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Blogs Must Earn Their Keep

Sounds like Darren is having a wonderful time on his well deserved holiday. From a ProBlogger fan, it’s been great fun reading the variety of posts by guest bloggers.

Over the past few months, I’ve been talking to marketers around the country about how blogs can support business initiatives. Most folks are intrigued and want to explore ways to incorporate this new tool into their strategies. However for some the deal breaker is how to justify to their management that blogs are not a resource drain.

If blogs are going to be accepted as a credible marketing tactic they must be able to earn their keep within a company’s master marketing plan. Let’s save the “people talk” for blog conversations. In “marketing talk” that means accountability. As with any interactive strategy “blog” metrics can be tracked and ROI can be established. Compliments of Diva Marketing here are a few suggestions.

Blog Specific
*May be measured by unique or total posts

-Search rankings
-Visitor hits*
-Page views
-Trackbacks *
-In bound links – general*
-In bound links – “high ranked” blogs/sites*
-Comments* such as customer feedback/new ideas
- Newsreader subscriptions

Conversions
- Newsletters subscriptions
- Sales
- Leads
- White paper/other down loads

Buzz
- Speaking engagements
- Podcasts, vlogs and other interviews
- Media mentions/quotes
- Mentions and links on other blogs/websites

Intangibles
- Customers’ emotional involvement with the brand
- Increase in brand loyalty
- Providing customers with the opportunity to talk with people within a company and ensuring that customers are heard, responded to and respected by those people who are assuming the role of the public “voice” of their company.

Customer Evangelism & Business Value Blogging

Blogs have been labeled next-generation marketing tools by a few because of its use as a powerful vehicle for voice and influence in delivering business level communications of a wide variety. Also, the voice of the customer has been heralding a new era of customer control and evangelism that is weighing heavily on business decisions and influencing business behavior. Consumers are having their say and the businesses that are listening are also winning. Blogs are now a major force at the center of this dynamic relationship between businesses and customers.

One important aspect of this relationship dynamic is ownership and control. The customer influence is far reaching and is having an impact on the business bottom lines. Control of the marketing and control of the message is no longer the domain of the corporate suits or Madison Avenue. The business imperative here is to determine how to handle and react to the ever increasing effects of customer activism and evangelism. This is where your business blog can shine and help your small business or solo enterprise. Next-generation marketing is simply consumer generated marketing. It is word-of-mouth marketing on steroids. It is the open and deliberate evangelization of a business product or service by consumers turned citizen marketers.

Of course customer evangelism is not new, however blogging allows customers to amplify their voices and choices for their favorite providers of products and services. This is a big deal because the speed, reach and influence of blogs has a viral affect. Blogs maintain links that think, and carry thought with talk. No longer static but an highly active and participatory medium, the Internet is more open and community driven than ever before.

A business blog provides you with the means to collaborate and cooperate with your customer community and allows you to control important elements within these viral conversations as they occur among consumers. One of the most important elements you have greatest control and influence over is your “business value”. Your business value is both the real and perceived desirability and quality associated with your brand, business, products or services.

A business blog will allow you to convert your expertise (about your products and services) into an authoritative content value stream which can have a significant social impact among your customers. Your business value then becomes a conversation with your customers that is distributed within a social context and which can position you for a far more cooperative and collaborative relationship with them.

If you think like a community builder and help influence the types of conversations that happen around your products and services you can create a real win-win relationship that is sure to produce positive results. Your cooperation and collaboration can spark passionate customer evangelism. The results for your bottom line may be surprisingly better than expected.

Additional Reading & Resources:

Blogs Will Change Your Business
BlogPulse Conversation Tracker
Church of the Customer: Customer Activism
Consumer Generated Media

Is It Time to Talk More About Conversion?

My background is B2B sales and marketing, more sales than marketing to be precise. I’ve worked with many sales people, teams, and organizations – each go through cycles of activity and business. One staple is the objective remains constant – close more business.

We need more leads and fresh contacts will be the mantra when new business is in decline. Once new contacts are in supply We need more demos and trials is usually the next mandate. Lastly, We need incentives and more closing activities surfaces once it’s noticed a plethora of field activity isn’t producing as much revenue as required or expected. Then the cycle tends to complete and begin again – more new contacts, more trials, more closing. But the objective remains constant – close more business.

Are there similar cycles of Internet presence?

SEO is big. A lot of focus is put on building more and more traffic. We each want our audience to grow. Is it time to talk more about conversion? There are some out there that have moved to what I believe is the next step in the Internet cycle. But the majority appears to remain focused on getting more clicks to their site than clicks to convert once they arrive.

If you have 1,000 or 10,000 visits to your site a day and 1 visitor accepts your call to action, isn’t the net result the same? At the end of the day, you had one visitor that purchased, registered, clicked, etc. If you could get two people to heed your call to action, your results double.

Does it make sense to you the time has arrived to move the discussion from How do we get more people to our site? to How can we can get more people to convert on whatever call to action we offer?

Riley on Easy Bake

For any Problogger readers interested in blogging related topics Duncan Riley from the Blog Herald is doing a Q & A free-for-all on a phone hookup with Andy from Easy Bake Weblogs . Any one can join in from Tuesday June 14th @ 9pm US EST 1-858-400-4040, Access code: 60657. Questions are open, but the main topic areas he’ll be chatting about will be
* Understanding bloggers and blogging: embracing blogging or insulting bloggers
* The international blogosphere: understanding that the blogosphere has no borders and the opportunities this presents
* Marketing blogs and increasing traffic

(yes, shameless self promotion and talking about myself in the third person, but some people might miss that I’m not Darren)

Ouch!

