The Marketing Power of Blogs

Discussion
Dec 28, 2007

By Tom Ryan

For many small businesses, blogging is proving to be a low-cost, high-return way to create public awareness.

Across businesses, blogging companies are still a small minority. According to a recent American Express survey, only 5 percent of businesses with fewer than 100 employees have blogs.

And blogging experts don’t recommend blogs for the majority of businesses. Among the challenges is that they require some writing skill and a large time commitment. “If you’re a clothing manufacturer or a restaurant, blogging is probably not as high on your list as making good food or good clothes,” Guy Kawasaki, managing partner of Garage Technology Ventures and a prolific blogger, told The New York Times.

But Aliza Sherman Risdahl, author of The Everything Blogging Book, told the Times the most obvious candidates are consultants. “They are experts in their fields and are in the business of telling people what to do,” she said.

For those in the professional sector, such as advisors or lawyers, blogs can not only help gain business and publicity but also serve as a networking tool and position the blogger as an expert in his or her field.

For other companies, it can be a challenge to find a legitimate reason for blogging unless the sector served has a steep learning curve (like wine), a lifestyle associated with a products or service (like camping gear or pet products) or a social mission (like the environment or a charitable cause). Even in those niches, companies need to figure out if they have enough to say.

“As a consultant, blogging clearly helps you get hired,” Ms. Risdahl said. “If you are selling a product, you have to be much more creative because people don’t want to read a commercial.”

Discussion Questions: What do you think of the potential as well as the limitations of using a blog as a marketing tool? What types of businesses can best capitalize on blogging? What, if any, has been your experience with blogging?

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19 Comments on "The Marketing Power of Blogs"


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Andrew Gaffney
Guest
Andrew Gaffney
14 years 4 months ago

Although it is clearly difficult to stand out given the huge number of blogs that are popping up every day, blogs absolutely can and should be part of the marketing mix in a Web 2.0 world. They provide brands with a way to become “part of the conversation” and engage their consumers in a less threatening environment. Using the blog platform to provide tips or suggestions on how to best use a product or encouraging your customer base to share ideas, is one way. Offering recipes is another way to have your brand stand out as a category leader and also gather market feedback.

Julie Parrish
Guest
Julie Parrish
14 years 4 months ago
I don’t think blogs done by companies about themselves or their industry have as much sway with customers as the companies would like, yet. For some of the ones I’ve read, they aren’t well written and they remind me of someone at a party that doesn’t know when to stop talking about themselves and give someone else a turn to speak. However, I do think that “shopping” blogs written by consumers about their experiences with brands are recognized as being a credible source of information and are more persuasive in lending themselves to a company’s marketing efforts. One blogger I know hasn’t touched her blog in a year–she’s still the site’s most viewed blog with nearly over a half-million views, even though there are current blogs on that site. While people are interested in content from the internet, canned marketing content isn’t necessarily what they are looking for. If I was a company looking to get the word out there about my product, I would seek out some of these shopping bloggers and put my… Read more »
Linda Bustos
Guest
Linda Bustos
14 years 4 months ago
For online retailers, blogging can be a powerful way to capture “long-tail” search engine traffic by producing content that people search for and to increase rankings for your e-commerce website’s product pages. Great blogging topics include problems that customers regularly encounter or product usage questions they may have. In the case of the wine retailer, blog topics could be “How do I pair chicken and wine?” or “where to buy sulfite-free wines.” Of the Internet Retailer Top 500 of 2006, only about 75 retailers are blogging. Some abandoned ship after only a few posts. Of course it’s important to have a plan for retail blogging and stick to it. But whether the conversation is kept up or not, that content remains in search engines for a long time and can continue to bring in traffic that encounters your brand (thought leadership) and is presold on your product (merchandising). Some of the better retail blogs I have seen are Powell’s Books (has a large following), KL Wines, Backcountry (hosted on a free blogger platform separate from… Read more »
John Wallace
Guest
John Wallace
14 years 4 months ago

As a strip mall developer, I need my merchants and service providers to have every marketing tool within their budget available to achieve product differentiation, striving for monopolistic competition.

Blogging is extremely cost effective. When the content is relevant and timely the blog may act to create a more three dimensional image of that merchant. Location, location, location doesn’t work anymore; it’s location and operations and every small retailer must understand niche marketing.

At localcenters.com, our online blog for strip mall retailers, I’ve featured this article because it could be an impetus to those merchants who have considered a blog but just haven’t been sold on the benefits. Our experience is that a static web page is only helpful for contacts, while a blog can 1) publish members-only specials, 2) add a personal touch to encourage community members to come meet the store owner, and 3) engage non-customers with a Q and A or informational pieces that can turn them into shoppers.

