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Where the Rubber Meets the Road: B2B Companies Struggle to Find Their Fit with Blogging




There’s been a lot of discussion recently about how to measure the value of blogging, including in B2B organizations. Forrester Research recently released a study entitled “How to Derive Value from B2B Blogging,” and it contained many valuable insights into the state of B2B blogging and its adoption today.

Some key findings from the report include:

  • While adoption of corporate blogging has been growing over the past few years, the number of new blogs established in 2007 took a nose dive.
  • Corporate bloggers can’t seem to keep the conversation going. The challenge for many B2B marketers seems to be that writing for a blog is often more conversational, while many B2B marketers have been trained to write with a strictly business or technical focus.
  • Because B2B marketers aren’t trained to write for blogs, many blogs read like press releases. And let’s face it, that’s no way to start a conversation on your blog!
  • Many blog users experiences are poor.

The other main struggle B2B marketers have had with blogs is that they often fail to meet expectations or deliver the desired result. Because blog efforts are difficult to track back to actual ROI, marketers are beginning to downgrade the importance of blogging in the overall marketing mix. In fact, 53% rated blogging as “marginal” or “irrelevant” in their 2008 marketing strategy.

I would also comment here anecdotally that I’ve personally found many B2B marketers are looking for some sort of direct ROI measurement for blogging. When there are such a variety of tactics that have proven ROI, how can B2B marketers budget time and resources to a tactic that may not produce high ROI?

Forrester also offers four blog strategies that can help B2B marketers improve their blogs and hopefully begin to realize community engagement:

  1. Be a conversation stater, not a spoiler.
  2. Make blog content entertaining, easy to digest and easy to use.
  3. Connect the dots between events and community involvement.
  4. Invite thought leaders and coach them on community etiquette.

Lastly, Forrester encourages B2B companies not to give up on blogging just yet. The value and measurement of blogging is still evolving.

  • http://jtnt.net Nicholas Tolson

    IMO, asking for the ROI of blogging is like asking for the ROI of a phone system (can’t remember if I thought of this or someone like Maggie Fox or KD Paine did, but…). It’s about communicating with your customers!

    ROI? WTF?

  • http://www.search-mojo.com Janet Driscoll Miller

    The problem that marketers face, however, is that this still emerging marketing medium. Many got caught up in the buzz of wanting a blog, but then have only realized that a) a blog is tough to keep updated because of a lack of staff, b) a blog has costs of creation, maintenance and promotion with it, and c) getting buy in from all levels of the organization can be tough.

    So I think the point that this report makes is basically that a lot of B2B folks jumped into blogging excitedly, then only let their blogs become mediocre because they didn’t take the steps to keep it up. And likely, they did not keep it up because other tactics that have proven ROI become a higher priority.

    If blogs one day become the main method of communication for companies, then likely this will change. But without resources or budget, marketers will continue to analyze priorities and anything that doesn’t have ROI risks becoming a lower priority.

  • Sean Maguire

    Forrester would have been much better off focusing on best practices blogs, rather than looking at traditional Big Time B2B companies, where bureaucracy runs thick and you can’t say anything without 5 lawyers giving the nod.

    From my perspective, Forrester could have saves some trees by simply saying “Garbage out = Just plain Garbage out”.

  • http://jtnt.net Nicholas Tolson

    I agree that most marketers underestimate the commitment and work required to maintain a blog. And I’m certainly not one to suggest that every company absolutely needs a blog… Yet. :)

    My issue lies with the fact that blogs are only seen as a marketing medium from a corporate POV, when in fact they are a *communications* medium. And they get it all wrong from the start. Morever, attempts to apply old-school-based ROI numbers to them is missing the point.

    I think that if old-school numbers are used to evaluate new media, you’ll wind up with flawed assumptions and missed opportunities. Do you think Zappos, Comcast, and JetBlue started their successful Twitter presences only after a hard-nosed ROI analysis? I’d guess not.

    Which gets to a larger issue, which is that I think many marketers (by way of their CEOs) don’t know enough about blogs and social media in general to even know what they are asking for when they ask for ROI on such things.

    What’s the ROI of more engaged customers and a more active community? What’s the ROI of better informed potential customers? What’s the ROI of getting direct feedback from your customers? I’m guessing these aren’t the sorts of ROI figures they’re looking at.

    As Forrester says, value and measurement are still being figured out (and the wildly innovative and active vendor space is evidence of this). So, companies are left to figure out the ROI of social media for themselves, and the tough thing for them is that those numbers might not be as easy to plot as their stock price.

    Then again, I doubt many of those same CEOs asked (or know) what the ROI of their web site is, and I bet you that cost them a few cents more than dedicating some time to maintaining a blog, monitoring the blogosphere, or figuring out how to use Twitter to help their business.

    BTW, hi there, Janet. Long-time, no speak. :)

    — FWIW, the back-button-based spam protection killed my first attempt at the above, which was much better put and thought out. The lesser second version is what we’re all stuck with here at 11:30pm. –

  • http://www.aboutresultsmarketing.com/marketing_blog David – Los Angeles Internet Marketing

    Although having a background in direct marketing, I agree that blogging is one of the most effective ways of communicating with your customers.

    Additionally, for my clients its a cornerstone of SEO. That I think is a compelling reason to blog in and of itself.

