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May 18, 2009

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seamus.walsh

Rave it! Have people send in pictures of his bags around the globe, and blog about the sailing venue, the history of the harbor or about the boat name and history.

Rick Burnes

I'd say two things:
(1) If people really love what he's producing, he'll find that the blog he's talking about with information about events they're sponsoring interesting.
(2) In said blog, I'd focus less on the sponsorship aspect, and more on content (probably video) that is evocative of the type of uses he'd like to see of his product. At the extreme, imagine a YouTube-based sitcom/miniseries that features sailcloth duffle bags.

David Gammel

Who do you want to attract online and to what end?

Based on that you can make a business decision if blogging is worth it for you and, if so, what to write about in order to gain your desired audience.

limeduck

I'm not sure if they should blog, but they definitely should engage with their customers and communities. If that means a Facebook group or twitter or a blog or a customer BBQ, that's all good.

On the pro-blog side, it looks like this company and product has a particular lifestyle in mind, so blogging about topics of interest to that people who share that lifestyle would be relatively easy and on-target. Plus, there are the SEO benefits of having a good blog.

Anti-blog, there's the question of opportunity cost. What else could they be doing with that blogging time? And we all know there's nothing sadder than a half-assed company blog, one that's seldom posted to and pulls no comments.

Gustav Bergman

Roger should blog.

But he has to change his mindset. Judging from his comments his brain is still programmed for the former century, when marketing was all about telling how good your company was, announcing events, and sticking to a very official tone in your companies outbound information.

If he has any passion for his business he has tons of things to blog about. Here are just a few examples: Telling people how they have selected their material for their bags, and why it is so good. Continuing with which kind of materials are coming in the market now/soon. Talking about his favourites in their product lines, and some design details that he particularly like. Interviewing his designers and letting people know how they approach their work, and also letting them tell about their favourites in the product line.

I can continue for a long while, but I think that that would be all I get for my 10 cents this time.

Gustav Bergman

BarbarainKansas

I think Roger may have an opportunity to engage his customers in a conversation through a blog. I think it would be fun to read customer-written mini blog stories about where they bought the bag, where they took the bag, and what they used the bag for. Roger could affix paper tags to the bags that would have blank spaces for identification info (that would be filled out by the purchaser) on one side, and on the flip side, there could be a message from Roger thanking the customer for buying the bag, and suggesting that the customer blog about what he/she was using the bag for and where it had been. That way, Roger's blog would have some interesting content through customer comments, and Roger would not have to do all the work. I tend to think that with varied comments coming to his blog, this would provide him with content ideas. To induce customers to blog, he could give away a free bag periodically randomly drawn from the people who submitted blog comments.

John R. Sedivy

There is only way to find out - give it a try. Personally I have found two major benefits to blogging. First, it forces me to continually learn and then convey that knowledge to others. Second, it provides great exposure.

I would not be too concerned about topics or commitment - that will happen given time. Just start writing and get yourself out there - small victories will fuel growth and motivation.

Best of luck!

Jodi Kaplan

I think it could work if Roger engages his customers. Have them submit pictures of themselves with the bags, or share stories of using the bags (how well the bag protected their stuff from salt, sun, and waves): surviving a dunking off Martha's Vineyard or a nor'easter. Or, he could solicit ideas for new types of bags or new designs.

By the way, as a sailor, the bags in the photos look good!!

Steve Johnson

The question isn't whether he can write, it's whether his customers will read. While the techorati are all actively reading and commenting on blogs (as evidenced here), are regular people?

Product managers and marketers in tech business are active on blogs; Home school parents get many, many resources from the web especially blogs; IT people read blogs. Do Roger's customers?

Once we've established that there's a reasonable readership, then the other comments above apply. Does Roger have tips and techniques and stories and examples to share? If so, blog away.

And of course, it's one thing to talk about it; another to try it. Run the blog for a few months before you tell the world about it. If you're still blogging, then announce it broadly.

Meryl Runion

I say blog and twitter about what is happening in the moment. Write about comments at airports when people see you get your bags. Talk about people who dress to match their bags. Talk about what you put in a bag for a days outing and how perfectly it fits and how easy it was to find what you were looking for when you needed it. Once you start, you'll wonder how you ever couldn't think of anything.

