We still get questioned and read pundits who ask whether there's any ROI from business blogging. And we still shake our heads and wonder if those folks have any clue what constitutes "return" on a business person's "investment" in blogging.
So let's start with our latest experience in getting a return:
Drill Instructor Yvonne's selection by the readers of Marketing Sherpa for her blog Lip-Sticking: Smart Marketing to Women Online for honorable mention as Best Blog of 2005 in the "Niche Marketing" category.
Marketing Sherpa has over 173,000 readers. Over 2,000 people actually took the time to review the nominated blogs and cast votes. In the article reporting on the winners and the voting process, the editor wrote about the selected blogs in Yvonne's category, "All three of these blogs are not only useful for advice on their topics, but also worth watching if you plan to launch a Blog to promote yourself as a niche marketing consultant."
What's that kind of publicity and endorsement worth? (And don't forget, she gets to display that nifty Best Blog 2005 logo on her blog, too!)
Yes, we've gotten actual clients who pay us actual dollars from the various blogs we publish and write for. And yes, we get a small revenue stream from book sales and paid advertising on our blogs. But there's a lot more to the ROI from blogging than direct cash revenues.
So what's the investment? Well, the out-of-pocket cost ranges from zero, if you want to use one of the free blogging tools and climb the relatively short learning curve yourself, to a few hundred bucks, if you want help with designing and building your blog, to a bit more if you want help learning to apply your networking and writing skills in the blogosphere.
In short, compared to other ways of getting great exposure, connections, and PR, the dollar investment is negligible.
The real investment is the time it takes to find your blogging "voice" and then use the tool to connect -- engage in real conversations -- with your customers, your colleagues/competitors, your supply and distribution chains ...
That point is critical: a blog is not a business in itself. It's a TOOL. It can be a very powerful communication and social networking tool. But in the end, it's just a tool. I received a copy of the e-mail version of The Coursey Report, in which he asserts that he too fails to "get it" when it comes to "blogging as a business." (The relevant portion of the report was entitled "Trying to Understand the Business of Blogging" and has been posted on Tater Blog.)
Trying to analyze blogs themselves as a business is like trying to understand a hammer as a business. You can make a business out of making hammers and Six Apart, for example, seems to be doing the same thing as a company making blogs.
But lots more companies can be built by learning to use a hammer and then building a carpentry business, or a picture framing business, or an auto body shop, or dozens of other trades that use hammers.
A blog is simply a tool. In the right hands, it is a exceptionally powerful, efficient, and inexpensive tool for extending your business networking to a growing, global online community.