Ian Percy
Guest
14 years 4 months ago
The Saurage Research people (www.SaurageResearch.com) put out some wonderfully useful stuff including a piece on corporate blogging this morning. They say: “About six in 10 corporations (61%) now have blogs, with 6% boasting five or more. Most companies (63%) began blogging because they sensed pressure to participate in this new medium, while the other 37% say they started in order to fill a specific need such as communicating with their clients. Whatever the impetus for starting, 84% of corporate blogs target their customers and potential customers. “The blog entries are posted by CEOs (63%), executives (49%) and marketing personnel (47%), with assurances that 94% of entries are written by the person whose name is attached to the post. “Most companies (76%) say they have had an increase in website traffic since beginning their blogs. Some 86% feel that blogging will be more important in 2008 than it has been in 2007.” It may be that blogging is so yesterday…your company needs to be participating in a Virtual World where Suarage predicts that “80% of internet… Read more »
Joel Warady
Guest
Joel Warady
14 years 4 months ago

Blogging only works if a retailer has a blogging strategy. It is not enough to simply write a blog. For example, if a retailer finds itself stuck with an inordinate amount of inventory of a perishable product, and has a Twitter strategy, it can send a quick block entry that reaches people on their mobile phones, and help drive traffic into the stores. And if you aren’t informed as to what Twitter is, it is proof that blogging continues to evolve faster than marketers are able to execute their strategy properly.

Lisa Bradner
Guest
Lisa Bradner
14 years 4 months ago
One of the key phrases in this article is “even those (niche) businesses need to figure out if they have something to say.” Blogging is a commitment–if you want people to read and follow your blog, you need to publish regularly and it needs to be compelling enough to bring people back. Not everyone has the gift of compelling gab and a boring blog isn’t worth writing. That being said, a blog can give a business a distinct voice and brand personality. It can give it an outlet for managing crises, a place to connect with customers and a way to differentiate itself in a crowded marketplace. Companies that want to blog need to know 1) what they hope to accomplish with the blog; 2) who will (or will not) be allowed to blog and how freely; and 3) how they will handle the (inevitable) negative feedback. Make sure the bloggers accurately reflect the voice of the company. Creating one experience in a blog and another in the business will open the doors to all… Read more »
David Livingston
Guest
14 years 4 months ago

I use blogging primarily for travel. I like to read what others think of certain hotels. I know which one to stay at and which ones to avoid.

eBay maintains a blog on their customers with their feedback forums. This allows new buyers and sellers to know the reputation of the people they are doing business with.

Just about every business could benefit from blogs, unless they are poorly run or are running scams. Then their practices are exposed. It’s certainly a win-win for the consumer.

Warren Thayer
Guest
14 years 4 months ago

I think Richard Seesel nailed it. Frankly, I’d like to see some real proof beyond the occasional anecdotal evidence that blogs produce ROI. Using Google, I tapped into blogs where key words and phrases related to the supermarket business were mentioned, and found it a complete, utter waste of time.

Mark Hunter
Guest
Mark Hunter
14 years 4 months ago

Blogging is one of the best ways for any business to create a “community” with their customer and potential customers. The challenge for any business is that a blog must be taken seriously, with a person assigned to monitor it regularly. More importantly, the person assigned to monitor the blog must also monitor the web in general to ensure comments made on their blog don’t wind up creating negative news elsewhere on the web.

Also, many times it can be very difficult to measure the ROI of a blog. As a result, there is a strong tendency to start strong with a blog and then let it start fading. Problems are most likely to arise when it begins to fade; the problem is that management won’t notice it until after damage has already been done.

James Tenser
Guest
14 years 4 months ago
I read recently that 57 million Americans read blogs, which constitutes a significant collective market for click aggregators like Google AdSense. For most individual bloggers, however, I’m skeptical about the payback. Now that may sound cynical coming from someone who has posted more than 500 times on RetailWire, but I would argue that we are one of the exceptions that defines the parameters of blog success. It takes more than a hundred of us volunteers, and a dedicated RW staff, to sustain a sufficient flow of interesting content to attract and keep a significant audience. For the individual, feeding the wild blog is likely to absorb all or most of your communications output, while concentrating your impact at a single URL. How will your unknown prospects discover your blog? Without a plan to find them, your brilliance falls silent like a tree in the forest. Motivated solo entrepreneurs are probably better off posting items in multiple locations like relevant discussion groups and e-zines, so as to accumulate wider, more searchable exposure for their ideas and… Read more »
Mike Osorio
Guest
Mike Osorio
14 years 4 months ago
The current wave of social media (YouTube, MySpace, LinkedIn, blogs, etc.) is teaching us that consumers want to be a part of the conversation. As a retailer, are you engaged fully with your customers in rich dialogue about your brand, products and services? If you are not blogging and using other social media, the answer is probably “no.” I highly encourage retailers to consider making social media an integrated part of their marketing strategy. That said, you cannot just “jump in.” Like everything else in your marketing arsenal, social media needs to be carefully thought through. Your customer’s experience on your blog must be congruent with other customer touch points. Other posters rightly stated that blogs work best for product categories where there is a desire for customer dialogue. Basics and consumer staples will not likely be effective blogging subjects. Consider 1) Who will be your blogger(s)? They must speak with an authentic voice, aligned with the company’s voice. 2) Can you commit to regular updates? If not, don’t start. 3) Have you prepared for… Read more »
Karin Miller
Guest
Karin Miller
14 years 4 months ago

