Does This Blogging Stuff Even Work?

I am planning on putting together a major post for September in which I honor organizations and people that have influenced me in some way, shape or form regarding my B2B lead-generation or marketing ideology. The idea is to make this an annual post called “The Top of the Funnel” awards. Gosh, I love that name.

Anyway, I regularly cruise the Web searching for ideas on what to write so I committed myself this weekend to looking at new blogs and sites. In my searches, I found what I thought was a promising name: The Marketers’ Consortium, the blog associated with big-time marketing-automation company Unica Corp.

What I found was this message: “Unica will be ending The Marketers’ Consortium. It’s a bittersweet day. We’ve loved having the blog.”

So, I pose a question: Do B2B blogs help their organization’s goals?

Let’s take the case of Unica. Unica is a legitimate marketing-automation vendor, a seemingly a perfect fit for a marketing blog. They did it right, having covered all the important bases:

  1. Great Name: The name “Marketers’ Consortium” drew me in. Plus, “Unica” wasn’t included in the title, so it didn’t look too salesly.
  2. Thought Leadership: Unica got some of the best and brightest to guest blog, further accentuating the look and feel of a third-party expert blog. Guest bloggers included Elana Anderson, former VP of research at Forrester Research; Don Peppers, noted author, speaker and founding partner of Peppers & Rogers Group; Pat LaPointe, managing partner of MarketingNPV LLC; Liz Roche, former VP of research for META Group and creator of My Life as a CRM Diva; and the very popular Chris Kenton, social-media maven and president of MotiveLab.
  3. Traffic: Take their word for it: “… more visitors than we ever anticipated and a steady stream of regular readers.”

So what happened? According to Unica, two factors motivated the blog shutdown:

  1. No ROI (return on investment): I can attest writing a blog is a massive time-suck. The metrics coming out the other end for them did not make sense, so they shut it down. Considering they liked the traffic, Unica probably tied their metrics to lead-generation goals.
  2. Lack of Marketing-Executive Readership: Marketing executives just don’t read blogs yet. This hurts considering the fact that I like to believe they read mine!

There’s still hope for marketing blogs, though. Take famous blogger Brian Carroll of startwithalead.com and his success as an example. Brian’s blog is number one on Google organic for “B2B lead generation”; he is the most quoted, most recognizable (you see his darn photo everywhere) marketing blogger; he is on every Webinar and podcast imaginable; he wrote a book … I could go on. I believe his social-media activities are impressive and something that all of us should strive for. What’s funny is a lot of us read him and trust him, yet don’t even realize he runs a business. His credibility had to help sales (he may be one of the most famous guys in B2B lead gen), but the proof is now in the pudding: InTouch Inc., his company, was bought by Meclabs. I’ll be investigating the deal in later posts.

OK, I have one final thing to say. Brian runs a call center — that’s right, telemarketing. Besides Rainmaker Systems Inc., these companies don’t get bought. Meclabs bought Brian. So, I would say Brian Carroll believes that his blog helped his organization’s goals and then some.

I’d like to hear more from other B2B folks on whether their blogs work for them (metrics-wise and qualitatively). I hope this blog post, as well as my question on LinkedIn, solicit some feedback.

And keep your eyes out for Part II of this post.

Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter

  • BobThompson

    The most important thing is the goal you are trying to achieve. I don’t view blogging as a lead generation exercise, I view it as a branding and expertise play.

  • http://www.theb2blead.com Leigh Anne Wallace

    Hi Craig. First off, I want to say I love your blog, especially the name. I work for a small company called ReachForce, and I think we are all funnelholics. We started our own blog, http://www.theb2blead.com, just over a year ago. I don’t think any of us really knew what we were doing when we started it, but we did know we wanted to deliver great content of B2B marketing and sales tips for our prospects and customers (which are all marketing and sales professionals).

    Looking back over the past year, our blog has done things that we never expected. We were picked up in a MarketingProfs newsletter, we were one of the first blogs on marketing.alltop.com and made it to the top position on Sphinn.

    We also repurpose the content for lots of other uses. I use our blog posts to create a monthly newsletter. We are currently rolling out volumes of a 101 Tips eBook. Not everyone will want to read a blog so we deliver the same content in different mediums. We have also found that our sales team uses the blog during the sales process to help further educate prospects.

    I will admit that is takes time to do it well and crafting that perfect post can be exhausting at times. We have found that people are flattered to be guest bloggers and those posts can bring in new traffic plus it gives you a day off.

  • http://Blog.HubSpot.com Mike Volpe

    Blogging has been a great benefit to our business. Our blog is one of our top 5 sources of leads and we get lots of interaction in the comments among our customers and our prospects.

