I’m venturing into uncharted territory as I launch this blog. A year ago, I didn’t even know what a blog was — until my Communications team began telling me about all the blog traffic on travel and tourism. Now I know this is where the action is if you want to talk to your customers directly — and hear back from them. Soon we’ll add an audio version of the blog. That’s how I’m most comfortable: telling stories and listening.
I’ve checked out Jonathan Schwartz’s blog at Sun Microsystems and "Randy’s Journal" at Boeing. I’ve listened to Senator Barack Obama’s blog podcasts. I know blogs will be a hot communications tool in the 2008 Presidential campaign.
Truth be told, I’m not very good with computers, although I couldn’t do business in today’s fast-paced economy without my cell phone, and my grandchildren have gotten me hooked on my iPod. I know our guests expect the very latest technology when they check-in to our hotel rooms and we’re moving quickly to provide that. I’ve also hired the most talented and innovative team of leaders in the lodging business, and they’re helping me move into this brave new world of communications technology. Ten years ago when my people first started talking about selling room reservations over the internet, I was a skeptic. Today Marriott.com is not only the biggest website in the hotel industry, it’s also our fastest growing reservations channel. I’m a convert!
His first post attracted 118 comments as I write this post and these comments includes questions about smoking and feather pillows. It is clear that there is a very loyal customer base and this blog gives those customers an opportunity to communicate their concerns and praise to Marriott. While he doesn’t seem to be responding to some of the questions and concerns himself, people from his "team" are doing that so there is some feedback from the company. This is a pretty good illustration of the value of a blog. The customers feel they have a direct line to the person who makes the decisions and he talks to his customers in his own voice and about the things that are important to him adn which interest him.
There is a lot of hype surrounding blogs and blogging and to an extent, that hype is unwarranted. At the same time, blogs are really valuable tools. I have spoken about blogs as conversational tools and I have heard them described as conversation starters because they facilitate the real conversation. That conversation is being conducted, in part between you and your customer (if you are doing it right) and between your customers themselves. Make sure those conversations are positive.
(Via Micro Persuasion)