Blogs may make you famous to your customer community. When you share insights on what you have learned and information about your industry experience, you may gain readers who will in turn spread the word about your business. So why doesn't every company have a blog that should have one? I discussed this very topic with Ryan Karpeles of Living Light Bulbs recently.
Ryan contributes an insane amount of (intelligent) questions to our conversations, as he put in a post on job interviews this past week. I sat down to chat with him late one evening as we wondered together about What's Next? for marketing.
Valeria Maltoni: In your post on What's next? you ask a series of questions. I think one that everyone would consider the million dollar questions is -- What happens when every company has a blog? Many content publishers and people who live this environment as an opportunity think that that is the correct direction. Is it? And secondly, what then?
Ryan Karpeles: First of all, simply having a blog is not the point. The point is to always be listening. Always. Interaction is paramount. We all know that one-way messaging is essentially dead, but it's hard to talk ourselves out of that mentality and actually practice what we preach. Having a blog is one way to walk that walk. It's a means to an end. The strategy is what counts. Since the strategy is to listen, the tool is a blog. It's not the only tool, but it's a pretty darn good one. At least for now.
Just to be clear, we're assuming that these blogs are actually providing value in the first place. They're not just placeholders waiting for people to visit and praise your company for having a dialog. If the dialog is worthless and hardly any value is added, what's the point in having a blog? Not every company should have a blog. But if they're not getting enough feedback, or failing to connect with customers, a blog might certainly be a step in the right direction.
So what happens when every company that needs to have a blog has one?
The bar will have already been raised much higher. By that time, blogs (or something of similar value) will be almost mandatory. They'll be an integral part of the marketing mix for companies all over the world. So what will we do then? We'll have to keep finding ways to get closer to the consumer, and keep wow-ing them on a frequent (but unpredictable) basis. The CEO of Pepsi will invite customers over for a home-cooked meal at his house (and they'll get to request the menu). The Customer Relationship Director for Reebok will take some clients to a baseball game and buy them all drinks. The CMO of United Airlines will give a customer an all-expenses-paid family vacation to anywhere (of their choosing) on the planet. And none of it will be done to drive profit. It will be done because it's the right thing to do. It's good business and it's good living.
But hey, if no one does anything like this, we'll all be golden! If our competitors keep slipping, and fail to provide value, our jobs will be incredibly easy. Once again, blogs are just tools. They're like ears. And the more ears your company has, the more you'll be able to provide for your customers. Not what you want. Not what you want them to want. But what they want.
In the end, it all comes down to relationships. If you can develop meaningful, rewarding relationships with your customers (heck, let's just call them people) you'll be in great shape. I don't think it's a bad thing if every company has a blog. In fact, it's probably an amazing thing. But blogs are just one element of relationship building. They're a great starting point. In the future, companies will have to expand upon that starting point and continue to deliver value in every way possible.
The question then becomes, Where does that value come from? Internal sources or external?
Valeria, how do see the balance of "providing value" playing out in the future? In other words, how much control can a company really give up? Can it rely on its consumers to create significant value or must it looks inwards for most of the innovation?
To be continued... these are interesting questions, join the conversation and help us build on your ideas.