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new media

Using New Media for Product Marketing

Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in a Marketing roundtable hosted by Austin Ventures. Marketing leaders from several AV portfolio companies came together to talk about prescient topics. The topic was “What’s Working in New Media” (paraphrased). It was almost like a mini-ProductCamp, because everyone brought a single slide to talk about their online strategies and what was or was not working well.

Sam Decker, CMO of Bazaarvoice gave an interesting talk about how they are using their blog Bazaarblog to as both a new form of communications, and relationship marketing. It was refreshing to see a company actually have a blog strategy more defined than “let’s give the CEO a TypePad account.” Bazaarvoice targets specific bloggers in their space and treats them like royalty, and does smart things like proactively linking to them and farming their sites for content to create multi-blog conversations. They get it.

Online, everyone looks equal. I can go out and buy a URL and put up a WordPress blog, and in less than an hour have a turnkey site that looks just as good if not better than yours. At first glance, how is a potential customer ever going to know a credible from a non-credible source? You can’t control the blogs (so don’t try). As a Product Marketer, you can increase positive coverage through good relationships and demonstrating that you’re responsive to complaints over time. See The New Rules of Marketing and PR for a good book about this general topic.

One of the initiatives I’ve spearheaded at NetStreams is building a community site for our dealers, who are notoriously fickle. Sometimes they complain publicly on our forums and get other dealers riled up, which then spreads to our sales team, the VP of Sales, and the CEO. When we started the forums, I had all of the above people come to me the first time we had a negative thread demanding that we “take down that negative feedback.” That’s one of the worst actions you can take!

Marcomm looks at negative feedback from customers as they would a poor review in a magazine. It’s meant to be depositioned, explained away, and spun. Look at it from the customer’s perspective: they are telling you that you aren’t solving their problem, and worse, you’re not listening to them. Marcomm and PR speak…but don’t listen (unless they’re paying an analyst and then they have to pretend to listen). I love negative feedback, because those are the best opportunities to both get great product feedback and to demonstrate your responsiveness as a company.

When a negative thread or blog post shows up, acknowledge it. Reply to the post stating that:

  • They’re right; this is a problem, and we recognize that
  • We’re sorry that they had this problem and that we caused it (even if you didn’t cause it)
  • That we’re going to do everything we can to make it right

Doing just those 3 things will turn around 99% of problem customers. In my case, just the basic acknowledgment of their problem was like finding as oasis in the desert to these customers, because we had done a poor job of responding to issues in the past.

Is your company doing anything new and interesting with blogs or other new media to influence your product plans or change your marketing strategies? Reply in comments.