Friday, March 31, 2006

Blogging Smackdown: Amazon doesn't want to get Naked

If you haven't heard about it already, by noon you will be sick to death of hearing about how Amazon's CTO Werner Vogels beat up on Naked Conversations co-authors Shel Israel and Robert Scoble yesterday when the 2 stopped by to talk to him as part of Amazon's 'Fishbowl' series.

The Amazon spin is that Vogels asked the boys tough questions that they didn't have the answers for. They were expecting 'Golden Boy' treatment, and instead were asked for hard numbers and hard logic to back up their claims that corporations can benefit from blogs. They didn't have it, and choked.

The Naked Guys' spin is that Vogels wouldn't let them tell their side of the story, and was a less than gracious host. Shel was 'shell-shocked' by the treatment he got from Vogels, and Scoble admits that he didn't give good answers.

From everything I've read so far, it sounds like Vogels came into the meeting with a chip on his shoulder. He seemed to be presenting his case as 'we already sell a buncha books, how many more can we sell from blogging?'. I think in the case of a big company like Amazon, the benefit comes from making the company 'smaller'. The bigger a company gets, the greater the chance that they are going to get detached from their customers, and that customer service will suffer. Blogs are a great way to reduce company size. It gives the average customer a sense of interaction and input with the monolithic corporation. That's extremely valuable for a company such as Amazon.

And to be honest, this probably was one of the first/few times that Shel and Scoble had to answer hard questions about corporate blogging. But what's going to happen next, is that Amazon and Vogels are going to spend the next day or so getting hammered in the blogosphere, while Shel and Scoble are comforted for being the naive lambs led to the corporate slaughter.

Hopefully, the results from this episode will be that Amazon realizes that even big and successful companies can benefit from a blogging program, and Shel and Scoble are a bit wiser the next time they sit down to 'discuss' Naked Conversations. Eventually, we should get to the place where companies are looking for a reason TO start a blogging initiative, instead of a reason NOT to blog.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

I don't WANT to listen to the consumer!

Part 4 in a series. This entry is being cross-posted on BMA.

Another phrase I hear constantly is that marketers ‘have to listen to the consumer’. I don’t buy it. I think the key isn’t to listen to the consumer, but rather to understand them. Think of everything/one you listen to in an average day. Do you understand everything you hear? If so you’re a better listener that I am.

How do we understand the consumer? By having a conversation. Communication leads to understanding, well usually. As we have a greater understanding of the consumer, we can better serve and anticipate their wants and needs. And as the consumer has a greater understanding of our role as marketers, they will begin to more freely communicate with us, which leads to greater understanding for both groups.

But how do we communicate with them? I can’t see ‘communicate with marketers today’ as being in the ‘to-do’ list for many consumers. It’s up to us as marketers to join their community, so we can communicate with them at a time and place that’s convenient for them. This is the main flaw I find in blogs as a communication tool with consumers, because the convenience factor is more in the hands of the company and the marketers. If Company A starts a blog and begins communicating with their customers, that’s great, but the customers have to come to the blog to talk to Company A. Why can’t Company A go to the customers? And why can’t they have a communication tool that provides true communication, and not posting and commenting? IMO, that’s the next step in the company/customer communication process beyond blogs, an outlet that’s convenient to the customers, and in their backyard, not the company’s. But that’s another post for another day.

Listening isn’t the key. Understanding is. Understanding comes from communication, and communication starts when we are in a place that makes the interaction convenient for the consumer. That place is their community.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Joining the community

Part 3 in a series. This entry is being cross-posted on BMA.

I hear so many marketers saying that you have to 'interact' and 'participate' with 'the community'. I say good ideas, but let's take it a step further, and say that we need to JOIN the community.

Hugh starts using blogs to sell wine, and Stormhoek's sales double in less than 12 months. Why? Because Hugh himself is a blogger, he understands how bloggers think, and what appeals to them. He helps the employees at Stormhoek become bloggers themselves, ie, he brings them into the community, the blogosphere. Would this have worked if Stormhoek had tried to market their wine to bloggers without joining the community? Probably not.

Again, it's not enough to interact with the community, you have to join it.

I'll go back to the JewelStock example. This event wasn't a huge success because Jewel interacted with her fans via their emailing list, it was a success because a member of her management was a PARTICIPATING MEMBER of that emailing list. This gave her fans DIRECT contact with the artist. Otherwise the concerts likely would have never happened.

Here's how it came about, according to one of the event organizers, who was also a member of the emailing list:
”In response to a list members off-hand request, Jewel agreed to give a private concert for the list members. Through Hiranya, a Jewel management contact and sometimes participant in the list group discussions, Jewel made an early June post agreeing to do a private performance. The response from the list was phenomenal”
And again, this event wasn't organized and carried out via the internet in 2006, it was organized and carried out via the internet in 1996.

