Tom Haskins submitted this article through eMail to participate in the Work at Home/Blogging Project. The reason behind submitting in this manner is that his own Blog, growing changing learning creating, “explores how learning is changing, not facets of marketing or home-based businesses.” In that vein, we decided to present his article here as a Guest Writer.
Here’s Tom Haskins…
Learning from your customers by blogging
For a home based business to succeed, it has to learn from its customers and the changing marketplace. You cannot assume the customers are satisfied just because they are buying what you’re selling. You’re in trouble if you assume the market has stayed the same since you jumped into it. Your small business may have to learn faster than it’s rivals if it’s in a market with a lot of competition. A bigger business can say “you win some and you lose some”. A home based business has more at stake and more reasons to learn as much as possible to avoid losing a customer.
Small businesses with no blog have a difficult time getting this learning accomplished. The business may rely on complaints and returns if it delivers goods. It may use a feedback form if it provides services. In either case, the customer’s thinking is being captured for a brief moment in time. Usually they are upset with what they bought or relieved that their project is completed. That snapshot does not represent the broad spectrum of their thinking over time. The business then comes across as a “slow learner” for having so little idea what the customers are really thinking. The delivery of quality products and services appears to customers as unresponsive, out of touch and difficult to make more useful. The business is doing the best it can and making a bad impression at the same time.
When a business updates its own blog regularly and subscribes to other blogs, learning from customers and changing marketplaces occurs easily. Free advice, tips and recommendations may be offered on your blog to develop a readership. Announcements of new products and services can be added occasionally. A few of the readers will leave comments. Other’s who are bloggers may link back to a posting on your business blog in something they write. If you search the blogosphere through Technoraiti or Bloglines, you can then subscribe to your search and get notified anytime mention is made of the words in your search. I recommend subscribing to searches for your name, your business’s name and the name of your products. You may also think up other searches that deal with the particulars of what you’re offering, changing and designing for future sales. You can also subscribe to searches of your rivals to see how they are getting talked about.
By subscribing to other blogs, you’ll find other bloggers discussing an area of your expertise. You can add comments to their blog and gain visibility among their subscribers. This may increase comments you get on your blog and give you a better idea of what your customers are thinking. Once you have a established readership, you may even be able to use your blog like a focus group. You can write up a change you’re considering (in strategy, product/service, pricing, policy, etc) and ask for input. The comments you get can be read by others. That makes it easier for commenters to add to what has been said or disagree, without repeating what has already been said.
By blogging, your repeat customers who subscribe will learn more about how you think, what you care about and how your business is changing. The blog will give your “fan base” more ways to chat up your business to others. They can even email your blog posting to others they think might be interested. More of your customers will act like “citizen marketers” that spread the word about your enterprise for free. Your blog will give your customers more to talk about with their friends or colleagues than simply recommending that they “check you out”. Anytime someone mentions your business on their blog, your subscription searches will find it. You can then learn from how you’re talked about, what stands out about everything you’re doing and what the customers wish was different.
By subscribing to other blogs, you’ll find you’ll personally be learning like crazy. Lots of us are blogging with good ideas and perspectives about forthcoming changes. There are days where it feels to me like “drinking from a fire hose” there are so many inspired blog postings to digest. Anytime you need to get your thinking out of a rut, reading blogs in your line of work can re-invigorate your passion for what you’re doing in business for yourself.
Tom Haskins is a Mentor to Freelancers who writes about growth, changing learning and creating. In his own words… “After 14 years of management consulting and living in 11 different states, in 1991 I started 12 years of teaching college – 12 different courses where I experimented with different approaches each semester.”
Tom Blogs at:
[tags]Tom Haskins,growing changing learning creating,Blogging,Work at Home/Blogging Project[/tags]