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September 12, 2005

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Comments

Guitar Ted

I think many retail owners/operators are still trying to figure out thier relationship with on-line e-tailers, or how to even make the internet work better, (or at all!) for them. Add in e(vil)bay and that about sends any LBS into a tizzy! Blogs are just becoming something they are aware of in the area of the social internet culture that is developing. I think most retailers haven't even given blogs a second thought; meanwhile, the internet culture has run far ahead of the "pace of normal business". We aren't waiting for the "normal channels" of business to change, mutate, or re-create themselves at the hands of "typical" business operators. Example: I have helped sell at least three 29 inch wheeled bikes, directly from my blogsite. The brick and mortar store "clerked" the sale,and got the money for it. Those stores would not have sold those bikes without my influence. There are possibly many more indirect examples that I am not aware of. I am lobbying our owner to include a blog on our stores website. It looks like it's a strong possibility that it may happen. This only because he has witnessed firsthand what blogs can do through Jeff Kerkove's, and my sites. It's not "blog-fog", it's real. Businesses better wake up soon!

Brad

I can say without a doubt that we've increased sales and have driven consumers into our Retailer's doors via our blogs...and yet, I continue to see the glazed over looks and puzzled faces whenever I discuss the power of the medium with those around me. I'm pretty confident that in a year or two, blogging as a corporate communication tool will be as widely accepted and EXPECTED as having a web site.

John Satory

I think that blogs are still in front of the curve in the cycling industry. This being said, I still think that the majority of the cycling industry is behind this curve... Blogs are a very functional tool that can drive sales, one way or the other.

Michael Browne

I agree that blogs are a valubale sales tool, and the evidence you provide that blogs are at the top of search engine results certainly says something.

Yet I can't help but think about the number of people who don't use the internet daily, let alone refer to blogs to make purchase decisions.

I think that, while blogs have entered the mainstream vocabulary, they're still considered by most to be the realm of the geek. And non-geeks prefer to remain non-geeks, even if the interface might provide valuable information.

They're also the realm of the relatively well-off. Meaning, you need to have money to own a computer and an internet connection. This might not mean anything to the high-end retailer, but most Ma-n-Pa shops make their cash off the $2-400 bikes. And that market, I believe, is not looking to blogs or quite possibly even message boards, for purchase advice.

Graham

It's not just the bike industry that has not fully understood the power of blogs, it really is all industries. I can't think of one vertical industry that has fully embraced blogging as a means to progress the companies goals. I think the software industry is farthest along with players like Microsoft, Macromedia, and IBM with corporate blogging inititiatives.

I agree with Brad that companies will begin to wake up to this medium as a key to their marketing programs, but I think most industries will still be in an early adoption phase. The main reason being that marketing departments feel that they must always control the message and dictate the conversation to the marketplace.

I recently attended a blogging conference put on by the American Marketing Association and it was amazing to see how immature the thinking was around this "new phenomenon called blogging." The fears of these traditional marketers were huge...I kept hearing things like "maybe we shouldn't allow comments" or "what if one of our bloggers accidentally reveals something to the market before we're ready" or "what if one of our corporate bloggers uses incorrect grammar."

The comments ranged from plain old just-not-getting-it to legitimate corportate concerns. I guess what I am saying is that there are a lot of grey areas with respect to corporate blogging and until some best practices emerge that are "sarbanes-oxley compliant" it may be a few years before the corporate blogging explosion.

I follow Brad's blog pretty closely (I'm a big Cannondale fan), but I get the feeling sometimes that he has more to share, but can't (which I do understand given some of the points made above). Brad if you're still here...is there anything you can share about the policies or practices you adhere to with your blog? Tim...how about you?

Jeff Lockwood

In one sense, blogging makes a lot of sense within the realm of pure ecommerce. People want as much information as possible when they go to make a purchase online. I say mostly because they lack the tactile benefits with the product on a computer screen...so they read and read and read about it. An e-commerce site would definitely benefit from a designated editor to write about products and releases (like books, movies, video games, etc) in a blog style. It’s more information coming from a qualified source.

But can a blog that dwells on product releases, sales and product information really become a daily destination…in any industry? Perhaps by threading-in current happenings and somehow relating them to products for sale in the e-stores.

Maybe a more indirect area for blogs to have any impact on ecommerce sales would be for the producers (not necessarily the retailers)...who might or might not have an ecommerce element on their site...to use the blog effort to drive the brand, which would increase sales indirectly. I think a great example of this is the Surly site. Aside from absolutely loving the Kenny Bloggins pseudonym, I think they're driving their brand in a lot of ways there. Aside from rants, interesting stories and other stuff, they do provide info on their products.

Brad

I had to laugh when I read the last post. The fact is, because this is all new, and something that so few people here understand, I get a lot of free reign in what and when I post, which is really nice. (just wish I had more time to devote to it) But you are right; once in a while, the collard shirts get wind of something I’ve done or said, come around the corner and give me the “I’m asking nicely” look which obviously means that someone sent them an email telling them that I've crossed the line and I better UNDO what I’ve done. (They don’t understand rss feeds just yet apparently)

During the past few months, I have found that we in PMD and Marketing seem to have differing opinions about when it's appropriate to share information and to what extent we share that information. First and foremost, I'm a rider. I think that comes out in my blogging. Sometimes I get REALLY excited over stuff I see happening here and I want to share it with fellow riders. To me, that’s what this is all about….being able to share cool information, excite, inform and get back opinions one way or another. This new way of corporate thinking is a hard sell, but I think I’m winning them over. In fact, we’ve recently made a major decision to start being much more open with our dearly held secrets here at Cannondale (you heard it here first!) not because we have to, but because in the end, we’ve got some great information that’s worth sharing, and it’s what our riders want from us. I like to think I had a lot to do with this recent change of heart and mindset here at Cannondale.

There’s no doubt that blogging is a very powerful tool… not just for us on the BradBlog and the RaceBlog but also as a tool for content management for our websites. We’re starting to incorporate the technology as a solution across the board world wide. It’s very exciting but will, I’m sure, take a while for people here to fully comprehend it and embrace in all its forms (especially those at the top) But that’s ok, because in the meantime, I can continue to do whatever I please. In fact, maybe I really DON’T want them to understand it afterall… they might start trying to tell me what to do and God knows I don’t take kindly to that!

Jonathan Maus

Michael:
The thing about blogs is that they're read by influencers and opinion leaders. Blog-savvy people tend to spread recommendations about products to others in their social groups...including people that never go online. So they are, indirectly, being influenced by blogs.

Jeff:
I hear what you're saying but I'll put my response into a post because you raise some points I've been wanting to discuss in more detail.

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