I'm sure we've all had one conversation or another with just about all of our customers about how, why, and when to use the Web for marketing. It doesn't really matter much whether the customer is a Web 2.0 wunderkind or the online store for Luddite Beach Plum Jams, the questions come up: email vs. snailmail; to blog or not to blog; embrace wiki or ignore wiki.
All this is on my mind these days because I'm currently involved in a couple of market research projects, so I'm snooping around the Web even more than usual, which is plenty enough to begin with.
In gathering info on a potential partner for a customer, I saw that they had some wiki thang going. Wicked good, I thought as I clicked through to it.
Wicked nothing when I got there: a lame, one-paragraph overview on the company of interest, written by their CTO, with a hyperlink to their main product that yielded NOTHING: a nearly blank page with a message saying something along the lines of "wouldn't it be nice is someone actually put some product information here."
But most of my problems are with some of the company blogs I'm finding.
'This looks promising,' I tell myself, only to find I'm on the receiving end of ancient information, or an action-packed blog with two entries: the last one updated 18 months ago.
And, by the way, I'm not talking about Luddite Jams here. The companies I'm looking at for my market research projects are largely B2B technology vendors.
In all these cases, the intentions were so right: we're going to take advantage of the Web, and demonstrate to the world that we're a hip happening company with a grasp on where things are headin'.
In all these cases, the executions were so wrong: a little flurry of get-something-out-there, then nothing. The dreaded thud factor kicking in!
So, if you're a small, B2B tech company, and you want to get something going, here's my advice.
- First things first: figure out whether you have enough to say that's of interest to anyone to begin with - and anyone on board to say it. (Nothing to say and no one to say it? Phew, you're off the hook.)
- If you're not sure, you might want to start out as a commenter, visiting blogs of interest and adding to whatever debate is going on with relevant and intelligent comments. (This will give you the added benefit of coming up with ideas on things to write about. And when you do cite someone else's posts, as often as not, they'll start reading your blog, too.)
- Or start out as an "amateur" (i.e., not as part of your company's web site) to see if you have what it takes to post regularly on the topic at hand. (You can always transfer the good stuff over to corporate.)
- If you do decide to blog "for real", keep a running supply of at least a couple of weeks worth of material (a couple of months if you only plan on posting weekly). You'd be surprised how quickly the due date comes around. Freshen your supply regularly.
If you do end up making a false start at blogging, get rid of it. There's nothing worse than finding a stale blog out there - it's definitely not the image you want your B2B tech company to convey. Instead, take what content you do have and shape it into a viewpoint piece. Or find a publication (or blog) in your industry that can use the material.