Archive for the 'Business' Category

What do you write for a small business blog

Monday, October 3rd, 2005

Particletree has an article on small business blogging making arguments for it. The article brings up the point that small businesses think that blogging is too time consuming. But I think they’d change their minds if they knew of the interesting and wide range of things they could blog about. For most people, blogging is synonymous with ranting and political monologues. Having a list of small-business-related topics (and examples of their execution) could fire up the imagination of small businesses and their motivation to blog. The Particletree article lists a few:

  1. Issues the company itself is dealing with
  2. New product ideas
  3. Marketing ideas
  4. Small business issues
  5. Practical tips
  6. References and links to other articles

But a blog is an interactive channel. So to this list I would add a few feedback ideas, thought sharing ideas and more. A blog is also not just a marketing channel, but also a channel to assert your expertise, a public relations channel and a relationship/trust building channel. So I could add a few more ideas to the list:

  1. Letters from readers/customers
  2. Solicitations for feedback on product issues
  3. Solicitations for feedback on marketing issues (RevenueRoundtable)
  4. Consumer/Customer meetups
  5. Reviews of related books/websites/articles (RevenueRoundtable)
  6. Industry/ethics issues (RevenueRoundtable)
  7. Social issues (SkyeCreative)
  8. Consumer issues (RevenueRoundtable)
  9. New products (DenaliFlavors)
  10. New press coverage (DenaliFlavors)
  11. Announcements of new clients
  12. Announcements of new locations/outlets
  13. Announcements of new employees
  14. Announcements of new partners or suppliers (SkyeCreative)
  15. Conferences and other upcoming events that business representatives will attend
  16. Customer/Service policy changes or new policy issues
  17. Case studies

Sorry I didn’t have time to find examples of all of the list. I’ll add more, but please feel free to suggest some. Links via PowerBlog Review.

Researching a client’s brands online

Tuesday, September 6th, 2005

Yesterday I touched on the topic of studying a company to make it inscrutable. That’s just one of the reasons I always conduct secondary research (research through the internet and other publications) on all my clients. What I look out for is brand impressions — anything that people think is important enough about a company, its products or its employees to mention. Some of the other reasons include:

  1. Understanding their marketing history and promotion efforts — because their target audience might remember what messages they sent out before
  2. Finding out what other people make of the company, the people who work in it and their products
  3. Finding out who are the stakeholders — people who have interest in the company or its products — and why they have an interest in them

I have a basic checklist of things I do when I conduct secondary research. For dotcoms, I only do internet research and never bother with paper publications, although I do always ask clients if anyone has written anything about them. You might find this checklist of sites useful since I’m not the only one who uses these techniques. I run all the searches for the company’s name, its website, the brand names for its products and the main people behind the company and the people in the development team. (Incidentally, I also run the same searches for each one of the client’s most prominent competitors.)

  1. — I only scan up to 200 entries unless a lot as been written about the company.
  2. and — I look out for references in user blogs as well as industry blogs and employee blogs. Regarding employee blogs, I’m not really interested in them except for getting their impressions of the products and the company they work for and how popular their blogs are.
  3. — I scan for references in the more popular web versions of industry publications.
  4. — I look up whose name is on the domain registration. Sometimes its important to make it anonymous but have the contact details correct.
  5. — I check the number of incoming links and website prominence to compare with their competitors.

I don’t build a dossier on everything or on everyone. But I do make notes. It’s not important for me to bring up everything I find. Sometimes they just aren’t relevant to my branding objectives. But I do need to know who is thinking what so that I can segment the market accurately into primary audiences and secondary audiences — groups of people to whom I need to allocate my branding budget. Everything is really all about the money and how I spend it. But that’s a topic for another day.

The role and function of marketing communications in product development teams

Monday, September 5th, 2005

The ideal dotcom startup team seems to be CEO, CTO and COO or CFO. Now it’s all well and good to be product and business focused, but who’s looking out for the people who can make or break a business — the users and the public stakeholders? A CEO’s function is to provide strategic vision, a CTO’s to manage the development of the product and internal technologies, a COO or CFO is to look after revenue and expenditures. All these are full-time jobs with weighty responsibilities. Just as weighty as it is the CCO’s (Chief Communications Officer) job which is to manage the outgoing as well as incoming communications of the company as well as looking after its brands. Yet most dotcom startups completely sideline this essential function.

I had drinks with the joint CEOs of last night. Both very bright and clued-in guys who have great ideas for web services and products. They both have great vision and are very experienced at producing winning products and partnerships. And while they do know what their consumers want and how to deliver the goods, neither of them has marketing communications expertise and neither does anyone on their development team. Even while their products are in development, buzz still needs to be managed as first time users try out their beta products and talk about them. And someone needs to create marketing communications plans and execute them. Currently, they’re both handling these functions themselves but chinks are starting to appear. There’s not one but two faux Wikipedia pages to promote their products; glaring spelling errors in their marketing materials; use of a free blog host (Blogspot) for their company blog; and at least one instance of evoking the cliched Google’s Law. None of which set very good impressions on the techie crowd — the quintessential first-adopters. I’m not trying to be picky, but a startup that wants to engage the larger community has to first be inscrutably “Slashdot-ready” (and those guys do way a lot more researching).