Tristam Wallace

I like some of the suggestions about how to blog about the bags and customers using the bags, but wonder how effective that is going to be attracting new customers from searches on the Web...which, of course, is one of the main benefits of blogging. I'd suggest thinking about who you are trying to reach and blog about the topics of interest to them. Is it sailors (like me!)...then write about sailing. Are you targeting the "recycling" crowd because of the reuse of old sails...write about recycling or the environment. Going for the fashing conscious...then write about that. The key, imho, is to find a topic that your prospective buyers will be searching google for, or looking for blogs about, and get them to your blog. And then, of course, make sure it is easy for them to find information on your products from the blog and buy them online!!

Tristam Wallace

Ok...mea culpa. After looking at the web site, I see that the "recycle" crowd is probably not a target...

Cindi

I think Roger CAN blog, but should Facebook.

I like the idea of sharing stories about his customers. I want to know where those bags have been, about those who uses them, the lifestyle they support. If I was a sailor, Facebook allows me to become a fan. He can post in tidbits or in longer notes. He has room for pictures and can "befriend" people interested in him and know much more about them (that he did or did not know before).

As he got well-versed with placing short bits of information on Facebook, he would see how much content he actually has for a blog.

J. T. Pedersen

By the time I’d gotten to the question, I had already thought, “What a -great- topic to blog about!” The focus is on a business (and products) that are colorful, fun to use, fun to show off, and likely have a rich underlying story. What more could you want from a ‘discussion topic’ perspective?

Business-wise, the question is, what do you want to accomplish? Blogging’s not for everyone and I would not suggest undertaking it without an idea of what you ‘think’ you wish to achieve. That said, I would recommend trying it to see if the shoe fits.

You need to enjoy speaking with your customers (e.g. blogging). While you have to enjoy what you’re doing, or you’ll end up giving up eventually, remember the focus is your customer. Develop a list of things you think your customers may be interested in. Remember too, you may discover ‘different’ customers via your blog (over time) than you have had traditionally (this is good). Float the list out to a few and get feedback.

Your network will provide you quality feedback on your blog. With my own nascent blog, I frequently get positive feedback on the posts I provide. In contrast to prior experience, people tend to comment on what they ‘like’ rather than dislike. This feedback helps hone your message and direction.

Your list, gee, in varying detail you could discuss: color selection; pattern selections; fabric construction, selection, application; overall construction processes; how bags are stitched together (or not); sources of products ideas; where the business got its start (too many old sails in a w’house on the wharf?); how the business is growing; and, where you might like help moving forward.

In a world where so many of us struggle to find our own uniqueness, yours jumps out like a yellow carnation in a bed of red roses.

P Galesloot

Can we get a percentage of revenue from our blogging ideas?

I think we should let the business that whine about blogging just die a slow death rather than extending them a life line and providing them with free advice. "I don't know what to put in a commercial", "I don't know what to put in a magazine ad", "I don't know what to blog about".

Really? You have no clue how to connect with your buyers and how your product is being used, where it is being used, who is using it, what changes are coming for your product, what sales are on, what new fabrics you are using and why I should care.

Tell Roger to turn his business over to some one else and go sailing. How did he ever get in business?

J. T. Pedersen

Galesloot,

A tad harsh, don't you think? I take the question not as, 'should I interact with my customers,' per se. More along the lines of: there are so many 'things' I can do to support my business. Blogging's not proven-beyond-reproach. So, it makes sense to ask, is this a good place to spend finite resources?

Roger's not the only person asking this; people ask me the same basic question frequently. This is an opportunity-cost question. Its a smart one to ask. Not one to be looked upon so derisively.

David Meerman Scott

Thanks all for your comments. I do get many questions like Roger's and I chose him as an example to pose the question because his product is easy for all of us to grasp.

BTW Roger, posing a question on a blog (like I did here) is an interesting technique...

More ideas and suggestions welcome!

David

John Kreiss

If Roger likes to write and is willing to make the committment, absolutely. Blogging would be great for Roger.

People shouldn't feel forced to blog andf blogging is not right for everybiody. If he feels uncomfortable, then, Roger should not blog in this case.

