I'm back from a week's trip in hot hot Houston so I'm sorry for the hangups here. I thought this will be an interesting read - knowing some of the IT related business strategies undertaken by big bicycle companies these days, particularly in avenues leading to blogging.
So how important is communication with retailers and customers? Here's a case study on Cannondale.
Original Article Source (Jan 11,2008) : Industry Week
Compiled By Brad Kenney
Founded in 1971, Cannondale Bicycle Corp. is the leading manufacturer of high-end bicycles, selling more than 80 models in over 70 countries worldwide. Widely regarded as the bike industry's leading innovator, Cannondale and its handcrafted bicycles have won numerous design awards.
In early 2005, Cannondale was looking for new ways to engage more directly and interactively with its customers to strengthen the company's brand and help drive sales. Cannondale saw an opportunity to take advantage of the inherently communal and devoted nature of cyclists and recognized the Internet as a perfect forum to foster and encourage that community. After evaluating a number of different options and technologies, the company turned to enterprise social media solution provider Awareness to make it happen.
"In today's world of heightened customer involvement and immediate interaction, conversations about our industry, company and products are taking place 24/7, with or without us. So it's really important that we participate in an ongoing and direct conversation with our customers," said Janet Maurice, who heads up Cannondale's web operations.
Cannondale was focused on having a proven and flexible platform that could manage the company's blogging presence for both the short and long term. The company realized the possibilities that enterprise social media could deliver, and wanted to make sure it was able to handle future growth in terms of content as well as potential integration with various internal and external business functions.
To get started, Cannondale created a company blog to provide informal information about company developments and respond to customer questions and inquiries.
The company saw this as a more personal and interactive way to interface with its hard core customers and provide an alternative to their current customer service department.
"One of the key benefits that we've seen through the blog is the ability to acknowledge and respond to technical product related questions directly and less formally, and post the answers in an open forum for others to see and comment on. It puts a face on our customer support function, and I believe it has had a direct impact on increasing sales." says Maurice.
Knowing it has different market segments to speak with, Cannondale also developed a Race Blog which speaks to its Road Riders and Triathletes with news and topics of interest. For example, during a high profile road race, Cannondale was able to connect to a cyclist's race data, capture it in graphical format and integrate it into one of the blogs. The biking community immediately latched onto the information and shared the link around the web, driving traffic to Cannondale's site.
Cannondale is also using enterprise 2.0 technology to connect externally with its retail partners. The company has an e-commerce site where its retailers go online and order product and is using enterprise social media platform to facilitate communications and discussion between and among the retailers and Cannondale's dealer service group. According to Cannondale, questions regarding pricing, supply chain issues, technical problems or merchandising are frequent topics that retailers discuss with each other and Cannondale.
According to Awareness, Cannondale's foray into blogging has been more successful than the company first imagined, and has gone beyond the tangible benefits of improving relationships with its customers and retailers, increasing sales and improving the corporate brand.