Best argument yet for posting less. Blogs keep challenging old thinking.

Are the rules of business changing?

Business Blog Survey

Hi everyone, I’ve been asked to see if I can get feedback on these questions by anyone who is involved with business blogging for a magazine article on business and blogging (as inspired by this article) – so I thought I’d throw these out as a Friday survey (yes, it’s Friday here in NZ and Australia!).

  1. What is the name and address of your business blog?
  2. What is the business it relates to? Are you the owner or an employee?
  3. Why and when did you start your blog? Did you model it on anyone else’s?
  4. What’s the payoff in doing it?
  5. How often do you post to your blog?
  6. Is the content strictly business, or do you let a little of your personal life in?
  7. Does the content focus on your business itself, or on issues of interest for the business sector you’re in?
  8. How do you relate to your fellow bloggers?
  9. Is it important to present as a real human being, rather than simply a company name?
  10. Who are your readers? How many of them are there? Do you communicate with them by any other means apart from the blog itself?
  11. Any other thoughts about business blogging? Is it important? Should more people be doing it?

Should be interesting to us all too!

Why Do You Write, Read, and Comment on Blogs?

Last week, Bob Bly asked a simple question on his blog – …why not just read books, periodicals, and Web sites? Why do you read blogs … and bother writing posts on them?

Here was the comment I left in response to his question:

I own a few of the books you’ve written. I like them. One in particular has helped me in my career. I thought of writing you in thanks, but never did. I always thought you were too busy or must be receiving unsolicited input all the time. In short, I always thought I’d be a bother.

Then you started to blog and as such, I had an easy means to reach you. You opened a dialogue and I can communicate with you as easy as leaving this comment. Since then, you’ve emailed me a few times in acknowledgement of comments on your blog. We even had a short conversation on the phone. All because you blog.

Why visit your blog? You are very good at offering insght and opinion – opening a conversation. Books, magazines, newsletters and such are often better thought, more informative, and better written than blogs I read…but I never “met” you until you blogged. You’re better here than in your books. You’re human, one of “us.” You lead and participate in the conversation. That’s why I read and comment on your blog.

I blog because it makes me think. I learn from what excites people, what gets them talking, and what leaves me speaking in the “dark.” I’ve met and joined in conversations with people across continents, and have learned from comments left on my blog.

Blogging makes me better at my profession – that’s why I blog.

For those of you that blog, why do you do it? For those of you that read and comment on blogs, what do you get out of it? Why participate? Why blog?

Blogs Are an Incomplete Customer Communications Tool – How Would You Make Them Better?

Blogs are interesting tools of business and business communications. There are a lot of useful things you can do with a blog. Interestingly, they’re lacking in the one benefit most touted – customer communication. Only the blogger can open the conversation, the reader can only respond.

That’s poor communication.

Readers are without doubt the most valuable part of a blog. Without the reader, the blog is nothing more than a stream of conscious pouring into an empty room. The blogger and reader need each other, otherwise his dialogue and exchange of ideas never takes place.

The reader is the one that really makes the blog.

How ironic then that it is only the reader that can’t start a conversation. Only the blogger can open a topic for discussion. The blogger decides what and when something will be discussed. That isn’t the nature of communication, that’s not how we’d communicate were we together at a party, conference, or business gathering.

Sure, a reader can always send the author an email or contact them in other ways to initiate a post or topic for discussion, but that’s not the issue. The issue is how do you make it an integrated process? For example, anyone in your neighborhood can stop at your house and say hello, but how do you make them feel welcome to do so and part of your home?

On my own blog, I started a feature called Your Turn to Speak. The concept and process is simple, a reader submits a post for publishing on my blog by filling-out a short form. The reader can now start the conversation and the rest of us can follow. While the reader could always send me an email or call me to open a topic, no one ever did so until I invited them and gave a process. It’s a new feature and too early to tell if it increases conversation. There may be a better, simpler, and more intuitive way to integrate the reader…we’ll see.

Do you believe blogs are lacking in providing two-way communication? If so, how would you better integrate the reader? What are some creative ways you can think of to better integrate the reader into the blogging experience?

Blogging Data We Can All Learn From

The BlogKits 2005 Blogging & Advertising Survey is about to close up. Here’s the best part. I’m going to release the raw data from this study on ProBlogger.net next week for anyone to download and analyze as they see fit. So if you haven’t taken the short survey yet, please do, it will benefit us all in the end. There’s some amazing data in there.

Here’s a sneak peek. 80% of bloggers agree that advertisements are ok on their own blogs. 16% of those who answered were neutral on the statement, with a measly 4% or less saying they don’t think ads should be on their blog. I know for a fact that number was probably less than 30% just two years ago.

On the same note, 76% of bloggers feel that their readers are also ok with ads on blogs. While 15% stayed neutral, only 9% or thought different. Who reads blogs? Well, a lot of bloggers read other blogs. So it’s safe to assume that bloggers are also blog readers.

Finally, one of my most favorite questions. “I am more likely to click on an ad in a blog that I enjoy reading?” 84% of the respondents agreed to this question, while 10% stayed neutral and less than 6% disagreed. Seems like common sense right? The data would concur with that statement.