  • http://www.alibiproductions.com/about/ Drew

    Blogging is hard work.

    Many companies don’t realize this until they have a stale blog which is sad because then it gives blogs a bad name.

  • http://www.jtnt.net Nicholas Tolson

    @Drew – Much worse is that it reflects poorly on the company.

  • http://www.jdsouth.com Mike Zeller

    I think the big question is how can a B2B Marketer’s blog/social media strategy add value to and help differentiate the marketer’s brand? Having credentialed “corporate” authors and contributors who are expert in their field share thought provoking opinions and ideas on relevant issues can go a long way toward this all important cause. Not blogging dribble for the sake of blogging but focused, meaningful commentary. In the web-centric B2B space this blog halo of expertise helps reinforce marketplace perceptions by showcasing the expertise behind the brand.

  • http://prmeetsmarketing.wordpress.com Csalomonlee

    @Nicholas: I would argue that those companies DID weigh the benefit of going online. Remember, they are mainly consumer facing companies – we’re discussing B2B. Nonetheless, I believe there has been research done on the benefits of good consumer realtionships. By participating in blogging and social media, each of those companies are reaping those benefits.

    Working for a B2B company, I believe that the ROI CAN be measured and that companies must have a LONG-TERM view of ROI. The difference is that I take these “methods” from PR side, We all agree it’s important but how does it impact the bottom line.

    I look at 1) does it increase traffic to my website, 2) do I get more inbound inquiries about my company, and 3) how many people read the blog or subscribe to RSS feeds. Very simple, high-level.

    Csalomonlee’s last blog post..Are You Ready for Virtual Trade Shows?

  • http://www.futurefactory-software.com Warenwirtschaft

    The problem for many company-blogs is that there just isnt enough interesting stuff to write about. And if there is not enough frequency then the readers go their way. It would be better for many companies to participate in some common blog (like the authors at marketingpilgrim) that writes about their kind of business. There it is easier to maintain the readers, even if one author has nothing to say for a month.

  • http://www.netage.co.za Goran Web Design

    Bloggers make money by blogging and bloggers are passionate about their blogs. companies sells products and services and blogs are a mission to maintain even if they have benefit.

  • http://www.jordankasteler.com/utah-seo-pro-blog/ Utah Search Engine Optimization

    I’d say step #1 would be “advise a consultant before doing this”. I’ve seen so many companies shoot themselves in the foot right off the bat blogging and communicating incorrectly. It can cause more damage than good.

    All the more reason to get Trackur!!! haha.

    Utah Search Engine Optimization’s last blog post..The Unwritten Laws of Social Media

  • http://www.komarketingassociates.com/blog/27-resources-for-evaluating-blogging-roi/ Andy Komack

    @Csalomonlee

    Great insight all around!

    I agree that there are many, many benefits to corporate blogging. In fact, there are so many that it seems clear to me that the majority of B2B companies should at least consider establishing a corporate blog.

    I used to believe that 95% of companies can benefit from establishing & maintaining a blog. Perhaps it’s overly optimistic – maybe 90%?

    However, the first hurdle that we always come up against is convincing a client that there WILL be ROI associated with the effort. It’s easy to discuss it, and make what sounds like a convincing argument. We even have client examples to draw from. But the evidence is usually circumstantial at best – at least in how a company weighs someone else’s experience against their own business model. I wish that there was some kind of “magic bullet” that would unlock the vision to executives and managers.

    While at my company we tend to start the conversation from a search engine optimization perspective, it is clear that blogging is MUCH more valuable than improving search traffic and incoming links.

    As I personally looked around for examples of corporate blogging ROI, I compiled a list of “27 Resources for Evaluating Blogging ROI”. Unfortunately, the evidence is again circumstantial.

    I have not yet read Forrester’s latest “How to Derive Value From B2B Blogging”, but I’m putting that on my reading list for sure.

    Of course, it’s one thing to get a company motivated for the effort of establishing a blog, it’s another thing entirely to manage the ongoing process of content creation, establishing a genuine voice, communicating with the blog community in that industry space, and using the amazing amount of market feedback to inform a variety of corporate initiatives/questions.

    Any insight you have (and anyone else involved in the conversation here) in helping executives/managers see the potential and making the commitment to sustain a blogging effort is much appreciated!

    For convenience, here is a link to the 27 Ways to Evaluate Blogging – ROIhttp://www.komarketingassociates.com/blog/27-resources-for-evaluating-blogging-roi/.

    I also wrote a post awhile back titled “How to Convert a CEO Into a Blogging Evangelist”. Not sure that post had the impact that I was hoping…

    Andy Komack’s last blog post..By: Andy Komack

  • http://www.netage.co.za Goran Web Design

    Andy, I followed your link, its a 404 page.

  • http://www.komarketingassociates.com/blog/27-resources-for-evaluating-blogging-roi/ Andy Komack

    @Goran Web Design – thanks for the notice! The line break between the “i” and the “n” in “evaluati ng” needs to be closed up before pasting into a browser (the URL was too long for the comment box).

    My name in the comment I left is also linked to the appropriate article.

    Here is a tiny URL version that hopefully won’t encounter the line break – http://tinyurl.com/6du7fr.

    Andy Komack’s last blog post..By: Andy Komack

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