Why should a software company GPL its code

Wednesday, August 17th, 2005

Here’s a very good discussion on Slashdot that revolves around business reasons for a company to GPL their code. Some of those include:

  1. Other people can fix your bugs and security holes for you
  2. No need to pay for beta testers
  3. Free development of new features, some of which you might not otherwise have thought of yourselves if you can get a development community started.
  4. Free positive P.R. for your company, especially if things really take off.
  5. Free advertising for your company as well if you brand the package with your company logo and colours by default.

The issues that came from this thread are especially insightful.

Blog broker agent?

Saturday, August 6th, 2005

I wonder if there’s a blog broker agent out there yet? Someone who sources blogs with sales potential and matches them with buyers and vice versa. It wouldn’t be a difficult kind of business. It’s already fairly simple to judge the sales potential of a blog — based on the blog’s cache of loyal readers (RSS readers), blogosphere credibility (link-ins), current and projected traffic, current and projected Adsense earnings, size of archive and likeability of the blog. The seller would have to sign an exclusive contract with the agent. And the agent makes a sales commission from one party or both. Might be worth looking into now with so many marketers trying to break into blogs and so many bloggers wanting to make money.

Handhelds favoured over laptops by companies

Thursday, August 4th, 2005

Here’s an interesting development: companies that used to give employees laptops are now finding out that it’s cheaper to distribute handhelds since they found that employees only use three types of applications: e-mail, browser and IM. The exact same three that handhelds are popularly used for. The regular computing is done with desktops (and it’s probably cheaper to maintain desktops since nobody goes and drops them into a puddle by accident). While the handhelds (which are also cheaper than laptops) handle all the mobile computing.

Has the notebook-to-handheld conversion begun? | CNET

Retailing: What’s working with online shopping

Friday, July 29th, 2005

The McKinsey Quarterly has a good article on tactics for online retailing. The article recommends a strategy of complementary online and offline tactics. Giving the examples of LL Bean and Ross-Simons, it calls the strategy a “triple play” — the online store drives traffic to the bricks and mortar store, while the bricks and mortar store acquires walk-in customers and a direct mail catalog offers traditional from-home purchasing from a hard-copy. In every which way, this strategy targets shopping behaviours and captures the market whichever way that the market likes to shop — with the convenience from the home or the human-contact of offline.

The McKinsey Quarterly: Retailing: What’s working online

Measuring the effectiveness of a corporate blog

Saturday, July 23rd, 2005

If blogs are going to be an important part of the marketing and communications mix, then there must be some way of evaluating their returns. Heidi Cohen, a professor of Direct and Interactive Marketing at NYU has written some ideas on how to evaluate corporate blogs. The first step in the blog evaluation process must first of all be determining what the blog is expected to do. Cohen has a list of communication objectives for a corporate blog:

  1. Establish expertise - Blogs can be used to raise credibility of a company in its field.
  2. Create alternative media - Blogs can be established as a media outlet in their own right as a value-added corporate service or a product by itself.
  3. Extend corporate communications - Blogs enable companies to present a human face and voice to the public.
  4. Build community - Blogs can grow groups around a technology or issue related to the company’s product.

What Cohen leaves out at this point is the crucial part of first establishing the target of the blog communication. Without knowing that in clear terms, the objectives and their measurements lack meaning. Because blogs communicate on a personal level, they must show some return in terms of increase in brand awareness, brand prestige or credibility, likeability of the brand or understanding of the message. Cohen’s idea of return on investments revolves mostly around mainstream media effects.

(more…) gives its readers customised news by zipcode

Monday, July 18th, 2005

The Washington Post is giving its American online readers the choice of viewing its content based on their zipcode. It will present readers with more news from their area or else it will show a version of their paper that’s more international. I think its great that newspapers are taking advantage of the internet’s customisation quality to make their websites more relevant to different market segments. It’s a great step forward that they’re realising that the market is highly segmented and that the internet can help them achieve targeting with cost-efficiency. Although ecommerce sites like Ebay and Craigslist have been doing it for years, it’s better late than never.

Post Site Splits Into Local, Global Pages has new RSS feed

Saturday, July 16th, 2005

As far as I’m concerned there’s no better magazine for internet businesses and IT department management than Until recently, had the policy of driving traffic via RSS by offering multiple feeds for each category of articles that they had. All in, they had about two dozen such feeds. But there wasn’t a feed for the latest articles across all the categories. So fans like myself had to subscribe to as many as 10 different feeds to get articles on topics that interested me. It was a hard decision to say No, that’s not good enough. And I unsubscribed to all of them.

Just recently, on a re-visit to, I found that the policy has changed dramatically. Now, all the two dozen feeds are gone. What was left is a single Latest Articles feed which is available at

So do look into They have meaty articles like Wikis, Weblogs and RSS: What Does the New Internet Mean for Business? and What leaders look like — a study of the traits of top CIOs.

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