I had ‘a fair and frank exchange of views’ with a woman of a certain age about the relative merits of B2B blogging the other day.
We didn’t get the business – which may give you some indication of how the blogging conversation went. She remained fixated throughout our discussion on lines. She wanted to talk about, ‘above the line activity’, then, ‘below the line activities’ and then without respite or reprise, we had to go ‘through the line’ as well. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for lines – I recall with disturbing alacrity the ‘School Line’ metered out as punishment in my formative years for, ahem, the most trivial of misdemeanours: ‘Nothing is more disturbing to a well regulated mind than to see a boy who ought to know better disporting himself at improper moments’. It had to be written out, without error, in fountain pen, a minimum of 25 times before breakfast. Never by me though. Obviously.
I also recall above and below the line discussions at college and in the halcyon days of my questionable career progression. But decades ago we started applying our devious, wicked and somewhat warped marketing minds to the application of the internet as a marketing tool. Or was that just me? At that point, the ‘lines’ were obliterated and as B2B marketing professionals we were forever screwed.
This woman, however, was perhaps screwed less than others, because in planning her marketing activity, the ‘lines’ remained uppermost in her Oops I’ve Missed The Point List of Priorities and she wanted to know what I would propose to launch her campaign in Q1 above and below and indeed through the line.
“Set up a business blog”, I replied. “But what else?” she asked. “That’s it?” “Yep, that’s it.”
“You’re a very large corporate in the technology space, you have no distinct message, no clear position on anything, no competitive differentiation and no voice. And you’re not using any technology in your marketing. Which isn’t good. For a technology company.”
“We have any number of services to fix your brand strategically, but not to launch in Q1. If you want to launch something – tell one or more of your directors that, from tomorrow, they need to justify themselves to the world. Every day.” I responded, oh so casually.
“But that’s indirect… Nothing happens with blogs, they’re just like press releases. I need to generate responses, I need leads.” I’d actually lost interest long before this point, but felt obliged to keep going because the sandwiches were good and an early departure would have been foolhardy. So we reviewed the respective merits of direct and indirect communications. “Just because it’s a blog on a website certainly does NOT make it indirect”, I said. I actually spat the words ‘not indirect’ out, along with the chicken satay, which was a little uncool.
In theory, a blog has no direct audience, no database, no address or telephone number – has no immediately measurable asset – and could be considered indirect. You pump the information out there with no real understanding (or even belief) that anyone’s reading or reacting to it. But that’s the kind of thinking that the World Wide Web laughs, raucously, in the face of. The reality, for all but the staunchest marketing luddites, is that a business blog is about as close to the main artery of an audience as a business can get. It follows the primary protocol of allowing the audience to choose to engage with it or not, and when they do, the business achieves a voice, a following, a position of leadership. The blog becomes the source of opinion.
Business reply-cards and subscription forms have been replaced by RSS feeds, linkbacks and reblogs. That’s not a bad thing – that’s a very good thing. It means if you want to launch a broadly shit brand in a very short space of time and find its place in the world (or not) you can do it. And of course it’s measurable – in real time, if you insist. Marketing simply doesn’t get more direct than that.
“The directors will never do it…” she said, “…I need e-mails.”
What can I tell you? For the first time in quite a while I thought that maybe we were all screwed.