Blogs: Corner Grocery Store Relationships

01/12/2005

There are many reasons why blogs are the new darlings of interactive marketing: to support branding and customer communications, to create awareness and customer loyalty. PR is a big deal too. While to others if sales is not part of the game why play? Well...divas blogs are being used for commerce in the same way as websites.

Smart guys like Robert Scoble and Shel Israel and are writing books about blogs and how to use them. C-levels are jumping on the blog band wagon to show the world that they're just one of the guys/or gals.

All those reasons and more are valid; but for this diva there is one more that underscores all. In a world that spins too fast, to even know your next door neighbor, blogs help recreate the corner grocery store relationship.

Paul Chaney, Radiant Marketing, tells me that he likes to read blogs written by women because they frequently put strategies in the context of "stories" that are easy to understand and easy to remember. So for Paul - here's my corner grocery store story.

When I was a little girl growing up in Boston, I use to love going grocery shopping with my grandma. We would visit the green-grocer, the butcher, the fishmonger and my favorite, the baker.  Grandma_and_toby__2

They knew my grandma well. And why wouldn't they? She shopping with them for many years.  They knew she had five children and grandchildren she adored. They knew family dinners at Ida Marder's home meant lots of food and that meant lots of purchases.

Grandma wanted only the best and sometimes "special" which was better than best! So the green-grocer would often put aside produce or the butcher would save a cut of beef or a chicken for her. If Grandma didn't think the chicken was up to her standard...she was not shy about letting the butcher know it was not acceptable. And then advising him what to do about it. "Next time don't get one so old."

When we went to the bakery the lady behind the high counter would reach over and give me a cookie. Always. My did I feel special! And I was special in her eyes. I was the granddaughter of one of her customers. She knew that if I was happy then Grandma was happy. Even if Grandma's favorites weren't readily available she wasn't going to the baker down the street. She was "brand loyal."

And Grandma knew them too. She knew their simches (joys) and their tsoris (sorrows). If I were to say to Grandma, "You must have a pretty good relationship with the butcher to know about his daughter's operation." She would have said to me, "What relationship? They talk and I listen."

So it was. Customers and grocers both talked and listened. Customers and grocers both learned from each other what was important. Customers and grocers both cared.

Blogging helps recreate some of that corner grocery store relationship. How? By letting your customers and prospects in on the humanism of the people who are your company.  By allowing customers and prospects to participate in the process of doing business. By encouraging conversations.

However, blogging is not always safe or easy. When you open comments you allow people the ability to tell you that your chicken may be too old. Unlike a letter or email or a phone call the next customer in line hears. You have to be on your toes to listen and to respond. That takes time and resources.

Even if you don't open comments on your blog, with the faster than a speeding bullet aspect of communication on the internet, it doesn't really matter. If your chicken is old your customer and prospects will get word. It only takes a click to send an email to your 527 favorite friends and relatives.

A group of smart guys who wrote the cluetrain manifesto say the markets are conversations. I like to remember markets are people. With blogs we can begin to do that again.

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Comments

Excellent story and great example! I believe businesses will eventually embrace the power of blogging in the aid of sales.

Traditional marcom and sales efforts are centered on the standard company presentation, brochure, and datasheet. These materials together are used to lead, introduce, and educate a prospective customer on a company’s product or service. Testimonials and application notes are then offered in support of these materials, most often addressing a prospect’s need to “believe” in your ability to deliver the benefits you claim.

Blogs are interesting in this process in that they offer the application and testimonial in advance of the traditional benefit-oriented marcom and sales effort. A blog’s informal, practical, and informational style speaks to the practical use and application of a company’s offering – separate from the offering itself. I believe this is a more powerful marketing presence and should reduce the “speeds, feeds, features, and functionality” or an offering to mere validation of your ability to deliver the applications and benefits you have been extolling through your blog. Blogs speak to and with customers in meangful ways tradional marketing can never establish.

Food for thought…

Posted by: Jim Logan on Jan 12, 2005 5:22:25 PM

Whoopee...there you are in all your glory. Congratulations all over the place. Very impressive and true as well. Good marketing along with good customer service was and is still the mantra! After global everything and too much of the same...comfort and brand retention remains at a local recognition level. My memories of shopping a squillion years ago are similar. Not only did the greengrocer and the butcher know my grandmother, he knew me and if my manners wern't up to scratch when not accompanied by gran or mother...you knew very well he/she would certainly get that new information back to home base and in a hurry! Long before e-mail or the availability of cheap phone calls! I could be sent on an errand by my elders to any shopkeeper because they had all the information necessary to complete the deal satisfactorily. The vendor knew that as long as the best service was given he had loyality...forever!

Your grandmother, was a very discerning client. The interaction of client and vendor always interests me. It is the basis of all negotionations from a cup of sugar to the contract to reconstruct Iraq! Your grandmother was a 'big spender' also, there were many people to feed and many celebrations. She would return, if she recieved the right brand again and again made to her satisfaction and made available at the right time. She had a large extended family to whom this information was being transmitted, either by the use of a cookie or at the request of the newly married building the next generation of clients. Information travels at the speed of light in these circles.

Blogging? I think so. If not inform me. Great article Ms. Bloomberg. May your blogging expertise be distributed at the speed of light and you become the absolute expert in your field...just as your grandmother was in hers.

Posted by: Jilly Martin on Jan 13, 2005 12:49:14 PM

Excellent analogy. I grew up in a small town in western Kansas. We, too, visited the butcher, corner grocer, auto parts store, hardware store...merchants knew us and treated us like they did.

Posted by: Jeff Risley on Jan 14, 2005 8:37:14 AM

Seems to me the more "high tech" we become the more we long for "high touch." What is fascinating to me are the human connections made via blogging that turn into real friendships or even "hand waves" rather like to neighbor you might see walking down the street or picking up her am newspaper.

Posted by: Toby on Jan 14, 2005 9:08:53 AM

For moi? Thank you so much Toby! You are a doll!

Having grown up in small-town America I can really appreciate your experience. The analogy is perfect for describing the business end of blogging.

Posted by: Paul Chaney on Jan 15, 2005 6:28:59 PM

The analogy of the general store and the blogging community is a good one. Regardless of the historical era, and level of technology, people will always prefer to make personal connections with other peoples. Blogs are ideal for the development of very powerful connections between people over vast distances due to their immediacy. Blogs are a conversation between people, just like in the traditional general store setting of days gone by.

Posted by: Wayne Hurlbert on Jan 20, 2005 3:04:35 AM

This analogy is perfect for blogging. In downtown Jersey City, NJ in the 1950s I also tagged along with grandma and ma to the grocery stores. It was before supermarkets really took over. So, our rounds every day were long, fascinating and totally open as to talking and listening. There really were conversations, ranging from personal disclosure to criticism of the merchandise. I miss that. No one in Wal-Mart cares about me and my four cats and I have given up trying to engage them.

Blogs have brought some of that back. In the two years I've been blogging, I have gotten used to the criticism, including content being stale. It's both toughened me up and made me a better thinker and writer.

Posted by: Jane Genova on Apr 6, 2007 10:26:54 PM

Prefer my grocery shopping through Peapod, it saves money by using online coupons.

Posted by: Avery on Apr 7, 2008 12:29:17 AM

Yeah You are right Avery. And if you have no time to shop your own, just shop online.

Jason Zenteno

Posted by: philippine grocery on Sep 1, 2009 10:37:45 PM

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