Sunday, December 18, 2005

A call to retailers; follow-up.

The post from Friday got a bit of good dialog going in the comments section and I wanted to pull them out and make them more visible and public since there is some good stuff going on there.

I've just pulled the comments directly from the comment section, so to get the total background you may need to go to Friday's post first;

Carlton Reid- Editor of BikeBiz.com
Why a blog and not a forum, Tim? I ask because these sort of 'where are we
going' views are expressed often on the trade-only forum of BikeBiz.com.Is that
a draw-back? Trade only? In many ways it's seen as a benefit...by the bike shops
commenting.I don't hang out at the bicycleretailer.com forum (I left when it was
closed for a while) but that's also a trade-only place for such views, yes?


Fritz- Editor/creator/guru of Cycle-licious

I don't know if yet-another-forum is a solution or not, but I see a lack of
imagination in the bike retail arena when it comes to promotion not only bike
shops but bicycling in general.Bike shop owners seem primarily to be cycling
enthusiasts first and business owners second. The shop is almost a hobby more
than a source of income.Regarding a couple of new shops locally, one bike shop
employee remarked "I guess we'll see whose trust fund runs out first."There's
nothing wrong with any of that, but the result is little interest or experience
in promotion and marketing.There's a ton of creativity and energy in the bike
business but a lot of it is wasted.Check out
this
video
for example. It's a bike shop owner playing with fire and it's kind of
funny and it will get some exposure over the Internet. The creator makes a
couple of critical errors, however -- he didn't put his bike shop website URL
somewhere in the video, and he doesn't provide a way to easily find his videos
-- you have to just know where they're at.He's throwing away a perfectly good
chance for viral opportunity because he created the videos just for fun during
some slow time at his shop.


ME- Masiguy, Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser, general bon vivant (yes, that means I'm a nut job)

Fritz/ Carlton-You are both absolutely right to question whether another forum
or blog is needed. I'm not sure and I'm not sure which format is needed or best
to accomplish the goal.My initial thinking about this whole thing is based upon
feedback I've received since creating this project here as well as the feedback
I have received since this past March when I started Masiguy. Many retailers
have commented to me about how they enjoy the open dialog that gets started by
my posts or the posts from my co-conspirators here. Jonathan Maus, over at Just
Riding Along, was trying to create discussion as well and it was working. My
idea is this; by giving retailers a space to talk, maybe they will. An "open to
the public" blog or other forum might curb some folks from participating,
especially in regards to anything related to pricing issues, but many retailers
might see it as a chance to "show off" their intelligence or philosophies. Plus,
if the public/ consumers have a chance to participate in the conversation, maybe
retailers can reach right out to the people who will ultimately be walking
through their doors with wads of money in their fists. I could be way off base
on this and won't be hurt if I am, since I offer all of this up as something of
a public service. Even if I were not a manufacturer in this industry, I would
want to find a way to help retailers stay alive. I started working in shops when
I was 12 years old and have come close to trying to open my own shop several
times since then. My heart will always have a spot for retail, so I will always
have a desire to work with retailers.Fritz- Somebody has to find out who that
retailer is who made those videos and get him to make more and put his name on
them. He is missing out on a huge pay off- financially or just in terms of good
publicity.

I know all of this dialog is not exactly pertinent to marketing/ PR, per se, but it is relevant to the plight of retailers finding a way to make themselves more successful and how to reach out and appeal to more and better customers. In a "nuts and bolts" sort of way, that is marketing too. Continued discussion is certainly welcome here and I hope to be hearing from interested retailers or retailers showing the holes in my thinking.

Thank you to Fritz and Carlton for your comments and to all who have been vsiting us here and making this project a wonderful success.

Tim

Posted by Tim Jackson at 8:20 AM

6 Comments

  1. Anonymous bryan posted at 10:45 AM  
    I am not a retailer but my opinion: I think there is absolutely room for retailers here, but I think a forum would be better suited for having so many responses to so many on going topics. I do not think any topic could ever be considered closed. A blog is a great tool of chronologically documenting your experience. Its a podium for one or a few voices to speak to an audience of many, but it makes for a poor tool as a roundtable discussion for the many to speak back.

    I think a forum should be created with key topics that can be expanded on and added to as an on going discussion. Plus, as the industry evolves (and it will), the responses will change - but the topics will always be there.

