will always have to watch the human element–where people have power, money can buy influence. But I’d say this is a great day for deciding to start your company/corporate blog. Give me a call with questions.

Take a page from the Big Guys

December 18th, 2006

Even if you’re not like Google–with pockets deep enough that you’re able to scout out and buy just about anybody out there whose stuff you take a shine to–you can still take a page out of their play book.

Google is out to terrorize Microsoft. First, they bought a program called Writely that “competes” with MS Word®–and Microsoft would be right to be worried. I can tell you I’ve already set up a significant portion of my collaborative projects out on their new online software Google Docs and Spreadsheets–it makes it so easy to share information and have more than one person make changes/suggestions, etc. without having to constantly email different versions back and forth. And, folks, it’s free. I had already tried several options for similar functionality, paid for them, and found them lacking. So far, I’m satisfied just fine with Google’s stuff.

Anyway, now Google’s negotiating with a Korean maker to possibly buy its MS-Office®-like suite. If they do (though the article indicates the Korean maker isn’t anxious to give up total control but is looking rather for an alliance), Microsoft’s halls are gonna be dancing up and down for quite a while.

The point for your corporate blog is that if you have any feature, service or extra of any kind that rivals what a big-name competitor does, write about it and use the big-namer’s name. A colleague of mine has been creating brilliant ideas non-stop for several years, but recently he found one that he’s marketing as a competitor to Google’s Adwords–just using the giant’s name in his campaign automatically gives his service more credibility. You can do the same. Think creatively about how your product/service is different from/alike to the big guys–and take a little free ride of their mountains of advertising output.