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Company blog as B2B skunkworks

How making your business’s blog into a testing ground for new ideas can drive innovation, and provide proof of concept for radical changes.

My blogging record includes hundreds of thought experiments, proposals and ideas. Many failed, such as a weekly prediction game powered by twitter (about a half-dozen people took part for five weeks). A few succeeded; the crowdsourced design competition took off, for example (not in the comments, but in an offsite forum and email responses).

Given a base audience to the blog, I could quickly determine which ideas had room to run, and which were best left alone. Several of the ideas that had room to run were later spun off on behalf of paying clients.

I argue: Apply the same logic to your business and its communications. Use your company blog as a skunkworks (a testing or proving ground) where you can air radically new ideas about your business or product, or even your branding. Then let the traffic, dialogue or spin-offs from this original idea determine the plausibility of piloting the idea offline, or in your operations.

Three rudimentary examples I’d like to see:

1) Openly discuss your company’s business model on the blog. Propose other business models and weigh the pro’s and con’s. “If our testing software firm did business like a gourmet restaurant, it would look like this,” for example.

2) Propose a handful of major changes to your product range. An energy supplier could, for example, present a series of radically different pricing plans for energy, describing how these could work for consumers.

3) Invite readers to share linkages that they see between your company/product and others. Get the ball rolling by floating some relatively far-out connections yourself. “Why our infrastructure company would fit with a logistics outfit like Federal Express”, for example.

There’s something about a blog that rewards experimentation and dodges responsibility. You’re not likely to be held hostage by a proposal from a speculative blog post like you are many other forms of company communication.

And companies frankly struggle with research around business innovation. They enter it like monks to a holy high temple instead of monkeys to a pooh-flinging contest. There’s room for both in innovation, but more volume of the latter usually leads to higher quality of the former. That is, throw a lot against the blog and see what sticks.

True to the “taking your own medicine” spirit at Velocity, I’d like to introduce a concept/community/what-have-you that I call B2B skunkworks. Basically, B2B skunkworks is all about pushing the B2B marketing game forward, in terms of creative, platforms, thinking, etc.

Follow this series for ideas that aim to radically rethink the B2B marketing game, even if some (many) may not survive outside the hothouse of experimentation.

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