Are We Misunderstanding the Purpose of a Business Blog?

by Mack Collier

Shopping

Earlier this week, Gini had an interesting post on her efforts to drive revenue from her site SpinSucks.com:

We batted around some ideas. Should we sell content? Should we create a subscription-based professional development site? Should we host paid webinars?

The answer to all of those questions was yes and we embarked on trying to generate revenue from each of them.

We created eBooks and sold them for $9.99. We built monthly webinars and charged $50 to attend. We even developed a professional development site calledSpin Sucks Pro that cost $50 per month to join.

It all flopped.

 

I sympathized with Gini’s post because I’ve had the same success in trying to sell digital products and services here.  In fact most of the companies I talk to show little to no direct revenue as a result of their blogging.

So then why the hell are we doing this?

Blogging and social media have never been the best ways to directly sell to others.  Sure some people and companies can make it work, but some people can sell ice to Eskimos.  For most of us, it’s a struggle to use channels that most people view as personal communication channels, and sell stuff via these channels.

The mistake typically happens when we view blogging strictly through the ‘how can this make us money?’ lense.

What about considering the amount of money that blogging can save you?  Blogs are a great way for a business to draw exposure to itself and that exposure is a marketing cost savings.  Or what about using your blog as a tool to provide customer service?  Every call to customer service that’s avoided because someone read your post and solved the problem themselves is a customer service cost savings.

Here’s another example:  Six years ago I wrote a blog post critiquing Dell’s company blog. As a result of that post, I got to know several of the first member’s of Dell’s social media team.  That led to:

  • My speaking at South By SouthWest in 2008 (which by itself led to a ton of other opportunities)
  • Multiple projects with Dell
  • Meeting Michael Dell
  • Getting to know probably 20 or so key members of Dell’s social media team.  Some of those people have moved on to major brands such as Adobe, Citi, Wal-Mart and Perdue.

But I had no idea any of that would happen when I wrote the post.  In fact while most of my efforts to directly monetize this blog have failed, most of the money I’ve made over the last 8 years, in fact probably all of it, has happened indirectly because of this blog.

So instead of focusing on how you can directly monetize your blog, think about how you can directly create value for your readers.  Then once you create that value, the money will follow.

{ 20 comments }

Nancy Cawley Jean October 17, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Love this post. And the thing is that not all companies are SELLING something. Take the healthcare industry. A blog can be an incredible marketing tool for a physician practice or a hospital. Even though we technically don’t “sell” a tangible product, that doesn’t make a blog any less useful than one used for a company that does sell something. When used to its full potential, a blog can position your staff as experts in the industry, increase brand awareness, and serve to tell your own stories as a media outlet would. And then the patients come.

Mack Collier October 18, 2013 at 10:00 am

Hi Nancy, probably the best thing you can sell on a blog is KNOWLEDGE. Teaching readers how to do something for themselves, or how to solve a problem, etc. Many of us complain about all the ‘How to…’ and ’7 Steps to a Winning…’ posts we see, but these posts are popular because they teach others a new skill.

Which has value.

Kathy Bernard October 17, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Good point. Most of the business resulting from my blog has come indirectly and not because of any marketing I tried to do on the site.

Jose Palomino October 17, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Another reason for blogging is getting better SEO — but that can’t be the sole focus of blogging because you might sacrifice valuable content. There are tons of blogs out there who post vapid content all for the sake of SEO, but that’s not a trustworthy way to treat your customers. Providing value — becoming a thought-leader in your industry — showing your company knows their market — these are just a couple reasons to start blogging.

Mack Collier October 18, 2013 at 9:56 am

Good points, Jose. It’s very important to consider your goals for blogging but to also consider what the people READING your blog want from the blog.

Steve Woodruff October 17, 2013 at 3:48 pm

How many Yesses can I put here to show the extent of my agreement? Just pretend there are 25. Or 50.

Kerry O'Shea Gorgone October 17, 2013 at 4:41 pm

What Steve said. ^

Mack Collier October 18, 2013 at 9:56 am

I’ll take that ;)

William October 17, 2013 at 6:00 pm

And after this great blog about how pushing content sells via blogs is not the point. There’s an ebook for me to consider ordering…..now! lol

Mack Collier October 18, 2013 at 9:57 am

LOL! Touche’, William!

Kerry O'Shea Gorgone October 18, 2013 at 10:24 am

I think it’s legit. The whole point is to sell indirectly, and the post adds value in and of itself through perspective, explanation and observation. If you like Mack and what he has to say, you might just be interested in reading more. Maybe his book! ;) He never asks directly in the post itself, which is very polite. Maybe it’s because he’s Southern?

Don Stanley October 17, 2013 at 11:01 pm

One word … Brilliant! … sums up this post. Thanks for the encouragement and reminder sir!

Mack Collier October 18, 2013 at 10:38 am

Thanks Don!

Lee Odden October 18, 2013 at 11:10 am

Spot on as always Mack :)

TopRankBlog.com has saved us hundreds of thousands of dollars in marketing, advertising and sales costs over the past 10 years. PLUS – it has contributed millions of dollars in new revenue over that time as a source for consulting inquiries. We employ no sales people and don’t do any online advertising – ever.

Using our blog as content to attract, engage and persuade customers, new employees, the media, industry thought leaders and partners is as good a testimonial to the value of indirect monetization as I can imagine.

Mack Collier October 18, 2013 at 11:27 am

Awesome feedback, Lee. I think you should have written this post :)

Kevin Hillstrom November 8, 2013 at 11:10 am

70% of my consulting revenue comes directly from the blog. Directly. 70% of my annual salary. Every person out here can sell. Selling is frightening. Engaging is fun.

Christopher Starks November 12, 2013 at 10:14 am

I personally find it offending when I see things being sold via social media outlets. I understand the tv industry. even public radio stations, but when corporations start using Facebook and others to sell products, because they know that’s where people go to daily, is a desperate attempt to impede on people and get attention. I understand why marketing departs use Facebook and such, it’s just, to me, is a violation of “digital” personal space.

Kerry O'Shea Gorgone November 12, 2013 at 10:40 am

I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily desperate, Christopher. I’d say it’s smart. Going where your audience is makes good sense, provided the content you post there augments their experience, rather than disrupting it. “Advertising” has a nasty ring to it in that context, but if what’s being promoted is of interest and can help the user (white paper, mobile app, etc.), I don’t view it as inappropriate or a violation of privacy. I feel a little less warm and fuzzy about how FB lets advertisers upload their email list and advertise specifically to me, since I didn’t subscribe to their email updates in order to give them enhanced access to me on Facebook, but that’s a different story.

Mack Collier November 12, 2013 at 10:44 am

“Going where your audience is makes good sense, provided the content you post there augments their experience, rather than disrupting it.”

Can you write a post on this? It doesn’t have to be on your blog, it can be a guest post ;)

Kerry O'Shea Gorgone November 12, 2013 at 10:48 am

Absolutely! It will be a guest post, because that’s my audience knows I rarely write on my own site. ;)

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