In the online retail community, blogs are seen as a way for you and your customers to speak with a different voice about your product and to create relevant content that will encourage inbound links. In addition to building a community, the theory is that this will serve to bring in new customers through higher rankings in natural (free) search.

Joy V. Joseph
Guest
Joy V. Joseph
14 years 4 months ago
It is true that blog marketing is still limited to a small minority of the consumer population but it’s proliferating quickly. Blogs do not have the coordination and scale yet to be a very attractive marketing channel for large companies that need a few media vehicles to deliver large amounts of reach. Blogs are the opposite; there are many of them that may have significant collective reach, but the reach of any single one is not huge. Blogs are also very segmented, providing an excellent opportunity for targeted or niche marketing. Larger companies we work with use blogs to collect feedback on marketing campaigns and new product launches. IRI has teamed up with Umbria (www.umbrialistens.com) who has done pioneering work in using sophisticated algorithms to systematically harvest the information being generated by blogs. Information collected by companies like Umbria offer large companies an excellent source of creative input to new product development. This is especially true for CPG companies that need an ongoing flow of innovation in their product portfolio to leap-frog the steep maturity… Read more »
Dick Seesel
Guest
14 years 4 months ago

There is so much content on the Web, from new blogs to Wiki sites, that it all runs the risk of becoming just so much “noise.”

Blogging without finding ways to address your target audience is likely to get lost in cyberspace. Combining blogs and small-business websites with the power of search engines and (particularly) social networking sites like LinkedIn can put a lot more sales-driving power behind the effort.

Doug Fleener
Guest
14 years 4 months ago
I believe that blogs can be a useful marketing tool for most businesses. Like any marketing tool, it’s important to understand who your audience is and how you want to reach them. The key is to post good useful content on a regular basis. As retail and customer experience experts, we run the blog Retail Contrarian (www.retailcontrarian.com) in addition to our daily subscription newsletter and our free weekly newsletter. Each vehicle is targeted to a different audience and compliments each other. It takes a lot of work but we do see results from them. Another benefit is that like contributing to RetailWire, it forces you to stay on top of industry trends and stories. One blog that I think is a great example is Mine Your Own Business (http://tacony.typepad.com/blog/) from Tacony Corporation. Tacony is a wholesaler with four strategic business units including sewing, home floor care, commercial floor care, and ceiling fans and lighting. Blogger and employee Mike Buckley does a terrific job of keeping his readers who are also his customers informed of retail… Read more »
David Biernbaum
Guest
14 years 4 months ago

Blogs can be very successful for business if their creation and maintenance is made relevant to the consumer and if promoted online to reach the right audience.

Bill Robinson
Guest
Bill Robinson
14 years 4 months ago

Blogging is an essential tool for retailers who want to attract the under 25 market and/or hobbyists. The more emotive the product mix, the more essential it becomes to create a blog as a technique for consumer expression.

If your product is media, consumer technology, high fashion clothes, art, fast cars, fine restaurants, vacations, etc, get a blog. Are you addressing the needs of the snow boarders, bicyclists, runners, yoga practitioners, rock climbers, antique collectors, stamp collectors, etc? If you are, get blog.

If you offer basics and every day supplies such as groceries, office furniture, basic clothes, housewares, etc, blogs aren’t for you.

The outcomes are good to great in most cases. You’ll stimulate word of mouth and more customer loyalty. But there is a chance that disgruntled customers will use the blog to trash your store. This can be very damaging. So you have to monitor the blog and be ready for damage control.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 4 months ago

Some blogs are noteworthy for truly valuable content. Most aren’t worth reading or writing. Before spending the time to write, it really pays to ask, “How can this blog be special? Who is the intended audience? How will this blog get publicity?” The latter can’t be ignored, because most web sites get very few visits without appropriate publicity.

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