Business blogs are influencing the marketplace

I have discussed Blogging for Business recently but I have three quick stories I would appreciate you taking a minute or two to read - I think they are very interesting and indicative of a trend - the three are from interviews with Loic Le Meur for Naked Conversations - the book being written by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel.

The first story:

A T-shirt guy in central France started his La Fraise blog about t-shirts. He has passion for t-shirts and blogged about them every day for a year on what he thought made a good t-shirt . He started building a community of people who felt t-shirts in retail shops were crap and that they could design something better themselves. He started to post examples of t-shirt design and bloggers gave him feedback. He gets incredible numbers of comments. There were. 345 comments on recent post, and he averages about 30 comments per post. So he put up a gallery of t-shirt ideas sent in by customers. And then his readers vote on each design. He then produces the ones that get the highest votes and sells them through the blog. You give him a good design, he gives you 300 Euros and then he produces a t-shirt. The very smart thing is that there is no cost until he goes into production, and when he does go into production, the t-shirt is pre-sold through the blog, because it’s the one the community wants. Making 30,000 to 40 000 euros a month. He does this fulltime. It has become a company. The customer is at the center of the company. They design the products. They decide which products to produce and then they buy them. He asks customers also to send photos of themselves in t-shirts which of course is a good promotion. Defining, designing and choosing. This T-shirt guy probably has 10,000 comments on his blog. He’s completely transparent. He blogs his financial reports. He gives it all back to the community, saying how much he makes and being very real… Our t-shirt guy puts the customer at the center of everything he does in the company. He realized very quickly through the comments that the customer had more ideas about the products than he did. It’s not just about feedback. The customers design the product… This is the future of e-commerce. Your customer will be in the center of it all. This goes back to “markets are conversations.” The t-shirt guy has not put a single euro into advertising. It is all word-of-mouth. The customer does everything. He is merely organizing it. What’s important is how the blog moves customers to the center of the organization, rather than over on the edge of it.

The Second:

In the UK, Andrew Carton’s Treonauts is similar to my t-shirt guy and he’s incredibly successful. This is what a brand should do. Andrew is doing what Palm should have done for itself but wasn’t bright enough to do. Andrew is a Treo fanatic and he started blogging about it. He gets 300,000 page views per month. He takes a neutral approach to Palm and writes with great accuracy. He asks people to vote on the features they want and to determine what should be in the next Treo. The Treo press turns to him more than anyone for expertise. He has become Mr. Treo. This stuff threatens the brands but it has a huge opportunity because this guy has more followers than the brand site and more Google juice and its not mass marketing. Starting to design the next Treo—or what it should be—with his readers. What’s the value of one guy who has all the customers on his blog. The Treo companies just don’t get it. On the right hand column, he has Google ads and sells software and it’s become a real business for him. He’s asked to write books about the Treo. Companies don’t see this happening at all. If people become the central place on the Internet it changes the very structure of business.

And finally, the third:

Michel-Edouard Leclerc, luminary, billionaire CEO of Supermarchés, leading French retail distributors,sometimes likened to Wal-Mart started a blog early in 2005. It was immediately criticized by the French blogosphere including me because the comments were filtered, it had no RSS and so on. I tried to constructively criticize it in “the blog way.” I put up a long post on my own blog and wrote, “Mr. Leclerc, I don’t know you and please don’t take this personally, but here is what you would get from a real blog rather than on this website that you have made and call a blog. If you don’t filter comments, you will get dialog…and so on.?

I was hoping somebody who reads my blog could reach Leclerc. The day I get this call on my cell phone out of nowhere, I pick up and I hear: ‘Hey Loic, this is Michel-Edouard Leclerc’s office. When can we meet?’ I was shocked —another proof that this is all crazy. One of my blog readers—Silicon Valley VC Jeff Clavier — had passed the message along to Leclerc’s office. All this happened in 24 hours. Within two days I was with Leclerc in his office. He spent two hours with me, saying, ‘well, explain to me how blogging is different. He was interested because no one had yet told him the differences between a blog and a website. I started by Googling Leclerc’s name, and my own blog came out in the first results while his blog did not show up at all . He asked me: “How did you manage—on a search for my name—to get your name to come out above mine?’ I told him that because he didn’t have a real blog, Leclerc had no Google juice. He was amazed, and has subsequently turned his blog into something more real with all the blog features. He really is authentic on his blog.

I was really impressed with Leclerc, more than I thought I would be. The very first thing he did, was to show me a paper diary where he had made entries every day for 20 years. He writes about the future of France, Europe, his company—one thought every day. He has considerable political influence. There is a huge discussion around distribution vs. local boutiques in France. He would kill smaller shops, the local boulangerie, for example. Leclerc wants to be closer to the people. His blog seems to be the perfect tool for this. Of course, the transparency that open comments provide was new to his team. I think this is the first CEO of a company this size and reputation that gets blogging and likes it. He was shocked that he could blog quickly and cheaply. As a result, he turned his site into a real blog.

These stories, are very much indicative of a trend in the marketplace - a move towards a more customer-centric market. This is something happening now and something business people need to be made aware of.

Innovate or die!

UPDATE:
I created a Podcast of this post and uploaded it using Ourmedia.org but they appear to have lost it(!) so I’m now uploading it to my own server - you can download it here - apologies for the delay.

9 Responses to “Business blogs are influencing the marketplace”


  1. 1 Darren Griffith

    Thanks Tom! Those are great stories.

  2. 2 Tom Raftery

    Darren,

    thanks for stopping by. I’d love to be able to take credit for those stories but they are stories from an interview Loic Le Muir gave to Robert Scoble and Shel Israel in the compiling of their Naked Conversations book.

  3. 3 Maura

    Tom, those are fantastic stories. That t-shirt joint is great. I may have to purchase… let’s see if I remember any French…

  4. 4 Tom Raftery

    They are really good, aren’t they?

    The T-Shirts are brilliant - I love the You are so funny one and the Caffeine one and the…

  5. 5 simon

    Ya great stories and well told on the podcast. but just one point could you turn the music down in the backround some times it is hard to hear what your saying. but other then that a great advertisement for pod casts.

  6. 6 Tom Raftery

    Great Simon - thanks for the feedback, the compliments and the advice on the podcasting - I have only done a few podcasts so I am still very much at the bottom of the learning curve and any/all advice is gratefully accepted!

  7. 7 Silke Schümann

    Could you please turn that music down a bit next time. Although I can read it here, I first listened to it and it is very stressing to filter your voice out of this classic piece of music. Even though I like the music, it is not what I came for.

    Having started with what annoyed me I better get the message through, what pleased me, too.

    Thanks for these enlightning stories on corporate blogging. It does transport good messages to coporate executives that consider starting their own corporate blog.

  8. 8 Nicole Simon

    Very nice story of Leclerc - and thanks for sharing the text for it, because then it is so much easier to quote ;))

  9. 9 Tom Raftery

    Silke,

    thanks for reinforcing the comment of Simon - I have uploaded another podcast today (see this post) and hopefully the music isn’t intrusive in this post.

    Cheers,

    Tom

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