Several authors have proven that blogs are a great complement to writing and then selling a book. They are also excellent companions to operating and marketing a business.
Colin Roche, entrepreneur and inventor of the PenAgain, began publishing a blog this week in response to some big buzz generated by an article in the Wall Street Journal last week. The piece was about how the Wal-Mart distribution system works for product developers from a small businessman’s perspective. The small businessman in this case was Colin with his PenAgain.
The PenAgain story is great. A guy has an idea for a radical new pen…while in detention in high school. He prototypes it in his garage. He gets investment to produce it several years later. Then he hits the streets and sells and sells and sells.
Right now is the point in the story just before he hits it big…or does he?
“During the trial, PenAgain will get space in the special displays, known as “end caps,” at the edge of aisles, in the thick of consumer traffic. The prime positioning will give the product a fighting chance: After 30 days, the stores need to sell close to 85% of the 48,000 pens Wal-Mart ordered if the product is to be considered for wider distribution throughout the chain.”
Part of Colin’s strategy so far has been about paying close attention to what people think of his product. He is constantly watching people use his pen and listening to their advice. And I’ve seen what happens firsthand. There is no shortage of advice for a guy that is trying to launch a product that people can hold in their hands and buy on a supermarket shelf. Everyone has an opinion for Colin.
So, it makes sense that he step into the blog world and open up that dialog to a much wider pool of opinions. I’m hopeful he’ll entertain us and inform us about the entrepreneur’s journey.
For example, he needs to give us performance reports and share the tactics that work and the ones that don’t work. He should give us insight into what his day is like and what the market is doing. People will want to know how many pens and how many distributors he has to work with so that other entrepreneurs can compare notes. They’ll want to know price pressure, competive details and lessons in distribution.
Most importantly, for blogging to have an impact, he needs to consider the people who share their thoughts with him in the blogosphere as trusted advisors.
John Battelle mastered the art of integrating a blog into the author’s writing process. He posted thoughts daily and watched people react. He let them inform him and correct him. He then incorporated those discoveries into the story that became his book. And when his book finally shipped he had an instant base of buyers and marketers.
Unfortunately, John hasn’t adopted the same approach for his new business. Perhaps Colin can show us how it’s done for a startup.
Disclosure: I’m a friend and advisor to these guys.