Marketing Microsoft

Should Blogging Be on Your To-Do List?

Dismiss blogging and you might miss out on one of the easiest ways to reach your market online.

You've been hearing a lot about blogging for the past few years and you've reluctantly concluded that maybe it's time to join the parade. Company blogs have a place in the marketing arsenal of Microsoft partners, but only under the right circumstances.

Blog Basics
As you probably know, a blog is a Web page made up of short, frequently updated articles, or "posts," arranged chronologically like a journal. While there are millions of blogs online, consider that the Pew Internet & American Life Project reports that only 39 percent of Internet users read them. Is your target audience among them?

The reason you probably know the definition of "blog" is that blog readership is higher among IT professionals like you. In August, with consulting firm Universal McCann, IT information-search company KnowledgeStorm surveyed 4,500 of its registered users, who are typically IT professionals. Of those surveyed, 80 percent said they read blogs, including 18 percent who read them daily and 33 percent who read them weekly.

Marketing Benefits
Blogs are usually more effective for enhancing Microsoft partners' brand image and awareness than they are for driving leads and sales.

Blogs establish partners' expertise by giving them a venue for sharing what they know about subjects related to the products and services they provide.

Often, blogs are written by techies for technical decision makers, but some of the most effective business blogs are written by management personnel for business decision makers. Regardless of their editorial focus, the best-read blogs avoid hype and self-congratulatory content. Instead, they focus on content useful to their intended readers.

To create awareness about your company, products and services, keep in mind that blogs tend to be favored in the Web's Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). That can go a long way toward helping your company be found by prospects who are actively searching for what you sell.

Your blog can also have a big impact on a potential customer moving through the awareness/inquiry/consideration/purchase cycle. For example, 53 percent of the KnowledgeStorm users said that blogs influence their purchase decisions.

Required Commitment and Resources
To gain and maintain readers, you need to keep your blog fresh. So you'll need someone who has the expertise, writing skills and time to frequently post new blog content. How frequently? According to a research study by public relations firm Porter Novelli and market analytics company Cymfony Inc., only 24 percent of bloggers post once a week or less (I belong to this camp). Some 39 percent of bloggers post several times a week and 37 percent post daily or multiple times a day.

I recommend that you plan to post new content to your blog weekly to start. You can always turn up the frequency later, once you're sure you have the ability to keep up the pace.

You also need a place to host your blog. (If you're looking for links from the blog to your Web site to boost your Web site's search engine results, host it on a different server than where your Web site is hosted.) Consider using Microsoft Live Spaces (http://spaces.live.com) or search using a phrase like "blog hosting" on your favorite search engine to find additional and inexpensive options.

Should You or Shouldn't You?
I recommend that you consider blogging if you need a venue to demonstrate your expertise (branding) or are looking for additional ways to move up in the SERPs (awareness). However, you should launch a blog only if you or someone on your staff can post regularly.

If you're more concerned with driving leads and sales, pass on blogging for now. There are plenty of marketing tactics that will have a more direct impact on the bottom line.

About the Author

M.H. "Mac" McIntosh has been providing marketing and sales consulting services for Microsoft and many of its partners for more than seven years. More than 1,000 Microsoft Partners across the United States and Canada have attended his Marketing Boot Camps and Marketing for Leads (tm) live and Web seminars. You can contact Mac via www.sales-lead-experts.com.