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November 1st: Torsten Jacobi, CEO of Creative Weblogging, joins host Anita Campbell. Sponsored by Six Disciplines. Show details.
Sunday, December 12, 2004
PowerBlog Review: Tinbasher Blog

Editor's note: We're backkkk! It's the forty-third in our regular weekly series of PowerBlog Reviews of business weblogs.

This week's PowerBlog Review is about The Tinbasher Blog.

Tinbasher is the blog of a small, sheet metal jobshop in the U.K. called Butler Sheet Metal.

Now, before you go running for the No-doze and the toothpicks to hold open your eyelids to suffer through all the dry gab about bending metal, just stop. Because this blog is entertaining -- no, it's positively hilarious. I guarantee it will have you laughing out loud.

Oh really, you say? Yes. Really. Try this recent Tinbasher post:

You probably think that all this blogging business is rather fancy schmancy. That it's all maverick marketers operating from rather plush offices with Wi-Fi access coming out of their ears. And you probably think, by association, that I fit neatly into that little picture.

If only.

You'll be awfully pleased to know that I'm currently writing this from inside the electricity cupboard of an old Victorian foundry in some rundown part of East Lancashire. Not only that, but my blogging attire isn't exactly booted and suited. It tends to consist of three fleeces, a jumper and a donkey jacket - and that's just in the summer. I look more like Darth Vader when they took his helmet off than Mr. Business Blogger UK. Can I feel the force? I can't even feel my fingers.

With us also being in a decrepit old foundry, not too far away from a river, we also tend to suffer from a bit of a vermin problem once in a while. Only the other week I was merrily tapping away at my keyboard when I heard a scratching and a rustling. I looked to see where it was coming from, then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw this rat dangling off a couple of fluorescent tubes above my head.

With a move slicker than anything you've ever seen in any Bruce Lee film, I managed to jump up, bend like a reed and flick the tubes deftly with my left wrist, sending little Roland back behind the corrugated sheet from where he dared appear in the first place. (There's another version of this tale involving an ear-splitting shriek and said rat falling off the tubes in terror, but I wouldn't pay much heed to that).
The main person behind the Tinbasher blog is Paul Woodhouse, who reports that he blogs from "Colne in Lancashire - a tawdry little hell hole if ever there was one."

Besides how entertaining the Tinbasher is, this blog is remarkable for the way it marries up a traditional industrial business with that trendiest of communications vehicles, the blog.

And what a traditional business they are in -- a blog is a first for this industry. As Paul reports, Tinbasher is the only sheet metal blog on the Internet, saying, "Talk about ploughing a lone furrow. It's one thing being a big fish in a little pond, but I'm the only fish and that isn't healthy. I find the sheet metal industry -- especially in the UK -- to be a webphobic bunch."

Butler Sheet Metal sees the blog as a way to help break into new markets, i.e. home decorative sheet metal and designer stainless steel. They have a business unit called Planters Direct, which manufactures and sells beautiful, contemporary stainless steel planters.

Like many family businesses, they don't advertise and they don't have a marketing budget. The blog is a way to present the business as it is, with authenticity and transparency.

To this end, Paul adopts an informal, slightly tongue-in-cheek tone. He writes on a variety of business-related subjects, interspersing occasional mentions about Butler Sheet Metal's services or Planter's Direct products.

Stainless Steel PlantersVarying the content is a smart move. That way, Paul keeps it interesting and attracts a much more diverse audience. He is crafting his content for what he thinks his audience wants to read, not simply navel-gazing on the company's industry. After all, the people who are likely to buy the beautiful planters are probably not metal enthusiasts or welders.

Nor does he overwhelm readers with sales offers. The references to company services and products are scattered here and there, and just enough. Often they are casually woven into relevant posts on current events such as the price increases of steel. In the process of reading the news tidbit, the reader's interest in the products is peaked more so than if being bombarded with hard-sell messages right and left.

Practically speaking, the blog brings traffic to the company's commercial websites. It also gives them a ready vehicle to communicate with customers in a true voice.

The Power: The Power of The Tinbasher Blog is in the way it is being used to enter new markets and promote end-user sales, by a small family business with no marketing budget. It's a fascinating lesson in how to craft content that attracts a readership and subtly conveys a marketing message, without becoming soul-less and commercial.

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