    I never understood Unica’s decision. There are TONS of benefits to blogging. Traffic and leads being an important one. And we get senior marketing folks (VPs) to read our blog all the time. The ROI is much higher than AdWords, tradeshows, etc.

  • http://www.unica.com Carol Wolicki

    It never ceases to amaze me that – with all the other blogs out there – Unica’s Marketers’ Consortium blog continues to resurface. I always hope it is the content there that continues to attract people and NOT the fact that we discontinued it, but – as here – that’s not always the case.

    So, let me take a moment to answer some of the questions Craig has posed, especially the one about lead gen. As we state in the last MC post, “We hoped to raise our own corporate profile, encourage blog readers to learn more about our solutions and promote the discipline to which we devote our every working hour – Marketing! … The key question for us, however, was whether blogs mattered to our target audience and our conclusion is that today, they are not a critical channel.” These comments were written last year.

    It is now August ’08. Two years have gone by since we started our blog. By now, I would hope there are a lot more marketers paying attention to this channel, but back then, it didn’t seem like we were really meeting our objective of engaging in conversations with a lot of them — even though the blog had steady visitors. It may have been that since this was our initial foray into corporate blogging, we didn’t quite get it right. While we had great bloggers, by changing ‘voices’ monthly, we may have lost the continuity needed to get a consistent flow going.

    However, Unica hasn’t really stopped blogging. Not only do we have an internal company blog hosted by Yuchun Lee, our CEO, but we’re fortunate to have several employees who blog, for example, Akin Arikan (http://www.multichannelmetrics.com/). And recently, Elana Anderson – The Marketers’ Consortium’s first guest blogger – joined Unica as VP of product marketing and strategy. Elana’s an active blogger (http://nxteramarketing.wordpress.com/, http://www.customerthink.com/user/eranderson/) and she has championed the idea of re-starting the Unica blog ever since she landed. (Hey, we didn’t say we were shutting down forever. In fact, there are plans to re-ignite the blog fire here… we’ll be happy to let you know as soon as we get started again.)

  • http://insightsfour51.com/ Laura

    Hi Craig,
    I’d definitely say we’re happy with our B2B company’s blog, but there are certainly circumstances that can help some companies and hurt others. In our case, we have a community of customers with whom we interact often and this fact helped us start with a clear audience and purpose in mind. As we’ve expanded our focus and topics, we’ve seen our readership grow.

    Metrics are a tricky thing with a blog…it’s hard to say if a post answered a support question or gave someone a great marketing idea just by looking at the readership and responses (if there are any–one of the most frustrating things about business blogs is the lack of comments/interaction). Just today I was trying to tell a story with our blog stats and was finding it difficult to do.

    I agree with Bob’s comment above that you probably shouldn’t go into the game looking to immediately turn ROI. If you have a clear audience and focus, I bet you’ll see positive results.

  • Ray Kinsella

    Sad to see Marketers’ Consortium go, but I can’t wait to see this “top of the funnel” awards post. Can we assume Brian Carroll will be receiving a TOTF?

  • http://www.WiderFunnel.com Raquel Hirsch

    Hi Craig,

    “Does This Blogging Stuff Even Work?” is an excellent question, for several reasons. There are so many “new and shiny things” happening in online marketing that investing in any of them without success criteria is downright puerile. However, the corollary to your question has to be around what success means with regards to blogging.

    For some business people, blogging is a good way to extrovert thoughts or meet pent up needs to communicated and become “published”. OK, fair enought.

    For us at WiderFunnel Marketing, blogging on http://www.widerfunnel.com/blog on a regular basis has helped us improve our search engine rankings, so we get more and better qualified traffic to the site. It jas also positioned us as thought leaders in a new and fast growing field, Conversion Optimization. Week after week, our blog ranks among the msot visited web pages on our site.

    (BTW, Conversion Optimization is the ‘art and science’ of converting more website visitors into leads and customers by running online experiments that determine what copy/offer/layout etc combinations yields the most conversions from the same expensive traffic coming to your website).

    Best,

    Raquel Hirsch
    WIDERFUNNEL MARKETING INC.
    WiderFunnel is a Google Authorized Consultant
    ph. 604.512.0799
    fax 604.222.1461
    e. Raquel.Hirsch@WiderFunnel.com

    http://www.widerfunnel.com

  • http://www.callboxinc.com Nadine Stevens

    You’re definitely right Craig. Blogging is not on its last legs. Still, marketing blogs can contribute greatly to a firm’s bottomline. Like you said with Brian, because of his skills and credibility on blogging, he was able to get more sales and customers for his company. I can’t imagine all the wisdom he’ll be sharing if I ask him about lead generation. =) Anyways, I knew a lot from this post. Thanks.