I have a business coach who is helping me think through my blogging business. Its actually been very helpful so far even though he has very little experience of blogging. Part of the process has been me teaching him about the medium so that he’s able to help me structure what I do for maximum profit.
Last time we caught up he asked me a question that to this day I’ve not been able to fully answer.
‘Who is your customer?’
If we are to treat blogging as a business this is a question worth pondering. Who is your blog’s customer?
There are a number of ways of answering this question – and it may be that all are partially true….
1. Readers – the first answer that sprang to my mind was that I was aiming my blog at readers. Without them any blog aiming to make a few dollars would soon go out of business. They are an essential ingredient for blogging for dollars – however in most examples of blogs that make money the reader actually parts with no money of their own – or not directly anyway. A few blogs rely upon readers making donations or paying subscriptions for access to certain areas – but by and large the reader need not and does not part with any cash. So in their purest form they are not necessarily a customer.
2. Advertisers – Well if we’re looking for people that give us money in order to define customers then advertisers are perhaps the most obvious choice. Most bloggers making money directly from their blogs utilize some sort of advertising system whether it be a pay per click system, an affiliate program, private sponsorship or impression based banner ad systems. Without the incoming cheques, gift certificates, direct debits etc from these organizations we would also lose the ability to blog for dollars. However in most instances the relationship between advertisers and bloggers is rather non dynamic. In my mind a customer relationship is usually a little more initiated by the customer than is my experience with advertisers like Google. Google doesn’t really tell me what it wants – I simply give it a bit of space on my page and let it do the rest.
3. Other Bloggers – Another key relationship for many pro bloggers is actually other bloggers or news sources. As I’ve pondered this question over the past few weeks I have realized that these relationships are perhaps as important as the ones we have with our readers and advertisers. In a sense my fellow bloggers are customers – and also perhaps suppliers (I never promised this article would be easy to read did I?). How so? Well an exchange happens when you link to another blogger or news source. You get information (a quote, an idea, content) and they get readers.
For instance earlier in the week when I linked to a Business Week article about Blogging (along with virtually every other blogger I read) I quoted the article and in a sense got myself a little free content from my site. In exchange I linked to Business Week and hopefully sent them a few readers and gave their page rank a boost (maybe). The same was true (in reverse) a week or so back when Slashdot linked to one of my posts and sent me tens of thousands of visitors in a few hours and in the process used a little of my content to provide their readers with something to read also.
I’m increasingly seeing strategic relationships form between bloggers that look a lot like customer/supplier relationships. I can think of one blog in particularly that has fairly exclusive and mutually beneficial relationships with a handful of other blogs – I suspect this will become more common in the future.
I’m not sure that ‘customer’ is the best description of any of the above parties. I think I’d rather see them as ‘key relationships’. Similarly Search Engines are another party worth developing a relationship with. Of course I’m using the world relationship pretty loosely here – its hard to get buddy buddy with a monster like Google or Yahoo – but they are defiantly worth considering as one thinks through strategy. In a sense they are something of a ‘supplier’ – supplier of that precious commodity of readership.
Enough Rambling from me – your turn now. Who do you see as your Blog’s Customer – or Key Relationships?