Regarding topics, Roger might want to think about other information that his customers might find interesting.

Is his clientele local? Perhaps a report on wind conditions for sailors? I'm not a sailor, but I'm sure Roger probably knows his customers and what type of information would interest them.

John P. Kreiss
SullivanKreiss, Inc.

David V

Roger should blog but not about the business.

He should blog about the sailing lifestyle, point to other gadgets and accessories, destinations and tricks to make that life more enjoyable.

Not only would this be more interesting for him, he'd attract a readership and build his brand's expertise in sailing.

After all, anyone can design a product. Passion is what shows expertise.

Colin Warwick

Roger,
Mike Volpe (HubSpot VP Mkting) says "If you've got sent emails in your Sent Items folder, you can blog" (or words to that effect). i.e. if you've answered a question for one person, chances are others will be interested in the answer too. There: you've got yourself a blog post, and are leveraging your expertise.
Best of luck!

bill

I think before asking the "what to blog about" question, one needs to ask the "why blog" question.

What is your most urgent need at this point? Do you need to more aggressively expand your online selling channel? Do you want to enhance your user base by building a community? Do you want to have a online mechanism to receive feedback from your users?

Blog could serve as a medium to address one or several of the questions above.

But, i think you need to first think about your core business needs. Plus, creating a good blog is a lot of work. So, I'd think carefully before diving into blogging for your business.

pgalesloot

Pedersen,
Sure it's a harsh reaction or statements. I to get similar questions, and I carry a degree of skepticism. The beauty of social media is that others can tell me I suck, or I rock. What matters is not so much what others say but what I do with that information.

Isn't Blogging like writing an article for your newsletter, or an advertorial? Nothing really new just different. The use of client testimonials in ads or commercial(videos) is not new it's just different.

The difference as David writes is that we are the media. We don't have to rely on an ad company to document why I drink a certain brand of ice tea, or hire that ad agency to showcase "letters" read by the admin lady as to why the ice tea is great. "Letters". We can be the media and the creative agency.

Roger,
What do you want to say or ask your customers? Provide a venue to ask, say, and listen.

Victor Cheng

Geez... having a prominent blogger asking a bunch of blog lovers whether someone should blog is a little bit of a loaded question.

So let me take a different tack.

What's his goal by blogging? Assuming the blog would write itself somehow, would it meet his goals?

Assuming a blog would reach his goals and his ONLY hesitation is what to write about, then here's the question I would pose him:

If you were to walk into a bar (or wherever people who sail hang out after they are sailing) and sit down next to a bunch of people who love the sport (I'm assuming sailing is a sport, but heck if you don't sweat is it really a sport?), would you have fun joining in the conversation?

In other words, do you feel comfortable talking "shop" in your area of expertise/interest/passion?

If you DO, and you ENJOY it, then I think you should blog (again assuming the blog solves some business problem you're trying to solve).

In terms of what you should blog about, I would suggest blogging about the exact same topic that one would talk about when talking shop.

Is there some big race everyone's talking about? Is there some insider gossip or controversy that everybody's talking about?

Blog about the same stuff you would talk about verbally.

It's not a blog, it's a conversation that happens to take place on blog.

People like having conversations with other REAL people. Not companies.

When you engage with other people about the topic of the day, when they see you're really one of them (sailing enthusiasts), they will naturally want to learn more about you. And its at that time mentioning what you're working on at work can make a lot of sense.

Former child actress Soleil Moon Freye (aka Punky Brewster), does a great job of this.

She tweets at about being a mom at:
http://twitter.com/moonfrye (with 400,000 followers)

She blogs about kids and other things parents care about at http://thelittleseed.com/blog

And she sells eco friendly baby products at http://thelittleseed.com/shop.aspx

You'll notice that her tweets and blog posts are mostly discussing the kinds of topics her target customer is interested in discussing. It is not primarily about her company or products.

But from time to time, her company and products come up and her followers/readers notice because she's been a well recognized voice in the various conversations relevant to moms.

I've only recently stumbled upon Soleil Moon Frye's social media presence, but I am watching it carefully.