That's the power of being a part of the community. And it goes beyond the obvious; that being a part of the community means you better understand your customers. What happens when you better understand your customers is that you can better serve them by anticipating their wants and needs. And the best part? As we correctly anticipate the consumers' wants and needs, and fill them, a trust is developed, which leads to the consumer lowering their defenses and letting us interact with them on a deeper level. This leads to a greater understanding of their needs, which means we can more quickly and effectively meet these needs, and thus the cycle is created.

Extra point: With that higher level of trust comes the creation of a barrier to entry for your competitors.

Extra extra point: When you join the community, you become a part of the community. As a result, the wants and needs of the community become your wants and needs. You, as a member of the blogging community, are reading this because you want to read something interesting. I am also a member of the blogging community, and I am writing this because I want you to find it interesting. If I am meeting your wants and needs, then mine are satisfied as well. Nettwerk opposes the RIAA’s stance on file sharing because they believe music should be more freely shared, as does the community of music fans, which they are a part of.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Blogging drinking games

I never drink anything harder than a good stout Dr. Pepper, but if I did, I think these games could be pretty fun:

Every time a blogger announces that 'Strumpette is disgusting, and this is clearly a ploy to simply boost her traffic!', and then links to her, take a drink.

Every time you see a blogger mention that a certain blogger/company 'gets it', and you realize that the blogger has no idea what 'getting it' means, take a drink.

Every time you see a blogger with over 500 links say 'It's like I keep saying, markets really are conversations', and some pipsqueak with 5 links immediately pipes in with 'Great post, and great blog, I'm linking to both of them!', take a drink.

Every time Heather Armstrong posts about a subject that you don't give a rat's ass about, yet you find yourself being pulled closer and closer to the monitor as if were a magnet, as she discusses yard-selling while constipated, take a drink.

Every time you wonder if the reason why you aren't blissfully happy, is because you never read Scoble like everyone else does, take a drink.

Every time you can't finish your blogging drinking post on time because you keep reloading SiteMeter to see if you have gone up from 3 to 4 visitors today, take a drink.

Walking with the consumer

Part 2 in a series. This entry is being cross-posted on BMA.

‘The consumer is in control, so get out of their way!’ A ‘Marketing 2.0’ catch-phrase that I just don’t understand.

’Getting out of the way’ implies to me that the consumer leads, and that marketers follow. I prefer to think that our goal as marketers is to clear a path for the consumer. The consumer will eventually reach their destination with or without us, but the value we bring to the equation is to help the consumer reach their destination as effectively as possible. We can't clear a path if the consumer is leading us. And if we get too far ahead of the consumer, we lose the ability to accurately anticipate their path.

So we walk with the consumer. If the consumer leads, our ability to clear their path is diminished, which doesn't serve the best interest of the consumer. If the marketer leads, then our ability to understand the consumer is diminished, which means our ability to understand which path they will take is lessened. And that's not in their best interest either. It also doesn't help us.

The best interests of BOTH the consumer and the marketer are best served when we walk together. And how do we walk with the consumer? By joining their community.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Top 10 reasons why your new blog has no comments

10 - Your name's not Guy Kawasaki.

9 - interview with Erin Kinghorn?

8 - You aren't a half-nekkid chick with a new PR blog, or at least a fatass guy posing as a hot half-nekkid PR chick with a new PR blog.

7 - People are easily offended by napsacks. Especially ones posing as parachutes.

6 - Because BMA gets 1000 visitors a day, and this one gets 2.

5 -

4 -

3 - Remember that time when you were 10 and you threw a rubber ball underneath the isle in the local Kroger, laughing manically when you heard 'Wha?.....SHIT!', following by the sound of a man and his full buggy crashing in a heap 4 isles over? Karma finally caught up with you.

2 - Because you actually think no one will notice that you left off #4 and #5.

And the #1 reason why your new blog has no comments is...........

1 - It's only Day 2, and you're already bitching about it.

This all makes sense, but it doesn't make perfect sense

Part 1 in a series. The remaining parts will be cross-posted both here, and on BMA throughout the week.

‘markets are conversations’
‘listen to the consumer’
‘get out of the way of the consumer’
‘the consumer is in control’

But…but…..what exactly do these statements mean?

‘Markets are conversations’….ok I guess that means that every market has their own language that we have to comprehend in order to communicate with them. Sounds fair enough.

‘listen to the consumer’…..I’ll buy that.

‘get out of the way of the consumer’…..wait….I am supposed to listen to the consumer AND get out of their way? How do I do that?

‘the consumer is in control’….huh? Then what do they need me for?

See all these ideas made varying degrees of sense to me. And the more I thought about these marketing catchphrases that we hear all the time, I wondered what would happen if we took the parts that do make sense, and separated them? Or maybe if we shifted the meaning slightly, would all these ideas then make perfect sense? And if so, would they then tie into an even bigger idea?

