June 11, 2006

More Open Source Knowledge

I thought I'd say a bit more about the post that Kathy Sierra linked to today.

The post in question is about two years old, but I still believe what I wrote then. In fact, the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. One doesn't have to look much farther than Kathy herself, who, as a result of sharing her ideas via her blog, has become quite well known. Her ideas wouldn't have done much good for herself or her audience had she kept them cooped up inside.

Of course, when you're working in the technology space, using a blog is almost a natural form of personal or professional marketing. (Using marketing in the broadest sense.) But, I think that there is enormous potential for people working outside of the tech sector.

Let me give you a hypothetical example.

I was thinking about the violin shop where I purchased my instrument. Now, I should preface this by saying that I know pretty much nothing about the shop's business model, so most of this is conjecture.

First, some words about the shop. The shop is in a somewhat unusual location, in a place where folks are unlike to stumble upon it. I don't think they do any advertising. I have a feeling that most of their customers find out about them by word of mouth: either they know the owners or have heard about it from another customer. That's how I found it. And, I've told a few other folks about them already. Here's the kicker: I found the owners very knowledgeable, open, and willing to share their expertise. (This probably explains why word of mouth has worked for them.)

In terms of competition, being in a large city there are a number of shops that offer similar services, a number of them with good reputations. So, assuming the shop wants to gain customers, what should they do?

Their competitive advantage is knowledge. And, in following with the "open source knowledge", they should actively and aggressively start sharing their knowledge. Traditional methods, like speaking, teaching, and publishing, would work well. But, so would blogging.

If I were advising them, I'd blow away their brochureware website and replace it with a blog. Then, start posting. Position themselves as experts on repairing violins. Write about new arrivals to the shop. Publicize events. Write about local makers. Write about the process of selecting an instrument.

The magic sauce is search. Once the site is established, they'll likely pop up in search results for customers looking for their services. I'd bet that a half hour a day will bring an increase in business.