Some time ago I asked for recommendations for really good tangible product blogs. Blogs for and about real world products other than the iPod. Turns out these a few and far between.
Many people including Scoble seem to like the Skybox by Maytag blog. The Skybox is a cool home beverage vending machine. That features customizable backlit panels. Just this week they have introduced a cool new minifridge.
This is an "old school" appliance company doing a very new thing - a blog.
While this like all good blogs is an evolving creation, the Skybox blog represents some of the downsides I see with product blogs and some of the incredible opportunities that a blog presents for a product.
First the downside. Many product blogs(PB) and small biz blogs(SBB) fail to define narrowly enough their audience and what they want to accomplish with their blog. Are you writing for existing customers or prospective customers? Both is the common answer. I would say this is a problem since the interests and information needs of these two groups are very different. For example: many SBBs and PBs post every media or prominent blogger mention they get. While this may be useful to people seeking additional information about your product it is not very useful to existing product owners. Do I really want to read all the press clippings about a product I already own. Press mentions should be compiled in a sidebar or miniblog.
There is no reason you can't have two blogs one for prospective customers and one for existing customers. These two blogs go hand in hand.
Blog for Prospective Customers- This is where you want to create a community of users of your product. This is a blog that's all about customers and their interest's and needs.
-Arm your customer evangelists with information, tips, experiences they can use to enhance their own experience with your product and convey the value of the product to others.
-Tell the inside story of your product team(photos, bios) and your creation process.
-Show and tell how your products are made.
-Tell stories and post interviews and photos of customers using your product.
-Create valuable cross marketing relationships with related products and offer them to your customer base.
-Feature articles about advanced uses of your product
-Show and tell how your product fits into your customers lifestyle.
-Do polls and quizzes like crazy to engage your customers and gain valuable insight.
-Do related product prizes, promotions and giveaways. (i.e. A football season worth of Pepsi products)
-Link to related product sites(Skybox should link to the sites for beer and soft drink makers)
-Link to related news sites. Don't try to be a news source. Comment on relevant news. With limited time and resources you won't be able to be the best source of news.
Blog for Prospective Customers - This is a blog that is an invitation to purchase your product and join the community that you have built around your product.
-Provide crazy amounts of product information. Pictures, diagrams, manuals, FAQs, spec sheets, etc.
-Ask for and answer prospective customer questions.
-Explain the features and benefits of your product.
-Profile existing customers.
-Provide links to reviews, news and blog mentions for your product.
-Offer discounts and promotions.
-Use the blog as a landing page for online ads and adword programs.
-Use the blog to drive search engine traffic to your business.
Yes, there is overlap between the two types of blogs and, yes, some content can be used in both places but the focus of both should remain clear. The prospective customer blog is all about your product and your business. The existing customer blog is all about your customers and building a community that serves their needs while providing both a Free Prize to customers and a valuable source of marketing and design intelligence for your product development team.
Markets are now conversations. Shouldn't the job of marketers be to create places for those conversations to take place? Skybox is off to a good start but their is so much more potential here.
Interested in more ideas and Thinking about Product Blogs? Email me or leave a comment.
Update: Read more Thinking on Product Blogs.