As other bloggers did I posted commentary about Bly's article, under the title The story of the copywriter who didn't get it. That post was the most visited page on my blog from Thursday night to early on Monday.
On Monday night, I received an email from Bob Bly in relation to my post, with a question. I've replied. It's a good question, one I can't directly answer. So I told Bly that I'm posting the entire content of my email here. Please add any opinions, different views, answers, additional points, etc, by making a comment here or on your own blog.
Maybe Bly can be persuaded of the business benefits of blogging. Here's to developing conversations and relationships!
9 November 2004
Bob, thanks for your note.
You asked whether I can show you a company that generates 1% of the $40 million annual sales your #1 client generates through email marketing, but as a direct result of blogging.
Well, the short answer is that I can't. I'd be surprised if anyone can, in fact. Does this mean that blogs are therefore a complete waste of time as you articulated in your article in DM News? Far from it.
Your question is about making a comparison between two communication tools or channels that (currently) behave in very different ways and have different objectives. Your question might have been better if we were comparing email marketing with RSS - that's a subject that's been a discussion topic recently (like other blogs, I've commented about that as well) and is one that will become more talked about as RSS becomes more prevalent and starts to carry advertising content. But that's another topic.
I imagine each of your email marketing campaigns has specific and measurable goals to achieve, eg, a certain level of direct sales, or requests for information, set up meetings, order products, etc. All part of the traditional marketing mix that's worked well for many years.
Can blogs do this? I believe they can - which isn't the same as saying they should - but not yet on a scale such as illustrated by your question. There are already examples of smaller-scale successes, though, as Rick Bruner of Business Blog Consulting pointed out in his post commenting on your article. I've also written about how blogs can be a real business benefit: Clip-n-Seal, for example.
The embracing of blogs in the business context is still in its start-up phase. Yet just look around you. It seems that everyone is talking about blogs. Not just those who blog, I should add, although there are plenty of those including me. Mainstream media are commenting on the business benefits: in the past few months, there have been such articles in publications as diverse as Business Week, Financial Times and CFO Magazine.
More evidence is starting to emerge about the benefits to companies of blogging as illustrated by clear statements from Jupiter Research on how their analyst blogs are driving sales leads and a research report on business blogging just published by Forrester Research which includes recommendations that use of blogs should vary based on business goals.
I don't disagree with some of the comments you made in your article. Many blogs are indeed rambling musings. There is little or no censure or editing. But that's the nature of many blogs. According to Technorati, there are nearly 5 million blogs out there. Of that figure, they categorize about 5,000 as business blogs. A drop in the ocean at the moment. Inevitably, there are blogs that don't have a general interest. Others that are just poorly done. And yet others that might have good content but not well presented. So what's different between this and 'normal' media, print and online? Just pay attention to the ones that meet your criteria. There is plenty of choice.
But to dismiss all of this by saying blogs are a complete waste of time doesn't make any sense at all. As a communication medium, blogs today have clear credibility and increasing business influence. Haven't you heard about the Kryptonite fiasco?
Your article is actually a very good illustration of how blogs have depth and breadth of reach and influence that many other media just don't any longer.
You wrote your article in a publication that published it on its website on 2 November. It was picked up by, among others, bloggers who commented on it on 3 November. I saw two such blog posts in my RSS feed on 4 November. One click later, I was reading your article. I then wrote my commentary about it on 4 November. Others, including other media sites, picked up on the various blogger comments and, before you know it, you're suddenly a big focus of attention by the weekend.
You really did set yourself up for online vilification with your sweeping negative statement!
Do you still have the same opinions about blogs? Other than the proof of ROI that you're seeking, what else will help you see the business benefits? In particular, from the marketing perspective?
It's a pity you didn't ask your question in a post on my blog, or on one of the other blogs, as it would demonstrate to you one of the ways in which blogs work as a means of developing conversations and building relationships. So I'm posting the content of this email message on my blog. If you'd like to develop a discussion, one in which others can also get involved, please do.
It may also be that someone else actually does have an example to share that will answer your question!
UPDATE 12 November: See new post Getting an education.