Roxanne Beckford Hoge

I definitely think that Roger's question was a good one, especially because so much of what we see everyday on corporate sites is promotional dreck in blog form. People are often scared of revealing themselves, but I think the more your blog sounds like you, the more someone's likely to read it. About the comments, though, depending on your audience, they may not be the commenting kind (or not have much time). It can feel like you're posting in a vacuum at first. Then someone will come into our store or approach me and mention a post that they connected with, without ever having commented. Aren't the comments the tip of the iceberg?

Avneet Jolly

Yeah - I've struggled with this one as well. Not sure I agree with the common wisdom that every business leader ought to blog. Have seen a few CEOs try and then run out of steam.

I think the real question is "what do you want to blog about?" If you do have something interesting to say, AND you have evidence that people other than your mom are interested in that topic, then by all means you should blog.

Jay Lee

I agree Roger should start blogging for his business. And I think anything related to his business even the industry it will be helpful to make his company popular.

Mike Frichol

The real question Roger needs to answer is whether and how he can provide VALUE to his customers relative to how they use his products. Unless you can provide your audience with some value, there's no point in just mindlessly writing stuff no one cares about.

Keith Stancil

I would say a big definite yes! If nothing more than to use the blog as a reputation control system. He should own the the first two pages of the Google Organic spots. It's free marketing for his company. I think he would find that he does have things to talk about as a leader that others would want to read.

Roger Marquis

Thank you all for commenting on David's post and my question.

In reading your comments, it seems as though most suggest to try blogging and see what the feedback and response is like, which does not sound all that much different from making use of other marketing tactics (e.g., direct mail, email, advertising, events, etc.). Try, test, adjust, try again, and so on.

In regard to topics to actually write about, while I was not expecting people to comment on this, I do appreciate the suggestions. Also, I certainly get the impression and understand the need to write less about our products/company and more about customers and their interest in topics like sailing, nautical/coastal lifestyle, gear, travel, etc.

Additionally, I am realizing that it is not a matter of how many posts you make to a blog, but the quality of the posts themselves. Are they relevant, interesting, meaningful, etc.

Lastly, I also found interesting the comments on other promotional tactics to try (i.e., meet-ups, in bag picture request form, etc.).

Thank you all again. Roger.

David Meerman Scott

Roger, Thanks for putting yourself out there and letting people talk about you here. This feedback is worth a great deal as many of the commenters are very well known marketers who command the big bucks to advise clients on questions like this.

Thanks to all who commented. Roger and I are still monitoring, so any additional ideas are welcome!

David

Ares

He could write about the materials of the sailing bags, what makes a sailing bag good (even if sometimes it hints to competition), he could write about sailing tips, creative ways to use the bags.... there are just so many options.

Lisa Banks

Of course blogging is a great idea for this company and product, and as many have mentioned above there are tons of great ideas for content. However, my concern here is that perhaps Roger is not the one who should be blogging for the company. While I like to see the business's leader out there blogging, if he will have trouble coming up with interesting things to write on his own, then the blog will surely become less and less of a priority and peter out over time. This will happen even with everybody telling him topics to address. The person writing a blog must possess that passion and vision themselves. Some sort of "evangelist" for the brand who is familiar with blogging already may be better suited to post in this blog, whether a ghost copywriter or a product manager, etc.

Keith West

Depends on his personality. I for one don't have the type of discipline required to blog with any regularity. It becomes a chore and that shows in the writing. A blog could do more harm than good.

In such a case you could have someone else in the company run or contribute to the blog.

Danielle Keister

Question he could answer that I'd be interested in as a consumer:

What's the backstory? How did you come up with the idea of these bags? What is the special thing about them that make them so popular? What do customers rave about? How are customers using the bags? Could you encourage folks to submit pix of the fun/exotic/interesting locales they bring them to?

Therese

I am late to this post, but I think he should blog. I think every company should blog, every company can create content releated to their product on their benefits that a particular auidence is interested in. If he has not already done this, it would make sense to nail down his buyer persona and then from there figure out exactly what they are interested in, what they want to read that could link up to his product and not just what his product is but the benefit that his product provides.

