Rather than making a sales pitch or a misdirected endorsement, try tailoring information and services to your target market's lifestyle
Our small company is launching a new product for the travel industry and I'd like to blog to help promote it. However, I thought about focusing the blog on something more interesting and substantial than just the product. As a musician, I considered blogging about outrageous tales and adventures of traveling musicians. The blog would be sponsored by our product, with our logo and ad attached. Would that be effective?
—S.A., Madison, Miss.
Blogs are emerging as powerful marketing tools, particularly for small businesses. They are relatively inexpensive to start and maintain, and yet can be very effective at bringing potential customers to your Web site and keeping current customers in contact with your company (see BusinessWeek.com, 5/18/06, "The ABC's of Beginning Your Blog").
While our experts give your impulse a thumbs-up, they've got some reservations about your execution: "I think you're correct in looking for something beyond your product to blog about. That said, once you have customers, a blog is a great way to keep your customers updated with news about the product, so you don't necessarily want to avoid the topic," says Rex Hammock, a small-business blogger and publisher based in Nashville.
Teresa Valdez Klein of the Blog Business Summit agrees: "We often recommend lifestyle blogs to our clients. It's often a better idea to blog about the lifestyle that surrounds a product than about the product itself. The editorial draws in a larger audience, and the blog doesn't end up reading like a sales pitch," she says.
She worries, however, that a blog devoted to hard-partying road antics of musicians may be too far off the mark to effectively promote your travel product. "If this product is for travelers, then wouldn't your company be better off writing a blog that targets travelers directly? If it has something to do with music or musicians, it might be a better fit. But if not, it doesn't make any sense," she says.
Hammock notes that while the travel adventures of musicians could make for entertaining blogging, you'd be more likely to attract musicians to your blog than a broader audience of travelers. That would unnecessarily limit your blog's marketing impact, he says. "Unless your product is directly tied to music, I'd look for a topic more directly tied to the information your readers need—or find entertaining—that also ties in logically with your product. Sometimes, the best bloggers are those who simply provide early links—with a brief amount of commentary—to the most important industry news stories of the day."
There could be other problems with blogging about musicians' travels: Lawsuits are a possibility if you name names; urban legends are tired and will be challenged by your more astute readers; relying on submissions from traveling musicians can be unpredictable; and some of the content that's generated on the topic is likely to be questionable. "A lot of traveling musicians engage in behavior that no company would want to endorse. With a few exceptions, drug use, promiscuous sex, alcohol abuse, and trashing hotel rooms are not generally the image a company wants to cultivate. This is not to say that all musicians engage in that kind of behavior, but the submissions might lean in that direction given that many 'outrageous tales and adventures' are fueled, at least in part, by some kind of illicit behavior," Valdez Klein notes.
Consider Sponsorship and Service
Valdez Klein suggests that you write a travel blog with a fun and unique slant, or perhaps sponsor one that's already established. "Connexion by Boeing (BA) did this with our inFlightHQ blog," she says. "Connexion wanted to target tech-savvy business travelers, so we wrote a blog that targeted that audience."
With a business blog, it's often more effective to provide information and service, rather than aiming to entertain or amuse your readers or customers, Hammock says. "However, who knows? A great story about a musician's crazy travel woes might be fun to throw in once in a while," he adds.
If you're interested in learning more about business blogging, Blog Business Summit is sponsoring a conference on the topic this September in Chicago. Click here for more information. Good luck!