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The iFulfull.com collapse: the magazine version


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August 04, 2005

The iFulfull.com collapse: the magazine version

Stephen Baker

Here's the story I wrote for this week's magazine on the collapse of iFulfull.com in on the BW Website. After writing last week's post, I flew out to Maumee, Ohio, to visit the company. I toured a warehouse and talked to employees and merchants. To the dismay of many of them, company President (and blogger) Paul Purdue was on a three-day Cub Scout outing with his son. I caught up with him on the phone Monday and Tuesday.

08:42 AM

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The iFullfil story makes you wonder about the owner. Here he's focusing on a blog while he doesn't have his business basics worked out. Problems integrating net technology isn't surprising for any business -- but he's putting his energy into a blog while he should have been getting the orders fixed.

Maybe the story here is you shouldn't get caught up in the blog fad and potential value if you don't have your basic business model working.

Posted by: David Wofford at August 4, 2005 09:46 AM

Thank you for your story explaining what is happening at iFulfill.com. However, the way you took my quotes out of context is very distressing.

Quoting me saying that Purdue should "create a scandal" with his blog was entirely out of context and absolutely not true.

What I said to you is that I told Paul that a prominent blogger jokingly told me that the best way to build a blog audience quickly was to "pick a fight with someone." I did *not* used the word scandal.

A scandal is what Paul created, not what I advised!

My advice to Paul was that he needed to blog truthfully, openly and honestly about the issues he faced in building his business. If I'd known of the business issues he was hiding, I still would have given him the same advice.

I told Paul not to be afraid to be honest and say that he disagrees strongly with another blogger, journalist, or reader. Like many mainstream journalists, numerous bloggers have made their reputations by being controversial.

One more thing: I coach my clients on how to blog, but I don't dictate to them. I did strongly advise that Paul post three times a week on his blog, but I certainly didn't scream at him. By definition (http://isp.webopedia.com/TERM/B/blog.html) blogs are frequently updated with fresh content. I told Paul, and I tell all of my clients who blog, that if they are not prepared to blog regularly, don't blog.

Posted by: B.L. Ochman at August 4, 2005 12:21 PM

Regardless of iFullfill's underlying business problems, the big question is whether blogging has been a help or a hindrance. Alternatively, we can ask whether blogging was used "the right way" or "the wrong way" in this situation?

Blogging is essentially a communication tool. It's hard to blame additional communication as contributing to the deteriorating business situation. The remaining question is whether the blogging was a significant enough distraction from other efforts. Given the rather modest amount of blogging, it wouldn't seem that blogging could be blamed for other communication and business problems.

Given the dire straits of the situation, I would suspect that *any* form of communication would be met with negative reaction by the various stakeholders.

You might inquire as to how much time was actually spent working on the blog in recent months.

In this case, blogging is simply the messenger, and we all know the fate of messengers who bear unpleasant tidings.

Side note: Irate merchants are congregating on a non-blog Yahoo discussion forum... one might contemplate the merit or limit of blogs versus discussion forums, and how one should decide which of those two communication tools to use. Blogs enable limited two-way communication, whereas discussion forums enable dramatically open multi-way conversations.

-- Jack Krupansky

Posted by: Jack Krupansky at August 4, 2005 01:02 PM

There is a failure of logical thinking and a confusion of genres afoot in the idea that a provider of commodity warehousing needs “a blog with buzz.” It is sad and wrong that attention-deprived CEOs like Paul Purdue are encouraged by a ‘blogging consultant’ to waste their time vying for applause, when the only things of interest to their customers are the commodity-provider’s price list and track record.

His blog may be of interest to his competitors, but not to customers. That’s why his blog generated so little interest until his company collapsed.

I signed up with iFulfill in April 05, never read Perdue’s blather, trashed his wordy, non-relevant e-mails, and learned about his blog only after the demise of iFulfill. Had I known the CEO of iFulfill had a blog I would not have purchased his service. The mere existence of the blog indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of my needs. As a bona fide member of the entertainment industry, a publisher of dance and fitness DVDs and a performing artist myself, I deal with the ‘quest for stardom’ among providers on the upstream side of my business; on the downstream side I want quality service. I don’t care about warehouse management strategy.

Coming from the world of performing arts, I dismissed the bunny suit and underwear photos of Purdue on his homepage as a random idiosyncracy. That's an error I won’t repeat.

It was a relief to swich to IronLinx Distribution with their austere website, precision in service, succinct, conservative, and familiarity-free attitude -- and no blog. Exactly what one expects of an established business.

Please, Mr./Ms. fulfillment CEO: Run your warehouse well...and leave the dancing to me!

Neon, owner and publisher, worlddancenewyork.com

Posted by: Neon at August 4, 2005 07:21 PM

The first ingredient in any crisis communications plan is to prepare for disasters by building bridges with stakeholders WELL before anything bad happens -- and you can bet something bad will happen sooner or later. If you have built credibility with your stakeholders overs a long period of time, they will more readily buy into your story when trouble occurs and rally around you when the going gets touch.

Ironically, I know Paul Purdue and I know BL Ochman. They are both fine people who put their clients' first (well, I guess Paul puts his family's interests first), but they really do care about their clients and their reputations in the workplace and the community. I'm sorry that it appears that Paul was seduced by the wireless technology and implemented it before testing it and bullet proofing it. But that's the problem here. Paul didn't mess up by blogging. He should have used the blog to build bridges.

Posted by: Dan Janal, PR LEADS at August 8, 2005 02:39 PM


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