Robert Parrish

I'm a sailor, although not familiar with True Wind Sailcloth Bags. I'd love it if he would blog about sailing off Long Island. Does he sell his products in Texas? If so, where? Does True Wind help sponsor races? Where and when? Those could be a dozen different blogs - twice a week?

Jeff Hurt

As someone who used to work for the trade association for promotional products, YES Roger should blog. He should talk about the research of effective give aways at meetings, events and tradeshows like his bags. He should talk about how green his product is and it's various uses. He should talk about the latest fashion trends and how they're incorporating it into new designs for his bags. I'm assuming his company is his passion so he should talk about his passions. If his work is not his passion, well, that's a different blog.

George Daffin

Most people are really drawn to the water and to boating. Even if my wife buys one of these bags just for a long weekend at a modest motel in Clearwater, she is going to want it to bring her a sense of participation in an enormous associative web of pleasures that probably ranges from Martha's Vineyard to the French Riviera.

Definitely blog. Make the blog the star and the sales will follow. Topics are endless: Coolest new sunglasses; best restaurants available by water on the Chesapeake Bay; The New Beach Read -- it's not what it used to be; 3 great ideas for on-board dining and entertaining; How to make a Mojito that Hemingway would have written about; etc etc etc

Fortunately, the ability to write is not an issue for the client. Unfortunately, he can find freelance writers like me to provide superb content for him for practically nothing.

And yes, reader feedback showing the products in action is also essential.

Best regards,

George Daffin

Rick Sanchez

Blog, Roger Blog! If it was me, here is what I would do.
You have a link on your home page that says "Giving Back."
Why not blog about that? Stay away from the business blog altogether. This is a topic that is close and dear to you as a person. You have stories to tell about why that is so. You have events that you sponsor. You have friends that have had struggles.

Blog about what your Passion is. Do it right, and you will see an extremely captive audience. What a GREAT way to educate people about a GREAT cause?

Just be sure to include your website, and all the ways in which you are actually "Giving Back."

Reem El Shafaki

I think Roger should definitely blog! He has a lovely range of products and I personally would be intrigued to learn more about how he comes up with new product designs, where he gets the material, his frustrations with suppliers who don't pull through, and I'd want all of this to be peppered with personal insights. Both he and his sister Merideth can contribute to the blog. And of course they should write about topics of interest to sailers. This will help immensely with SEO. Roger, just imagine, eventually when someone searches a sailing related topic, your website shows up in the results! Prospects who never knew anything like this existed will be introduced to your products and hopefully fall in love with them. I know I have! although I'm not really a sailer, just a windsurfer.

Jwilli

Blogging is a great idea for Rodger and his business. Blogging does not necessarily have to be about the business, but just a way to build a relationship with customers or potential customers. When I walk into a store, sometimes I just want conversation. Especially at a restaruant. Depending on how social the waiter/waitress is, I might be influenced to give them more tip money. So, personally, I think that it's good to build relationships with customers outside of business. With that said, Rodger should blog about whatever is on his mind!

Dave Fluegge

I think the answer is quite simple. What does he typically talk about with his customers? Do they talk about his bag/sails/sailing equipment? Does he talk about places he sails, instructions on sailing, or do they just share general stories about sailing?

If I am buying your bag, I don't want to hear you talk about your products all the time (I have one). Sailing is obviously my passion, so connect with me there, and tell me stories that show you do more and know more than sewing bags.

Also, help me to connect with other sailors. If you have intelligent blog posts, and high caliber customers commenting about sailing, then I will be more inclined to think your product is that same caliber.

Angel Zambrano

Of course he has... and he should do some video blogging; I think there's a content hole in what he sells in the web

Some ideas:

Video showing the fabric resistance
Seed some of the bags in a F1 race and do a video of the people in the stands using it
Blog about the corporate culture (moccasins friday)
Create a blog on upper scale design in sports (boats, F1, motorcycles, cars)
A phone conversation with a customer

Etc

He should blog about the Bags, their industry, their culture, it's positioning and the culture picture of the prospective client.

Any ideas used, please send a line of bags and David's autographed book ;-)

Angel Zambrano
kingcont

Product Marketing Manager Job Description

Roger, blogs are used to help others with your article..they can contain your personal experience and any thing that would be useful to others..Thanks

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