I caught on Silicon Valley Watcher this quote by Jakob Nielsen:
I am not saying that business blogs are worthless, but the average company would make much more money from improving its product pages than from adding a blog. I spent last week watching a bunch of people shop on many different sites, and most product pages are appalling, even from major companies like Best Buy.
Hmm, sounds like Jakob is reacting to some of the finding from Charlene Li’s recent Forrester report on ROI where she specifically talks about saving money on focus groups by gleaning information from blog comments.
I agree with both Charlene and Jakob in some respects.Â No, blogs can’t replace all the facets of a focus group (especially where hands-on stuff is required), but I think if a company has an open dialog on its blog you can learn tons more than a 100 focus groups.Â Blogs are global, they reach far more people than any focus group could.Â I know that for Qumana while I was there we couldn’t have done a focus group.Â Too small a company to afford it.Â We only got usability testing through a grant to UBC.Â We did, though, get lots and lots of great feedback and direction from comments and blog posts.Â Feature priorities were guided by what people were actually asking for in the product.Â Funny that, a product that actually listens to users.Â Hmm, what a concept.
This is an accepted practice in software now.Â Have a blog, release your beta, and then read and listen to what comes back.Â I think that if people feel that a company is listening to them, no matter what the product or service is, they feel they can be candid and honest.Â If some new products rots, you really want to know about it early so you can fix it.
Remember business blogs are about starting a conversation with your customers.Â It isn’t just a one way soapbox (or shouldn’t be), its a dialog.Â It’s interaction.Â It’s how you learn how to make your product better.
Update:Â Going through my tabs I came to blogging diva Lorelle VanFossen’s post on listening to your customers.Â Her post looks at WordPress as a case in point (OBO’s fav-rave blogging platform, btw).Â Man I must have been channeling her when I wrote this post.Â Right on Lorelle!