    The forum idea will bring retailers and manufactures together. Why not. They need to coexist if they each want to be successful. Lets not divide the industry - the world of bicycle should bring everyone together.

    Now a little more argument behind my thoughts would be an example of Karls (Pedros) post on sponsorship. That is an awesome and mysterious topic that is already slipped off the front page and into the blog archive. Its too good to be gone already (and it only took about 10 days). Also, its annual topic that people can contribute to all year long as they learn things they feel they could share with others. Plus I know the Amgen TOC will come up again and that post is lost to the archives as well.

    I know that this is a blog specific to marketing and PR for the bicycle industry (manufactures), but I had such a desire to hear from Tim and his team of bloggers on the topic of how manufactures who have on-line stores deal with that relationship with local bike shops who carry their product. Its a very appropriate topic since I figured it would lead to more discussions and it brings the two worlds together that need to coexist: retailers and manufactures.

    This brings me to my point of the need for a forum. The responses to all these posts are very interesting to read, but they will get lost in subsequent posts, just as Karls post has.

    As I begin to wrap up my response I realize It would be cool it they could co-exist. I like the idea of the blog and what the 6 Kool-Aid drinkers are doing here so since they are the captains of the kool, lets keep their insightful topics showing up in the blog, and allow forum topics to be opened up as needed.

    go ride a bike...
    BT
  2. Blogger Tim Jackson- Masi Guy posted at 11:45 AM  
    BT-

    Who are you? Why anonymous?

    Your comments are awesome and I really appreciate you taking the time to compose your thoughts like this for us.

    Now, I guess, I just need to learn how to create a forum.

    Thank you for such a well articulated comment.

    Tim
  3. Anonymous bryan posted at 1:14 PM  
    well, I dont mean to be anonymous. My name is Bryan... people call me BT. More to come on that later.

    PHP BB is free and it works. All you need is a server with PHP and MySQL then install it, set up some preference and a color scheme, add a logo to the top and i guess thats it. http://www.phpbb.com/

    MTBR uses vBulleting which is cool but it requires a small regular fee. http://www.vbulletin.com/

    Also there is PHP Nuke, its $10. http://phpnuke.org

    there are probably others, but these are the big players

    I have not used any, but for fun I played around with the PHPBB and it was a breeze to set up and get going. My current webhosting service offers an automatic install = easy!

    BT
  4. Anonymous Jonathan Maus posted at 10:06 AM  
    Here's an insightful comparison between forums and blogs from the Common Craft website.

    I think the major problem with forums is that they are difficult to establish. Most of the successful forums today were "first to market" and have retained that position. So many times I've seen new forums with only a few members.

    Also, forums often devolve into useless banter that has nothing to do with the original topic.

    Forums are also not easily syndicated and don't show up in search results as well and as quickly as blog content.

    I think the best compromise is a blog where users can register and make their own posts.

    Or, you just need a kick-ass moderator that knows how to keep meaty topics on the table. A great example of a blog as a community discussion is PDX Media Insider. This anonymous site devoted to covering Portland's media would regularly get 40-50 comments on posts (although the moderator has recently retired, which brings up a point against single-author blogs...burnout).

    And just to address Bryan's point about comments and posts getting "lost in the archives", I agree this is a tricky problem with blogs. But it can be remedied. For starters Tim, I would strongly suggest listing 7-10 recent comments. This is a great way to keep older posts alive (it works on my site all the time). Other ways to combat this are to just keep a list of "hot topic" or "popular" posts on the sidebar or header at all times to keep them in front of people. And of course it's just good blogging to try and link to old posts when appropriate. And a search box is also something to consider. (OK, I'll stop now).

    Either way, for a retailer discussion site to be successful it will take a ton of heavy lifting by a moderator to stoke the fire and keep things going until a critical mass is reached and the community can take off on its own.

    The key is to get buy-in and loyalty from people that are passionate about the topic.

    I could go on and on about this topic but I should get back to work!
  5. Blogger Tim Jackson- Masi Guy posted at 9:35 PM  
    Jonathan raises a lot of great points in his comments. In trying to remove my own bias, I didn't point out my preference for the blog format. I think it could work really well and I am not dropping the idea yet.

    Jon also brings up excellent points for what I would like to turn this blog into as well. After all, I did contribute (somewhat) to his JRA blogs and we are friends, so it would figure that I would agree with him. Plus, his JRA was a big motivator to begin this project.

    Who knows what is coming next...
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