‘Markets are conversations’. This one makes pretty good sense. Markets are having their own conversation that you can’t understand unless you are interacting with them. Finding the best way to do so seems to be the key.

‘Listen to the consumer’. Again, this made sense, until I realized that just because I listen to the consumer doesn’t mean I will understand what they are saying. How many messages do you listen to in a day’s time? Do you understand all of them? And what’s worse, how many messages did you listen to, and believe you understood, when you actually missed the meaning? I don’t think listening is the key, understanding is, which comes from communication.

‘Get out of the way of the consumer’. This one I don’t see at all. Consider Nettwerk’s taking on the RIAA over their suing consumers who participate in 'illegal' file-sharing. If Nettwerk ‘gets out of the way of the consumer’, then that frees up the RIAA to sue consumers freely. Nettwerk’s involvement in this case is CLEARLY benefiting the consumer.

‘The consumer is in control.’ Not buying this one either. How about saying that the consumer has more control than ever before, and they have enough control to usually get what they want with or without the marketer. I’m still not completely satisfied with that explanation, but it’s a bit closer.

But Nettwerk’s taking on the RIAA over file-sharing continued to be the puzzle piece that just didn't fit. Then came Nettwerk's creation of the Save the Music Fan Foundation. Here's a quote from Nettwerk CEO Terry McBride:”My reason for agreeing to pay the legal fees of the Gruebel family is quite straightforward, to stop all litigation of music fans”.

Music fans don't want the RIAA to sue them over 'illegal' file sharing, and Nettwerk doesn't want to see music fans sued by the RIAA over 'illegal' file sharing. The wants of the two groups are perfectly aligned. Also, Nettwerk wants to see music fans be able to more freely and cheaply share music. Again in this case, the wants of the two groups are perfectly aligned.

That made an impression on me, but I still didn’t understand the significance in marketing terms. Then I read on more than one blog about the need for marketers to ‘get out of the way’ of the consumer. Reading this, after talking to Erin and hearing how Nettwerk is working to 'clear the path' for consumers to more freely share music, was the lightbulb going off for me. I had seen Nettwerk as another record label whose wants and needs were the same as that of their industry and of the RIAA. This made their opposition to the RIAA’s stance on file sharing so confusing to me. Instead, Nettwerk’s wants and needs are shared with the ‘music fan’ who they are trying to ‘save’.

If Nettwerk 'got out of the way' of the consumer, then the path that the consumer is navigating (toward sharing music more freely) becomes a more difficult journey. Nettwerk's actions are making it easier for the consumers to reach a destination that they will arrive at anyway, by clearing a path for them. Nettwerk is able to clear that path for the consumer because their wants and needs are perfectly aligned with the wants and needs of the consumer.

If Nettwerk is able to align their wants and needs with that of the consumer, then how could other companies do so?

There has to be a way.

Targetting the influencers

Chris at MMM has a post about targetting the influencers when promoting movies. The post came about from a talk he had with Joseph Jaffe. While I agree with their premise, the influence is going to come from WOM. Why not target bloggers and go after the word of mouse? Getting 1 post endorsing a movie/product/whatever from 10 top bloggers would give positive exposure for that product to what.....25,000-100,000 readers a day?

I think we are going to see an explosion of such campaigns aimed at influential bloggers, once business gets over its hangups about blogs being 'online diaries'.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Every tragedy needs a beginning

I feel compelled to explain why I now have a second blog. Yes I know it’s incredibly egotistical to think that you even care, but having a fragile ego that needs to be constantly fed is a pre-requisite for being a blogger.

First, for anyone that’s having any premature celebrations, no I am not leaving BMA. In fact nothing will really change there from my end. I’ll still be posting as always, and still making everyone wonder how many free Sarah McLachlan CDs Nettwerk is hooking me up with for blogging about them every day.

The difference will be that here I’ll get to prattle on about whatever I like. It will still be heavy on the marketing side, with a dash of ad talk thrown in, but I’ll also talk about whatever else catches my eye that day. Stuff that really has no business being on BMA, because it wouldn’t be fair to the other writers to get off-topic, which is something I love to do.

Some of the stuff I post here will be cross-posted on BMA, especially the marketing-related posts, and especially early-on. After that, we’ll see what happens. Oh BTW, I still need that high-paying marketing job, so if you have an extra one of those you aren’t using, I’ll be much obliged if you’d throw it my way. I’ll even link to you, hell I’ll link to you from here *and* from BMA! If you know anyone that has such a job, I can also throw in 34 cents and a used copy of The Simpsons Season 1 on DVD (but don’t tell them that at first).

What else…..hmmm I guess that’s it for now.